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 ...

170b. Muktāphalaketu and Padmāvatī

THEN Indra reached heaven and surrounded it with his forces, that were rendered confident by the favour of Śiva, and had gained the suitable opportunity and the requisite strength. When Vidyuddhvaja saw that, he inarched out with his army, ready for battle; but as he marched out evil omens manifested themselves to him: lightning flashes struck his banners, vultures circled above his head, the state umbrellas were broken, and jackals uttered boding howls.[1] Disregarding these evil omens, nevertheless that Asura sallied forth; and then there took place a mighty battle between the gods and the Asuras.

And Indra said to Candraketu, the king of the Vidyādharas:

“Why has Muktāphalaketu not yet come?”

Then Candraketu humbly made answer:

“When I was marching out I was in such a hurry that I forgot to tell him; but he is sure to hear of it, and will certainly follow me quickly.”

When the king of the gods heard this he quickly sent the dexterous charioteer of the wind-god to bring the noble Muktāphalaketu. And his father, Candraketu, sent with Indra’s messenger his own warder, with a force and a chariot, to summon him.

But Muktāphalaketu, hearing that his father had gone to battle with the Daityas, was eager to set out for that fight with his followers. Then he mounted his elephant of victory, and his mother performed for him the ceremony to ensure good fortune, and he set out from the world of the wind bearing the sword of Śiva. And when he had set out, a rain of flowers fell on him from heaven, and the gods beat their drums and favouring breezes blew. And then the hosts of the gods, that had fled and hid themselves out of fear of Vidyuddhvaja, assembled and surrounded him. As he was marching along with that large army, he saw in his way a great temple of Pārvatī, named Meghavana. His devotion to the goddess would not allow him to pass it without worshipping[2]; so he got down from his elephant, and taking in his hand heavenly flowers, he proceeded to adore the goddess.

Now it happened that, at that very time, Padmāvatī, the daughter of Padmaśekhara, the king of the Gandharvas, who had now grown up, had taken leave of her mother, who was engaged in austerities to bring good fortune to her husband who had gone to war, and had come, with her attendant ladies, in a chariot, from the world of Indra, to that temple of Gaurī, with the intention of performing asceticism in order to ensure success to her father in battle, and to the bridegroom on whom she had set her heart.

On the way one of her ladies said to her:

“You have not as yet any chosen lover, who might have gone to the war,, and your mother is engaged in asceticism for the well-being of your father; for whose sake, my friend, do you, a maiden, seek to perform asceticism?”

When Padmāvatī had been thus addressed by her friend on the way, she answered:

“My friend, a father is to maidens a divinity procuring all happiness; moreover, there has already been chosen for me a bridegroom of unequalled excellence. That Muktāphalaketu, the son who has been born to the Vidyādhara king, in order that he may slay Vidyuddhvaja, has been destined for my husband by Śiva. This I heard from the mouth of my father when questioned by my mother. And that chosen bridegroom of mine has either gone or certainly is going to battle; so I am about to propitiate with asceticism the holy Gaurī, desiring victory for my future husband[3] as well as for my father.”

When the princess said this, her attendant lady answered her:

“Then this exertion on your part, though directed towards an object still in the future, is right and proper: may your desire be accomplished!”

Just as her friend was saying this to her, the princess reached a large and beautiful lake in the neighbourhood of the temple of Gaurī. It was covered all over with bright full-blown golden lotuses, and they seemed as if they were suffused with the beauty flowing forth from the lotus of her face. The Gandharva maiden went down into that lake and gathered lotuses with which to worship Ambikā, and was preparing to bathe, when two Rākṣasīs came that way, as all the Rākṣasas were rushing to the battle between the gods and Asuras, eager for flesh. They had upstanding hair, yellow as the flames vomited forth from their mouths terrible with tusks, gigantic bodies black as smoke, and pendulous breasts and bellies. The moment that those wanderers of the night saw that Gandharva princess, they swooped down upon her and seized her, and carried her up towards the heaven.

But the deity, that presided over her chariot, impeded the flight of those Rākṣasīs, and her grieving retinue cried for help; and while this was going on Muktāphalaketu issued from the temple of the goddess, having performed his worship, and hearing the lamentation, he came in that direction. When the great hero beheld Padmāvatī gleaming bright in the grasp of that pair of Rākṣasīs, looking like a flash of lightning in the midst of a bank of black clouds, he ran forward and delivered her, hurling the Rākṣasīs senseless to earth by a blow from the flat of his hand. And he looked on that torrent river of the elixir of beauty, adorned with a waist charming with three wavelike wrinkles,[4] who seemed to have been composed by the Creator of the essence of all beauty when he was full of the wonderful skill he had acquired by forming the nymphs of heaven. And the moment he looked on her his senses were benumbed by love’s opiate, though he was strong of will; and he remained for a moment motionless, as if painted in a picture.

And Padmāvatī too, now that the alarm caused by the Rākṣasīs was at an end, at once recovered her spirits, and looked on the prince, who possessed a form that was a feast to the eyes of the world, and who was one fitted to madden womankind, and seemed to have been created by fate by a blending together in one body of the moon and the God of Love.

