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 ...

163g. King Trivikramasena and the Mendicant

THEN King Trivikramasena went back to the śiṃśapā tree, and again found the Vetāla there, and took him on his shoulder. As he was going along with him, the Vetāla said to him on the way:

“King, listen to me. I will tell you a story to make you forget your fatigue.


163g (7). The King who married his Dependent to a Nereid [1]

There is a city on the shore of the eastern sea, named Tāmraliptī. In that city there was a king of the name of Caṇḍasiṃha; he turned away his face from the wives of others, but not from battle-fields; he carried oft the fortune of his foes, but not the wealth of his neighbours.

Once on a time a popular Rājpūt of the Deccan, named Sattvaśīla, came to the palace gate of that king. And he announced himself, and then, on account of his poverty, he and some other Rājpūts tore a ragged garment in the presence of that king. Thus he became a dependent,[2] and remained there for many years perpetually serving the king, but he never received any reward from him.

And he said to himself:

“If I have been born in a royal race, why am I so poor? And considering my poverty is so great, why did my Creator make my ambition so vast? For though I serve the king so diligently, and my followers are sorely afflicted, and I have long been pining with hunger, he has never, up to the present time, deigned to notice me.”

While such were the reflections of the dependent, the king one day went out to hunt. And he went, surrounded with horses and footmen, to the forest of wild beasts, while his dependent ran in front of him bearing a stick. And after he had hunted for some time, he followed up closely a boar that had escaped, and soon he reached another distant wood. And in that vast jungle, where the path was obscured with leaves and grass, the king lost the boar, and he became exhausted, and was unable to find his way. And the dependent was the only one that kept up with him, running on foot, regardless of his own life, tortured with hunger and thirst, though the king was mounted upon a horse swift as the wind.

And the king, when he saw that dependent had followed him, in spite of his being in such a condition, said to him in a kind voice:

“Do you know the way by which we came?”

When the dependent heard that, he put his hands together in an attitude of supplication, and said:

“I do know it. But let my lord rest here for some time; for the sun, which is the centre-jewel of the girdle of the sky-bride, is now burning fiercely with all its rays flickering forth.”

When the king heard this, he said to him graciously:

“Then see if you can find water anywhere here.”

The dependent said, “I will,” and he climbed up a high tree and saw a river, and then he came down again, and led the king to it. And he took the saddle off his horse and let him roll, and gave him water and mouthfuls of grass, and so refreshed him.

And when the king had bathed, he brought out of a corner of his garment delicious[3] āmalaka fruits, and washed them, and gave them to him. And when the king asked where he got them, he said to him, kneeling with the āmalakas in his hand:

“Ten years have now passed since I, living continually on these fruits, have been performing, in order to propitiate my sovereign, the vow of a hermit that does not dwell in solitude.”

When the king heard that, he answered him:

“It cannot be denied that you are rightly named Sattvaśīla.”

And being filled with compassion and shame, he said to himself:

“A curse on kings who do not see who among their servants is comfortable or miserable, and a curse on their courtiers who do not inform them of such matters!”

Such were the king’s thoughts. But he was at last induced by the importunity of the dependent to take two āmalakas from him. And after eating them and drinking water, he rested for a while in the company of the dependent, having satiated his hunger and thirst on fruits and water.

Then his dependent got his horse ready, and he mounted it, and the dependent went in front of him to show him the way; but however much the king entreated him, he would not get up on the horse behind him, and so the king returned to his own city, meeting his army on the way. There he proclaimed the devotion of the dependent; and he loaded him with wealth and territories, and did not consider even then that he had recompensed him as he deserved. Then Sattvaśīla became a prosperous man, and discarding the life of a dependent, he remained henceforth about the person of King Caṇḍasiṃha.

And one day the king sent him to the island of Laṅkā, to demand for him the hand of the king’s daughter. He had to go there by sea; so he worshipped his patron divinity, and went on board a ship, with the Brāhmans whom the king-appointed to accompany him. And when the ship had gone half-way, there suddenly arose from the sea a banner that excited the wonder of all in the ship. It was so lofty that its top touched the clouds; it was made of gold, and emblazoned like a waving flag of various hues. And at that very moment a bank of clouds suddenly arose and began to pour down rain, and a mighty wind blew. And the ship was forced on to that flag by the rain and the wind, and thus fastened to it, as elephant-drivers force on an elephant and bind him to a post. And then the flag began to sink with the ship in the billowy sea.

And then the Brāhmans in the ship, distracted with fear, called on their King Caṇḍasiṃha, crying out for help. And when Sattvaśīla heard their cries, so great was his devotion to his master that he could not restrain himself, but with his sword in his hand, and his upper garment girded round him, the brave fellow daringly plunged into the billows, following the flag, in order to counteract the violence of the sea, not suspecting the real cause. And as soon as he had plunged in, that ship was carried to a distance by the wind and waves, and all the people who were in it fell into the mouths of the sea-monsters.

