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 ...

163. Story of Mṛgāṅkadatta

THEN Mṛgāṅkadatta, as he gradually travelled along in the Vindhya forest, accompanied by those ministers, Śrutadhi and the four others, reached a wood, which was refreshing with the shade of its goodly fruitladen trees, and in which there was a tank of very pure sweet cold water. He bathed in it with his ministers and ate many fruits, and lo! he suddenly thought that he heard conversation in a place shut in with creepers. So he went and looked into that bower of creepers, and he saw inside it a great elephant, which was refreshing a blind way-worn man by throwing over him showers of water from his trunk, by giving him fruits, and fanning him with his ears.

And like a kind man, the elephant said to him lovingly, over and over again, with articulate voice:

“Do you feel at all better?”

When the prince saw that he was astonished, and he said to his companions:

“Look! how comes it that a wild elephant conducts itself like a man? So you may be sure that this is some higher being translated into this form for some reason. And this man is very like my friend Pracaṇḍaśakti. But he is blind. So let us keep a sharp look-out.”

When Mṛgāṅkadatta had said this to his friends, he remained there concealed, and listened attentively. In the meanwhile the blind man recovered a little, and the elephant said to him:

“Tell me, who are you, and how did you come here, being blind?”

Then the blind man said to that mighty elephant:

“There is in this land a king of the name of Amaradatta, lord of the city of Ayodhyā; he has a son of excellent qualities, named Mṛgāṅkadatta, of auspicious birth, and I am that prince’s servant. For some reason or other his father banished him from his native land, with us his ten companions. We had set out for Ujjayinī to obtain Śaśāṅkavatī, when we were separated in the forest by the curse of a Nāga. And I was blinded by his curse, and wandering about I have arrived here, living on the fruits, and roots, and water I could get on the way. And to me death by falling into a chasm, or in some other way, would be most desirable, but alas! Providence has not bestowed it on me, but makes me endure calamity. However I feel convinced that, as my pangs of hunger have been to-day assuaged by your favour, so my blindness also will be somewhat alleviated, for you are a divinity.”

When he said this, Mṛgāṅkadatta felt certain who he was, and with a mind wavering between joy and grief he said to those ministers:

“It is our friend Pracaṇḍaśakti that is reduced to this melancholy state, but it will not do for us to be in a hurry to greet him immediately. Perhaps this elephant will cure his blindness. But if he were to see us, he would flee away; so we must stop here and look at him.”

When the prince had said this, he remained listening with his followers.

Then Pracaṇḍaśakti said to that elephant:

“Now, great-souled one, tell me your history: who are you? How comes it that, though you are an elephant, and are subject to the fury of elephants, you speak in this gentle way?”

When the great elephant heard this he sighed, and said to him: “Listen! I will tell you my story from the beginning.

“Long ago, in the city of Ekalavyā, there was a king named Śrutadhara, and he had two sons by two wives. When the king went to heaven, his younger son, named Satyadhara, expelled the elder son, named Śīladhara, from the throne. Śīladhara was angry on that account, so he went and propitiated Śiva, and craved the following boon from the god, who was pleased with his asceticism:

‘May I become a Gandharva, in order that I may be able to move through the air, and so slay with ease that kinsman of mine, Satyadhara!’

When the holy god Śiva heard this, he said to him:

‘This boon shall be granted to thee, but that enemy of thine has to-day died a natural death. And he shall be again born in the city of Rāḍhā, as Samarabhaṭa, the favourite son of King Ugrabhaṭa. But thou shalt be born as Bhīmabhaṭa, his elder brother by a different mother, and thou shalt kill him and rule the kingdom. But because thou didst perform these ascetic penances under the influence of anger, thou shalt be hurled from thy rank by the curse of a hermit and become a wild elephant that remembers its birth and possesses articulate speech, and when thou shalt comfort a guest in distress and tell him thy history, then thou shalt be freed from thy elephant-nature and become a Gandharva, and at the same time a great benefit will be conferred upon that guest.’

When Śiva had said this he disappeared, and Śīladhara, seeing that his body was emaciated by long penance, flung himself into the Ganges.

“At this point of my tale it happened that, while that king named Ugrabhaṭa, whom I have before mentioned, was living happily in the city of Rāḍhā with his wife Manoramā, who was equal to him in birth, there came to his court from a foreign country an actor named Lāsaka. And he exhibited before the king that dramatic piece in which Viṣṇu, in the form of a woman, carries off the amṛta from the Daityas. And in that piece the king saw the actor’s daughter Lāsavatī dancing in the character of Amṛtikā. When he saw her beauty, that was like that of the real Amṛta, with which Viṣṇu bewildered the Dānavas, he fell in love with her. And at the end of the dance he gave her father much wealth, and immediately introduced her into his harem. And then he married that dancer Lāsavatī, and lived with her, having his eyes riveted upon her face.

One day he said to his chaplain named Yajuḥsvāmin:

‘I have no son, so perform a sacrifice in order to procure me a son.’

The chaplain obeyed, and performed duly, with the help of learned Brāhmans, a sacrifice for that king’s benefit. And, as he had been previously gained over by Manoramā, he gave her to eat, as being the elder queen, the first half of the oblation purified with holy texts.[1] And he gave the rest to the second queen, Lāsavatī. Then those two, Śīladhara and Satyadhara, whom I have before mentioned, were conceived in those two queens. And when the time came, Manoramā, the consort of that king, brought forth a son with auspicious marks.

