Origin of the Panchatantra: A Fascinating Story in Itself – Part 2
Posted on: February 14, 2018.

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After Vishnu Sharma had finished talking to the princes he sent them away and promised the king that he need not despair anymore and that he would personally undertake the task of teaching the princes all they needed to know and that too in just six months. The king looked at Vishnu Sharma with tears in his eyes and yet again offered him anything in return for teaching his sons but the latter silenced him a second time, telling the king not to waste his money on him and that he had undertaken this task only because it challenged his abilities.

Vishnu Sharma confidently told the king that if he failed to complete the task within six months, he would change his name. Although the king was filled with disbelief listening to Vishnu Sharma, he knew enough about human nature to realize that he spoke with utter conviction and acceded to place his belief in what he said. Vishnu Sharma told the king that he wished the three princes to accompany him to his hermitage where he would teach them, and the king made arrangements for the princes to travel with him the very next day.

Vishnu Sharma knew that he could not adopt conventional methods to teach the princes all that they needed to know. He decided that the wisdom could best be imparted to them in the form of stories, probably using animals, to teach them morals in a simple manner. Vishnu Sharma thus compiled the Panchatantra or “five principles”, a collection of interrelated animal fables in verse and prose, writing most of the stories himself.

The essence of each story was always similar to what a person would face in day-to-day life, and their morals provided insights into politics and practical wisdom. Thus the princes listened to each story with great interest and wonder, as it was taught to them by Vishnu Sharma. When the princes returned to the kingdom after six months, the king was amazed at how his sons had become highly knowledgeable in politics, and fully equipped to become able administrators, within a very short span of time.

The wisdom imparted by the stories in the Panchatantra was relevant not only during ancient times, but is completely relatable even today!

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