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 ...

171d. Kaliṅgasenā’s Marriage to King Vikramāditya

THEN King Vikramāditya put this question to the friend of the young merchant, who came with him:

“You said that you recovered your wife alive after she was dead: how could that be? Tell us, good sir, the whole story at length.”

When the king said this to the friend of the young merchant, the latter answered:

“Listen, King, if you have any curiosity about it, I proceed to tell the story.


171d (6). The Brāhman who recovered his Wife alive after her Death

I am a young Brāhman of the name of Candrasvāmin, living on that magnificent grant to Brāhmans called Brahmasthala, and I have a beautiful wife in my house. One day I had gone to the village for some object, by my father’s orders, and a kāpālika, who had come to beg, cast eyes on that wife of mine. She caught a fever from the moment he looked at her, and in the evening she died. Then my relations took her and put her on the pyre during the night. And when the pyre was in full blaze I returned there from the village; and I heard what had happened from my family, who wept before me.

Then I went near the pyre, and the kāpālika came there, with the magic staff dancing[1] on his shoulder and the booming drum in his hand. He quenched the flame of the pyre, King, by throwing ashes on it,[2] and then my wife rose up from the midst of it uninjured. The kāpālika took with him my wife, who followed him, drawn by his magic power, and ran off quickly; and I followed him with my bow and arrows.

And when he reached a cave on the bank of the Ganges he put the magic staff down on the ground, and said exultingly to two maidens who were in it:

“She, without whom I could not marry you, though I had obtained you, has come into my possession; and so my vow has been successfully accomplished.”[3]

Saying this, he showed them my wife, and at that moment I flung his magic staff into the Ganges.

And when he had lost his magic power by the loss of the staff, I reproached him, exclaiming:

Kāpālika, as you wish to rob me of my wife, you shall live no longer.”

Then the scoundrel, not seeing his magic staff, tried to run away; but I drew my bow and killed him with a poisoned arrow. Thus do heretics, who feign the vows of Śiva only for the pleasure of accomplishing nefarious ends, fall, though their sin has already sunk them deep enough.

Then I took my wife, and those other two maidens, and I returned home, exciting the astonishment of my relations.

Then I asked those two maidens to tell me their history, and they gave me this answer:

“We are the daughters respectively of a king and a chief merchant in Benares, and the kāpālika carried us off by the same magic process by which he carried off your wife; and thanks to you we have been delivered from the villain without suffering insult.”

This was their tale. And the next day I took them to Benares and handed them over to their relations, after telling what had befallen them.[4]

And as I was returning thence I saw this young merchant, who had lost his wife, and I came here with him. Moreover, I anointed my body with an ointment that I found in the cave of the kāpālika; and, observe, perfume still exhales from it, even though it has been washed.


171d. Kaliṅgasenā’s Marriage to King Vikramāditya

“In this sense did I recover my wife arisen from the dead.”

When the Brāhman had told this story, the king honoured him and the young merchant, and sent them on their way. And then that King Vikramāditya, taking with him Guṇavatī, Candravatī and Madanasundarī, and having met his own forces, returned to the city of Ujjayinī, and there he married Guṇavatī and Candravatī.

Then the king called to mind the figure carved on a pillar that he had seen in the temple built by Viśvakarman, and he gave this order to the warder:

“Let an ambassador be sent to Kaliṅgasena to demand from him that maiden whose likeness I saw carved on the pillar.”

When the warder received this command from the king, he brought before him an ambassador named Suvigraha, and sent him off with a message.

So the ambassador went to the country of Kaliṅga, and when he had seen the King Kaliṅgasena, he delivered to him the message with which he had been entrusted, which was as follows:

“King, the glorious sovereign Vikramāditya sends you this command:

‘You know that every jewel on the earth comes to me as my due; and you have a pearl of a daughter, so hand her over to me, and then by my favour you shall enjoy in your own realm an unopposed sway.’”

When the King of Kaliṅga heard this, he was very angry, and he said:

“Who is this King Vikramāditya? Does he presume to give me orders and ask for my daughter as a tribute? Blinded with pride he shall be cast down.”

When the ambassador heard this from Kaliṅgasena, he said to him:

“How can you, being a servant, dare to set yourself up against your master? You do not know your place. What, madman! do you wish to be shrivelled like a moth in the fire of his wrath?”