And at that moment a distinct utterance was heard from heaven:

‘This child who is born shall be a famous king under the name of Bhīmabhaṭa.’

On the next day Lāsavatī also brought forth a son, and the king, his father, gave him the name of Samarabhaṭa. And the usual sacraments were performed for them, and the two boys gradually grew up. But the elder, Bhīmabhaṭa, surpassed the younger in all accomplishments, and rivalry in these increased the natural ill-feeling between them.

“One day, as they were engaged in wrestling, Samarabhaṭa, being jealous, struck Bhīmabhaṭa with his arm with great force on the neck. Then Bhīmabhaṭa was enraged, and immediately throwing his arms round Samarabhaṭa, he lifted him up and flung him on the ground. The fall gave him a severe shock, and his servants took him up, and carried him to his mother, discharging blood from all the apertures in his body. When she saw him, and found out what had taken place, she was alarmed on account of her love for him, and she laid her face close to his and wept bitterly.

At that moment the king entered, and when he saw this sight he was much troubled in mind, and asked Lāsavatī what it meant, and she gave the following answer:

‘This son of mine has been reduced to this state by Bhīmabhaṭa. And he is always ill-treating him, but I have never told you, King; however, now that I have seen this, I must say I cannot[2] understand how your Majesty can be safe with such a son as this: but let your Majesty decide.’

When King Ugrabhaṭa was thus appealed to by his favourite wife, he was angry, and banished Bhīmabhaṭa from his court. And he took away from him his allowance, and appointed a hundred Rajputs with their retainers to guard that Samarabhaṭa. And he put his treasury at the disposal of the younger son, but he drove the elder son from his presence, and took away all that he possessed.

“Then his mother, Manoramā, sent for him and said:

‘Your father has thrown you over, because he is in love with a dancer. So go to the palace of my father in Pāṭaliputra, and when you arrive there, your grandfather will give you his kingdom, for he has no son. But if you remain here, your enemy, this Samarabhaṭa, will kill you, for he is powerful.’

When Bhīmabhaṭa heard this speech of his mother’s, he said:

‘I am a Kṣatriya, and I will not sneak away from my native land, like a coward. Be of good cheer, mother! what wretch is able to injure me?’

When he said this, his mother answered him:

‘Then procure a numerous body of companions to guard you, by means of my wealth.’

When Bhīmabhaṭa heard this proposal, he said:

‘Mother, this is not becoming; for if I did this I should be really opposing my father. You may be quite at your ease, for your blessing alone will procure me good fortune.’

When Bhīmabhaṭa had encouraged her with these words he left her. In the meanwhile all the citizens came to hear of it, and they thought,

‘Alas! a great injustice has been done to Bhīmabhaṭa by the king. Surely Samarabhaṭa does not think he is going to rob him of the kingdom. Well, it is an opportunity for us to do him a service before he comes to the throne.’

Having formed this resolution, the citizens secretly supplied Bhīmabhaṭa with such abundance of wealth that he lived in great comfort with his servants. But the younger brother was ever on the look-out to kill his elder brother, supposing that this was his father’s object in furnishing him with a guard.

“In the meanwhile a heroic and wealthy young Brāhman, of the name of Śaṅkhadatta, who was a friend of both brothers, came and said to Samarabhaṭa:

‘You ought not to carry on hostility with your elder brother; it is not right, and you cannot do him an injury: on the contrary the result of a quarrel would be disgraceful to you.’

When he said this, Samarabhaṭa abused and threatened him; good advice given to a fool does not calm but rather enrages him. Then the resolute Śaṅkhadatta went away indignant at this treatment, and made a strict friendship with Bhīmabhaṭa, in order to have the opportunity of conquering Samarabhaṭa.

“Then a merchant, of the name of Maṇidatta, came there from a foreign country, bringing with him an excellent horse: it was as white as the moon; the sound of its neighing was as musical as that of a clear conch or other sweet-sounding instrument; it looked like the waves of the sea of milk surging on high; it was marked with curls on the neck; and adorned with the crest-jewel, the bracelet, and other signs, which it seemed as if it had acquired by being born in the race of the Gandharvas.

“When Bhīmabhaṭa heard of that splendid horse, which was mentioned to him by Śaṅkhadatta, he went and bought it for a high price from that merchant-prince. At that moment Samarabhaṭa, hearing of it, came and tried to buy the horse from the merchant for double the price. But he refused to give it him, as it had already been sold to another. Then Samarabhaṭa, out of envy, proceeded to carry it off by force. Then there took place a fierce combat between those two princes, as the adherents of both came running up with weapons in their hands. Then the mighty arm of Bhīmabhaṭa laid low the attendants of Samarabhaṭa, and he himself abandoned the horse, and began to retire through fear of his brother.

But as he was retiring, Śaṅkhadatta, full of overpowering anger, pursued him, and laying hold of his hair behind, was on the point of killing him, when Bhīmabhaṭa rushed up and prevented him, saying:

‘Let be for the present; it would be a grief to my father.’

Then Śaṅkhadatta let Samarabhaṭa go, and he fled in fear, discharging blood from his wounds, and repaired to his father.

