Moral stories from Panchatantra -1

Stories from Panchatantra

The tales of Panchatantra, perhaps, are the oldest stories known in the literature of India. The dates of the Panchatantra are not known and these tales are usually attributed to Vishnu Sharma. Some believe that the fables of panchatantra are as old as Rig-veda.

The popular story about the origin of Panchatantra goes like this: Once there was a king who has three son who are dull and without any wit or wisdom. Worried about the wellbeing of his sons the king approaches a wise brahmin called Vishnu Sharma and prays him to impart wisdom into his sons. Since the songs of the king are dimwits, he chooses to pass the wisdom in the form of interesting fables. The stories narrated by Vishnu Sarma contains animals and birds and he makes them speak and behave like humans.
Panchatantra tells about five ways that help the human being succeed in life. Pancha means five and tantra means ways (or strategies or principles). Addressed to the king's children, the stories are primarily about statecraft and are popular throughout the world. The five strategies are:
  • Quarrel among friends (mitra-beda)
  • Gaining friends (mitra labha)
  • Of crows and owls
  • Loss of gains
  • Imprudence (mindless action)

Stories from Panchatantra
The Foolish Lion and the Clever Rabbit

Once upon a time there lived a ferocious lion in the forest. It was a greedy lion and started killing animals in the forest indiscriminately. Seeing this, the animals gathered and decided to approach the lion with the offer of one animal of each species volunteering itself to be eaten by the lion everyday. So every day it was the turn of one of the animals and in the end came the rabbits' turn. The rabbits chose a old rabbit among them. The rabbit was wise and old. It took its own sweet time to go to the Lion. The Lion was getting impatient on not seeing any animal come by and swore to kill all animals the next day.
The rabbit then strode along to the Lion by sunset. The Lion was angry at him. But the wise rabbit was calm and slowly told the Lion that it was not his fault. He told the Lion that a group of rabbits were coming to him for the day when on the way, an angry Lion attacked them all and ate all rabbits but himself. Somehow he escaped to reach safely, the rabbit said. He said that the other Lion was challenging the supremacy of his Lordship the Lion. The Lion was naturally very enraged and asked to be taken to the location of the other Lion.

The wise rabbit agreed and led the Lion towards a deep well filled with water. Then he showed the Lion his reflection in the water of the well. The Lion was furious and started growling and naturally its image in the water, the other Lion, was also equally angry. Then the Lion jumped into the water at the other Lion to attack it, and so lost its life in the well. Thus the wise rabbit saved the forest and its inhabitants from the proud Lion.

Stories from Panchatantra
Monkey and the Crocodile

Once upon a time there lived a monkey named Red-face on a tree by the side of the sea. The tree was an apple tree and the fruits it bore were sweet as nectar. Once a crocodile named Ugly-Mug swam ashore and Red-face threw apples at him and asked him to taste them. Ugly-Mug started coming everyday ashore and eat the fruits thrown by Red-face and soon they became good friends. Ugly-Mug used to take some fruits to his home to his wife.
His wife was a greedy lady and asked him as to where he got the nectar filled apples. Ugly-Mug told about his friend the monkey. The lady was greedy and pleaded with her husband that she would like to eat the monkey's heart, as a person who gave such tasty fruits must have a heart filled with nectar. Ugly-Mug was angered and did not agree to deceiving his friend. But she then insisted on not eating anything till he brought her his friend's heart. Out of desperation, Ugly-mug started making plans for killing his friend.
He came back to Red-face and entreated him with an invitation to his house for supper stating that his wife would be thrilled to have him home and also that she was very anxious to meet such a nice friend. Poor Red-face believed the story but was asking his friend as to how he could cross the sea to reach the house of the crocodile on the other side. Ugly-mug then offered to carry him on his back and the monkey agreed.

In the middle of the sea, Ugly-mug took the crocodile deep into the ocean to kill the monkey. The monkey was frightened and asked the crocodile why he was doing this. Ugly-mug told him that his wife wanted to eat the monkey's heart filled with nectar. Red-face immediately asked it to take him back to the tree as he told him that he had left his other heart which was full of nectar back at the tree. The foolish crocodile then swam back to the tree and the terrified monkey jumped up the tree never to return. Upon being asked as to why she was not returning, the monkey answered to the crocodile that he had only one heart and he had been fooled and scolded his friend for misusing his friendship.

