Kathasaritsagara (the Ocean of Story)

by Somadeva | 1924 | 1,023,469 words | ISBN-13: 9789350501351

This is the English translation of the Kathasaritsagara written by Somadeva around 1070. The principle story line revolves around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the Vidhyādharas (‘celestial beings’). The work is one of the adoptations of the now lost Bṛhatkathā, a great Indian epic tale said to have been composed by ...

Chapter LXIV

[M] (Main story line continued) THEN, the next evening, as Naravāhanadatta was again in his private apartment, longing for union with his beloved, at his request Gomukha told the following series of tales to amuse him:—


140. Story of the Brāhman and the Mungoose [1]

There was in a certain village a Brāhman, named Devaśarman; and he had a wife of equally high birth, named Yajñadattā. And she became pregnant, and in time gave birth to a son, and the Brāhman, though poor, thought he had obtained a treasure in him. And when she had given birth to the child, the Brāhman’s wife went to the river to bathe, but Devaśarman remained in the house, taking care of his infant son. In the meanwhile a maid came from the women’s apartments of the palace to summon that Brāhman, who lived on presents received for performing inauguratory ceremonies. Then he, eager for a fee, went off to the palace, leaving a mungoose, which he had brought up from its birth, to guard his child. After he had gone, a snake suddenly came near the child, and the mungoose, seeing it, killed it out of love for his master.

Then the mungoose saw Devaśarman returning at a distance, and delighted, ran out to meet him, all stained with the blood of the snake. And Devaśarman, when he saw its appearance, felt certain that it had killed his young child, and in his agitation killed it with a stone. But when he went into the house, and saw the snake killed by the mungoose, and his boy alive, he repented of what he had done.

And when his wife returned and heard what had happened, she reproached him, saying:

“Why did you inconsiderately kill the mungoose,[2] which had done you a good turn?”[3]


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Therefore a wise man, Prince, should never do anything rashly. For a person who acts rashly is destroyed in both worlds. And one who does anything contrary to the prescribed method obtains a result which is the opposite of that desired.


141. Story of the Fool that was his own Doctor

For instance, there was a man suffering from flatulence. And once on a time the doctor gave him a medicine, to be used as a clyster, and said to him:

“Go to your house, and bruise this, and wait till I come.”

The physician, after giving this order, delayed a little, and in the meanwhile the fool, having reduced the drug to powder, mixed it with water and drank it. That made him very ill, and when the doctor came, he had to give him an emetic, and with difficulty brought him round, when he was at the point of death. And he scolded his patient, saying to him:

“A clyster is not meant to be drunk, but must be administered in the proper way. Why did you not wait for me?”


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So an action, useful in itself, if done contrary to rule, has bad effects. Therefore a wise man should do nothing contrary to rule. And the man who acts without consideration does what is wrong, and immediately incurs reproach.


142. Story of the Fool who mistook Hermits for Monkeys

For instance, there was in a certain place a foolish man. He was once going to a foreign country, accompanied by his son, and when the caravan encamped in the forest, the boy entered the wood to amuse himself. There he was scratched by monkeys, and with difficulty escaped with life, and when his father asked him what had happened, the silly boy, not knowing what monkeys were, said:

“I was scratched in this wood by some hairy creatures that live on fruits.”

When the father heard it, he drew his sword in a rage, and went to that wood. And seeing some ascetics with long matted hair, picking fruits there, he ran towards them, saying to himself:

“These hairy rascals injured my son.”

But a certain traveller there prevented him from killing them, by saying:

“I saw some monkeys scratch your son; do not kill the hermits.”

So by good luck he was saved from committing a crime, and returned to the caravan.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So a wise man should never act without reflection. What is ever likely to go wrong with a man who reflects? But the thoughtless are always ruined and made the objects of public ridicule.”


143. Story of the Fool who found a Purse

For instance, a certain poor man, going on a journey, found a bag of gold, that had been dropped by the head of a caravan. The fool, the moment he found it, instead of going away, stood still where he was, and began to count the gold. In the meanwhile the merchant, who was on horseback, discovered his loss, and galloping back, he saw the bag of gold in the poor man’s possession, and took it away from him. So he lost his wealth as soon as he got it, and went on his way sorrowful, with his face fixed on the ground.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Fools lose wealth as soon as they get it.


144. Story of the Fool who looked for the Moon

A certain foolish man, who wished to see the new moon, was told by a man who saw it to look in the direction of his finger. He averted his eyes from the sky, and stood staring at his friend’s finger, and so did not see the new moon, but saw the people laughing at him.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Wisdom accomplishes the impossible; hear a story in proof of it.