“Then the brave Bhīmabhaṭa took possession of the horse, and immediately a Brāhman came up to him and, taking him aside, said to him:

‘Your mother the queen Manoramā, and the chaplain Yajuḥsvāmin, and Sumati, the minister of your father, send you the following advice at this juncture:

“You know,[3] dear boy, how the king is always affected towards you, and he is especially angry with you at present, now this misfortune has happened. So if you feel disposed to save your own life, and to preserve glory, and justice inviolate, if you have any regard for the future, if you consider us well disposed towards you, leave this place unobserved this very evening, as soon as the sun has set, and make for the palace of your maternal grandfather, and may good fortune attend you.”

This is the message they gave me for you, and they sent you this casket full of precious jewels and gold: receive it from my hand.’

When the wise Bhīmabhaṭa heard this message, he accepted it, saying: ‘I consent to act thus’; and he took that casket of gold and valuable jewels. And he gave him an appropriate message to take back, and then dismissed him, and mounted that horse, sword in hand. And Śaṅkhadatta took some gold and jewels, and mounted another horse. And then Prince Bhīmabhaṭa set out with him, and after he had gone a long distance he reached at dead of night a great thicket of reeds that lay in his way. As he and his companion pursued their course through it without stopping, a couple of lions, roused by the noise which the reeds made when trampled by the horses’ hoofs, rushed out roaring, with their cubs, and began to rip up the bellies of the horses with their claws. And immediately the hero and his companion cut off the limbs of the lions with their swords, and killed them.

“Then he got down with his friend to look at the state of the two horses, but as their entrails were torn out, they immediately fell down dead.

When Bhīmabhaṭa saw that he felt despondent, and he said to Śaṅkhadatta:

‘Friend, by a great effort we have escaped from our hostile relatives. Tell me where, though by a hundred efforts, shall we find an escape from Fate, who has now smitten us even here, not so much as allowing us to retain our horses. The very horse for which I abandoned my native land is dead; so how can we travel on foot through this forest at night?’

When he said this, his friend Śaṅkhadatta answered him:

‘It is no new thing for hostile Fate to conquer courage. This is its nature, but it is conquered by firm endurance. What can Fate do against a firm unshaken man, any more than the wind against a mountain? So come, let us mount upon the horse of endurance and so plod on here.’

When Śaṅkhadatta said this, Bhīmabhaṭa set out with him. Then they slowly crossed that thicket, wounding their feet with the canes, and at last the night came to an end. And the sun, the lamp of the world,[4] arose, dispelling the darkness ofnight, and the lotus-flowers in the lotus-clumps, by the side of their path, with their expanding cups and the sweet murmur of their bees, seemed to be looking at one another and saying:

‘It is a happy thing that this Bhīmabhaṭa has crossed this thicket full of lions and other dangerous animals.’

“So travelling on, he at last reached with his friend the sandy shore of the Ganges, dotted with the huts of hermits. There he drank its sweet waters, which seemed to be impregnated with the nectar of the moon, from dwelling on the head of Śiva, and he bathed in them, and felt refreshed. And he ate, by way of sustenance, some venison, which they had bought from a hunter whom they happened to meet, and which Śaṅkhadatta brought to him roasted. And seeing that the Ganges was full and difficult to cross, for with its waves uplifted like hands it seemed again and again to warn him back, he proceeded to roam along the bank of the river. And there he saw a young Brāhman in the court of an out-of-the-way hut, engaged in the study of the Vedas.

So he went up to him and said:

‘Who are you, and what are you doing in this solitary place?’

Then the young Brāhman answered him:

“‘I am Nīlakaṇṭha, the son of a Brāhman named Śrīkaṇṭha, who lived at Vārāṇasī; and after all the ceremonies had been performed for me, and I had learnt knowledge in the family of my spiritual preceptor, I returned home and found all my relations dead. That left me helpless and poor; and as I was not in a position to carry on the duties of a householder I became despondent, and repaired to this place, and had recourse to severe asceticism. Then the goddess Gaṅgā gave me some fruits in a dream, and said to me:

“Remain here, living on these fruits, until you obtain your desire.”

Then I woke up and went and bathed, and when the morning came, I found in the water some fruits,, that had been washed here by the stream of the Ganges. I brought those fruits, delicious as nectar, into my hut, and ate them there, and so I remain here engaged in asceticism,, receiving these fruits day by day.’

“When he said this, Bhīmabhaṭa said to Śaṅkhadatta:

‘I will give this virtuous youth enough wealth to enable him to enter the householder-state.’

Śaṅkhadatta approved his speech. Whereupon the prince gave the Brāhman the wealth that his mother gave him. For what is the use of the greatness of great ones, who have abundant courage and wealth, if they do not put a stop to the sufferings of their neighbour as soon as they hear of them?

“And after he had made the fortune of the Brāhman, Bhīmabhaṭa searched in every direction for some means of crossing the Ganges, but could not find any. Then he tied his ornaments and sword on his head, and plunged in with Śaṅkhadatta to swim across it.

“And in the middle of the river the current carried his friend to a distance from him, and he himself was swept away by the waves, and reached the bank with difficulty. When he reached the other side he could not see his friend Śaṅkhadatta, and while he was looking for him the sun set.

Then he began to despair, and exclaimed in bitter grief: ‘Alas my friend!’

And it being now the beginning of the night, he prepared to drown himself in the waters of the Ganges. He said:

‘Goddess Jāhnavī, you have taken from me my life in the form of my friend, so now receive also this empty vessel of my body’;

and he was on the point of plunging in, when Gaṅgā appeared to him from the middle of the flood.

