The Panchatantra, Book II, Vishnu Sharma
The Panchatantra, Book II
Vishnu Sharma
1:52 h Children Lvl 3.72
The Panchatantra ("Five Treatises") is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit verse and prose, arranged within a frame story. The text's author has been attributed to Vishnu Sharma in some recensions and Vasubhaga in others, both of which may be pen names. The Panchatantra is a series of inter-woven fables, many of which deploy metaphors of anthropomorphized animals with human virtues and vices. The second treatise is quite different in structure than the remaining books, states Olivelle, as it does not truly embed fables. It is a collection of adventures of four characters: a crow (scavenger, not a predator, airborne habits), a mouse (tiny, underground habits), a turtle (slow, water habits) and a deer (a grazing animal viewed by other animals as prey, land habits). The overall focus of the book is the reverse of the first book. Its theme is to emphasize the importance of friendships, team work, and alliances.

The Panchatantra

by
Vishnu Sharma


Book II

The Winning of Friends

Here then begins Book II, called “The Winning of Friends.” The first verse runs:

The mouse and turtle, deer and crow,
Had first-rate sense and learning; so,
Though money failed and means were few,
They quickly put their purpose through.

“How was that?” asked the princes. And Vishnusharman told the following story.

In the southern country is a city called Maidens’ Delight. Not far away was a very lofty banyan tree with mighty trunk and branches, which gave refuge to all creatures. As the verse puts it:

Blest be the tree whose every part
Brings joy to many a creature’s heart —
Its green roof shelters birds in rows,
While deer beneath its shadow doze;
Its flowers are sipped by tranquil bees,
And insects throng its cavities,
While monkeys in familiar mirth
Embrace its trunk. That tree has worth;
But others merely cumber earth.

In the tree lived a crow named Swift. One morning he started toward the city in search of food. But he saw a hunter who lived in the neighborhood and who was already near the tree, approaching to trap birds. He was hideous in person, flat of hand and foot, bare to the calf of the leg, dreadfully ugly of complexion, had bloodshot eyes, was accompanied by dogs, wore his hair in a knot, carried snare and club in his hand — why spin it out? He seemed a second god of destruction, noose in hand; the incarnation of evil; the heart of unrighteousness; the teacher of every sin; the bosom friend of death.

When Swift saw him, he was disturbed in spirit and reflected: “What does he mean to do, the sinner? To hurt me? Or has he some other purpose?” And he clung to the hunter’s heels, being filled with curiosity.

Now the hunter picked a spot, spread a snare, scattered grain, and hid not far away. But the birds who lived there were held in check by Swift’s counsel, regarded the rice-grains as deadly poison, and did not peep.

At this juncture a dove-king named Gay-Neck, with hundreds of dove retainers, was wandering in search of food, and spied the rice-grains from afar. In spite of dissuasion from Swift, he greedily sought to eat them and alighted in the great snare. The moment he did so, he and his retainers were caught in the meshes. Nor should he be blamed. It happened through hostile fate. As the saying goes:

How did Ravan fail to feel
That 'tis wrong, a wife to steal?
How did Rama fail to see
Golden deer could never be?
How Yudhishthir fail to know
Gambling brings a train of woe?
Clutching evil dims the sense,
Darkening intelligence.

And again:

When once the mind is gripped by fate,
The judgment even of the great,
In mortal meshes fettered, wends
To unintended, crooked ends.

So the hunter gleefully lifted his club and ran forward. Then Gay-Neck and his retainers, seeing him advancing, were distressed by their disastrous position in the snare. But the king, with much presence of mind, said to the doves: “Have no fear, my friends. For

Provided judgment does not fail,
Whatever the distress,
Men reach the farther shore of woe,
And rest in happiness.

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