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Tales from Panchatantra
by Parthasarathi Sahu
A Book Review

I have given a brief review of all the stories retold by Rupa Gupta in the Tales from Panchtantra that I enjoyed reading during my summer holidays. I recommend all of you to read the stories.

1. The Hare who Saved Animals of the Jungle

Once there lived a group of animals in the forest whose life was peaceful and happy. Shashaki was the hare who was clever and smart. One day a ferocious lion called Samrat came to the forest and started killing the animals whenever he pleased to. Then the animal’s life was miserable and they trembled whenever Samrat roared. The animals got together to decide upon a scheme to protect themselves from the lion. They discussed and proposed before the lion that he need not kill the animals for his food. Rather everyday they would send one animal to him whom he can eat. The lion accepted the idea of his food being delivered at his doorstep. This practice went on for many days. One day it was turn of Shashaki, the hare, to become food of Samrat, the lion. Shashaki had a plan. He came too late. When the lion was hungry and angry Shashaki reached and told him that there is another lion in the forest who calls himself the king of the forest. He got delayed because of him. The lion was very angry and wanted to see the other lion. Shashaki took him near a big well. Seeing his reflection in the water and hearing his own voice echoing back to him, the lion thought there was another lion inside the well. He wanted to kill him and jumped into the well. He got drowned due to his pride and anger. By using his intelligence, the little hare was able to save the lives of all the animals.

2. The Donkey who Loved to Sing

A donkey named Gardhav was very sad, because he had to work, he had no friends, and he could not even fulfill his desire to sing. Once he met a clever jackal who took him to a vegetable garden to eat. After Gardhav had eaten his fill, he was so happy that he wanted to sing. The jackal tried to stop him, because he thought that the gardener may come and beat him, but the donkey did not listen to his advice. Ignoring the jackal, the donkey sang so loud that all the farmers arrived and started beating Gardhav. The jackal ran away to save his life. After some time Gardhav jouned his friend, he was groaning in pain . He got a lesson.

Moral: One should never try to do anything in an odd time.

3. The Cave that Talked

A jackal named Chatur was very clever. He was living alone in a burrow, which was a lonely cave in the corner of the forest. Every evening when he would come back to his cave, he would make sure that no ferocious animal had entered it. One day a lion entered Chatur’s cave and smelt an animal. He waited there to eat the animal once it would entered the cave. Chatur come in time, and tried to check if anyone was trying to hiding inside. “Hello cave, shall I come in ?” The lion kept quiet. Chatur said, “Hello cave, if you don’t want me to come in. I will go to find another cave.” The foolish lion thought that the cave actually talked, so he tald, “Come in.” Chatur could know that the lion was hiding inside so he ran before the lion could bounce on him.

Moral: Look before you leap.

4. The Strange Blue Jackal

A Jackal named Siyar was very lazy. He used to eat the left over of lions and tigers as he was too lazy to go for hunting. Once when he was trotting along a pack of dogs chased him. He was terrified and jumped into a large drum kept outside a washer man’s house. The washer man had kept blue dye inside it which made the Siyar blue. All the animals in the jungle including the tiger and lion got scared to see him. Siyar enjoyed the attention and told them that he is sent from the heaven by God and he should be king of the jungle. Soon he become king of the jungle and got food, care, respect and everything by fooling all other animals. Once he heard a pack of jackals howling. He forgot that he was the king and started howling. All the animals were angry and ready to pounce on him. Siyar ran away and never come back.

Moral: We should never deceive/cheat others.

5. The Four Friends

A mouse named Moosa, Crow named Kak, Tortoise Named Kurmi and Deer named Hirni were best of friends. They always helped each other, informed each other about any new place to get food. One evening Hirni got trapped in the net of a hunter. Three other friends rushed to rescue her. When Mosa began to cut the net, the hunter came. Then Kak flew down and pecked him to keep him engaged. But when Hirni was free the hunter, the hunter caught hold of Kurmi and him. Now it was Hirni’s turn to help. She once again came in front of him to divert his attention. He ran to catch her by dropping Kurmi. Hirni was very fast and Kak flew away taking Kurmi along. Thus all the friends were safe and happy.

Moral: A friend in need is a friend indeed

6. The Monkey’s Heart

There was a monkey named Vanar who was very kind hearted. He was living on top of the mango tree with ripe and tasty mangoes. Once a crocodile named Vaachak request Vanar to give him mangoes as he was hungry, Vanar started giving mangoes to him everyday and they became very good friends. Vaachaks’s wife was a greedy fellow.

She told her husband to bring the heart of Vanar because she thought that by eating those sweet mangoes his heart must be sweet. Vaachal cleverly invited Vanar to his house. Vanar sat on his back and they were crossing the river, on the way Vaachak told him that he was taking him home so that his wife can eat his heart. Vanar could understand their plan. So he too fooled him by telling that he always keeps his heart safely on the mango tree. The crocodile believed this and took him back to the tree. Vanar jumped off the crocodile’s back and reached the top of the tree. Then he asked Vaachak to get out.

Moral: We should never deceive anyone.