145. Story of the Woman who escaped from the Monkey and the Cowherd

A certain woman set out alone to go to another village. And on the way a monkey suddenly came and tried to lay hold of her, but she avoided it by going to a tree and dodging round it. The foolish monkey threw its arms round the tree, and she laid hold of its arms with her hands and pressed them against the tree.

The monkey, which was held tight, became furious, but at that moment the woman saw a cowherd coming that way, and said to him:

“Sir, hold this ape by the arms a moment, until I can arrange my dress and hair, which arc disordered.”

He said:

“I will do so, if you promise to grant me your love.”

And she consented. And he held the monkey.

Then she drew his dagger and killed the monkey, and said to the cowherd, “Come to a lonely spot,” and so took him a long distance. At last they fell in with some travellers, so she left him and went with them to the village that she wished to reach, having avoided outrage by her wisdom.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So you see that wisdom is in this world the principal support of men; the man who is poor in wealth lives, but the man who is poor in intellect does not live. Now hear, Prince, this romantic, wonderful tale.


146. Story of the Two Thieves, Ghaia and Karpara [4]

There were in a certain city two thieves, named Ghaṭa and Karpara. One night Karpara left Ghaṭa outside the palace, and breaking through the wall, [see notes on the motif of breaking through the wall] entered the bed-chamber of the princess. And the princess, who could not sleep, saw him there in a corner, and suddenly falling in love with him, called him to her.

And she gave him wealth, and said to him:

“I will give you much more if you come again.”

Then Karpara went out, and told Ghaṭa what had happened, and gave him the wealth, and having thus got hold of the king’s property, sent him home. But he himself again entered the women’s apartments of the palace. Who that is attracted by love and covetousness thinks of death? There he remained with the princess, and bewildered with love and wine, he fell asleep, and did not observe that the night was at an end.

And in the morning the guards of the women’s apartments entered, and made him prisoner, and informed the king, and he in his anger ordered him to be put to death. While he was being led to the place of execution, his friend Ghaṭa came to look for him, as he had not returned in the course of the night. Then Karpara saw Ghaṭa, and made a sign to him that he was to carry off and take care of the princess. And he answered by a sign that he would do so. Then Karpara was led away by the executioners, and being at their mercy, was quickly hanged up upon a tree, and so executed.

Then Ghaṭa went home, sorrowing for his friend, and as soon as night arrived he dug a mine and entered the apartment of the princess.

Seeing her in fetters there alone, he went up to her and said:

“I am the friend of Karpara, who was to-day put to death on account of you. And out of love for him I am come here to carry you off, so come along before your father does you an injury.”

Thereupon she consented joyfully, and he removed her bonds. Then he went out with her, who at once committed herself to his care, by the underground passage he had made, and returned to his own house.

And next morning the king heard that his own daughter had been carried off by someone who had dug a secret mine, and that king thought to himself:

“Undoubtedly that wicked man whom I punished has some audacious friend, who has carried off my daughter in this way.”

So he set his servants to watch the body of Karpara, and he said to them:

“You must arrest anyone who may come here lamenting, to burn the corpse and perform the other rites, and so I shall recover that wicked girl who has disgraced her family.”

When those guards had received this order from the king, they said, “We will do so,” and remained continually watching the corpse of Karpara.

Then Ghaṭa made inquiries, and found out what was going on, and said to the princess:

“My dear, my comrade Karpara was a very dear friend to me, and by means of him I gained you and all these valuable jewels; so until I have paid to him the debt of friendship I cannot rest in peace. So I will go and see his corpse, and by a device of mine manage to lament over it, and I will in due course bum the body, and scatter the bones in a holy place. And do not be afraid. I am not reckless like Karpara.”

After he had said this to her, he immediately assumed the appearance of a Pāśupata ascetic, and taking boiled rice and milk in a pot, he went near the corpse of Karpara, as if he were a person passing that way casually, and when he got near it he slipped, and let fall from his hand and broke that pot of milk and rice, and began lamenting: “O Karpara full of sweetness,”[5] and so on. And the guards thought that he was grieving for his pot full of food, that he had got by begging. And immediately he went home and told that to the princess. And the next day he made a servant, dressed as a bride, go in front of him, and he had another behind him, carrying a vessel full of sweetmeats, in which the juice of the Datura had been infused.[6] And he himself assumed the appearance of a drunken villager, and so in the evening he came reeling along past those guards, who were watching the body of Karpara.

They said to him:

“Who are you, friend, and who is this lady, and where are you going?”

Then the cunning fellow answered them with stuttering accents:

“I am a villager; this is my wife; I am going to the house of my father-in-law, and I am taking for him this complimentary present of sweetmeats. But you have now become my friends by speaking to me, so I will take only half of the sweetmeats there; take the other half for yourselves.”

Saying this, he gave a sweetmeat to each of the guards. And they received them, laughing, and all of them partook of them. Accordingly Ghaṭa, having stupefied the guards with Datura, at night brought fuel[7] and burnt the body of Karpara.

The next morning, after he had departed, the king, hearing of it, removed those guards who had been stupefied, and placed others there, and said:

“You must guard these bones, and you must arrest whoever attempts to take them away, and you must not accept food from any outsider.”

When the guards were thus instructed by the king, they remained on the look-out day and night, and Ghaṭa heard of it. Then he, being acquainted with the operation of a bewildering charm granted him by Durgā, made a wandering mendicant his friend, in order to make them repose confidence in him. And he went there with that wandering mendicant, who was muttering spells, and bewildered those guards, and recovered the bones of Karpara. And after throwing them into the Ganges he came and related what he had done, and lived happily with the princess, accompanied by the mendicant.

But the king, hearing that the bones had been carried off, and the men guarding them stupefied, thought that the whole exploit, beginning with the carrying off of his daughter, was the doing of a magician. And he had the following proclamation made in his city:

“If that magician who carried off my daughter, and performed the other exploits connected with that feat, will reveal himself, I will give him half my kingdom.”

When Ghaṭa heard this, he wished to reveal himself, but the princess dissuaded him, saying:

“Do not do so; you cannot repose any confidence in this king, who treacherously puts people to death.”[8]

Then, for fear that, if he remained there, the truth might come out, he set out for another country with the princess and the mendicant.[9]

And on the way the princess said secretly to the mendicant:

“The other one of these thieves seduced me, and this one made me fall from my high rank. The other thief is dead. As for this Ghaṭa, I do not love him; you are my darling.”

When she had said this, she united herself to the mendicant, and killed Ghaṭa in the dead of night. Then, as she was journeying along with that mendicant, the wicked woman fell in with a merchant on the way, whose name was Dhanadeva.

So she said:

“Who is this skull-bearer? You are my darling.”

And she left that mendicant while he was asleep, and went off with that merchant. And in the morning the mendicant woke up, and reflected:

“There is no love in women, and no courtesy free from fickleness, for, after lulling me into security, the wicked woman has gone off, and robbed me too. However, I ought perhaps to consider myself lucky that I have not been killed like Ghaṭa.”

After these reflections the mendicant returned to his own country.

And the princess, travelling on with the merchant, reached his country. And when Dhanadeva arrived there, he said to himself:

“Why should I rashly introduce this unchaste woman into my house?”

So, as it was evening, he went into the house of an old woman in that place, with the princess. And at night he asked that old woman, who did not recognise him:

“Mother, do you know any tidings about the family of Dhanadeva?”

When the old woman heard that, she said:

“What tidings is there except that his wife is always ready to take a new lover? For a basket, covered with leather, is let down every night from the window here, and whoever enters it is drawn up into the house, and is dismissed in the same way at the end of the night.[10] And the woman is always stupefied with drink, so that she is absolutely void of discernment. And this state of hers has become well known in the whole city. And though her husband has been long away, he has not yet returned.”

When Dhanadeva heard this speech of the old woman’s, he went out that moment on some pretext, and repaired to his own house, being full of inward grief and uncertainty. And seeing a basket let down by the female servants with ropes, he entered it, and they pulled him up into the house. And his wife, who was stupefied with drink, embraced him most affectionately, without knowing who he was. But he was quite cast down at seeing her degradation. And thereupon she fell into a drunken sleep. And at the end of the night the female servants let him down again quickly from the window in the basket suspended with ropes.

And the merchant reflected in his grief:

“Enough of the folly of being a family man, for women in a house are a snare! It is always this story with them, so a life in the forest is much to be preferred.

Having formed this resolve, Dhanadeva abandoned the princess into the bargain, and set out for a distant forest. And on the way he met, and struck up a friendship with, a young Brāhman, named Rudrasoma, who had lately returned from a long absence abroad.

When he told him his story, the Brāhman became anxious about his own wife; and so he arrived in the company of that merchant at his own village in the evening.

And when lie arrived there, he saw a cowherd, on the bank of the river, near his house, singing with joy, like one beside himself. So he said to him in joke: “Cowherd, is any young woman in love with you that you sing thus in your rapture, counting the world as stubble?”

