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 ...

Chapter CXVII

170b. Muktāphalaketu and Padmāvatī

IN the meanwhile that king of the Gandharvas, Padmaśekhara, re-entered his city, celebrating a splendid triumph; and hearing from his wife that his daughter Padmāvatī had performed asceticism in the temple of Gaurī, to procure for him victory, he summoned her.

And when his daughter came, emaciated with asceticism and separation from her lover, and fell at his feet, he gave her his blessing, and said to her:

“Dear girl, for my sake you have endured great hardship in the form of penance, so obtain quickly for a husband the noble Muktāphalaketu, the son of the king of the Vidyādharas, the slayer of Vidyuddhvaja, the victorious protector of the world, who has been appointed to marry you by Śiva himself.”

When her father said this to her, she remained with face fixed on the ground, and then her mother, Kuvalayāvalī, said to him:

“How, my husband, was so terrible an Asura, that filled the three worlds with consternation, slain by that prince in fight?”

When the king heard that, he described to her the valour of that prince, and the battle between the gods and Asuras. Then Padmāvatī’s companion, whose name was Manohārikā, described the easy manner in which he slew the two Rākṣasīs.

Then the king and queen, finding out that he and their daughter had met and fallen in love, were pleased, and said:

“What could those Rākṣasīs do against one who swallowed the whole army of the Asuras, as Agastya swallowed the sea?”[1]

Then the fire of Padmāvatī’s love blazed up more violently, being fanned by this description of her lover’s surpassing courage as by a breeze.

Then the princess left her parents’ presence and immediately ascended, in eager longing, a jewelled terrace in the women’s apartments, which had pillars of precious stone standing in it, and lattices of pearl fastened to them, and had placed on its pavement, of costly mosaic, luxurious couches and splendid thrones, and was rendered still more delightful by means of the various enjoyments which there presented themselves as soon as thought of. Even when there, she was exceedingly tortured with the fire of separation. And she saw from the top of this terrace a magnificent heavenly garden, planted with trees and creepers of gold, and full of hundreds of tanks adorned with costly stone.

And when she saw it she said to herself:

“Wonderful! This splendid city of ours is more beautiful even than the world of the moon in which I was born. And yet I have not explored this city, which is the very crest-jewel of the Himālayas, in which there is such a splendid suburban garden excelling Nandana. So I will go into this lovely shrubbery, cool with the shade of trees, and alleviate a little the scorching of the fires of separation.”

After the young maiden had gone through these reflections, she dexterously managed to descend slowly from the terrace alone, and prepared to go to that city garden. And as she could not go on foot she was carried there by some birds that were brought to her by her power, and served as her conveyance. When she reached the garden she sat in an arbour formed of plantains growing together, on a carpet of flowers, with heavenly singing and music sounding in her ears. And even there she did not obtain relief, and her passion did not abate: on the contrary, the fire of her love increased still more, as she was separated from her beloved.

Then in her longing she was eager to behold that loved one, though only in a picture, so by her magic power she summoned for herself a tablet for painting and colour-pencils.

And she said to herself:

“Considering even the Disposer is unable to create a second like my beloved, how can I, reed[2] in hand, produce a worthy likeness of him? Nevertheless, I will paint him as well as I can for my own consolation.”

After going through these reflections she proceeded to paint him on a tablet, and while she was thus engaged, her confidante, Manohārikā, who had been troubled at not seeing her, came to that place to look for her. She stood behind the princess, and saw her languishing alone in the bower of creepers, with her painting-tablet in her hand.

She said to herself:

“I will just see now what the princess is doing here alone.”

So the princess’s confidante remained there concealed.

And then Padmāvatī, with her lotus-like eyes gushing with tears, began to address, in the following words, her beloved in the painting:

“When thou didst slay the formidable Asuras and deliver Indra, how comes it that thou dost not deliver me from my woe, though near me, by speaking to me at any rate? To one whose merits in a former life are small, even a wishing-tree is ungenerous, even Buddha is wanting in compassion, and even gold becomes a stone. Thou knowest not the fever of love, and canst not comprehend my pain: what could the poor archer Love, whose arrows are but flowers, do against one whom the Daityas found invincible? But what am I saying? Truly fate is adverse to me, for fate stops my eyes with tears, and will not allow me to behold thee for long together, even in a picture.”

