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 again went and took that Vetāla from the śiṃśapā tree and put him on his shoulder, and set out with him; and as he was going along, the Vetāla on his shoulder said to him:

“Listen, King, I will tell you an interesting story.


163g (11). King Dharmadhvaja and his Three Very Sensitive Wives[1]

There lived of old in Ujjayinī a king of the name of Dharmadhvaja; he had three wives, who were all daughters of kings, and whom he held very dear. The first of them was called Indulekhā, the second Tārāvalī, and the third Mṛgāṅkavatī; and they were all possessed of extraordinary personal charms. And the successful king, who had conquered all his enemies, lived happily, amusing himself with all those three queens.

Once on a time, when the festival of the spring season had arrived, he went wdth all those three wives to the garden to amuse himself. There he beheld the creepers weighed down with flowers, looking like Kāma’s bows, with rows of bees for strings, strung for him by the spring. And the king, who resembled the mighty Indra, hearing the notes which the cuckoos uttered on the sprays of the garden trees, like the edict of Love, the god of enjoyment, betook himself with his wives to wrine, which is the very life of that intoxication by which Kāma lives. And he joyed in drinking the liquor first tasted by them, perfumed with their sighs, red as their bimba lips.[2]

Then, as Indulekhā was playfully pulling the hair of the king, a blue lotus leaped from her ear and fell on her lap. Immediately a wound was produced on the front of her thigh by the blow, and the delicate princess exclaimed, “Oh! Oh!”

and fainted. When the king and the attendants saw that, they were distracted with grief, but they gradually brought her round with cold water and fanning. Then the king took her to the palace and had a bandage applied to the wound, and treated her with preparations made by the physicians.

And at night, seeing that she was going on well, the king retired with the second, Tārāvalī, to an apartment on the roof of the palace exposed to the rays of the moon. There the rays of the moon, entering through the lattice, fell on the body of the queen, who was sleeping by the king’s side, where it was exposed by her garment blowing aside. Immediately she woke up, exclaiming, “Alas, I am burned!” and rose up from the bed rubbing her limbs.

The king woke up in a state of alarm, crying out:

“What is the meaning of this?”

Then he got up and saw that blisters had been produced on the queen’s body.

And the Queen Tārāvalī said to him when he questioned her:

“The moon’s rays falling on my exposed body have done this to me.”

When she said this, and burst into tears, the king, being distressed, summoned her attendants, who ran there in trepidation and alarm. And he had made for her a bed of lotus leaves, sprinkled wdth water, and sandalwood lotion applied to her body.

In the meanwhile his third wife Mṛgāṅkavatī heard of it, and left her palace to come to him. And when she had got into the open air, she heard distinctly, as the night was still, the sound of a pestle pounding rice in a distant house.

The moment the gazelle-eyed one heard it she said,

“Alas, I am killed!”

and she sat down on the path, shaking her hands in an agony of pain. Then the girl turned back, and was conducted by her attendants to her own chamber, where she fell on the bed, and groaned. And when her weeping attendants examined her, they saw that her hands were covered with bruises, and looked like lotuses upon which black bees had settled. So they went and told the king. The King Dharmadhvaja arrived in a state of consternation, and asked his beloved what it all meant.

Then the tortured queen showed him her hands, and said to him:

“As soon as I heard the sound of the pestle, these became covered with bruises.”

Then the king, filled with surprise and despondency, had sandalwood[3] unguent and other remedies applied to her hands, in order to allay the pain.

He reflected:

“One of my queens has been wounded by the fall of a lotus, the second has had her body burned even by the rays of the moon, and alas! the third has got such terrible bruises produced on her hands by the mere sound of a pestle. By a dispensation of fate the excessive delicacy, which is the distinguishing excellence of my queens, has now become in them all, at one and the same time, a defect.”

Engaged in such reflections the king wandered round the women’s apartments, and the night of three watches passed for him as tediously as if it had consisted of a hundred watches. But the next morning the physicians and surgeons took measures which caused him soon to be comforted by the recovery of his wives.


163g. King Trivikramasena and the Mendicant

When the Vetāla had told this very wonderful story, he put this question to King Trivikramasena from his seat on his shoulder:

“Tell me, King, which was the most delicate of those queens; and the curse I before mentioned will take effect if you know and do not say.”

When the king heard that, he answered:

“The most delicate of all was the lady upon whose hands bruises were produced by merely hearing the sound of the pestle, without toucing it. But the other two were no match for her, because the wound of the one and the blisters of the other were produced by contact with the lotus and the rays of the moon respectively.”

When the king had said this, the Vetāla again left his shoulder and returned to his own place, and the persevering king again set out to fetch him.

Footnotes and references:


See Appendix, pp. 204-211. —n.m.p.


See Ocean, Vol. I, p. 31n2; also Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index, vol. ii, p. 68. —n.m.p.


See note on pp. 105-107.—n.m.p.

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