Animal Fables In Ancient Indian Literature

[vc_row][vc_column][rev_slider_vc alias=”about-3″][vc_column_text el_class=”articles”]

Scheme of Animal Fables in Ancient Sanskrit Literature Correlating With the Modern Management Principles


Smt. D V Padma
Plot No. B-33, DD Colony, Bagh Amber Pet, HYDERABAD – 500013
Mobile: 9849456910
Email ID –

The present paper aims at dealing with procedure of correlating the management principles traceable in various fable stories pertaining to various sections of Sanskrit Literature.  In this process an outline sketch is drawn to know about the fable origin in different sections of the Sanskrit literature.   To show broadly the Sanskrit literature is divided into Vedic, Epic and Puranic and Classical.  The Classical section  consists of further sub-sections on Gadya, Padya, Champu, Rupaka, Sastraic and Miscellaneous sections of literature.


Fables – Special and Specific Features in Sanskrit Literature

A fable is very small story. Special and specific But the same in Sanskrit Literature it is found in different forms. May it be in a story form or as a casual reference in a passage or in the form of an adjective phrase and so on.   From this point of view one has to go through various sections of Vedic and Classical Sanskrit Literature.  Further it can be seen like this.


  1. A) Vedas

Vedas are the earliest literary products in the ancient Indian literary tradition. According to Indian hereditary faith Vedas are Apourusheyas (Not written or composed by any human beings).  According to Western scholars and their Indian followers Vedas were authored by people of different ages.   As far as the extent of the Vedic literature is concerned these have different sections related to Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Sutra Texts and Vedangas.  As far as the Vedic literary genre are concerned the sections where one can get his material are: 

  1. Suktas in the Rgveda, ii. Panasa or Panchasat in the Yajurveda, iii. Upakhyanas in the Brahmanas, iv. Stories in the Upanishads and v. In Phrases or in the form of epithets or Adjective Phrases.

In the said genre the following are the fable formats available in the Vedic texts:


  1. In a metrical passage, b) In a full Mantra, c) In a foot of the Mantra and
  2. As a Prose passage also. Yama-Yami Samvada, Sarama Vrattanta, Sunasshepopakhyana, Nachiketopakhyana etc are good examples to pave a way.


  1. B) Itihasas and Puranas

Itihasas and Puranas occupy a high place in the Sanskrit literature.  While the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are called Itihasa-s the 18 texts written by the sage Veda Vyasa are called 18 Maha Purana-s.  Here the fables and fable like moral instructions can be seen in the following manner.

  1. Sargas, ii. Parvas/Upaparvas, iii. Upakhyanas, iv. Prose Passages in the MBH, Vishnu Purana etc, v. In Half Slokas, vi. In Phrases or In the form of epithets or Adjective Phrases and vii. Adhyayas and Upakhyanas (In the Puranas). This can be the approach of any researcher to find out the related material.


  1. C) Classical Literature

Here is the possible classification of Sanskrit Literature to get acquainted with before searching for the required material.


SRAVYAM (The types of poetry which pleases by reading and listening)


  1. Gadyam
  2. Katha, ii. Akhyayika iii. Parikatha, iv. Sakala katha v. Khanda Katha
  3. Padyam
  4. Mahakavyam, ii. Khanda Kavyam : (Sandesha Kavya, Devotional Stotra, Vedanta Stotra, Description of Nature, Muktaka, Dvika, Trika, Sandanitaka, Kalapaka, Kulaka, Kosha, Shatka, Ashtaka, Navaka, Dashasloki, Taravali, Birudavali, Udaharana Kavya, Bhogavali, Trinsika, Panchasika, Dvisaptati, Sataka, Dvisati)


  1. Champu: This is the mixed type of both prose and poetry.


  1. Rupakam:

Rupakas : Natakam, Prakarana, Bhana, Prahasana, Dima, Vyayoga, Samavakara, Vithi, Anka and Ihamrga.

