A Collection of Wisdom: Proverbs

Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan Proverbs

A buffalo does not feel the weight of its own horns. (India)

Fate and free-will both play an equal role in destinies. (India)

There are as many characters as there are individuals. (India)

When a crow is killed by a storm, the fortuneteller says, “He died by my curse.” (India)

Even if fed milk, a snake will still emit poison. (India)

The baby has not been born yet, and yet you assert that his nose is like his grandfather’s! (India)

Most adults are attentive to what someone is doing, but children see beyond that. (India)

Pearls are worthless in the desert. (India)

A viper without fangs is like a piece of rope. (India)

The answerer is inferior to the asker. (India)

Regularity is the best medicine. (Hindustan)

Love your neighbor, but don’t take down the separating-wall. (Hindustan)

No one can be a totally fair judge in his own case. (Hindustan)

In a treeless country, the castor plant is a big tree. (Hindustan)

Diet cures more than the surgical knife does. (Hindustan)

Sitting while you eat makes you large; standing while you eat makes you strong. (Hindustan)

Dig your well before you are thirsty. (Hindustan)

The person who is too humble becomes a scoundrel. (Hindustan)

The supreme excellence is not in being better than others, but in being better than your former self. (Hindustan)

The living things of the Earth depend on each other just like the limbs and organs of the body do. (Hindustan)

People don’t trip on mountains, but they sometimes stumble on stones. (Hindustan)

An elephant, no matter how skinny, is valuable. (Hindustan)

Dependence on someone else can cause reoccurring disappointment. (Hindustan)

The speech, actions, manner of movement, and turban of each man differs from all others. (Hindustan)

Dogs fight with each other, but unite when they hear the voice of a jackal. (Kashmir)

If its not gossip, then why are you whispering it? (Kashmir)

Clean your heart and mind of negative thoughts. (Kashmir)

Bachelors want to get married, while married men regret that they did. (Kashmir)

(To most people), distant pepper is perceived as being sweet, and close sweets are perceived as being bitter. (Kashmir)

When pumpkins are watered, brinjals (a small vegetable) also get watered. (Kashmir)

(It’s useless to attempt to) carry water in baskets. (Kashmir)

(Don’t try to) cook six liters of food in a pot that only holds three liters. (Kashmir)

A simple meal at home is better than an elaborate one while away. (Kashmir)

Saving the mustard seeds that are in your hand might cause you to miss out on getting a watermelon. (Kashmir)

For every hundred lashes needed by the foolish, only one word is needed by the wise. (Kashmir)

If a man’s beard is on fire, there are bound to be plenty of people who will want to warm their hands on the fire. (Kashmir)

(When well united and synergized), one plus one equals eleven. (Kashmir)

With the right trap, even an elephant can be caught. (Kashmir)

The innocent often pay for the acts of the guilty. (Kashmir)

The healthy person experiences a healthy world. (Kashmir)

Rice tastes good when it is cooked properly, and talking is good when it is said at the right time. (Kashmir)

Thunder is not the source of the rain. (Kashmir)

The message spoken to the daughter is often aimed at the daughter-in-law. (Kashmir)

The poor search for food, and the rich search for hunger. (Bengal)

You can have your nose broken easily if you put it in other people’s business. (Bengal)

Non-violence is the best religion. (Bengal)

You can easily find a thousand teachers, but it is difficult to find a true disciple. (Bengal)

Even when many people attempt to travel the same road, there are some who walk and some who stumble. (Bengal)

Be careful of the teacher you choose and the water you drink. (Bengal)

Even if the caged bird has food to eat, he always dreams of the liberty of the forest. (Bengal)

What one has in the heart shows in the eyes. (Bengal)

If you want to be a true man, become good like the earth. (Bengal)

It requires lots of time to build a good name, but only a little time to ruin it. (Bengal)

An enemy’s punishment is his envy. (Tamil)

Faith in medicine makes it effective. (Tamil)

A good husband might have a bad wife, and a bad wife might have a good husband. (Tamil)

Extreme hunger will cause a person to break through a stone wall and steal. (Tamil)

He who has studied himself is his own master. (Tamil)

The owl is small, but its voice is loud. (Tamil)

Kind words can conquer. (Tamil)

When you are shopping for a cow, make sure that the price of the tail is included. (Tamil)

When the wild pig’s running (inadvertently) crushes the seed shells, the wild birds celebrate. (Sinhala)

When the dogs bark at the moon, the moon is not brought down because of it. (Sinhala)

During the daylight, a person will not fall into a pit that he fell into during the nighttime. (Sinhala)

The fool carries the burden. (Sinhala)

Don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t tell everything you believe. (Sinhala)

People searching for other people’s faults often do not know their own. (Sanskrit)

The greatest hero is the person who controls his desires. (Sanskrit)

Wind sweeps the street clean. (Sanskrit)

Something done at the wrong time should be considered not done. (Sanskrit)

You can’t cook one half of a chicken and expect the other half to lay eggs. (Sanskrit)

Note: India has been a partially united land for much of history, and it is difficult to differentiate between proverbs of the current country divisions, especially in differentiating those from India and those from Pakistan. Most of the proverbs below have been categorized into a culture/region, including:

Hindustan: a region in India. Note that the term Hindustan can also be used categorized as the entire country of India, or to refer to the culture of Hinduism the religion.

Bengal: the culture and language of Bengali people, most of whom live in Bangladesh

Kashmir: a region in Northern India and parts of other countries such as Pakistan

Tamil: An ethnicity and language found primarily Southern India and in Sri Lanka

Sinhala / Sinhalese: The ethnicity and language that make up the majority in Sri Lanka.

