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Natural enmity in the Pacatantra

Natural Enmity in the Pacatantra

A Political Reading of Unworkable Alliances in the Animal Narratives
Honors Thesis (2013) by Ashay Naik

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Natural enmity in the Pacatantra

A Arthastra
BhGBh Bhagavadgt karabhya
Hit Hitopadea
MBh Mahbhrata
MDh Mnava Dharmastra
MP Marma Prakik (a commentary on the Hitopadea)
PE Pacatantra (Edgertons edition)
PP Pacatantra (Pandeyas edition)
PS Pacatantra (Kielhorns edition)
PT Pacatantra (Hertels edition)

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Narrative Structure
The Pacatantra is a famous collection of human and animal fables from ancient India and a
highly influential text in its rich, storytelling tradition. According to its kathmukha
(prologue), a brhmaa named Viuarman was hired by the king Amaraakti as a teacher
for his three wayward sons and he composed the five tantras for their edification. It informs
us that having carefully attended to the essence of all the Arthastras (treatises on politics)
in the world, Viuarman composed this highly charming stra in five tantras (PT 1.2-3).
The purpose of the text is indicated by the phalaruti (benediction) at the end of the
kathmukha, which declares that whoever, setting out in the world1, reads or listens to this
ntistra (treatise on kingly conduct), will never suffer defeat even from akra [Indra] (PT
3.17-18). The five tantras refer to the five frame stories which Viuarman narrated to
the princes. They include Story 1-00 The parting of friends, Story 2-00 The winning of
friends, Story 3-00 War between crows and owls, Story 4-00 The loss of ones
gettings, and Story 5-00 Unexamined deeds.
In each frame story are embedded several narratives, one story leading to another using
various literary devices. Most commonly, tales begin with the narrator reciting a verse
consisting of a maxim and a reference to a story. The listener then asks katham etat how
was it so? in response to which the narrator recounts the tale. For example, in the course of
Story 1-00 The parting of friends, the jackal Karaaka counsels his brother Damanaka
that: The man who meddles in anothers affairs brings about his own [goes himself to]
death, like the ape who pulled out the wedge (PT 5.13-14). On Damanakas query how
was it so? Karaaka narrates Story 1-01 Ape and wedge. The stories are thus embedded
in multiple layers with the outer narrative providing the context for an inner one. When the
inner narrative finishes, the outer one continues. If we consider the story of Viuarman in
the kathmukha as Level 1 and the five frame stories he narrates as Level 2, then we can get

yotraitat pahati pryo ntistra ruoti v. na parbhavam pnoti sa akrd api karhicit. The word
prya can mean for the most part, chiefly especially when used at the end of a compound, but in this
context it is preferable to read it in the sense of departure, going forth, starting (for a battle) which leads the
entries for this word in Sanskrit dictionaries. I have read atra as in the world and construed it with prya.

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stories up to Level 5. Multiple stories can also be narrated at a lower level before the upper
level resumes. For example, Story 1-15 Strand-bird and sea, narrated at Level 3, is
interspersed with five narratives at Level 4, after which it concludes and the narration
returns to Level 2. There is a general sense, made explicit at times, that while these stories
are narrated by specific animals and humans, the narrators never claim them to be their own
original compositions but as having heard them, presumably from their teachers and elders.
Even the kathmukha narrating Viuarmans composition of the five tantras begins with
the phrase tad yath anuruyate thus it has been heard giving the impression that the
whole of the Pacatantra is a collection of stories that have been orally handed down
through tradition.

Author, Date and Provenance

No wonder then that nothing can be said with certainty about its historical author(s), date or
provenance. Based on its translation into Pahlavi around 550 CE and its familiarity with the
A and MDh, scholars have assigned the text a tentative date of 300 CE (Olivelle 2006:21).
Its subsequent transmission to the Middle East and Europe, and its influence on the storytelling traditions in these cultures, has been described in fascinating detail by Rajan (1993),
Olivelle (1997, 2006) and Taylor (2007). Regarding its geographical provenance, Olivelle
(2006:21) argues that since the narratives allude to the south as a distant exotic land, it is
possible that the author hailed from north India but no specific details are known.

Early Western scholarship of the Pacatantra

According to Taylor (2007:6-35), Western academic interest in this text, which began in the
late 19th century, was primarily philological, aimed at recovering the original Pacatantra,
from which the variety of extant versions of the text had been derived. The research led to
the production of three important editions of the text, which are the main sources used
today. These include the so-called textus ornatio of Hertel (PT), based on a northern
recension of the text, the so-called textus simplicior of Kielhorn (PS), which is a simplified
version of the same text, and Edgertons edition (PE), which is based on a southern
recension. From a hermeneutical perspective, the focus of study of these scholars was more
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on the general purpose of nti, on which there was disagreement as to whether it was moral,
unmoral, immoral or amoral. Taylor (ibid) has also discussed the views of scholars such as
Ruben (1959) and Falk (1978) who have explored the meaning conveyed by the narratives.

The Olivelle-Taylor Thesis

This essay is specifically concerned with the sociological analysis of the animal narratives
in the Pacatantra, produced recently by two Western scholars, Patrick Olivelle and
McComas Taylor. In the introductions to his translations of the text, entitled Pacatantra:
The Book of India's Folk Wisdom (1997) and The Five Discourses of Worldly Wisdom
(2006), and his essay On Meat-eaters and Grass-eaters (2002), Olivelle highlights the
important social principles evident in the text. Taylor has reproduced these views for the
most part, in his book The Fall of the Indigo Jackal (2007), albeit in a more systematic
fashion as a discourse of division. Since the fundamental propositions of both scholars are
mostly similar I will refer to their analyses jointly as the Olivelle-Taylor thesis.
Summarily, the Olivelle-Taylor thesis suggests that the forest society of the Pacatantra
narratives is divided into animal jtis (species, kind). All the animals within a jti share a
common innate and immutable svabhva (essential nature). The jtis are ordered in a fixed
hierarchy. Natural enmity exists between some of these jtis and alliances across them are
unworkable. The point of the narratives is to teach that such a situation is not contingent or
amenable to modification; rather, it is natural, abiding and inviolable. They demonstrate that
an animals svabhva does not alter in spite of changes in outward appearances; that if an
animal from an inferior jti tries to occupy a superior position, it eventually falls; that if
animals belonging to fundamentally incompatible jtis try to become friends, the alliance
ends in a disaster (Taylor ibid:55ff, 184ff).
Furthermore, in articulating this narrative, the Pacatantra is reproducing the hegemonic
discourse of the authoritative Brahmanical texts, namely, the Vedas, the Dharmastras, the
Epics, the Puras, and so on, what Taylor refers to collectively as the brahmanical
archive (ibid:41). The discourse specifies that human society is divided into varas. All the
humans belonging to a vara share a common svadharma (essential duty). The varas are
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ordered in a fixed hierarchy. Finally, the brahmanical archive describes a society cleft by
deep, dark and threatening divisions among people of different varas, particularly between
brhmaas and dras (ibid:181). Thus, the division of animal jtis in the forest society of
the Pacatantra is analogous to the division of human varas in Brahmanical social theory
(ibid: 182).

Motivation and Plan for the Essay

The scope of this essay is limited to just one aspect of the Olivelle-Taylor thesis, namely,
natural enmity between animal jtis, represented using the trope of meat-eaters and grasseaters or predator and prey. In human terms, this refers to upper castes and lower castes, the
oppressors and the oppressed, and implies that alliances between them are not permissible.
I contend that the principle of natural enmity as denoting inherent, inescapable and incurable
hostilities between social groups is an innovation of these two scholars. They have traced its
seed in the text to terms such as sahaja-vaira and svabhva-vaira. They have buttressed
it by culling from the brahmanical archive, passages that appear to endorse the proposition.
They have nurtured it by clustering under its rubric specific narratives from the Pacatantra
that lend viability and soundness to the thesis. These include stories in which animals
belonging to antagonistic jats strike a transgressive alliance which proves unsuccessful in
the end, with one party suffering death at the hands of the other. For example, friendship
between a lion and a bull or a lion and a camel ends with the former killing the latter,
between the owls and a rogue crow who seeks refuge with them ends with the former being
roasted to death in their cave, and so on. The lion as the meat-eating predator and the bull or
camel as the grass-eating prey are regarded as natural enemies of each other. Similarly,
crows and owls are considered as equally potent adversaries of each other in the
Brahmanical literary world though the rivalry is not apparently based on predation. Other
examples of fatal collusions involve serpent and frogs, heron and crab, goose and owl, etc.
These failed alliances are treated by the Olivelle-Taylor thesis as a metaphor for an
unworkable association between adversarial social groups and thus as underscoring the
principle of natural enmity. It is concluded that in the view of the text they come undone not

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on account of a preventable cause but because they were doomed to begin with. Their end
allegedly restores the social status quo that had been shattered by their contrariety.
This essay seeks to accomplish two goals. Firstly, it refutes the Olivelle-Taylor thesis that
the terms sahaja-vaira or svabhva-vaira suggest natural enmity between social
divisions (jti or vara). Secondly, it demonstrates that the thesis abstracts away the
diversity and richness of the messages conveyed by the narratives depicting unworkable
alliances to a single, essential and universal principle of natural enmity, as the
substantialized agent2 that determines their final outcome. By examining the details of these
narratives, which have been omitted or misrepresented by Olivelle and Taylor in their
analyses, it argues that such a reduction occludes our understanding of the phenomena
described in the text. It explains how each unworkable alliance is unworkable in its own
unique way, fails due to its own unique reason and in doing so imparts its own unique
lesson. By analyzing these narratives from a political standpoint, it hopes to produce a
reading that is harmonious with the spirit of the text as a ntistra.

A Refutation of the Sociological Reading of sahaja-vaira

Sahaja-vaira in the Pacatantra
In order to explain the Pacatantras own understanding of natural enmity both Olivelle
and Taylor refer to the dialogue between the mouse Hiraya and the crow Laghupatanaka
from Story 2-00 The winning of friends, in which the former rejects the offer of
friendship extended by the latter. The mouse explains that friendship between them would
be impossible since he is the food and the crow is the eater. When Laghupatanaka argues
that they couldnt possibly be enemies since they had not even met each other before,
Hiraya clarifies that there are two kinds of enmities: natural (sahaja) and incidental
(ktrima). Incidental enmity is caused and can be mitigated. Natural enmity (svbhvika

I have borrowed the term from Indens criticism of Orientalism in Western scholarship on India. He claims
that caste has been turned into an essence, into the substantialized agent of Indian society in the hope that
by finding a permanent, stable, unitary nature, an essence, in [Hinduism] which appeared as just the opposite,
knowledge and control would be forthcoming (2000:57). I suggest that the same relationship holds between
the discourse of division, which includes natural enmity, and the Pacatantra narratives.

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vaira) cannot be overcome. The various editions of the Pacatantra list more or less similar
examples of natural enmity: lions and elephants, buffaloes and horses, mongooses and
snakes, and cats and mice (PE); grass-eaters and meat-eaters3, water and fire, gods and
demons, dogs and cats, co-wives, lions and elephants, hunters and deer, crows and owls,
learned persons and fools, chaste and unchaste women, virtuous and vicious people (PT
131.7-10); fire and wind, rich and poor, hunter and deer, rotriya Vedic experts and
bhraakriy those who have discontinued prescribed acts (PS 2.8.17-20).
As a refutation of the concept of sahaja-vaira as implying natural enmity between social
divisions4, we may note, first of all, that in none of the examples given above, which
exhausts the pairs mentioned in the Pacatantras as natural enemies of each other, do we
find the occurrence of any vara or jti group. It would also not be right to claim that these
social divisions have been figuratively implied, for other divisions among humans rich and
poor, virtuous and vicious persons, chaste and unchaste women, and so on have been
listed. Only jti or vara divisions are conspicuously absent.

Evidence from Later Vedic Texts

Interpreting the trope of meat-eaters and grass-eaters in a human context, Olivelle (2002:
107) explains that Vedic texts commonly use the terms eater and food to represent
upper castes (brhmaa and katriya) and lower castes (vaiya and dra) which thus
expresses the differentiation of social classes into the powerful and powerless, into
predators and prey. However, it is not at all obvious if the specific quotes that Olivelle has
provided from the Later Vedic texts, namely, the Kauitaki Upaniad, the Aitareya
Brhmaa and atapatha Brhmaa, apply seamlessly to Sanskrit texts such as the
Pacatantra produced, as noted above, around 300 CE.
As historians of ancient Indian society have noted, in the lineage-based, tribal and military
chieftaincies of Vedic times, the metaphor of eater and food, Indra and the Maruts,
soma and the plants, milk and sura, and so on, was a marker of the distinction between the

nakhyudha: literally, those bearing claws as weapons.

