All ancient civilizations had taken upon them the responsibility of maintaining moral values in society. Though they had different value systems, yet a common factor in those times was propagating moral teachings through storytelling. In Buddhist communities too, Jataka tales were a major source for inculcating in people a deep sense of moral values. The Jataka tales date back to the third century BC and are considered the oldest form of story-narrating practice. Lack of literacy in those days necessitated the appointment of Jataka storytellers known as Jataka bhanakas. The Jataka bhanakas would travel far and wide to propagate the message of kindness, compassion, generosity, non-violence, self-sacrifice, charity, refrainment from greed etc. through these stories. The Buddha himself used jataka stories to explain concepts like kamma and rebirth and to emphasize the importance of certain moral values.
The Jataka tales depict the Buddha in several of his births in the form of animals. These stories, though simple, are high on moral content considered good for one's emotional, moral and spiritual health. The Buddha is the protagonist and the central character in each of these stories.
Over a couple of thousand years old, the Jataka tales are just as relevant in content in the modern times. Perhaps, even more so. Living in fragmented and nucleus families, children grow up on a staple diet of violence and other negative traits they pick up from the TV. They do not have the luxury of having the good ol' granny to educate them with moral teachings imparted by such stories. In cultures where joint family systems are in practice, one would find children well endowed with moral bearings and emotional strength.
The Jataka tales have stood the test of time and will continue to do so, as long as man remains in material pursuit and is led by greed and selfishness.
Changing times have necessitated the use of new technology to narrate these Jataka tales to the young generation, which we have through the medium of animated stories. However, ample care has been taken to project the original messages in these tales without diluting their moral content.