Uparupakas:  Natika, Sattaka, Trotaka, Prenkhana, Gosthi, Bhanika, Samlapa, Prasthana, Kayva, Hallisaka, Rasaka, Srigadita, Lasika, Durmalli, Natyarasaka and Ullapya


The possible Formats of Fables and Fable like Moral instructions in this section are:

  1. a) In a metrical passage, b) In a full Sloka, c) In a Dialogue, d) As a Prose passage, e) In the Prastavana f) Through some Epithets, g) Through Nandi, h) Through Bharatavakya and Through different figures of speech like Upama and Arthanataranyasa
  2. D) Sastra Literature

The Sanskrit Sastra Literature can be classified in the following manner.

  1. a) Shadangas: Siksha, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Jyotisha, Kalpa and Chandas
  2. b) Six Darsanas: Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa, c) Four Upa Vedas: Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharva and Artha Veda, d) Subhashitas, e) Sanskrit Maxims and f) Miscellaneous Sastras

 The Possible Formats of Fables and Fable-Like instructions are:

  1. a) In a metrical passage, b) In a full Sloka, c) In a Dialogue, d) As a Prose passage
  2. e) In the Prastavana and f) Through some Epithets and g) Through different figures of speech like Upama and Arthanataranyasa
  3. E) Katha Literature

The art of story-telling is as old as The Rgveda in Sanskrit literature. Gradually it has occupied a prominent place in the later centuries and a great volume of story books have been authored by many celebrated writers.  While some books have mere stories some other texts books are presented having story and substory division. 

Here are a few Specific Texts to highlight:

Brhatkatha (in Paishachi Bhasha) Its origin

Katha Saritsagara and Brhatkatha Manjari (Sanskrit Versions of Brhatkatha)

Pancha Tantra

Hitopadesha etc.

The possible Formats of Fables and Fable like Moral instructions in this section are:

  1. a) In a metrical passage, b) In a full Sloka, c) A story, d) As a Prose passage, e) In a sub-story, f)Through some Epithets and g) Through different figures of speech like Upama and Arthanataranyasa



The Objectives of Searching for fables and fable-like references in various sections can in the following manner.  This would be an all time-guide for the mankind if any analysis of any section of literature is made in the following ancient Indian Model:

  1. The Four Human Objectives DHARMA, ARTHA, KAMA AND MOKSHA – as the Models for an Ideal Individual, Ideal Society, Ideal Organization, Ideal Nation and Ideal Global Unity
  2. a) Aspects of Dharma:
  3. Aspects of Self Culture: Internal and External Purity, Contentment, Penance, Self Study and Faith and Devotion in the God
  4. Aspects of Abstention: Non-Violence, Speaking Truth only, Not stealing others wealth, Celibacy and Not accepting any offerings

iii. Leadership Qualities: Humility towards elders, Having Pleasing Appearance and Approachability, Sacrificing nature, Skilfulness, Appealing in speech, Dearest to the World, Pure in and out, Eloquence, Noble born, Stable-minded,

Young in spirit, Intellect, Enthusiastic, Having good Memory, Valorous, Strong, Brilliant, Seeing with the aid of Disciplines of Knowledge – Make him Dharmik

  1. Common social qualities: lacking over-self-respect, Not having Hypocrisy, Disinterest towards common weaknesses, lacking ego, lacking greed and anger
  2. Having qualities like: Forbearance, Patience, Straightforwardness, Respect for elders, Self control etc
  3. Knowing – the cause of Ignorance, the roots of Karmic bondage, the source of knowledge of individuals, Psycho-physical organism (Namarupa- Identity),

Understanding over the body, abilities and situations, avoiding the thirst for sense-enjoyment etc.,

  1. b) ARTHA: Accumulation of Earth and Assets:

Types of Wealth: Cows, Gold, Seals, Land, Elephants, Horses, Knowledge, Peanance etc

Various methods of earning for a ruler or an administrator and for an intelligent man:

Invading and Conquering, Services, Learning and Business and Levels of Contentment


Mind: The Spring Fountain of all Desires, The Management of the VICES can regulate the KAMA, Nishkama Karma and Nissanga or Detachment

  1. d) MOKSHA – Release from Bondage : It is not merely Salvation. It is Freedom from Conditions and Determinations.

