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 ...

[M] (main story line continued) THEN, in a short time, Vāsavadattā became pregnant with a child, glorious inasmuch as it was an incarnation of the God of Love, and it was a feast to the eyes of the King of Vatsa. She shone with a face the eyes of which rolled, and which was of palish hue, as if with the moon come to visit her out of affection for the God of Love conceived in her. When she was sitting down, the two images of her form, reflected in the sides of the jewelled couch, seemed like Rati and Prīti come there out of regard for their husband.[1]

Her ladies-in-waiting attended upon her like the Sciences that grant desires come in bodily form to show their respect for the future King of the Vidyādharas[2] conceived in her. At that time she had breasts with points dark like a folded bud, resembling pitchers intended for the inaugural sprinkling[3] of her unborn son. When she lay down on a comfortable couch in the middle of the palace, which gleamed with pavement composed of translucent, flashing, lustrous jewels, she appeared as if she were being propitiated by the waters, that had come there trembling, through fear of being conquered by her future son, with heaps of jewels on every side.

Her image, reflected from the gems in the middle of the chariot, appeared like the Fortune of the Vidyādharas coming in the heaven to offer her adoration. And she felt a longing[4] for stories of great magicians provided with incantations by means of spells, introduced appropriately in conversation. Vidyādhara ladies, beginning melodious songs, waited upon her when in her dream she rose high in the sky, and when she woke up she desired to enjoy in reality the amusement of sporting in the air, which would give the pleasure of looking down upon the earth. And Yaugandharāyaṇa gratified that longing of the queen’s by employing spells, machines, juggling, and such-like contrivances. So she roamed through the air by means of those various contrivances, which furnished a wonderful spectacle to the upturned eyes of the citizens’ wives. But once on a time, when she was in her palace, there arose in her heart a desire to hear the glorious tales of the Vidyādharas. Then Yaugandharāyaṇa, being entreated by that queen, told her this tale while all were listening:


27. Story of Jīmūtavāhana

There is a great mountain named Himavat,[5] the father of the mother of the world,[6] who is not only the chief of hills, but the spiritual preceptor of Śiva, and on that great mountain, the home of the Vidyādharas, dwelt the lord of the Vidyādharas, the King Jīmūtaketu. And in his house there was a wishing-tree,[7] which had come down to him from his ancestors, called by a name which expressed its nature, “The Giver of Desires.”

And one day the King Jīmūtaketu approached that wishing-tree in his garden, which was of divine nature, and supplicated it:

“We always obtain from you all we desire, therefore give me, O god, who am now childless, a virtuous son.”[8]

Then the wishing-tree said:

“King, there shall be born to thee a son who shall remember his past birth, who shall be a hero in giving, and kind to all creatures.”

When he heard that, the king was delighted, and bowed before that tree, and then he went and delighted his queen with the news: accordingly in a short time a son was born to him, and his father called the son Jīmūtavāhana.

Then that Jīmūtavāhana, who was of great goodness, grew up step by step with the growth of his innate compassion for all creatures. And in the course of time, when he was made crown prince, he, being full of compassion for the world, said in secret to his father, who was pleased by his attentions:

“I know, O father, that in this world all things perish in an instant, but the pure glory of the great alone endures till the end of a kalpa.[9] If it is acquired by benefiting others, what other wealth can be, like it, valued by high-minded men more than life? And as for prosperity, if it be not used to benefit others, it is like lightning, which for a moment pains the eye and, flickering, disappears somewhere or other. So, if this wishing-tree, which we possess, and which grants all desires, is employed for the benefit of others, we shall have reaped from it all the fruit it can give. So let me take such steps as that by its riches the whole multitude of men in need may be rescued from poverty.”

This petition Jīmūtavāhana made to his father, and having obtained his permission, he went and said to that wishing-tree:

“O god, thou always givest us the desired fruit, therefore fulfil to-day this one wish of ours. O my friend, relieve this whole world from its poverty, success to thee, thou art bestowed on the world that desires wealth!”

The wishing-tree, being addressed in this style by that self-denying one, showered much gold on the earth, and all the people rejoiced; what other compassionate incarnation of a Bodhisattva except the glorious Jīmūtavāhana would be able to dispose even of a wishing-tree in favour of the needy? For this reason every region of the earth[10] became devoted to Jīmūtavāhana, and his stainless fame was spread on high.

Then the relations of Jīmūtaketu, seeing that his throne was firmly established by the glory of his son, were envious, and became hostile to him. And they thought it would be easy to conquer that place, which possessed the excellent wishing-tree that was employed for bestowing gifts, on account of its not being strong[11]: then they assembled and determined on war, and thereupon the self-denying Jīmūtavāhana said to his father:

“As this body of ours is like a bubble in the water, for the sake of what do we desire prosperity, which flickers like a candle exposed to the wind? And what wise man desires to attain prosperity by the slaughter of others? Accordingly, my father, I ought not to fight with my relations. But I must leave my kingdom and go to some forest or other; let these miserable wretches be, let us not slay the members of our own family.”

When Jīmūtavāhana had said this, his father, Jīmūtaketu, formed a resolution and said to him:

“I too must go, my son; for what desire for rule can I, who am old, have, when you, though young, out of compassion abandon your realm as if it were so much grass?”

In these words his father expressed his acquiescence in the project of Jīmūtavāhana, who then, with his father and his father’s wife, went to the Malaya mountain. There he remained in a hermitage, the dwelling of the Siddhas, where the brooks were hidden by the sandalwood-trees, and devoted himself to taking care of his father. There he struck up a friendship with the self-denying son of Viśvāvasu, the chief prince of the Siddhas, whose name was Mitrāvasu. And once on a time the all-knowing Jīmūtavāhana beheld in a lonely place Mitrāvasu’s maiden sister, who had been his beloved in a former birth. And the mutual gaze of those two young people was like the catching in a frail net of the deer of the mind.[12]

Then one day Mitrāvasu came up suddenly to Jīmūtavāhana, who deserved the respect of the three worlds, with a pleased expression, and said to him:

“I have a younger sister, the maiden called Malayavatī; I give her to you, do not refuse to gratify my wish.”

When Jīmūtavāhana heard that, he said to him:

“O Prince, she was my wife in a former birth, and in that life you became my friend, and were like a second heart to me. I am one who remembers the former state of existence; I recollect all that happened in my previous birth.”

When he said this, Mitrāvasu said to him:

“Then tell me this story of your former birth, for I feel curiosity about it.”

When he heard this from Mitrāvasu, the benevolent Jīmūtavāhana told him the tale of his former birth as follows: —


27a. Jīmūtavāhana’s Adventures in a Former Birth

Thus it is; formerly I was a sky-roaming Vidyādhara, and once on a time I was passing over a peak of the Himālaya. And then Śiva, who was below, sporting with Gaurī, being angry at my passing above him, cursed me, saying:

“Descend into a mortal womb, and after obtaining a Vidyādharī for your wife, and appointing your son in your place, you shall remember your former birth, and again be born as a Vidyādhara.”

Having pronounced when this curse should end, Śiva ceased and disappeared; and soon after I was born upon earth in a family of merchants. And I grew up as the son of a rich merchant in a city named Vallabhī, and my name was Vasudatta.

And in course of time, when I became a young man, I had a retinue given me by my father, and went by his orders to another land to traffic. As I was going along, robbers fell upon me in a forest, and after taking all my property, led me in chains to a temple of Durgā in their village, terrible with a long waving banner of red silk like the tongue of Death eager to devour the lives of animals. There they brought me into the presence of their chief, named Pulindaka, who was engaged in worshipping the goddess, in order that I might serve as a victim. He, though he was a Śavara,[13] the moment he saw me, felt his heart melt with pity for me; an apparently causeless affectionate movement of the heart is a sign of friendship in a former birth.

Then that Śavara king, having saved me from slaughter, was about to complete the rite by the sacrifice of himself, when a heavenly voice said to him:

“Do not act thus, I am pleased with thee, crave a boon of me.”

Thereupon he was delighted, and said:

“O goddess, thou art pleased; what other blessing can I need; nevertheless I ask so much—may I have friendship with this merchant’s son in another birth also.”

The voice said, “So be it,” and then ceased; and then that Śavara gave me much wealth, and sent me back to my own home.

And then, as I had returned from foreign travel and from the jaws of death, my father, when he heard the whole occurrence, made a great feast in my honour. And in course of time I saw there that very same Śavara chief, whom the king had ordered to be brought before him as a prisoner for plundering a caravan. I told my father of it immediately, and making a petition to the king, I saved him from capital punishment by the payment of a hundred thousand gold pieces. And having in this way repaid the benefit which he conferred upon me by saving my life, I brought him to my house, and entertained him honourably for a long time with all loving attention. And then, after this hospitable entertainment, I dismissed him, and he went to his own village, fixing upon me a heart tender with affection.

Then, while he thought about a present for me that might be worthy of my return for his previous kindness, he came to the conclusion that the pearls and musk and treasures of that kind, which were at his disposal, were not valuable enough. Thereupon he took his bow and went off to the Himālaya to shoot elephants, in order to obtain a surpassingly splendid necklace[14] for me. And while he was roaming about there, he reached a great lake with a temple upon its shore, being welcomed by its lotuses, which were as devoted to their friend[15] as he was to me. And suspecting that the wild elephants would come there to drink water, he remained in concealment with his bow in order to kill them.