When the cowherd heard that, he laughed and said:

“I have a great secret.[11] The head of this village, a Brāhman, named Rudrasoma, has been long away, and I visit his wife every night; her maid introduces me into the house dressed as a woman.”[12]

When Rudrasoma heard this, he restrained his anger, and wishing to find out the truth, he said to the cowherd:

“If such kindness is shown to guests here, give me this dress of yours, and let me go there to-night: I feel great curiosity about it.”

The cowherd said:

“Do so; take this black rug of mine, and this stick, and remain here until her maid comes. And she will take you for me, and will give you a female dress, and invite you to come; so go there boldly at night, and I will take repose this night.”

When the cowherd said this, the Brāhman Rudrasoma took from him the stick and the rug, and stood there, personating him. And the cowherd stood at a little distance, with that merchant Dhanadeva, and then the maid came. She walked silently up to him in the darkness, and wrapped him up in a woman’s dress, and said to him, “Come along,” and so took him off to his wife, thinking that he was the cowherd. When his wife saw Rudrasoma, she sprang up and embraced him, supposing that he was the cowherd, and then Rudrasoma thought to himself:

“Alas! wicked women fall in love with a base man, if only he is near them, for this vicious wife of mine has fallen in love with a cowherd, merely because he is near at hand.”

Then he made some excuse with faltering voice, and went, disgusted in mind, to Dhanadeva. And after he had told his adventure in his own house, he said to that merchant:

“I too will go with you to the forest; peṛṣ my family!”

So Rudrasoma and the merchant Dhanadeva set out together for the forest.

And on the way a friend of Dhanadeva’s, named Śaśin, joined them. And in the course of conversation they told him their circumstances. And when Śaśin heard that, being a jealous man, and having just returned from a long absence in a foreign land, he became anxious about his wife, though he had locked her up in a cellar. And Śaśin, travelling along with them, came near his own house in the evening, and was desirous of entertaining them. But he saw there a man singing in an amorous mood, who had an evil smell, and whose hands and feet were eaten away with leprosy.

And in his astonishment he asked him:

“Who are you, sir, that you are so cheerful?”

And the leper said to him:

“I am the God of Love.”

Śaśin answered:

“There can be no mistake about that! The splendour of your beauty is sufficient evidence for your being the God of Love.”

Thereupon the leper continued:

“Listen, I will tell you something. A rogue here, named Śaśin, being jealous of his wife, locked her up in a cellar with one servant to attend on her, and went to a foreign land. But that wife of his happened to see me here, and immediately surrendered herself to me, her heart being drawn towards me by love. And I spend every night with her, for the maid takes me on her back and carries me in. So tell me if I am not the God of Love. Who that was the favoured lover of the beautiful wife of Śaśin could care for other women?”

When Śaśin heard this speech of the leper’s, he suppressed his grief, intolerable as a hurricane, and wishing to discover the truth, he said to the leper:

“In truth you are the God of Love, so I have a boon to crave of your godship. I feel great curiosity about this lady from your description of her, so I will go there this very night disguised as yourself. Be propitious to your suppliant: 'you will lose but little, as you can attain this object every day.”

When Śaśin made this request, the leper said to him:

“So be it! Take this dress of mine and give me yours, and remain covering up your hands and feet with your clothes, as you see me do, until her maid comes, which will be as soon as it becomes dark. And she will mistake you for me, and put you on her back, and you must submit to go there in that fashion, for I always have to go in that way, having lost the use of my hands and feet from leprosy.”

Thereupon Śaśin put on the leper’s dress and remained there, but the leper and Śaśin’s two companions remained a little way off.

Then Śaśin’s wife’s maid came, and supposing that he was the leper, as he had his dress on, said, “Come along,” and took him up on her back. And so she took him at night into that cellar to his wife, who was expecting her paramour the leper. Then Śaśin made out for certain that it was his wife, who was lamenting there in the darkness, by feeling her limbs, and he became an ascetic on the spot. And when she was asleep, he went out unobserved, and made his way to Dhanadeva and Rudrasoma.

And he told them his experiences, and said in his grief:

“Alas! women are like torrents that flow in a ravine; they are ever tending downwards, capricious, beautiful at a distance, prone to turbidness, and so they are as difficult to guard as such rivers are to drink, and thus my wife, though kept in a cellar, has run after a leper. So for me also the forest is the best thing. Out on family life!”

And so he spent the night in the company of the merchant and the Brāhman, whose affliction was the same as his. And next morning they all set out together for the forest; and at evening they reached a tree by the roadside, with a tank at its foot. And after they had eaten and drunk, they ascended the tree to sleep, and while they were there they saw a traveller come and lie down underneath the tree.

The Snake-God and his Wife: [13]

And soon they saw another man arise from the tank, and he brought out of his mouth a couch and a lady. Then he lay down on the couch beside that wife of his, and went to sleep, and the moment she saw it she went and embraced the traveller.

