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 ...


MAY Gaṇeśa, painting the earth with mosaic by means of the particles of red lead flying from his trunk whirled round in his madness,[1] and so, as it were, burning up obstacles with the flames of his might, protect you.


[M] (Main story line continued) Thus the King of Vatsa and his queen remained engaged in bringing up their only son Naravāhanadatta, and once on a time the minister Yaugandharāyaṇa, seeing the king anxious about taking care of him, said to him as he was alone:

“King, you must never feel any anxiety now about the Prince Naravāhanadatta, for he has been created by the adorable god Śiva in your house as the future emperor over the kings of the Vidyādharas; and by their divine power the kings of Vidyādharas have found this out, and meaning mischief have become troubled, unable in their hearts to endure it; and knowing this, the god with the moon crest has appointed a prince of the Gaṇas,[2] Stambhaka by name, to protect him. And he remains here invisible, protecting this son of yours, and Nārada coming swiftly informed me of this.”

While the minister was uttering these words there descended from the midst of the air a divine man wearing a diadem and a bracelet, and armed with a sword.

He bowed, and then the King of Vatsa, after welcoming him, immediately asked him with curiosity:

“Who are you, and what is your errand here?”

He said:

“I was once a mortal, but I have now become a king of the Vidyādharas, named Śaktivega, and I have many enemies. I have found out by my power that your son is destined to be our emperor, and I have come to see him, O King.”

When Śaktivega, overawed at the sight of his future emperor, had said this, the King of Vatsa was pleased, and again asked him in his astonishment:

“How can the rank of a Vidyādhara be attained, and of what nature is it, and how did you obtain it? Tell me this, my friend.”

When he heard this speech of the king’s that Vidyādhara Śaktivega, courteously bowing, answered him thus:

“O King, resolute souls having propitiated Śiva either in this or in a former birth, obtain by his favour the rank of Vidyādhara. And that rank, denoted by the insignia of supernatural knowledge, of sword, garland and so on, is of various kinds, but listen! I will tell you how I obtained it.”

Having said this, Śaktivega told the following story, relating to himself, in the presence of the Queen Vāsavadattā:—


29. Story of the Golden City

There lived long ago in a city called Vardhamāna,[3] the ornament of the earth, a king, the terror of his foes, called Paropakārin. And this exalted monarch possessed a queen of the name of Kanakaprabhā,[4] as the cloud holds the lightning, but she had not the fickleness of the lightning. And in course of time there was born to him by that queen a daughter, who seemed to have been formed by the creator to dash Lakṣmī’s pride in her own beauty. And that moon of the eyes of the world was gradually reared to womanhood by her father, who gave her the name of Kanakarekhā,[5] suggested by her mother’s name Kanakaprabhā.

Once on a time, when she had grown up, the king, her father, said to the Queen Kanakaprabhā, who came to him in secret:

“A grown-up daughter cannot be kept in one’s house, accordingly Kanakarekhā troubles my heart with anxiety about a suitable marriage for her. For a maiden of good family who does not obtain a proper position is like a song out of tune; when heard of by the ears even of one unconnected with her she causes distress. But a daughter who through folly is made over to one not suitable is like learning imparted to one not fit to receive it, and cannot tend to glory or merit, but only to regret. So I am very anxious as to what king I must give this daughter of mine, and who will be a fit match for her.”

When Kanakaprabhā heard this she laughed and said:

“You say this, but your daughter does not wish to be married; for to-day, when she was playing with a doll and making believe it was a child, I said to her in fun:

‘My daughter, when shall I see you married?’

When she heard that, she answered me reproachfully:

‘Do not say so; you must not marry me to anyone; and my separation from you is not appointed. I do well enough as a maiden, but if I am married, know that I shall be a corpse; there is a certain reason for this.’

As she has said this to me I have come to you, O King, in a state of distress; for, as she has refused to be married, what use is there in deliberating about a bridegroom?”

When the king heard this from the queen he was bewildered, and going to the private apartments of the princess he said to his daughter:

“When the maidens of the gods and Asuras practise austerities in order to obtain a husband, why, my daughter, do you refuse to take one?”