7. The Crows and the Serpent

Once a Mother and Father crow lived happily in a nest with their baby crows. One day when both mother and father went out in search of food, a serpent that was living in a deep hole under the tree, slithered up the tree and ate up all the young crows. When the parent crows saw that their kids were missing, they were very upset. Their friend fox told them that this must be the work of serpent living under the same tree. Mother crow laid eggs once again and the serpent ate those up. Now they took advice of the fox. Every morning a princess used to come to take bath in the river with her maids. She would keep all her expensive ornaments in the river side and there were attendants looking after the jewels. The fox advised the crows that they should steal the ornaments and drop those into the serpent’s hole. When they did the same, the attendants digged up the serpent’s hole with spades and shoved and took away the necklace when the snake came back and saw his hole had been dug up , he thought that it was unsafe place for him, and he ran away. Soon the crow had many babies and they lived in their nest happily and safely.
Moral: We should not harm anyone.

8. A Groom of the Mouse

One day a hermit saved the life of a little mouse from the clutches of a kite. The mouse pleaded him to give her shelter at his place. So the hermit turned her into a girl, named Kanya, and she was looked after by the hermit and his wife. When Kanya grew up, they wanted to marry her off to the strongest person in the world. The hermit called the Sun, but Kanya found him extremely hot. Then the hermit called upon the cloud. But Kanya thought her was too dark and solemn. Then the Wind was invited. But Kanya thought he was someone who made everyone quiver. Then the Mountain was called upon. But Kanya found him too big and rough. Then the hermit requested the Mountain to suggest someone who is stronger than him. The Mountain told that the Mouse was powerful enough to dig mountain. Kanya liked the Mouse. So the hermit turned Kanya once again into a little mouse and the mouse-maid and mouse groom married and lived happily ever after.

9. The Priest and the Thieves

Once there was a priest in a village who was invited by the villagers to every ceremony to perform pujas. People respected him and gifted him good things. But he had a problem, he was very gullible, which means he was easily fooled. Once a villager gifted him a kid goat. He was happily carrying it home on his shoulder. One the way three thieves saw him with the kid and they decided to cheat him out of it. So they waited for him at three different places. The first thief asked him why he was carrying a dog on his shoulder. The second thief pretended to be shocked that a great man like him was carrying a dead calf on his shoulder. Then the thirst thief laughed at him and asked why was he carrying a donkey on his shoulder? The priest stupidly believed them and thought that the kid was an evil spirit and who was changing its forms to destroy him. So he threw the poor kid and ran away. The three thieves took away it all the way laughing at the priest’s foolishness.

Moral: We should trust our own eyes rather than believing what others say.

10. The Brahmin who did not Like to Work

This is the story of a lazy Brahmin who didn’t like to work, and who was a day-dreamer. He used to beg. Once a kind lady gave him two full pots of curd. He immediately ate up one and hung the other pot by a nail from the ceiling above his bed. Then he started seeing a dream that he will sell the pots and make money. People will pay him a good price for this pot during a famine by which he can buy goats, cows, buffaloes, horses and a big house. Then he will marry a beautiful girl who can bring a big dowry. Then he will have a son who will be taken care by only his wife. If the child will cry and disturb him, he will shout at the wife and beat her with his stick. Thinking this, the Brahmin began to swing his cane around so wildly that it hit the pot hanging over him .The pot broke into pieces and all the curd fell on him. Then he could realize that it was only a dream, but it was too late to correct the things.

Moral: It is good to be a dreamer, but one should be active enough to turn the dreams into reality.

11. The Snake’s Bride

A Brahmin and his wife gave birth to a baby snake. The Brahmin was horrified and asked his wife to burn the baby. But she did not agree and named the snake as Kumar. When Kumar grew up, his parents started looking for a bride for their son. But no one agreed to marry a snake. Only a leaned man agreed to marry off his daughter Manasi to the snake. One night Manasi discovered that her husband turned into a young man leaving his snakes skin. They talked throughout the night and again in the morning, Kumar entered into the snake skin. This went on. Once Kumar’s parents could hear two people whispering in the snake’s room. They rushed in and found the snake’s skin lying in the corner and man talking to Manasi. They could understand the whole thing and burnt the snake’s skin without Kumar’s permission. The young man thanked them and told that he had been cursed to become a snake. By burning the skin without his consent, they have freed him of the curse. Kumar and Manasi lived happily ever after.

12. The Deceitful Goldsmith

Purohit was a kind hearted priest in a village. Once he saw some animals and a goldsmith who had fallen into a well. He rescued the animals and they advised the brahmin not to rescue the man as he may harm him. But he also rescued him. So all of them promised to help him whenever it is needed. Purohit was jobless and he had nothing to eat after some days. So he visited the animals whom he had helped. The monkey gave him food and the tiger gave him gold ornaments. Then he went to the goldsmith who deceived him, kept half of the jewellery and complained the king that Purohit was thief. The king put him in the jail. Then the snake came to help him. He went to the queen’s chamber and bit her. No one could cure the queen as the snake told how to cure her only to the Brahmin. One morning Purohit told the guard that he can cure her. He cured the queen only by toughing her forehead. The king was very happy. So he rewarded the priest and when he got to know the whole story, he punished the goldsmith.

Moral: As we sow, so we reap. 

Book: Tales from Panchatantra: Retold and edited by: Rupa Gupta. AUP, 2006
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