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 ...

171. Story of King Vikramāditya

THEN King Vikramāditya reached that victorious army commanded by that Vikramaśakti, his general, and he entered it at the head of his forces, accompanied by that general, who came to meet him, eager and with loyal mind, together with the vassal kings.

The kings were thus announced by the warders in the tent of assembly:

“Your Majesty, here is Śaktikumāra, the King of Gauḍa, come to pay you his respects, here is Jayadhvaja, the King of Karṇāṭa, here is Vijayavarman of Lāṭa, here is Sunandana of Kaśmīra, here is Gopāla, King of Sindh, here is Vindhyabala, the Bhilla, and here is Nirmūka, the King of the Persians.”

And when they had been thus announced, the king honoured them, and the feudal chiefs, and also the soldiers. And he welcomed in appropriate fashion the daughter of the King of Siṃhala, and the heavenly maidens, and the golden deer, and Vikramaśakti. And the next day the successful monarch Vikramāditya set out with them and his forces, and reached the city of Ujjayinī.

Then, the kings having been dismissed with marks of honour[1] to their own territories, and the world-gladdening festival of the spring season having arrived, when the creepers began, so to speak, to adorn themselves with flowers for jewels, and the female bees to keep up a concert with their humming, and the ranges of the wood to dance embraced by the wind, and the cuckoos with melodious notes to utter auspicious prayers, King Vikramāditya married on a fortunate day that daughter of the King of Siṃhala, and those two heavenly maidens. And Siṃhavarman, the eldest brother of the Princess of Siṃhala, who had come with her, bestowed at the marriage-altar a great heap of jewels.

And at that moment the Yakṣiṇī Madanamañjarī appeared, and gave those two heavenly maidens countless heaps of jewels.

The Yakṣī said:

“How can I ever, King, recompense you for your benefits? But I have done this unimportant service to testify my devotion to you. So you must show favour to these maidens, and to the deer.”

When the Yakṣiṇī had said this, she departed honoured by the king.

Then the successful King Vikramāditya, having obtained those wives and the earth with all its dvīpas, ruled a realm void of opponents: and he enjoyed himself roaming in all the garden grounds—during the hot season living in the water of tanks and in artificial fountain-chambers; during the rains in inner apartments, charming on account of the noise of cymbals that arose in them; during the autumn on the tops of palaces, joyous with banquets under the rising moon; during the winter in chambers where comfortable couches were spread, and which were fragrant with black aloes—being ever surrounded by his wives.

Now, this king, being such as I have described, had a painter named Nagarasvāmin, who enjoyed the revenues of a hundred villages, and surpassed Viśvakarman. That painter used every two or three days to paint a picture of a girl, and give it as a present to the king, taking care to exemplify different types of beauty.

Now, once on a time, it happened that that painter had, because a feast was going on, forgotten to paint the required girl for the king. And when the day for giving the present arrived, the painter remembered and was bewildered, saying to himself: “Alas! what can I give to the king?”

And at that moment a traveller, come from afar, suddenly approached him and placed a book in his hand, and went off somewhere quickly. The painter, out of curiosity, opened the book, and saw within a picture of a girl on canvas. Inasmuch as the girl was of wonderful beauty, no sooner did he see her picture than he took it and gave it to the king, rejoicing that, so far from having no picture to present that day, he had obtained such an exceedingly beautiful one.

But the king, as soon as he saw it, was astonished, and said to him:

“My good fellow, this is not your painting, this is the painting of Viśvakarman: for how could a mere mortal be skilful enough to paint such beauty?”

When the painter heard this, he told the king exactly what had taken place.

Then the king kept ever looking at the picture of the girl, and never took his eyes off it; and one night he saw in a dream a girl exactly like her, but in another dvīpa. But as he eagerly rushed to embrace her, who was eager to meet him, the night came to an end, and he was woke up by the watchman.[2]

When the king awoke, he was so angry at the interruption of his delightful interview with that maiden, that he banished that watchman from the city. And he said to himself:

“To think that a traveller should bring a book, and that in it there should be the painted figure of a girl, and that I should in a dream behold this same girl apparently alive! All this elaborate dispensation of destiny makes me think that she must be a real maiden, but I do not know in what dvīpa she lives; how am I to obtain her?”

Full of such reflections, the king took pleasure in nothing,[3] and burned with the fever of love so that his attendants were full of anxiety.

And the warder Bhadrāyudha asked the afflicted king in private the cause of his grief, whereupon he spake as follows:

“Listen, I will tell you, my friend. So much at any rate you know—that that painter gave me the picture of a girl. And I fell asleep thinking on her; and I remember that in my dream I crossed the sea, and reached and entered a very beautiful city. There I saw many armed maidens in front of me, and they, as soon as they saw me, raised a tumultuous cry of ‘Kill, kill.’[4]

Then a certain female ascetic came and, with great precipitation, made me enter her house, and briefly said to me this:

‘My son, here is the man-hating princess Malayavatī come this way, diverting herself as she pleases. And the moment she sees a man, she makes these maidens of hers kill him: so I brought you in here to save your life.’[5]

“When the female ascetic had said this, she immediately made me put on female attire; and I submitted to that, knowing that it was not lawful to slay those maidens.

But when the princess entered into the house with her maidens, I looked at her, and lo! she was the very lady that had been shown me in the picture. And I said to myself:

‘Fortunate am I in that, after first seeing this lady in a picture, I now behold her again in flesh and blood, dear as my life.’

“In the meanwhile the princess, at the head of her maidens, said to that female ascetic:

‘We saw some male enter here.’

The ascetic showed me, and answered:

‘I know of no male; here is my sister’s daughter, who is with me as a guest.’

Then the princess, seeing me—although I was disguised as a woman—forgot her dislike of men, and was at once overcome by love. She remained for a moment, with every hair on her body erect, motionless, as if in thought, being, so to speak, nailed to the spot at once with arrows by Love, who had spied his opportunity. And in a moment the princess said to the ascetic:

‘Then, noble lady, why should not your sister’s daughter be my guest also? Let her come to my palace; I wül send her back duly honoured.’

Saying this, she took me by the hand, and led me away to her palace. And I remember, I discerned her intention, and consented, and went there, and that sly old female ascetic gave me leave to depart.

“Then I remained there with that princess, who was diverting herself with the amusement of marrying her maidens to one another, and so forth. Her eyes were fixed on me, and she would not let me out of her sight for an instant, and no occupation pleased her in which I did not take part. Then those maidens, I remember, made the princess a bride, and me her husband, and married us in sport. And when we had been married, we entered at night the bridal chamber, and the princess fearlessly threw her arms round my neck. And then I told her who I was, and embraced her; and, delighted at having attained her object, she looked at me and then remained a long time with her eyes bashfully fixed on the ground. And at that moment that villain of a watchman woke me up. So, Bhadrāyudha, the upshot of the whole matter is that I can no longer live without that Malayavatī, whom I have seen in a picture and in a dream.”

When the king said this, the warder, Bhadrāyudha, perceived that it was a true dream, and he consoled the monarch, and said to him:

“If the king remembers it all exactly, let him draw that city on a piece of canvas in order that some expedient may be devised in this matter.”

The moment the king heard this suggestion of Bhadrāyudha’s, he proceeded to draw that splendid city on a piece of canvas, and all the scene that took place there. Then the warder at once took the drawing, and had a new monastery[6] made, and hung it up there on the wall. And he directed that in relief-houses attached to the monastery, a quantity of food, with pairs of garments and gold, should be given to bards coming from distant countries.

And he gave this order to the dwellers in the monastery:

“If anyone comes here who knows the city represented here in a picture, let me be informed of it.”[7]

In the meanwhile the fierce elephant of the rainy season, with irresistible loud deep thunder-roar and long ketaka tusks, came down upon the forest of the heats—a forest, the breezes of which were scented with the perfume of the jasmine, in which travellers sat down on the ground in the shade, and trumpet-flowers bloomed. At that time the forest-fire of separation of that King Vikramāditya began to burn more fiercely, fanned by the eastern breeze.[8]

Then the following cries were heard among the ladies of his court:

Hāralatā, bring ice! Citrāṅgī, sprinkle him with sandalwood juice! Patralekhā, make a bed cool with lotus leaves! Kandarpasenā, fan him with plantain leaves!”

