Origin of the Panchatantra: A Fascinating Story in Itself – Part 1
Posted on: January 23, 2018.

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This is a typical story-of-how-a-story-happened that begins with “A long time ago in a land far, far away…”

King Amarshakthi, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mahilaropya, was a scholar, competent administrator, and a good and kind king dearly loved by his subjects. But he was a terribly worried man and had also grown quite old. He had been extremely busy in attending to the affairs of state that he had completely neglected his family including his three sons—the three princes, Bahushakti, Ugrashakti and Anantshakti—one of whom would be crowned King after him.

He summoned his sons and talked to them only to be appalled by their dull and disinterested demeanor. They had learnt nothing about the stately arts of ruling the kingdom nor did they show interest in learning anything.

The very next day, the desperate king arranged a meeting with his council of ministers, told them about his problem of the three princes being dull, disinterested, and ignorant, and asked for their opinions on how to solve this problem. The king listened to the opinions of each minister but none of them sounded convincing enough to him.

Finally a minister named Sumati opined that the princes had to be educated on twelve years of knowledge pertaining to various subjects like Science, Politics, Diplomacy, and Administration, which would take the listless princes their whole lifetime to master. The minister then suggested that instead of trying to educate the princes on the complex, grammatical scriptures and texts written in Sanskrit, they could try to teach them the wisdom within those literary works, for which they could seek the help of a scholar named Vishnu Sharma.

This idea struck the king to be the most practical solution to his problem. He enquired his ministers about Vishnu Sharma, and they told him that he was a scholar renowned throughout the kingdom for his vast knowledge, and an excellent teacher who could teach the princes the neethi shastra, “the wise conduct of life”, within a very short period. The king was told that there was no better person in their kingdom to educate the dull-witted princes than Vishnu Sharma.

The king’s messengers were sent to contact the scholar and request him to come along with them to the royal palace. Vishnu Sharma arrived the very next day to meet the king who received him with great respect and honor. After the hospitalities, the king told Vishnu Sharma his problems and with a look of desperation in his face, promised him a hundred villages in return for teaching his sons.

Vishnu Sharma smiled and told him that he would never impart knowledge for material gain and that he would take up the task of training the princes as a challenge. Looking hopefully at him, the king again proceeded to offer him gifts but Vishnu Sharma silenced him with a wave of his hand and wished instead to talk to his sons. Feeling overjoyed, the king summoned his sons and watched as Vishnu Sharma talked to them for a while. Looking at the disinterested manner in which his sons replied, the king was sure that Vishnu Sharma would walk out of the palace, without taking up the job.

…continued in the next part

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