When the ambassador had said this, he returned and communicated to King Vikramāditya that speech of Kaliṅgasena’s. Then King Viṣamaśila, being angry, marched out with his forces to attack the King of Kaliṅga, and the Vetāla Bhūtaketu went with him. As he marched along, the quarters, re-echoing the roar of his army, seemed to say to the King of Kaliṅga, “Surrender the maiden quickly”; and so he reached that country. When King Vikramāditya saw the King of Kaliṅga ready for battle, he surrounded him with his forces.

But then he thought in his mind:

“I shall never be happy without this king’s daughter; and yet how can I kill my own father-in-law? Suppose I have recourse to some stratagem.”

When the king had gone through these reflections, he went with the Vetāla, and by his supernatural power entered the bedchamber of the King of Kaliṅga at night, when he was asleep, without being seen.

Then the Vetāla woke up the king, and, when he was terrified, said to him, laughing:

“What! Do you dare to sleep when you are at war with King Vikramāditya?”

Then the King of Kaliṅga rose up, and seeing the monarch, who had thus shown his daring, standing with a terrible Vetāla at his side, and recognising him, bowed trembling at his feet, and said:

“King, I now acknowledge your supremacy; tell me what I am to do.”

And the king answered him:

“If you wish to have me as your overlord, give me your daughter Kaliṅgasenā.”

Then the King of Kaliṅga agreed, and promised to give him his daughter. And so the monarch returned successful to his camp.

And the next day, Queen, your father, the King of Kaliṅga, bestowed you on King Viṣamaśila with appropriate ceremonies, and a splendid marriage gift. Thus, Queen, you were lawfully married by the king out of his deep love for you, and at the risk of his own life, and not out of any desire to triumph over an enemy.


171. Story of King Vikramāditya

“When I heard this story, my friends, from the mouth of the kārpaṭika Devasena, I dismissed my anger, which was caused by the contempt with which I supposed myself to have been treated. So, you see, this king was induced to marry me by seeing a likeness of me carved on a pillar, and to marry Malayavatī by seeing a painted portrait of her.”

In these words Kaliṅgasenā, the beloved wife of King Vikramāditya, described her husband’s might, and delighted his other wives. Then Vikramāditya, accompanied by all of them, and by Malayavatī, remained delighting in his empire.

Then one day a Rājpūt named Kṛṣṇaśakti, who had been oppressed by the members of his clan, came there from the Deccan. He went to the palace gate surrounded by five hundred Rājpūts, and took on himself the vow of kārpaṭika to the king.

And though the king tried to dissuade him, he made this declaration:

“I will serve King Vikramāditya for twelve years.”

And he remained at the gate of the palace, with his followers, determined to carry out his vow; and while he was thus engaged, eleven years passed over his head.

And when the twelfth year came, his wife, who was in another land, grieved at her long separation from him, sent him a letter; and he happened to be reading this Āryā verse, which she had written in the letter, at night, by the light of a lamp, when the king, who had gone out in search of adventures, was listening, concealed:

“Hot, long and tremulous, do these sighs issue forth from me, during thy absence, my lord, but not the breath of life, hard-hearted woman that I am.”

When the king had heard this read over and over again by the kārpaṭika, he went to his palace and said to himself:

“This kārpaṭika, whose wife is in such despondency, has long endured affliction, and if his objects are not gained he will, when this twelfth year is at an end, yield his breath. So I must not let him wait any longer.”

After going through these reflections, the king at once sent a female slave, and summoned that kārpaṭika. And after he had caused a grant to be written, he gave him this order:

“My good fellow, go towards the northern quarter, through Oṃkārapīṭha; there live on the proceeds of a village of the name of Khaṇḍavaṭaka, which I give you by this grant; you will find it by asking your way as you go along.”

When the king had said this, he gave the grant into his hands, and the kārpaṭika went off by night without telling his followers. He was dissatisfied, saying to himself:

“How shall I be helped to conquer my enemies by a single village that will rather disgrace me? Nevertheless, my sovereign’s orders must be obeyed.”

So he slowly went on, and having passed Oṃkārapīṭha, he saw in a distant forest many maidens playing, and then he asked them this question:

“Do you know where Khaṇḍavaṭaka is?”

When they heard that, they answered:

“We do not know; go on farther. Our father lives only ten yojanas from here; ask him. He may perhaps know of that village.”

When the maidens had said this to him, the kārpaṭika went on, and beheld their father, a Rākṣasa of terrible appearance.