When the princess had said this, she began to weep with teardrops that were so large that it appeared as if her necklace were broken, and great pearls were falling from it.

At that moment her friend Manohārikā advanced towards her, and the princess concealed the picture and said to her:

“My friend, I have not seen you for ever so long; where have you been?”

When Manohārikā heard this she laughed and said:

“I have been wandering about, my friend, for a long time to look for you; so, why do you hide the picture? I saw, a moment ago, a wonderful picture.”[3]

When Padmāvatī’s friend said this to her she seized her hand, and said to her with a face cast down from shame, and a voice choked with tears:

“My friend, you knew it all long ago; why should I try to conceal it?[4] The fact is, that prince, though on that occasion, in the sacred enclosure of Gaurī, he delivered me from the terrible fire of the Rākṣasīs’ wrath, plunged me nevertheless in the fire of love, with this intolerable flame of separation. So I do not know where to go, whom to speak to, what to do, or what expedient I must have recourse to, since my heart is fixed on one hard to obtain.”

When the princess said this, her friend answered her:

“My dear, this attachment of your mind is quite becoming and suitable; your union would certainly be to the enhancement of one another’s beauty, as the union of the digit of the new moon with the hair of Śiva matted into the form of a diadem. And do not be despondent about this matter: of a truth he will not be able to live without you. Did you not see that he was affected in the same way as yourself? Even women who see you[5] are so much in love with your beauty that they desire to become men; so what man would not be a suitor for your hand? Much more will he be, who is equal to you in beauty. Do you suppose that Śiva, who declared that you should be man and wife, can say what is false? However, what afflicted one feels quite patient about an object much desired, even though it is soon to be attained? So cheer up! He will soon become your husband. It is not hard for you to win any husband, but all men must feel that you are a prize hard to win.”

When the princess’s attendant said this to her, she answered her:

“My friend, though I know all this, what am I to do? My heart cannot endure to remain for a moment without that lord of my life, to whom it is devoted, and Kāma will not bear to be trifled with any further. For when I think of him my mind is immediately refreshed,[6] but my limbs burn, and my breath seems to leave my body with glowing heat.”

Even as the princess was saying this she, being soft as a flower, fell fainting with distraction into the arms of that friend of hers. Then her weeping friend gradually brought her round by sprinkling her with water and fanning her with plantain leaves. Her friend employed with her the usual remedies of a necklace and bracelet of lotus fibres, a moist anointing with sandalwood unguent, and a bed of lotus leaves[7]; but these contracted heat by coming in contact with her body, and seemed by their heating and withering to feel the same pain as she felt.

Then Padmāvatī, in her agitation, said to that friend:

“Why do you weary yourself in vain? My suffering cannot be alleviated in this way. It would be a happy thing if you would take the only step likely to alleviate it.”

When she said this in her pain, her friend answered her:

“What would not I do for your sake? Tell me, my friend, what that step is.”

When the princess heard this, she said with difficulty, as if ashamed:

“Go, my dear friend, and bring my beloved here quickly; for in no other way can my suffering be allayed, and my father will not be angry: on the contrary, as soon as he comes here he will give me to him.”

When her friend heard that, she said to her in a tone of decision:

“If it be so, recover your self-command. This is but a little matter. Here am I, my friend, setting out for Candrapura, the famous and splendid city of Candraketu, the king of the Vidyādharas, the father of your beloved, to bring your beloved to you. Be comforted! What is the use of grief?”

When the princess had been thus comforted by Manohārikā, she said:

“Then rise up, my friend; may your journey be prosperous! Go at once! And you must say courteously from me to that heroic lord of my life, who delivered the three worlds:

‘When you delivered me so triumphantly in that temple of Gaurī from the danger of the Rākṣasīs, how is it that you do not deliver me now, when I am being slain by the god Kāma, the destroyer of women? Tell me, my lord, what kind of virtue is this in persons like yourself, able to deliver the worlds, to neglect in calamity one whom you formerly saved, though she is devoted to you.’[8]

This is what you must say, auspicious one, or something to this effect, as your own wisdom may direct.”

