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 story of king Sumanas

Note: this text is extracted from Book X, chapter 59 (note on the story of king Sumanas, the Niṣāda maiden and the learned parrot):

Taking for granted that Somadeva derived this story directly from the Bṛhat-kathā, it is interesting to compare it with Bāṇa’s Kādambarī, which vas, in all probability, derived from the same source. The two resulting productions differ in many ways; not only do details of the story itself vary, bat a comparison between the length, styles and artistic treatment shows the totally different objects of the two poets.

It would seem as if Somadeva was preserving the original form of the s;ory as found in the Bṛhat-kathā, while Bāṇa, on the other hand, was using all his powers of artistic elaboration in the production of a work which, beginning as a comparatively short story, would finish as a volume. Luckily i; will not be necessary to go into details, for the Kādambarī has been translated into English by C. M. Ridding and published by the Oriental Translation Fund of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1896.

It will, therefore, suffice to give the short summary of the work as made by Miss Ridding on pp. viii-x of her Introduction. It should be remembered that Bāṇa is one of the few early poets whose exact date we know, for he lived in the reign of Harṣa-vardhana (a.d. 606), from whose reign dates the Harṣa era, used in Nepal.

The plot is as follows:—

A learned parrot, named Vaiśampāyana, was brought by a Caṇḍāla maiden to King Śūdraka, and told him how it was carried from its birthplace in the Vindhya forest to the hermitage of the sage Jābāli, from whom it learned the story of its former life.

Jābāli’s story was as follows: Tārāpīḍa, King of Ujjayinī, won by penance a son, Candrāpīḍa, who was brought up with Vaiśampāyana, the son of his minister, Śukanāsa. In due time Candrāpīḍa was anointed as Crown Prince, and started on an expedition of world-conquest. At the end of it he reached Kailāsa, and, while resting there, was led one day in a vain chase of a pair of Kinnaras to the shores of the Acchoda Lake. There he beheld a young ascetic maiden, Mahāśvetā, who told him how she, being a Gandharva princess, had seen and loved a young Brāhman Puṇḍarīka; how he, returning her feeling, had died from the torments of a love at variance with his vow; how a divine being had carried his body to the sky, and bidden her not to die, for she should be reunited with him; and how she awaited that time in a life of penance. But her friend Kādambarī, another Gandharva princess, had vowed not to marry while Mahāśvetā was in sorrow, and Mahāśvetā invited the prince to come to help her in dissuading Kādambarī from the rash vow. Love sprang up between the prince and Kādambarī at first sight; but a sudden summons from his father took him to Ujjayinī without farewell, while Kādambarī, thinking herself deserted, almost died of grief.

Meanwhile news came that his friend Vaiśampāyana, whom he had left in command of the army, had been strangely affected by the sight of the Acchoda Lake, and refused to leave it. The prince set out to find him, but in vain; and proceeding to the hermitage of Mahāśvetā, he found her in despair, because, in invoking a curse on a young Brāhman, who had rashly approached her, to the effect that he should become a parrot, she learned that she had slain Vaiśampāyana. At lifer words the prince fell dead from grief, and at that moment Kādambarī came to the hermitage.

Her resolve to follow him in death was broken by the promise of a voice from the sky that she and Mahāśvetā should both be reunited with their lovers, and she stayed to tend the prince’s body, from which a divine radiance proceeded; while King Tārāpīḍa gave up his kingdom, and lived as a hermit near his son.

Such was Jābāli’s tale; and the parrot went on to say how, hearing it, the memory of its former love for Mahāśvetā was reawakened, and, though bidden to stay in the hermitage, it flew away, only to be caught and taken to the Caṇḍāla princess. It was now brought by her to King Śūdraka, but knew no more. The Caṇḍāla maiden thereupon declared to Śūdraka that she was the goddess Lakṣmī, mother of Puṇḍarīka or Vaiśampāyana, and announced that the curse for him and Śūdraka was now over. Then Śūdraka suddenly remembered his love for Kādambarī, and wasted away in longing for her, while a sudden touch of Kādambarī restored to life the Moon concealed in the body of Candrāpīḍa, the form that he still kept, because in it he had won her love. Now the Moon, as Candrāpīḍa and Śūdraka, and Puṇḍarīka, in the human and parrot shape of Vaiśampāyana, having both fulfilled the curse of an unsuccessful love in two births on earth, were at last set free, and, receiving respectively the hands of Kādambarī and Mahāśvetā, lived happily ever afterwards. —n.m.p.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: