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 the brave King Trivikramasena, disregarding the awful night, which in that terrible cemetery assumed the appearance of a Rākṣasī, being black with darkness, and having the flames of the funeral pyres for fiery eyes, again went to the śiṃśapā tree, and took from it the Vetāla, and put him on his shoulder.

And while he was going along with him, as before, the Vetāla again said to that king:

“O King, I am tired out with going backwards and forwards, though you are not; so I will put to you one difficult question, and mind you listen to me.


163g (24). The Father that married the Daughter and the Son that married the Mother[1]

There was in the Deccan a king of a small province, who was named Dharma; he was the chief of virtuous men, but he had many relations who aspired to supplant him. He had a wife named Candravatī, who came from the land of Mālava; she was of high lineage, and the most virtuous of women. And that king had born to him by that wife one daughter, who was not without cause named Lāvaṇyavatī.[2]

And when that daughter had attained a marriageable age, King Dharma was ejected from his throne by his relations, who banded together and divided his realm. Then he fled from his kingdom at night with his wife and that daughter, taking with him a large number of valuable jewels, and he deliberately set out for Mālava, the dwelling-place of his father-in-law. And in the course of that same night he reached the Vindhya forest with his wife and daughter. And when he entered it, the night, that had escorted him thus far, took leave of him with drops of dew by way of tears. And the sun ascended the eastern mountain, stretching forth its first rays, like a warning hand, to dissuade him from entering that brigand-haunted wood. Then he travelled through it with his wife and daughter, having his feet wounded with sharp points of kuśa grass, and he reached a village of the Bhillas. It was full of men who robbed their neighbours of life and property, and shunned by the virtuous, like the strong city of Death.

Then beholding the king from a distance with his dress and ornaments, many Śavaras, armed with various weapons, ran to plunder him. When King Dharma saw that, he said to his daughter and wife: “The barbarians will seize on you first, so enter the wood in this direction.”

When the king said this to them, Queen Candravatī and her daughter Lāvaṇyavatī, in their terror, plunged into the middle of the wood. And the brave king, armed with sword and shield, killed many of the Śavaras, who came towards him, raining arrows. Then the chief summoned the whole village, and falling on the king, who stood there alone, they slashed his shield to pieces and killed him; and then the host of bandits departed with his ornaments. And Queen Candravatī, concealed in a thicket of the wood, saw from a distance her husband slain; so in her bewilderment she fled with her daughter, and they entered another dense forest a long distance off. There they found that the shadows of the trees, afflicted by the heat of midday, had laid themselves at their cool roots, imitating travellers. So, tired and sad, the queen sat down weeping with her daughter, in a spot on the bank of a lotus-lake, under the shade of an aśoka tree.

In the meanwhile a chief, who lived near, came to that forest on horseback, with his son, to hunt.

He was named Caṇḍasiṃha, and when he saw their footsteps imprinted in the dust, he said to his son Siṃhaparākrama:

“We will follow up these lovely and auspicious tracks, and if we find the ladies to whom they belong, you shall choose whichever you please of them.”

When Caṇḍasiṃha said this, his son Siṃhaparākrama said to him:

“I should like to have for a wife the one that has these small feet, for I know that she will be young and suited to me. But this one with large feet, being older than the other, will just suit you.”

When Caṇḍasiṃha heard this speech of his son’s, he said to him:

“What is this that you say? Your mother has only recently gone to heaven, and now that I have lost so good a wife, how can I desire another?”

When Caṇḍasiṃha’s son heard that, he said to him:

“Father, do not say so, for the home of a householder is empty without a wife. Moreover, have you not heard the stanza composed by Mūladeva? ‘Who that is not a fool enters that house in which there is no shapely love eagerly awaiting his return, which, though called a house, is really a prison without chains.’ So, father, my death will lie at your door if you do not take as your wife that companion of the lady whom I have chosen.”

When Caṇḍasiṃha heard this speech of his son’s, he approved it, and went on slowly with him, tracking up their footsteps. And he reached that spot near the lake, and saw that dark Queen Candravatī, adorned with many strings of pearls,[3] sitting in the shade of a tree. She looked like the midnight sky in the middle of the day, and her daughter, Lāvaṇyavatī, like the pure white moonlight, seemed to illumine her. And he and his son eagerly approached her, and she, when she saw him, rose up terrified, thinking that he was a bandit.

But the queen’s daughter said to her:

“Mother, do not be afraid; these are not bandits; these two gentle-looking, well-dressed persons are certainly some nobles come here to hunt.”

However, the queen still continued to hesitate; and then Caṇḍasiṃha got down from his horse and said to the two ladies:

“Do not be alarmed: we have come here to see you out of love; so take confidence[4] and tell us fearlessly who you are, since you seem like Rati and Prīti fled to this wood in sorrow at Kāma’s having been consumed by the flames of Śiva’s fiery eye. And how did you two come to enter this unpeopled wood? For these forms of yours are fitted to dwell in a gem-adorned palace. And our minds are tortured to think how your feet, that deserve to be supported by the lap of beautiful women, can have traversed this ground full of thorns. And, strange to say, the dust raised by the wind, falling on your faces, makes our faces lose their brightness from despondency.[5] And the furious heat of the beams of the fierce-rayed sun, as it plays on your flower-soft bodies, burns us. So tell us your story; for our hearts are afflicted: we cannot bear to see you thus abiding in a forest full of wild beasts.”

When Caṇḍasiṃha said this, the queen sighed, and, full of shame and grief, slowly told him her story. Then Caṇḍasiṃha, seeing that she had no protector, comforted her and her daughter, and coaxed them with kind words into becoming members of his family. And he and his son put the queen and her daughter on their horses, and conducted them to their rich palace in Vittapapurī. And the queen, being helpless, submitted to his will, as if she had been born again in a second life. What is an unprotected woman, fallen into calamity in a foreign land, to do? Then Siṃhaparākrama, the son of Caṇḍasiṃha, made Candravatī his wife, on account of the smallness of her feet. And Caṇḍasiṃha made her daughter, the Princess Lāvaṇyavatī, his wife, on account of the largeness of her feet. For they made this agreement originally, when they saw the two tracks of the small footsteps; and who ever swerves from his plighted word?

So, from the mistake about the feet, the daughter became the wife of the father, and the mother the wife of the son; and so the daughter became the mother-in-law of her own mother, and the mother became the daughter-in-law of her own daughter. And in course of time both of them had by those husbands sons and daughters, and they also had sons and daughters in due course of time. So Caṇḍasiṃha and Siṃhaparākrama lived in their city, having obtained as wives Lāvaṇyavatī and Candravatī.”


163g. King Trivikramasena and the Mendicant

When the Vetāla had told this story on the way at night, he again put a question to King Trivikramasena:

“Now, King, about the children who were in course of time born to the mother and daughter by the son and the father in those two lines—what relationship did they bear to one another? Tell me if you know. And the curse before threatened will descend on you if you know and do not tell.”

When the king heard this question of the Vetāla’s, he turned the matter over and over again in his mind, but he could not find out, so he went on his way in silence.

Then the Vetāla in the dead man’s body, perched on the top of his shoulder, laughed to himself, and reflected:

“Ha! ha! the king does not know how to answer this puzzling question, so he is glad, and silently goes on his way with very nimble feet. Now I cannot manage to deceive this treasure-house of valour any further,[6] and this is not enough to make that mendicant stop playing tricks with me, so I will now deceive that villain, and by an artifice bestow the success, which he has earned, upon this king, whom a glorious future awaits.”

When the Vetāla had gone through these reflections, he said to the king:

“King, though you have been worried with so many journeys to and fro in this cemetery terrible with black night, you seem quite happy, and you do not show the least irresolution. I am pleased with this wonderful courage that you show.[7] So now carry off this body, for I am going out of it; and listen to this advice which I give you for your welfare, and act on it. That wicked mendicant, for whom you have fetched this human corpse, will immediately summon me into it, and honour me.

And wishing to offer you up as a victim, the rascal will say to you:

‘King, prostrate yourself on the ground in such a way that eight limbs will touch it.’

Then, great King, you must say to that ascetic[8]:

‘Show me first how to do it, and then I will do exactly as you do.’

Then he will fling himself on the ground, and show you how to perform the prostration, and that moment you must cut off his head with the sword. Then you will obtain that prize which he desires, the sovereignty of the Vidyādharas. Enjoy this earth by sacrificing him! But otherwise that mendicant will offer you up as a victim. It was to prevent this that I threw obstacles in your way for such a long time here. So depart; may you prosper!”

When the Vetāla had said this, he went out of that human corpse that was on the king’s shoulder.

Then the king was led by the speech of the Vetāla, who was pleased with him, to look upon the ascetic Kṣāntiśīla as his enemy, but he went to him in high spirits, where he sat under the banyan-tree, and took with him that human corpse.

Footnotes and references:


See Appendix, p. 262.—n.m.p.


I.e. possessed of beauty.


By reading muktātāraughamaṇḍitām, with the D. text, we see it was rather the great splendour of the orients (pearls of the finest water) that attracted Caṇḍasiṃha.—n.m.p.


I read viśvasya, with the Sanskrit College MS., in place of viśramya, which means “having rested.”


I adopt Dr Kern’s conjecture of hata for ahata.


I read param, with the MS. in the Sanskrit College.


This idea is found also in European story-books. See Kuhn’s Sagen aus Westfalen, p. 277: “Diese Unerschrockenheit gefiel dem Teufel so sehr, dass sick sein Zorn nicht nur legte, sondern,” etc. See also Grimm’s Irische Elfenmärchen which is based on Croker’s Tales), p. 8.



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