The Panchatantra is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in verse and prose, arranged within a frame story. The original Sanskrit work, which scholars believe was composed around the 3rd century BCE, is attributed to Vishnu Sharma. It is based on oral traditions, including animal fables that are as old as we are able to imagine. It is certainly the most frequently translated literary product of India, to quote Edgerton. there are recorded over two hundred different versions known to exist in more than fifty languages, and three-quarters of these languages are extra-Indian. As early as the century this work reached Europe, and before 1600 it existed in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Old Slavonic, Czech. Its range has extended from Java to Iceland and it has been worked over and over again, expanded, abstracted, turned into verse, retold in prose, translated into medieval and modern vernaculars, and retranslated into Sanskrit. And most of the contained in it have gone down into the folklore of the story-loving Hindus. Thus it goes by names in many cultures. In India, it had at least 25 recensions, including the Sanskrit Tantrākhyāyikā and it was translated into Middle Persian in 570 CE by Borzūya. This became the basis for a Syriac translation as Kalilag and Damnag, a New Persian version by Rudaki in the 12th century became known as Kalīleh o Demneh and this was the basis of Kashefis 15th century Anvār-i Suhaylī or Anvār-e Soheylī. The book in different form is known as The Fables of Bidpai or The Morall Philosophie of Doni. The Panchatantra is a series of fables, many of which involve animals exhibiting animal stereotypes. According to its own narrative, it illustrates, for the benefit of three ignorant princes, the central Hindu principles of nīti, while nīti is hard to translate, it roughly means prudent worldly conduct, or the wise conduct of life. Apart from a short introduction — in which the author, Vishnu Sharma, is introduced as narrating the rest of the work to the princes — it consists of five parts. Each part contains a story, called the frame story. Often these stories contain further emboxed stories, the stories thus operate like a succession of Russian dolls, one narrative opening within another, sometimes three or four deep. Besides the stories, the characters also quote various epigrammatic verses to make their point, Karataka and Damanaka are two jackals that are retainers to the lion king. Against Karatakas advice, Damanaka breaks up the friendship between the lion and the out of jealousy
Image: Panchatantra page
An 18th century Pancatantra manuscript page in Braj dialect of Hindi (The Talkative Turtle).