This is a cover plate I had drawn for Punchtantra by Gautam Bhatia (Penguin, 1998) . The book was a wacky take-off on Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra (300 BC), in which, the characters engage with the burning issues of the day—unemployment, oppression, environmental pollution, sexual incompatibility – as they lay bare the hilarious absurdities of our muddled world. The Penguin edition has been out of print for several years now. A revised version of this illustration is now available on my Etsy store: LunaSpace
The original Panchatantra is a collection of tales of wisdom and rightful conduct. They are, for most part, set in the jungles of India, where animals play central characters. So, it only made sense to set this image in a jungle, with a large Pipal tree as its central motif – the same tree species under which, the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Sustainer of life, cleaner of air, moderator of climate, and home to thousands of species – where would we be without trees? And, where would be we without the wisdom to honor them? The parrots who roost here, are a-buzz with these stories – passing them on from generation to generation, as was done, when these tales about living honorably, first started to appear – perhaps, as teachings from a guru to his students seated under the cool shade of the Pipal tree, or, from the mouth of a grandma putting her grandchild to sleep.
The mother elephant leads her family, through the complicated jungle of life. She relies on her legendary memory to provide a safe journey, not just for her family, but for all who seek her guidance and protection, such as, the squirrel on her trunk. As wise as she is compassionate, she keeps a close watch on her children, as the older one and a monkey tease her little one. Yet, she resists the temptation to interfere. She knows that they will learn right conduct, from watching her actions, just as she learnt from following her mother, who learnt it from following her mother…. And, so on… nudging life along.
The frogs, are so deeply immersed in gossip that they are totally ignorant of the snake lurking in the grass, hungry for his supper.
To that I would like to say: “Don’t indulge in idle chatter, lest you want to become someone else’s supper.”
Author: Gautam Bhatia
Publishing Date: 1998
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Number of Pages: 232