With abundant irony and satire the most various human vices are exposed, among others the hypocrisy and avarice of Brahmans, the intriguing character of courtiers, and the faithlessness of women. A vigorous popular spirit of reaction against Brahman pretensions here finds expression, and altogether a sound and healthy view of life prevails, forming a refreshing contrast to the exaggeration found in many branches of Indian literature.
The following translation of a short fable from the first book may serve as a specimen of the style of the Panchatantra.
"There was in a certain forest region a herd of monkeys. Once in the winter season, when their bodies were shivering from contact with the cold wind, and were buffeted with torrents of rain, they could find no rest. So some of the monkeys, collecting gunja berries, which are like sparks, stood round blowing in order to obtain a fire. Now a bird named Needlebeak, seeing this vain endeavour of theirs, exclaimed, ʽHo, you are all great fools; these are not sparks of fire, they are gunja berries. Why, therefore, this vain endeavour? You will never protect yourselves against the cold in this way. You had better look for a spot in the forest which is sheltered from the wind, or a cave, or a cleft in the mountains. Even now mighty rain clouds are appearing.ʼ Thereupon an old monkey among them said, ʽHo, what business of yours is this? Be off. There is a saying—
- A man of judgment who desires
- His own success should not accost
- One constantly disturbed in work
- Or gamblers who have lost at play.