And pleased with his violent agitation, she said to him then and there:

‘Do not act rashly, my son! your friend is alive, and in a short time you shall be united with him. Now receive from me this charm, called “Forwards and Backwards.” If a man repeats it forwards, he will become invisible to his neighbour, but if he repeats it backwards, he will assume whatever shape he desires. [see notes on repeating prayers backwards] Such is the force of this charm only seven syllables long, and by its help you shall become a king on this earth.’

When the goddess Gaṅgā had said this, and given him the charm, she disappeared from his eyes, and he gave up the idea of suicide, now that he had got a hope of regaining his friend and of other successes. And being anxious to regain his friend, he passed the night in impatience, like the lotus-flower, and the next morning he set out in search of him.

“Then, as he was travelling about in search of Śaṅkhadatta, he one day reached alone the district of Lāṭa,[5] where, though the colours of the castes are not mixed, the people lead a diversified and richly coloured life, which, though a seat of fine arts, is not reputed a home of crimes.[6] In this city he wandered about, looking at the temples and the dwelling-houses, and at last he reached a hall of gamblers. He entered it and saw a number of fraudulent dice-players, who, though they were clothed in a loin-rag only, showed by their handsome, well-shaped, stout limbs, which indicated good living and plenty of exercise, that they were men of rank though they concealed it, and that they had resorted to that occupation for the sake of making money. They began to talk to him, so he sat down to play with them, and they fancied that they would make a fine thing out of him and his ornaments. Then he beat them at the dice-play, and won from the rogues all the wealth which they had acquired by cheating others.

“Then those gamblers, having lost their wealth, were preparing to go home, when Bhīmabhaṭa set his arms against the door and stopped them, and said to them:

‘Where are you going? Take back this wealth; I do not want it. I must give it away to my friends, and are not you my friends? Where can I find[7] such dear friends as you?’

When he said this, and they declined to take the money out of shame, a gambler there, of the name of Akṣakṣapaṇaka, said:

‘Undoubtedly it is the definition of gambling that what is won is not returned; but if this gentleman becomes our friend, and gives us of his own accord wealth which he has fairly won, why should we not take it?’

The others, when they heard this, exclaimed:

‘It is fitting, if he makes such an eternal friendship with us.’

When they said this he came to the conclusion that they were men of spirit, and he at once consented to swear eternal friendship to them, and gave them back their wealth. And at their request he went into a garden with them and their families, and refreshed himself with food, and wine, and other luxuries, supplied by them. Then, at the request of Akṣakṣapaṇaka and the others, he told his name, race and history, and asked them also for theirs. Then Akṣakṣapaṇaka told him the story of his life.



163f. Akṣakṣapaṇaka and the Wooden Doll

There lived in Hastināpura a Brāhman named Śivadatta, a very rich man, and I am his son, and my real name is Vasudatta. And in my youth I learnt skill in arms as well as in the Vedas. Then my father made me marry a wife from a family equal in rank to my own. But my mother was a great scold, implacable, and very passionate. And she worried my father so intolerably that as soon as I was married he left his home and went away to some place where he could not be traced. When I saw that, I was afraid, and I earnestly enjoined on my wife to study carefully my mother’s disposition, and she, being terrified, did so. But my mother was bent on quarrelling, and it was impossible for my wife to please her in any way. The ill-natured woman interpreted her silence as contempt, her plaintive lamentation as hypocrisy, and her attempts at explanation as wrangling. For who can deprive the fire of its tendency to burn? Then her disagreeable behaviour in a short time worried my wife also so much, that she left the house and fled I know not where.

Then I was so despondent that I made up my mind to abandon family life; but my wretched relations assembled together and forced me to take another wife. That second wife of mine also was so worried by my mother, that she committed suicide by hanging herself. Then I was exceedingly vexed, and I determined to go to another country. And when my relations tried to prevent me, I told them of the wickedness of my mother. They assigned another reason for my father’s leaving the country, and would not believe my story; so I adopted the following artifice. I had a wooden doll made, and pretended to marry it privately as a third wife, and I brought it and placed it in another secluded house which I locked up.

And I made another female puppet to guard her, dressed like a servant. And I said to my mother:

“I have put this wife of mine in a separate house; so you and I must for the present remain apart from her in our own house: you must not go there and she must not come here. For she is timid as yet, and does not know how to win your affection.”

To this arrangement my mother gave her consent.

After some days had elapsed, my mother, finding that she could not manage anyhow to get at that supposed daughter-in-law of hers, who was in a private house kept always locked, took a stone one day and struck herself on the head, and remained in the courtyard in front of her own house, streaming with blood, and lamenting with loud cries.

Then I and all my relations came in, hearing the cries, and when we saw her we said:

“Tell us, what is the matter?”

When we asked her this question, she said spitefully:

“My daughter-in-law came without any reason and reduced me to this state; so now my only remedy is death.”

When my relations heard this, they were furious, and they took her and me with them to the house where I kept the wooden doll. They removed the fastening, and opened the door, and went in, and lo! they saw nothing there but a wooden doll. Then they laughed at my mother, who was covered with shame, having imposed on no one but herself, and they began to repose confidence in what I had said, and so they went away again.

And I left that country and travelled about till I came to this region, and here I happened to enter a gambling-hall. And there I saw these five men playing—this man named Caṇḍabhujaṅga, and that Pāśupaṭa, and this Śmaśānavetāla, and that Kālavarāṭaka, and this Śāriprastara—heroes equal in valour. And I gambled with them on this mutual understanding, that whoever was conquered should be the slave of the conqueror. Then they became my slaves by being beaten by me in gambling, but I have become their slave by being won over by their good qualities. And dwelling with them I have forgotten my woes.

So know that here I bear the name of Akṣakṣapaṇaka,[8] a name suited to my condition. Here I have lived with these excellent men of good family, who conceal their real position, and now you have joined us. So now you are our chief; and it was with this view that we took that money of yours originally, being charmed with your virtues.


163. Story of Mṛgāṅkadatta

“When Akṣakṣapaṇaka had told his story in these words, all the others in succession also told their adventures. And Prince Bhīmabhaṭa perceived that his friends were heroes, who had disguised their real character by taking up gambling practices for the sake of gaining wealth, so he had much more pleasant chat with them, and spent the day in amusement; and then seeing that the eastern quarter had adorned its face with the rising moon, as with an ornamental patch,[9] he went from that garden with Akṣakṣapaṇaka and the other six to their dwelling. And while he was there with them the rainy season arrived, seeming to announce with the roarings of its joyous clouds his recovery of his friend. And then the impetuous river there, named Vipāśā, that flowed into the sea, was filled with an influx of sea-water and began to flow backwards, and it deluged that shore with a great inundation, and then, owing to the cessation of that influx,[10] it seemed to flow on again to the sea. Now at that time the sudden influx of sea-water brought in a great fish, and on account of its unwieldy size it was stranded on the bank of the river. And the inhabitants, when they saw the fish stranded, ran forward with all kinds of weapons to kill it, and ripped open its stomach. And when its stomach was cut open, there came out of it alive a young Brāhman; and the people, astonished at that strange sight, raised a shout.[11] When Bhīmabhaṭa heard that, he went there with his friends, and saw his friend Śaṅkhadatta, who had just issued from the inside of the fish. So he ran and embraced him, and bedewed him with copious tears, as if he wished to wash off the evil smell he had contracted by living in the gulf of the fish’s maw.[12] Śaṅkhadatta, for his part, having escaped that calamity, and having found and embraced his friend, went from joy to joy. Then being questioned out of curiosity by Bhīmabhaṭa, he gave this brief account of his adventures.

“‘On that occasion, when I was swept out of your sight by the force of the waves of the Ganges, I was suddenly swallowed by a very large fish. Then I remained for a long time inside the capacious habitation of his stomach, eating in my hunger his flesh, which I cut off with a knife. To-day Providence somehow or other brought this fish here, and threw it up upon the bank, so that it was killed by these men and I was taken out of its stomach. I have seen again you and the light of the sun; the horizon has been once more illuminated for me. This, my friend, is the story of my adventures; I know no more than this.’

“When Śaṅkhadatta said this, Bhīmabhaṭa and all that were present exclaimed in astonishment:

‘To think that he should have been swallowed in the Ganges by a fish, and that that fish should have got into the sea, and then that from the sea it should have been brought into the Vipāśā, and that it should have been killed, and then that Śaṅkhadatta should have come out of it alive! Ah! the way of fate is inscrutable, and wonderful are its works!’

While uttering such remarks with Akṣakṣapaṇaka and the others, Bhīmabhaṭa took Śaṅkhadatta to his own dwelling. And there in the high delight he entertained, with a bath, clothes and other needful things, his friend, who had, as it were, been born a second time with the same body from the belly of a fish.

“And while Bhīmabhaṭa was living with him in that country, there came on there a festive procession in honour of Vāsuki, the King of the Snakes. In order to see it, the prince went, surrounded with his friends, to the temple of that chief of the snakes, where great crowds were assembling. He worshipped there in the temple, where his idol was, which was full of long wreaths[13] of flowers in form like serpents, and which therefore resembled the abyss of Pātāla; and then going in a southerly direction, he beheld a great lake sacred to Vāsuki, studded with red lotuses, resembling the concentrated gleams of the brilliance of the jewels on snakes’ crests,[14] and encircled with blue lotuses, which seemed like clouds of smoke from the fire of snake-poison, overhung with trees, that seemed to be worshipping with their flowers blown down by the wind.

When he saw it, he said to himself in astonishment:

‘Compared with this expanded lake, that sea from which Viṣṇu carried off the Goddess of Fortune seems to me to be only worthy of neglect, for its fortune of beauty is not to be taken from it by anything else.’[15]

In the meanwhile he saw a maiden, who had come there to bathe, by name Haṃsāvalī, the beautiful daughter of Candrāditya, King of Lāṭa, by Kuvalayavatī; her mortal nature, which was concealed by all her other members moulded like those of gods, was revealed by the winking of her rolling eye. She had ten million perfections darting forth from her flower-soft body, she was with her waist, that might be spanned with the hand, a very bow of Kāma, and the moment she looked at Bhīmabhaṭa she pierced him in the heart with the sidelong arrows of her eyes, and bewildered him.[16] He too, who was a thief of the world’s beauty, entered by the oblique path of her eyes the treasure-chamber of her heart, and robbed her of her self-control. Then she sent secretly a trustworthy and discreet maid, and inquired from his friends his name and residence. And after she had bathed she was taken back to her palace by her attendants, frequently turning round her face to fix her eyes on him. And then Bhīmabhaṭa, accompanied by his friends, went to his dwelling, with faltering steps, for he was entangled with the net which his beloved had cast over him.