When Padmāvatī had said this, she sent that friend on her errand. And she mounted a bird, which her magic knowledge brought to her, to carry her, and set out for that city of the Vidyādharas.

And then Padmāvatī, having to a certain extent recovered her spirits by hope, took the painting-tablet and entered the palace of her father.

There she went into her own apartment, surrounded by her servants, and bathed, and worshipped Śiva with intense devotion, and thus prayed to him:

“Holy one, without thy favouring consent no wish, great or small, is fulfilled for anyone in these three worlds. So if thou wilt not give me for a husband that noble son of the emperor of the Vidyādharas, on whom I have set my heart, I will abandon my body in front of thy image.”

When she addressed this prayer to Śiva, her attendants were filled with grief and astonishment, and said to her:

“Why do you speak thus, Princess, regardless of your body’s weal? Is there anything in these three worlds difficult for you to obtain? Even Buddha would forget his self-restraint if loved by you! So he must be a man of exceptional merit whom you thus love.”

When the princess heard this, carried away by the thought of his virtues, she said:

“How can I help loving him, who is the only refuge of Indra and the rest of the gods, who alone destroyed the army of the Asuras, as the sun destroys the darkness, and who saved my life?”

Saying such things, she remained there full of longing, engaged in conversation about her beloved with her confidential attendants.

In the meanwhile her friend Manohārikā, travelling at full speed, reached Candrapura, that city of the king of the Vidyādharas, which Viśvakarman made wonderful, and of unparalleled magnificence, as if dissatisfied with the city of the gods, though of that also he was the architect. There she searched for Muktāphalaketu, but could not find him, and then, riding on her bird, she went to the garden belonging to that city. She derived much pleasure from looking at that garden, the magic splendour of which was inconceivable: the trees of which were of glittering jewels, and had this peculiarity, that one tree produced a great many flowers of different kinds; which was rendered charming by the blending of the notes of various birds with the sound of heavenly songs; and which was full of many slabs of precious stones.

And then various gardeners, in the form of birds, saw her, and came up to her, speaking with articulate voice and addressing her kindly, and they invited her to sit down on a slab of emerald at the foot of a pārijāta tree, and when she was seated, served her with appropriate luxuries.

And she received that attention gratefully, and said to herself:

“Wonderful are the magic splendours of the Vidyādharas, since they possess such a garden in which enjoyments present themselves unlooked for, in which the servants are birds, and the nymphs of heaven keep up a perpetual concert.”

When she had said this to herself, she questioned those attendants, and at last, searching about, she found a thicket of pārijāta and other trees of the kind, and in it she saw Muktāphalaketu, appearing to be ill,[9] lying on a bed of flowers sprinkled with sandalwood juice.

And she recognised him, as she had become acquainted with him in the hermitage of Gaurī, and she said to herself:

“Let me see what his illness is, that he is lying here concealed.”

In the meanwhile Muktāphalaketu began to say to his friend Saṃyataka, who was attempting to restore him with ice, and sandalwood, and fanning:

“Surely this God of Love has placed hot coals in the ice for me, and in the sandalwood juice a flame of chaff, and in the air of the fan a fire as of a burning forest, since he produces a scorching glow on every side of me, who am tortured with separation. So why, my friend, do you weary yourself in vain? In this garden, which surpasses Nandana, even the delightful songs and dances and other sports of heavenly nymphs afflict my soul. And without Padmāvatī, the lotus-faced, the daughter of Padmaśekhara, this fever produced by the arrows of love cannot be alleviated. But I do not dare to say this, and I do not find a refuge in anyone; indeed I know of only one expedient for obtaining her. I will go to the temple of Gaurī, where I saw my beloved, and where she tore out my heart with the arrows of her sidelong glances, and carried it away. There Śiva, who is united with the daughter of the king of the mountains, will, when propitiated with penance, show me how to become united with my beloved.”

When the prince had said this he was preparing to rise up, and then Manohārikā, being much pleased, showed herself; and Saṃyataka, delighted, said to that prince:

“My friend, you are in luck; your desire is accomplished! Look! Here is that beloved’s female attendant come to you. I beheld her at the side of the princess in the hermitage of the goddess Ambikā.”