And he asked her who they were, and she answered:

“This is a snake-god, and I am his wife, a daughter of the snake race. Do not fear, I have had ninety-nine lovers among travellers, and you make the hundredth.”

But, while she was saying this, it happened that the snake-god woke up, and saw them. And he discharged fire from his mouth, and reduced them both to ashes.

When the snake-god had gone, the three friends said to one another:

“If it is impossible to guard one’s wife by enclosing her in one’s own body, what chance is there of keeping her safe in a house? Out on them all!”

So they spent the night in contentment, and next morning went on to the forest. There they became completely chastened in mind, with hearts quieted by practising the four meditations,[14] which were not interfered with by their friendship; and they became gentle to all creatures, and attained perfection in contemplation, which produces unequalled absolute beatification; and all three in due course destroyed the inborn darkness of their souls, and became liberated from the necessity of future births. But their wicked wives fell into a miserable state by the ripening of their own sin, and were soon ruined, losing both this and the next world.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“So attachment to women, the result of infatuation, produces misery to all men. But indifference to them produces in the discerning emancipation from the bonds of existence.,,

When the prince, who was longing for union with Śaktiyaśas, had patiently listened to this diverting tale, told by his minister Gomukha, he again went to sleep.

Footnotes and references:


See Benfey, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 479-483. To Englishmen the story suggests Llewellyn’s faithful hound Gelert, from which the paṛṣ of Bethgelert in North Wales is named. This legend has been versified by W. R. Spencer. It is found in the English Cesta (see Bohn’s Gesta Romanorum, Introduction, p. xliii. It is No. 26 in Heritage’s edition). The story (as found in the Seven Wise Masters) is admirably told in Simrock’s Die Deutschen Volksbücher, vol. xii, p. 135. See also Baring-Gould, Curious Myths, 1869, p. 134 et. seq.——See Hertel, op. cit., pt. i, p. 140; pt. ii, p. 148 et seq. K. Campbell, Seven Sages of Rome, pp. lxxix et seq., gives thirty-one analogues. This pathetic little tale forms the frame-story of the fifth (and last) book of the Pañcatantra. Most texts have two sub-stories—namely, “The Brāhman who built Castles-in-the-Air,” and “The Barber who killed the Monks.” These are omitted by Somadeva, but will be found in Appendix I, pp. 228-230.—n.m.p.


To the references on the mungoose already given in my note in Vol. II, pp. 115n1, 116n I would add Sir G. A. Grierson, “Mongoose,” Journ. Roy. As. Soc., October 1923, pp. 619, 620, where the etymology of the word is discussed.—n.m.p.


Here ends the complete Pañcatantra as given by Somadeva.—n.m.p.


For full details of this story see Appendix II of this volume.— n.m.p.


Of course karpara is the Sanskrit for “pot.” In fact the two friends’ names might be represented in English by Pitcher and Pot. In modern Hindu funerals boiled rice is given to the dead. So I am informed by my friend Paṇḍit Śyāmā Charaṇ Mukhopādhyāya, to whom I am indebted for many kind hints.——For details of the use of the piṇḍa, or balls of rice, at Hindu funerals see Stevenson, Rites of the Twice-Born, 1920, pp. 159, 172, 177, etc.—n.m.p.


See Vol. I, pp. l60, 160n1.—n.m.p.


I read āhṛtendhanaḥ [so in D.]. The Sanskrit College MS. seems to me to give hṛtendhana.


So Frau Claradis in “Die Heimonskinder” advises her husband not to trust her father (Simrock’s Die Deutschen Volksbücher, vol. ii, p. 131).


This is really the end of the story of Ghaṭa, and, as shown in Appendix II of this volume, was probably taken from Herodotus’ tale of Rhampsinitus. The subsequent incidents are separate tales collected by Somadeva and have all been moulded by him into a single story, although they hang together very loosely.—n.m.p.


See Chauvin, op. cit., v, p. 241. —n.m.p.


The Sanskrit College MS. has mama for the mayā of Dr Brockhaus.


See Vol. I, pp. 47n, 48n.—n.m.p.


See p. 122n1 of this volume.—n.m.p.


Mr Gough has kindly pointed out to me a passage in the Sarvadarśana Saṃgraha which explains this. The following is Mr Gough’s translation of the passage:

“We must consider this teaching as regards the four points of view. These are that

“(1) Everything is momentary and momentary only;
“(2) Everything is pain and pain only;
“(3) Everything is individual and individual only;
“(4) Everything is baseless and baseless only.”

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