In this essay, I use the term social divisions in the limited sense of human jti or vara categories, which is
the concern of the Olivelle-Taylor thesis.

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senior lineages of the rjanya and the junior or cadet lineages of the vi inspite of their
common kin origins (Thapar 1984:30ff)5. Even if an analogous hierarchy persists in the
vara divisions of the post-Vedic, multi-lineal state to which belong the Mdh, the A and the
Pacatantra, are we to assume that it constituted the same inter-relationships as the
stratification of the earlier polity limited to the kin group, so that the same metaphor
becomes applicable? As Olivelle (2002:107) mentions, the Later Vedic texts compare the
people to the corn [food] and the royal power to the deer [eater]. The metaphor has thus
shifted from grass-eater (deer) and grass (corn) to meat-eater and grass-eater in the
Pacatantra. While the latter also expresses the same relative connection as eater and
food, it is different in an absolute sense inasmuch as in the latter both are kinds of
eaters. True, the shift in the metaphor retains the asymmetry of the inter-relationship but
the eater-ship of the prey marks the recognition of its agency and subject-hood which
complicates its relation with the predator.

Evidence from the MDh

Even more controversial than the passages culled from the Later Vedic texts is the evidence
for natural enmity between social divisions that Olivelle has gathered from the MDh. There
are three main points and I will refute them in succession.
[1] The social fact of the higher and the powerful eating the lower and the weak is expressed in the wellknown maxim of the fish (matsyanyya), where the big fish eat the small fish (ibid).

Refutation. The implication that matsyanyya was a justificatory explanation for social
oppression is patently false. The term has been repeatedly used in Brahmanical texts
negatively with reference to the anarchical conditions that arise in the absence of a king and
is thus a signifier of a dystopia to be averted rather than a social fact to be celebrated (for
example, Bhandarkar 1918:114ff).
[2] Manu (5.29) articulates the ecological principle well: The immobile are food for the mobile; the fangless
for the fanged; the handless for the handed; and the timid for the brave (Olivelle:ibid).

As Thapar notes: Had the vi in origin been commoners with no lineage status or links with rjanyas it is
unlikely that so much effort would have gone into stating the obvious, that the vi was inferior to the rjanya
and the less powerful (Thapar, 1984:31).

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Refutation. The ecological principle of Manu (5.29) occurs in the radically different
context of discussing foods fit for consumption and is part of a general argument for
permitting the eating of ritually sacrificed meat without it being considered as a defiling act.
To interpret it as suggesting that the strong have a natural right to prey upon the weak is
highly misleading.
[3] As evidence for the continuity of the ideological principle of social hierarchy from
Vedic to Dharmic thought, Olivelle mentions that:
The Purua story serves as the implicit ideological basis for much of the Dharmic social discourse. Manu
(1.87) for example states: As the Brhmaa sprang from his mouth, as he was the first-born, as he possesses
the Veda, he is by right the lord of this whole creation. (ibid: 106-107, italics mine).

Refutation. In Manu (1.87)6, the statement of interest proclaiming Brahmanical supremacy,

he is by right the lord is a translation of dharmato brhmaa prabhu which does not
agree with the tradition itself. The phrase is glossed by Medhtithi as dharme prabhu,
following Pini 5.4.44 (Jha 1999:III.137). The grammarian Bhattoji Dixit has explained
this rule as the employment of the ablative (in this case, dharma-ta) in the sense of prati
towards, in regards to (Vasu 2003:1005). Based on this grammatical rule then, Medhtithi
is reading the clause as dharme prati brhmaa prabhu: he is, [not from dharma but] in
matters relating to dharma, the lord. From Olivelles translation it would appear that the
brhmaas were affirming universal supremacy based on dharma whereas Medhtithi is
claiming for them highest expertise in a particular field of knowledge 7. I am not suggesting
that Olivelles interpretation is grammatically invalid but if it is a question of how the
brhmaas themselves received the MDh, then Medhtithi is one of the important
commentators of the text who interpreted this verse in a radically different way.

In Olivelles Critical Edition of the MDh this is verse 1.93.

Yet, in his essay, Olivelle does not shy away from referring to Medhtithi, when it is convenient. E.g., while
explaining the origin of mixed castes from a miscegenation among varas as a Brahmanical theory, he admits
defensively: This is not my own illegitimate inference; it is stated explicitly by Medhtithi, the most
renowned commentator of the Mnava Dharmastra (ibid: 110). However, the renowned commentator has
not been consulted to avoid an illegitimate inference in case of other verses from the MDh.

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Evidence from Grammar

Olivelle (2002:112) has referred to the grammatical rule by Patajali where dvandva (coordinate) compounds are declined in the singular (rather than the normal dual) when the two
component words refer to entities that are in perpetual opposition to each other. Probably,
he wants to draw our attention to the fact that natural enmity was such a pressing issue
that there was even a separate grammatical rule to express it. Yet again, the examples he
cites from Patajali brhmaa and ramaa, crow and owl, jackal and dog do not
include jti or vara divisions. On the other hand, considering that the compound formed by
grouping social divisions such as brhmaas, katriyas, and so on, always occurs in the
plural itaretara dvandva form (and never in the neuter singular samahra dvandva form), by
corollary it implies that a natural enmity could not have been regarded as existing between
these groups.

Taylors Argument
Taylor makes the same proposition as Olivelle, that predator and prey in the Pacatantra
narratives correspond to upper and lower castes respectively but he does so in a rather
convoluted manner without stating it explicitly. He begins by contradicting Olivelle that it
is difficult to find a satisfactory one-to-one correspondence between the meat-eaters, grasseaters and any particular groups within society (Taylor 2007:82). For example, with
regards to Story 1-00 The parting of friends, in which the lion is the predator and the bull
is the prey, he states that the lion makes a very poor brhmaa and the bull with its
brahmanical attributes an even worse commoner (ibid). Of course, the lion makes an ideal
katriya (also an upper caste) but I think Taylor does not want to make that argument
because, as we will see, the discourse of division in the brahmanical archive with which he
wants to connect the Pacatantra narratives, discriminates between the brhmaa and the
dra (and not a katriya and the dra). In any case, the preoccupation to read predator and
prey as social classes remains unassailable to doubt and unable to match them to particular
social groups, Taylor (ibid: 83) matches them to just social groups:
Let us think of them as open, undefined, but mutually distinct and incompatible. We see the discourse of
division manifesting in a new and different light: according to my reading, in these stories the Pacatantra

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merely confirm[s] that society is divided into groups, just as naturally as the animal world is divided into
meat-eaters and grass-eaters. Some (not all) of these groups are natural, distinct, mutually exclusive, and
fundamentally incompatible.

Yet, there is nothing new or different about this conclusion for Olivelle (2002:100) has
already made this point clear in his essay:
The entire social theory of ancient India was, indeed, based on [the principle] that there are profound and
irresolvable differences between social groups, that certain groups of people are in natural conflict with others,
conflicts that are by definition not amenable to resolution.

And that these social groups correspond to higher and lower varas is ultimately conceded
even by Taylor while exploring the discourse in the brahmanical archive:
We may fruitfully explore another deep and intractable natural enmity: the relationship between brhmaas
and members of peripheral groups, including dras, caalas, other outcastes and barbarians The archive
focuses on the great divide between the twice-born varas of brhmaa, katriya and vaiya on the one hand,
and the once-born vara of dra on the other (Taylor 2007:179).

In other words, the only difference between the explanations of Olivelle and Taylor is that
the former has directly mapped predator and prey in the Pacatantra narratives with upper
and lower castes in the Vedic texts, while the latter claims that the animal characters do not
support such a mapping in themselves but the audience would get it anyway from the
cultural context of the brahmanical archive.

Rebuttal of Natural Enmity between brhmaas and dras

As a general response to the issue of discrimination against dras in the Dharmastras,
raised by both Olivelle and Taylor, it could be argued that while severe penalties were
stipulated for both brhmaas and dras who acted in violation of the customs that
governed their mutual relations, it does not suggest that they were regarded as natural
enemies of each other in the Brahmanical tradition. Thus, commenting on MDh 4.80 He
[the brhmaa] shall not offer advice to the dra, Medhtithi explains:
This prohibition pertains to being an adviser as a means of livelihood; there would be nothing wrong in
offering advice in a pure friendly manner; in fact, there may be hereditary friendship [kulamitra] between
Brhmaas and Shdras [sic]; and certainly through friendship advice for welfare is always offered. Further, it

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has been declared (by Manu himself) that the Brhmaa should be friendly to all castes [anujt ca sarvavare brhmaasya maitr] the Brhmaa is one who is friendly to all (Jha 1999 IV:372, italics mine).

We cannot be certain to what extent this principle was a historical reality. But as Taylor
(2007:38) himself suggests, his analysis is not about historical realities but the ideas, ideals
and ideologies of jti and vara propagated by the brahmanical archive. Notwithstanding
the division and hierarchy between brhmaas and dras, friendship between them is not
precluded in a theoretical sense and their natural enmity is thus out of the question.

Political Reading of sahaja-vaira

Sahaja-vaira in the Arthastra
So far I have argued that the passages adduced by these scholars from the Vedas and
Dharmastras do not adequately justify the admittance of a natural enmity between jtis
and varas as an aspect of Brahmanical social theory. It is interesting, on the other hand, to
note that the concepts of sahaja-vaira and ktrima-vaira which the mouse Hiraya alludes to
in his dialogue with the crow Laghupatanaka, actually occur in the Arthastra in the
context of discussing the circle of kings (rja-maala):
One with immediately proximate territory is the natural enemy [prakti-amitra], one of equal birth [tulyaabhijana] is the enemy by birth [sahaja]; one opposed [viruddha] or [caused to be?] in opposition [virodhayit]
is the enemy made (for the time being) [ktrima]. (A 6.2.19 trans. Kangle 1969:2.318)

Putting together the references to sahaja-vaira in the A and the Pacatantra, one could say
in general that the term refers to a conflict based on a natural impulse such as jealousy,
covetousness, revulsion, etc., which arises spontaneously and is difficult to control. It is
possible between smantas (kings with a contiguous border), those of equal birth, and the
various examples given in the Pacatantras, as outlined above. It does not mean that
sahaja-vairins are necessarily at war with each other all the time but that the potential for
conflict between them never fully goes away and so it is in their interest to always remain
wary of each other. This is simply a matter of realpolitik and not a form of irrepressible
class warfare as Olivelle and Taylor appear to have explained it. A ktrima-vaira, on the
other hand, appears to be characterized by its patency. It arises for the accomplishment of
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some objective. If the objective exists, the enmity will manifest itself. If it does not exist or
when it is accomplished, the enmity will cease. It may also be possible to relate sahaja-vaira
and ktrima-vaira to the three types of conquerors (vijayin) mentioned in A 12.1.10-16. The
righteous (dharma-vijayin) and greedy (lobha-vijayin) conquerors are satisfied with
submission and wealth respectively. They could be seen a ktrima-vairins. On the other
hand, the demoniacal conqueror (asura-vijayin) tries to seize the wealth, family and life of
the weaker king, and could be understood as a sahaja-vairin. The weaker king is advised to
surrender his wealth to him and stay out of reach himself (Kangle 1969:II.460).