Then, her face being cast down with shame, she said of her own accord to her friend:

“May good luck befall him! I will depart hence, from the presence of a strange man.”

Even while she was saying this Muktāphalaketu said to her friend:

“What did this young lady say?”

And she answered:

“This lovely maiden bestowed a blessing on you, the saver of her life, and said to me: Come, let us depart from the presence of a strange man.’”

When Muktāphalaketu heard this, he said to her, with eager excitement:

“Who is she? Whose daughter is she? To what man of great merit in a former life is she to be given in marriage?”[5]

When he addressed this question to the princess’s companion she answered him:

“Fair sir, this my friend is the maiden named Padmāvatī, the daughter of Padmaśekhara, the king of the Gandharvas, and Śiva has ordained that her husband is to be Muktāphalaketu, the son of Candraketu, the darling of the world, the ally of Indra, the destined slayer of Vidyuddhvaja. Because she desires the victory for that future husband of hers and for her father in the battle now at hand, she has come to this temple of Gaurī to perform asceticism.”

When the followers of Candraketu’s son heard this, they delighted the princess by exclaiming:

“Bravo! here is that future husband of yours.”

Then the princess and her lover had their hearts filled with joy at discovering one another, and they both thought,

“It is well that we came here to-day,”

and they continued casting loving sidelong timid glances at one another; and while they were thus engaged the sound of drums was heard, and then a host appeared, and a chariot with the wind-god,[6] and the warder of Candraketu coming quickly.

Then the wind-god and the warder respectfully left the chariot and went up to that Muktāphalaketu, and said to him:

“The king of the gods and your father, Candraketu, who are in the field of battle, desire your presence; so ascend this chariot, and come quickly.”

Then the son of the Vidyādhara king, though fettered by love of Padmāvatī, ascended the chariot with them, out of regard for the interests of his superiors. And putting on a heavenly suit of armour[7] sent by Indra he set out quickly, often turning back his head to look at Padmāvatī.

And Padmāvatī followed with her eyes, as long as he was in sight, that hero, who with one blow from the flat of his hand had slain the two Rākṣasīs, and with him ever in her thoughts she bathed, and worshipped Śiva and Pārvatī, and from that time forth kept performing asceticism in that very place, to ensure his success.

And Muktāphalaketu, still thinking on his sight of her, which was auspicious and portended victory, reached the place where the battle was going on between the gods and Asuras. And when they saw that hero arrive, well-armed and accompanied by a force, all the great Asuras rushed to attack him. But the hero cut their heads to pieces with a rain of arrows, and made with them an offering to the gods of the cardinal points, by way of inaugurating the feast of battle.

But Vidyuddhvaja, seeing his army being slain by that Muktāphalaketu, himself rushed in wrath to attack him. And when he smote with arrows that Daitya, as he came on, the whole army of the Asuras rushed upon him from every quarter. When Indra saw that, he at once attacked the army of the Daityas, with the Siddhas, Gandharvas, Vidyādharas and gods at his back.

Then a confused battle arose, with dint of arrow, javelin, lance, mace and axe, costing the lives of countless soldiers; rivers of blood flowed along, with the bodies of elephants and horses for alligators, with the pearls from the heads of elephants[8] for sands, and with the heads of heroes for stones.

That feast of battle delighted the flesh-loving demons, who, drunk with blood instead of wine, were dancing with the palpitating trunks. The fortune of victory of the gods and Asuras in that sea of battle swayed hither and thither from time to time, fluctuating like a tide-wave. And in this way the fight went on for twenty-four days, watched by Śiva, Viṣṇu and Brahmā, who were present in their chariots.[9]

And at the end of the twenty-fifth day a series of single combats was taking place between the principal warriors of both armies along the greater part of the line of fight. And then a duel began between the noble Muktāphalaketu and Vidyuddhvaja, the former in a chariot, the latter on an elephant. Muktāphalaketu repelled the weapon of darkness with the weapon of the sun, the weapon of cold with the weapon of heat, the rock-weapon with the thunderbolt-weapon, the serpent-weapon with the weapon of Garuḍa, and then he slew that elephant-driver of that Asura with one arrow, and his elephant with another. Then Vidyuddhvaja mounted a chariot, and Muktāphalaketu killed the charioteer and the horses. Then Vidyuddhvaja took refuge in magic. He ascended into the sky invisible with his whole army, and rained stones and weapons on all sides of the army of the gods. And as for the impenetrable net of arrows which Muktāphalaketu threw around it, that Daitya consumed it with showers of fire.