Then the prince, beholding the friend of his beloved, was in a strange state—a state full of the bursting forth of joy, astonishment and longing. And when she came near him, a rain of nectar to his eyes, he made her sit by his side, and asked her about the health of his beloved.

Then she gave him this answer:

“No doubt my friend will be well enough when you become her husband; but at present she is afflicted. For ever since she saw you, and you robbed her of her heart, she has been despondent, and neither hears nor sees. The maiden has left off her necklace and wears a chain of lotus fibres, and has abandoned her couch and rolls on a bed of lotus leaves.

Best of conquerors, I tell you, her limbs, now white with the sandalwood juice which is drying up with their heat, seem laughingly[10] to say:

‘That very maiden, who formerly was too bashful to endure the mention of a lover,[11] is now reduced to this sad condition by being separated from her dear one.’

And she sends you this message.”

Having said so much, Manohārikā recited the two verses which Padmāvatī had put into her mouth.

When Muktāphalaketu heard all that, his pain departed, and he joyfully welcomed Manohārikā, and said to her:

“This my mind has been irrigated by your speech as by nectar, and is refreshed; and I have recovered my spirits and got rid of my languor: my good deeds in a former life have to-day borne fruit, in that that daughter of the Gandharva king is so well disposed towards me. But though I might possibly be able to endure the agony of separation, how could that lady, whose body is as delicate as a śirīṣa flower, endure it? So I will go to that very hermitage of Gaurī; and do you bring your friend there, in order that we may meet at once. And go quickly, auspicious one, and comfort your friend, and give her this crest-jewel, which puts a stop to all grief, which the Self-existent gave me when pleased with me. And this necklace, which Indra gave me, is a present for yourself.”

When the prince had said this, he gave her the crest-jewel from his head, and took the necklace from his neck and put it on hers.

Then Manohārikā was delighted, and she bowed before him, and set out, mounted on her bird, to find her friend Padmāvatī. And Muktāphalaketu, his languor having been removed by delight, quickly entered his own city with Saṃyataka.

And Manohārikā, when she came into the presence of Padmāvatī, told her of the love-pain of her beloved as she had witnessed it, and repeated to her his speech, sweet and tender with affection, as she had heard it; and told her of the arrangement to meet her in the hermitage of Gaurī which he had made, and then gave her the crest-jewel which he had sent, and showed her the chain which he had given herself as a present. Then Padmāvatī embraced and honoured that friend of hers who had been so successful, and forgot that pain of the fire of love which had tortured her before, and she fastened that crest-jewel on her head, as if it were joy, and began to prepare to go to the wood of Gaurī.

In the meanwhile it happened that a hermit, of the name of Tapodhana, came to that grove of Gaurī, with his pupil, named Dṛḍhavrata. And while there the hermit said to his pupil Dṛḍhavrata:

“I will engage in contemplation for a time in this heavenly garden. You must remain at the gate, and not let anyone in, and after I have finished my contemplation I will worship Pārvatī.”

When the hermit had said this, he placed that pupil at the gate of the garden and began to engage in contemplation under a pārijāta tree.

After he rose up from his contemplation he went into the temple to worship Ambikā, but he did not tell his pupil, who was at the gate of the garden.

And in the meanwhile Muktāphalaketu came there adorned, with Saṃyataka, mounted on a heavenly camel. And as he was about to enter that garden that pupil of the hermit forbade him, saying:

“Do not do so! My spiritual superior is engaged in contemplation within.”

But the prince, longing to see his beloved, said to himself:

“The area of this garden is extensive, and it is possible that she may have arrived and may be somewhere within it, whereas the hermit is in only one corner of it.”

So he got out of sight of that hermit’s pupil, and with his friend entered the garden by flying through the air.

And while he was looking about, the hermit’s pupil came in to see if his spiritual superior had completed his meditation. He could not see his superior there, but he did see the noble Muktāphalaketu with his friend, who had entered the garden by a way by which it was not meant to be entered.