Story 2-02 Mouse and two monks

With this theoretical understanding of sahaja-vaira, let us consider Story 2-02 Mouse and
two monks which forms the prequel to Story 2-00 and narrates how, prior to leading a
lonely life in the forest, Hiraya used to live in a hole by a monastery (maha), where he
subsisted along with his retinue (parijana) on the food stored in the alms bowl by the
resident monk. No matter how high the monk placed the bowl to make it safe from the mice,
Hiraya could leap and access it. When the monk complained to his friend about the mouse
who regularly invaded the monastery, surrounded by the herd (ytha-parivta), the friend
deduced that the mouses hole must be sitting on a hoard of wealth, on account of which he
could jump to such incredible heights. When Hiraya learns about their plan to follow the
clans footprints back to the hole and dig out the wealth, he leads his kinsmen (parivra) on
a different track. But they are ambushed on the way by a cat who, leaping amongst the mice,
kills some of them and injures many others. The survivors castigate Hiraya for leading
them down the wrong path and foolishly retreat to their hole leaving behind them a trail of
blood, following which the monks discover the hoard of wealth and confiscate it. The next
day Hiraya returns to the monastery with his retinue (parivra, parijana) but without the
power of wealth he is reduced to the status of an ordinary mouse and unable to jump even an
inch. The monks friend observes that wealth is at the root of everyones strength and
wisdom, without which the mouse has returned to the level of his svajti (own kind).
Hiraya concedes the point and lamenting the loss of wealth returns to the fortress. But
having failed in his mission, his servants (bhtya) begin to whisper amongst themselves:
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Aho! He is no more capable of filling our bellies. Only calamities arising from (being
attacked by) cats and so on, lie in store for those who follow him. So what is the point of
giving homage (rdhan) to him? In whose company there arise only calamities and no
profit, such a svmi (king) should be abandoned from afar, especially by those who live by
arms (astrajvin) (PT 144.3-4). Listening to such talk, as he enters his fortress, not even
one amongst his followers (parijana) accompanies him. The PS further relates that as
Hiraya is brooding over the social misfortune arising from his destitution, his servants
(sevaka) take up service with his rivals (atru) and finding him alone (ekkin) begin to
humiliate him (PS 2.24.8-9). Eventually, Hiraya abandons his kinsfolk and migrates to the
forest rather than continue to suffer their taunts.

Analysis of Story 2-02

An important lesson of this story is the value of the treasury for the king, the possession of
which gives the king an extra-ordinary status and the loss of which reduces him to the level
of a commoner. The term astropajvin which the mice use to refer to themselves, suggest
that they represent a sagha, which Kangle (1969:2.454) has defined as a form of rule
evolved from clan rule best rendered by oligarchy. The A 11.1.4-5 refers to vrttastropajvins (living on economic occupations and arms) in the chapter dealing with the
policy of the vijigiu (a monarch desirous of conquest) towards saghas:
The gain of [a sagha] is [better than the gain] of an army and an ally. For, [saghas] being closely knit are
unassailable for enemies. He [the vijigiu] should win over those of them who are friendly with conciliation
and gifts, those hostile through dissensions and force. (A 11.1.1-2, trans. Kangle ibid).

Bhandarkar (1918:144) mentions the use of the term yudhajvin by Pini and explains it as
a type of sagha which denoted tribal bands of mercenaries, and constituted one kind of
the kings army (ibid). Similarly, in the ntiparvan (MBh 12.108), Yudhihira speaks to
Bhma that having heard about the conduct (vtti) of the vijigiu, he would like to hear
about the conduct of the gaas. Bhma explains that gaas are jty ca sad sarve
kulena sads tath alike in jti (birth) and kula (family) and that bhedc caiva pramdc
ca nmyante ripubhir ga they are conquerable by the enemy through bheda (disunity)
and pramda (distraction) (MBh 12.108.30-31). Smith (2009:616) suggests that gaa in
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this case appears to refer to small states in ancient India that were administered as
oligarchic chiefdoms.
Hiraya was thus the chief (svmin) of a astropajvin gaa or sagha, a martial clan,
whose authority was forfeit as soon as he lost the power to mount a successful raid. Having
abandoned his clan, he retires to the forest but though unable to lead a gaa any more, he
yet retains his political knowledge and skill, as evident from his fortress, his ability to rescue
his pigeon friends, his expertise in nti, and so on. One can thus imagine him more as a lone
warrior rather than a hermit, perhaps the scion of a katriya lineage who had separated from
the clan and managed to gain control of a small piece of territory. Now let us turn to his
dialogue with the crow Laghupatanaka.

Story 2-00: The Hiraya-Laghupatanaka Dialogue

Laghupatanaka meets Hiraya quite by accident while pursuing a flock of pigeons who are
carrying away with them the net in which they had got trapped. The pigeon-king Citragrva
leads the retinue to the subterranean inhabitation of his friend Hiraya in the hope that he
will release them. Overhearing the intelligent conversation about svm-dharma (duties of a
king) between Hiraya and Citragrva, and observing the energy and resilience he exhibits
in saving the birds by cutting their bonds, Laghupatanaka becomes highly impressed with
Hiraya the burrow fortress he has constructed underground with a hundred gates, his
perspicacity and knowledge of nti, his ability and disposition to rescue his friends and
resolves to ally with him: Aho! The intelligence of Hiraya, his strength and his equipment
of a fort (durgasmagr) (PS 130.11). Having observed the pigeons rescue, he feels great
affection for the mouse and he seeks an alliance with the view that if gets trapped like the
pigeons, he could count on Hiraya to rescue him as well.
The meeting of Laghupatanaka and Hiraya is thus a metaphor for a strong king (baliyas)
seeking an alliance with a weak king (abaliyas)8. The crow seeks a darana which the
mouse declines stating that he has no reason (prayojana) to meet him (PT 130.21-22). The

I have borrowed the Sanskrit terms from A Chapter XII balyasam Concerning the weak king (Kangle

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crow implores: Bho! Having witnessed the release of Citragrva from bondage due to your
nearness (tvat sakat) a great affection has arisen within me [for you]. In case I happen to
get trapped, I will attain release too, with you by the side. Therefore, please be my friend
(PT 130.23-25). In response, the mouse alludes to their hostile relationship as food and eater
and orders him to go away. He argues that a friendship is appropriate only between those
commensurate with oneself (tmana sada), equal in wealth (vitta) and family (kula), and
not between the great (adhika) and the small (hna), or between the haves (pua) and the
have-nots (viputa) (PT 130.26-27, PS 2.7.21-22).
In my view, the food-eater dichotomy clearly allegorizes the mutual rivalry between the
weak and the strong king, especially one sharing a border (smanta), in which the former is
a natural quarry of the latter. It is important to bear in mind that the whole dialogue occurs
at the entrance of a fortress with the weak party holed up inside and the strong party trying
to draw him out. To understand Hirayas frame of mind, we can refer to the following
counsel: [A weak king] should act finding shelter with a king superior to him or in an
unassailable fort (A 12.1,9 trans. Kangle 1969:II.400). For the moment, suspicious that
the crow intends to attack him, Hiraya has chosen the latter option. However, as he come
to trust him and their friendship matures, he eventually takes refuge with the crow. His
refusal to step outside the fortress and greet the crow is also understandable in light of a
tactic given in Chapter II yogavmana Drawing out (the enemy) by means of stratagems
in Book XIII durgalambhopya Means of taking a fort of the A (trans. Kangle
1969:II.474, 477). Kangle (ibid: 477) explains: vmana emptying refers to forcing the
enemy king out of his fort and then getting him killed. The tactic relevant to Hirayas case
is described in A 13.2.18-19 which states that the king in the fort is induced to have a sight
(darana) of the enemy and then killed in a secluded spot (Kangle ibid:478). It is thus
reasonable that Hiraya should refuse to accede to the crows request for a darana.
Laghupatanaka, however, refuses to yield and threatens a fast unto death at the door of the
fortress unless Hiraya befriends him. Since his own intentions are honest, he considers his
request as perfectly reasonable. Hiraya, on his part, tries to convince him that his demand
is unfeasible. The allusion to sahaja-vaira is the first part of his argument and it is clear
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from the foregoing that he is referring to the impossibility of an alliance between the strong
and weak kings. In any case, the crow rejects it as an unsubstantiated (akraa) view and
counter-argues that both friendship and enmity occur for a reason and so in life the wise
should engage in the former and not the latter (PT 131.12-14). Thus, sahaja-vaira in the
Pacatantra not only does not refer to natural conflict between social groups, it is not even
the basis of the entire social theory of ancient India, as Olivelle (2002:100) has suggested,
but one voice along with its antithesis. The underlying impasse is the result of an asymmetry
of power between the two parties seeking the alliance. The predatory status of the crow
makes him a risk-seeker who holds that saprenpi kartavyam mitram abhyudayrthin
(PT 130.14), which can be read as: even when one has everything, one seeking to increase
assets should make friends. On the other hand, as the prey, the mouse takes a conservative,
risk-averse approach: mahatpy arthasrea yo vivsam ripor gata tad antam tasya
jvitam (PT 132.5-6) even with considerable assets, if one trusts a foe that is the end of
ones life.
As Laghupatanaka refuses to yield, Hiraya raises two issues. Firstly, the essence of nti
teaches that it is fatal to befriend one who was once a fiend. Secondly, one should not
remain complacent that just because one is meritorious (guavat), nobody will harbor any
ill-will towards oneself. The great teachers of grammar, philosophy and prosody were killed
by wild beasts. What is the value of merit for the ignorant and the low-bred? (PT 131.1521). The mouse is here probably referring to the attacks that he may have suffered from
other crows. Metaphorically, he could be speaking about the barbaric nature of imperialistic
rulers who cannot be trusted.
Laghupatanaka concedes the point but indicates the difference between friendship with the
wise and the good, on the one hand, which blossoms over time, and with the wicked and the
fool, on the other, which remains fragile. He claims to be a good person and offers to take
an oath that would allay Hirayas fear. But Hiraya disputes that it is by taking oaths that
an enemy gains trust and inflicts defeat: Like water entering a boat through the tiniest hole
and filling it up, the enemy takes advantage of the finest weakness to enter within and

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gradually cause destruction. Without gaining their trust, even the strong cannot defeat the
weak. Having gained their trust, even the weak can defeat the strong (PS 2.10.1-2, 5-6).
However, Laghupatanakas persistence finally bears fruit. In consideration of the crows
intelligent and frank speech, Hiraya accepts his proposal but there is one more obstacle. He
tells the crow that he has no more fear of him since he knows his mind. But he is worried
that having put his trust in him, some other friend by the side (anyamitraprva) of the crow
might kill him. This is an extremely significant point. As we will see in other narratives, the
king himself may be virtuous but his retinue or other members of his clan may not be as
enlightened and for them the weaker ally would be nothing more than an object of conquest.
The crow assures him that in his view if begetting one friend requires harming another
friend, who is meritorious, then the former should be abandoned. Satisfied by this reply, the
mouse steps out of his hole to meet the crow and thus begins the beautiful friendship
between them. The PS version is slightly different. The mouse approves the friendship but
lays down the condition that the crow should never set foot in his fortress since an enemy,
nervous at the start, treads slowly on the ground but then advances with impunity (PT
2.10.20-22). The crow acquiesces and the alliance is thus established.
The maturing of this friendship is also described in charming detail. After the preliminary
greetings are over, the crow flies off and having fed himself on a bison killed by a tiger,
brings a piece of choice meat, red like the kiuka flower, for the mouse. The mouse as well
has prepared a heap of rice and millet for the crow. Although neither of the two is hungry,
both eat what the other has offered to show their affection. This gesture is described as the
mitrabja (seed of friendship). Over a period of time, as they continue the practice of
exchanging gifts and favors, engaging in intelligent dialogue (subhita-go) and feasting
together, their friendship becomes absolute (eknta) and inseparable like nails and flesh
(durbheda nakhamsavat) so much so that the mouse begins to sit fearlessly inside the
crows wing while conversing with him.