“And immediately the Princess Haṃsāvalī sent that maid to him as an ambassadress of love, with the message for which he longed.

The maid came up to him and said to him in secret:

‘Prince, the Princess Haṃsāvalī solicits you thus:

“When you see me, who love you, being carried away by the stream of love, you should rescue me quickly; you should not remain indifferent upon the bank.”[17]

“When Bhīmabhaṭa heard from the messenger the nectar of his beloved’s message, he was delighted at having his life saved, and said to her:

‘I am in the current, I am not upon the bank: does not my beloved know that? But, now that I have obtained some hope to cling to,[18] I will gladly do her bidding. I will this night come and wait upon her in her private apartments, and no one shall see me, for I will enter concealed by a charm.’

When he said this to the maid she was pleased, and went and told it to Haṃsāvalī, and then she remained anxiously expecting an interview with him.

“And he, in the early part of the night, went adorned with heavenly ornaments, and making himself invisible, by repeating forwards the charm bestowed on him by Gaṅgā, entered her splendid chamber, which suggested thoughts of love, which was perfumed with aloes and adorned with nosegays of flowers of five hues arranged there, and which therefore resembled the garden of the God of Love, where he beheld that lovely one exhaling heavenly fragrance, like a blossom put forth by the creeper of the wonderful charm bestowed by Gaṅgā. And then the handsome prince recited the charm backwards, and immediately became visible to that princess.

“When he beheld her timidly trembling with a joyful agitation that made her hair stand on end,[19] his ornaments immediately tinkled like musical instruments, and he seemed to be dancing with joy to their music. And the maiden hid her face with the shame of love, and seemed to be asking her heart, that caused all that display of emotion, what she was to do now.

Then Bhīmabhaṭa said to her:

‘Fair one, why do you allow your heart to exhibit shame, though its feelings have been already revealed? It does not deny the state of affairs; besides, how is it possible to conceal this trembling of the limbs and this bursting bodice?’

Then Bhīmabhaṭa with such words, and other loving persuasions, made the fair one forget her modesty, and married her by the gāndharva form of marriage. And after he had spent that night with her, in sporting like a bee round the lotus of her mouth, he at last tore himself away, and saying, ‘I will come again at night,’ returned to his house.

“And when the chamberlains belonging to Haṃsāvalī entered her chamber the next morning, they saw that her lover had been with her. The ends of her curls were disordered, she had marks of moist teeth and nails,[20] and she seemed as if the God of Love had appeared in person and afflicted her with the wounds of all his arrows. They immediately went and reported the matter to the king, and he secretly appointed spies to watch at night. And Bhīmabhaṭa spent the day with his friends in their usual employments, and in the beginning of the night again repaired to the bower of his beloved. When the spies saw that he had entered without being seen, by virtue of his charm, and discovered that he had supernatural powers, they went out and told the king, and he gave them this order:

‘The being who has entered a well-guarded room without being seen cannot be a mere man; so bring him here, that I may see what this means.

And say to him politely from me:

“Why did you not openly ask me for my daughter? Why did you make a secret of it? For it is difficult to obtain a bridegroom for my daughter as accomplished as yourself.”’

“When the king had sent off the spies with this message, they went as he commanded, and stood at the door and delivered this message to Bhīmabhaṭa. And the resolute prince, perceiving that the king had discovered him, answered them boldly from inside:

‘Tell the king from me that tomorrow I will enter his hall of audience and tell him the truth, for now it is the dead of night.’

They then went and gave this message to the king, and he remained silent. And in the morning Bhīmabhaṭa went to rejoin his friends. And putting on a magnificent costume, he went with those seven heroes to the hall of King Candrāditya. When the king saw his splendour, his resolute bearing and handsome appearance, he received him kindly, and made him sit on a throne equal to his own; and then his friend, the Brāhman Śaṅkhadatta, said to the king:

‘King, this is the son of Ugrabhaṭa, the King of Rāḍhā, Bhīmabhaṭa by name; his might is irresistible on account of the wonderful power of the charm which he possesses. And he has come here to sue for the hand of your daughter.’

“When the king heard that, he remembered the occurrence of the night; and seeing that he was a suitable match for his daughter, he exclaimed, ‘I am fortunate indeed!’ and accepted the proposal. And after he had made splendid preparations for the marriage, he bestowed his daughter Haṃsāvalī on Bhīmabhaṭa with much wealth. Then Bhīmabhaṭa, having obtained many elephants, horses and villages, remained there in great comfort, possessed of Haṃsāvalī and the Goddess of Fortune. And in a few days his father-in-law gave him that kingdom of Lāṭa, and, being childless and old, retired to the forest. Then the successful Bhīmabhaṭa, having obtained that kingdom, ruled it admirably with the help of those seven heroes, Śaṅkhadatta and the others.

“Then, in the course of some days, he heard from his spies that his father, King Ugrabhaṭa, had gone to Prayāga and died there; and that when he was intent on death he had anointed his younger son, Samarabhaṭa, the son of the dancing-girl, king of Rāḍhā. Then he mourned his father, and performed his funeral ceremonies, and sent a messenger to that Samarabhaṭa with a letter.

And in the letter he sent the following message to the pretender who was treating him unjustly:

‘Foolish son of a dancing-girl, what business have you to sit on my father’s throne? for it belongs to me, though I have this kingdom of Lāṭa; so you must not ascend it.’

