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 ...

Note on the interpretation of bodily marks (sāmudrika)

Note: this text is extracted from Book III, chapter 15.

“When he heard that, the king sent some Brāhmans, his confidential ministers, saying to them: ‘Go and see if that maiden possesses the auspicious marks or not’. The ministers said, ‘We will do so’, and went. But when they beheld that merchant’s daughter, Unmādinī, love was suddenly produced in their souls, and they became utterly bewildered...”

The interpreting of bodily marks is known as sāmudrika, and there are several works on the art. Buddha was said to have possessed thirty-two lucky marks (mahāpuruṣalakṣaṇa) and eighty minor marks. Thurston tells us (Ethnographic Notes in Southern India, p. 84) that among the Kurubas the bridegroom’s father observes certain marks, or "curls,” on the head of the proposed bride. If she has one on her forehead it is considered lucky; but the opposite is the case if one is found at the back of the head, or near the right temple.

Among the Pallis (Tamil agriculturists) a “curl” on the forehead is considered as an indication that the girl will become a widow; and one on the back of the head portends the death of the eldest brother of her husband.

The following notes on sāmudrika were kindly obtained for me from Rai Bahadur B. A. Gupta by Mr Enthoven:—

The number of horizontal lines on the forehead indicate years of longevity. If a man has two lines, he will live for forty years or so; if three, he will live for seventy-five years or so; if four, for full hundred years. If while smiling he gets a dimple or depression in his cheeks, he will be a loose character. If his chin is double and broad, he will be strong-willed. If his chin be thin and rounded, he would like to be loved by a woman. If he has very long ears, he will be licentious. If there be a deep horizontal line at the top of the nose, he would like to be authoritative. If he has five whorls at the five tips of his fingers, he will be a princeling; if all the ten fingers have that mark, he will become a sovereign. If a man has a line on the sole of his foot running between his big toe and the second toe, he will get a palanquin. A woman with the little toe overlapping the next one, or if it does not reach the earth, will be morally bad-charactered and will seek many men. If the four fingers of a man when held up against the sun show light through interstices, he is an extravagant person. On the other hand, if he has fat fingers and no interstices, he is a close-fisted man, and likely to be a miser.

As we shall see in a later volume (Chapter XLIII), Naravāhanadatta is recognised as a future emperor by special distinguishing signs “such as the peculiar freckle and other marks.” —n.m.p.


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