Then that pupil of the hermit cursed the prince in his anger, saying to him:

“As you have interrupted the meditation of my spiritual guide, and driven him away, go with your friend to the world of men on account of this disrespect.”

After he had pronounced this curse he went in search of his superior. But Muktāphalaketu was thrown into great despondency by this curse having fallen on him like a thunderbolt when his desire was on the point of being fulfilled. And in the meanwhile Padmāvatī, eager to meet her beloved, came mounted on a bird, with Manohārikā and her other attendants. And when the prince saw that lady, who had come to meet him of her own accord, but was now separated from him by a curse, he was reduced to a painful frame of mind, in which sorrow and joy were blended. And at that very moment Padmāvatī’s right eye throbbed, boding evil fortune,[12] and her heart fluttered. Then the princess, seeing that her lover was despondent, thought that he might be annoyed because she had not come before he did, and approached him with an affectionate manner.

Then the prince said to her:

“My beloved, our desire, though on the point of fulfilment, has been again baffled by fate.”

She said excitedly:

“Alas! how baffled?”

And then the prince told her how the curse was pronounced on him.

Then they all went, in their despondency, to entreat the hermit, who was the spiritual guide of him who inflicted the curse, and was now in the temple of the goddess, to fix an end to the curse.

When the great hermit, who possessed supernatural insight, saw them approach in humble guise, he said in a kind manner to Muktāphalaketu:

“You have been cursed by this fool, who acted rashly before he had reflected[13]; however, you have not done me any harm, since I rose up of myself. And this curse can only be an instrument, not the real reason of your change: in truth, you have in your mortal condition to do the gods a service. You shall come, in the course of destiny, to behold this Padmāvatī, and, sick with love, you shall abandon your mortal body, and be quickly released from your curse. And you shall recover this lady of your life, wearing the same body that she wears now; for, being a deliverer of the universe, you do not deserve to lie long under a curse. And the cause of all this that has befallen you is the slight stain of unrighteousness which attaches to you on account of your having slain with that weapon of Brahmā, which you employed, old men and children.”

When Padmāvatī heard this, she said, with tears in her eyes, to that sage:

“Holy sir, let me have the same lot as my future husband! I shall not be able to live for a moment without him.”

When Padmāvatī made this request the hermit said to her:

“This cannot be: do you remain here for the present engaged in asceticism, in order that he may be quickly delivered from his curse, and may marry you. And then, as the consort of that Muktāphalaketu, you shall rule the Vidyādharas and Asuras for ten kalpas.[14] And while you are performing asceticism, this crest-jewel, which he gave you, shall protect you; for it is of great efficacy, having sprung from the water-pot of the Disposer.”

When the hermit, possessing divine insight, had said this to Padmāvatī, Muktāphalaketu, bending low, addressed this prayer to him:

“Holy sir, may my faith in Śiva be unwavering during my life as a man, and may my mind never be inclined to any lady but Padmāvatī.”

The hermit replied: “So let it be!”

And then Padmāvatī, sorely grieved, pronounced on that pupil, whose fault had entailed these misfortunes, the following curse:

“Since you have cursed in your folly my destined husband, you shall be a vehicle for him to ride on in his human condition, possessing the property of going with a wish and changing your shape at will.”

When the pupil had been thus cursed he was despondent, and then the hermit, Tapodhana, disappeared with him.

Then Muktāphalaketu said to Padmāvatī:

“I will now go to my city and see what will happen to me there.”

When Padmāvatī heard this, being terrified at separation, she at once fell on the earth with all her ornaments, as a creeper, broken by the wind, falls with all its flowers. And Muktāphalaketu comforted, as well as he could, his crying love, and departed with his friend, frequently turning his eyes to look at her.

And after he was gone, Padmāvatī was much grieved, and, weeping, said to her friend Manohārikā, who tried to comfort her:

“My friend, I am certain that I saw the goddess Pārvatī to-day in a dream, and she was about to throw a garland of lotuses round my neck, when she said, ‘Never mind! I will give it you on some future occasion,’ and desisted from her intention. So I understand that she wished in this way to let me know that my union with my beloved would be hindered.”

