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 (25). Conclusion of King Trivikramasena and the Mendicant[1]

THEN King Trivikramasena came up to that mendicant Kṣāntiśīla, carrying that corpse on his shoulder. And he saw that ascetic, alone at the foot of a tree, in the cemetery that was terrible with a night of the black fortnight, eagerly awaiting his arrival. He was in a circle made with the yellow powder of bones, the ground within which was smeared with blood, and which had pitchers full of blood placed in the direction of the cardinal points.[2] It was richly illuminated with candles of human fat,[3] and near it was a fire fed with oblations; it was full of all the necessary preparations for a sacrifice, and in it the ascetic was engaged in worshipping his favourite deity.

So the king went up to him, and the mendicant, seeing that he had brought the corpse, rose up delighted, and said, praising him:

“Great King, you have conferred on me a favour difficult to accomplish. To think that one like you should undertake this enterprise in such a place and at such a time! Indeed they say with truth that you are the best of all noble kings, being a man of unbending courage,[4] since you forward the interests of another with such utter disregard of self. And wise men say that the greatness of great ones consists in this very thing, that they swerve not from what they have engaged to do, even though their lives are in danger.”

With these words the mendicant, thinking he had gained his end, took the corpse down from the shoulder of that king. And he bathed it, and anointed it, and threw a garland round it, and placed it within that circle. And he smeared his limbs with ashes, and put on a sacrificial thread of hair, and clothed himself in the garments of the dead, and thus equipped he continued for a time in meditation. Then the mendicant summoned that mighty Vetāla by the power of spells, and made him enter the corpse, and proceeded to worship him. He offered to him an argha[5] of white human teeth in a skull by way of an argha vessel; and he presented to him flowers and fragrant unguents; and he gratified him with the savoury reek of human eyes,[6] and made an offering to him of human flesh.

And when he had finished his worship, he said to the king, who was at his side:

“King, fall on the ground, and do obeisance with all your eight limbs to this high sovereign of spells who has appeared here, in order that this bestower of boons may grant you the accomplishment of your heart’s desire.”

When the king heard that, he called to mind the words of the Vetāla, and said to the mendicant:

“I do not know how to do it, reverend sir; do you show me first, and then I will do exactly as you.”

Then the mendicant threw himself on the ground, to show the king what he was to do, and then the king cut off his head with a stroke of his sword. And he tore and dragged[7] the lotus of his heart out of his inside, and offered his heart and head as two lotuses to that Vetāla.

Then the delighted hosts of goblins uttered shouts of applause on every side, and the Vetāla said to the king from inside the corpse:

“King, the sovereignty of the Vidyādharas, which this mendicant was aiming at, shall fall to your lot after you have finished the enjoyment of your earthly sway. Since I have given you much annoyance, choose whatever boon you desire.”

When the Vetāla said this, the king said to him:

“Since you are pleased with me, every boon that I could desire is obtained; nevertheless, as your words cannot be uttered in vain, I crave this boon of you: may these first twenty-four questions and answers, charming with their various tales, and this conclusion, the twenty-fifth of the series, be all famous and honoured on the earth!”

When the king made this request to the Vetāla, the latter replied:

“So be it! And now listen, King; I am going to mention a peculiar excellence which it shall possess. This string of tales, consisting of the twenty-four first, and this final concluding tale, shall become, under the title of ‘The Twenty-five Tales of a Vampire,’ famous and honoured on the earth, as conducing to prosperity! Whosoever shall read respectfully even a śloka of it, or whosoever shall hear it read, even they two shall immediately be freed from their curse. And Yakṣas, and Vetālas, and Kuṣmāṇḍas, and witches, and Rākṣasas, and other creatures of the kind shall have no power where this shall be recited.”

When the Vetāla had said this, he left that human corpse, and went by his supernatural deluding power to the habitation he desired.

Then Śiva, being pleased, appeared, accompanied by all the gods, to that king, visibly manifest, and said to him, as he bowed before him:

“Bravo, my son, for that thou hast to-day slain this hypocritical ascetic, who was so ardently in love with the imperial sovereignty over the Vidyādharas! I originally created thee out of a portion of myself, as Vikramāditya, in order that thou mightest destroy the Asuras, that had become incarnate in the form of Mlecchas. And now thou hast again been created by me as an heroic king of the name of Trivikramasena, in order that thou mightest overcome an audacious evildoer. So thou shalt bring under thy sway the earth with the islands and the realms below, and shalt soon become supreme ruler over the Vidyādharas. And after thou hast long enjoyed heavenly pleasures, thou shalt become melancholy, and shalt of thy own will abandon them, and shalt at last without fail be united with me. Now receive from me this sword named Invincible, by means of which thou shalt duly obtain all this.”

When the god Śiva had said this to the king, he gave him that splendid sword, and disappeared after he had been worshipped by him with devout speeches and flowers.

