Home >> Encyclopedia-britannica-volume-3-baltimore-braila >> Eugenio Beltrami to Giovanni Battista Beccaria >> Fables of Bidpai

Fables of Bidpai


BIDPAI, FABLES OF, the name under which a famous collection of fables of Indian origin became known in Europe in the middle ages. The original Sanskrit work, composed by a Brahman in the 3rd century A.D., still very popular in India as the Pail catantra and its shorter recension the Hitopadeia ("book of good counsel"), was a mirror for princes, conveying practical wisdom in the form of beast-fables under five heads (pafica tantra). It was translated with additions from the Sanskrit into Pehlevi for the Sassanian king I5.husraw I Anusharwan (A.D. 53'– 597) by his physician Burzoe. This Pehlevi version is no longer known, but a Syriac translation from it made in the 6th century still survives. About 200 years later (Abd Allah b. al Mukaffal (born c. A.D. 725) translated Burzoe's book into Arabic, with certain additions as an exercise in style. This version, known as Kalilah wa Dimna from the names of the two jackals in the first book, although intended only for amateurs of belles-lettres, attained wide popularity on account of its subject matter. It is in a preface to an edition of it by an otherwise unknown Bahnild b. Sabwan that its composition is ascribed to an Indian sage named Bidpa. Ibn al-Mukaffa"s version was soon translated into Persian, Eastern and Ottoman Turkish, Mongol, Malay and Ethi opic. A Hebrew version made at the beginning of the i2th century by a certain Rabbi Nei was translated into Latin by a con verted Jew named John of Capua for Cardinal Ursinus in the third quarter of the i3th century with the title Directorium Vitae Humanae; on this Latin text are based all the translations into the languages of western Europe (except an independent Spanish version of Rabbi Jo'el and of course those by modem orientalists). About the same time Ibn al-Mulsaffa"s book was translated into Greek by Simeon son of Seth and thence into Latin, German and the Slavonic languages.

Among the Persian translations of the Kalilah wa Dimna, that by Kashifi (d. 1504), called Anwar-i Suhaili (The Lights of Cano pus [Suhaill ) in honour of his patron Ahrpad Suhaili, attained great popularity as a model of style—(it is absurdly artificial and bombastic to the European taste). Through its use as a Persian text-book by the East India company, this became known in Europe and was translated into most European languages just as its ancestor, Kalilah wa Dimna, had been five centuries before. Through one or other of these versions, the Paficatantra has been translated into all the languages of Europe and India and all the languages of the Muslim world from Berber to Mongol and Madurese. The shorter recension of the Pancatantra, the Hitopad eia became known to Europeans at the end of the t8th century and has since been translated into most European languages.


de Sacy, Calila et Dimna, ou Fables de Bibliography.-Sylvestre de Sacy, Calila et Dimna, ou Fables de Bidpai (Paris, 1816) ; T. Benfey, Pantschatantra (Leipzig, 1859) ; J. G. N. Keith-Falconer, Kalilah and Dinnah (Cambridge, 1885) ; Johannes de Capua, Directorium Vitae Humanae, edit. J. Derenbourg (Paris, 1887) ; V. Chauvin, Bibliographie des Ouvrages Arabes (Liege, 1897) ; s.v. Kalilah. J. Hertel, Das Paiicatantra, seine Geschichte und seine Verbreitung (Leipzig, 1914) ; A. W. Ryder, Translation of the Panchatantra (Cambridge, 1925).

translated, languages, version, kalilah and century