A few Illustrations from Kavya literature:

A few illustrations from Kavya Literature may help to understand the so far discussed scheme:

प्रद्योतस्य प्रियदुहितरं वत्सरजोऽत्र जह्रे

हैमं तालद्रुमवनमभूदत्र तस्यैव राज्ञ:।

अत्रोद्भान्त: किल नलगिरि: स्तम्भमुत्पाट्य दर्पात्

इत्यागन्तून्रमयति जनो यत्र बन्धूनभिज्ञ:॥३३॥ (पूर्वमेघे)

In the popular story of Vasavadatta and Vatsaraja the role of her tamed elephant Nalagiri has much importance.

तं चेद्वायौ सरति सरलस्कन्धसंघट्टजन्मा

बाधेतोल्काक्षपितचमरीवालभारो दवाग्नि:।

अर्हस्येन्नं शमयितुमलं वारिधारासहस्रै:

आपन्नार्तिप्रशमनफला: संपदो ह्युत्त्तमानाम्॥५५॥(पूर्वमेघे)

Very beautifully the great poet Kalidasa took  a natural phenomenon  and added human touch to it.  It is natural in the Himalayas for the Chauvari animals to have their tails to be burnt by the forest fire.  In such case the poet on behalf of the main character Yaksha requests the cloud to shower up on the Chauri animals in order to protect their species.

ये संरम्भोत्पतनरभसा: स्वाङ्गभङ्गाय तस्मिन्

मुक्ताध्वानं सपदि शरभा लङ्घयेयुर्भवन्तम्।


केषां न स्यु: परिभवपदं निष्पलारम्भयत्ना:॥५६॥(पूर्वमेघे)

Similarly Yaksha advises the cloud to shower the hail storm over the Sarabha animals in order to supress their pride.

The experience of Kalidasa with regard to the relation of human beings with Nature is a direct one.  He never saw the Nature through window. All the characters of his Plays and Poetry mingled as a part of Nature and served it as their Mother.  The following few verses from his illustrious work Abhijnana Sakuntalam is enough to how impressive his thoughts are regarding the relation of human beings with flora and fauna.

पातुं न प्रथमं व्यवस्यति जलं युष्मास्वपीतेषु या

नादत्ते प्रियमण्डनापि भवतां स्नेहेन या पल्लवम्।

आद्ये व: कुसुमप्रसूति समये यस्या: भवत्युत्सव:

सेयं याति शकुन्तला पतिगृहं सर्वैरनुज्ञायताम्॥४.९॥ (अभिज्ञानशकुन्तले)

This is an instance where Kanva having known about the love and Gandharava vivaha of Dushyanta and Sakuntala determines to send her to Dushyatna’s house. At this juncture while arrangements are being made he requests all the flora and fauna of the Ashram to permit her to leave the hermitage.  Here he says: “Oh Creepers of the Ashram all of you know that Shakuntala never drinks water before she waters you all.  She being a girl is a lover of ornaments.  Still she doesn’t even touch even a tender shoot of you all.  The first season of your flowering is a celebration to her. Such Shakuntala is now leaving to her husband’s house.  All of you please permit her.”  This is a heart touching example to say what kind of relation should be there between the girls and the house gardens. 

अनुमतगमना शकुन्तला

तरुभिरियं वनवासबन्धुभि:।

परभृतविरुतं कलं यथा

प्रतिवचनीकृतमेभिरीदृशम्॥४.१०॥ (अभिज्ञानशकुन्तले)

Here is the reply of the trees and birds on the request of Kanva. As if it were the reply of all the trees of the Ashram, the Cuckoo bird’s sweet note was pleasantly heard.

उद्गलितदर्भकवला मृग्य: परित्यक्तनर्तना: मयूरा:

अपसृतपाण्डुपत्रा: मुञ्चत्यस्रूणीव लता:॥४.११) (अभिज्ञानशकुन्तले)

Further the female deer stopped eating grass with half eaten cuds in their mouths and with raised necks looking at Shakuntala at the time of her departure.  The peacocks stopped dancing.  The yellow and ripen leaves are dropped from the trees as if they were their tears. 

