The Nitopadesha - Moral Tales for Good Citizens

The classic Indian guide to citizen-craft, translated for the contemporary reader.

My book is now available. In stores since January 2023.

What an exciting and much needed book on the dharma of citizenship! It teaches us proper civic conduct through clever stories of ethical dilemmas, brute state power and economic freedom. Every Indian should read it.” GURCHARAN DAS

India’s foundational constitutional values shine through this labyrinth of tales on responsible citizenship. India’s rich tradition of storytelling is used to bring out essential insights from political science, economics and philosophy.” ROHINI NILEKANI

As with all good fables, the stories of the Nitopadesha are specific in scope, yet timeless in nature, and remind us of lessons that too many sadly seem to have forgotten.” SHASHI THAROOR

Playful yet profound and told in the comforting cadence of Indian storytelling, the Nitopadesha should be required reading for every student and change agent. What a delightful book!” SHOBA NARAYAN

More from Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Capt Gopinath, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Vivek Shanbhag…

The Nitopadesha Front Cover

What is it about?

…the first book is on citizen craft, praja dharma, to ensure yoga and kshema. In the epilogue to the first book, Rajnidatta’s summary of the rule of law is one of the best expositions that exists…had the drafters of India’s Constitution been familiar with the fox’s maxims, the fundamental duties section might have been crafted differently.” — Bibek Debroy (in the Foreword)

Not many people know that the Panchatantra and the Hitopadesha, like the Arthashastra, primarily dispense advice to princes & kings on how to acquire power and rule wisely. Their lessons of amoral statecraft are misleading when applied to citizens.

The Nitopadesha is different. It is a book of citizen-craft, offering guidance on how free citizens can shape their civic and political communities to attain yogakshema. A unique blend of fables and stories that covers politics, economics and philosophy.

What is the plot?

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A manuscript came into my hands.

It tells the following story: In the distant land of Gandhara, there once was a janapada called Chakrapuri. Its elders were a worried lot. Their children were uninterested in the upkeep of the janapada. Most of them were consumed by self-interest, many by avarice and others in seeking advantage over their fellows. Realising that the young people must learn the arts and crafts of citizenship, the Sabha of Chakrapuri decided to employ Nitina of Takshashila, whose wisdom was said to be unparalleled, to teach their children. So it came to pass that the unconventional scholar was entrusted with the charge of these young men and women for the next ninety days.

Thus begins the Nitopadesha.

A labyrinth of stories in the style of the Panchatantra and the Jataka tales, this is a book about good citizenship and citizen-craft that will speak to the modern reader. Covering aspects such as what citizenship means, the ethical dilemmas one faces as a citizen and how one can deal with social issues, Nitin Pai’s absorbing translation is an essential read for conscientious citizens of all ages.

(Check out this excerpt)

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Bonus Materials

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