And the messenger went, and, after announcing himself, delivered the letter to that Samarabhaṭa, when he was in the hall of assembly. And when Samarabhaṭa read this letter of such an import, under his brother’s sign manual, he was angry, and answered:

‘This baseless presumption is becoming in this ill-conducted man, who was long ago banished by my father from the country because he was not fit to remain in it. Even the jackal apes the lion, when he is comfortably ensconced in his native cavern; but when he comes within view of the lion, he is discovered to be only a jackal.’

Such was the answer he roared forth, and he wrote to the same effect in a letter, and sent his return-messenger to carry it to Bhīmabhaṭa.

“So the return-messenger went and gave, when introduced by the warder, that letter to the King of Lāṭa. And when Bhīmabhaṭa had read that letter, he laughed loudly, and said to the return-messenger of his brother:

‘Go, messenger, and tell that dancing-girl’s son from me:

“On that former occasion when you tried to seize the horse, I saved you from Śaṅkhadatta, because you were a child and dear to my father, but I will no longer endure your insolence. I will certainly send you to my father who is so fond of you. Make ready, and know that in a few days I shall have arrived.”’

With these words he dismissed the messenger, and then he began his expedition.

When that moon of kings, glorious in his magnificence,[21] mounted his elephant, which resembled a hill, the great sea of his army was agitated, and surged up with a roar, and the horizon was filled with innumerable feudal chiefs and princes arrived for war,[22] and setting out with their forces; and the earth, swiftly trampled by the elephants and horses trooping along in great numbers, groaned and trembled under the weight, as if afraid of being cleft open. In this fashion Bhīmabhaṭa marched, and came near Rāḍhā, eclipsing the light of the sun in the heavens with the clouds of dust raised by his army.

“In the meanwhile King Samarabhaṭa heard of it, and became indignant; and armed himself, and went out with his army to meet him in battle. And those two armies met, like the eastern and western seas, and a great battle took place between the heroes on both sides, awful as the destruction of the world. Then the fire, produced by the loud clashing of swords, which seemed as if it had been kindled by the gnashing of the teeth of the angry God of Death, hid the sky; and javelins flew with their long points resembling eyelashes, and seemed like the glances of the nymphs of heaven, as they gazed on the warriors. Then the field of battle appeared like a stage; its canopy was dust, its music was the shouting of the army, and its dancers palpitating trunks. And a furious[23] torrent of blood, sweeping along heads, and garlanded with trunks, carried off all living creatures, like the night of destruction at the end of the world.

“But the archer Bhīmabhaṭa soon routed the army of his enemies, by means of a combined attack of the mighty warriors Śaṅkhadatta and Akṣakṣapaṇaka and Caṇḍabhujaṅga and his fellows skilled in wrestling, resembling impetuous elephants. And Samarabhaṭa was furious when his army was routed, and he dashed forward on his chariot and began to churn the sea of battle, as Mount Mandara churned the ocean.[24] Then Bhīmabhaṭa, who was mounted on an elephant, attacked him, and cut his bow in two with his arrows, and also killed all the four horses of his chariot. Then Samarabhaṭa, being prevented from using his chariot, ran and struck with a javelin on the forehead the splendid elephant of Bhīmabhaṭa, and the elephant, as soon as it was struck, fell dead on the ground. Then both of them, being deprived of their means of conveyance, had to fight on foot. And the two angry kings, armed with sword and shield, engaged in single combat. But Bhīmabhaṭa, though he might have made himself invisible by means of his charm, and so have killed him, out of regard for fairness would not kill his enemy in that way. But being a skilful swordsman, he contended against him in open fight, and cut off with his sword the head of that son of the dancing-girl.

“And when that Samarabhaṭa was slain with his soldiers, and the bands of the Siddhas had applauded from the heavens, and the fight had come to an end, Bhīmabhaṭa with his friends entered the city of Rāḍhā, being praised by heralds and minstrels. Then returning from a long absence, after slaying his enemy, he delighted his mother, who was eager to behold him, as Rāma did Kauśalyā. And the citizens welcomed him; and then he adorned the throne of his father, and took his seat on it, honoured by his father’s ministers, who loved his good qualities. And then he honoured all his subjects, who made high festival. And on a lucky day he gave to Śaṅkhadatta the kingdom of Lāṭa. And he sent him to the territory of Lāṭa, escorted by a force composed of natives of that country; and he gave villages and wealth to Akṣakṣapaṇaka and his fellows, and he remained surrounded by them, ruling his ancestral realm, with that Queen Hamsāvalī, the daughter of the King of Lāṭa. And, in course of time, he conquered the earth, and carried off the daughters of kings, and became exclusively addicted to the enjoyment of their society. And he devolved his duties on his ministers, and amused himself with the women of his harem, and never left his precincts, being engrossed with drinking and other vices.

“Then one day the hermit Uttaṅka came of his own accord to visit him, as if he were the time of accomplishment of the previous decree of Śiva. And when the hermit came to the door, the king, being blinded with passion, intoxication and pride of sovereignty, would not listen, though the warders announced his arrival.

Then the hermit was angry, and denounced this curse on the king:

‘O man blinded with intoxication, you shall fall from your throne and become a wild elephant.’

When the king heard that, fear dispelled his intoxication, and he went out and, prostrating himself at the feet of the hermit, began to appease him with humble words.

