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

SO King Trivikramasena again went to the śiṃśapā tree, and taking the Vetāla down from it, placed him on his shoulder, and set out.

Then the Vetāla said to him:

“King, this wandering about in a cemetery at night is inconsistent with your kingly rank. Do you not see that this place of the dead[1] is full of Bhūtas,[2] and terrible at night, and full of darkness as of the smoke of funeral pyres? Alas, what tenacity you display in this undertaking you have engaged in, to please that mendicant! So listen to this question from me, which will render your journey more agreeable.


163g (9). Anaṅgarati and her Four Suitors[3]

There is in Avanti a city built by gods at the beginning of the world, which is limitless as the body of Śiva, and renowned for enjoyment and prosperity, even as his body is adorned with the snake’s hood and ashes.[4] It was called Padmāvatī in the Kṛta Yuga, Bhogavatī in the Tretā Yuga, Hiraṇyavatī in the Dvāpara Yuga, and Ujjayinī in the Kali Yuga.[5] And in it there lived an excellent king, named Vīradeva, and he had a queen named Padmarati. The king went with her to the bank of the Mandākinī, [see notes on the river Mandākinī] and propitiated Śiva with austerities, in order to obtain a son. And after he had remained a long time engaged in austerities, he performed the ceremonies of bathing and praying, and then he heard this voice from heaven, uttered by Śiva, who was pleased with him:

“King, there shall be born to thee a brave son to be the head of thy family, and a daughter, who with her matchless beauty shall put to shame the nymphs of heaven.”

When King Vīradeva had heard this voice from heaven, he returned to his city with his consort, having gained all he desired. There he first had a son born to him, named Sūradeva, and after a time Queen Padmarati gave birth to a daughter. And her father gave her the name of Anaṅgarati, on the ground that she was beautiful enough to inspire love in the breast of Kāma. And when she grew up, in his desire to procure for her a suitable husband, he had brought the portraits of all the kings of the earth, painted on canvas.

And as no one of them seemed a match for her, he said to his daughter, in his tenderness for her:

“I cannot find a suitable match for you, my daughter, so summon all the kings of the earth, and select your own husband.”

When the princess heard that, she said to her father:

“My father, I am too modest to select my own husband, but I must be given in marriage to a good-looking young man, who is a perfect master of one art; I do not want any other better man.”

When the king heard this speech of his daughter Anaṅgarati, he proceeded to search for a young man such as she had described, and while he was thus engaged, there came to him from the Deccan four magnificent men, brave and skilful, who had heard from the people what was going on. Those four suitors for the hand of the princess were received with respect by the king, and one after another they told to him in her presence their respective acquirements.

The first said:

“I am a Śūdra, Pañcaphuṭṭika by name. I make every day five splendid pairs of garments: the first of them I give to my god, and the second to a Brāhman, the third I retain for my own wearing,[6] the fourth I should give to my wife, if this maid here were to become my wife, the fifth I sell, and procure myself meat and drink. As I possess this art, let Anaṅgarati be given to me.”

When he had said this, the second man said:

“I am a Vaiśya, Bhāṣājña by name. I know the speech of all beasts and birds,[7] so let the princess be given to me.”

When the second had said this, the third said:

“I am a Kṣatriya king, by name Khaḍgadhara, renowned for might of arm: my equal in the art of swordmanship does not exist upon the earth, so bestow this maiden on me, O King.”

When the third had said this, the fourth said:

“I am a Brāhman, named Jīvadatta, and I possess the following art: I can restore to life dead creatures, and exhibit them alive[8]; so let this maiden obtain for a husband me, who am renowned for daring exploits.”

When they had thus spoken, the King Yīradeva, with his daughter by his side, seeing that they were like gods in shape and dress, remained lost in doubt.


163g. King Trivikramasena and the Mendicant

When the Vetāla had told this story, he said to King Trivikramasena, menacing him with the before-mentioned curse:

“So tell me, King, to which of these four ought the maiden Anaṅgarati to be given?”

When the king heard this, he gave the Vetāla the following answer:

“You are thus repeatedly making me break silence simply in order to waste time; otherwise, master of magic, how could you possibly ask such an absurd question? How can a woman of Kṣatriya caste be given to a Śūdra weaver? Moreover, how can a Kṣatriya woman be given to a Vaiśya? And as to the power of understanding the language of beasts and birds, which he possesses, what is the practical use of it? And as for the fourth, the Brāhman, who fancies himself such a hero, of what worth is he, as he is a sorcerer, and degraded by abandoning the duties of his caste? Accordingly the maiden should be given to the third suitor, the Kṣatriya Khaḍgadhara, who is of the same caste, and distinguished for his skill and valour.”

When the Vetāla heard this, he left the king’s shoulder, as before, and quickly returned by the power of his magic to his own place; and the king again pursued him, as before, to recover him, for despondency never penetrates into a hero’s heart, that is cased in armour of fortitude.

Footnotes and references:


Literally, “grove of ancestors”—i.e. cemetery.-The German “Ahnenhain.” See Vol. VI, p. 254.—n.m.p.


See Vol. I, p. 206; Vol. VI, p. 129; and Crook, Religion and Folk-Lore of Northern India, new edition, 1926, p. 190 et seq.—n.m.p


See Appendix. p. 199.—n.m.p.


Here we have one of the puns in which our author delights.


For a note on the four Yugas, or Ages of the World, see Vol. IV. p. 240n1.—n.m.p.


More literally, “for my own two garments.” A Hindu wears two pieces of cloth.


See Vol. IV, p. 145n1; Herrtage’s edition of the English Gesta Roman-orum, p. 55; the Greek fable of Teiresias, Waldau, Böhmische Märchen, p. 1 [see Frazer, Apollodorus, The Library, vol. i, p. 363]; and Hagen’s Helden-Sagen, vol. ii, p. 24. We are told that Melampus buried the parents of a brood of snakes, and they rewarded him by licking his ears so that he understood the language of birds (Preller, Griechische Mythologie, vol. ii, p. 474).


See Vol. VI, p. 18nl.—n.m.p.

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