यस्य त्वया व्रणविरॊपणमिङ्गुदीनां

तैलं न्यषिञ्चत मुखे  कुशसूचिविद्धे।

श्यामाकमुष्टिपरिवर्धितकॊ जहाति

सोऽयं न पुत्रकृतक: पदवीं मृगस्ते॥४.१३॥(अभिज्ञानशकुन्तले)

Further Kanva was reminding about the motherly love of Shakuntala to wards a young deer who was pulling her edge of the garment not allowing her to move. .  In this context he says,  Oh, Shakuntala, see the young deer of the Ashram.  Hope you remember that he always considers you as his own mother.   I think you remember that while eating Bent Grass if his soft mouth is cut you used to apply Ingudi Oil to his mouth to cure his injuries.  Moreover you used to offer fistfuls of Syamaka cuds to him which are very soft. Now that young deer is pulling the edge of your garment not to allow you to go any further.

अर्धपीतस्तनं मातुरामर्दाक्लिष्टकेसरम्।

प्रक्रीडितुं सिंहशिशुं बलात्कारेण कर्षति॥७.१४॥ (अभिज्ञानशकुन्तले)

जृम्भस्व सिंह, दन्तास्ते गणयिष्ये।

Here the naturally heroic tendency of the young prince Bharata, the son of Sahkuntala and Dushyanta is very attractively described in just a simple Anushtubh.  The cub of lion was while drinking its mother’s milk Bharata pulled it strongly from its mother inviting to play with him.  Having pulled the cub so he was telling to the cub that he would like to count the teeth in its mouth. Which example can be more suitable than this in proving the closeness of the human beings in the ancient times with Nature?

ग्रीवाभङ्गाभिरामं मुहुरनुपतति स्यन्दने बद्धदृष्टिः,

पश्चार्धेन प्रविष्टः शरपतनभयाद् भूयसा पूर्वकायम् |

दर्भैरर्धावलीढै: श्रमविवृतमुखभ्रंशिभिः कीर्णवर्त्मा,

पश्योदग्रप्लुतत्वाद् वियति बहुतरं स्तोकमुर्व्यां प्रयाति ||॥१.७॥ (अभिज्ञानशकुन्तले)

This is one of the opening verses where a pen-picture of the Ashram is very beautifully given by the grand poet Kalidasa.  Here a contrast of two opposing sentiments is given.  From one side the royal cruelty in the chariot is chasing a wild deer which in order to save its life running in the sky touching the ground very slightly just to take initial strength for its next leap. While it was running so, the deer of the Ashram having left their business of eating the cuds were looking at that happening with a strange feeling. 

नीवारा: शुकगर्भकोटरमुखभ्रष्टास्तरूणामथ:

प्रस्निग्धा: क्वचिदिङ्गुदीफलभिद: सूच्यन्त एवोपला:।

विश्वासोपगमादभिन्नगतय: शब्दं सहन्ते मृगा:

तोयाधारापथाश्च वल्कलशिखानिष्यन्दरेखाङ्किता:॥१.१४॥ (अभिज्ञानशकुन्तले)

This is another sloka in the beginning of Abhijnana Shakuntalam which describes the way how it can be inferred through various signs which help to trace out the path of the Ashram.

The particles of Nivara grain fell down in a row from the hallows of Parrots dwelling in a line of the trees.   After moving a bit further there are stones every where which are oily because of being regularly used to break the Ingudi fruits by the Ashramites.   The deer with fearless eyes and with great faith looking at the passers-by.   And the flow of water from the edges of the wet bark garments ws dropped through the path from the lake to the Ashram.


In this manner in the Kavyas of Valmiki, Kalidasa, Bhasa, Bhavabhuti and so many other celebrated poets the relation between the human beings and Nature particularly with the flora and fauna was so impressively established. 

All this is just for illustration sake given here in order to establish that the ancient Indian literary themes always tried to involve all the animals, birds and trees etc as active characters as human beings in their literary pieces.  This in the later times laid a way to the future authors to develop fable stories involving animals and birds as the exclusive characters reflecting human behavioral nature.

To analyse further the following types of management also can be traced out in all the so far discussed types of literature and areas.


Types of Modern Management those can be correlated are:

Organizational Management, Personal Management, Time Management, Crisis Management, Conflict Management (Conflicts between Dharma and Dharma/Artha/Kama, Artha and Dharma/Artha/Kama – and – Kama and Dharma/Artha/Kama and so on, Multitask Management, Distribution of Labour, Strategic management, Material management, Deployment, Marketing Management,  Communication skills and so on.