The crocodile was ashamed at what happened and asked the monkey if he could make any amends. And he was also scared that his wife would not let him back in because he had returned without the monkey's heart. Just then he heard that a huge he-crocodile had occupied the house of his. The monkey advised him to fight the he-crocodile and drive him out of his home and gain his wife's confidence. His advice the crocodile followed and he was back happy with his wife.

Stories from Panchatantra
Sparrow and the Elephant

Once upon a time there lived a sparrow with her husband on a tree. She had built a nice nest and laid her eggs in the nest. One morning, a wild elephant with spring fever feeling restive came to the tree in search of shade and in a rage broke the branch of the tree on which the nest was residing. Unluckily all the sparrow eggs were lost though both parents were saved. The she-sparrow was deep in lament.

Seeing her lament, the woodpecker bird, a friend of hers offered her consolation that she would think of a way of killing the elephant. Then she went to her friend the gnat, who in turn went to the counselor frog for advice. The frog then devised a scheme for killing the elephant. He asked the gnat to buzz in the ears of the elephant, so that the elephant would be thrilled to listen to the music of the gnat and close its eyes. Then she asked the woodpecker to pluck his eyes. She herself would be on the edge of a pit and would croak misleading the elephant to think that it is a pond.

The next day at noon the three carried out the plan and the elephant was killed when he fell flat into a pit after being blinded by the woodpecker when he closed his eyes in response to the gnat. So the revenge was taken with collective wit of all three animals.

Stories from Panchatantra
The blue Jackal

Once upon a time there lived a jackal who strayed into a city in search of food. He was hungry and was being chased by a group of dogs. He accidentally entered the house of a dyer and fell into a vat of indigo(blue), and was stained blue from head to toe. When he escaped from the house back into the forest, all animals were surprised at his appearance and could not place its identity. Taking advantage of the situation, the jackal decided to play the situation to his advantage. He proclaimed that he was Fierce Owl, sent by the king of Gods, Indra, to earth to gaurd the forest.
The gullible animals believed the jackal. The jackal then appointed the Lion as his Prime minister, tiger as his gaurdian of the bed chamber and the elephant was made the door keeper. He then drove all the jackals out of sight from the forest for fear of being recognized. The animals would hunt food and bring it to the self proclaimed king and the king would distribute the food to all equally just as a king would do. So he was leading a life of luxury.
One day a herd of jackals were passing by howling to their glory. Unable to control his natural instinct, FierceOwl showed his natural voice and howled at the top of his voice. Hearing this howl, the animals realised that they had been fooled by a jackal and killed the jackal instantly.

Stories from Panchatantra
The greedy Jackal

Once upon a time there lived a lazy jackal. Also in the hills there lived a hillman and a wild boar. Once when the hillman went to hunt, he saw the wold boar. He took a sharp aim with his arrow and stuck the boar. But the boar was only injured and it attacked the hillman and he died on the spot. But the boar also collapsed due to the injury and died.
The jackal happened to pass the site of both the dead bodies, and the jackal decided to eat them slowly. But he was excessively greedy and first wanted to eat the bowstring, before the other bodies. As he tried to eat the bowstring which was tightly attached to the bow, it snapped and the end of the string pierced the roof of its mouth and it stuck a big injury to the jackal and the jackal died on the spot.

Stories from Panchatantra
The heron and the crab

Once upon a time there lived a heron by the side of a pond. It was a lazy creature and once deivsed a plan to get a supply of fish without doing much work. So one day, he went to the side of the pond and put on a gloomy face without attempting to catch any fish. The pond was also inhabited by a carb, which was wise and often helped the fish in the pond. On seeing the gloomy heron, the crab asked her what the matter was.

The heron said, "Alas! I am worried that the pond is going to be soon devoid of any fish, which are in turn my source of food. I overheard a group of fishermen talking about catching all the fish in this pond. But I know of a pond somewhat far away, where all the fish shall be safe. If the fish are interested, i can carry a few each day to the other pond where they will be safe."

