Lessons From Panchatantra
Lessons From Panchatantra5 mins 260 5 mins 260
“Good morning, Students,” said Ms. Latha cheerfully as she looked at her class of 13-year olds. “We will discuss a very interesting topic today, called Myths, Legends, and Fables.” Some students had already read these stories, but the others were very curious to know about them.
Ms. Latha continued, “ Myths are traditional stories which typically involve supernatural beings or events. Legends are also traditional stories, but they have historical importance attached to them and generally speak about a famous person or event. Today, we are going to learn about fables. Fables are short stories involving animals and people and they end with a moral. The fables may have been created centuries ago, but the morals are applicable even in this day and age.”
“One of the main contributions of India to World Literature has been the Panchatantra, a series of stories written by Vishnu Sharma to teach 3 young princes. “Pancha” means 5 and “tantra” means treatises, a formal written work dealing with a subject. The five treatises that Sage Vishwakarma spoke about were, Mitra Labha (winning friends), Mitra Bedha (Losing friends), Apariksitakarakam (acting without thinking), Labdhapranasam (How to come out of difficult situations), and Kakolukiyam ( Relating to strategies of war and peace).
“I will tell you two stories today and then we will discuss how they are appropriate for our lives today. The first one is called ‘The Brahmin and the Goat’ and it goes like this. There was once a Brahmin who went to the neighbouring village to buy a goat. Have completed the purchase, he placed the goat around his neck to better control it, and he started the long walk back to his home.”
“ As he passed through a forest, three very hungry watched him. They wanted to steal the goat from the Brahmin and hatched a plan between themselves. As the Brahmin walked along, one of the robbers approached him and asked him why he was carrying a dog on his shoulders. The Brahmin told the robber to have his eyes checked as he was carrying a goat and not a dog. The robber shrugged and went away and the Brahmin continued on his journey. A little later he came upon the second robber, who asked him why he was carrying a dead calf on his shoulders as it was disrespectful for a Brahmin to do so. The Brahmin lost his temper and furiously told the robber that it was a goat and not a calf that he was carrying. Finally, he met the third robber, who like the other two asked the Brahmin why he was carrying a pig on his shoulders. The Brahmin who had previously gotten angry was now anxious. He wondered if he was carrying a shapeshifting monster on his shoulders that every person who met him had seen a different animal on his back. Scared for his life, he dropped the goat on the road and ran back to his village. The robbers happily collected the goat and went away with it.”
“The second story is called ‘The Brahmin’s Wife and the Mongoose’. A Brahmin and his wife had a faithful and loyal mongoose. One day the Brahmin’s wife left the mongoose to watch over their baby who was sleeping in a cradle. When she was gone, a snake crept in and slithered over to the cradle. The ever- watchful mongoose immediately jumped on it and killed by biting its neck. When the mongoose heard the Brahmin’s wife returning, it joyfully ran outside to receive her. The lady was shocked to see the mongoose’s mouth and face covered with blood and assumed that it had bitten and killed her baby. She immediately took a stick and beat it to death. When she went running inside, she saw to her dismay that her baby was happily playing in the cradle and a snake lay dead beside it. She realised her mistake and regretted her unthinking actions.”
The students listened spellbound as the teacher narrated these two stories.
Ms. Latha continued, “These stories have very important morals that are applicable to our lives. Let us consider the first story in which the Brahmin was influenced by the words of the three robbers. In the same way, in this current age, we are continuously influenced by people on social media. From news anchors to politicians, bloggers, Instagramers, and Twitterati, every person has something to say. But if we believe what each of these people, we will be losers like the Brahmin. It is important to use our own judgment and common sense to filter all these opinions and judge which are right and wrong. It is better to check the veracity of the news item before blindly believing it. This brings me to the moral of the second story. The Brahmin’s wife acted without thinking. She could only regret her actions, but could not bring the mongoose back to life. In the current world, we are also quick to react. It takes only a few clicks of the mouse, to like or dislike, to forward a fake message on Whatsapp or to malign a person based on an untrue story on social media. But remember, like words spoken, these actions cannot be reversed or corrected. They may have consequences ranging from mild to severe. Hence, it is better to always think before acting. Opinions are important, you should have one, but make sure that it is based on fact and not fiction. “
Thus saying, Ms. Latha completed her lesson. The student’s faces had thoughtful expressions on them. They agreed with Ms.Latha, that the circumstances may be vastly different, but the morals at the heart of the Panchatantra held true, throughout the annals of time.