Then Muktāphalaketu sent against that enemy and his followers the weapon of Brahmā, which was capable of destroying the whole world, after he had pronounced over it the appropriate spells. That weapon killed the great Asura Vidyuddhvaja and his army, and they fell down dead from the sky. And the rest—namely, Vidyuddhvaja’s son and his followers, and Vajradaṃṣṭra and his crew—fled in fear to the bottom of the Rasātala.[10]

And then the gods from heaven exclaimed “Bravo! Bravo!” and they honoured the noble Muktāphalaketu with a rain of flowers. Then Indra, having recovered his sway, as his enemy was slain, entered heaven, and there was a great rejoicing in the three worlds. And Prajāpati himself came there, making Sachī precede him, and fastened a splendid crest-jewel on the head of Muktāphalaketu. And Indra took the chain from his own neck and placed it on the neck of that victorious prince, who had restored his kingdom to him. And he made him sit on a throne equal in all respects to his own; and the gods, full[11] of joy, bestowed upon him various blessings. And Indra sent on his warder to the city of the Asura Vidyuddhvaja, and took possession of it in addition to his own city, with the intention of bestowing it on Muktāphalaketu, when a fitting time presented itself.

Then the Gandharva Padmaśekhara, wishing to bestow Padmāvatī on that prince, looked meaningly at the face of the Disposer.

And the Disposer, knowing what was in his heart, said to that prince of the Gandharvas:

“There is still a service remaining to be done, so wait a little.”

Then there took place the triumphal feast of Indra, with the songs of Hāhā and Hūhū, and the dances of Rambhā and others, which they accompanied with their own voices. And when the Disposer had witnessed the festive rejoicing he departed, and Indra honoured the Lokapālas[12] and dismissed them to their several stations. And after honouring that Gandharva monarch Padmaśekhara, and his train, he dismissed them to their own Gandharva city. And Indra, after treating with the utmost respect the noble Muktāphalaketu and Candraketu, sent them to their own Vidyādhara city to enjoy themselves. And then Muktāphalaketu, having destroyed the plague of the universe, returned to his palace, accompanied by his father and followed by many Vidyādhara kings. And on account of the prince having returned victorious with his father after a long absence, that city displayed its joy, being adorned with splendid jewels and garlanded with flags. And his father, Candraketu, at once bestowed gifts on all his servants and relations, and kept high festival in the city for the triumph of his son, showering wealth on it as a cloud showers water. But Muktāphalaketu, though he had gained glory by conquering Vidyuddhvaja, derived no satisfaction from his enjoyments without Padmāvatī. However, being comforted in soul by a friend named Saṃyataka, who reminded him of the decree of Śiva, and consoling topics of that kind, he managed, though with difficulty, to get through those days.

Footnotes and references:


See Vol. IV, pp. 93,93n2, 94 n; Zimmer’s Allindisches Leben, p. 60, and Preller, Römische Mythologie, pp. 102-103: the vultures will remind the English reader of Shakespeare’s Julius Cæsar, v, 1, 84 et seq.; for the ominous import of lightning see Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities, art. “Bidental”; and Preller, op. cit., p. 172. There is a very similar passage in Achilles Tatius, Lib. V, c, 3:

Ὡς οὖν προήλφομεν τῶν φυρῶν, οἰωνὸς ἡμῖν γίνεται πονηρὸς χελιδόνα κίρκος διώκων τὴν Αευκίππην πατάσσει τφ(?) πτερῷ εἰς τὴν κεφαλὴν.

See also Sir Thomas Browne’s Vulgar Errors, Book V, chap. xxiii, sec. 1; Webster’s Dutchess of Malfey, Act II, sc. 2:

“How superstitiously we mind our evils!
The throwing down salt, or crossing of a hare,
Bleeding at nose, the stumbling of a horse,
Or singing of a cricket, are of power
To daunt whole man in us.”


I read tadanullaṅghayan with MSS. No. 1882 and 2166 and the Sanskrit-College MS. No. 3003 has anullaṅghaya.


I read patyus for pitus, with the three India Office MSS. and the Sanskrit College MS.


Burton (Nights, vol. vii, p.130n7) quotes this passage as apposite to a description in his text:

“... but the perfect whiteness of her body overcame the redness of her shift, through which glittered two breasts like twin granadoes, and a waist as it were a roll of fine Coptic linen, with creases like scrolls of pure white paper stuffed with musk.”



The India Office MSS. have kasmai dattā vā; but the sense is much the same.


It appears from the beginning of the chapter that this was the charioteer of Vāyu, the chief god of the wind. In Chapter XV, śl. 57, the wind-gods are opposed to the Daityas. Böhtlingk and Roth identify these wind-gods with the Maruts, s.v. Vāyu.


Dr Kern corrects kavachanam to kavacham. The latter word is found in the three India Office MSS. and the Sanskrit College MS.


I read mauktika for maulika. The three India Office MSS. and the Sanskrit College MS. have mauktika.


Cf. the somewhat similar battle descriptions in the Nights (Burton, vol. vii, p. 61, and vol. viii, p. 136). —n.m.p.


One of the seven hells (not places of torment).


But the three India Office MSS. read ghūrṇad for pūrṇa. It could, I suppose, mean “reeling with joy.” The Sanskrit College MS. has pūrvva.


The Lokapālas are the guardians of the four cardinal and intermediate points of the compass. They appear to be usually reckoned as Indra, guardian of the East, Agni of the South-East, Varuṇa of the West, Yama of the South, Sūrya of the South-West, Pavana or Vāyu of the North-West, Kuvera of the North, Soma or Candra of the North-East. Some substitute Nirṛti for Sūrya and Īśānī or Pṛthivī for Soma.

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