One of the most widely read Sanskrit book in India, Hitopadesha tales are short stories that have the priceless treasure of morality and knowledge. After Bhagwad Gita, Hitopadesha is considered to be the best seller in India. The tales from Hitopadesh written in a very logical and a clear way and one does not have to make much effort to figure out what moral is a particular story implying. The stories are inspired from the Panchatantra and are simple stories that involve birds and animals. Hitopadesha has been derived from two words, Hita and Upadesha. It basically means to counsel or advice with wisdom. To know more about Hitopadesha, continue to read this insightful article on it.
History Of Hitopadesha
The author of Hitopadesha, Narayana Pandit says that the main purpose of creating the Hitopadesha is to instruct young minds in a way that they learn the philosophy of life and are able to grow into responsible and mature adults. There is no other documentation of work written by the writer of Hitopadesha other than Hitopdesha itself, therefore it is not clearly known who Narayana actually was. Just that the verses of the work have the patronage of the king Dhavalachandra mentioned so it is presumed that Narayana was most probably a preceptor at King Dhavalachandra's court. The stories are very interesting and youngsters not only find it interesting, but also accept it easily.
Hitopadesha has been translated into many languages. During his reign, Emperor Akbar, gave orders to translate the book into the popular language of those times. His aim was to frame the book in the popular style and make it available to the general public. He asked his minister Abul Fazi to re-publish the book with proper explanations or morals at the end of each story to make it easy for the people to understand it. This was published under the name of the Criterion of Wisdom. Hitopadesha was translated in English by Charles Wilkins who also made the first translation of the holy Bhagavad Gita. Another translation by sir Edwin Arnold was published in London in 1861.
Popular Tales From Hitopadesha
Elephant & Jackal: It is a story about an elephant called Karpuratilaka who used to live in a forest. He resorted to brutality quite easily. There was no one to stop him from exhibiting his power on creatures smaller in size and power than him. All the jungle used to be scared of his erratic behavior. One day, in his bigotry, he destroyed the burrows of the Jackals. This was like the last nail in the coffin and all the animals came together to a consensus that the elephant should die in order for them to save themselves. Especially all the jackals were very angry and decided to take the killing of the elephant in their own hands. But it seemed like an impossible task because the elephant was huge in size and was also out of control. Then out of the group of jackals, an old jackal proposed the idea of killing the elephant himself and all the other jackals consented to this. The next day, the old jackal went to the elephant and very humbly presented the idea of him becoming the king of the jungle to him. He targeted on the ego of the mighty elephant and praised him relentlessly to which the elephant responded very positively. Further to this, the jackal requested the elephant to come with him as the ceremony of his crowning for the king of the jungle was supposed to take place in the middle of the jungle, amidst all the other animals. Elephant was already expecting such honor and was really happy to hear all this. He happily went with jackal wherever he was supposed to take him. While they were on their way, they had to cross a swamp. The old jackal crossed the swap quite easily because of his small size but as soon as the elephant tried to cross it, he got stuck in it. He started going deep into it, even though he was making great efforts to come out of it. All the other animals witnessed this and nobody responded to his desperate calls for help. He sank deep into the mud and died. Moral of the story is that every tyrant has to meet his fate one day.
Sage's Daughter: There once lived a sage by the banks of a holy river. He and his wife lived a very unhappy and unfulfilling life because they did not have any children. One day when the sage was sitting in meditation then a kite dropped a she-mouse in his lap. He thought of it as an indication by the god to take care of the mouse and decided that he should take it home. But he was worried about the fact that people will laugh at him if he will take the mouse home. Therefore, he decided to turn the mouse into a girl with his sage powers. When he took the girl home then his wife inquired the whereabouts of the girl from her husband. The sage told his wife the whole account and was about to turn the girl back into her original form. At this moment sage's wife requested him to keep the girl as their daughter as by giving her a new form, he has given her a new life and therefore he has now become her father. The sage accepted his wife's request and they brought up the girl together. When the girl turned into a beautiful sixteen year old girl they decided it was time to get her married and his wife suggested that they should get her married to the sun god. The sage prayed to the sun god to appear and take his daughter as his wife but the daughter refused the idea saying that she will be burnt if she will go near sun god. The sage got disappointed and asked sun god to suggest a suitable groom for his daughter. He suggested the lord of clouds would be an apt for his groom. But the girl rejected him too saying that the thunderstorms scare her. It was then thought that lord of winds should be approached but the girl said no for him as well saying that she cannot marry someone as instable as the wind god. Keeping stability in mind, it seemed like the lord of mountains would be a good choice for her but yet again the daughter rejected the proposal saying that she cannot possibly marry someone as rigid as the lord of mountains. At this it was suggested that she should get married to a mouse as a mouse is soft and can make holes even in the mountains. To this the girl gave her consent. The sage changed her back to a she-mouse and got her married to a he-mouse. They lived happily ever after. The moral of the story is that you cannot change the true nature of a person.