He said to him:

“Whereabouts here is Khaṇḍavaṭaka? Tell me, my good fellow.”

And the Rākṣasa, quite taken aback by his courage, said to him:

“What have you got to do there? The city has been long deserted; but if you must go, listen. This road in front of you divides into two: take the one on the left hand, and go on until you reach the main entrance of Khaṇḍavaṭaka, the lofty rampart on each side of which make it attract the eye.”

When the Rākṣasa had told him this, he went on, and reached that main street, and entered that city, which, though of heavenly beauty, was deserted and awe-inspiring. And in it he entered the palace, which was surrounded with seven zones, and ascended the upper storey of it, which was made of jewels and gold. There he saw a gem-bestudded throne, and he sat down on it.

Thereupon a Rākṣasa came with a wand in his hand and said to him:

“Mortal, why have you sat down here on the king’s throne?”

When the resolute kārpaṭika Kṛṣṇaśakti heard this, he said:

“I am lord here; and you are tribute-paying householders whom King Vikramāditya has made over to me by his grant.”

When the Rākṣasa heard that, he looked at the grant, and, bowing before him, said:

“You are king here, and I am your warder; for the decrees of King Vikramāditya are binding everywhere.”

When the Rākṣasa had said this, he summoned all the subjects, and the ministers and the king’s retinue presented themselves there; and that city was filled with an army of four kinds of troops. And everyone paid his respects to the kārpaṭika; and he was delighted, and performed his bathing and his other ceremonies with royal luxury.

Then, having become a king, he said to himself in amazement:

“Astonishing, truly, is the power of King Vikramāditya; and strangely unexampled is the depth of his dignified reserve, in that he bestows a kingdom like this and calls it a village!”

Full of amazement at this, he remained there, ruling as a king; and Vikramāditya supported his followers in Ujjayinī.

And after some days this kārpaṭika, become a king, went eagerly to pay his respects to King Vikramāditya, shaking the earth with his army.

And when he arrived, and threw himself at the feet of Vikramāditya, that king said to him:

“Go and put a stop to the sighs of your wife who sent you the letter.”

When the king dispatched him with these words, Kṛṣṇaśakti, full of wonder, went with his friends to his own land. There he drove out his kinsmen, and delighted his wife, who had been long pining for him; and having gained more even than he had ever wished for, enjoyed the most glorious royal fortune.

So wonderful were the deeds of King Vikramāditya.

Now one day he saw a Brāhman with every hair on his head and body standing on end; and he said to him:

“What has reduced you, Brāhman, to this state?”

Then the Brāhman told him his story in the following words:


171e. The Permanently Horripilant Brāhman

There lived in Pāṭaliputra a Brāhman of the name of Agnisvāmin, a great maintainer of the sacrificial fire; and I am his son, Devasvāmin by name. And I married the daughter of a Brāhman who lived in a distant land, and because she was a child I left her in her father’s house. One day I mounted a mare and went with one servant to my father-in-law’s house to fetch her. There my father-in-law welcomed me; and I set out from his house with my wife, who was mounted on the mare, and had one maid with her.

And when we had got half way, my wife got off the mare and went to the bank of the river, pretending that she wanted to drink water. And as she remained a long time without coming back, I sent the servant, who was with me, to the bank of the river to look for her. And as he also remained a long time without coming back, I went there myself, leaving the maid to take care of the mare. And when I went and looked, I found that my wife’s mouth was stained with blood, and that she had devoured my servant, and left nothing of him but the bones.[5] In my terror I left her and went back to find the mare, and lo! her maid had in the same way eaten that. Then I fled from the place, and the fright I got on that occasion still remains in me, so that even now I cannot prevent the hair on my head and body from standing on end.[6]


171. Story of King Vikramāditya

“So you, King, are my only hope.”

When the Brāhman said this, Vikramāditya by his sovereign fiat relieved him of all fear. Then the king said:

“Out on it! One cannot repose any confidence in women, for they are full of daring wickedness.”

When the king said this, a minister remarked:

“Yes, King, women are fully as wicked as you say. By the by, have you not heard what happened to the Brāhman Agniśarman here?


171f. The Brāhman Agniśarman and his Wicked Wife.[7]

There lives in this very city a Brāhman named Agniśarman, the son of Somaśarman, whom his parents loved as their life, but who was a fool and ignorant of every branch of knowledge. He married the daughter of a Brāhman in the city of Vardhamāna; but her father, who was rich, would not let her leave his house, on the ground that she was a mere child.