In the meanwhile he saw a young lady of wonderful beauty riding upon a lion[16] to worship Śiva, whose temple stood on the shore of the lake; looking like a second daughter of the King of the Snowy Mountains, devoted to the service of Śiva while in her girlhood. And the Śavara, when he saw her, being overpowered with wonder, reflected:

“Who can this be? If she is a mortal woman, why does she ride upon a lion? On the other hand, if she is divine, how can she be seen by such as me? So she must certainly be the incarnate development of the merits of my eyes in a former birth. If I could only marry my friend to her, then I should have bestowed upon him a new and wonderful recompense. So I had better first approach her to question her.”

Thus reflecting, my friend the Śavara advanced to meet her.

In the meanwhile she dismounted from the lion, that lay down in the shade, and advancing began to pick the lotuses of the lake. And seeing the Śavara, who was a stranger, coming towards her and bowing, out of a hospitable feeling she gratified him with a welcome. And she said to him:

“Who are you, and why have you come to this inaccessible land?”

Thereupon the Śavara answered her:

“I am a prince of the Śavaras, who regard the feet of Bhavānī as my only refuge, and I am come to this wood to get pearls from the heads of elephants. But when I beheld you just now, O goddess, I called to mind my own friend that saved my life, the son of a merchant prince, the auspicious Vasudatta. For he, O fair one, is, like you, matchless for beauty and youth, a very fount of nectar to the eyes of this world. Happy is that maiden in the world whose braceleted hand is taken in this life by that treasure-house of friendship, generosity, compassion and patience. And if this beautiful form of yours is not linked to such a man, then I cannot help grieving that Kāma bears the bow in vain.”

By these words of the king of the hunters the mind of the maiden was suddenly carried away, as if by the syllables of the God of Love’s bewildering spell. And, prompted by love, she said to that Śavara:

“Where is that friend of yours? Bring him here and show him to me.”

When he heard that, he said: “I will do so.” And that moment the Śavara took leave of her and set out on his journey in high spirits, considering his object attained. And after he had reached the village, he took with him pearls and musk, a weight sufficient for hundreds of heavily laden porters, and came to our house. There he was honoured by all the inmates and, entering it, he offered to my father that present, which was worth much gold. And after that day and that night had been spent in feasting, he related to me in private the story of his interview with the maiden from the very commencement.

And he said to me, who was all excitement, “Come, let us go there,” and so the Śavara carried me off at night just as he pleased. And in the morning my father found that I had gone off somewhere with the Śavara prince; but feeling perfect confidence in his affection, he remained master of his feelings. But I was conducted in course of time by that Śavara, who travelled fast, to the Himālaya, and he tended me carefully throughout the journey.

And one evening we reached that lake, and bathed; and we remained that one night in the wood, eating sweet fruits. That mountain wood, in which the creepers strewed the ground with flowers, and which was charming with the hum of bees, full of balmy breezes, and with beautiful gleaming herbs for lamps, was like the chamber of Rati to repose in during the night for us two, who drank the water of the lake. Then the next day that maiden came there, and at every step my mind, full of strange longings, flew to meet her, and her arrival was heralded by this my right eye, throbbing as if through eagerness to behold her. [also see notes on the throbbing of the right eye] And that maid with lovely eyebrows was beheld by me, on the back of a knotty-maned lion, like a digit of the moon resting in the lap of an autumn cloud; and I cannot describe how my heart felt at that time while I gazed on her, being full of tumultuous emotions of astonishment, longing and fear; then that maiden dismounted from the lion, and gathered flowers, and after bathing in the lake, worshipped Śiva, who dwelt in the temple on its banks.[17]

And when the worship was ended, that Śavara, my friend, advanced towards her and, announcing himself, bowed, and said to her who received him courteously:

“Goddess, I have brought that friend of mine as a suitable bridegroom for you: if you think proper, I will show him to you this moment.”

When she heard that, she said, “Show him,” and that Śavara came and took me near her and showed me to her. She looked at me askance with an eye that shed love, and being overcome by Kāma taking possession of her soul, said to that chieftain of the Śavaras:

“This friend of yours is not a man, surely he is some god come here to deceive me to-day: how could a mortal have such a handsome shape?”

When I heard that, I said myself, to remove all doubt from her mind:

“Fair one, I am in very truth a mortal; what is the use of employing fraud against one so honest as yourself, lady? For I am the son of a merchant named Mahādhana, that dwells in Vallabhī, and I was gained by my father by the blessing of Śiva. For he, when performing austerities to please the god of the moony crest, in order that he might obtain a son, was thus commanded by the god in a dream being pleased with him:

‘Rise up, there shall spring from thee a great-hearted son, and this is a great secret, what is the use of setting it forth at length?’

