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 ...

Vetāla 3: The King and the Two Wise Birds

(pp. 183-189)

Click the link to jump directly to the english translation of the third Vetāla. This page only contains the notes.

In Śivadāsa’s recension (Uhle, op. cit., p. 13) we get further details about the wedding of the royal couple who possessed the clever birds. So, too, in the Hindi version, where it forms the fourth story,{GL_NOTE::} we get considerably more details. Barker{GL_NOTE::} translates as follows:—

The Baitāl spoke, saying:

“O King! there was a city called Bhogwatī, whose king was named Rūpsen, and he had a parrot named Chūṛāman.

One day the king asked that parrot:

‘What dost thou know?’

The parrot replied:

‘Great king! I know everything.’

The king said:

‘If thou knowest everything, tell me where there is a beautiful damsel, my equal in rank.’

The parrot said:

‘Great king! there is in the country of Magadh a king, Magadheshwar by name, and he has a daughter, whose name is Candrāvatī. You will marry her; she is very beautiful and very learned.’

The king, on hearing the parrot’s speech, sent for an astrologer, whose name was Candrakānt, and asked him:

‘Whom shall I marry?’

The astrologer ascertained by his art, and said:

‘Candrāvatī is the name of the maiden, and your marriage with her will certainly take place.’

“The king, having heard this, summoned a Brāhman and explained everything to him.

When he sent him to King Magadheshwar, he thus enjoined him:

‘If you arrange this affair of our marriage satisfactorily, we will reward you.’

The Brāhman then took leave. King Magadheshwar’s daughter had a Mainā (gracula religiosa), whose name was Madana-mañjarī (love-garland).

The princess in the same way had consulted Madana-mañjarī, and asked her:

‘Where shall I find a suitable husband?’

The Mainā replied:

‘Rūpsen is king of the city of Bhogwatī—he shall be thy husband.’

Thus, though neither had seen the other, they were mutually in love. In a few days’ time the Brāhman whom Rūpsen had sent arrived in Magadh and delivered his sovereign’s message to King Magadheshwar. The king agreed to his proposal, and having summoned a Brāhman of his own, and entrusted to him the nuptial gifts and the customary presents, he sent him with the other Brāhman, and bade him,

‘Greet King Rūpsen on my behalf, and, having made the customary mark on his forehead (the tilak), return quickly. When you come back I will make preparations for the marriage.’

“These two Brāhmans, therefore, set forth, and in a few days they arrived at the Court of King Rūpsen, and related everything that had happened. The king was greatly pleased, and, making all the necessary preparations, departed to claim his betrothed. In the course of a few days he arrived in that country, and having been married, and having received the wedding gifts and dowry, took leave of King Magadheshwar, and set out for his own country. His queen also brought away with her Madana-mañjarī in a cage. They arrived in due course at their journey’s end, and began to live happily. One day the cage of the parrot (Chuṛāman) and of the Mainā (Madana-mañjarī) were both placed near the throne, and the king and queen, in the course of conversation, said:

‘No one can live happily in solitude, therefore it would be better to marry the parrot to the Mainā, and putting them into one cage, they will then live happily together.’ They then had a large cage brought and put them in it.

“After some little time had elapsed, the king and queen were one day sitting together in conversation when the parrot said to the Mainā:

‘Sexual intercourse is the one thing in this world, and whoever has passed his life without it has been born in vain; therefore you must grant me this favour.’

The Mainā said: ‘I have no desire for a male.’

The parrot asked: ‘Why?’

She replied:

‘Men are sinful, irreligious, treacherous, and women-slayers.’

The parrot replied:

‘So also are women treacherous, false, ignorant, avaricious, and murderers.’

“When the king heard them thus wrangling, he inquired:

‘What are you quarrelling about?’

The Mainā replied:

‘Great king! men are sinful women-slayers, hence I have no wish for them. Great king! listen while I tell a tale to prove that men are such as I say.’”

The Tamil version (sixth story{GL_NOTE::}) is much shorter, but not as condensed as in Somadeva. Here the birds are described as being both parroquets, and after his successful marriage Parākramakesari, the prince, suggests that the two birds ought also to be happily married. Accordingly they are put in the same cage, and the quarrelling commences as in the other version.


The Mainā’s Story

This tale occurs in the Turkish Ṭūṭī-nāmah,{GL_NOTE::} where the principal difference is that the parents of the wicked man die after his first crime. After he has squandered all his wealth he is reduced to begging in a cemetery, where he suddenly meets his wife. They live together for some time, and then set out once more for the husband’s home. On the way they pass the old well, and there he murders her.

Oesterley refers to the eleventh story of Siddhi-Kür,{GL_NOTE::} but there s little in common here, except that the poor man vainly attempts to murder his wife, whom he has acquired by a trick, and then to sell the jewels that he had obtained with her.