And in course of time the cloudy season, terrible with lightning, passed away for that king, but the fever of love, burning[9] with the sorrow of separation, did not pass away.

Then the autumn, with her open-lotus face and smile of unclosed flowers, came, vocal with the cries of swans,[10] seeming to utter this command:

“Let travellers advance on their journey; let pleasant tidings be brought about absent dear ones; happy may their merry meetings be!”

On a certain day in that season a bard—who had come from a distance—of the name of Śambarasiddhi, having heard the fame of that monastery, built by the warder, entered it to get food. After he had been fed, and presented with a pair of garments, he saw that painting on the wall of the monastery.

When the bard had carefully scanned the city delineated there, he was astonished, and said:

“I wonder who can have drawn this city? For I alone have seen it, I am certain, and no other; and here it is drawn by some second person.”

When the inhabitants of the monastery heard that, they told Bhadrāyudha; then he came in person, and took that bard to the king.

The king said to Śambarasiddhi:

“Have you really seen that city?”

Then Śambarasiddhi gave him the following answer:

“When I was wandering about the world, I crossed the sea that separates the dvīpas, and beheld that great city Malayapura. In that city there dwells a king of the name of Malayasiṃha, and he has a matchless daughter, named Malayavatī, who used to abhor males. But one night she somehow or other saw in a dream a great hero in a convent.[11] The moment she saw him, that evil spirit of detestation of the male sex fled from her mind, as if terrified. Then she took him to her palace, and in her dream married him, and entered with him the bridal chamber. And at that moment the night came to an end, and an attendant in her room woke her up. Then she banished that servant in her anger, thinking upon that dear one whom she had seen in her dream; seeing no way of escape owing to the blazing fire of separation, utterly overpowered by love, she never rose from her couch except to fall back upon it again with relaxed limbs. She was dumb—as if possessed by a demon; as if stunned by a blow[12]—for when her attendants questioned her, she gave them no answer.

“Then her father and mother came to hear of it, and questioned her; and at last she was, with exceeding difficulty, persuaded to tell them what happened to her in the dream, by the mouth of a confidential female friend. Then her father comforted her, but she made a solemn vow that, if she did not obtain her beloved in six months, she would enter the fire. And already five months are past; who knows what will become of her? This is the story that I heard about her in that city.”

When Śambarasiddhi had told this story, which tallied so well with the king’s own dream, the king was pleased at knowing the certainty of the matter, and Bhadrāyudha said to him:

“The business is as good as effected, for that king and his country own your paramount supremacy. So let us go there before the sixth month has passed away.”

When the warder had said this, King Vikramāditya made him inform Śambarasiddhi of all the circumstances connected with the matter, and honoured him with a present of much wealth, and bade him show him the way, and then he seemed to bequeath his own burning heat to the rays of the sun, his paleness to the clouds, and his thinness to the waters of the rivers,[13] and having become free from sorrow, set out at once, escorted by a small force, for the dwelling-place of his beloved.

In course of time, as he advanced, he crossed the sea, and reached that city, and there he saw the people in front of it engaged in loud lamentation, and when he questioned them, he received this answer:

“The Princess Malayavatī here, as the period of six months is at an end, and she has not obtained her beloved, is preparing to enter the fire.”

Then the king went to the place where the pyre had been made ready.

When the people saw him, they made way for him, and then the princess beheld that unexpected nectar-rain to her eyes.

And she said to her ladies-in-waiting:

“Here is that beloved come who married me in a dream, so tell my father quickly.”

They went and told this to her father, and then that king, delivered from his grief, and filled with joy, submissively approached the sovereign.