After hearing this, he woke up, and in course of time I was born to him as a son, and I am known by the name of Vasudatta. And long ago, when I went to a foreign land, I obtained this Śavara chieftain for a chosen friend, who showed himself a true helper in misfortune. This is a brief statement of the truth about me.”

When I had said this I ceased; and that maiden, with her face cast down from modesty, said:

“It is so, I know; Śiva being propitiated deigned to tell me in a dream, after I had worshipped him,

‘To-morrow morning thou shalt obtain a husband’;

so you are my husband, and this friend of yours is my brother.”

When she had delighted me by this nectar-like speech, she ceased; and after I had deliberated with her, I determined to go to my own house with my friend, in order that the marriage might be solemnised in due form.  Then that fair one summoned by a sign of her own that lion, on which she rode, and said to me: “Mount it, my husband.” Then I, by the advice of my friend, mounted the lion, and taking that beloved one in my arms, I set out thence for my home, having obtained all my objects, riding on the lion with my beloved, guided by that friend. And living on the flesh of the deer that he killed with his arrows, we all reached in course of time the city of Vallabhī. Then the people, seeing me coming along with my beloved, riding on a lion, being astonished, ran and told that fact quickly to my father. He too came to meet me in his joy, and when he saw me dismount from the lion, and fall at his feet, he welcomed me with astonishment.

And when he saw that incomparable beauty adore his feet, and perceived that she was a fit wife for me, he could not contain himself for joy. So he entered the house, and after asking us about the circumstances, he made a great feast, praising the friendship of the Śavara chieftain. And the next day, by the appointment of the astrologers, I married that excellent maiden, and all my friends and relations assembled to witness our wedding. And that lion, on which my wife had ridden, having witnessed the marriage, suddenly, before the eyes of all, assumed the form of a man.

Then all the bystanders were bewildered, thinking: “What can this mean?” But he, assuming heavenly garments and ornaments, thus addressed me:

“I am a Vidyādhara named Citrāṅgada, and this maiden is my daughter, Manovatī by name, dearer to me than life. I used to wander continually through the forest with her in my arms, and one day I reached the Ganges, on the banks of which are many ascetic groves. And as I was going along in the middle of the river, for fear of disturbing the ascetics, my garland by accident fell into its waters.

Then the hermit Nārada, who was under the water, suddenly rose up, and, angry[18] because the garland had fallen upon his back, cursed me in the following words: —

‘On account of this insolence, depart, wicked one; thou shalt become a lion, and repairing to the Himālaya, shalt cany this daughter upon thy back. And when thy daughter shall be taken in marriage by a mortal, then, after witnessing the ceremony, thou shalt be freed from this curse.’

Alter being cursed in these words by the hermit, I became a lion, and dwelt on the Himālaya, carrying this daughter of mine, who is devoted to the worship of Śiva. And you know well the sequel of the story, how by the exertions of the Śavara chieftain this highly auspicious event has been brought about. So I shall now depart; good luck to you all! I have now reached the termination of that curse.”

Having said this, that Vidyādhara immediately flew up into the sky. Then my father, overwhelmed with astonishment at the marvel, delighted at the eligible connection, and finding that his friends and relations were overjoyed, made a great feast.

And there was not a single person who did not say with astonishment, reflecting again and again on that noble behaviour of the Śavara chieftain:

“Who can imagine the actions of sincere friends, who are not even satisfied when they have bestowed on their sworn brothers the gift of life?”

The king of the land too, hearing of that occurrence, was exceedingly pleased with the affection which the Śavara prince had shown me, and finding he was pleased, my father gave him a present of jewels, and so induced him immediately to bestow on the Śavara a vast territory. Then I remained there in happiness, considering myself to have attained all that heart could wish, in having Manovatī for a wife, and the Śavara prince for a friend. And that Śavara chieftain generally lived in my house, finding that he took less pleasure in dwelling in his own country than he formerly did. And the time of us two friends, of him and me, was spent in continually conferring benefits upon one another without our ever being satisfied.

And not long after I had a son born to me by Manovatī, who seemed like the heart-joy of the whole family in external visible form; and being called Hiraṇyadatta he gradually grew up, and after having been duly instructed, he was married. Then my father, having witnessed that, and considering that the object of his life had been accomplished, being old, went to the Ganges with his wife to leave the body. Then I was afflicted by my father’s death, but having been at last persuaded by my relations to control my feelings, I consented to uphold the burden of the family. And at that time on the one hand the sight of the beautiful face of Manovatī, and on the other the society of the Śavara prince delighted me. Accordingly those days of mine passed, joyous from the goodness of my son, charming from the excellence of my wife, happy from the society of my friend.

