Ancient Wisdom Stories of India

Greatness of Ancient India:
India is a land of rich culture and heritage. It has a fabulous history. Ancient India was a very rich country in the world. India, during that time, was probably the most advanced civilization in the world. Ancient India was advanced in all the major fields like Science and technology, Mathematics, Art, Literature, Medicine and Home science. India also has a rich history in the field of fable literature. Hundreds of fables were composed in ancient India during the first millennium BC itself.

India has always been associated with wisdom. Fable literature mainly constitutes stories of wisdom that would mainly focus on human follies and weaknesses. A moral is woven into the story and is expertly formulated in the end.

The major works of Indian fable literature are identified as:

  • The Panchatantra
  • Hitopadesha
  • Jataka Katha

The Panchatantra

The Panchatantra is an ancient Indian collection of animal fables in both prose and verse, in a story format. Panchatantra was written in Sanskrit in 200 BC by a Sanskrit scholar named Vishnu Sharma.

Origin of Panchatantra: Panchatantra was initiated with a need to teach all the necessary life skills, political and practical wisdom with in a short period of time.
Long back in Southern India, there was a city named Mahilaropya, which was ruled by a King called Amarshakti. The king had three sons named Vahushakti, Ugrashakti, and Anantashakti. The king wanted to make his sons knowledgeable in political and practical wisdom. By the advice of his minister Sumati, the king invited a scholar named Vishnu Sharma and requested him to teach his sons all the scriptures and make them knowledgeable and smart, but in a short time.

Knowing that it would take nearly twelve years to teach all the elements of the scriptures, Vishnu Sharma thought of teaching the princes, through a series of stories, which would be more effective than the scriptures. Thus, Vishnu Sharma compiled stories in five volumes known as “Panchatantra” meant to serve as the guide for the princes to learn kingly behavior. Panchatantra made the three princes knowledgeable in the necessary branches of political wisdom, moral code of conduct, and practical wisdom with in a short period of time. Hence, the original purpose of the Panchatantra was to train young princes on how to act in their private and political life.

Panchatantra has five tantras or principles/formulas. Each of them covers a major branch and includes a set of animal tales. These principles are as applicable today as they were 2000 years back. Most of the stories were written by Vishnu Sharma himself. However, some stories date back many centuries before Panchatantra was compiled. These stories were used in Panchatantra to pass on the message in the most appropriate context or situation.

The five tantra’s in Panchatantra:

  • Mitra Bheda / मित्रभेदः /(Estrangement Of Friends)
  • Mitra Samprapti / मित्रसम्प्राप्तिः /(Gaining Of Friends)
  • Kakolukiyam / काकोलूकीयम् /(Of War and Peace)
  • Labdha Pranasam / लब्धप्रणाशम् /(Loss Of Gains)
  • Aparikshita Karakam / अपरीक्षितकारकं /(Imprudence)

Mitra Bheda (Estrangement Of Friends): This principle gives a deep understanding of how good friends can be lost by trivial differences. The stories mention how opponents or enemies can create many situations due to which good friends can be lost. The moral of the stories in this volume is all about the miserable affects of losing deserving people in our life, falling to the trap of evil people.

Mitra Samprapti (Gaining Of Friends): This Principle gives insight into how lost friends can be gained back or new friends can be made. It also teaches how people or friends with mutual interest can join together to achieve a common goal. The stories in this principle educate us how to come out of difficult situations.

Kakolukiyam (Of War and Peace): This Principle teaches how misunderstanding between friends can be created using deceit and duplicity, to weaken their unity. In these stories, the crows and owls are portrayed as rivals and how the crows finally destroy the oppressing owls is the main theme of the stories. This principle is also known as – Suhrudbheda or “Causing Dissension Between Friends”.

Labdha Pranasam (Loss Of Gains): This tantra gives an insight into how gains made earlier can be lost if proper care is not taken or if the consequences are not properly analyzed.

Aparikshita Karakam (Imprudence): This Principle teaches about the consequences of taking action in a hurry without knowing the details or the truth. The moral of the stories is about the price we pay to the actions of our unnecessary haste in day to day life.

The essence of ‘The Panchatantra’ lies in the simple and interesting story telling and teaching its readers morals, practical and political wisdom along with other necessary life skills.


The Hitopadesha is seen as the natural cousin of the Panchatantra. Hitopadesha is a collection of Sanskrit fables in both prose and verse. It was written in the 12th century B.C. by a scholar called “Narayana”, under the patronage of a King called Dhavalachandra. The Hitopadesha is a collection of tales that counsel and advice for the welfare and benefit of everyone. Hitopadesha tales are written in a reader-friendly manner. Hitopadesha is considered as the best seller in India after ‘Bhagwad Gita’.

Stories in Hitopadesha are mostly derived from Panchatantra. Out of the five tantra’s in Panchatantra, author Narayana adapted stories from the four principles. Besides those stories, he added 18 more stories to his compilation. Apart from Panchatantra, stories and concepts from Mahabharata, Dharma Shashtra, Purana, and Chanakya Niti have been used in Hitopadesha.

Hitopadesha has the following four sections:

  • Mitra Laabha / मित्रलाभः / mitralaabhah (Gaining Friends)
  • Suhrudbheda / सुरुभेधः / surubhedhah (Causing Dissension Between Friends)
  • Vigraha / विग्रहः / vigrahah (Separation)
  • Sandhi / सन्धि / sandhi (Union)

Just like its major source, the intention of Hitopadesha is to imbibe knowledge of political wisdom, moral conduct, practical wisdom in its readers.

Jataka Katha

The Jataka tales are mainly a collection of over 550 Buddhist stories of wisdom preserved in Jataka or Tripitaka. These stories were composed during the 4th century B.C. Most of the stories were in the form of poems followed by commentary or the prose, which explains the context of the verse. The stories of the Jataka tales are written in Pali language, which were later translated and distributed to people across the world. These stories are mainly about past incarnations of Buddha, and are meant to teach the values of self-sacrifice, honesty, morality and other values to a common person. These tales shows how good ultimately wins over evil.

The Buddhists believe that Siddhartha before becoming Buddha, took birth in different forms and attained Bodhisattva. In each birth, he took different forms of life like elephant, deer, monkey, bird, or sometimes a man. In each life, it was said that he had spread the message of justice, wisdom, common sense, caution, trust, kindness, humility and compassion. All those previous lives of the Buddha are featured in the Jataka tales. The Jataka tales always begin with an incident in the life of the Buddha, usually a sermon he is giving, in which he illustrates with a story from one of his previous lives. After the tale gets completed, he often indicates who were the other characters in the story of his previous existence. In this way the law of karma, or the consequences of actions, is illustrated, and the deep patterns of different souls can be seen.

All in all, the ancient stories of wisdom in India have a huge following all across the world and secured their place as the jewels in the world of fable literature. The wisdom and the sensible nature of the ancient Indian civilization can be understood by going through these fable literature works.


3 comments on “Ancient Wisdom Stories of India”

  1. I take pleasure in, result in I discovered just what I used to be having a look for.

    You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless
    you man. Have a great day. Bye

  2. nice explanation

  3. KASHMIRA says:

    Exactly what I was looking for!