Kuwentong Jataka poster (Courtesy of India Embassy in Manila)

MANILA – Seeking closer cultural ties with the Philippines, India reintroduces to Manila the Jataka Tales, the oldest and best known Indian literature featuring the Buddha in different forms until he attained enlightenment, this time in the form of a podcast, free of charge.

The Indian Embassy in Manila, in partnership with Areté Ateneo, developed and launched on Tuesday a series of 12 short and engaging podcasts each narrating one of the Jataka Tales (Kuwentong Jataka) in the Filipino language.

A large number of Jatakas originally belonged to ancient Indian storytelling traditions.

Numbering more than 500, India sees the Jataka Tales as an important part of Buddhist literature in which the Buddha recounts some of his past lives on his long road to enlightenment.

"With a numerous and memorable cast of characters, powerful imagery, and a moral at the end to reflect upon makes these stories appealing to children across the world," the embassy said.

The project was conceptualized and funded by the Indian Embassy in Manila, with the translation of stories, illustrations, and production of podcasts carried out by Areté Ateneo and the Filipino Language Department of Ateneo de Manila University.

India’s Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran said the initiative also serves as a beginning to rediscover the "strands that connect" the Philippines and India.

Citing the lessons and universal values that can be taught through Jataka, Kumaran said the embassy is also open to partnering with the Department of Education (DepEd) should it consider incorporating the Indian tales in the national curriculum.

"This is the first project that we've done as the embassy here to connect with learning material. We strongly believe that our cultural ties, which are very old, we need to rekindle that spirit. And these are essentially stories that connect to the universal human condition," Kumaran said in an interview.

"We will, in our conversations with the DepEd, request their consideration to include such stories as part of their curriculum, because you do have stories from different parts of the world. And we would request that these stories also could be considered for inclusion."

The Kuwentong Jataka is available for free on the website and YouTube Channel of the Embassy of India, Areté Ateneo, as well as on Spotify and Apple podcasts. (PNA)