Then, in course of time, I became well stricken in years, and old age seized me by the chin, as it were out of love giving me this wholesome reproach:

“Why are you remaining in the house so long as this, my son?”

Then disgust with the world was suddenly produced in my breast, and longing for the forest I appointed my son in my stead. And with my wife I went to the mountain of Kāliñjara, together with the King of the Śavaras, who abandoned his kingdom out of love to me. And when I arrived there, I at once remembered that I had been a Vidyādhara in a former state of existence, and that the curse I had received from Śiva had come to an end. And I immediately told my wife Manovatī of that, and my friend the King of the Śavaras, as I was desirous of leaving this mortal body.

I said,

“May I have this wife and this friend in a future birth, and may I remember this birth,”

and then I meditated on Śiva in my heart, and flung myself from that hill-side, and so suddenly quitted the body together with that wife and friend. And so I have been now born, as you see, in this Vidyādhara family, under the name of Jīmūtavāhana, with a power of recollecting my former existence. And you, that prince of the Śavaras, have been also born again by the favour of Śiva, as Mitrāvasu the son of Viśvāvasu, the King of the Siddhas. And, my friend, that Vidyādhara lady, my wife Manovatī, has been again born as your sister, Malayavatī by name. So your sister is my former wife, and you were my friend in a former state of existence, therefore it is quite proper that I should marry her. But first go and tell this to my parents, for, if the matter is referred to them, your desire will be successfully accomplished.


27. Story of Jīmūtavāhana

When Mitrāvasu heard this from Jīmūtavāhana, he was pleased, and he went and told all that to the parents of Jīmūtavāhana. And when they received his proposal gladly, he was pleased, and went and told that same matter to his own parents. And they were delighted at the accomplishment of their desire, and so the prince quickly prepared for the marriage of his sister. Then Jīmūtavāhana, honoured by the King of the Siddhas, received according to usage the hand of Malayavatī. And there was a great festival, in which the heavenly minstrels bustled about, the dense crowd of the Siddhas assembled, and which was enlivened by bounding Vidyādharas. Then Jīmūtavāhana was married, and remained on that Malaya mountain with his wife in very great prosperity. And once on a time he went with his brother-in-law Mitrāvasu to behold the woods on the shore of the sea. And there he saw a young man come in an agitated state, sending away his mother, who kept exclaiming: “Alas, my son!” And another man, who seemed to be a soldier, following him, conducted him to a broad and high slab of rock and left him there.

Jīmūtavāhana said to him:

“Who are you? What are you about to do, and why does your mother weep for you?”

Then the man told him his story.


27b. The Dispute about the Colour of the Sun’s Horses

Long ago Kadrū and Vinatā, the two wives of Kaśyapa, had a dispute in the course of a conversation which they were carrying on. The former said that the Sun’s horses were black, the latter that they were white, and they made an agreement that the one that was wrong should become a slave to the other.[19] Then Kadrū, bent on winning, actually induced her sons, the snakes, to defile the horses of the Sun by spitting venom over them; and showing them to Vinatā in that condition, she conquered her by a trick and made her her slave: terrible is the spite of women against each other ! When Garuḍa,[20] the son of Vinatā, heard of that, he came and tried to induce Kadrū by fair means to release Vinatā from her slavery; then the snakes, the sons of Kadrū, reflecting, said this to him:

“O Garuḍa, the gods have begun to churn the sea of milk, bring the nectar[21] thence and give it to us as a substitute, and then take your mother away with you, for you are the chief of heroes.”

When Garuḍa heard that, he went to the sea of milk, and displayed his great might in order to obtain the nectar. Then the god Viṣṇu, pleased with his might, deigned to say to him:

“I am pleased with thee, choose some boon.”

Then Garuḍa, angry because his mother was made a slave, asked as a boon from Viṣṇu:

“May the snakes become my food.”

Viṣṇu consented, and when Garuḍa had obtained the nectar by his own valour, he was thus addressed by Indra, who had heard the whole story:

“King of Birds, you must take steps to prevent the foolish snakes from consuming the nectar, and to enable me to take it away from them again.”

When Garuḍa heard that, he agreed to do it, and elated by the boon of Viṣṇu, he went to the snakes with the vessel containing the nectar.

And he said from a distance to those foolish snakes, who were terrified on account of the boon granted to him:

“Here is the nectar brought by me; release my mother and take it; if you are afraid, I will put it for you on a bed of darbha grass. When I have procured my mother’s release, I will go; take the nectar thence.”

The snakes consented, and then he put the vessel of nectar on a pure bed of kuśa grass,[22] and they let his mother go. So Garuḍa departed, having thus released his mother from slavery; but while the snakes were unsuspectingly taking the nectar, Indra suddenly swooped down and, bewildering them by his power, carried off the vessel of nectar from the bed of kuśa grass. Then the snakes in despair licked that bed of darbha grass, thinking there might be a drop of spilt nectar on it; the effect was that their tongues were split, and they became double-tongued for nothing. What but ridicule can ever be the portion of the over-greedy?[23] Then the snakes did not obtain the nectar of immortality, and their enemy Garuḍa, on the strength of Viṣṇu’s boon, began to swoop down and devour them. And this he did again and again. And while he was thus attacking them, the snakes[24] in Pātāla were dead with fear, the females miscarried, and the whole serpent race was well-nigh destroyed.

And Vāsuki, the King of the Snakes, seeing him there every day, considered that the serpent world was ruined at one blow; then, after reflecting, he preferred a petition to that Garuḍa of irresistible might, and made this agreement with him:

“I will send you every day one snake to eat, O King of Birds, on the hill that rises out of the sand of the sea. But you must not act so foolishly as to enter Pātāla,[25] for by the destruction of the serpent world your own object will be baffled.”

When Vāsuki said this to him, Garuḍa consented, and began to eat every day in this place one snake sent by him: and in this way innumerable snakes have met their death here. But I am a snake called Śaṅkhacūḍa, and it is my turn to-day: for that reason I have to-day, by the command of the King of the Snakes, in order to furnish a meal to Garuḍa, come to this rock of execution, and to be lamented by my mother.[26]


27. Story of Jīmūtavāhana

When Jīmūtavāhana heard this speech of Śaṅkhacūḍa’s he was grieved, and felt sorrow in his heart, and said to him:

“Alas! Vāsuki exercises his kingly power in a very cowardly fashion, in that with his own hand he conducts his subjects to serve as food for his enemy. Why did he not first offer himself to Garuḍa? To think of this effeminate creature choosing to witness the destruction of his race! And how great a sin does Garuḍa, though the son of Kaśyapa, commit! How great folly do even great ones commit for the sake of the body only! So I will to-day deliver you alone from Garuḍa by surrendering my body. Do not be despondent, my friend.”

When Śaṅkhacūḍa heard this, he, out of his firm patience, said to him:

“This be far from thee, O great-hearted one; do not say so again. The destruction of a jewel for the sake of a piece of glass is never becoming. And I will never incur the reproach of having disgraced my race.”

In these words the good snake Śaṅkhacūḍa tried to dissuade Jīmūtavāhana, and thinking that the time of Garuḍa’s arrival would come in a minute, he went to worship in his last hour an image of Śiva under the name of Gokarṇa, that stood on the shore of the sea.

And when he was gone, Jīmūtavāhana, that treasure-house of compassion, considered that he had gained an opportunity of offering himself up to save the snake’s life. Thereupon he quickly dismissed Mitrāvasu to his own house on the pretext of some business, artfully pretending that he himself had forgotten it. And immediately the earth near him trembled, being shaken by the wind of the wings of the approaching Garuḍa, as if through astonishment at his valour. That made Jīmūtavāhana think that the enemy of the snakes was approaching, and full of compassion for others he ascended the stone of execution. And in a moment Garuḍa swooped down, darkening the heaven with his shadow, and carried off that great-hearted one, striking him with his beak. He shed drops of blood, and his crest-jewel dropped off, torn out by Garuḍa, who took him away and began to eat him on the peak of the mountain. At that moment a rain of flowers fell from heaven, and Garuḍa was astonished when he saw it, wondering what it could mean.

In the meanwhile Śaṅkhacūḍa came there, having worshipped Gokarṇa, and saw the rock of execution sprinkled with many drops of blood; then he thought:

“Alas! surely that great-hearted one has offered himself for me, so I wonder where Garuḍa has taken him in this short time. I must search for him quickly, perhaps I may find him.”

Accordingly the good snake went following up the track of the blood.. And in the meanwhile Garuḍa, seeing that Jīmūtavāhana was pleased, left off eating and thought with wonder:

“This must be someone else, other than I ought to have taken, for though I am eating him, he is not at all miserable; on the contrary the resolute one rejoices.”

While Garuḍa was thinking this, Jīmūtavāhana, though in such a state, said to him in order to attain his object:

“O King of Birds, in my body also there is flesh and blood; then why have you suddenly stopped eating, though your hunger is not appeased?”

When he heard that, that King of Birds, being overpowered with astonishment, said to him:

“Noble one, you are not a snake; tell me who you are.”

Jīmūtavāhana was just answering him,

“I am a snake,[27] so eat me, complete what you have begun, for men of resolution never leave unfinished an undertaking they have begun,”

when Śaṅkhacūḍa arrived and cried out from afar:

“Stop, stop, Garuḍa! he is not a snake; I am the snake meant for you, so let him go; alas! how have you suddenly come to make this mistake?”

