Written in 200 B.C.
PANDIT VISHNU SHARMA
Translated By G.L. Chandiramani
from Sanskrit into English with the help of
Prof. Dr. S.B. Hudlikar.
PANCHATANTRA also available in
German and Indonesian
Once upon a time, in the south of India, there was a city called Mahilaropyam *. A king by the name of Amarshakti* lived there. He was a very learned man and extremely accomplished in various arts and skills. The king had three sons called Bahushakti *, Ugrashakti* and Anantashakti*, who were complete duds and had no interest whatsoever in studying.
Realising this, the king assembled his ministers and addressed them in these words, "Gentlemen, you already know how ignorant my sons are. They have no understanding whatsoever. Looking at them I cannot enjoy my kingdom. As they say:
'Unborn, dead and stupid sons,
The first two are to be preferred
For they cause sorrow only once
Whilst stupid sons are torment to the heart
Till the end of life.'
'What is the good of a cow
That neither bears a calf nor gives milk?
And, what is the good of a son
Who is neither enlightened nor devoted?'
-"So please tell me ways and means by which my sons
would be enlightened."
One of the ministers replied, "Your majesty! Twelve years are spent in learning grammar alone and then the required sciences, economics, religion and sexology are so vast that it takes a long time to master them. And only then the intelligence is awakened."
But a minister, a man called Sumati* said, "Our life is transitory and these sciences take too long to master them. So we must find a shorter way to enlighten the minds of the princes. I know a Brahmin*, called Vishnu Sharma*, who is an expert in all the sciences and has earned an excellent reputation among his innumerable disciples. So I suggest that the princes should be handed over to him. He will certainly instruct them very well."
When the king heard this, he had Vishnu Sharma invited to the palace and said to him, "Bhagawan*, please educate my sons quickly in nitishastras*. I shall be so grateful to you. I shall present you with a hundred tax-free villages."
This was the reply that Vishnu Sharma made to the king. "Your Majesty, please listen to what I have to say. Believe me, it's the truth. I would not like to sell my wisdom out of greed for money but if I have not made your sons thorough in nitishastras within six months, then I am ready to forfeit my name. Hear my lion's roar. I don't crave for wealth. I am almost eighty years old and have all my desires under control.
Now, would you please make a note of today's date. If I have not educated your sons in nitishastras within six months, then I do not deserve a place in heaven."
The king and his ministers were surprised as well as pleased to hear this seemingly impossible resolution. With great appreciation and respect, the king handed over his sons to the Brahmin and felt at ease.
After taking the princes to his ashrama*, Vishnu Sharma
began to recite them his specially composed stories, divided into five Tantra*.
Now they say:
"A man who has studied this Nitishastra
Or listened to its percepts
Will never be defeated
Not even by Indra*, the Lord of the Heaven."
This is the beginning of the first tantra called, "Conflict amongst friends".
"A great friendship had developed in the jungle,
Between the lion and the bullock,
But it was destroyed
By a very wicked and avaricious jackal"
This is how the story goes:
In the south of India there was a city called Mahilaropyam. The son of a very rich merchant lived there. His name was Vardhamanaka*. One night, as he lay awake in bed, his thoughts were troubled. This is what he was turning over in his mind. "Even when a man has plenty of money, it is still a good thing for him to try to make more.
As they say:
"There is nothing in life that money cannot achieve, and so a wise man should be bent on increasing his wealth. If a man has money , he has friends. When he has money , He is recognised by his relatives. In this world a stranger becomes kinsman to a moneyed man, Whilst a poor man is avoided even by his family. A man with money will even be considered a scholar. Money makes the old young, But the young grow old for want of it.' "
Vardhamanaka came to a decision. On an auspicious day, he took leave of his elders and made preparations to travel to Mathura* with his wares. He had two bullocks called Sanjivaka* and Nandaka*, both born in his house and able to carry heavy loads. He harnessed them to a cart and set out, accompanied by a few servants.
After a few days, as they reached the bank of the river Yamuna*, one of the bullocks, the one called Sanjivaka broke his leg and collapsed. Vardhamanaka was most distressed to see his bullock in this condition and for love of Sanjivaka, he called a halt at the place for three nights.
When the cart drivers saw Vardhamanaka so dejected,
they said to him, "Most noble Sir, why loiter in a jungle
full of lions and tigers for the sake of one ox, when
it may mean sacrifying everything. For they say:
'A wise man should never sacrifice big interests For smaller ones.' "
When he heard them say this, Vardhamanaka left a couple of men to look after the injured bullock and set off on the remainder of the journey.
The following day, these men caught up with him. They had thought they may come to some harm in the jungle and so they lied to Vardhamanaka, "Sir, Sanjivaka is dead. We burnt him in fire." When he heard this, Vardhamanaka performed the last rites, out of gratitude to his devoted servant
But Sanjivaka was destined to live longer. He ate tender plants from the bed of the river Yamuna, thereby regained a little strength and somehow managed to get up. The cool breezes greatly refreshed him. He ate grass that was green and shining and within a few days he became fat and strong.
It's true what they say :
"He whom fortune smiles on,
Though unprotected, eludes destruction,
But he who has luck against him, is done for,
Even though he be well protected.
A man left defenceless in a jungle survives,
But even after a great struggle to live,
He may die in his own house."
Now in this very jungle there lived a lion called Pingalaka*, with an entourage of other animals. One day he was parched with thirst and went to the bank of the river Yamuna to drink water. There, he heard from a great distance the hideous roar of Sanjivaka. Pingalaka was terrified in his heart but outwardly he hid his feelings and went and sat down under a banyan* tree. His court gathered around him.
Now Pingalaka had, in his retinue, two jackals called Karataka* and Damanaka*. They were the sons of his previous minister but had been dismissed from their posts and so always followed him at a distance. When they saw the lion returning without having quenched his thirst, they began to consult with each other. "My dear Karataka," said Damanaka, "this master of ours went to drink water but has returned without doing so and now he sits under the banyan tree surrounded by his retinue."
-"What has that to do with us?"
said Karataka, for :
'The man who takes on work
That has never meant for him,
Like the monkey who took out the wedge from the log.'
-"How was that?" asked Damanaka.
And Karataka told:
THE STORY OF THE MONKEY AND THE LOG
A merchant had started building a temple beneath the trees on the outskirts of a town. Every day the carpenters and the workmen used to go into the town for their midday meals. Now, one particular day, a troop of wandering monkeys arrived on the scene. One of the carpenters, who was in the middle of sawing a log, put a wedge in it, to prevent the log from closing up, and then went off.
The monkeys started playing on the tops of the trees and the high structures, without a care in the world. One poor monkey, not destined to live long, sat down on the half split log, caught hold of the wedge with his hands and started pulling it out. And behold! The wedge came out all of a sudden and the log closed in, but not before the monkey's legs had been trapped in the gap. He was instantly killed.