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The Panchatheertha (five pilgrimages) is a facetious, satirical revision of sections 1 & 2 of The Panchatantra, the masterpiece Vishnu Sharma wrote between 1200 BCE to 300 CE. The stories are primarily about statecraft and full of wisdom and morals. Despite that, youngsters found them very entertaining. In the tales, animals act and speak on behalf of human beings. The series begins with a parent story that unfolds story after story; each strung to the other by a narrator.
Vishnu Sharma’s reincarnation Shiva Varma has, in this redraft, revived the ancient Indian tradition of parampara (continuation of knowledge from one guru to the next). In his excitement, he forgot the younger age group of his students (shishyas). His characters now try to explain the motives for their actions, also express their feelings; something The Panchatantra had cleverly avoided doing. Within its pages, animals are still made to think and behave like human beings but have not otherwise been harmed in any way.
The Panchatheertha was considered lost but the discovery of two altered strategies ‘The Loss of Friends’ and ‘Gaining Friends’ should create hope within the large and growing community that has had considerable success with the first and complete failure with the second. Those wanting to meet Shiva Varma are hereby informed he dislikes economists, preferring astrology. He is in samadhi (seclusion / deep meditation) and not (as insinuated by some philistines) in hiding.
There are many intriguing characters not known to Vishnu Sharma in this adaptation; from a sex consultant plying his trade in the locality Ajilundpenodhoka in district Makasam… to a devadasi (courtesan) wanting to conduct the temple prayers because she is bored… to Sage Narada Muni !!
Bibliophiles are urged to read the original Panchatantra (which Shiva Varma did consider including as an appendix), to truly appreciate the extent to which history gets distorted when it is made to explain itself. Historically, the appendix has been viewed as a vestigial organ with no real function. This is why Shiva Varma chose not to include it… or so he claims.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have the privilege of being allowed to meet Rishi Shiva Varma. Somehow, he immediately senses my presence. I am happy to state his mind is as sharp as ever.
He always first asks about his disciples. I would have checked out the various Sales Dashboards so I don’t have the heart to tell him.
What I do instead is read out the Amazon India reviews.
He shakes his head in wonderment. ‘Did they really say that?’ he whispers. He has tears in his eyes.
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