On hearing that, the King of Birds was excessively bewildered, and Jīmūtavāhana was grieved at not having accomplished his desire. Then Garuḍa, learning, in the course of their conversation[28] with one another, that he had begun to devour by mistake the King of the Vidyādharas, was much grieved.

He began to reflect:

“Alas! in my cruelty I have incurred sin. In truth, those who follow evil courses easily contract guilt. But this great-hearted one who has given his life for another, and despising[29] the world, which is altogether under the dominion of illusion, come to face me, deserves praise.”

Thinking thus, he was about to enter the fire to purify himself from guilt, when Jīmūtavāhana said to him:

“King of Birds, why do you despond? If you are really afraid of guilt, then you must determine never again to eat these snakes; and you must repent of eating all those previously devoured, for this is the only remedy available in this case; it was idle for you ever to think of any other.”

Thus Jīmūtavāhana, full of compassion for creatures, said to Garuḍa, and he was pleased, and accepted the advice of that king, as if he had been his spiritual preceptor, determining to do what he recommended; and he went to bring nectar from heaven to restore to life rapidly that wounded prince, and the other snakes, whose bones only remained.[30] Then the goddess Gaurī, pleased with Jīmūtavāhana’s wife’s devotion to her, came in person and rained nectar on him: by that his limbs were reproduced with increased beauty, and the sound of drums of the rejoicing gods was heard at the same time. Then, on his rising up safe and sound, Garuḍa brought the nectar of immortality[31] from heaven and sprinkled it along the whole shore of the sea. That made all the snakes there rise up alive, and then that forest along the shore of the sea, crowded with the numerous tribe of snakes, appeared like Pātāla[32] come to behold Jīmūtavāhana, having lost its previous dread of Garuḍa.

Then Jīmūtavāhana’s relations congratulated him, having seen that he was glorious with unwounded body and undying fame. And his wife rejoiced with her relations, and his parents also. Who would not joy at pain ending in happiness? And with his permission Śaṅkhacūḍa departed to Rasātala,[33] and without it his glory, of its own accord, spread through the three worlds. Then, by virtue of the favour of the daughter of the Himālaya, all his relations, Mataṅga and others, who were long hostile to him, came to Garuḍa, before whom the troops of gods were inclining out of love, and timidly approaching the glory of the Vidyādhara race, prostrated themselves at his feet. And being entreated by them, the benevolent Jīmūtavāhana went from that Malaya mountain to his own home, the slope of the Himālaya. There, accompanied by his parents and Mitrāvasu and Malayavatī, the resolute one long enjoyed the honour of Emperor of the Vidyādharas. Thus a course of fortunate events always of its own accord follows the footsteps of all those whose exploits arouse the admiration of the three worlds.


[M] (main story line continued) When the Queen Vāsavadattā heard this story from the mouth of Yaugandharāyaṇa she rejoiced, as she was eager to hear of the splendour of her unborn son. Then, in the society of her husband, she spent that day in conversation about her son, who was to be the future King of the Vidyādharas, which was suggested by that story, for she placed unfailing reliance upon the promise of the favouring gods.

Footnotes and references:


I read with a MS. in the Sanskrit College patisnehād for pratimehād. The two wives of the God of Love came out of love to their husband, who was conceived in Vāsavadattā.


Vidyādhara means, literally, “magical knowledge-holder.”


The ceremony of coronation.


See Vol. I, Appendix III, pp. 221-228, on the “Dohada, or Craving of the Pregnant Woman.” —n.m.p.


See Vol. I, p. 2, 2n2 .—n.m.p.


Ambikā—i.e. Pārvatī the wife of Śiva.


See Vol. I, pp. 8, 144, 144n1, and also W. Crooke, Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India, vol. ii, p. 88.— n.m.p.


Liebrecht, speaking of the novel of Guerino Meschino, compares this tree with the sun and moon trees mentioned in the work of the Pseudo-Callisthenes, Book III, ch. xvii. They inform Alexander that the years of his life are accomplished, and that he will die in Babylon. See also Ralston’s Songs of the Russian People, p. 111.


A period of 432 million years of mortals.


More literally, “the cardinal and intermediate points.”


The sense here is not at all clear, but is explained in the D. text, which reads mukta instead of yukla, thus meaning:

“They thought it would be easy to conquer that (kingdom) as it had lost its strength on account of the change of place of the excellent wishing-tree now employed to bestowing gifts.”

See Speyer, op. cit., pp. 103, 104.— n.m.p.


Reading manomṛgí, “the deer of the mind.”


Member of a savage tribe.


