The Panchatantram is one of the earliest collections of fables, written in India more than two thousand five hundred years ago. It is known in Europe as the Fables of Bidpai. Some of the tales in it can be traced as far back as 1500 BC to the ancient Sanskrit text, the Rig Veda.
The original Panchatantram is in Sanskrit, and has been written in a mixture of prose and verse. The introduction attributes the work to Vishnu Sharma, a learned Brahmin, who used these tales to teach the art of kingship and worldly wisdom to the three dull-witted sons of a king. The work is divided into five parts (hence the name: pancha: five and tantram: parts), each part dealing with a particular aspect of life and living. Through each part runs a 'main' story, which contains within it the shorter tales. The introduction acts as an enclosing frame for the entire work.
Travellers carried the stories to Persia, Arabia, and in the 11th century AD to Greece and thence to the rest of Europe. Traces of these stories can be found in the fables of La Fontaine, and in the fairy tales of Grimm. The stories also travelled to Indonesia in both oral and written forms. In India these stories are still told to children by their parents and grandparents.