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(pŭn'chətŭn`trə) [Sanskrit,=five treatises], anonymous collection of animal fables in Sanskrit literatureSanskrit literature,
literary works written in Sanskrit constituting the main body of the classical literature of India. Introduction

The literature is divided into two main periods—the Vedic (c.1500–c.200 B.C.
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, probably compiled before A.D. 500 (see BidpaiBidpai
or Bidpay
, supposed name of the author of the fables of the Panchatantra. The name first appears in an Arabic version of these fables—hence they are called the fables of Bidpai. The word is probably Sanskrit, meaning "wise man" or "court scholar."
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). The work, derived from Buddhistic sources, was intended as a manual for the instruction of sons of the royalty. The fables are in prose, with interspersions of aphoristic verse. The stories in the Panchatantra appear to have entered European literature circuitously through an Arabic version (c.A.D. 750) of the translation into Syriac of the Pahlavi (literary Persian) translation (c.A.D. 550) from the original. A variant spelling is Pancatantra.


See the translation from the Sanskrit by A. W. Ryder (1925, repr. 1956).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a monument of Sanskrit narrative literature dating from the third or fourth century A.D.

The books of fables and didactic short stories comprising the Panchatantra belong to the frame-story genre. The work, with its beast fables and folkloric plots, allegorically depicts Hindu society, satirically mirroring social relations.

Because of its popular orientation, the Panchatantra was widely distributed and had an important influence on world literature. In the mid-sixth century it was translated into Old Persian. This translation, which has not survived, was the basis for an Arabic version, known as Kalila and Dimna (about A.D. 750). Through the intermediary of a Hebrew translation completed between the 13th and 16th centuries, the Arabic version in turn was the basis of numerous translations into European languages. A Greek adaptation of the Arabic version entitled Stephanites kai Ichnelates (1081) gave rise to versions in the Slavic languages.

There are approximately 200 translations of the Panchatantra in existence in over 60 European and Asian languages, including numerous versions in modern Indian languages. There also exist late Sanskrit recastings of the work, among them the 12th-century collection of fables the Hitopadesa.


Panchatantra. Moscow, 1958. (Translation from Sanskrit and commentary by A. Ia. Syrkin.)
The Panchatantra Reconstructed: Text, Critical Apparatus, Introduction and Translation by F. Edgerton, vols. 1–2. New Haven, Conn., 1924.
Pañcatantra: Traduit du sanscrit et annoté par E. Lanceren. [Paris] 1965.


Grintser, P. A. Drevneindiiskaia proza. Moscow, 1963.
Hertel, J. Das Pañcatantra, seine Geschichte und seine Verbreitung. Leipzig-Berlin, 1914.
Ruben, W. Das Pañcatantra und seine Morallehre. Berlin, 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.