Panchatantra Bedtime Story Beginning
A king, worried that his three sons are without the wisdom to live in a world of wile and guile, asks a learned man called Vishnu Sharman to teach them the ways of the world.
Vishnu Sharman decides to pass on wisdom to them in the form of stories. In these stories, he makes animals speak like human beings. Panchatantra is a collection of attractively told stories about the five ways that help human beings succeed in life. Pancha means five and tantra means ways or strategies or principles. Addressed to the king’s children, the stories are primarily about statecraft and are popular throughout the world. The five strategies are:
- The Loss of Friends
- Gaining friends
- Of crows and owls
- Loss of gains
Once upon a time, Amarasakti ruled the city-state of Mahilaropyam in the south of India. He had three witless sons who became a matter of endless worry for him. Realizing that his sons had no interest in learning, the king summoned his ministers and said:
“You know I am not happy with my sons. According to men of learning an unborn son and a stillborn son are better than a son who is a dimwit. A son who is stupid will bring dishonor to his father. How can I make them fit to be my successors? I turn to you for advice.”
One of the ministers suggested the name of Vishnu Sharman, a great scholar enjoying the respect of hundreds of his disciples. “He is the most competent person to tutor your children. Entrust them to his care and very soon you will see the change.”
The king summoned Vishnu Sharman and pleaded with him “Oh, venerable scholar, take pity on me, and please train my sons into great scholars and I will make you the lord of hundred villages.”
Vishnu Sharman said “Oh, king, listen to my pledge. A hundred villages do not tempt me to vend learning. Count six months from today. If I do not make your children great scholars, you can ask me to change my name.”
The king immediately called his sons and handed them to the care of the learned man. Sharman took them to his monastery where he started teaching them the five strategies (Panchatantra). Keeping his word, he finished the task the king entrusted him in six months. Since then, Panchatantra became popular all over the world as children’s guide in solving problems of life.
Now begins the Loss of Friends (first of the five strategies) series. These are stories that figure in a dialogue between two jackals named Karataka and Damanaka.