Jataka Tales

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Jatak Katha, Jataka Tales

The Jataka Tales for kids, or the Jatak Katha as called in Hindi, are a compilation of stories concerning the former incarnations of Lord Buddha in both animal and human form. These Jatak tales were originally narrated in the Pali language but in later years, Sanskrit scholar Aryasoor translated them into a collection of Sanskrit stories named ‘Jatakmala’. There have been numerous versions of these stories since then.

History of Jatak Katha

These Jataka stories date between 300 BC and 400 AD. There are 550 stories in total and are part of holy Buddhism to teach moral values based on the previous life/incarnations of Lord Buddha himself.

Buddha did not come into this world as a Messiah. He used to be a prince named Siddharth Gautam, but after witnessing all of life’s miseries, pains, tragedies, and woes at the age of 29, he willingly gave up his throne. He abandoned his kingdom in search of peace through meditation and living a modest life. Over the years, he preached and inspired a number of people.

Gautam Buddha delivered his teachings in the form of stories. These Jatak Kathas are primarily about Buddha’s previous incarnations and are intended to instill the ideals of self-sacrifice, honesty and morality in common people. Animals, especially elephants played a very important role in his stories. These children loved stories were so powerful that they became part of Indian folklore with time.

Know about Gautam Buddha/ Buddha Purnima in our podcast- Indian Festival At a Glance.

About The Jatak Katha Podcast

Our podcast, ‘Jatak Katha’ delivers these traditional moral stories by Gautam Buddha to everyone in a simple but engaging way. Our narrator leads children on a magical adventure, and at the end of each narrative, they will undoubtedly learn an important lesson.

List of Traditional Jataka Tales For Kids

Scroll down to listen to the popular Jataka tales in Hindi

1. Monkey and Crocodile

Once upon a time  a pair of crocodiles saw a monkey sitting on a tree and enjoying some sweet fruits. Seeing this, the female crocodile asked her partner to bring her the monkey so she can have a good meal of monkey’s heart. At first the male crocodile was a bit reluctant since he did know how to climb a tree but his wife was stubborn. 

The male crocodile finally thought of an idea and went to the monkey. He tried to convince the monkey to come down and give him some fruits too. But the monkey threw it from the top. When his idea did not work, he thought of another one. He told the monkey about an island nearby that has got better and more delicious fruits than these. 

The greedy monkey wanted to have them but did not know how to swim. The crocodile offered to take the monkey on his back. But as soon as they entered deep water, crocodile told the monkey that he had been fooled. But monkey, owing to his cunningness, told the crocodile that he had left his heart on the tree and they will have to go back. Foolish crocodile believed it and took the monkey back after which he escaped by jumping to top of the tree. Enjoy listening to more Jataka tales or jataka stories for kids below.

2. A Handful of Rice

Once upon a time there was a dishonest king. Many businessman would come to his court to sell goods. The shrewd king had hired a financer who dealt with these businessmen. The financer was a honest person who gave the right value to all the businessman who came to sell goods. The dishonest king did not like this. He wanted a financer more like him who would trick and buy goods at cheaper rates and build a huge treasure for the king.

When a merchant came over to sell his 500 horses, this newly appointed financier valued them for a handful of rice. Feeling cheated, the merchant sought help from the honest financier who was earlier in this job. Under his guidance, the merchant went to the court next day and asked the financier to value the entire kingdom to which again the new financier valued against a handful of rice. This made the king realise his mistake that having a unqualified financier was a big risk to his own kingdom too and he gave the merchant true value for his horses. Scroll down for more moral Jataka tales for kids

3. The Heron and the Crab

Once there lived a Heron who lived near a pond filled with fishes. During a dry spell, the pond started to lose water and the heron offered to help the fishes to move to a nearby bigger pond in the forest. The fishes were at first no sure about the heron but later agreed to take his help.

Each day, the heron would take a fish, and when he arrived at a large rock, he would eat all of them, leaving only their bones behind. The mischievous heron had an endless supply of fish for many days with no effort on his part.

The clever crab, on the other hand, was suspicious of the heron’s motives and agreed to accompany him to the new pond one day. The crab was taken aback when he saw his friends’ bones strewn about the rock while they were flying.

He sensed something wasn’t quite right, but he decided to wait and see what happened. The crab was taken to the rock by the heron. As soon as the heron tried to swallow the crab, the clever crab tightened its claws around the heron’s long neck and threatened to choke him. Enjoy listening to more Jataka tales or jataka stories for kids below.

4. Bhola-The Elephant

There was once upon a time a King who owned an elephant named “Bhola.” Everyone adored the elephant because he was so nice and friendly. A group of dacoits hid near Bhola’s shed one night as he slept in his shed, planning to rob a nearby shop. Bhola awoke from his sleep thinking the dacoits were telling him to hurt the people as the leader of the dacoits instructed the others.

Bhola knocked one of the soldiers to the ground the next morning. When a second solder stepped forward, the same thing happened to him. Anyone who came near Bhola would be severely injured. The king summoned a trainer, who determined that Bhola had overheard something bad. He gave a remedy to the problem that cured Bhola again. Bhola the elephant was once again a calm, kind hearted elephant. 

Enjoy listening to more Jataka tales or jataka stories for kids below.

5. Three Fishes

Once upon a time three Fishes lived in a far-away river. They had a great friendship. One of the fish was thoughtful, the other was very thoughtful, and the third fish was careless. They came down the river one day and arrived near a town. Because there were many fishermen in the area, the wise and thoughtful fish advised them to leave and return quickly. The other two fish, on the other hand, wanted to go further into and explore more.

As they went further, careless got stuck in a net. Seeing thing thoughtful and very thoughtful made a plan to save the third fish. As their plan worked, careless was free again and they returned back to their home. 

Scroll down to read more Jataka stories for kids.

6. Rats and The Wolf

Once upon a time, in the jungle, there lived a large rat and a cunning wolf who planned to catch the entire group of rats.  He had a brilliant idea one day. He approached the area where the rats lived. He stood on his back legs and opened his mouth wide as soon as he saw the rats appear from their hole. The rats were taken aback when they saw the wolf in this unusual position. When the rats questioned him, he told them a sad story about himself.

The rats felt much sold about him and to keep the wolf company, they decided to pay him a visit every day.  As the rats decided to leave, the wolf would catch and eat the last one. Then he would wipe his lips quickly and pretend nothing had happened. Soon after, the number of rats in the group began to decline, and the rats’ leader concluded that it was possibly the wolf’s act. He, on the other hand, lacked proof.

The next day, the rat chief instructed the other rats to leave ahead of him. The chief stayed close to the end, and the cunning wolf pounced on him, just as he had predicted. But the rat chief was prepared for the attack, escaped the wolf’s grasp, and bit him to death. Did you enjoy this Jataka story with morals?

7. King Of Birds

When the world was young, everyone decided that the world needed a king. The four-legged animals chose lion as their king. The ocean’s fish decided on a king to rule over them. But the birds didn’t have any. One day, all the birds decided to gather on a large hill to choose their king.

All of the birds agreed that the owl should be their king, but one old Crow stood up and protested the decision. He called the owl “sour looking” because of his blank expression in every situation. The crow cried and flew up into the air followed by all other birds. Since that day,  crows and owls have been enemies. 

Did you enjoy this Jataka story for kids?

More Jataka Tales Coming Soon!

FAQ'S on Jataka Tales

There are about 550 Jataka stories for kids

The Jataka tales for kids are based on the theme of wisdom, morals, and honesty.

The Jatakamala contains 34 Jatakas written by Arya Sura

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