When she was mourning in this way over what had occurred, her friend said to her:

“This dream was no doubt sent to you when you say, by the goddess, in order to comfort you. And the hermit said the very same to you, and the gods have clearly thus ordained. So, be of good cheer, you will soon be reunited with your beloved.”

This and other speeches from her friend, and the magic efficacy of the crest-jewel, made Padmāvatī recover her self-command, and she remained there in the hermitage of Gaurī. And she performed asceticism, worshipping there Śiva and Pārvatī three times a day, and also the picture of her beloved, which she had brought from her own city, looking upon it as the image of a divinity.

Her parents, hearing what had taken place, came to her in tears, and tried to prevent her, saying:

“Do not uselessly fatigue yourself with penance to bring about a desired end which will anyhow take place.”

But she said to them:

“How could I live here with any comfort, now that the husband recently appointed for me by the god has fallen into misery owing to a curse? For to ladies of good family a husband is a god. And no doubt this calamity may soon be brought to an end by austerities, and Śiva may be propitiated, and then I may be reunited with my beloved, for there is nothing[15] that austerities cannot accomplish.”

When Padmāvatī had said this with firm resolution, her mother, Kuvalayāvalī, said to her father, the king:

“King, let her perform this severe asceticism! Why trouble her further on false grounds? This is appointed for her by Destiny: there is a reason for it. Listen. Long ago, in the city of Śiva, the daughter of the king of the Siddhas, named Devaprabhā, was performing a very severe penance, in order to obtain the husband she desired.

Now my daughter Padmāvatī had gone there with me to visit the shrine of the god, and she went up to the Siddha maiden and laughed at her, saying:

‘Are you not ashamed to practise austerities in order to obtain a husband?’

Then the Siddha maiden cursed her in her rage, saying:

‘Fool! your laughter proceeds from childishness: you also shall perform painful austerities to your heart’s content to obtain a husband.’

Accordingly she must of necessity endure the misery which the curse of the Siddha maiden has entailed; who can alter that? So let her do what she is doing.”

When the queen had said this to the king of the Gandharvas, he took leave at last, though reluctantly, of his daughter, who bowed at his feet, and went to his own city. And Padmāvatī remained in that hermitage of Pārvatī, intent on religions observances and prayers, and every day she went through the air and worshipped that Siddhīśvara that was worshipped by Brahmā and the other gods, of which Śiva had told her in a dream.

Footnotes and references:


See Vol. VI, pp.43n1, 44n. —n.m.p.


The reed was no doubt used as a brush or pencil. The Sanskrit College MS. reads utkaṇṭhā-sannapāṇir ahaṃ kathaṃ.


The three India Office MSS. read atha śrutam, which, I suppose, means, “and I heard something too.”


This line in Brockhaus’ text is unmetrical. Nos. 1882 and 3003 read kim nu gūhyate, No. 2166 has na for nu.


I adopt Dr Kern’s conjecture of yāṃ for yā. It is confirmed by the three India Office MSS. and by the Sanskrit College MS.


This meaning is assigned by Böhtlingk and Roth to the word nirvāti in this passage.


For a note on sandalwood see Vol. VII, pp. 105-107, and for the bed of lotus leaves cf. Vol. VII, pp. 101 and 143.—n.m.p.


I follow MSS. Nos. 3003 and 2166, which give jano’ nuvṛtto’ pi.


Böhtlingk and Roth consider that sākalyaka is the true reading. One MS. certainly has y, and I think probably the others.


By the canons of Hindu rhetoric a smile is white. Hence this frigid conceit.


I read na for tu. Two out of the three India Office MSS. and the Sanskrit College MS. give na.


See Vol. II, pp.144n1, 1 45 n; and Vol. V, pp.200n3, 201n.—n.m.p.


Here MSS. Nos. 3003 and 2166 and the Sanskrit College MS. read aprekṣāpūrvakāriṇa, the nominative case of which word is found in Taraṅga 64, śl. 20 and 26. No. 1882 has aprekṣyāpūrvakāriṇā.


One kalpa is 4320 million years. See further Vol. V, p.27n1.—n.m.p.


Two of the India Office MSS. and the Sanskrit College MS. insert kinchit before tapasām.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: