Hitopadesha Stories Ancient Indian Folktales

The Hitopadesha stories date back to several centuries. They are a collection of human and animal fables in Sanskrit literature. Hitopadesha stories aim to instruct people in worldly wisdom and statecraft, written originally in a poetic and elegant style. The Hitopadesha are ancient Indian folktales, widely translated and have influenced literature in many parts of the world.

Who is the Author of Hitopadesha Stories and what are they about?

Pandit Narayana wrote the stories back in 3rd century B.C. The original Hitopadesha stories are believed to have been written after the Panchatantras were written. Some Indologists believe that Vishnu Sharma, the original author of Panchatantra, wrote the Hitopadesha. 

Other researchers contest that the concluding verses of Hitopadesha refer to the author as Narayana and a king named Dhavala Chandra who supported the work. However, there are no other historical references to Narayana and Dhavala Chandra. 

Even then, it is evident that the author Narayana drew inspiration from the Panchatantra and other works of Sanskrit literature.

What is the Structure of Hitopadesha Stories and What are the Similarities with Panchatantra?

These Indian folk tales are in ancient Sanskrit text written in both prose and verse. The similarity between Hitopadesha and Panchatantra is strong.

Hitopadesha is arranged in four ‘books’ and follows a story-within-a-story format just like Panchatantra. Though it shares similarities with the Panchatantra but also has its differences. While Panchatantra has five sections, Hitopadesha has four sections. 

The Hitopadesha’s four sections are based on gaining friends, differences between friends, war and peace. Panchatantra’s stories are based on five sections such as winning friends, separation of friends, war and peace, loss of what was desired or attained, and hasty actions without consideration.

Also read: Regional folktales of India

Both Hitopadesha and Panchatantra have animals, birds, and people as characters in them. Both literary works have animals as characters and moral values embedded in the story.

Narayana also draws from other Sanskrit works, including the Nitisara by Kamandaki. 

Some of the stories in Hitopadesha are,

  • Cat and the Vulture, 
  • Elephant and the Jackal, 
  • Washerman’s Donkey and His Dog, 
  • Cat No Longer Needed, 
  • Crow and the Swan, 
  • Hermit and the Mouse,
  • Crow and the Quail.

Purpose and Relevance of Hitopadesha stories

Originally, the purpose of creating these stories was to spread the use of the Sanskrit language and inculcate wise behaviour in people. In present times, they help readers in dealing with day-to-day life’s practical wisdom. 

Like Panchatantra, these stories are published in many languages all over the world, including English. This helps accessibility, thus entertaining moral stories are available to kids. 

Several fantasy stories from around the world are based on the Indian classics of Panchatantra and Hitopadesh. 

Also read: Ways to develop reading habit: kids, teens and adults

The Hitopadesha folktales and stories for kids are extremely popular, and toddlers love watching pictures in the illustrated stories while they also learn moral lessons from them.

Reading and listening to these stories helps develop values and ethics, improve language and comprehension, and understand human thinking and interaction. Reading and understanding these ancient Indian folktales have a definite impact on human consciousness.

Hitopadesh books – moral folktales for kids

Tales from the Hitopadesha: 3 in 1 (Amar Chitra Katha)

This book was published by Amar Chitra Katha in 1999. The book has 96 pages and colourful illustrations. Readers above 9 years will be delighted to read this book. These folktales for kids give away vital life lessons in a subtle entertaining manner.

The moral wisdom attached to the stories makes a lasting impression on the young reader’s mind. The young readers can then reuse the pearls of wisdom and take ownership of these values. The stories are relevant even today. They have a positive influence on decision-making, conduct and thinking processes. 


Hitopadesha’s stories are liked by people all over the world because of how well they are told and how much they can relate to real life. In these ancient Indian folktales told in the Hitopadesha style, the main characters are usually friendly animals who act as wise counsellors.

The importance of these stories has stayed the same over time, and they are still valuable to people today. The moral lessons and philosophical ideas in these stories are told in a way that isn’t preachy. 

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