The Cat in India:
In India the cat, known in Sanskrit as Acoubouk† or Margara, was frequently mentioned in the original fables of Bidpay, also known as the Panchatantra (Hered, 1829, p.309). The original of the Panchatantra, or the “Five Discourses”, is credited to a King who feared that his sons would not be able to wisely rule his kingdom. Duly concerned, he asked his wazir† to help him solve this problem. The wazir decided to write the easily understood fables that contained lessons the king’s sons needed to rule their kingdom. The original fable ‘The Belling of the Cat,’ which is often accredited to Aesop, appears in this collection. Another fable, ‘The Devout Cat,’ is a short tale wherein a partridge and a hare go to a wise, ascetic cat to seek a resolution to their dispute. Both the partridge and hare are wary of the cat and stand a safe distance from him. After some time, however, the two start to trust the cat and move closer to him, as the cat feigns not to be able to hear them. Once they approach near enough, the cat grabs and kills them both. Thus, the cat is both treacherous and evil.
A cat is also carved in a huge stone created in the 7-8th centuries in Mahabalipuram. Called Arjun’s penance, some scholars believe that the carving depicts Arjun’s quest to find a weapon to vanquish his enemies; others believe it is the legend of the River Ganges arrival on earth.
Even more disastrous to the cat’s reputation, was that it was also blamed for the death of the Buddha. Legend states that a mouse was sent to fetch the dying Buddha some medicine but was attacked and devoured by a hungry cat. Not receiving the medicine, the Buddha died, and the unrepentant cat did not even shed a tear nor mourn the Buddha’s death in any way.
As if this were not enough to demonize the cat completely, in Bengal, located in the northeast region of India, a black vampire cat was thought to be the vessel of a witch called a Chordewa. Visiting the houses of the sick and dying, she ate their food and then summoned the soul of the helpless one to depart the body through lips that she licked (Summers, 1928).
† Meaning eater of mice.
† Wazir or vizier is a high ranking minister or advisor.
Hered, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 1829, July-Oct Vol. 7