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Significance of the Political Reading

When we consider the details and circumstances of the Hiraya-Laghupatanaka dialogue
and their alliance formation, it becomes clear that it was a political negotiation between two
rulers and that their predator-prey relationship allegorizes the asymmetry of power existing
between them. It teaches that a strong king should not underestimate a weak king as a target
of conquest but, having understood his resourcefulness, seek an alliance with him, as a
safeguard against his own enemies. Neither should the weak king reject the offer outright in
consideration of his natural enmity with the strong king for if the latter is virtuous, then the
alliance would be beneficial to him as well. However, he should be careful that while the
strong king himself may be virtuous, the same cannot be said of his retinue or the rest of his
clan. Therefore, he should seek a clarification from the strong king that their alliance would
take precedence in case his other friends instigate him to contravene it. Even then he should
not fully trust the strong king until the alliance has matured over time.
The message conveyed by the episode becomes sensible only if the animal jtis are regarded
as a metaphor for political agents rather than social groups. I contend that the sociological
interpretation of the Pacatantra narratives by Olivelle and Taylor arises from an utter lack
of appreciation of the political in the text. The political symbolism in the narratives has
been misread as sociological because the Pacatantras claim to be a ntistra is not taken
seriously. Olivelle (2006:40) has distilled the wisdom of the Pacatantra to be that craft
and deception constitute the major art of government. Beyond that, he explores neither the
political metaphors used in the text nor the political teachings it seeks to impart, and focuses
instead on its sociological propositions and a literary analysis of the various animal
characters depicted in it. Likewise, Taylor (2007:129) admits the references to specific
features of political value such as conduct of kings, fortifications, strategy, armies and so
forth but fails to understand the political significance of the characters and of the story as a
whole. Consequently, whatever politically applicable material is grasped, is deemed
irrelevant and ignored as something that almost incidentally pertains to the arts of
government (ibid). It is suggested that the stories are only of a generally didactic nature
and that by claiming to be a ntistra, the Pacatantra seeks to derive status, credibility
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and truthfulness for its discourse of division (ibid). Due to space constraints, I cannot
refute these allegations in this essay but I allude to them just to show that these analyses
have not adequately reflected on the political import of the Pacatantra narratives.
Of course, I am not denying that even a political text is written in a social environment and
the way it articulates and resolves political issues has implications for its understanding of
society in general. However, what I am contending is that the Olivelle-Taylor thesis has
arrived at its sociological findings by undermining the political in the text. It is one thing
to inquire into the sociological implications of political theories, quite another to charge that
a text is pretending to be a ntistra as part of a conscious program to propagate social
norms (ibid: 130, 151). To claim that the animal characters of different jtis and the
engagements between them can be read as interactions between political entities just as well
as between social groups, is to suggest that the political discourse in the ntistras dealing
with baliyas/abaliyas (strong and weak king) or vijigiu/gaa (conquering monarch and
dissident/vassal clan) can refer equally to relations between upper and lower castes groups.
Thus, the political readings of the narratives described in this essay are not intended as just a
nuance or an alternative to the sociological readings of Olivelle and Taylor. I have argued so
far and I will demonstrate further that at least in case of the animal narratives described in
this essay, a political hermeneutics makes better sense because it possesses a greater
explanatory power which permits us to appreciate their intellectual and emotional depth.
The sociological interpretation of the Olivelle-Taylor thesis, on the other hand, stifles their
creativity and reduces them to the universal and simplistic principle that natural enmity
persists between members of different animal jtis because of a conflict in their innate and
immutable svabhvas, determined by their birth in mutually incompatible jtis.

Political Units and Agents in the Animal Narratives

Before proceeding to the animal narratives depicting unworkable alliances, it would be
worthwhile to reflect on the political metaphor that the animal characters and their relations
could be understood to represent. It is well-known that two kinds of government prevailed
in ancient India, the monarchy and the gaa or sagha. In my view, the multi-jti kula of
the lion king and his retinue, consisting primarily of the jackal and other carnivores such as
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a leopard and a crow, represent a monarchy. It represents the multi-lineal state in which the
king and his retinue belonged to different clans but a sense of fictive kinship was yet
retained in that the king and the inner circle formed a kula (family). For example, in Story 113 Lions retainers outwit camel, the jackal regards the lion as the chief person (pradhna
purua) of the kula (PT 78.3). On the other hand, the mono-jti kula of other animals in
which the king and the retinue are mentioned as members of a common herd (ytha, gaa,
kula), represents the gaa. We have already seen that Hiraya is depicted as the leader of a
gaa. The relationship between the king and the retinue and their engagement with external
parties differs radically between the monarchy and the gaas. For example, when Hiraya
failed to secure food for his retinue, the latter immediately deserted him and joined his rival.
On the other hand, when the lion becomes incapacitated, his retinue yet remains loyal to him
and attempts to procure a prey for him to kill (for example, Story 1-13 Lions retainers
outwit camel). Unlike the chief of a gaa, the power of the monarch is both temporal and
symbolic. The animal narratives of the Pacatantra can thus be read as describing the
internal and external political dynamics of the monarchy and the gaas. In this essay,
however, our study is limited to one aspect of this dynamics, namely, unworkable alliances.
The main narratives included in the following three sections, which I have designated
broadly as Meat-eaters and Grass-eaters, Frogs and Serpent, and Crows and Owls, have
been chosen because they have been provided as examples by Taylor to show natural enmity
in the Pacatantra. Olivelle also alludes to them in his writings on the text.
In the Meat-eaters and Grass-eaters narratives, the meat-eaters include the lion king and
his retinue. There is much ambiguity in the text on whether the lion and the jackal belong to
the same or different jtis. On the one hand, they consider themselves as svajtya (of ones
own jti) and are included in a common nakhyudha-jati (bearing claws as weapons), but on
the other hand, when it comes to feats such as fighting with elephants, the superiority of the
lion is clearly underscored (for example, Story 4-04 Jackal nursed by lioness). This
ambiguity eloquently brings out the tension between the king and the minister. The lion is
clearly distinguished as the king and faces no direct threat from the jackal who has
apparently resigned himself to an inferior rank. Yet, the lion is forever suspicious of him
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and treats him with disdain. The jackal is his minister and right-hand man who, by his
superior intellect, wields a strong influence on him. It is a complementary but uneasy
relation between de jure and de facto power and often it is not at all clear as to who is
controlling whom.
The internal dynamics of the monarchical kula is further complicated by the entry of the
outsider, a representative of the grass-eating civilian community who is unfamiliar or
opposed to the meat-eating military character of the government. Having won the lions
affection, the outsider is granted refuge in the monarchical kula and his counter-influence on
the lion pushes over the edge the already frayed relations between the lion and the jackal.
The three narratives considered under the rubric of Meat-eaters and Grass-eaters in this
essay deal with the trio of the lion, the jackal and the outsider, who is represented in each of
them by a bull, a man and a camel, respectively. It is not the friendship between the lion and
the outsider but their tripartite alliance involving the jackal that proves to be unworkable.
I read the two narratives included under Frogs and Serpent as representing a conflict
between the vijigiu, the conquering monarch allegorized by the solitary predator sharing
the border (smanta), and the gaa, symbolized by the mauka-kula, the frog clan living in
the well or the pond. As Bhma explained to Yudhihira, in unity lies the strength of the
gaa while bheda (division) and pramda (distraction) turns out to be their undoing. The
frog gaas in these two narratives are internally fragmented by infighting and hierarchical
differentiation, and the alliance established by their chiefs with the serpents is on account of
bheda, rivalry between dydas (co-inheritors), and pramda, the distraction of a joyride,
respectively. It ultimately leads to the extermination of the gaas by the vijigiu.
The final narrative, Crows and Owls, depicts a gruesome conflict between two rival gaas.
It shows how a single mishap caused by unrestrained speech can trigger an irrepressible
hostility that consumes generations on either side. When the scars cut so deeply, an enemy
claiming to seek refuge and to offer strategic help cannot be trusted. It is pointless to reflect
on the edicts of dharma, compassion or goodwill in this case. The bitter animosity which
rankles in his heart can only make him work towards the annihilation of his own hosts.

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Meat-eaters (piita-bhuj) and Grass-eaters (apa-bhuj)

Story 1-00 The parting of friends
While travelling with his caravan through a dense forest, the merchant Vardhamana, who
had set out from the fine city of Mahilropya, is forced to abandon the great bull Sajvaka
owing to his leg injury. The bull eventually recovers in the forest and one day his loud
bellowing greatly terrifies the lion Pigalaka, king of the forest, and his retinue. As they
remain quivering under a tree, they are observed by two jackals Karaaka and Damanaka,
who were his hereditary ministers but had subsequently fallen from rank. After much
deliberation between the two, Damanaka resolves to take advantage of the crisis and recover
their former position. He meets Pigalaka and politely chides him for having neglected and
demoted them, his loyal servants. He offers to investigate the sound and is delighted to find
its source to be a bull. Exploiting the mutual anxiety between the lion and the bull, he
negotiates an alliance between them. He wins the favor of the panic-stricken Pigalaka by
obtaining for him the allegiance of the bull and he secures for Sajvaka the protection of
the lion. He instructs Sajvaka that having received the royal grace, he should work
collaboratively and not become giddy with power. On his part, he also promises to
discharge his responsibilities in agreement with Sajvaka. In this way, he advises, they can
enjoy together the fortunes of the kingdom.
But the plan backfires as the lion and the bull soon become the best of friends. In a matter of
days, Sajvaka, who possesses an enlightened mind owing to the study of the stras,
makes the ignorant Pigalaka wise, and influences him to give up the araya-dharma (the
wild, merciless, violent, uncivilized ways of the forest) and take recourse to the grmyadharma (the gentle, compassionate, peaceful, civilized ways of the village). Soon Pigalaka
estranges himself from the other animals of his coterie, including the two jackals, and
remains in the exclusive company of Sajvaka. As the lion gives up hunting, his circle of
dependents, oppressed by hunger, falls into despair. To remedy the situation, Damanaka
instigates the lion and the bull against each other. He deludes Pigalaka into thinking that
Sajvaka plans to kill him and usurp his kingdom, and tries to scare Sajvaka away by
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warning him falsely that Pigalaka plans to feed him to the retinue. But the noble Sajvaka
resolves to make a stand and in the ensuing battle is killed by Pigalaka.
The Olivelle-Taylor Thesis
Commenting on this story Olivelle (2002:101-102, emphasis mine) writes:
In almost all the stories of the Pacatantra where meat-eaters and grass-eaters strike up a friendship, the grasseater ends up dead, not so much because of the meat-eaters gluttony or perfidy but because of a variety of
circumstances that conspire toward that end. Such incompatible friendships are fated to end disastrously In
spite of the goodness and good will of both Damanaka conspires to have Sajivaka killed by Pigalaka.

Similarly, Taylor (2007:81) explains that the jackal possessed a superior knowledge of the
natural enmity that existed between [the lion and the bull]. He merely fanned that latent
hostility. From the rambling dialogue in which the jackal instigates the lion against the
bull, he adduces only the following vignette which we may thus presume is the clincher in
his view:
Pigalaka said, He is a grass-eater; we are meat-eaters. How can he do me any harm? Damanaka said, It is
so; he is a grass-eater. Your majesty is a meat-eater. He is food. Your majesty is his devourer. (ibid.)

In other words, Damanakas agency in triggering the conflict is irrelevant. The status of the
lion and the bull as meat-eater and grass-eater meant that their alliance was doomed from
the start. The jackal represents only the condition and not the cause of its tragic denouement.
As noted above, Olivelles contention that predator and prey correspond to upper and lower
castes does not appear valid because, as Taylor has correctly pointed out, the bull is not
imaginable as a lower caste at all. Unable to find alternative referents Taylor interprets
meat-eaters and grass-eaters simply as anonymous, hostile social groups. However,
considering that Story 1-00 is the longest and most remarkable narrative in the Pacatantra
with a well-crafted plot, dialogues full of deep insight into human nature, and characters
developed with great care and ingenuity, it does not appear credible that the fruit of so much
passion and toil would be simply to point at the existence of some vague, unidentifiable,
antagonistic groups in society, leaving it up to the cultural context to fill the details.

