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Panchtantra Tales 

Folklore depicts the earliest traditions and culture of a people. Folk literature comprising stories ballads, songs, proverbs and riddles is essentially an oral tradition. It is the older generation that handed down these traditions from generation to generation.

Tantrakhayaika, or Panchatantra is a Sanskrit text of legendary collection of short stories in its oldest extant form.  The native land of the Tantrakhayaika was probably Kashmir. It purports to be the work of a Bramhin sage named Vishnusarman. It is written in Sanskrit, the language of the educated court circles of that time.

Lehrbuch, a German scholar, translated Tantrakhayaika in German as ‘AusErzahlungen von Klugheitsfallanbestehendes’. In the preface to this volume entitled Das Panchtantra, page vii, he says:

“This book treats of the history of the work which had made an unparalleled triumphal progress from its native land over all the civilized parts of the glove and which for more than fifteen hundred years has delighted young and old, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, high and low, and still delights them. Even the greatest obstacles – whether the language, customs or religion – have not been able to check that triumphal progress.”

Tbenfey’s publication of Panchtantra published,in 1859 with the theory that India was the storehouse of the stories from which European folk tales had been derived, was a landmark. Scholars have found a common origin from Persian and Indian folk stories. Many stories have migrated to Europe. Aesop’s fables, stories of Katha Sarit Sagar , or Hitopdesha in Sanskrit, Jataka in Pali , Fairy tales of Grimm and Hans Anderson are now, not meant for any particular age or any particular region.

Animal stories of Panchtantra are generally imaginary in background. They are always intensely human, often emotional and ending with a moral. They not only amuse but are a source of enjoyment and education. They provide an insight into the tradition and culture of the region. Folk tales of different regions represent in a way of thoughts, ideas, traditions, manners and customs and even the incidence of wit and wisdom of the people of the region. The thrills that the people miss in their drab existence are sought to be tasted in the imaginary stories of ogres, men, animals, birds, and trees. The folk tales not only represent the realities of human life in that region but also what people would like things to be.

Nothing appeals to children more than the idea that animals and birds should talk, be it sense or nonsense. What appears first to be nonsense has more of sense in it than nonsense. They reflect common sense and folk wisdom, which everyone in any culture learns from childhood onwards.

No scientific research of the social and religious customs of the primitive people would be complete without the study of their folklore, stories, riddles, and proverbs. They  have given posterity an excellent nucleus of historic facts. Disappearance of folk stories will certainly be a great loss to society.

             Here are some folk stories found on Indus Pottery as far back as 2000 BC, Jatakas in Ajanta cave paintings between 200BC-550AD, folk paintings from 18th c to present day.