HITOPADESA, SANSK. from Hita, good, and Upadesha, teaching,—Good Advice, is the title of an ancient Sanskrit work, though it is but a rearrangement of an older one, called Pancha Tantin, or the Five Books, which itself has been translated several times and printed. But it has never attained the fame of its offspring, the Ilito padesa, and there are few, if any, of the vernacular languages of India into which the Hitopadesa has not been translated. It is classed by Hindu • writers as a work on Niti, or polity, and it was designed for the instruction of princes, to prepare them for the duties of their future lives. The scene of the Hitopadesa is the ancient city of Pataliputra, situated at or near the present Patna. The king of that place, deploring aloud the wild and heedless lives of his sons, was overheard by a pandit named Vishnu-sauna, who undertook to make his sons versed in the principles of polity within the space of six months. To accomplish this he prepared the Hitopadesa, and accomplished his task of instructing and training the princes. Time book consists of a series of fables, story within story, according to an oriental fashion. But the greater part of the work is occupied by verses cited from ancient writers in illustration and proof of the positions maintained by the interlocutors.
The Hitopadesa is divided into four books, entitled Mitra-labha (Acquisition of Friends), Suhrid-bheda (Separation of Friends), Vigraha (War), and Sandhi (Peace). The first two have a general interest, and are applicableto all classes of people. The last two books apply especially to kings and ministers. The stones are mostly concerned with animals, but there arc a few in which human beings are concerned. These are not edifying, and display a contempt for chastity, and a disposition to make merry over the misfortunes of easy-tempered husbands with intriguing wives. The nature of them may be inferred from such titles as The Old Man and his Young Wife, and The Farmer's Wife and her Two Gallants.
In the 6th century of A.D. era it was translated into Old Persian, by order of the emperor Nu shirwan. From the Persian it was translated into Arabic in the ninth century, under the title of Kalila o Dammi, a work which obtained great celebrity, and is still popular, Kalila o Daiima being the Arabic representations of the Sanskrit names Karataka and Damanaka, two wily jackals who appear in the work, and are proverbial throughout the east for their craft and cunning.
It was afterwards translated into Hebrew, Syriac, and Greek. The Hebrew version was made by John of Capua, towards the end of the fifteenth century, and from his work translations were made into the chief modern languages of Europe, and it became familiar to British youth under the designation of Pilpay's Fables. Two versions of the work were made into modern Persian by authors whose names are known, but their transla tions have been eclipsed, and their productions are obsolete. There is also a translation in Turkish. The most celebrated Persian translation is that of the renowned rhetorician, Husain Vaiz Kashifi, whose work, Anwar-i-Suhaili (Lights of Canopus), is famous throughout the Mahomedan world, and is scarcely less famous among the orientalists of Europe. Elegant versions of it were printed by Messrs. Eastwick and Woollaston, and that of 'the latter is published in- an ornamental style. The Anwar-i-Suhaili has borrowed some stories from the Hitopadesa, but has greatly added to their number. The identity of the borrowed stories is palpable enough when pointed out ; but nothing can well be more dissimilar than the two works, the one all plain and terse simplicity, the other florid, fanciful, ornate, and abounding with far-fetched hyperbole. The stately sententious roll of the verse of the Hitopadesa and the light and airy couplets of the Anwar-i-Suhaili are at the very opposite extremes of composition. Yet another distinguished Persian author bestowed his labours upon the Arabic edition of the work. Abul Fazl, the celebrated minister of the Emperor Akbar, made a new translation. Though a pro fessed rhetorician himself, and the author of several important works in the high style, he considered Husain Vaiz's version too florid and difficult for such a work ; and he made a more simple translation in au easy narrative style, which became popular under the title of Iyar-i-Danish, Touchstone of Wisdom. This has again been translated into Hindustani, under the title Khirad afroz, Enlightenment of the Understanding. The Hindus have thus had brought back to them, first in a Persian, and then in a modern Urdu form, the stories told by their ancestors in ages long gone by.
The text has been frequently printed in Europe, but the most esteemed edition is that of Professor Francis Johnson of Haileybury.