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 ...

Author’s epilogue

These verses, translated by Dr L. D. Barnett, appear here in English for the first time. They are not found in Brockhaus’ text, and consequently are not in Tawney’s translation either. They appear, however, in the first edition of Durgāprasād’s text. Subsequently, they were printed separately, and in some copies of the third edition of the Durgāprasād text they have inadvertently been omitted.

As previously stated, these verses contain all we know of our author. Although Sir Aurel Stein has kindly endeavoured to obtain information in Kashmir, no evidence whatever has been forthcoming.

The notes to these final verses, as well as the translation, are the work of Dr Barnett.



(1) THERE was a lord of earth, King Saṅgrāma, a pārijāta tree [issued] from the ocean of the blest Sātavāhana race,[1] who, being attended by diverse vibudhas[2] descending [to him], rendered the realm of Kashmir a Nandana.[3]

(2) To him was born a son, an emperor whose footstool was made a touchstone for masses of rubies on the crests of all lords of earth as they bowed [before him], the kalpa tree[4] of his stock, a peculiar store of valour, the blest Ananta.

(3) The head of a king which was rolled in the ground at the front of his (Ananta’s) doorway, severed at the neck, with the belly cast away, was like Rāhu come to do service because he was delighted on hearing the pleasant fame of (Ananta’s) cakra (dominion) which surpassed the cakra (discus) of great Hari.[5]

(4) Now this moon of kings wedded as his queen a daughter of the monarch of Trigarta, Sūryavatī, who, like the juncture of dawn, dispelled darkness from her subjects and was universally adored.[6]

(5)-(6) The Kaśmīras were adorned with excellent monasteries built by his queen, which were like holy traditions, in being kept by hundreds of Brāhmans born in various lands; like gem-filled oceans, in being hospitable even to terrified bhūbhṛts[7]; like noble kalpa trees, in dispelling daily the distress of the needy.

(7) The dwellings of the gods, white with palatial plaster, which were built by her on the spacious bank of the Vitastā, assuredly possess the semblance of peaks of Himālaya, the ends whereof are encompassed by the Heavenly River.[8]

(8) Because of the countless gems, gold, great estates, black antelope-skins, mountains of wealth and thousands of kine which were bestowed [by her], that lady indeed bears even . . . Earth.[9]

(9) Her son was the blest monarch King Kalaśa, who, though a unique tilaka on the circle of the earth, was nevertheless an-alīka-lagna,[10] and, though a friend to the guṇi, was full of rich ambrosia.[11]

(10) Her excellent grandson was the blest King Harṣa, who was like a modern Child of the Jar created by the gods, a puissant one who was able to make all lofty urvībhṛts bow [before him] and to drink up the seven oceans.[12]

(11) In order to interest somewhat for a moment the mind of that queen, who was ever intent upon the rules for the diverse offerings of oblation-rites for the worship of him who couches on the mountains,[13] and constantly devoted her efforts to learning from books of instruction,

(12) This summary of the Bṛhat-kathā’s essence, consisting of the ambrosia of diverse tales, [a summary which is] a full-moon [attracting] the ocean of good men’s minds, was verily composed by Soma, the son of Rāma, a worthy Brāhman, agreeable because of his abounding virtues.

(13) May this Ocean of Streams of Story, composed by the stainless-minded Soma, which has the semblance of very widespread waves, be for the delight of good men’s hearts.

Footnotes and references:


This metaphor is based on the myth of the Churning of the Milk-ocean by the gods and Asuras. Among the precious objects that issued from the ocean on this occasion was the celestial pārijāta, or coral-tree (see Ocean, Vol. II, p. 13,13n2).


Meaning both sages and gods.


The paradise or park of the god Indra.


The wishing-tree of paradise: see Vol. I, p. 8,8n1.


This apparently refers to an episode narrated in the Rājataraṅgiṇī, vii, 167 et seq.: The Darad king, Acalamangala, was defeated and slain by Ananta’s general, Rudrapāla, who cut off his head and brought it to Ananta. Here this head, thrown down before the doorway of the palace, is compared by Somadeva to the demon Rāhu, a head without any body, who is said to have been thus mutilated by Viṣṇu (Hari) with his cakra or discus (see Ocean, Vol. VIII, p. 72 n); and Rāhu is conceived as coming thus to do homage to Ananta because he is glad to hear that Ananta’s cakra (dominion) has surpassed Viṣṇu’s cakra (discus) by which he was decapitated—in short, it is suggested that Ananta is superior to the god Viṣṇu.

One is tempted to understand dvāra, which I have translated as “doorway,” in the common Kashmiri sense of “mountain pass” or “hill-fort”; but to do so would spoil the point of the simile, in which Rāhu is represented as “come to do service” to Ananta, which implies that he came to the latter’s palace door.


A play on the name Sūryavatī, which means “she to whom the sun belongs.” The dawn dispels darkness for beings (prajā) and is greeted with prayers (sandhyā-vandana); Sūryavatī saved her subjects (prajā) from moral darkness and was adored by all (viśva-vandyā).


A pun: bhūbhṛt, “bearer of earth,” means both a king and a mountain. Taken in the latter sense, it refers to the legend that when Indra cut off the wings of the mountains, the mountain Maināka took refuge in the ocean (see Vol. VI, p.3n1).


The celestial Ganges.


The text is here defective. The sense seems to be that Sūryavatī may be compared to the earth (viśvambharā, “all-supporter”) because of her gifts to mankind.


A pun. Tilaka means the mark (ornamental or sectarian) made on the forehead with paint, etc., and generally an ornament; alīka signifies either “forehead” or “inauspicious,” and lagna is both “attached” and “astrological moment.” The poet thus says that the king, though he is metaphorically a frontal decoration on the brow of the goddess Earth—i.e. an ornament of the circle of earth—was in one sense not bound upon any brow (an-alika-lagna), because (in the other sense) he was subject to no inauspicious moments (an-alika-lagna).


A pun based on the king’s name, Kalaśa, which means “jar.” He is said to be ghanāmṛta-maya, literally “(as a jar) full of rich ambrosia” (amṛta); but amṛta also signifies the state of salvation, the condition of the redeemed soul (mokṣa or nirvāṇa), so ghanāmṛta-maya may also signify “consisting of compact (perfect) spirituality,” and in this sense it is opposed to one of the meanings of guṇi-bāndhava, “friend to the guṇi. For guṇi denotes both “virtuous,” “bow,” and “physical nature” as characterised by the three guṇas or phases of materiality; and while Kalaśa is “a friend to the virtuous” and “a friend of the bow” (i.e. a brave warrior), he is not “a friend to materiality,” because he is perfectly spiritual.”


A pun: kalaśodbhava means both “son of Kalaśa” and “child of the jar”—i.e. the mythical saint Agastya, who made the Vindhya mountains (urvībhṛt, meaning both “mountain” and “king”) bow down to let him pass, and drank the ocean (see Vol. VI, pp.43n1, 44 n).


The god Śiva.

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