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Indian Fables by Raju

Here are Indian fables by P. V. Ramasvami Raju, first published in book form in 1887 (by Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey and Co, London). Raju writes in his preface: "The collection contains more than a hundred fables. Of these a few have long had a standing in the literature of India, though in a slightly different garb. The rest may be said to have been derived from original sources." (p. vii).

Raju collected and presented these fables as a book after they first had been published over a couple of years in the columns of The Leisure Hour (p. vii). The Leisure Hour was an illustrated magazine for home reading, located in London.

As for Raju's book, "For children it should be an excellent thing to read," says The New York Times (August 16, 1902, Saturday Review of Books and Art", Page BR11).

Indian and European Fables

There are many old fables in these Indian works: Panchatantra, Hitopadesa; and Kathasaritsagara, and also many hundred Jataka Tales of Buddhism:

Indian and European fables compared. In the ancient fables of Aesop, the fables had no morals attached - the morals were added quite late in history. In the Jataka Tales as well, the morals tend to be integrated into the stories as the overall theme and revealed through the names of the characters acting in them.

Indian fables have a mixed cast of humans and animals. The dialogues are often longer than in fables of Aesop, and often witty as the animals try to outwit one another by trickery and deceit. In Aesop, the animals are much stereotyped, but in many Indian fables they are not much so. For example, in one Aesop's fable, the wolf dons sheep's clothing, but his nature remains the same, there is no internal change. In the Indian fables, however, there can be even drastic changes of character in some. Another difference is that in Indian fables man is not superior to the animals. Moreover, Indian fables are comical.

1. The Panchatantra ("Five Treatises")

This very old book of fables and fairy tales is attributed to one Vishnu Sarma, and rooted in older oral traditions. The book puts wisdom fables put into the mouths of animals, aiming at teachings younger humans about human life for grown-ups.

Panchatantra ("Five Treatises"), is a collection of animal fables quite similar to the Aesop's Fables. In Europe the work was known under the name The Fables of Bidpai (for the narrator, an Indian sage, Bidpai, called Vidyapati in Sanskrit). One version reached the West as early as in the 1000s. The original Sanskrit work is lost, but it is estimated it came into being between 100 The Panchatantra and 500 CE.

In the preface to Indian Fairytales, Joseph Jacobs surmises that about one-third of European fairytales derive from Indian sources, transferred into the West on the trade-routes.

2. The Hitopadesa ("Good Advice")

is a collection of Sanskrit fables in prose and verse, and is said to be written by Narayana Pandit. Hitopadesha tales are short stories instructing in morality and knowledge. It is similar to the Panchatantra, is well over a thousand years old, and one of the most widely read Sanskrit books in India next to Bhagavad Gita, perhaps. Their writer of the Hitopadesha wanted to instruct young minds to help them grow up into mature adults. The stories are interesting.

3. The Kathasaritsagara ("The Ocean of the Stream of Stories")

- by Somadeva - a famous collection from the 1000s AD. Tales from this extensive repository (or its main source, the book Brihat-katha) travelled to many parts of the world.

4. Other Collections

Cradle Tales of Hinduism is a more pathos-linked collection by Nivedita, the Irish-born Margaret Elizabeth Noble (1867-1911). She was a teacher who came to dedicate herself to the uplift of Indian women and founded the Nivedita Girls' School in Calcutta apart from writing and retelling books.

And Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna consists of spiritual tales and teachings by parables that are drawn from ordinary life experience.

- Tormod Kinnes


Indian fables edited by P. V. Ramasvami Raju, Literature  

Arnold, Edwin. The Book of Good Counsels: From the Sanskrit of the "Hitopadesa". London, W. H. Allen, 1893.

Bhatta, Somadeva. The Katha Sarit Sagara; or, Ocean of the Streams of Story. Vol 1. Tr. Charles Henry Tawney. Calcutta: J. W. Thomas at Baptist Mission Press, 1880-1884.

Bhatta, Somadeva. The Ocean of Story, Being Charles Henry Tawney's Translation of Somadeva's Katha Sarit Sagara (or Ocean of Streams of Story). Vols. 2-10 - Ed. Norman Mosley Penzer. London: Priv. print. for subscribers, by C. J. Sawyer, 1924-28.

Edgerton, Franklin. The Panchatantra: Translated from the Sanskrit. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1965.

Francis, Henry Thomas, and Edward Joseph Thomas, eds. Jataka Tales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1916. ⍽▢⍽ A selection.

Nivedita, Sister (Margaret Noble). Cradle Tales of Hinduism. London: Longman, 1907.

Pincott, Frederic, ed. Hitopadesa: a New Literal Translation from the Sanskrit Text of Prof. F[rancis] Johnson for the Use of Students. London: W. H. Allen, 1880.

Rajan, Chandra, tr. Visnu Sarma: The Panchatantra. London: Penguin Classics, 1995.

Ramakrishna. Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.

Ramasvami Raju, P. V. ed. Indian Fables. New ed. London: S. Sonnenschein and Co., 1901.

Ryder, Arthur William. The Panchatantra. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1925.

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