All the fish were eager to make use of the heron in reaching a safer destination. So everyday some of the them volunteer to go with the heron. The heron took some fish each day in the beak, and on reaching a large rock used to eat all the fish up and leave the bones of the fish at the rock. So she was able to get a continuos supply of fish at no effort at all. In the end, the curiosity got the better of the crab, and one day it volunteered to go with the fish. When it had gone closer to the rock, it realised the foul play the heron had been playing on the poor fish. Enraged, it tightened its claws around the neck of the heron and snapped the head of the heron off. The heron this died a selfish death. The crab crept back to the pond and told all the fish about the lies the heron had been telling.

Stories from Panchatantra
The crows and the serpent

Once upon a time there lived a crow couple, who had built a nest on the top of a tree. But unfortunately the tree was inhabited by a serpent at its bottom. So the serpent used to crawl up the tree and eat all the eggs that the lady crow used to lay. The crow couple were deeply grieved and when this happened time after time, then they decided that the serpent was to be get rid of by a plan.
So the crow then approached his friend the jackal and asked for a plan. The jackal then told him to go and fetch a costly thing from the palace of the king and throw the thing in the burrow of the snake. The crow went to palace, and stole a necklace of the queen while she was bathing. The gaurds of the palace ran after it. The crow then dropped the necklace in the burrow of the snake beneath the tree.
The gaurds on reaching the bottom of the tree, found the necklace gaurded by the serpent. Then they lynched the serpent and recovered the necklace. So the crow family was now happy that their eggs were safe now.

Stories from Panchatantra
The Swan and the Owl

Once upon a time there lived a swan who used to spend time in various playful activites on a lake. Once an owl visited him in the forest and requested him to be friends, after praising the swan a lot. The swan agreed to be friends with him and they used to spend time near the lake a lot of days.
But the owl soon got bored of the place and told the swan, "I am going back to my home in the Lotus wood, and if you ever want to visit me you can visit me there." The swan, after many days once decided to pay a visit to the owl in the Lotus wood. On reaching Lotus wood, it could not find the owl, which was hiding in the dark hole. The owl asked the swan to take rest till daylight was over and told him that he could come out only at night. The swan decided to take rest.
It so happened that a group of merchants were passing by the next day early morning. The merchants chanted some hymns, and to that the owl replied with a hoot. Thinking that this was a bad omen, the merchants then decided to shoot the owl down. But in the meantime the owl had fled and taken refuge in a nearby hole near the shore of the lake. But the swan did not move. The arrow from the merchants came and hit the swan and it was killed.

Stories from Panchatantra
The geese and the tortoise

Once upon a time there lived a pair of geese and a tortoise all three of whom were great friends. One day they faced a huge drought and the lake in which they lived was drying up. They decided to leave the lake and look for a new lake. But the tortoise could not fly. So the geese thought of a plan, where by the tortoise would have to hold a piece of stick by its mouth which would be carried by the two geese. The only condition was that the trotoise should not speak or it will fall from the stick to death. The tortoise agreed to be silent.
But on seeing this stange arrangment , people on the way started laughing at the tortoise. Unable to control his anxiety, he spoke out "What are they laughig about?", and so fell to his death. If he had kept quiet he could have saved his own life

Stories from Panchatantra
The bird with two necks

Once upon a time there lived a special kind of bird which had two necks and shared a common stomach.
One day, one of the heads found a jar of nectar, and on seeing this the other head also wanted to taste the nectar but the first neck refused to let it have it. Enraged, the other neck soon found a jar of poison and it consumed it. The poison reached the common stomach and both the necks perished.

Stories from Panchatantra
The Jackal and the Drum

Once upon a time there lived a jackal in a forest. One day it was very hungry and it reached the king's battleground. It heard a loud noise suddenly and was frightened upon hearing the noise. He was frightened that something dangerous was happening to him. He reached a war-drum nearby and struck it with grass and it made noise.
He mistook it be a huge animal with lots of food on the inside of it. With great difficulty it pierced the drum and reached inside. On reaching inside then it was disappointed to find it to be only wood and leather.
With great difficulty it came out of the hole and backed off and crept away to safety laughing at her judgement.

Om Tat Sat

 (My humble salutations to the lotus feet of Vedas and also to  Brahmasri Sreeman Vishnu Sharma, an eminent Scholar   for the collection)


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