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The Panchatantra of Vishnusharma

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Item Code: HAU078
Author: Meena Arora Nayak
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9789393852199
Pages: 415
Cover: HARDCOVER
Other Details 9.5x6.5 inch
Weight 610 gm
Book Description
About The Book

uthored in about 345-300 BCE by Vishnusharma, the Panchatantra has long been considered one of India's invaluable gifts to the world. Its creation is the stuff of legend: in an effort to expedite the education of his three unschooled sons, the wise King Amarashakti of Mahilaropya sought out the octogenarian scholar Vishnusharma, who was known for his inventive teaching methods. Vishnusharma not only accepted the task of educating the princes but also said that he would accomplish it in six months. The Nitishastra he used to teach the princes was one he composed specifically for the purpose and this was called the Panchatantra-five treatises.

'Mitra Bheda' (breach of friendship), the longest of the sections, is framed around the deep friendship between a lion, Pingalaka, and a bull, Sanjivaka, and narrates how they are turned against each other, raising the question: can two animals who are natural enemies ever be friends? The second tantra, 'Mitra Samprapti (acquisition of friends), relates how a crow, mouse, tortoise, and deer become friends, and shows how friendship between the small and powerless is beneficial to all involved. 'Kakolukiyam' (of crows and owls), the third tantra, is a narrative that draws from Kautilya's six-fold state policy, which is woven into the tantra's frame story that describes a vendetta between crows and owls. The fourth tantra, 'Labdha Pranasham' (loss of acquired gains), is centred around the well- known tale of a crocodile's treasured friendship with a monkey and how he loses it when his wife develops a hankering for the monkey's heart. 'Aparikshita Karakam' (impetuous actions), the last tantra, is unique for its focus on human characters. The framing tale is about a barber who, under a misconception, assaults monks, rashly assuming that this will bring him gold. It makes the case that reckless actions, especially when they are triggered by greed, end in failure and grief.

The sixty-nine stories in the Panchatantra cut a wide swathe, depicting as large a slice of life as possible. The cast of characters consists of lions, tigers, wolves, cats, tortoises, monkeys, deer, hares, snakes; crows, cranes, and various other birds; and water creatures, such as fish and crabs. There are also some humans, such as weavers and barbers, fowlers and hunters, as well as wealthy merchants, and ministers, kings, and, along with these, a smattering of priests. While in recent times it has been largely treated as children's literature, the Panchatantra is a timeless book of wisdom for all ages, filled with tales laced with insight, cogent witticisms, and lessons about living. In this retelling of the ancient text, Meena Arora Nayak creates a work that is lucid, fluent, and engaging, while keeping the essence of its magnificence intact.

About The Author

Meena Arora Nayak is a professor of English and Mythology. She is the author of the novels A Dust Storm in Delhi, Endless Rain, About Daddy, and In the Aftermath, as well as The Puffin Book of Legendary Lives, Evil in the Mahabharata, The Blue Lotus: Myths and Folktales of India, The Kathasaritsagara of Somadeva, and Adbhut: Marvellous Creatures of Indian Myth and Folklore.

Introduction

THE ELIXIR

In the sixth century, the Sasanian king of Persia, Khusru Anushirvan, heard about an elixir in India that revived the dead. Rumour had it that it was extracted from medicinal herbs that grew in the country's high mountains. The king sent his physician, Burzoe, to India to find the elixir, sparing no expense, and bring it back to Persia. Burzoe searched high and low in India's mountains and forests and markets and streets, but nowhere could he find any such life-restoring potion, or even herb. In despair, wondering how he would report his failure to the king, he doubled his search. Then he met a sage who informed him that the elixir of life he was searching was not an herbal drink at all, but a book. The mountains he had heard about were a metaphor for great men of learning, and their writings were the herbs from which the book's wisdom was extracted, like an elixir. Hence, the dead were not people who perished, but the ignorant, who were figuratively dead, and the knowledge from this book dispelled their state of lifelessness. The sage also told Burzoe that this book was kept in the royal library and could not be removed; however, having access to the library, the wise man was able to smuggle it out for a brief period of time, just so the Persian physician and scholar could see it. Burzoe memorized the book, line by line, and then, later, translated it into Pahlavi. When Anushirvan received this tome of wisdom, he was so awed by it and by the idea of the knowledge that could be contained within a book that he created a whole library, and, in it, he gave Burzoe's acquisition the pride of place. As for Burzoe, the only reward he asked from the king was to have an account of his journey to India included in the book. Anushirvan then had his minister, Buzurjmihr, write Burzoe's biography and insert it at the beginning of the book. And that is how Burzoe's story and the secret of the elixir was revealed to the world.

This invaluable treasure of a book that Burzoe translated into Pahlavi and brought back to Persia was the Panchatantra, and Burzoe's legend (in its various versions) is commonly related to demonstrate why this ancient text was considered panacean wisdom literature across the globe.

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