And when Sattvaśīla, who had fallen into the sea, began to look about him, he found that he was in a splendid city, but he could not see the sea anywhere. That city glittered with palaces of gold supported on pillars of jewels, and was adorned with gardens in which were tanks with steps of precious gems, and in it he beheld the temple of Durgā, lofty as Mount Meru, with many walls of costly stones, and with a soaring banner studded with jewels. There he prostrated himself before the goddess, and praised her with a hymn, and sat down wondering whether it was all the effect of enchantment.

And in the meanwhile a heavenly maiden suddenly opened a door, and issued from a bright enclosure in front of the temple of the goddess. Her eyes were like blue lotuses, her face full-blown, her smile like a flower; her body was soft like the taper fibre of a water-lily’s root, so that she resembled a moving lotus-lake. And waited on by a thousand ladies, she entered the inner shrine of the goddess and the heart of Sattvaśīla at the same time. And after she had worshipped, she left the inner shrine of the goddess, but nothing would make her leave the heart of Sattvaśīla. And she entered once more into the shining enclosure, and Sattvaśīla entered after her.

And when he had entered, he beheld another splendid city, which seemed like a garden where all the enjoyments of the world had agreed to meet. In it Sattvaśīla saw that maiden sitting on a couch studded with gems, and he went up to her and sat down by her side. And he remained with his eyes fixed on her face, like a man in a painting, expressing his passion by his trembling limbs, the hairs on which stood erect.

And when she saw that he was enamoured of her, she looked at the faces of her attendants, and then they, understanding the expression of her face, said to him:

“You have arrived here as a guest, so enjoy the hospitality provided by our mistress. Rise up, bathe, and then take food.”

When he heard that, he entertained some hope, and he rose up, though not without a struggle, and he went to a tank in the garden which they showed him. And the moment that he plunged into it he rose up, to his astonishment, in the middle of a tank in the garden of King Caṇḍasiṃha in Tāmraliptī. And seeing himself suddenly arrived there, he said to himself:

“Alas! what is the meaning of this? Now I am in this garden, and a moment ago I was in that splendid city; I have exchanged in an instant the nectarous vision of that fair one for the grievous poison of separation from her. But it was not a dream, for I saw it all clearly in a waking state. It is clear that I was beguiled like a fool by those maidens of Pātāla.”

Thus reflecting, he wandered about in that garden like a madman, being deprived of that maiden, and wept in the anguish of disappointed passion. And the gardeners, when they beheld him in that state, with body covered with the yellow pollen of flowers wafted by the wind, as if with the fires of separation, went and told King Caṇḍasiṃha, and he, being bewildered, came himself and saw him; and after calming him, he said to him:

“Tell me, my friend, what is the meaning of all this? You set out for one place and reached another; your arrows have not struck the mark at which they were aimed.”

When Sattvaśīla heard that, he told the king all his adventures, and he, when he heard them, said to himself:

“Strange to say, though this man is a hero, he has, happily for me,[4] been beguiled by love, and I now have it in my power to discharge my debt of gratitude to him.”

So the brave king said to him:

“Abandon now your needless grief, for I will conduct you by the same course into the presence of that beloved Asura maiden.”

With these words the king comforted him, and refreshed him with a bath and other restoratives.

The next day the king entrusted the kingdom to his ministers, and, embarking on a ship, set out on the sea with Sattvaśīla, who showed him the way. And when they had got to that half-way spot, Sattvaśīla saw the wonderful flagstaff rising out of the sea with the banner on it, as before, and he said to the king:

“Here is that great flagstaff with such wonderful properties, towering aloft out of the sea: I must plunge in here, and then the king must plunge in also and dive down after the flagstaff.”

After Sattvaśīla had said this, they got near the flagstaff, and it began to sink. And Sattvaśīla first threw himself in after it, and then the king also dived in the same direction, and soon after they had plunged in, they reached that splendid city. And there the king beheld with astonishment and worshipped that goddess Pārvatī, and sat down with Sattvaśīla.

And in the meanwhile there issued from that glittering enclosure a maiden, accompanied by her attendant ladies, looking like the quality of brightness in concrete form. Sattvaśīla said, “This is that fair one,” and the king, beholding her, considered that his attachment to her was amply justified.

She, for her part, when she beheld that king with all the auspicious bodily marks, said to herself:

“Who can this exceedingly distinguished man be?”

And so she went into the temple of Durgā to pray, and the king contemptuously went off to the garden, taking Sattvaśīla with him. And in a short time the Daitya maiden came out from the inner shrine of the goddess, having finished her devotions, and having prayed that she might obtain a good husband; and after she had come out, she said to one of her attendants:

“My friend, go and see where that distinguished man is whom I saw, and entreat him to do us the favour of coming and accepting our hospitality, for he is some great hero deserving special honour.”

