We live in a world where several mysteries lie before us resolved in bare state. Scientific
revolution and advancements in communication technology have brought about a new
way of our looking at the world. It is not always pleasant and when we look over the
shoulder it is with an awe and pleasure as to how we knew it all anyway but our world
was more composite. The past has always been enchanting and it still gladdens the
heart and uplifts consciousness to have a look at the firmament we were so familiar and
free with so far.
The editor of the present series welcome the reader into the pleasure of a
participative stroll into some major works of Sanskrit literature that are a heritage of
Indian lore. Books Panhatantra or Gems of Indian Thought, Hitopadesh or The
Benevolent Saying, Vikramaditya-Veital Tales or The Tales of Riddles, Jatakmala or The
Pearls of Indian Wisdom, The Life & Times of King Bhoj or Bhoj Prabandha and Fairy
Dolls & Vikramaditya’s Legendary Throne are entertaining, informing and illustrative of
universal and eternal values. I am sure the reader would find these an enriching
experience. Simple language and clear narration, I am sure, will be welcomed by
readers of all ages.
Hitopadesh is a digest of the world famous classic Panchtantra the importance of which in world literature can hardly be emphasized. An essence of all wisdom gleaned from thousands of years of thinking on the subject of human organization and human groups Panchtantra is a crystal reflection of the story of evolution of animals and avians who try to retain their supremacy. It is a bitter and blooded fight the keen struggle to ward off pain and deprivation only to discover to ward off pain and deprivation only to discover the everlasting bondages that hold to Earth both and only to come to an understanding of the eternal sadness that characterizes the story of existence here an earth.
The Sentiment is distilled in the chapter on war strategy Kakulukiyam where the crow minister Sthirjivi at the end of the war wit owls exhorts king Meghvarn to rule the empire with wisdom for time will devour even this victory.
Thus structurally hitopadesh misses out Labdh-pranasham and Aparikshitkarak. The former is a detailed discussion on the matter of the deadlier species among beings the subject of women and how they cause downfall of great mighty and learned also a severe commentary on the disgraceful levels males stoop to when it comes to keeping their spouse happy with a fundamental advice never love anyone to distraction Aparikshitkarak is a political treatise on laying out ground framework before undertaking any project in order to avoid hindrances and difficulties when the project goes on stream. It is a strict commentary on the mortifying consequences of greed.
Hitopadesh has left these two chapters out and only taken up the three aspects of existence Retired life of contentment ease and worry free living Mitralabh political maneuverings of those in charge who see to it that the authorities do not meddle with the working of underlings, Suhradaybhed and the state of war that high and mighty engage in their domination struggle and their struggle for survival, which is not immune to nefarious designs of revolutionary zealots, and their coming to terms with each other after the war through truce, Vigrah. and Sandhi.
We have to mention here that ‘Hitopadesh’ is a truthful and honest rendition of the three ‘Panchtantra’ chapters and an aid to the better understanding of the larger tome. Hitopdesh, in sifting away details from ‘Panchtantra’, makes for a more reclined and erudite reading of the text, and presents a slim, paced reading of the same contents. None of the useful material is lost as is evident by a well-knit structure that evokes the same emotions, even when one is not familiar with the ‘Panchtantra’ text. Thus, Mitrallabh, the story of four bachelor friends, crow Laghupatnak, mouse Hiranyank, tortoise Manthra and deer Chitrang, is the same endearing account as encountered in ‘Panchtantra’. Suhradayabhed rakes up the issue of opposites, or natural enemies befriending each other and the disastrous consequences thereof as emanate from the friendship of herbivore ox, Sanjeevak and carnivore lion, Pingalak. One is placid, the other ferocious. Their helpless state, as fox minister Damnak plays on their psychology, is a lesson in how ministers in-charge manipulate events.
The war between swans led by King Hirayangarbh and peacocks led by King Chitravarn is a story of the clash of Titans in Vigrah. How, after the defeat of swans through sabotage by crows, a pact is drawn between them is some measure of explanation of how the mighty have to maneuver face-saving devices after having gone through war state is the subject matter of Sandhi the fourth and last chapter of Hitopadesh.
May Mahadevji, whose forehead sports the Moon’s arc, like Holy Ganga’s curves, grace sages in their mission.
This Hitopdesh text, on listening, educates in all manners regarding wit in speaking, in giving substance to statements and in all aspects of social behavior.
The intelligent man should accumulate knowledge and wealth thinking he shall never grow old or die; but death has its grip on his neck, thinking so, he should practice dharma always. That is, while he goes about his daily life, he should keep a constant eye on righteous living.
Pundits (learned men) in all ages consider knowledge a wealth that cannot be stolen by thieves, destroyed with time and, in all, the most superior asset.
Just as the mean object like grass etc joins the river to the sea by growing on the banks, knowledge also brings the beggar and the king on the same platform. And then it brings luck.
Education breeds modesty, modesty generates skill; skill can be employed to gain wealth; wealth encourages living righteously (i.e., by dharma) and dharma brings peace of mind.
Expertise in armaments and excellence in learning both earn respect, but the former generates only ridicule in old age while the latter earns respect at all ages.
Just as the mud vessel takes on the initial character it is given which does not leave it afterwards, in the same manner I have encoded, through tales, matters of polity (social, political intercourse among human societies, for young ones.
Gleaning subject matter from Panchtantra and other anthologies four chapters have been demarcated in Hitopdesh. They are 1.Mitralabh 2.Suhradayabhed 3. Vigrah 4. Sandhi.
There is a city of Patna along River Ganges. There, endowed with all the superior qualities of king, Sudershan was the ruler. Once, someone recited these two slokas to the king:
Removing several doubts and exposing hidden meanings, sastras are the eyes of all; one who does not have that knowledge contained in sastras, he is blind.
Youth, wealth, lordship and callousness — the presence of any one of these in the character of an individual causes disaster. The condition of one who has all these four in his personality need hardly be mentioned!
Listening to these two slokas the king was perturbed over his three children who refused to study sastras and were inclined to tread the evil path. He started thinking.
Who is neither pundit, nor observing dharma; such a son what good is he? Just as what are you staring at with one eye? You can only get pain in the eye.
Not born, or dying just after birth and a moron son — of these three the first two are better but not the last. A mindless son is no good. Because the first two give sorrow only once. The last one is a perpetual pain.
Aborting the womb; not copulating with the woman; the just-born dying (still born); birth of a daughter, the woman being barren or the foetus dying in the womb — all these conditions are better; but having a son who is handsome and rich but witless is a curse.
And with the birth of a son if the clan wins praises, then consider a son born, otherwise in this meaningless world who does not take rebirth after death? That is many are born and many die.
If the birth of a son does not imply his name adding to the glory of the clan then such a mother calling herself as mother of a son is a shame. What would a barren woman call herself then? That is, the mother of a son without virtue is actually barren.
More, who is not interested in alms giving, in penance, in bravery, in learning, and earning wealth, that son is as useless as his mother’s defecate.
Secondly, virtuous single son is better, but foolish hundred ones are no good. Because alone Moon removes darkness where even a huge gathering of stars fail.
The man who has observed tough penances in some pilgrim spot only his son is obedient wealthy dharma oriented and pundit.
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