Then the anger of the great sage was calmed, and he said to him:

‘King, you must become an elephant: that decree cannot be altered.[25] But when you shall have relieved a minister of Mṛgāṅkadatta’s, named Pracaṇḍaśakti, afflicted with the curse of a Nāga and blinded, who shall become your guest, and shall tell him your story, you shall be delivered from this curse; and you shall return to the state of a Gandharva, as Śiva foretold you, and then that guest of yours shall recover the use of his eyes.’

When the hermit Uttaṅka had said this, he returned as he came, and Bhīmabhaṭa was hurled from his throne, and became an elephant.

“So know, my friend, that I am that very Bhīmabhaṭa become an elephant, and you are Pracaṇḍaśakti. I know that my curse is now at an end.”

When Bhīmabhaṭa had.said this, he abandoned the form of an elephant, and at once became a Gandharva of heavenly might. And immediately Pracaṇḍaśakti recovered, to his intense delight, the use of his eyes, and looked upon that Gandharva there. And in the meanwhile the discreet Mṛgāṅkadatta, who had heard their conversation from the bower of creepers, with his other ministers, having discovered that it was indeed his friend, rushed quickly and impetuously forth, and threw his arms round the neck of his minister Pracaṇḍaśakti. And Pracaṇḍaśakti looked at him, and feeling as if his body had been irrigated with a sudden flood of nectar, immediately embraced the feet of his lord.

Then the Gandharva Bhīmabhaṭa comforted those two, who were weeping, both deeply moved at being reunited after so long a separation. And Mṛgāṅkadatta, bowing, said to that Gandharva:

“That I have recovered this friend of mine, and that he has recovered his eyesight, is all due to your wondrous might. Honour to you!”

When the Gandharva heard that, he said to that prince:

“You shall soon recover all your other ministers, and obtain Śaśāṅkavatī as a wife, and become king of the whole earth. So you must not lose heart. Now, auspicious one, I depart; but I will appear to you when you think of me.”

When the matchless chief of the Gandharvas had said this to the prince, and so testified his friendship for him, as his curse was at an end, and he had obtained prosperous felicity, he flew swiftly up into the sky, making the whole air resound with the tinkling of his beautiful bracelet and necklace.

And Mṛgāṅkadatta, having recovered Pracaṇḍaśakti, and so regained his spirits, spent that day in the wood, accompanied by his ministers.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. Vol. III, pp. 218, 218n1, 219.


The Sanskrit College MS. reads na for tu.


I read jānāsi with the Sanskrit College MS. instead of jānāmi which Dr Brockhaus gives in his text.


See Vol. V, p. 190. With us it is the moon that is the “lamp of Heaven,” while Milton (Comus, 200-204) calls the stars “lamps.” But Shakespeare refers to the setting sun as a “sleepy lamp” (All’s Well, ii, 1, l67), and in Greek mythology we have the “Lamp of Phoebus.”—n.m.p.


This corresponds to Southern Gujarat, including Khandesh, situated between the River Mahi and the Lower Tapti. It is the Λαρικη of Ptolemy, the Lāṭhikā of the Dhauli inscription, and the Rāṣṭikā (Riṣṭika) of the Girnār inscription of Aśoka. Marco Polo speaks of the Province of Lar, and Yule (Marco Polo, vol. ii, p. 367n1) says Lāt-desa “was an early name for the territory of Guzerat and the northern Konkan, embracing Saimur, Tana and Baroch.” He adds: " The sea to the west of that coast was in early Mahomedan times called the Sea of Lār, and the language spoken on its shores is called by Mas’udi Lār.” For further references see Nundolal Dey, op. cit.; Ind. Ant., vol. II, 1922, p. 114. —n.m.p.


An elaborate pun! varṇa = caste and also colour: kalā = digit of the moon and accomplishment, or fine art: doṣākara = mine of crimes and also the moon.


I read prāpnomyaham, the reading of the Sanskrit College MS.


I.e. dice-mendicant.


I.e. ṭiklī, or more possibly tilaka. For details see Vol. II, pp. 22n3, 23n.—n.m.p.


I conjecture oghapraśāntyaiva.


Cf. No. lxvi in the English Gesta, p. 298 of Herrtage’s edition, and the end of No. xii of Miss Stokes’ Indian Fairy Tales. See also Prym and Socin, Syrische Märchen, pp. 83, 84.——See Vol. II, pp. 192, 193, 193n1.—n.m.p.


Cf. Odyssey, Book IV, pp. 441-442.


I read dāmabhiḥ for dhāmabhiḥ.


Benfey (Pantschatantra, vol. i, p. 214 n) traces this superstition through all countries.——See Vol. IV, p. 245, 245n1.—n.m.p.


This passage is a concatenation of puns.


The whole passage is an elaborate pun. The lady is compared to a bow, the string of which vibrates in the notches, and the middle of which is held in the hand.


I read, with the MS. in the Sanskrit College, drutam anuddhṛtya for drutam anugatya.


As a life-buoy to prevent him from drowning.


See Vol. I, pp. 120, 120n1, 184.—n.m.p.


See Vol. V, pp. 193-195.—n.m.p.


When applied to the moon, it means “glorious in its rising.”


Böhtlingk and Roth give upasaṅkhya as überzählig (?).


I adopt pramattā, the reading of the Sanskrit College MS.


The gods and Asuras used it as a churning-stick at the Churning of the Ocean for the recovery of the Amṛta and other precious things lost daring the Deluge.


See p. 103n1.—n.m.p.

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