Panchatantra : The Older Aesop Fables

A certain king Sudarshan had three sons – neither of them willing to take responsibility or learn anything. The dejected king went to a scholar named Vishnu Sharma who used animals as characters to weave five treatises – sets of interwoven stories – “The Loss of Friends”, “The Winning of Friends”, “Of Crows and Owls”, “Loss of Gains” and “Imprudence” – that taught the princes about politics, life, justice etc. and came to be known as the Panchatantra.

Panchatantra to this day remains the most published, circulated and translated non-religious text in human history. The Arabs carried the book to their lands to be translated as Kalīlah wa Dimnah in the 7th century. By that time, it already existed in Sanskrit, Persian, Greek and the local Indian languages like Pali and Prakrit. By the 17th century, it existed in French, Italian, German, Chez, English and Slavic languages as well.

Ibn al-Muqaffa' by Khalil Gibran.png
Ibn al-Muqaffa, the scholar who translated the book in Arabic.
The Persian Panchatantra

The Aesop Fables of Greece carries a similar taste in story telling – simple and straightforward stories with talking animals often holding the traits identified with humans. But weirdly enough, that is a more famous set of stories in the modern day despite all the historic achievements the Panchatantra holds.

In the modern day, when society is increasingly pushing itself and its members – including kids and adults into its new evolving definitions of justice, crime and conduct – Panchatantra offers a freshness of simplicity despite being 2500 years in age and in lore.