The Parrot’s Story

In the Tamil version{GL_NOTE::} there is no real thief in the case at all. The lover is discovered by the city guards, and being mistaken for a thief is mortally wounded by an arrow. At this moment the girl arrives, and getting no answer from her lover, imagines he is angry with her. While kissing him he bites off her nose in the agony of death and falls down dead. She returns home and, taking the betel-cutter from her husband’s pouch, smears it with blood. She then raises the alarm, accusing her husband of having bitten off her nose. Just as he is going to be put to death the city guards, who have apparently witnessed the whole proceedings, come forward and give their evidence. The woman is bound and cast into the fire.

The story is one of the few in the Vetālapañcaviṃśati that has passed with but comparatively few alterations into the Kalmuck version. It is told of two brothers who lived in a country named Odmilsong. They married sisters, but somehow or other were never very friendly. The elder brother grew rich, and when giving a great banquet omitted to ask his younger brother. Deeply offended, he determined to steal something valuable from his elder brother, and with this intention managed to conceal himself in the store-room. The tale then proceeds as follows (Coxwell, pp. 215-216):—

The people had drunk spirits till it became dark, and lay intoxicated and asleep. The elder brother’s wife led her husband in a stupefied condition into the store-room, there to slumber with him. After a while, however, she arose and cooked a meal. Taking with her meat and several kinds of food, such as garlic and onions, and other eatables, she went out. The man in concealment did not yet venture on his evil deed, and said to himself, “I will carry out my theft later; first of all I will observe these people,” and he followed the woman. Behind the house she mounted a high hill, on which was a gloomy graveyard. As she climbed upwards he walked behind her and almost in her footsteps. In the middle of an evergreen expanse of turf was a stone slab, to which she hurried, to find on it, lying stretched out and rigid, a man who had been her lover. In her devotion she could not let him serve as food for birds and rapacious beasts, so she sought the dead and from afar called him by name; and finally, on reaching him, threw herself round his neck. The younger brother sat near by and observed everything. The woman set the food before the dead man and offered it to him, but his teeth were firmly pressed together and would not crush the food, so she opened them with a copper spoon, and, having chewed the food, she sought with her tongue to introduce it into his mouth. But suddenly the spoon, being gripped by the dead man’s teeth, broke, and struck off the tip of the woman’s nose; at the same time a small portion of her tongue was bitten off. With blood upon her face she retreated and took away her eatables. The younger brother was the first to reach home, and he hid in the store-room.

Arriving later, the woman lay down beside her husband, and after a while, when the husband began to speak and sigh in his sleep, she cried:

“Woe! woe! What have you done?”

The man cried:

“What has happened?”

To which words she replied:

“You have bitten off the tip of my nose and of my tongue; what can I do in such a calamity?”

The sequel to the story is the same as in other cases, and here it is the brother who comes forward to give evidence. The woman is fastened to a stake and then killed.

The tale appears also in the Ṭūṭī-nāmah{GL_NOTE::} with slight differences. The loving couple are surprised by the town guards, and according to their custom the man is crucified, but the woman is allowed to go home unpunished. In a final embrace the lover bites off his beloved’s nose, and she accuses her husband of having done it. The husband is sentenced to the loss of his nose, but, as in Somadeva’s version, a thief saves the situation, and the wife is thrown into the water.

That portion of the story about the husband being accused of cutting off the wife’s nose will naturally remind readers of “The Cuckold Weaver and the Bawd,” which is one of the Pañcatantra tales that does not appear in Somadeva’s version. I gave it in full, however, in Vol. V, pp. 223-226. This story became exceedingly popular, and is found in numerous collections in both the East and West. The subject has been treated fully by Bedier{GL_NOTE::} under the title of “Le Fabliaux des Tresses,” as in Western versions the mutilation of the nose has given place to the cutting off of hair, a severe beating, or other similar punishment. Boccaccio included the tale in his Decameron, where it forms the eighth novel of the seventh day. The chief point of all these versions is the cuckolding of the husband by the substitution of another woman in his bed. He vents his anger on her, thinking it is his wife, who later proves her innocence by showing her person untouched. Lee{GL_NOTE::} gives a large number of analogues, including versions in English literature, where the tale is found in Massinger’s Guardian and Fletcher’s Woman Pleased.

After the two birds have finished their tales the frame-story ends by the parrot becoming once more the Gandharva Citraratha, as Indra’s curse has now lost its force. At the same moment the Mainā becomes no less a person than the heavenly nymph Tilottama. Both ascend to heaven.

So, too, in Śivadāsa’s recension they both become Vidyādharas. In the Hindi and Tamil versions, however, the frame-story does not appear again.

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