Then King Trivikramasena, seeing that the whole business was finished, and as the night had come to an end, entered his own city Pratiṣṭhāna. There he was honoured by his rejoicing subjects, who in course of time came to hear of his exploits during the night, and he spent the whole of that day in bathing, giving gifts, in worshipping Śiva, in dancing, singing, music and other enjoyments of the kind. And in a few days that king, by the power of the sword of Śiva, came to enjoy the earth, that was cleared of all enemies, together with the islands and the lower regions; and then by the appointment of Śiva he obtained the high imperial sovereignty over the Vidyādharas, and after enjoying it long, at last became united with the blessed one, so attaining all his ends.[8]


163. Story of Mṛgāṅkadatta

When that minister Vikramakeśarin, meeting in the way the successful[9] Prince Mṛgāṅkadatta, after he had been long separated from him by a curse, had told him all this, he went on to say to him:

“So, Prince, after that old Brāhman had told me in that village this story, called ‘The Twenty-five Tales of a Vampire,’ he went on to say to me:

‘Well, my son, did not that heroic King Trivikramasena obtain from the favour of a Vetāla the thing that he desired? So do you also receive from me this spell, and laying aside your state of despondency win over a chief among the Vetālas, in order that you may obtain reunion with Prince Mṛgankadatta. For nothing is unattainable by those who possess endurance: who, my son, will not fail, if he allows his endurance to break down? So do what I recommend you to do out of affection; for you kindly delivered me from the pain of the bite of a poisonous serpent.’[10]

When the Brāhman said this, I received from him the spell with the practice to be employed with it, and then, King, I took leave of him, and went to Ujjayinī. There I got hold of a corpse in the cemetery at night, and I washed it and performed all the necessary processes with regard to it, and I summoned a Vetāla into it by means of that spell, and duly worshipped him.

And to satisfy his hunger, I gave him human flesh to eat; and being greedy for the flesh of men, he ate that up quickly, and then said to me:

‘I am not satisfied with this; give me some more.’

And as he would not wait any time, I cut off my own flesh,[11] and gave it to him to please him; and that made that prince of magicians exceedingly pleased with me.

Then he said to me:

‘My friend, I am much pleased now with this intrepid valour of thine, so become whole in thy limbs as thou wast before, and crave from me whatever boon thou desirest.’

When the Vetāla said this to me, I answered him then and there:

‘Convey me, god, to that place where my master Mṛgāṅkadatta is; there is no other boon which I desire more than this.’

Then the mighty Vetāla said to me:

‘Then quickly get up on my shoulder, that I may carry thee rapidly to that master of thine.’

When the Vetāla said this, I consented, and eagerly climbed up on his shoulder, and then the Vetāla, that was inside that human corpse, rapidly set out through the air, carrying me with him. And he has brought me here today, King; and when that mighty Vetāla saw you on the way, he brought me down from the air, and thus I have been made to reach the sole of your foot. And I have to-day been reunited with my master, and the Vetāla has departed, having accomplished what was required of him. This, O bestower of honour,[12] is my great adventure, since I was separated from you by the curse of the Nāga.”

When Mṛgāṅkadatta, as he was going to Ujjayinī to win his beloved, had heard, on the way, from his minister, Vikramakeśarin, this account of his adventures since he had been separated from him, that prince rejoiced, as he had in course of time found some of his ministers, who were separated from him by the curse of Pārāvatākṣa, and as he augured therefrom success in all that he had in hand.

Footnotes and references:


See Appendix, p. 263.—n.m.p.


I read, with the MS. in the Sanskrit College, lipta for klipta, and pūrṇa for pūrva.


See Vol. III, pp. 150-154.—n.m.p.


The Sanskrit College MS. reads niṣkampaṃ. But perhaps we ought to read niṣkampa, “O fearless one.” Satyam must be used adverbially. Kulabhūbhṛtām also means “of great mountains.”


In the D, text “very pure human blood” (sunirmalaiḥ nararaktaiḥ) is offered as an argha, an oblation to gods and venerable men, generally consisting of water, rice and dūrva grass. —n.m.p.


I read netraiśeha for netre cha, with the Sanskrit College MS.


Perhaps pāṭitāt would give a better sense.


Here ends the Vetālapañcaviṃśati, which began in Vol. VI, p. 165. —N.M.P.


The Sanskrit College MS. reads sa kṛtārthaṃ. -But surely Mṛgāṅkadatta could hardly be described as “successful” before he had obtained Śaśāṅkavatī. The difficulty, however, vanishes if instead of B.’s svakṛtārtham nijagāda rājaputram we read prakṛtārthaṃ nijagāda rājaputram with D. The translation then would be “spoke to the prince (again) of the present subject.” See Speyer, op. cit., p. 138.—n.m.p.


The B. text is corrupt here. Read with the D. text tvaṃ me bandhuḥ sarpadaṃśārtihartā, “I hold you for my kinsman, since you have rescued me of the pain of a serpent’s bite.” See Speyer, op. cit., p. 138.—n.m.p.


See Vol. I, pp. 84, 84n1, 85, and also Vol. VI, pp. 122, 122n2, 123n. To the references given in Vol. I, I would add F. Panzer, Beowulf, 1910, p. 191; and to those in Vol. VI, the tale of “La Montagne Noire,” Mélusine, vol. ii, p. 447. Here the hero rides on the back of a crow, to whom he has to give flesh as often as he says “couac.” At last he has to give him flesh from his own thighs. The wounds are healed instantaneously by means of a “fiole de graisse” which he carries with him. Cf. also No. 61 of Gonzenbach’s Sicilianiscke Märchen with Dr Köhler’s notes.—n.m.p.


The Sanskrit College MS. reads kopita for mānadai.e. “Since I was separated from you by the curse of the enraged Nāga.”

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