ancient Sanskrit text of animal fables from India
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The Panchatantra (also spelled Pañcatantra, in Sanskrit: पञ्चतन्त्र, 'Five Principles') or Kalīleh o Demneh (in Persian: کلیله و دمنه) or Anvār-e Soheylī انوار سهیلی, 'The Lights of Canopus') or Kalilag and Damnag (in Syriac) or Kalīlah wa Dimnah (in Arabic: كليلة و دمنة, 'Kalilah and Dimnah') or The Fables of Bidpai (or Pilpai, in various European languages) or The Morall Philosophie of Doni (English, 1570) was originally a canonical collection of Sanskrit (Hindu) as well as Pali (Buddhist) animal fables in verse and prose. The original Sanskrit text, now long lost, and which some scholars believe was composed in the 3rd century BCE, is attributed to Vishnu Sarma. However, based as it is on older oral traditions, its antecedents among storytellers probably hark back to the origins of language and the subcontinent's earliest social groupings of hunting and fishing folk gathered around campfires.


  • We ought to do our neighbor all the good we can. If you do good, good will be done to you; but if you do evil, the same will be measured back to you again.
    • Dabschelim and Pilpay, Chapter i. Compare: "And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again", Matthew vii. 2.
  • It has been the providence of Nature to give this creature [the cat] nine lives instead of one.
    • The Greedy and Ambitious Cat, Fable iii. Compare: "A woman hath nine lives like a cat", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part ii., Chap. iv.
  • There is no gathering of the rose without being pricked by the thorns.
    • The Two Travellers, Chapter ii, Fable vi. Compare: "But ne’er the rose without the thorn", Robert Herrick, The Rose.
  • Wise men say that there are three sorts of persons who are wholly deprived of judgment,—they who are ambitious of preferment in the courts of princes; they who make use of poison to show their skill in curing it; and they who entrust women with their secrets.
    • The Two Travellers, Chapter ii, Fable vi.
  • Men are used as they use others.
    • The King who became Just, Fable ix.
  • What is bred in the bone will never come out of the flesh.
    • The Two Fishermen, Fable xiv. Compare: "It will not out of the flesh that is bred in the bone", John Heywood, Proverbes, Part ii., Chap. viii.
  • Guilty consciences always make people cowards.
    • The Prince and his Minister, Chapter iii, Fable iii.
  • Whoever … prefers the service of princes before his duty to his Creator, will be sure, early or late, to repent in vain.
    • The Prince and his Minister, Chapter iii, Fable iii.
  • There are some who bear a grudge even to those that do them good.
    • A Religious Doctor, Fable vi.
  • There was once, in a remote part of the East, a man who was altogether void of knowledge and experience, yet presumed to call himself a physician.
    • The Ignorant Physician, Fable viii.
  • He that plants thorns must never expect to gather roses.
    • The Ignorant Physician, Fable viii. Compare: "For as you sow, ye are like to reap", Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part ii., Canto ii., Line 501.
  • Honest men esteem and value nothing so much in this world as a real friend. Such a one is as it were another self, to whom we impart our most secret thoughts, who partakes of our joy, and comforts us in our affliction; add to this, that his company is an everlasting pleasure to us.
    • Choice of Friends, Chapter iv.
  • That possession was the strongest tenure of the law.
    • The Cat and the Two Birds, Chapter v, Fable iv. Compare: "Possession is eleven points in the law", Colley Cibber, Woman’s Wit, Act i.

About the Panchatantra

  • Hindu literature is especially rich in fables; indeed, India is probably responsible for most of the fables that have passed like an international currency across the frontiers of the world. Buddhism flourished best in the days when the Jataka legends of Buddha’s birth and youth were popular among the people. The best-known book in India is the Panchatantra, or “Five Headings” (ca. 500 A.D.); it is the source of many of the fables that have pleased Europe as well as Asia.
  • The influence of the Panchatantra upon the Arabian Nights, however, is beyond question.
    • Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors.
  • [Arvind] Sharma recommends introducing the study of Arthashastra in all schools in all languages. ....Some others suggest that Panchatantra ought to be taught at very young ages as a popular version of strategic thinking. It is interesting that the Arabs took the Panchatantra and translated/adapted it into their children's stories, which reached Europe as Aesop's Fables.
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