The Panchatantra is a series of inter-woven colourful tales, mostly fables. According to its introductory narration, these inter-woven tales are meant to illustrate, for the benefit of three ignorant princes, the primary Hindu principles of nïti
- "the wise conduct of life" or "prudent worldly conduct".
In a brief introductory narrative - Vishnu Sharma, is introduced as reciting and explaining the rest of the work to the three young princes. The book is then divided into five parts - each of which revolves around a main frame story, with several stories "emboxed" in it, sometimes three or four levels deep, as one character narrating a story to another. Often, these emboxed stories snap from each other, unexpectedly and irregularly at times, to sustain attention. Apart from the stories, the characters are noted to quote various epigrammatic verses to illustrate their objectives.
The five books are called:
The Separation of Friends (The Lion and the Bull) Read Stories
The first book, which is the longest of the five books, illustrates the incidents that frequesntly lead to separation of friends. It begins with a friendship between a lion king, Pingalaka, and a bull, Sanjivaka. Two jackals, Karataka and Damanaka, are ministers of the lion who lead to breaking up the friendship. The jackals narrate most of the thirty stories contained in this part. This book accounts for roughly 45% of the work's length.
Book 1: The Separation of Friends »
- Mitra-lábha or Mitra-samprápti:
The Gaining of Friends (The Dove, Crow, Mouse, Tortoise and Deer) Read Stories
This second book illustrates the making or gaining of friends through the friendship between a rat and a crow, which later includes a turtle and a fawn. They collaborate to save each other to illustrate the essence of unity and friendship. This book accounts for roughly 22% of the total work's length.
Book 2: The Gaining of Friends »
Of Crows and Owls (War and Peace) Read Stories
The third book illustrates the art of war and the importance of peace through traditional enemies - the crows and the owls. The book showcases the weaker crows overcoming the mightier owls by tactfully gaining access to their secrets and vulnerabilities. This book accounts for roughly 26% of the total work's length.
Book 3: Of Crows and Owls »
Loss of Gains (The Monkey and the Crocodile) Read Stories
The fourth book enlightens how gains achieved may be lost through a symbiotic friendship between a monkey and a crocodile, who conspires to acquire the heart of the monkey. However, the monkey gets to know of this and uses wisdom to avoid the grim fate.
Book 4: Loss of Gains »
Ill-Considered Actions (The Brahmani and the Mongoose) Read Stories
The fifth book revolves around the cases that are considered unacceptable through a Brahmani and her pet mongoose. The mongoose defends her child albeit injuries, but gets punished due to the Brahmani's misunderstanding. She later regrets having killed her friend, and her child's saviour.
Book 5: Ill-Considered Actions »