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PANCHATANTRA AND NATURAL LAW SCHOOL OF JURISPRUDENCE

Author: Apeksha GM, II year of B.A.,LL.B. from Ramaiah College of Law


Abstract

Natural law can be easily understood as a philosophy that focuses on the laws of nature. It has been incessantly dominated the spheres of politics, legal, religion, social philosophy for ages now and continues to do so. Natural law is said to be a set of unwritten laws which contain the principles that are revealed by the nature of man or reason or are said to be derived from god himself[1].


Natural law represents a belief that there are a set of morals, ethics, ethos, and principles that are universal to the human race. They go beyond cultural, and regional differentiation and is common to all societies.[2]The philosophy behind natural law indicates that law is rational and reasonable, it put forths that laws are the logical evolution of morals, therefore morally wrong actions are wrong against the law[3].


Eg 1: Being loyal is moral. If A the husband cheats on B his wife then by being disloyal to her, then he is liable for the charges of adultery.

Eg 2: Not to destroy another's property is moral. If A in a fit of anger goes ahead and breaks the glasses of BMTC buses on the road he can be charged under the penal code for destroying public property.

In the next few pages, I have discussed how facets of natural law are evident in Indian Culture.


Ancient India’s Concept to Deliver the Lessons of Morals

India as a country has always deemed morals with great esteem and reverence. A glance of the same can be witnessed in the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is centred on the moral dilemma that is faced by despondent Arjuna (one of the Pandavas) amid the battlefield. Lord Krishna is Arjuna's charioteer on the battlefield but essentially his spiritual guide. Just when the battle is about to begin, Arjuna is burdened with severe self-doubt about what he is just about to engage in: a bloody war with his cousins over a kingdom! His dilemma is whether it is appropriate for him to kill his own cousins Kauravas and other close associates for the sake of the kingdom, despite it being his legitimate claim. It is then that Lord Krishna enlightens him through the teachings that together form the Bhagavad Gita.[4]The main intention of these teachings is to help humans, with the task, which is, perhaps the most difficult, that is, to discriminate, choose and perform actions that are moral and righteous. One of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita is that “tasmadasaktahsatatamkaryam karma samacaraasaktohyacaran karma param apnotipurushah”[5] which translates into “Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, by working without attachment one attains the Supreme”[6]. Arjuna finally decides to fight the Kauravas. However, it was not because he did not like them for cheating on him and his brothers. It was because that was the most logical course of action based on his Dharma (morality) demanded that by fighting the Kauravas and defeating them, he would ensure that justice had been delivered.


Though the concept of explaining morals with a storyline, a hero, a villain, and a guardian seems to be pretty impeccable, it couldn’t be understood by all, the reason being the complexity of the verses, the language barrier as in earlier age the Gita was available in Sanskrit the language of the priestly class and the ruling class, it was neither understood nor transmitted to the commoners, and oral tradition being the most prevalent form to the transmission of epics and scriptures those days, the expanse of the Gita made it difficult to remembered and people also gave the Gita their renditions as time passed on. So there arose a need for a simple way of delivering morals to all ages and strata in the society, to build up a noble, righteous and virtuous society. This responsibility was put on the shoulders of the Panchatantra Stories, Jataka Tales, Janapada Stories, and many more short stories with important morals. Here in this article, we are going to discuss the prevalence of Panchatantra Tales in instilling moral values in we Indians.

Panchatantra

The Panchatantra is an ancient Indian collection of interrelated animal fables in Sanskrit. The word “Panchatantra” is a combination of two words Pancha- meaning five and Tantra- meaning the art to weave in Sanskrit. Translated into interweaving the five skeins and traditions and teachings into a text. The earliest recorded version of the Panchatantra is credited to Vishnu Sharma, dates back to 300 BCE. But these fables are likely much older, having been passed down by oral generation for ages.


Panchatantra was written to be a textbook for niti, i.e., “policy,” especially for kings and statesmen; the maxims, proverbs, aphorisms, and adages tend to glorify shrewdness and cleverness rather than altruism. [7]


The story of why the Panchatantra came into existence is quite interesting. Once there was a ruler named Sudarshan, who had three sons. Though the king was quite intelligent and powerful, his sons were not a source of pride to him. The sons had no inclination or ability to learn anything. They were quite unimaginative, slow, and rather stupid. In desperation, the king turned to his counsellors for advice. One of his ministers, Sumati, seemed to make sense to Sudarshan. Sumati told the king that the task of educating the princes in the fields of politics, diplomacy, and the sciences can be handed over to Vishu Sharma, an aged scholar. The king wasted no time in inviting Vishnu to court and offered him a hundred land grants if he could turn the princes into learned scholars. Vishnu refused the gift, saying he did not sell knowledge and that he would take on the task and within six months make the princes wise so they would be able to rule as wisely as their father. Now, the method Vishnu devised was to gather and adapt ancient stories that had been told in India since time immemorial. He then created an interesting, entertaining work of five parts which he called the Five Principles and that became the Panchatantra. The princes learned the Five Principles and became wise, and the king was very pleased.[8]

The Five Sections of the Panchatantra

The Panchatantra has five parts or treatise and they deal with many nitis or morals. They are listed as follows

  1. Mitra-bheda is the foremost principle of the Panchatantra, it translates into ‘The Separation of Friends’. These stories are based on the conversation and interaction of Lions and Bulls, and the differences between them

  2. Mitra-labha or Mitra-sampraptithe second principle translates into “The Gaining of Friends”. These stories are based on the interaction and conversation of Dove, Crow, Mouse, Tortoise, and Deer and the similarities between them.