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Objections and Counter-Thesis
The above snippet quoted by Taylor needs to be understood in the right perspective, by
noting the long argument between the lion and the jackal that precedes it. Hearing of
Sajvakas alleged treason, as the alarmed and bewildered Pigalaka remains speechless,
Damanaka explains that when one minister is exalted too high and full authority is vested in
him, he becomes dissatisfied with service and hankering for independence takes his masters
life. Pigalaka protests that as his servant Sajvaka could not possibly revolt against him.
Damanaka points out that nobody is a servant forever. Every man desires wealth and power.
He serves another only for as long as he is lacking in strength himself. When Pigalaka
laments that nonetheless he cannot make himself bear a grudge against the bull, Damanaka
argues that to be precisely the problem the servant whom the master trusts the most, to the
exclusion of everyone else, is the one who turns against him. Even if the bull is dear, he is
undesirable due to his wickedness and deserves to be thrown out. In spite of his great body
he is useless to the lion and even if refusing to show him any compassion may seem harsh, it
is the right thing to do. Pigalaka disputes that Sajvaka couldnt be so ungrateful
considering that he (Pigalaka) had granted him protection when he had come looking for
refuge. Damanaka retorts that a wicked person (durjana) does not get upset because there is
reasonable ground for hostility. He is aggressive by nature.
It is obvious from this summary of the initial conversation that neither does Damanaka refer
to the natural distinction between the lion and the bull, nor does he fan any latent hostility.
On the contrary, his point is that it is the lions excessive fondness for the bull to the
exclusion of other members of his retinue, that is the root of all the problem and that the bull
is undeserving of any affection because of his wickedness, which is evident from his
(alleged) treachery. It is only when the lion has been sufficiently persuaded of the bulls evil
design that he raises the objection quoted by Taylor, but merely as a logistical doubt, which
only shows the great extent to which he loved the bull that he was yet looking for a reason to
brush aside the unpleasant issue brought to his attention by the jackal.
He makes the point that as a grass-eater Sajivaka cannot do him, a meat-eater, any harm
and so he has no reason to fear him. And as mentioned above, Damanaka admits that it is
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true that the bull is the grass-eater and food, and that the lion is the meat-eater and devourer.
But this is only a reiteration of the lions view and hardly constitutes a response to his
objection. The gist of the jackals argument follows this statement, which Taylor has not
mentioned. Having conceded the lions point, the jackal suggests: but even so, if he [the
bull] cannot cause your misfortune himself, he will make it happen through someone else
(PT 65.30-31). He embellishes the point further by explaining that a degenerate (anrya)
person, though destitute in strength himself, will instigate another to revolt against the
world. The stone that is itself unable to cut, sharpens the blade of a sword (PT 65.32-33).
When the lion doubts such a possibility, the jackal explains that the dung and the urine
ejected by the bull in their vicinity would breed worms that could enter the lions body
through the wounds suffered in the course of his daily battles with other beasts, and
eventually kill him.
Thus, Taylors selective quoting of the text gives us the false impression that the meateating lion could not perceive any issue with his alliance with the grass-eating bull, and the
jackal is pointing out to him that to be precisely the problem. Since one is food of the other,
it makes them natural enemies of each other. However, when we take the surrounding
passages into account, it becomes clear that the discussion is about a completely different
issue. In plain language, the lion objects: Even if the bull plans to kill me, he is a passive
grass-eater and so he cannot possibly hurt me, an aggressive meat-eater. And the jackal
explains: True, he is food (weak) and you are the devourer (strong); but he is a wicked
fellow and so even if he cannot kill you himself he will cause your death through someone
else. In conclusion, it is evident that Damanaka is not tapping into any implicit natural
enmity between the lion and the bull. Quite the contrary, he is explaining to the lion that
the bull is a danger to him in spite of him being a meat-eater and the latter a grass-eater.
This conversation represents one allegorical possibility of the dichotomy between meateaters and grass-eaters. It describes an outlook characterized by an asymmetry of power
from the perspective of the lion, in whose view meat-eaters are the strong and powerful
while grass-eaters are the weak and powerless. The jackal, on the other hand, is contending
that such a division is untenable because grass-eaters too can be dangerous and cause harm
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to meat-eaters. Interestingly, the jackals and the bull have their own sense of dichotomy
which they articulate also using the symbolism of meat-eaters and grass-eaters. As
explained above, the lion and his multi-jti retinue allegorize the body corporate of a
monarchical state. The tension between meat-eaters and grass-eaters marks the conflict
between the different kinds of personalities involved in the administration. Therefore, to
make sense of this trope, we need to dig deeper into the psychology of the main characters
depicted in this story.
The Lion
A character portrait of Pigalaka would describe him as possessed of a dualistic nature,
energetic and aggressive, on the one hand, yet honorable and chivalrous, on the other, which
corresponds to the katriya guas generally specified (in the BhGBh gloss of BhG verse
4.13, for example) as dominantly rajas (valor) and subordinately sattva (purity)9. This
makes Pigalaka, the king, a natural magnet for two radically different types of characters
who are predominantly rjaska and sttvika, represented by the ambitious jackal and the
righteous bull respectively. The jackal is a metaphor for the worldly people who seek to
enter the inner circle of the king and stay close to him out of a lust for power and fortune.
The bull, on the other hand, allegorizes the other-worldly ascetics who have moved beyond
such mundane interests but nonetheless seek proximity with the king for support and
protection. The ascetic nature of the bull is evident from the greeting he uses to receive the
jackal, even after he has become the kings favorite: tatkathaya yena adeyam api tubhya
ghgatya prayacchmi so tell me, by what can I serve you, who have come to my home,
though there is nothing to give (PS 1.69.6).
Even before Pigalaka has met Sajvaka, the latters bellowing generates within the
former a deep respect for him. When Damanaka returns from his investigation of the source
of the sound, Pigalaka remarks that the mighty being must have spared him because the
high-minded (unnattacetas) fight only their equals. Damanaka replies indignantly that while
he is inferior and the bull is superior, he can bring the latter to the lion as his vassal. When

sattvopasarjanarajapradhnasya katriyasya auratejaprabhtni karmi.

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Damanaka brings Sajvaka to him, Pigalaka realizes that he is just a bull who had been
abandoned in the forest due to his accident, but even then Pigalaka is impressed by his
huge body and then later, of course, by his great erudition. In the company of the grmya
bull, the sttvika aspects of the lion come to the fore. They wield a civilizing and pacifying
influence upon him which, however, adversely affects the fortunes of the jackal which is
dependent on the exercise of the lions rjasika qualities. This story is thus a political
contest between the do-gooders on the outside and the hardheaded retinue on the inside, to
win the attention and patronage of the king for their way of life. These disparate characters
can live amicably together only for as long as the lion is able to maintain the balance
between the two opposing forces, both within his own nature, in the form of his sattva and
rajas guas, and external to him, in the form of the dovelike outsiders and the hawkish
insiders. But the internal contradictions between them are such that the alliance remains
inherently unsteady and breaks down eventually.
As mentioned above, for Pigalaka meat-eaters represent persons with martial strength
and political authority such as himself. Grass-eaters epitomize the gentle creatures, lacking
in muscle and prowess, who are either hunted down as food (the commoners who work hard
and pay the taxes) or, like the bull, are favored and protected (the civilians who receive
royal patronage). Pigalakas remark that grass-eaters cannot pose any threat to him can
reasonably be interpreted as the attitude of the king towards his subjects and his dependents.
The Bull
When Sajvaka first hears about the lions presence from Damanaka, he is instantly
terrified and begs the jackal to secure for himself an assurance of safety (abhayadna). It is
the lion who takes a liking for him, grants him safety and begins to fraternize with him. He
reciprocates the lions friendly overtures but remain isolated from the rest of his retinue.
While the bull is introduced to the lion by the jackal, he has no truck with the latter beyond
that meeting. Upon hearing about the lions plan to kill him, the bull mournfully recounts a
variety of factors responsible for the calamity: the fickleness of princes, the uncertainty of
winning the royal favor, association with a bad friend (kumitrasev), the unsuitability of his

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friendship as a grass-eater with a meat-eating lion, the disadvantages of virtue, and finally,
and most significantly, his entry within a circle of knaves (kudra-maala).
The bulls perspective on meat-eaters and grass-eaters becomes clear from the verses he
recites immediately after citing this difference. Like Hiraya, he reasons that marriage and
friendship is possible only between people whose wealth and kula are equal and not between
the haves (pua) and the have-nots (vipua).10 It shows that he views the disparity in terms
of an appetite for worldly success rather than purity or auspiciousness. He compares his
situation to the bees thirsting after nectar, who enter into lotuses close to sunset, risking the
imprisonment about to follow; who ignore the fragrances and honey of flowers, and lust for
the ichor dripping from rutting elephants; who [eventually] fall to the ground when beaten
by the ear-flaps of the latter, only to recall the games played in the hollows of lotuses:
sulabham apahya evam loka khalev anurajyate people abandon what is accessible and
engage themselves amongst knaves (PT 74.24). In other words, the bull saw himself as a
simple, poor and high-minded person who had overreached and got himself tangled amongst
artful, prosperous and vulgar people.
But in this regard, he also makes a clear distinction between the king and his men.
Confident of his own piety and goodness, on the one hand, and the nobility of Pigalaka, on
the other, the bull infers that someone must have set the lion against him:
This king with a mean retinue does not augur well for those who seek refuge. Better a vulture for a king with
geese as the retinue than a goose for a king with vultures as the retinue. Because, on account of a retinue of
vultures, many faults accrue to the king. They are enough to cause destruction. Therefore, of these two, the
former king is preferable. The latter king, led astray by false speech becomes incapable of thinking. 11

We may thus conclude that in the bulls view, grass-eaters would be the virtuous and
high-minded persons such as himself and in a sense would include even the king who is
noble and magnanimous enough to be persuaded to appreciate and support their enlightened


yayor eva sama vitta yayor eva sama kulam. tayor vivha sakhya ca na tu pua-vipuayo (PT 74.1516)
kudraparivroya rj na ivya ritnm. vara gdhropi rj hasaparivra. na hasopi rj
gdhraparivra iti. yato gdhraparivrd dhi svmino bahavo do prdurbhavanti. te ca ala vinya.
tasmt tayo prvam eva rjna lipseta. asadvacanapracritas tu rj vicrkamo bhavati. (PT 80.19-22)

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customs and mores, whereas his vile retinue constantly wielding a malevolent influence on
him, are the quintessential meat-eaters.
The Jackals
While the swaggering and extroverted Damanaka is clearly the protagonist of Story 1-00, it
is the cautious and reserved Karaaka who is truly impressive in the end. While Damanaka
is constantly flaunting himself as an expert in nti, I think he has been deliberately set up as
a foil to reveal Karaaka as the real ntija (expert in nti). As he aptly shows, Damanaka
was a blundering fool who committed two serious political mistakes. First, he should not
have caused an alliance between the bull and the lion. Second, having done so, sowing
dissensions and triggering a conflict between the two was not the correct remedy for the
catastrophe which the alliance had produced.
Let us consider the second issue first. As the battle between the lion and the bull rages,
Karaaka, anxious that the former may be killed or severely wounded, indignantly narrates
the following story to Damanaka:
Story 1-22 King, minister and false monk
A king who has dispatched his minister to the border to quell the uprising of some tribal
chieftains, becomes devoted, in his absence, to a naked monk who claims the ability to
assume a celestial body and visit the immortals. On his return, alarmed that the king had
become neglectful of his royal duties and brainwashed by the mystic, the minister
challenges the monk for a demonstration of his skill. In response, when the mystic enters his
hut and waits inside, the minister sets it on fire explaining to the king that having burnt his
earthly body, the mystic would have to appear before them in his celestial form.
This story is narrated by Karaaka as a foil to criticize the divisive tactics adopted by
Damanaka to mitigate the adverse influence of the bull which had now imperiled the lion
both physically and morally. The monk in Story 1-22 was knowledgeable in the esoteric arts
and had the whole city eating out of his hand. It was on account of his great fame that the
king had decided to meet him in the first place. We can only imagine the repercussions if,
like Damanaka, the minister had provoked the king to attack the monk. The bulls virulent
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retaliation allegorizes precisely this soft power of the ascetic, which Damanaka had
underestimated, along with the moral loss suffered by the lion on account of the skirmish.
In fact, Karaaka is echoing the same problem that was articulated by the bull but from the
point of view of the insider. Whereas Sajvaka laments that a king who is surrounded by
vile ministers is no refuge for the good, Karaaka contends that such a king remains
inaccessible to meritorious allies (guavat sahya-sampat). Everyone takes up service with
a king who possesses a meritorious retinue12. Like a pool of delightful and sweet water
infested with crocodiles, a king possessed of wicked ministers, though meritorious himself,
remains inaccessible13. But what is most interesting is that, he accuses Damanaka of desiring
to keep the king isolated (vivakta) either for the sake of his own profit (tmabhtyartham) or
because he is jealous at the sight of anothers abundant happiness (parasukhavibhutyo
darant dukhita). In either case, he reprimands him, it was not proper to act this way
towards those who had become friends by nature (labdhasvabhva mitra). A king looks
becoming when he is surrounded by a crowd (kra) and never when he is alone. Karaaka
is thus implicitly accusing both Sajvaka and Damanaka of seeking to monopolize their
influence on the king. It is proper for a king to possess a diverse retinue whose members do
not compete with each other to gain exclusive control of him.
While the king and the monk in Story 1-22 are certainly comparable with Pigalaka and
Sajvaka, Karaaka is not necessarily suggesting that the bull was a charlatan like the
mystic or that Damanaka should have arranged his death in a manner similar to the minister
killing the mystic without endangering the king. Of course, Karaaka has no sympathy for
the bull, on account of whom the forest kingdom had come to the verge of destruction, and
he declares in no uncertain terms that Damanaka had committed a grave political blunder by
uniting the grass-eater with the meat-eater14. Rather, the story is conceding the point that
such pious and spiritual persons as the bull would naturally appear as charlatans from the
perspective of the jackals, inasmuch as these supposedly other-worldly beings seduce a


sarva api jana guavatparijanasya svmina svparigraha karoti. (PT 101.27)

guavn apy asanmantr npatir na adhigamyat. prasannasvdusalilo duagrho yath hrada. (PT
yat tu tvay ea apabhoj svmin saha sayojita tat svahastena agr karit (PT 22.25)

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worldly king and bring him under their sway. They are the grass-eaters, unconcerned with
the practical costs of governing and defending the kingdom which shelters them, and their
opponents are the pragmatic, enterprising, no-nonsense meat-eaters, who strongly
disapprove of the state turning soft and idealistic. But the wise meat-eater recognizes the
necessity of both, the exercise of violence by the king for the upkeep of the kingdom and
moderating the leverage of the grass-eaters over the king such that he is not led astray from
his duties. Although the king may possess a natural proclivity for the higher ends of life,
kingship is fundamentally a worldly enterprise and the king essentially a meat-eater who
cannot be permitted to be unduly influenced by grass-eaters. And it is the duty of the wise
minister to keep these two realms apart neither to ally them nor to sow dissensions
between them.
The main thread of the story thus appears to be concerned with the problem of excess and
keeping a balance not only between the discordant voices in the administration but, most
importantly, in the kings own mind. A king is required to be able to deal with contradictory
personalities in the governance of his kingdom without giving himself over to either
extreme and it is the duty of the minister to ensure that he is able to maintain the
equilibrium. A minister should neither encourage nor unduly obstruct the king from taking
under his wing the virtuous and high-minded people of great learning, such as represented
by Sajvaka, which he naturally appreciates but whose views would be contradictory to the
worldliness of state affairs. However, he should also not let them unduly influence the king
to such an extent that they make him disillusioned and neglectful of his regular duties, as it
happened in the case of Pigalaka. If such a situation was to arise, then the minister should
rescue the king from their clutches scrupulously and not in the ruthless manner of causing
an antagonism between them and the king as conspired by Damanaka.

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Story 1-14 Lion and wheelwright

A lion happens to meet a chariot-maker in the forest who, out of fear, offers some of his
own food that his wife has prepared for him. The lion politely explains that as a carnivore he
does not eat cooked food but touched by the mans affection for him accedes to his request.
Satisfied by the mans food, he offers him protection and unimpeded access (askhalitapracra) in the forest. The man also invites him to daily partake of his food but warns him
to come by himself without any company. As the days thus pass, satisfied by these
delicacies, the lion gives up hunting and consequently his coterie, consisting of a jackal and
a crow, begin to suffer from starvation. After much urging, they get the lion to admit his
friendship with the man and immediately propose to kill him and feed on his flesh and blood
for days. The lion rebukes their callousness but suggests that he could get the man to
provide food for them as well. They concur but the next day, when the man sees the lion
accompanied with the jackal and crow, he promptly climbs a tree for safety and terminates
the friendship explaining to the lion that his retinue was not auspicious (obhana).
Taylors analysis
According to Taylor (2007:86-88), the different foods of the lion and the man meat and
grain distinguish them as jtis and the lion initially refuses the mans offering. Then, by
accepting it, he metaphorically joins the mans jti as his brother and develops an unnatural
and unsustainable relationship with him. In the end, the wheelwright interprets his arrival
with the retinue as an outward manifestation of some inward change and suspecting that
the lion [is] about to revert to his natural state of carnivorousness ends the relationship.
Objections and Counter-Thesis
The problem with Taylors interpretation is that it takes a monochromatic view of the lions
personality. It is claimed that the lion was softened, somehow un-lioned, by his daily
truck with the man (Taylor 2007:87). But there was nothing leonine about the way in
which the lion politely rejected the mans offering at first but then pleased by his
friendliness, accepted it. Further, it is well-known that names of characters in the
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Pacatantra narratives are generally meaningful and expressive of their personality. In this
case, the lions name is Vimala (pure) which suggests that, though a beast, he is morally
upright. Finally, this narrative is recounted by the bull to the jackal in Story 1-00 The
parting of friends as an illustration of his view of needing to guard oneself from a king with
a vile retinue, even if he is noble himself. We can thus conclude that, although a carnivore,
the lion had a soft side to begin with, which only became more pronounced by the
friendship of the man. Taylors thesis, on the other hand, suggests that the softness caused
by the human association was utterly unnatural to the lion. Yet, if this was possible, how
could the lion have established the transgressive alliance in the first place? Would he not
have just attacked and killed the man at first sight? On the other hand, the lions behavior
becomes explicable when we take into account a bipolar nature, a mix of sttvika and
rjasika guas. In the presence of the man, the dormant sttvika side of the lion came to the
fore and by his association triumphed over the rjasika side. But in the company of the
predominantly rjasika retinue, the wise man realized that the lions own rjasika side
would reassert itself eventually and he thought it prudent to put himself out of harms way.
A related issue is Taylor persistent reference to the man as a grain-eater and the various
delicacies he offers the lion as grain. His translation of the lions polite refusal: bhadra na
mama annena praytr bhavati yata piitanoham as Kind sir, grain is not a means of
sustenance for me, because I am a meat-eater (2007:86, italics mine) is misleading because
anna means cooked food, especially boiled rice and not grain.15 The difference is
significant because cooked food represents the man as civilized and humane, and
therefore culturally superior to the lion, who, as the meat-eater, signifies the savage beast
or perhaps the noble savage, if we consider his straightforwardness. On the other hand,
considering the man as a grain-eater projects him as distinct from the lion but nonetheless,
as a consumer of raw food, equally primitive and thus distorts the political lesson
communicated by the story.


sasya ketragata prokta satua dhnyam ucyate. nistuas taula prokta svinnam annam udhtam.
What grows in the field is called sasya, husked is dhnya, dehusked is taula and boiled is anna. (Hit. gloss
by MP, Kale 2004:63, translation mine).

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The tension between the relation of the lion with the jackal on the one hand, and with the
bull or the man on the other, point out that contrary to the nature of aggressive insiders who
would be constantly goading the king to augment the wealth and power of the kingdom,
there are external personages who would advocate nobler ideas to which a good king would
remain equally susceptible. Like the bull, they decry the sordidness of state politics and the
nastiness of the royal entourage, as beneath contempt. Like the wheelwright, they prefer the
king to engage with them alone while keeping his base and belligerent company at bay. The
bull and the man are symbols of powerful lobbies who are competing with their rivals
within the government for the kings attention to determine the policy of governance. The
stric learning taught by the bull and the rich, culinary delights offered by the man that
motivate the lion to give up hunting and become a more gentle and refined person, are a
metaphor for diverting the royal policy from just an iron-fisted administration and a greedy
expansion of the kingdom towards a cultivation of the arts, the morals and the higher ends
of life. The lesson of these stories, from the perspective of the bull and man, is that such a
campaign cannot succeed for as long as the king remains in the grip of a vile retinue, who
will most likely instigate the king against them.

Story 1-13 Lions retainers outwit camel

A camel is granted refuge by the lion out of compassion and permitted to roam freely in the
forest. He lives together with the carnivorous retinue for many years until the lion becomes
incapacitated while fighting an elephant. As starvation begins to bite, the logical status of
the camel as their food becomes all too palpable for the jackal to bear. But the lion refuses
to commit the dishonorable act of killing a creature whom he has granted protection. The
jackal therefore deceives the camel into offering itself as food. Along with him, the other
two retainers, a crow and a leopard, present themselves in succession as food to save the
lion from dying of starvation. When the lion rejects their offer, the camel, touched by their
sacrifice, feels obligated to do the same. His self-sacrifice, however, is acknowledged and
the beasts devour him.

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Taylors Analysis
According to Taylor (2007:85-86), it was unnatural for the lion to feel compassion for a
camel, to guarantee its safety, or for the camel to join a lions retinue and the normal
order of things was eventually restored. The story seeks to communicate that society is
naturally divided into groups with specific characteristics, and some of these are so
mutually incompatible that no sustainable relationship is possible between them in spite
of dharma, promises or good intentions.
Objections and Counter-Thesis
Here again the relationship between the lion, the jackal and the camel are reduced to a
simplistic predator-prey engagement without taking into account the nuances evident in the
narrative. If, in the view of the text, it was unnatural for the lion to feel compassion for the
camel and grant it safety, it would have provided some explanation for the deviant behavior.
Nor does any animal in the retinue find the situation objectionable. It was thus a reasonable
agreement that worked without problem for quite a long time but then something happened
to make it fail. Although this story appears to follow the same pattern as the previous ones,
there is an important variation in that the camel represents a different kind of outsider to
the inner circle of the king than the bull or the man. He is simply a refugee who remains
loyal to the king but does not influence him in any way or adversely affect the fortunes of
the kingdom. He is therefore comparable with migrants who settle in a foreign territory and
quietly go about their business without questioning or upsetting the customs of the land.
And his treacherous end may be likened to the exploitation and depredation that they may
eventually suffer at the hands of the native government when it faces economic ruin.
The camels story raises a different kind of moral issue with regards to the treatment of
those who have been granted refuge, when ones own survival is at stake. For the worldly
and hedonistic jackal, moral rules apply only in the good times. In the event of a calamity,
all bets are off and one must do whatever is necessary to survive. The idea that hunger can
drive people to commit all sorts of evil occurs frequently in the Pacatantra narratives and
is expressed as a matter of caution for those dealing with them. The rjasika jackal is never
really against the lions friendship with the sttvika outsider for as long as the machinery of
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the state is running smoothly. In fact, as we have seen, Damanaka foolishly tries to enlist the
bull as an ally in managing the kingdom and reaping its benefits. Likewise, the jackal drops
the idea of killing the wheelwright on the command of the lion and shows a willingness (at
least for the moment) to feed on the delicacies prepared by him. The camel, too, remains a
constituent member of the lions inner circle for several years. It is only when the kingdom
is pushed to the point of absolute ruin that the jackal plans to kill the camel for food.
On the other hand, all too pathetic is the case of the partially sttvika, partially rjasika lion,
who struggles to remain morally firm even in adverse circumstances but fails miserably due
to external pressures. When the jackal suggests killing the camel as their food, he
reprimands him sternly for recommending a dishonorable course of action but when the
camel is deceived by the jackal into sacrificing himself, the temptation becomes too difficult
to resist. The lion wants to do the right thing by the camel even at the risk of starving to
death but the jackal makes it harder for him to do so. It then appears that the morality of
protecting the refugee that the lion so grandly defends, poses only a technical difficulty and
once a loophole is found, he immediately succumbs. In all these stories, the lion is the
bridge between meat-eaters and grass-eaters and, therefore, it is also with him that the
tenacious arrangement between them begins to unravel itself. In case of the bull and the
man, the lion made himself over to them to such an extreme that he turned away from all his
regular duties, such as hunting, and failed to pay attention to the needs and sentiments of his
other dependents. Likewise, in the story of the camel, when the lion gets paralyzed, he
becomes unable and unwilling to exert himself as a protector in a real sense and is reduced
to the level of a predator along with his retinue. Ultimately, it is his failure to uphold the
dignity of his office that proves detrimental to those who have sought refuge with him. Yet,
in killing them, he is not just killing a natural enemy but a sublime part of himself. This, I
submit, is the moral and political message of these stories to their princely audience.

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Frogs and Snakes

Story 4-01 Frogs revenge overleaps itself
Summary (Story 4-01)
The frog king Gagadatta invites a serpent into his well to finish off the dydas (co-heirs)
who are harassing him. At first the serpent is reluctant to even step out his burrow and meet
Gagadatta, whose voice he detects as belonging to one who is not svajtiya (of ones own
jti). He also finds the frogs proposal of friendship incredulous, like an alliance between
fire and grass. Gagadatta admits to their natural enmity (svabhvavaira) but explains that
he has approached him since he has been humiliated by his dydas. He quotes a verse that
in times of mortal danger one should bow down before a strong enemy to save life and
wealth. The serpent is yet reluctant because he is not able to enter into a well or locate a
firm base to establish himself there. Gagadatta provides him both access into the well and
a pleasant hollow to make his home. He negotiates with the predator to spare his own
parijana (retainers) but after the rivals have been eaten, the serpent begins to feed on the
frogs from Gagadattas varga (faction). As he grieves over his losses, his wife condemns
him by calling him the destroyer of the svapaka (ones own side). Eventually, the whole
frog-kula is devoured by the serpent except for Gagadatta.

Story 3-16 Frog rides a serpent

Summary (Story 3-16)
An old serpent Mandavia, hoping to lead an easy life, lay by a pool containing many frogs
as if seized by infirmity. When a frog at the frontier of the pool inquired into his reason for
not moving as usual for food, he lied that he has been cursed to serve as a vehicle for frogs.
The frog passed this information to the rest who excitedly went up to their king Jalapda and
told him about it. Thinking how extraordinary, surrounded by his ministers (mantriparivta), he excitedly climbed out of the pool and onto the serpents head. Others climbed
on his back according to seniority (yath-jyeha), and the rest, who could not find a place,
ran after him. Once the frogs became addicted to the joyride, Mandavia deliberately moved
slowly citing lack of food as an excuse. Jalapda then permitted him to eat the kudra (lowPage 39 of 53

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ranked) frogs. Thus, the serpent began to regularly feed on the frogs and Jalapda, deceived
by his treacherous words, never realized the fatal alliance. Eventually, Mandavia devoured
all the frogs so that not even the seed (bja) was left behind.
Taylors Analysis
From Taylors perspective, these are yet more examples of unworkable cross-jti alliances.
Negotiations are struck for mutual benefit, the serpents were permitted to eat some frogs by
Gagadatta to get rid of his enemies and by Jalapda to continue the joyride, but the
agreements came undone on account of the natural enmity inherent in the disparate predator
and prey svabhvas of the different jtis:
A potentially abortive cross-jti relationship only arises when all those vulnerable bulls, camels, frogs, and so
on fail to appreciate that by their very nature they are prey. At the same time they ignore the predatory
svabhva of the lions, snakes, and so forth, which will be their undoing (Taylor 2007:90-91).

Objections and Counter-Thesis

As in case of the meat-eater and grass-eater narratives, this interpretation completely glosses
over the intricate details that embellish the frogs-and-serpent narratives. The predator-prey
relationship manifested in them is not of the same nature as observed in stories concerning
the monarchical kula and the outsider. The lion and the outsider are not represented as
natural enemies in the same way as the serpent and the frogs. Since predator and prey are
included as an instance of svabhva-vaira by Hiraya in Story 2-00, it is assumed that all
relationships between them are characterized by natural enmity. But that is not the case. As
we noted above, Pigalaka and Sajvaka are regarded by Karaaka as labdha-svabhvamitra. The solitary and powerful serpent and the frog kula, on the other hand, can be read as
allegorizing a different kind of engagement: the rivalry between the conqueror (vijigiu) and
the gaa. But what makes them natural enemies is their shared frontier (smanta) note
that in both stories the serpent is depicted as lying at the edge of the frogs territory. In
either case, the safety guaranteed by the inaccessibility of their realm to the predator is a
metaphor for the strength of the gaa against the conqueror. And as Bhma explained to
Yudhihira about the vulnerability of gaas, it is not their alliance with the predator but
their bheda (divisiveness) and pramda (distraction) which turns out to be their undoing.
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Story 4-01 portrays how a gaa, in spite of its jti-homogeneity, is torn by internal rivalry
into two vargas (faction). On account of the infighting within the frog-kula, the serpent is
not only granted access into their territory but also supplied with a firm base to launch his
attack. Without the disunity and factionalism within the gaa and the advantage gained by
the proposal for intervention, it could not have been vanquished by the conqueror.
Exactly the reverse is the case in Story 3-16 where the conqueror entices the gaa to
abandon the safety of their own terrain and instead march into his own realm. In spite of
being a gaa, this kula appears to show all the trappings of a monarchy. Whereas in most
stories, the parivra of the clan leader is depicted as consisting of hundreds of his own kind,
Jalpda is mentioned as mantr-parivta surrounded by ministers. Further, in spite of
being made up entirely of frogs i.e., consisting of animals of the same jti, this frog-kula is a
hierarchically ordered body, which differentiated not only between the king, who got to ride
on the serpents hood, and the commoners; but even the latter were differentiated by some
kind of ranking, in accordance with which they took a position on the serpents back, and
some could not get any place at all. The low-ranking (kudra) frogs were the first to be fed
to the serpent and one assumes that the subsequent feed must have also occurred as per rank,
from the lowest to the highest, until the king himself is devoured, obliterating even the seed.
Both these stories show how internal divisions within the gaa can lead to their destruction
at the hands of the conqueror. If Gagadatta had solved his domestic problems internally
and if Jalapda had pursued his duty as a king to protect his subjects and not sacrifice them
for obtaining a joyride on the serpent, their kulas would not have suffered an adverse fate. In
both cases, the problem started innocuously, the former hoped to feed only his rivals to the
enemy and the latter only the wretched ones but the situation quickly got out of hand and the
entire kula met its doom.

Crows and Owls

Story 3-00 War of Crows and Owls
Meghavara, the crow-king (vyasa-rja), with a parivra of several crows, had taken up
residence in a giant banyan tree. Arimardana, the owl-king (ulka-rja) along with a
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parivra of countless owls had made a mountain cave his fortress. On account of their
ancient enmity, the owls would fly around, seeking out and killing any crow they could find.
Due to their nocturnal behavior and knowledge of the enemys citadel, the owls were able to
inflict huge losses on the crows. After much deliberation, in which the counsellors of
Meghavara suggest different expedients peace (sadhi), war (vigraha), retreat (yna),
holding the ground (sana) and refuge with a stronger king (saraya) Sthrajvin, the
aged minister advises dvaidhibhva (duplicity) as their only means of defeating the enemy.
He plans to ingratiate himself to the owls so that he would be taken by them to their home,
where he would kill them all. He fakes an argument with Meghavara and is attacked by his
supporters. When the owls come to know about the quarrel, they mount a raid to take
advantage of the enemys weakness but by then all the crows have flown away except for
Sthrajvin, who lies injured and pleads for refuge. He explains that he has been reduced to
the wretched state by the crows because of his view that they shouldnt march against the
owls since the latter were stronger than them. He promises that upon recovery he would lead
the owls to the crows to cause their destruction.
Among Arimardanas ministers, Raktka is the only one who discerns foul play and
immediately advises that Sthrajvin should be killed without further ado. However, his
advice is ignored and the owls welcome the treacherous crow amidst them. Realizing the
inevitable doom of the kula, Raktka assembles his faction (varga) and informs them that
he has fulfilled his duty as a minister by warning the king. He flies off with them to another
mountain. Eventually, Sthrajvin builds a pile of straws at the opening of the owls cave and
then gets the crows to set it on fire, roasting all the owls inside to death.

Analysis of Story 3-00

The jti Metaphor
Taylor (2007:92) interprets this story as an instance of nonpredatory hostility between
members of two more-or-less equally matched jtis. Here itself we find a contradiction in
the thesis that postulates vara in the ruti and srti as analogous to animal jtis in the
Pacatantra. After all, there does not exist a concept of two more-or-less equally matched
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varas in the ruti and srti. From a sociological perspective, it is therefore not clear how
the difference between the crow and owl jtis should be understood in social terms. In a
political reading, however, it is quite straightforward. These are simply two clans who share
an ancient grudge (prvavirodha) and have been feuding over many generations.
Story 3-01 Birds Elect a King
The story explaining the ancient grudge is related by Sthrajvin to Meghavara in Story
3-01 Birds elect owl for a king, in which a crow persuades an assembly of birds to abort
the crowning of the owl as their king by alluding to its foul appearance, fierce nature and
day-blindness. I have issues with Taylors analysis which ascribes the owls discomfiture to
its inferior social status, but since it is connected with an aspect of the discourse of
division other than natural enmity, I will not discuss it here. Instead, I will explain the
political lesson of the story which is the warning that one should be careful with speech,
especially when articulated in public. The owl thus explains its reason for declaring its
enmity with the crow: a forest pierced by arrows and hewed by hatchets may grow back
again, but what has been cut down by unspeakable (durukta) and offensive (bibhatsa)
speech will never recover (PT 192.22-23). And the crow as well, regrets his stupidity that he
unnecessarily brought this enmity upon himself by making speech that was contrary to the
time and place, and not beneficial for the future (PT 193.4). The wise do not humiliate the
other publicly and declare, even if it is true, what leads to animosity (PT 193.13-14). This
message is particularly significant in a clan culture in which a clash between individuals can
quickly escalate into a never-ending feud between their clans, as Story 3-00 clearly
The Nature of the Enmity between Crows and Owls
It is true that crows and owls have been included in the list of sahaja-vairins (natural
enemies) enumerated by Hiraya in Story 2-00. Both Taylor and Olivelle have ascribed the
disaster suffered by the owls to their alliance with a natural enemy. According to the former,
the owls perished because despite the traditional enmity that divided them, [they]
embraced, nourished, and nurtured their natural enemy (Taylor 2007:94). Similarly,
Olivelle (2006:42) explains: the big mistake that the owl king Arimardana made was to
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give shelter to a natural enemy. However, in Story 3-00 itself, the enmity between crows
and owls has been identified as an anvaya-vaira hereditary feud (PT 193.21) and
attributed to (what the birds themselves considered) a historical event in which an owl had
been publicly humiliated by a crow. It was not a sahaja-vaira or svbhvika-vaira arising
from a conflict between the different svabhvas of the two jtis, though, of course, it was
not any less potent. Yet, it is important to make this distinction in order to refute the
connection that Taylor has established between the unworkable alliance of the owls and
Sthrajvin, to the differences of svabhva and jti, as explained next.
Sthrajvins Attempted Immolation
In the course of the narrative, there is a curious interlude in which Sthrajvin, as he is being
carried by the owls to their fortress, seeks to immolate himself and Raktka reviles him for
the melodrama. Sthrajvin requests Arimardana to edify (uddhartum) him by casting him
into a fire: I was reduced to this state by Meghavara for your sake. So I desire to attain
owl-hood (ulkatvam) in order to take revenge against him (PT 212.22-23). Sthrajvins
wily bid to immolate himself and Raktkas subsequent retort has been explained by Taylor
(ibid: 93) as follows:
[As] part of his subterfuge [Sthrajvin] sought to change his svabhva by seeking rebirth in another jti.
The owl-minister Raktka argued that, on the contrary, the crow would maintain his crow identity even if he
were reborn as an owl, as ones own jti is hard to overcome (svajtir duratikram || PT 212.27). To make
his point, he told Story 3-13 Mouse-maiden will wed a mouse. A mouse, which had been changed into girl
by a siddha, although offered various highly desirable husbands, was still instinctively attracted to another
mouse because she had retained her mouse svabhva, even though she had acquired a human form.
There seem to be two conflicting views of the relationship between svabhva and jti here. The crows view
was birth in a given jti naturally endows one with the svabhva of that jti. The owls view is that svabhva
will remain unchanged even if one is born into a different jti. This view runs counter to the general thrust of
the jti discourse in the Pacatantra. In fact this is a nonargument. The owls story of the mouse-maiden has
nothing to do with rebirth in a different jtishe was turned into a human by the siddhas magical powers and
maintained her mouse svabhva in the process. I suspect that this whole narrative sequence from the moment
the crow sought immolation and the owls argument about jti was a literary device employed by the creators
of the Pacatantra to provide a context for the embedded Story 3-13. I think that the Pacatantras dominant
discourse on the relationship between svabhva and jti stands.

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Let me explain what is going on here. Taylor has ascribed a discourse of division to the
Pacatantra, according to which, ones svabhva is wholly determined by birth in a specific
jti. According to him, this is the reason why Sthrajvin seeks rebirth in the owl jti. But
Raktka is arguing that he would yet retain his crow-svabhva even if born in the owl jti
and narrates Story 3-13 in which a mouse retained her mouse-svabhva though changed to a
human jti. This contradicts Taylors thesis and so he is obliged to defend it. Thus, he
argues that the analogy does not hold because the mouse was not reborn as a human but
magically transformed into one. However, it means that Story 3-13 does not cohere with
what Raktka is saying and it would appear that he has chosen an irrelevant example to
demonstrate his view. Since Story 3-13 does not contradict Taylors thesis and so is not
problematic in itself, it is the episode which contextualizes it that gets marked down as just a
literary device to embed it.
In my view, this position is untenable and arises because instead of understanding the whole
episode properly, the focus is more on getting it to support a preconceived discourse of
division. To understand the meaning of Raktkas counsel of svajtir duratikram alluded
to by Taylor, let us hear his full condemnation of Sthrajvins allegedly penitent proposal:
Bhadra, you are crooked and an expert in deceitful speech. The fact is that even if you were born in an owlwomb (ulka-yoni) you would still think highly of your own crow-womb (vyasa-yoni). As this narrative is
heard: having turned down the sun, the rain-cloud, the wind, and the mountain as husband, the she-mouse
reached her own [point of] origin (svayoni). Ones own jti is hard to overcome. (PT 212.23-27).