When the attendant had received this order, she went and looked for him, and, bending low, delivered to him in the garden the message of her mistress.

Then the heroic king answered in a carelessly negligent tone:

“This garden is sufficient entertainment for me: what other entertainment do I require?”

When that attendant came and reported this answer to the Daitya maiden, she considered that the king was a man of a noble spirit and deserving of the highest regard.

And then the Asura maiden (being, as it were, drawn towards himself with the cord of his self-command by the king, who showed a lofty indifference for hospitality far above mortal desert) went in person to the garden, thinking that he had been sent her by way of a husband, as a fruit of her adoration of Durgā. And the trees seemed to honour her, as she approached, with the songs of various birds, with their creepers bending in the wind like arms, and showers of blossoms. And she approached the king and, bowing courteously before him, entreated him to accept of her hospitality.

Then the king pointed to Sattvaśīla, and said to her:

“I came here to worship the image of the goddess of which this man told me. I have reached her marvellous temple, guided to it by the banner, and have seen the goddess, and, after that, you; what other hospitality do I require?”

When the maiden heard that, she said:

“Then come, out of curiosity, to see my second city, which is the wonder of the three worlds.”

When she said this, the king laughed and said:

“Oh! he told me of this also, the place where there is a tank to bathe in.”

Then the maiden said:

“King, do not speak thus; I am not of a deceitful disposition, and who would think of cheating one so worthy of respect? I have been made the slave of you both by your surpassing excellence; so you ought not thus to reject my offer.”

When the king heard this, he consented, and taking Sattvaśīla with him, he accompanied the maiden to that glittering enclosure. And the door of it was opened, and she conducted him in, and then he beheld that other splendid city of hers. The trees in it were ever producing flowers and fruits, for all seasons were present there at the same time[5]; and the city was all composed of gold and jewels like the peak of Mount Meru.

And the Daitya maiden made the king sit down on a priceless jewelled throne, and offered him the arghya in due form, and said to him:

“I am the daughter of Kālanemi, the high-souled king of the Asuras, but my father was sent to heaven by Viṣṇu, the discus-armed god. And these two cities, which I inherit from my father, are the work of Viśvakarman; they furnish all that heart can wish, and old age and death never invade them. But now I look upon you as a father, and I, with my cities, am at your disposal.”

When she had in these words placed herself and all that she possessed at the king’s disposal, he said to her:

“If this be so, then I give you, excellent daughter, to another—to the hero Sattvaśīla, who is my friend and relation.”

When the king, who seemed to be the favour of the goddess Durgā in bodily form, said this, the maiden, who understood excellence when she saw it, acquiesced submissively.

When Sattvaśīla had attained the wish of his heart by marrying that Asura maiden, and had had the sovereignty of those cities bestowed on him, the king said to him:

“Now I have repaid you for one of those āmalakas which I ate, but I am still indebted to you for the second, for which I have never recompensed you.”

When the king had said this to Sattvaśīla, who bowed before him, he said to that Daitya maiden:

“Now show me the way to my own city.”

Then the Daitya maiden gave him a sword named “Invincible,” and a fruit to eat, which was a remedy against old age and death, and with these he plunged into the tank which she pointed out, and the next thing that happened to him was that he rose up in his own land with all his wishes gratified. And Sattvaśīla ruled as king over the cities of the Daitya princess.


163g. King Trivikramasena and the Mendicant

“Now tell me: which of those two showed most courage in plunging into the water?”

When the Vetāla put this question to the king, the latter, fearing to be cursed, thus answered him:

“I consider Sattvaśīla the braver man of the two, for he plunged into the sea without knowing the real state of the case and without any hope; but the king knew what the circumstances were when he plunged in, and had something to look forward to, and he did not fall in love with the Asura princess, because he thought no longing would win her.”

When the Vetāla received this answer from the king, who thereby broke silence, he left his shoulder, as before, and fled to his place on the śiṃśapā tree. And the king, as before, followed him quickly to bring him back again; for the wise never flag in an enterprise which they have begun until it is finished.

Footnotes and references:


See Appendix, pp. 278-285.—n.m.p.


The word translated "ragged garment” is karpaṭa. The word translated “dependent” is kārpaṭika.——Cf. story No. 69, “King Lakṣadatta and his Dependent Labdhadatta” (Vol. IV, pp. 168-172) and the note on pp. 182-183 of the same volume.—n.m.p.


Hṛdayāni should of course be hṛdyāni, as in the Sanskrit College MS.


More literally “through my merits in a former state of existence.”


Cf. Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Book III, canto 6, stanza 42:

“There is continual spring, and harvest there
Continual, both meeting at one tyme.”

Cf. also Odyssey, vii, 117; and Milton, Paradise Lost, iv, 148.

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