What is Panchatantra?
The Panchatantra was in the beginning a canonical compilation of Sanskrit (Hindu) as well as Pali (Buddhist) animal fables in poetry and prose. The unique Sanskrit text, now long lost, and which some scholars consider was collected in the 3rd century BCE. However, based as it is on older oral civilization, its past history among storytellers probably hark reverse to the origins of language and the subcontinent’s most primitive social groupings of hunting and fishing folk gathered around campfires.
Origins and function
The work is an ancient and vigorous multicultural hybrid that to this day continues an erratic process of cross-border mutation and adaptation as modern writers and publishers struggle to fathom, simplify and re-brand its complex origins. It illustrates, for the benefit of princes who may succeed to a throne, the central Hindu principles of Raja Nitti (political science) through an inter-woven series of colorful animal tales. These operate like a succession of Russian dolls, one narrative opening within another, sometimes three or four deep, and then unexpectedly snapping shut in irregular rhythms to sustain attention (Story within a story).
Panchatantra is a collection of charmingly told stories about the five ways that help the human being succeed in life. Pancha means five and Tantra means ways or strategies or principles.