Panchatantra

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English-language translations of
पञ्चतन्त्रम् (The Panchatantra)

by Vishnu Sharma

As per Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend, India is the "chief source of the world's fable literature". In India, the Panchatantra is the mother of all fables, compiled from orally available ancient fables by Vishnu Sharma, presumably in the third century B.C. Regarded as the most widely translated non-religious text in history, the Panchatantra was translated into Middle Persian/Pahlavi in the sixth century and into Arabic in the eighth century. As early as the eleventh century this work reached Europe, and before 1600 it existed in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Old Slavonic, Czech, and perhaps other Slavonic languages. Its range has extended from Java to Iceland. A German translation, Das Buch der Beispiele, of the Panchatantra was printed in 1483, making this one of the earliest books to be printed by Gutenberg's press after the Bible. These early European versions were generally known as the fables of Bidpai or Pilpay. In France, the Second Fables of fabulist Jean de La Fontaine was based mostly on Pilpay. In India, at least 25 recensions have been traced, the oldest being the Tantrakhyayika recension of Kashmir, and the longest being the 1199 CE recension of the Jain monk, Purnabhadra. Other popular recensions are the Hitopadesha, and Book 10 of the famous Kathasaritsagara.

In the Indian tradition, The Panchatantra is a nītiśāstra. Nīti can be roughly translated as "the wise conduct of life" and a śāstra is a technical or scientific treatise; thus it is considered a treatise on political science and human conduct. Its literary sources are "the expert tradition of political science and the folk and literary traditions of storytelling". It draws from the Dharma and Artha śāstras, quoting them extensively. It is also explained that nīti "represents an admirable attempt to answer the insistent question how to win the utmost possible joy from life in the world of men" and that nīti is "the harmonious development of the powers of man, a life in which security, prosperity, resolute action, friendship, and good learning are so combined to produce joy". ~~ excerpts from Wikipedia.

English-language translations of पञ्चतन्त्रम् include:

Other notable English translations include: