Paravastu Chinnayasuri

Paravastu Chinnayasuri (1809-1862) was a Pundit in Sanskrit, Telugu, Prakrit and Dravida (Tamil) languages.  He worked as a law scholar for the Supreme Court of East India Company.  He wrote Neetichandrika (a book of tales of wise conduct, 1853) and Balavyakaranamu ( a grammar book, 1858).  Neetichandrika is a prose text, which is a translation of  Sanskrit  Panchatantra written by Vishnusharma. The Panchatantra is the most famous collection of fables in India and was one of the earliest Indian books to be translated into Western languages. It teaches the principles of good government and public policy through the medium of animal stories, providing a window into the ancient Indian society.  Chinnayasuri presents the Neetichandrika in all its complexity, including the complexity of language.  This work on wise conduct has become celebrated as an excellent means of awakening young minds and has traveled far on this earth.  This prescribed Telugu text is a difficult one for high school children!

According to the German translator Johannes Hertel of Das Panchatantra (1914), there are 200 versions of Panchatantra in fifty non Indian languages.  Panchatantra started its journey before 570 AD with an initial version of Pehlavi (Persian) during the reign of Emperor Khosro Anushirvan (550-578 AD) of Iran.  A Syriac version entitled "Kalilag Wa Dimnag," became available, followed by an Arabic version rendered by Abdallah Ibn al-Maqaffa with the same title in 570 AD. Like Arab numerals that were borrowed from Hindus, the Arabic version of Panchatantra became the parent of all European versions, known generally as the fables of Bidpai. Panchatantra was translated into Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Armenian, English, Slavic languages, Hebrew, Malay etc., between eleventh century and eighteenth century.  A German translation "Das Buch Beyspele" was printed in 1483 shortly after the re-invention of the printing press, making the Panchatantra one of the earliest works to be printed. Sir Thomas North translated Panchatantra into Elizabethan English (The Fables of Bidpai: The Morall Philosophie of Doni, 1570) from an Italian version (La Moral Philosophia, 1552) rendered by Antonio Francisco Doni. Thomas Irving translated it into English from the Arabic Kalila Wa Dimnah and it was published by Juan de la Cuesta, Newark, Delaware in 1980.

Panchatantra was one of the earliest Sanskrit works that traveled outside India. Because of its great antiquity and its extensive migration, traces of its influence can be detected in works of literature widely separated in time and place, such as The Arabian Nights, The Gesta Romanorum, Decameron, Canterbury Tales, Fables of La Fontaine, The Br'er Rabbit Stories, etc. Although Sanskrit speaking Brahmins had access to it from the beginning in the Telugu land, Telugus were able to lay their hands on a Telugu version in 19th century, thanks to Chinnayasuri!

        A king is ruined by bad advice;
        An ascetic by company;
        A child by fond indulgence;
        A Brahmin by lack of learning;
        A noble line by evil sons;
        Virtuous conduct by serving the base;
        Friendship from want of regard;
        Investment by mismanagement;
        Affection from long absence;
        A woman by drink;
        A farm from neglect;
        Wealth through misdirected charity.
                --Estrangement of Friends, Panchatantra

References:Telugu Sahitya Sameeksha by G. Nagayya and the Panchatantra by Chandra Rajan

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, September 7, 2000

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