Info on Hitopadesha

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Mon Dec 15 12:55:21 CST 1997

On Mon, 15 Dec 1997, Chandran, Nanda (NBC) wrote:

> Can somebody give me some background information on Hitopadesha? And I would
> also like a reference to a good translation.
>         Because e-mail can be altered electronically,
>         the integrity of this communication cannot be guaranteed.

Hitopadesh ("practical advice") is a collection of moral stories ascribed
to Narayana Pandit.  (Though as he is also a character in the story, this
might not be factual.) It is an abridgement of a bigger set of stories
called Panchatantra which is in turn is an abridgement of a larger set of
stories called Kathasaritsagar.  The stories were transmitted to other
cultures and scholars think they are the basis for Aesops fables and some
of the Buddhist Jataka tales.

The story is there is a great King of Vallabhi (in Gujarat) called
Siddhasen who has all the best of life except one thing.  His sons are
utterly dense.  The king calls in the learned Narayan Pandit to educate
the young Princes which he does through a series of stories each of which
teaches a moral lesson.

The Hitopadesh is a popular choice as the first book to teach children as
it is very simple Sanskrit and teaches good conduct.  Indeed it was the
first Sanskrit text I learned and a line from it has sort of become my
personal motto.  In the introduction the distraught King asks Narayan

Ko artha putrena jatena yo na vidvan na dharmikah

Of what use is the birth of a son if he is neither intelligent nor

I don't know of any English translations but I'm sure they must be some.
The Panchatantra is available as a Penguin paperback I think.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list