At that moment the bard Śambarasiddhi, who knew his time, lifted up his arm, and chanted aloud this strain:

“Hail, thou that with the flame of thy valour hast consumed the forest of the army of demons and Mlecchas! Hail, King, lord of the seven-sea-girt earth-bride! Hail, thou that hast imposed thy exceedingly heavy yoke on the bowed heads of all kings, conquered by thee! Hail, Viṣamaśīla! Hail, Vikramāditya, ocean of valour!”

When the bard said this, King Malayasiṃha knew that it was Vikramāditya himself that had come, and embraced his feet.[14] And after he had welcomed him, he entered his palace with him, and his daughter Malayavatī, thus delivered from death. And that king gave that daughter of his to King Vikramāditya, thinking himself fortunate in having obtained such a son-in-law. And King Vikramāditya, when he saw in his arms, in flesh and blood, that Malayavatī, whom he had previously seen in a picture and in a dream, considered it a wonderful fruit of the wishing-tree of Śiva’s favour. Then Vikramāditya took with him his wife Malayavatī, like an incarnation of bliss, and crossed the sea resembling his long regretful[15] separation, and being submissively waited upon at every step by kings, with various presents in their hands, returned to his own city Ujjayinī. And on beholding there that might of his, that satisfied[16] freely every kind of curiosity, what people were not astonished, what people did not rejoice, what people did not make high festival?

Footnotes and references:


Dr Kern would read sammānitavisṛṣṭeṣu; and this is the reading of the Taylor MS. and of the Sanskrit College MS.; No. 3003 has saminānitair.


For falling in love with a lady seen in a dream see Vol. III, p. 82,82n2, and Rohde, Der Griechische Roman, pp. 45, 46 and 49. For falling in love with a lady seen in a picture, see Vol. IV, p. 132,132n1.


I read aratimān for ratimān in the Sanskrit College MS. The Taylor MS. has sarvatrānratimān; the other agrees with Brockhaus.


I read praveśyaiva.


Cf. Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, p. 97; in Waldau’s Böhmische Märchen, p. 444, there is a beautiful Amazon who fights with the prince on condition that if he is victorious she is to be his prisoner, but if she is victorious, he is to be put to death. Rohde, in Der Griechische Roman, p. 148, gives a long list of “coy huntress maids.” Spenser’s Radigund, Faerie Queene, Book V, cantos 4-7, bears a close resemblance to Malayavatī.——Cf. the fair Amazon in the “Tale of King Omar bin al-Nu’uman,” Nights, Burton, vol. ii, p. 96.—n. m. p.


Sanskrit, maṭha.


For a note on methods of finding people, see Chauvin, op. cit., v, p. 90. —N.M.P.


The Petersburg lexicographers would read paurastya; and I find this in the Taylor MS. and the Sanskrit College MS. The same MSS. read ambudaśyāmo for atha durdarśa. The latter word should be spelt durdharṣa.


I read savirahajvālo and sakāśa in śl. 72.


The two India Office MSS. that contain this passage, and the Sanskrit College MS., make the compound end in ravaiḥ, so the command will be given by the cries of the swans. In śl. 71, for grathyantām, No. 1882 and the Sanskrit College MS. give budhyantām. In śl. 78, for ākhyātim, three MSS. give khyātim.


Sanskrit, vihāra. The tāpasī of śl. 39 was therefore a Buddhist. No. 3003 reads vihāranirgatā, which agrees with śl. 40. No. 1882 has viharanirgataṃ. The Sanskrit College MS. has viharanirgataṃ.


For ghāta, No. 1882 has tamaḥ and No. 3003 vāta.


This probably means that he started in the autumn.


No. 3003, “yathā chitre tathā svapne yathā svapne tathaivatāṃ vilokya sākṣād”; so too No. 1882. The Sanskrit College MS. agrees, but omits yathā svapne.


The word that means “regret” may also mean “wave.”


I follow Böhtlingk and Roth. Dr Kern would read sajjīkṛta in the sense of “prepared”; he takes kautukani in the sense of nuptial ceremonies. No. 1882 (the Taylor MS.) has mantū and No. 3003 has satyī. The Sanskrit College MS. supports Brockhaus’ text.

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