Sanskrit: an ancient Indian language

Indian Folktales

India is the world’s second most populous country (China is first). It contains a wide variety of people, lifestyles, languages, and landscapes.

Early History

It is believed that people have been living in India for thousands and thousands of years, and much of India’s current ethic heritage derives at least partly from those early natives of the region. Other groups that came to India in early times include Dravidian-speaking people, and Mongoloid people (who share common ancestry with such ethnicities as Chinese natives.)

By 2500 BC, ancient civilizations began sprouting in the Indus Valley region of India. Many people from central Asia known Aryans also migrated to India at various times, particularly around 1500 BC.

Over time, the Aryan Sanskrit language was popularized, and many ancient teachings and scriptures flourished in the area. Additionally, many people from nearby territories such as Persia, Arabia, Turkey, and Mongolia migrated to India. This has caused a rather mixed ancestry currently prevalent in India, and the wide variances of people in different regions of the land.

Spread of Buddhism and Hinduism

In the 500s and 400s BC, an Indian sage named Siddhartha Gautama, later also known as the “Buddha” (Enlightened One), preached a series of teachings that is known today as Buddhism. His teachings soon had a widespread impact on India, and later on much of the rest of the world.

From around 500 BC to 0 BC, parts of India were ruled by various Empires, which caused Buddhism to spread to other lands, especially to China. In India, however, a religion called Hinduism (which is based on various ancient teachings of the Indus Valley natives and the Aryan immigrants) spread in popularity and soon became dominant.

Hinduism led to a certain social system in India where people are placed into a specific caste (social level based on a certain hierarchy) due to their heredity. This caste system is still to some extent a prevalent theme in modern India.

Gupta Empire

In around 300 AD, Northern India was united under the Gupta Empire, which later spread its domain to other regions outside of India. The Guptas reigned for about 200 years, and in that time, Indian art, literature, mathematics, philosophy, and science flourished.

Mughal Empire

From the mid 400s to the early 1500s, many foreign armies invaded India, resulting in a great deal of turmoil. In 1526, a central Asian leader named Babur established the Mughal Empire.

His grandson Akbar later made the Empire among the most powerful in the world. He was also able to make Hinduism coexist with Islam, which had steadily gained in popularity throughout the Empire.

British Rule

In the 1700s, the Mughal Empire had almost dissolved, and British groups who had been trading in India soon began gaining influence there. They began levying taxes and taking away land. This caused a major Indian rebellion against the British in the mid 1800s, which British troops defeated.

The British continued to rule and oppress India for many more decades.

Gandhi & Indian Independence

An Indian leader named Mohandas K. Gandhi led a nonviolent movement starting in the 1920s that slowly helped gain Indian independence from Britain. At the same time, a region now known as Myanmar broke off from the British-Indian Empire in 1937.

In 1947, India became an independent nation, and was also split into two separate countries, Pakistan and India, in order to help quell conflicts between Muslims and Hindus. In the 1970s, what used to be known as East Pakistan split into another country now called Bangladesh (which is primarily home to the distinct ethnic culture of the Bengals), while what used to be known as West Pakistan became the country that is currently Pakistan. (Note that West Pakistan and East Pakistan were not geographically connected.)

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar exist as separate nations to this day.

Current India

Most Indians today live in villages of about 1000 people that are segregated by caste, and usually have farming as the most popular occupation. About one fourth of modern Indians live in urban areas, which have less of an emphasis on the caste system. India currently has a democratic government with a president, who handles state matters, and a prime minister, who is in charge of the government.

Themes of India include as music, dance, religious festivals, literature, philosophy, ancient teachings, elaborate architecture (such as the Taj Mahal, as well as numerous lavish temples), sculptures, poverty, poor sanitary conditions, religious conflict, political unrest, poetry, curry, rice, mangoes, sugarcane, the sanctity of cows due to Hindu beliefs, vegetarianism (due to religious beliefs, many Indians are either vegetarians or they avoid beef and pork), and drama. Motion pictures are also highly popular among Indians today, and virtually every popular Indian film is filled with numerous song and dance sequences.

Current Pakistan

Pakistan is home to over 145 million people. It is located just west of India. Like Indians, Pakistani people have a very diverse ethnic mix. Pakistan is mainly a Muslim land, although other religions such as Hinduism and Christianity also exist in the country.

Pakistan has many cultural similarities to India other than India’s caste system. Pakistani themes include political instability, family ties, wide temperature variations, poetry, art, rice, wheat, and movies.

Current Bangladesh

Bangladesh is located in a part of what used to be Eastern India, and currently borders India on both its east and west sides. Although small in land area, it has a population of over 130 million people. The country’s southern section borders the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. Most of the country’s inhabitants belong to the Bengal ethnicity and speak Bengali—in fact, the country used to be known as Bengal.

Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan (which was formerly known as West Pakistan) in the early 1970s after a vicious war.

Bangladeshi themes include strong family ties, Islam, Hinduism, rice, milk, civil & political instability, soccer, a variation of the game “capture the flag,” kite flying, music, dancing, architecture, monsoons, flooding, and tea.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island located southeast of India. The majority of Sri Lankan people have their ethnic roots from Indian migrants that immigrated to the island at various time periods.

Sri Lankans are commonly split into distinct Sinhalese (a.k.a. Sinhala) and Tamil ethnic groups, which at times had their own kingdoms on the island. In the second millennium AD, Sri Lanka has been invaded or ruled by the Chinese, Malayans, Portuguese, Dutch and British. The country became independent in the mid 1900s.

Sri Lankan themes include gemstones, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, social welfare systems, architecture, folk dancing, soccer, bike racing, coconuts, tea, and rubber.