We all know that the crow was not really seeking a self-immolation but that is not the deceit
being alluded here. It would be absurd at this point in the story for the crow to make such a
request and for the owls to even consider it. Rather, it makes sense to think that the owls
would have understood the crow as speaking only figuratively and that is the deceit
against which Raktka is warning them. It is not the crows first act among the owls
(Taylor ibid: 93) but the second phase of his plan. The first was to get the owls to take him
in and had been accomplished successfully. And the two insults that Raktka hurls at the
crow kuila (crooked) and ktaka-vacana-catura (an expert in deceitful speech)
correspond to these two phases. Having attained the first goal by his crookedness, the crow
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is now using deceitful speech to accomplish the second. In plain language, he is saying:
Having taken me in, now make me one of you. The crows request to the owl-king arhasi
mm uddhartum agnidnena (PT 212.20) can easily be read as you should baptize me by
fire and could refer to whatever rite of passage that would make him a first-class member
of the owl clan. And the rjanti-kuala (expert in matters of state politics) Raktka replies
to the effect that even if you were to become one of us, you would still remain loyal to the
crows. You would still think more highly of them than of us, just as the mouse-maiden
found the mouse more suitable than other mighty suitors. Reading the war between the
crows and owls as a conflict between clans, we can thus conclude that the inexorable
preference of an animal for its own jti is a metaphor for ones own clan being the primary
locus of ones political allegiance and anyone who claims otherwise is not to be trusted. It
has nothing to do with changing svabhvas or retaining identities as suggested by Taylor.
The Unworkable Alliance between Sthrajvin and Arimardana
As explained above, both Olivelle and Taylor have attributed the failure of the alliance
between Sthrajvin and Arimardana to their natural enmity. And as I have counter-argued,
neither the crows nor the owls regard each other as natural enemies but rather think of their
antagonism as a hereditary feud. Indeed, even Raktka, who clearly sees through his deceit,
knows Sthrajvin to be a deadly but not a natural enemy. But then what made him so
deadly if he was not a natural enemy? Let us turn to the master of nti, Raktka, himself
to understand why he thought the alliance with Sthrajvin would be unworkable. When
Raktka is approached by Arimardana on the matter of offering clemency to the wounded
Sthrajvin, he replies bluntly that the crow should be killed without further ado. He argues
that the enemy should be put down when weak as it becomes difficult to conquer once it
gains strength. Opportunity knocks but once and if a person does not take advantage of it
then it is hard to come by again. But his clincher is the principle that amity (prti) [once]
broken and [later] mended (bhinnalia) does not flourish by affection (sneha) and
narrates Story 3-06 Gold giving serpent to illustrate his point (PT 198.4-12).

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Story 3-06 Gold giving serpent
There lived a brhmaa who toiled in the field without success. One day, while taking rest
in his field, he sees a serpent with a raised hood perched atop an anthill. Assuming it to be
the field-deity and ascribing his failure at farming to never having revered it, he begs its
forgiveness and offers it milk in a vessel. The next day he finds that the serpent has left
behind a gold coin in the vessel. Thereafter, he continues to offer milk to the serpent and
receive a gold coin from him on a daily basis. One day he has to go to the village and he
assigns his son the task of serving milk to the serpent. However, the son, on realizing that
the serpent yielded gold coins, strikes his hood to kill him and acquire all of them at once.
But the blow is not fatal and the serpent bites in retaliation and kills the son. In the
brhmaas absence, the kinfolk cremate the boy on a pyre. Upon his return, when the
brhmaa learns the cause of his sons death he consoles himself by reflecting on the boys
error: those who do not show compassion towards the bhtas (beings) lose their bhtrthas
(worldly possessions). The next day he offers milk to the serpent again, explaining that his
son died on account of his own fault. But the serpent refuses to be reconciled: Look at the
blazing pyre and also at my shattered hood. Amity [once] broken and [later] mended does
not flourish by affection.
Analysis of Story 3-06 Gold giving serpent
Why did the man go back to the serpent after the terrible incident? The text does not explain
clearly. The original reasons that had led to the establishment of the alliance were yet valid.
He thought that revering the serpent as the field-deity was critical for a good harvest and
also, the serpent gave him a gold coin as a reward for his adoration. However, it does not
appear that the man cared about the profitability of associating with the serpent more than
the death of his son. Rather, he chose to maintain the relationship because in spite of his
profound grief over the loss of his son, he realized that the serpent was not responsible for
the sons death. It therefore made logical sense to set aside the bereavement and make
amends to the serpent and try to restore the relationship to what it had been before the
mishap. In turning down the rapprochement, the serpent on his part is questioning the
potency of the mans reasoning to undo the blow that had lacerated both of them. It is as if
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he was telling the man: Granted that there exists no rational ground for you to hold a
grudge against me, but can you genuinely get over the fact that I killed your son? Am I
supposed to just forget that your son tried to kill me? Look at the blazing pyre. Look at my
shattered hood. Does this really mean nothing to you? Of what good is all this sneha now?
The adoration you show me and the gold coins I offer you will not mean the same any more.
They can heal neither your wounds nor mine.
This pathos and desperation in the serpents response should be construed not only with
Raktkas refusal to accommodate Sthrajivin but also with the despair and anguish he
suffers when he observes the rest of the owl clan rushing enthusiastically to embrace and
appease the crow. Let us consider some of the arguments proposed by Arimardanas other
ministers to offer clemency to the crow. Krrka expresses a sentiment reiterated by others
as well, that a refugee (aragata) is not to be killed (PT 200.17). Dptka suggests that
Sthrajvin should be spared because on account of having been ill-treated by the crows, he
would work for the benefit of the owls or for exposing a weakness among the crows (PT
206.10). Vakransa argues that the owls could take advantage of the dissension within the
enemy ranks by sparing Sthrajvin (PT 206.14). Moreover, it would be contrary to dharma
to kill a refugee (PT 208.4). Prkrakara envisages that by protecting Sthrajvin, mutual
affection may arise between him and Arimardana and the two could pass time together
happily (PT 208.6-7). These counsels are in response to the affability and respect for the
owls and the animosity for the crows, shown by Sthrajvin in his plea for refuge. He claims
to regard the owls as powerful (balavat) and to have advised Meghavara to seek
conciliation (sandhi) by offering tribute (upapradna). He promises to lead the owls to the
abode of the crows and cause their destruction, as soon as he is able to move again.
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the owls give Sthrajvin the benefit of the
doubt that he may have, indeed, undergone a change of heart and that, having realized that
the war against the owls was unwinnable, had come around to the view of suing for peace
with them. And they think that by showing him kindness and mercy, they can become
friends together and make him one of them. By narrating Story 3-06 Gold-giving serpent,
Raktka is conveying the message that such a situation is inconceivable. Could the crow
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possibly forgive the owls for mercilessly slaughtering his kith and kin? Could the owls
forget the humiliation suffered by their ancestor at the hands of a crow? But this only
expresses the gravity of the antagonism between the crows and owls. It does not mean
necessarily that the conflict between them is irresolvable. What makes the alliance between
Arimardana and Sthrajvin impossible is that the mere acknowledgment of the superiority
of the owls by the crow and the mere appeasement of the crow by the owls was not going to
be adequate to overcome the agony that each had suffered at the hands of the other. Story 306 elegantly brings out the meaning of sneha as greasiness, fattiness implying an outward,
cloying show of affection. Just as in case of the serpent and the man, unless the deep,
underlying scars were healed, all the sneha expressed in the exchange of adoration and gold
coins was pointless, so the crows and owls shared such a traumatic history that mere
external gestures of reconciliation were not sufficient to overcome it and move on. One is
reminded of the tentative, halting and incremental process of reciprocal exchanges by which
the friendship between Hiraya and Laghupatanaka was gradually established. In the given
situation, however, in Raktkas view, Sthrajvin could be nothing more than a kaaka16
an anti-social element or thorn in the body politic of the state (Kangle 1969:III.232) and
he advises Arimardana accordingly: asmin hateyatnd eva rjyam akaakam bhavato
bhavati with him killed, your honors kingdom would become thorn-free without effort
(PT 200.15).

In this essay, I have contested the sociological readings of some of the Pacatantra
narratives. I have tried to show that they do not just include discussions on kingly conduct
and the art of government in an incidental manner but, as a whole, each narrative deals with
the political rivalry between the members of the ministry in a monarchy, between the
monarchy and the gaa, and between the gaas themselves. While deceit plays an important
role in these narratives and the text both condones its use in some circumstances and


This is a technical term used in ancient Indian political treatises. MMW defines kaaka as any troublesome
seditious person (who is, as it were, a thorn to the state and an enemy of order and good government), a paltry
foe, enemy in general (cf. kudra-atru).

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cautions us about its use by others, it would be misleading to suggest that it teaches craft
and deception as the essence of internal governance or foreign relations. It is even more
misleading to suggest that these stories are about irresolvable differences between social
groups. The narratives on unworkable alliances explained in this essay convey the political
message that a monarch should be able to manage the diversity amongst his retainers and
subjects, bheda (division) and pramda (distraction) can bring about the downfall of the
gaa, and that rivalry between political entities cannot be resolved by mere sweet-talk and
tokens of affection but needs meaningful commitment and concrete exchanges from either
But as the heartfelt friendship between Hiraya and Laghupatanaka shows, it is not all doom
and gloom for people with competing political interests. In conclusion, it is worthwhile to
reflect on why this alliance succeeded when others failed. Firstly, it was not based on a
sudden impulse of love but on cold, calculating logic. Nobody is a predator and prey in an
absolute sense. A predator is the prey of some other creature which makes the prey also a
potential ally of the predator. Laghupatanaka realizes that Hiraya can be of assistance in
saving himself from his own enemies. And he is upfront about this fact in his negotiation
with Hiraya. Secondly, both are impressed by the wisdom (buddhi) of the other and this
characteristic forms a natural bond between them. It is significant not just because it is a
shared feature but there is a belief that wise people are trustworthy and humane. Thirdly,
both realize the limitations of the friendship and are willing to work upon it. Hiraya warns
Laghupatanaka that his peers may not appreciate the alliance and would instigate him to
violate it. On his part, Laghupatanaka clarifies that in such a case he would give higher
priority to their friendship over other associations. He is also sympathetic towards Hirayas
fear of him and is willing not to enter into his fort. Fourthly, they do not rush into the
relationship but let it mature gradually over sessions of gift-giving, feasting together,
exchanging stories, and so on. When we compare this episode with the narratives depicting
unworkable alliances, we can find that one or the other characteristics found in the former
are missing in the latter.

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The Pacatantra is not a politically idealistic text which imagines or advocates a dreamland
in which conflicts between humans will be permanently and fully resolvable. In the world of
politics, alliances are made only to protect oneself from enemies and one should remain
wary not only of the ajtakulala whose kula (family) and la (character) are not
known, but even more so of those who have gained our trust. It is not that the utopian
imagery of the lion laying down with the lamb is unknown to Brahmanical thought. For
example, in the MBh, the hermitage of the Upamanyu in the Himalayas is described as a
place where kranti sarpair nakul mgair vyghr ca mitravat the mongooses play with
the serpents and the deer with tigers, like friends (MBh 13.14.42). Such a world, however,
is beyond the scope of the Pacatantra. It alludes to a radically different imagery:
attu vchati mbhavo gaapater khu kudhrta pha
ta ca kraucaripo ikh girisutsihopi nganam.
ittha yatra parigrahasya ghaan ambhor api syd ghe
tatra anyasya katha na, bhvijagato yasmt svarpa hi tat (PP 73)
ambhus [ivas] hungry serpent desires to eat Gaapatis mouse. Kraucaripus
(Krttikeyas) peacock [desires to eat] it [the serpent]. Girisuts [Prvatis] lion, too,
[desires to eat] the eater of the serpent. Where such a constitution of a family should occur
even in the house of ambhu, then how could it be different elsewhere, since that is the
essence of the manifest world.
Thus, in conclusion, it may be true that vasudhaiva kuumbakam the world is verily a
family, but considering the food-and-eater bond that holds its members together, survival
and growth in the world is possible only by the exercise of prudent conduct (nti). This is the
underlying message conveyed by these stories.

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Bhagavadgt-karabhya. 2011 (1929). rmad-Bhagavadgt with the kara-bhya,
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Bhandarkar, D.R. 1918. Lectures on the Ancient History of India. Calcutta: University of
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Olivelle, P. 2002a. Meat-eaters and grass-Eaters: an exploration of human nature in Kath
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