And when she grew up, Agniśarman’s parents said to him:

“Son, why do you not now go and fetch your wife?”

When Agniśarman heard that, the stupid fellow went off alone to fetch her, without taking leave of his parents. When he left his house a partridge appeared on his right hand and a jackal howled on his left hand—a sure prophet of evil.[8] And the fool welcomed the omen, saying: “Hail! Hail!” And when the deity presiding over the omen heard it, she laughed at him unseen. And when he reached his father-in-law’s place, and was about to enter it, a partridge appeared on his right and a jackal on his left, boding evil. And again he welcomed the omen, exclaiming: “Hail! Hail!” And again the goddess of the omen, hearing it, laughed at him unseen.

And that goddess presiding over the omen said to herself:

“Why, this fool welcomes bad luck as if it were good! So I must give him the luck which he welcomes. I must contrive to save his life.”

While the goddess was going through these reflections, Agniśarman entered his father-in-law’s house, and was joyfully welcomed.

And his father-in-law and his family asked him why he had come alone, and he answered them:

“I came without telling anyone at home.”

Then he bathed and dined in the appropriate manner, and, when night came on, his wife came to his sleeping apartment, adorned. But he fell asleep, fatigued with the journey. And then she went out to visit a paramour of hers, a thief, who had been impaled. But while she was embracing his body the demon that had entered it bit off her nose, and she fled thence in fear.

And she went and placed an unsheathed[9] dagger at her sleeping husband’s side, and cried out loud enough for all her relations to hear:

“Alas! Alas! I am murdered. This wicked husband of mine has got up and, without any cause, actually cut off my nose.”

When her relations heard that, they came, and seeing that her nose was cut off, they beat Agniśarman with sticks and other weapons. And the next day they reported the matter to the king, and by his orders they made him over to the executioners, to be put to death, as having injured his innocent wife.

But when he was being taken to the place of execution the goddess presiding over that omen, who had seen the proceedings of his wife during the night, said to herself:

“This man has reaped the fruit of the evil omens, but as he said, ‘Hail! Hail!’ I must save him from execution.”

Having thus reflected, the goddess exclaimed unseen from the air:

“Executioners, this young Brāhman is innocent; you must not put him to death. Go and see the nose between the teeth of the impaled thief.”

When she had said this, she related the proceedings of his wife during the night. Then the executioners, believing the story, represented it to the king by the mouth of the warder; and the king, seeing the nose between the teeth of the thief, remitted the capital sentence passed on Agniśarman and sent him home, and punished that wicked wife, and imposed a penalty on her relations[10] also.


171. Story of King Vikrāmaditya

“Such, King, is the character of women.”

When that minister had said this, King Vikramāditya approved his saying, exclaiming: “So it is!”

Then the cunning Mūladeva, who was near the king, said:

“King, are there no good women, though some are bad? Are there no mango-creepers as well as poisonous creepers? In proof that there are good women, hear what happened to me.


171g. Mūladeva and the Brāhman’s Daughter[11]

I went once to Pāṭaliputra with Śaśin, thinking that it was the home of polished wits, and longing to make trial of their cleverness. In a tank outside that city I saw a woman washing clothes, and I put this question to her:

“Where do travellers stay here?”

The old woman gave me an evasive answer, saying:

“Here the Brahmany ducks stay on the banks, the fish in the water, the bees in the lotuses, but I have never seen any part where travellers stay.”

When I got this answer I was quite nonplussed, and I entered the city with Śaśin.

There Śaśin saw a boy crying at the door of a house, with a warm[12] rice-pudding on a plate in front of him, and he said:

“Dear me! this is a foolish child not to eat the pudding in front of him, but to vex himself with useless weeping.”

When the child heard this, he wiped his eyes, and said, laughing:

“You fools do not know the advantages I get by crying. The pudding gradually cools and so becomes nice. And another good comes out of it; my phlegm is diminished thereby. These are the advantages I derive from crying. I do not cry out of folly. But you country bumpkins are fools because you do not see what I do it for.”

When the boy said this, Śaśin and I were quite abashed at our stupidity, and we went away, astonished, to another part of the town. There we saw a beautiful young lady on the trunk of a mango-tree, gathering mangoes, while her attendants stood at its foot.