  3. Kakolukiyam which translates into Crows and Owls speaks volumes about war and peace in society.

  4. Labdhapranasam translates into Loss Of Gains. Have stories based on The Monkey and the Crocodile and the facades each one plays to trick the other.

  5. Apariksitakarakam, the last book is all about Ill-Considered Action/Rash Deeds. It has stories where the leads are played by the Brahman and the Mongoose, and the light is thrown on how miscommunication, misinterpretation, decisions made in a fit of anger, or actions done with a malafide reason can lead to the greatest of losses in life.

These five principles (or five books) are a succession of animal fables. Each fable is woven into the next fable in the order given above to establish an intertwined correlation between tales.


Morals of Panchatantra

Panchatantra tales have a hidden agenda within them which is to imbibe strong moral and ethical messages to both its reader and the listener. The morals that they convey are to choose our friends wisely;

a sharp mind is the greatest strength; think before you act; do not build castles in the air, they will fall; unity is strength; a known demon is better than an unknown angel; a friend in need is a friend indeed; a mind that cannot judge on its own belives a lie to be a truth; it is better to use common sense over knowledge at times; think on your feet at the time of crisis; greed leads to disaster; when there is a quarrel between two friends the enemy benefits; always be solution-oriented; never to lie[9]these are just a few to name, and many more can be added to the list.


It is pertinent to note here that these morals help a man to develop holistically. If we observe keenly we can find many similarities in the teaching of the Gita, Arthashastra, Vedas, Puranas, Smritis, etc, and the morals of Panchatantra. These tales preach dharma, virtue, integrity, righteousness, and many more values in the simplest of ways.


Panchatantra is one of the tools devised by our ancestors to educate us upon principles, values, ethics, and morals. In the era when there were no laws like we have now, the Panchatantra proved to be one of the easiest methods to affiliate the society with social norms, to sustain it on a noble path.


The great Greek philosopher and the Father of Political Science, Aristotle once argued that “morality is something we learn as we are born as amoral creatures”, as men we have a natural desire for possession and hunger for power, we tend to establish a state where ‘Matsya Nyaya’ prevails i.e, ‘Law of the Jungle’ where the powerful prey on the weak, but teachings and preachings of dharma and niti help us to establish a ‘Ram Rajya’ where the powerful loot for and take care of the meek. The tales of Panchatantra are one of the ways to keep in check the oscillation of the society between anarchy and order.


Conclusion

Indian culture plays a very important role in inculcating ethical values. Indian values have always given prime importance to the right to happiness for all human beings.


Indian culture is a complex and intricate structure. The two most important tenets of Indian culture are human values and holism. Human values refer to moral, spiritual, and ethical values while Holism means oneness or unity. Indian culture is very rich and diverse and teaches us to be tolerant of others. Important values taught to us from time immemorial are ever relevant and unchanging are found in the form of scriptural texts, folk tales, the Epics, the Gitas, the Dhammapada, Jataka Tales, Panchatantra, etc.[10]


These basic morals and values are relevant even today. The tenets of our culture that were naturalistic, every man and woman had to follow to experience their life to its fullest extent. Even today we follow these norms and morals, few of them as a social obligation while some of them have been legalized by the lawmakers of our nation. The Principles of Natural Justice are nothing but a revised form of Natural Justice. Article 14, 19, and 21 which is also the golden triangle[11]of our Indian Constitution have drawn their inspiration from natural law.


The stories and tales of Panchtantra may play a very small role in our lives but their impact is huge. We all are well acquainted with the stories of Panchatantra and it is the morals of these stories that pave the path for us to understand the intricacies of much more complicated and intricates values in our life. These stories act like our baby steps to become a part of a sustainable society. Plato once said that a “man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world”, and the Panchatantra Tales helps us to rein this beastly behaviour of a man in gentle yet efficacious ways.


The tales of Panchatantra keep on breathing among us, people have come and gone but the morals of these stories have been etched in our hearts, and I can also assure you that they will keep on living. Teaching mankind the basics and basis of life so we can tread in this stream called life with ease and dignity.


[1]SR Myneni, Jurisprudence and Legal Theory.

[2]VD Mahajans, Jurisprudence and Legal Theory, (Fifth Edition)

[3]Philosophy-Plato and Natural Law, Course Hero, Available at https://www.coursehero.com/file/16506808/Philosophy-Plato-and-Natural-Law/ (Dec 10,2021)

[4] Arjuna’s Question, The Hindu, May 19, 2016.

[5]Bhagvad Gita, Chapter 3, Verse 19

[6] Pravin Agarwal, “tasmadasaktahsatatamkaryam karma samacaraasaktohyacaran karma param apnotipurushah”, The Speaking Tree, May 3, 2015, (Nov 11, 2021; 18:23) https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/tasmad-asaktah-satatam-karyam-karma-samacara

[7] Panchatantra, Indian Litrature, Britannica, (Nov 12, 2021; 19:07) https://www.britannica.com/topic/Panchatantra-Indian-literature

[8] Phyllis Doyle Burns, India 's Ancient Fables: The Five Principles of the Panchatantra, Owlcation, Jul 22, 2020, (Nov 12,2021; 19:48) https://owlcation.com/humanities/Panchatantra-Five-Principles-fables-from-ancient-India

[9] Stories for Children, Tell a Tale, ( Nov14,2021; 14:11) https://www.tell-a-tale.com/10-short-panchatantra-stories-must-read-4-6-year-old-kids/3/

[10] Influence of Indian Culture on Ethical Values, March 26,2015, GK Today, (Nov 14, 2021; 21:32) https://www.gktoday.in/topic/influence-of-indian-culture-on-ethical-values/

[11] Maneka Gandhi v. UOI, 1978 AIR 597