I.e. of the pearls in the heads of the elephants.-The pearl (kuñjaramaṇi gajamuktā) is said to be found in the brain, forehead and stomach of the elephant. It possesses protective qualities and is used in charms. See Bull. Madras Mm., vol. iii, p. 221; North Indian Notes and Queries, vol. iii, p. 53; Crooke, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 240; and Waddell, Buddhism of Tibet, p. 208. —n.m.p.


I.e. the sun.


See Vol. I, p. 17n1—n.m.p.


No doubt by offering the flowers which she had gathered.


Such unintentional injuries are common in folk-lore. We shall come across other examples in the Ocean of Story. Thus in the twentieth vampire story, in Chapter XCIV, the king and the hermit’s daughter lie down on a bed of flowers under an Aśvattha tree. This disturbs the sacred home of the Brāhman demon Jvālāmukha, and the king has either to forfeit his own heart, or find a Brāhman boy willing to offer himself in his place. In the same way in Chapter C the king’s ministers climb into a tree to gather fruit and, not knowing it was a dwelling-place of Gaṇeśa, do not rinse their mouths or wash their hands and feet. In consequence they become fruits themselves. Readers will remember the “Tale of the Trader and the Jinni” in the Nights (Burton, vol. i, p. 25), where the hapless trader is eating dates and throwing away the stones. A huge Ifrit suddenly appears, and accuses the merchant with the death of his son. On being asked how this was possible, he replies: “When thou atest dates and threwest away the stones, they struck my son full in the breast as he was walking by, so that he died forthwith.” The death of the trader is only saved by the stories of the three Shaykhs whom the trader and the jinni meet by chance. For a note on the “jerking of the date-stone” see E. Forster, Arabian Nights Entertainments, 1839, p. xxvi. See also V. Chauvin, op. cit., vi, p. 23. —n.m.p.


Like the two physicians in Gesta Romanomm, lxxvi.-See Ocean of Story, Vol. I, p. 143, 143n2. There was a misprint in this note: chap. xx should read chap. xxii.— n.m.p.


See the note on the Garuḍa Bird, Vol. I, pp. 103-105.— n.m.p.


For a long bibliography on the “eau-de-jouvence” see Chauvin, Bibliographic des Ouvrages Arabes, vi, p. 73.— n.m.p.


A peculiarly sacred kind of darbha grass.


M. Lévêque considers that the above story, as told in the Mahābhārata, forms the basis of the Birds of Aristophanes. He identifies Garuḍa with the hoopoe (Les Mythes et Légendes de l’Inde et de la Perse, p. 14).


Rājila is a striped snake, said to be the same as the ḍuṇḍubha, a non-venomous species.


The D. text reads mardakāriṇā, instead of mandakāriṇā, thus making the sense: “You must not enter Pātāla, pursuing your work of destruction.”—N.M.P.


The remarks which Ralston makes (Russian Folk-Tales, p. 65) with regard to the snake, as represented in Russian stories, are applicable to the Nāga of Hindu superstition: “Sometimes he retains throughout the story an exclusively reptilian character, sometimes he is of a mixed nature, partly serpent and partly man.” The snakes described in Veckenstedt's WendLsche Sagen (pp. 402-409) resemble in some points the snakes which we hear so much of in the present work. See also Bartsch’s Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche, aus Meklenburg, vol. i, p. 277 et seq.—Numerous references will be found in the General Index of Vol. I, under “Serpent” and “Snake.”

In Arabian fiction the most extraordinary snake story is “The Queen of the Serpents,” Nights (Burton, vol. v, p. 298 et seq.). The serpents in this story are wholly reptilian, except the queen herself, who “shone like a crystal and whose face was as that of a woman, and who spake with human speech.” See also Hartland, Legend of Perseus, vol. ii, p. 44.— n.m.p.


The word nāga, which means “ snake,” may also mean, as Dr Brockhaus explains it, “a mountaineer”—from nnga, “a mountain.”


I conjecture kramād for krandat. If we retain krandat we must suppose that the King of the Vidyādharas wept because his scheme of self-sacrifice was frustrated.


I read adhaḥ for adaḥ.


See Manning, Ancient India, vol. ii, p. 330 et seq., and Crooke, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 122. —n.m.p.


In the Sicilian stories of Laura Gonzenbach, an ointment does duty for the Amṛta— cf., for one instance out of many, page 145 of that work. Ralston remarks that in European stories the raven is connected with the Water of Life. See his exhaustive account of this cycle of stories on pages 231 and 232 of his Russian Folk-Tales. See also Veckenstedt’s Wendische Sagen, p. 245, and the story which begins on page 227. In the thirty-third of the Syrian stories collected by Prvm and Socin we have a King of Snakes and Water of Life.


The home of the serpent race below the earth.-See Vol. I, pp. 200, 203. —n.m.p.


Here equivalent to Pātāla.

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