We said to the young lady:

“Give us also some mangoes, fair one.”

And she answered:

“Would you like to eat your mangoes cold or hot?”

When I heard that, I said to her, wishing to penetrate the mystery:

“We should like, lovely one, to eat some warm ones first, and to have the others afterwards.”

When she heard this, she flung down some mango-fruits into the dust on the ground. We blew the dust off them and then ate them.

Then the young lady and her attendants laughed, and she said to us:

“I first gave you these warm mangoes, and you cooled them by blowing on them and then ate them: catch these cool ones, which will not require blowing on, in your clothes.”

When she had said this, she threw some more fruits into the flaps of our garments.


We took them, and left that place thoroughly ashamed of ourselves.

Then I said to Śaśin and my other companions:

“Upon my word I must marry this clever girl and pay her out for the way in which she has made a fool of me! Otherwise what becomes of my reputation for sharpness?”

When I said this to them, they found out her father’s house, and on a subsequent day we went there disguised, so that we could not be recognised.

And while we were reading the Veda there, her father, the Brāhman Yajñasvāmin, came up to us and said:

“Where do you come from?”

We said to that rich and noble Brāhman: “We have come here from the city of Māyāpurī to study.”

Thereupon he said to us:

“Then stay the next four months in my house; show me this favour, as you have come from a distant country.”

When we heard this, we said:

“We will do what you say, Brāhman, if you will give us, at the end of the four months, whatever we may ask for.”

When we said this to Yajñasvāmin, he answered:

“If you ask for anything that it is in my power to give, I will certainly give it.”

When he made this promise, we remained in his house. And when the four months were at an end we said to that Brāhman:

“We are going away, so give us what we ask for, as you long ago promised to do.”

He said: “What is that?”

Then Śaśin pointed to me and said: “Give your daughter to this man, who is our chief.”

Then the Brāhman Yajñasvāmin, being bound by his promise, thought:

“These fellows have tricked me. Never mind; there can be no harm in it; he is a deserving youth.”

So he gave me his daughter with the usual ceremonies.

And when night came I said, laughing, to the bride in the bridal chamber:

“Do you remember those warm and those cool mangoes?”

When she heard this she recognised me, and said, with a smile:

“Yes, country bumpkins are tricked in this way by city wits.”

Then I said to her:

“Rest you, fair city wit. I vow that I, the country bumpkin, will desert you and go far away.”

When she heard this, she also made a vow, saying:

“I too am resolved, for my part, that a son of mine by you shall bring you back again.”

When we had made one another these promises she went to sleep, with her face turned away, and I put my ring on her finger while she was asleep. Then I went out, and, joining my companions, started for my native city of Ujjayinī, wishing to make trial of her cleverness.

The Brāhman’s daughter, not seeing me next morning when she woke up, but seeing a ring on her finger marked with my name, said to herself:

“So he has deserted me and gone off! Well, he has been as good as his word; and I must keep mine too, dismissing all regrets. And I see by this ring that his name is Mūladeva; so no doubt he is that very Mūladeva who is so renowned for cunning. And people say that his permanent home is Ujjayinī; so I must go there, and accomplish my object by an artifice.”

When she had made up her mind to this, she went and made this false statement to her father:

“My father, my husband has deserted me immediately after marriage; and how can I live here happily without him. So I will go on a pilgrimage to holy waters, and will so mortify this accursed body.”

Having said this, and having wrung a permission from her unwilling father, she started off from her house with her wealth and her attendants. She procured a splendid dress suitable to a courtesan, and travelling along she reached Ujjayinī, and entered it as the chief beauty of the world. And having arranged with her attendants every detail of her scheme, that young Brāhman lady assumed the name of Sumaṅgalā.

And her servants proclaimed everywhere:

“A courtesan named Sumaṅgalā has come from Kāmarūpa, and her goodwill is only to be procured by the most lavish expenditure.”

Then a distinguished courtesan of Ujjayinī, named Devadattā, came to her, and gave her her own palace, worthy of a king, to dwell in by herself. And when she was established there, my friend Śaśin first sent a message to her, by a servant, saying:

“Accept a present from me which is won by your great reputation.”

But Sumaṅgalā sent back this message by the servant:

“The lover who obeys my commands may enter here. I do not care for a present, nor for other beastlike men.”

Śaśin accepted the terms, and repaired at nightfall to her palace.

And when he came to the first door of the palace, and had himself announced, the doorkeeper said to him:

“Obey our lady’s commands. Even though you may have bathed, you must bathe again here, otherwise you cannot be admitted.”

When Śaśin heard this, he agreed to bathe again as he was bid. Then he was bathed and anointed all oyer by her female slaves, in private; and while this was going on, the first watch of the night passed away. When he arrived, having bathed, at the second door, the doorkeeper said:

“You have bathed: now adorn yourself appropriately.”

He consented; and thereupon the lady’s female slaves adorned him, and meanwhile the second watch of the night came to an end.

Then he reached the door of the third zone, and there the guards said to him:

“Take a meal, and then enter.”

He said, “Very well”; and then the female slaves managed to delay him with various dishes until the third watch passed away.

Then he reached at last the fourth door, that of the lady’s private apartments; but there the doorkeeper reproached him in the following words:

“Away, boorish suitor, lest you draw upon yourself misfortune. Is the last watch of the night a proper time for paying the first visit to a lady?”

When Śaśin had been turned away in this contemptuous style by the warder, who seemed like an incarnation of untimeliness, he went away home with countenance sadly fallen.

In the same way that Brāhman’s daughter, who had assumed the name of Sumaṅgalā, disappointed many other visitors. When I heard of it I was moved of curiosity, and, after sending a messenger to and fro, I went at night splendidly adorned to her house. There I propitiated the warders at every door with magnificent presents, and I reached without delay the private apartments of that lady. And as I had arrived in time I was allowed by the doorkeepers to pass the door, and I entered and saw my wife, whom I did not recognise, owing to her being disguised as a courtesan. But she knew me again, and she advanced towards me and paid me all the usual civilities—made me sit down on a couch, and treated me with the attentions of a cunning courtesan. Then I passed the night with that wife of mine, who was the most beautiful woman of the world, and I became so attached to her that I could not leave the house in which she was staying.

She, too, was devoted to me, and never left my side until, after some days, the blackness of the tips of her breasts showed that she was pregnant.

Then the clever woman forged a letter, and showed it to me, saying:

“The king, my sovereign, has sent me a letter: read it.”

Then I opened the the letter, and read as follows:

“The august sovereign of the fortunate Kāmarūpa, Mānasiṃha, sends thence this order to Sumaṅgalā:

‘Why do you remain so long absent? Return quickly, dismissing your desire of seeing foreign countries.’”

When I had read this letter, she said to me, with affected grief:

“I must depart. Do not be angry with me; I am subject to the will of others.”

Having made this false excuse, she returned to her own city Pāṭaliputra. But I did not follow her, though deeply in love with her, as I supposed that she was not her own mistress.

And when she was in Pāṭaliputra she gave birth in due time to a son. And that boy grew up and learned all the accomplishments. And when he was twelve years old, that boy, in a childish freak, happened to strike with a creeper a fisherman’s son of the same age.

When the fisherman’s son was beaten he flew in a passion, and said:

“You beat me, though nobody knows who your father is; for your mother roamed about in foreign lands, and you were born to her by some husband or other.”[13]

When this was said to the boy, he was put to shame. So he went and said to his mother:

“Mother, who and where is my father? Tell me!”

Then his mother, the daughter of the Brāhman, reflected a moment, and said to him:

“Your father’s name is Mūladeva: he deserted me and went to Ujjayinī.”

After she had said this, she told him her whole story from the beginning.

Then the boy said to her:

“Mother, then I will go and bring my father back a captive. I will make your promise good.”

Having said this to his mother, and having been told by her how to recognise me, the boy set out thence, and reached this city of Ujjayinī. And he came and saw me playing dice in the gambling-hall, making certain of my identity from the description his mother had given him, and he conquered in play all who were there. And he astonished everyone there by showing such remarkable cunning, though he was a mere child. Then he gave away to the needy all the money he had won at play. And at night he artfully came and stole my bedstead from under me, letting me gently down on a heap of cotton while I was sleeping. So when I woke up, and saw myself on a heap of cotton, without a bedstead, I was at once filled with mixed feelings of shame, amusement and astonishment.

Then, King, I went at my leisure to the market-place, and roaming about, I saw that boy there, selling the bedstead.

So I went up to him and said:

“For what price will you give me this bedstead?”

Then the boy said to me:

“You cannot get the bedstead for money, crest-jewel of cunning ones; but you may get it by telling some strange and wonderful story.”

When I heard that, I said to him:

“Then I will tell you a marvellous tale. And if you understand it, and admit that it is really true, you may keep the bedstead; but if you say that it is not true, and that you do not believe it,[14] you will be illegitimate, and I shall get back the bedstead. On this condition I agree to tell you a marvel. And now listen. Formerly there was a famine in the kingdom of a certain king. That king himself cultivated the back of the beloved of the boar with great loads of spray from the chariots of the snakes. Enriched with the grain thus produced the king put a stop to the famine among his subjects, and gained the esteem of men.”

When I said this, the boy laughed and said:

“The chariots of the snakes are clouds; the beloved of the boar is the earth, for she is said to have been most dear to Viṣṇu in his boar incarnation; and what is there to be astonished at in the fact that rain from the clouds made grain to spring on the earth?”

When the cunning boy had said this, he went on to say to me, who was astonished at his cleverness:

“Now I will tell you a strange tale. If you understand it, and admit that it is really true, I will give you back this bedstead; otherwise you shall be my slave.”

I answered “Agreed,” and then the cunning boy said this:

“Prince of knowing ones, there was born long ago on this earth a wonderful boy, who, as soon as he was born, made the earth tremble with the weight of his feet, and when he grew bigger, stepped into another world.”

When the boy said this, I, not knowing what he meant, answered him:

“It is false; there is not a word of truth in it.”

Then the boy said to me:

“Did not Viṣṇu, as soon as he was born, stride across the earth, in the form of a dwarf, and make it tremble? And did he not, on that same occasion, grow bigger, and step into heaven? So you have been conquered by me, and reduced to slavery. And these people present in the market are witnesses to our agreement. So, wherever I go, you must come along with me.”

When the resolute boy had said this, he laid hold of my arm with his hand; and all the people there testified to the justice of his claim.

Then, having made me a prisoner, bound by my agreement, he, accompanied by his attendants, took me to his mother in the city of Pāṭaliputra.

And then his mother looked at him and said to me:

“My husband, my promise has to-day been made good. I have had you brought here by a son of mine begotten by you.”

When she had said this, she related the whole story in the presence of all.

Then all her relations respectfully congratulated her on having accomplished her object by her wisdom, and on having her disgrace wiped out by her son. And I, having been fortunate, lived there for a long time with that wife and that son, and then returned to this city of Ujjayinī.


171. Story of King Vikramāditya

“So you see, King, honourable matrons are devoted to their husbands, and it is not the case that all women are always bad.”[15]

When King Vikramāditya had heard this speech from the mouth of Mūladeva, he rejoiced with his ministers. Thus hearing, and seeing, and doing wonders, that King Vikramāditya[16] conquered and enjoyed all the divisions of the earth.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“When the hermit Kaṇva had told, during the night, this story of Viṣamaśila, dealing with separations and reunions, he went on to say to me who was cut off from the society of Madanamañcukā:

‘Thus do unexpected separations and reunions of beings take place, and so you, Naravāhanadatta, shall soon be reunited to your beloved. Have recourse to patience, and you shall enjoy for a long time, son of the King of Vatsa, surrounded by your wives and ministers, the position of a beloved emperor of the Vidyādharas.’

This admonition of the hermit Kaṇva enabled me to recover patience. And so I got through my time of separation; and I gradually obtained wives, magic science, and the sovereignty over the Vidyādharas. And I told you before, great hermits, how I obtained all these by the favour of Śiva, the giver of boons.”

By telling this his tale, in the hermitage of Kaśyapa, Naravāhanadatta delighted his mother’s brother Gopālaka and all the hermits. And after he had passed there the days of the rainy season, he took leave of his uncle and the hermits in the grove of asceticism, and mounting his chariot departed with his wives and ministers, filling the air with the hosts of his Vidyādharas. And in course of time he reached the mountain of Ṛṣabha, his dwelling-place. And he remained there, delighting in the enjoyments of empire, in the midst of the kings of the Vidyādharas, with Queen Madanamañcukā, and Ratnaprabhā and his other wives; and his life lasted for a kalpa.

This is the story called Bṛhatkathā, told long ago, on the summit of Mount Kailāsa, by the undaunted[17] Śiva, at the request of the daughter of the Himālaya, and then widely diffused in the world by Puṣpadanta and his fellows, who were born on the earth wearing the forms of Kātyāyana and others, in consequence of a curse.

