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 ...

Notes on unfavourable or bad omens

Note: this text is extracted from Book VI, chapter 31.

But when she said this her friend Somaprabhā answered her: ‘I have seen to-day an unfavourable omen, so remain, my friend, this day quiet and unobserved in this garden; do not, my friend, send go-betweens backwards and forwards. To-morrow I will come and devise some expedient for your meeting; at present, O thou whose home is in my heart, I desire to return to the home of my husband’”.

On p. 46n2 I gave a list of unfavourable omens from Southern India. I now add a few from various castes of Central India, taken from Russell’s Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces, 1916.

If a Gond, when starting on a journey in the morning, should meet a tiger, cat, hare, or a four-horned deer, he will return and postpone his journey (vol. iii, p. 105). Among the Korkus it is inauspicious when starting out on any business to see a black-faced monkey or a hare passing either on the left or right, or a snake crossing in front. It is also a bad omen for a hen to cackle or lay eggs at night (vol. iii, p. 564). The Parjas consider a snake, jackal, hare, or a dog wagging its ears are unlucky objects to see when starting a journey—also a dust devil” blowing along in front (vol. iv, p. 377).

The following is a list of unfavourable omens given by a member of the Sānsia caste of wandering criminals:—

If we see a cat when we are near the place where we intend to commit a dacoity, or we hear the relations of a dead person lamenting, or hear a person sneeze while cooking his meal, or see a dog run away with a portion of any person’s food, or a kite screams while sitting on a tree, or a woman breaks the earthen vessel in which she may have been drawing water, we consider the omen unfavourable. If a person drops his turban, or we meet a corpse, or the Jemādār has forgotten to put some bread into his waistbelt, or any dacoit forgets his axe or spear, or sees a snake whether dead or alive; these omens are also considered unfavourable and we do not commit the dacoity” (vol. iv, p. 493).

Another interesting list of unfavourable omens is given by Kṛṣnājī, the author of Ratan-mālā. In describing the reasons for the defeat of an army he says that on its way to the field, First... a man sneezed when he met them, a dog howled—an omen not good—a cat passed them on the right hand, a donkey brayed, and a kite cried terribly. Meeting them, came a widow and a Sunyāsee, a Brahmin without a teeluk on his forehead, a person dressed in mourning garments, one who carried a plate of flour, and a woman with her hair dishevelled.” (See Forbes, Rās Mālā, edited by H. G. Rawlinson, vol. ii, 1924, p. 316.)— n.m.p.

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