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 ...

Part 16 - The Marianne Islands

The largest and most important island of the Marianne or the Ladrones group is Guam. It lies about 1200 miles east of the Philippines, and was discovered by Magellan in 1521. Narratives of early navigators and accounts of contemporary Jesuit missionaries tell us that the custom of betel-chewing was universal, and that the lime used in the “chew” was obtained by burning coral rock. Kava, so widely used throughout Polynesia, was unknown.

To-day matters have changed but little, and every native is addicted to betel-chewing. Both the areca-palm and the betel-vine had been cultivated on the island before its discovery by Magellan, while the only other narcotic known, tobacco, was introduced by the Spaniards from America. The areca-palm, although frequently planted by the natives, also grows spontaneously.

“Thousands of young plants may be seen,” says Safford, in his report on Guam, “in the rich valleys of the southern part of the island where seeds have fallen from the palms.”[1]

The betel-vine occurs only in a state of cultivation, but requires little care, the natives propagating it very easily from cuttings and allowing it to creep upon stone walls and to climb over trees.

Excellent illustrations of the areca-palm and betel-vine will be found in Plates XXXV and LXIII of Safford’s work. He points out that several important plants, such as rice, the betel-vine and the areca-palm, cultivated by the aborigines of Guam, were entirely unknown in Eastern Polynesia. They are, he says, undoubtedly of Malayan origin and bear Malay names.[2] They probably found their way to the Malayan Islands after the departure of the people who spread over the eastern Pacific Islands, but before the separation of the settlers of Guam from the parent stock.[3]

Betel-chewing is a matter of etiquette at all wedding feasts, dances and funerals. Nuts deprived of their fibrous envelopes, fresh pepper leaves and quicklime, together with cigars, are passed round to the assembled guests.[4]

The kava pepper does not grow in Guam, and in islands where it is cultivated, its leaves are occasionally used in the place of those of the betel-vine for chewing.

Footnotes and references:


The Useful Plants of the Island of Guam, contributions to the U.S. National Herbarium, vol. ix, Smithsonian Inst., 1905, pp. 146-147.


The areca-nut is called pugua in Guam, pua in the Banda Islands, puah, buah in Amboina, niga in the Solomons, bue in New Britain, bua in the Pelew Islands, and bonga or bunga in the Philippines. The vine is called pupulo or pupulu in Guam, kolula in the Western Solomons.


Safford, op. cit., p. 154.


Ibid., p. 187.

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