And on that occasion that god, her husband, attached the following blessing to this tale:

“Whoever reads this tale that issued from my mouth, and whoever listens to it with attention, and whoever possesses it, shall soon be released from his sins, and triumphantly attain the condition of a splendid Vidyādhara, and enter my everlasting world.”

Footnotes and references:


The khaṭvāṅga, a club shaped like the foot of a bedstead—i.e. a staff with a skull at the top—considered as the weapon of Śiva, and carried by ascetics and Yogis. For karaḥ the MSS. give ravaḥ. This would mean that the ascetic was beating his drum. The word in No. 1882 might be khaḥ, but is no doubt meant for ravaḥ.


Cf. Vol. VI, p. 180, and Canney, “Ashes,” Hastings’ Ency. Rel. Eth., vol. ii, p. 112 et seq.—n.m.p.


I separate pratijñā from siddhim.


It is possible that this may be the original of the fourth story in the tenth day of the Decameron.——Personally I can see no resemblance whatsoever. Boccaccio’s tale of Carisendi and Catalina is merely intended as an example of great liberality on the part of a lover whose passion was not returned. The lady in question was buried as dead, but her lover, on giving her a last kiss in her tomb, finds her heart feebly beating, and rescues her. —n.m.p.


See Vol. II, p. 202,202n1. To the references given there I would add Macculloch’s excellent article, “Cannibalism,” in Hastings’ Ency. Bel. Eth., vol. iii, pp. 194-209 (see especially p. 208), and Coxwell, Siberian Folk-Tales, pp. 104, 110.—N.M.P.


No. 3003 and the Sanskrit College MS. give antaḥsthena for sambhramayya. No. 1882 has tva-taḥsthena; an insect has devoured the intermediate letter.


This is substantially the same story as the second in Chapter LXXVII.


See Vol. IV, pp. 93,93n2, 94n.—n.m.p.


Vikrośām is a misprint for vikośām. The latter is found in MS. No. 1882 and the Sanskrit College MS. and, I think, in No. 3003; but the letter is not very well formed.


The word badhūnś is evidently a misprint for bandhūnś: as appears from the MSS.


This story is known in Europe, and may perhaps be the original source of Shakespeare’s Alts Well that Ends Well. At any rate there is a slight resemblance in the leading idea of the two stories. It bears a close resemblance to the story of Sorfarina, No. 36 in Gonzenbach’s Siciliunische Märchen, and to that of Sapia in the Pentamerone of Basile. In the Sicilian and in the Neapolitan tale a prince is angry with a young lady who, when teaching him, gave him a box on the ear, and married her in order to avenge himself by ill-treating her; but finding that he has, without suspecting it, had three children by her, he is obliged to seek reconciliation. Dr Köhler, in his note on the Sicilian tale, gives no other parallel than Basile’s tale, which is the sixth of the fifth day. See Burton’s translation, vol. ii, p. 526 et seq.——See, further, Bloomfield, Amer. Journ. Phil., vol. xliv, 1923, p. 202 et seq —n.m.p.


I think we should read uṣṇe. I believe that Nos. 1882 and 3003 have this, judging from the way in which ṣṇ is usually formed in those MSS.


Cf. Ralston’s Tibetan Tales, p. 89.——The accusation of bastardy, as also of marriage or intercourse with a person of low birth, is a motif well developed in Sanskrit literature. See Professor Bloomfield’s Foreword to Vol. VII, p. xxvi, and the numerous examples given on p. 195 of his Life and Stories of the Jaina Savior Pārçvanātha. See also Chauvin, op. cit., v, pp.72n1, 294, where the “Accusation of Bastardy” motif occurs in the tale of “Ali and Zaher,” as given in Weil’s translation of the Nights, vol. iv, p. 194.—n.m.p.


I read pratyayo na me, which I find in the Taylor MS., and which makes sense. I take the words as part of the boy’s speech: “It is untrue; I do not believe it.” But vakṣyasyapratyayena me would also make sense. The Sanskrit College MS. supports Brockhaus’ text.


Cf. the tale of the “Badawi and his Wife,” Nights, Burton, vol. vii, p. 124 et seq. —n.m.p.


In the original there is the following note: “Here ends the tale of King Vikramāditya.”


Having reached the end of my translation, I am entitled to presume that this epithet refers to the extraordinary length of the Kathā Sarit Sāgara.

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