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 ...
Click the link to jump directly to the english translation of the twenty-first Vetāla. This page only contains the notes.
There is but little difference between our text and that of the Hindi version (No. 20), as far as the several incidents are concerned. There is nothing about the wife disliking her husband; and she must have been a mere child, as she only arrives at the age of puberty while he is away on a trading expedition.
In her frenzy of love for the young Brāhman she turns to the moon, crying out,
“O moon! I have heard that in you resides the water of immortality, and that you are pouring out this water by means of your rays, but to-day you are pouring out poison on me,”
and turning to her companion, she adds:
“Take me hence, for I am being consumed by the moon.”
The ending of the story is important, and in my opinion is a great improvement on Somadeva. The lovers do not come to life again, thus the highly dramatic climax is not lost. The question and answer are as in Somadeva.
It will be remembered that in the notes on Vetāla 19 (p. 249) we saw that there was no corresponding tale in the Tamil version, and that an entirely different one had been substituted instead.
This story chances to be a variant of the tale now under consideration, so I will reproduce it in full:
“In the city of Shegāpuram, as King Natchetiran was one day patrolling the streets, he met in his way with some robbers [who had plundered a girl of her ornaments, and were detaining her as their prisoner in a starving condition. The king] attacked and slew them, and after his victory lodged the girl in an old temple which was in the vicinity, whilst he himself entered the city, in order to cook a meal and bring it back to her.
“A procuress met him on his return, and after soliciting him with earnest entreaties to accompany her, under an assurance that she would afterwards carry the food to the girl, she took him along with her and left him with her mistress. The mistress no sooner beheld him than she fell in love with him and detained him; so that he forgot, in her society, the poor girl whom he had left in the temple, and who was grieving, because the king who had gone to fetch food for her had still not returned.
“Whilst she was in this situation, a merchant chanced to perceive her, and taking her away to his own house, placed food before her. They were thus enjoying each other’s company, when he perceived a rat running along, which he struck at and killed.
Upon this he launched out into many various expressions of boastings and vauntings of his own courage; which when she heard, she made the following reflections:
“Talk you thus big because you have killed a rat! The king who quitted me just now, cut to pieces a band of robbers and brought me away; he made not such a mighty swaggering, and yet you must needs talk thus.”
Maintaining such an opinion as this, she was unable to endure remaining with such a contemptible wretch, and quitted life. Perceiving this, the merchaut, under the influence of fear, lest the king who had left her in the temple should hear of her death, and should seize on his property and kill him, bestowed all his wealth in gifts and charities, and destroyed himself. Then the king who had abandoned her, recalling her to mind, went and searched in the place where he had lodged her, but being unable to find her was grievously afflicted, and destroyed himself. The procuress hearing the news, and reflecting that it was through her means that these three persons had lost their lives, likewise destroyed herself.”
The Vetāla naturally asks which of the four deaths was the most extraordinary, to which the king replies:
“The rest died through excess of passion [ i.e. contempt, fear and sorrow respectively]; the death of the procuress was the most extraordinary.”
The story of the three deaths through love is distinctly dramatic and not without pathos. This is not the first time that such deaths have occurred in the Ocean (see Vol. II, pp. 8-10), and many analogues could be cited. I have already given a number in a note in Vol. II, p.9n2, 10n; the only other triple death I know of being in a tale in the Nights (Burton, vol. v, p. 134). As I mentioned in the note referred to, death was the last, or tenth, stage of love in Hindu ethics as listed by Vātsyāyana in the Kāma Sūtra.
Footnotes and references:
Barker, op. cit., p. 325 et seq.
Babington, op. cit., pp. 65, 66.
Babington, op. cit., p. 85 et seq.
The words in square brackets are supplied from the context by Babington, who suspects an omission in the text.
Cf. Ocean, Vol. V, p. 24.