Jataka Tales - Stories of Medieval India
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Jataka Tales

During the 300s BC, when the Mauryan Empire was first uniting northern India, Buddhist monks and nuns in India began to tell stories about the earlier lives of the Buddha before he was reborn as the Buddha. Alphabetic writing was still pretty new and exciting in India at this time, and the Buddhists used the new alphabet to write down their stories as poems.

Many of these stories were not actually about the Buddha as a person. Many were short lessons in how to get along in the world. The story of The Monkey and the Crocodile, for instance, is a warning not to trust outsiders. The story of The Crab and the Crane shows that if you trick other people, they will stop trusting you. We call these stories the Jataka Tales.

Learn by doing: Learn one of these stories and tell it to a group of people
More Indian Literature

Bibliography and further reading about the Jataka Tales:

The Rig Veda
The Ramayana
The Mahabharata
The Bhagavad Gita
Jataka Tales
More about India
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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