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Fables. 
The Panchtantra
by Swapna Dutta

An introduction

Once upon a time there was a kingdom in southern India named Mahilaropya. It was ruled by a mighty king named Amara Sakti. He had three young sons, Vasu Sakti, Ugra Sakti and Ananta Sakti. They were healthy and handsome but the king was not happy. In fact, he was greatly worried about them because they were ignorant, lazy, idle, dim-witted and had no power of judgment. He realized that something must be done about them and soon, before they got totally out of hand and spoilt their lives.

King Amara Shakti sent for his ministers and asked them how he could get his sons educated. They discussed the various aspects of education at length only to realize that there were no short-cuts. Total education was bound to take several years. And it was doubtful if the princes would agree to go through it after the easy, lazy life they were used to. Finally one of the ministers suggested his taking the help of Visnu Sarma, a renowned scholar of the kingdom. And also one of the wisest. He would be able to teach the princes if it was humanly possible.

So Visnu Sarma was sent for. When he arrived King Amara Sakti bowed humbly before him and begged him to take charge of his three sons. "They are ignorant, stubborn and uneducated. Please teach them practical wisdom and I shall give you anything that you ask for. "I do not sell wisdom, your majesty" replied Visnu Sarma, "Besides, I am an old man and have no earthly needs any more." The king begged him to do it for his sake and finally the old scholar agreed and promised to make them wise in just six months' time.

When the young princes arrived Visnu Sarma asked them if they enjoyed listening to stories. "Oh yes, we do" they answered, looking at their teacher curiously.  "I shall tell you some interesting ones" said Visnu Sarma, "Listen to me carefully".

Visnu Sarma composed five books of stories called The Estrangement of Friends, The Winning of Friends, Of Crows and Owls, Loss of Gains and Rash Deeds. Together, these five books came to be known as The Panchatantra. Needless to say, by the time the princes had listened to all these stories they understood the varied aspects of life, the basic principles of good and evil and how one should face every situation. They were now wise young men, just as their teacher had promised.   

18-Dec-2005
 
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