What is Panchatantra? Information about Panchatantra stories, history and definition.
Panchatantra; an anonymous compilation of stories and animal fables written in Sanskrit and designed to teach princes both practical politics and ethical behavior. Composed in prose intermingled with didactic verses, the narrative is viewed as if it were a weaver’s loom consisting of five (pancha) threads (tantra), each thread, or topic, elucidating a principle of political science or ethics (how to separate allied friends, how to win allies, how and when to make war and peace, how to prevent the loss of what one has got, and how to avoid hasty action).
Before the 7th century of the Christian era the work traveled northwest and southeast from India in two versions. A rendering of an early Sanskrit version into Pahlavi by a Persian physician named Borzouyeh is known only through its Arabic translation composed about 750 by ibn-al-Muqaffa’ and entitled Kalllah wa-Dimnah (The Book of Kalila and Dimna). The Arabic text was translated into Syriac, Greek, Persian, Hebrew, and Spanish, through which the work spread during the Middle Ages to those countries where Islam was established. A Latin translation of the Hebrew bears the title Directorium vitae hu-manae, and its descendants include versions in the principal languages of Europe, where the stories became famous as the Fables of Bidpai. On the basis of a South Indian Sanskrit reworking called the Tantropakhyana, the stories migrated also to Southeast Asia, where they are variously known in translations into Javanese (Tantri Tales), Thai (Tales of Nang Tantrai), and Lao (Tales of Nang Tantai).