When the Princess Kanakarekhā heard this speech of her father’s she fixed her eyes on the ground and said:

“Father, I do not desire to be married at present, so what object has my father in it, and why does he insist upon it?”

That King Paropakārin, when his daughter addressed him in that way, being the discreetest of men, thus answered her:

“How can sin be avoided unless a daughter is given in marriage? And independence is not fit for a maiden who ought to be in dependence on relations. For a daughter, in truth, is born for the sake of another and is kept for him. The house of her father is not a fit place for her except in childhood. For if a daughter reaches puberty unmarried her relations go to hell, and she is an outcast, and her bridegroom is called the husband of an outcast.”

When her father said this to her, the Princess Kanakarekhā immediately uttered a speech that was in her mind:

“Father, if this is so, then whatever Brāhman or Kṣatriya has succeeded in seeing the city called the Golden City, to him I must be given, and he shall be my husband, and if none such is found, you must not unjustly reproach me.”

When his daughter said that to him, that king reflected:

“It is a good thing at any rate that she has agreed to be married on a certain condition, and no doubt she is some goddess born in my house for a special reason, for else how comes she to know so much though she is a child?”

Such were the king’s reflections at that time; so he said to his daughter, “I will do as you wish,” and then he rose up and did his day’s work.

And on the next day, as he was sitting in the hall of audience, he said to his courtiers:

“Has anyone among you seen the city called the Golden City? Whoever has seen it, if he be a Brāhman or a Kṣatriya, I will give him my daughter Kanakarekhā and make him crown prince.”

And they all, looking at one another’s faces, said:

“We have not even heard of it, much less have we seen it.”

Then the king summoned the warder and said to him:

“Go and cause a proclamation to be circulated in the whole of this town with the beating of drums,[6] and find out if anyone has really seen that city.”

When the warder received this order, he said, “I will do so,” and went out; and after he had gone out he immediately gave orders to the city guards, and caused a drum to be beaten all round the city, thus arousing curiosity to hear the proclamation, which ran as follows

“Whatever Brāhman or Kṣatriya youth has seen the city called the Golden City, let him speak, and the king will give him his daughter and the rank of crown prince.”

Such was the astounding announcement proclaimed all about the town after the drum had been beaten. And the citizens said, after hearing that proclamation:

“What is this Golden City that is to-day proclaimed in our town, which has never been heard of or seen even by those among us who are old?”

But not a single one among them said: “I have seen it.”

And in the meanwhile a Brāhman living in that town, Śaktideva by name, the son of Baladeva, heard that proclamation; that youth, being addicted to vice, had been rapidly stripped of his wealth at the gaming-table, and he reflected, being excited by hearing of the giving in marriage of the king’s daughter:

“As I have lost all my wealth by gambling, I cannot now enter the house of my father, nor even the house of a courtesan, so, as I have no resource, it is better for me to assert falsely to those who are making the proclamation by beat of drum that I have seen that city. Who will discover that I know nothing about it, for who has ever seen it? And in this way I may perhaps marry the princess.”

Thus reflecting, Śaktideva went to the city guards and said falsely: “I have seen that city.”

They immediately said to him:

“Bravo! Then come with us to the king’s warder.”

So he went with them to the warder. And in the same way he falsely asserted to him that he had seen that city, and he welcomed him kindly, and took him to the king. And without wavering he maintained the very same story in the presence of the king: what indeed is difficult for a blackleg to do who is ruined by play?

Then the king, in order to ascertain the truth, sent that Brāhman to his daughter Kanakarekhā, and when she heard of the matter from the mouth of the warder, and the Brāhman came near, she asked him:

“Have you seen that Golden City?”

Then he answered her:

“Yes, that city was seen by me when I was roaming through the earth in quest of knowledge.”[7]

She next asked him:

“By what road did you go there, and what is it like?”

That Brāhman then went on to say:

“From this place I went to a town called Harapura, and from that I next came to the city of Benares; and from Benares in a few days to the city of Pauṇḍravardhana, thence I went to that city called the Golden City, and I saw it, a place of enjoyment for those who act aright, like the city of Indra, the glory of which is made for the delight of gods.[8] And having acquired learning there, I returned here after some time; such is the path by which I went, and such is that city.”

After that fraudulent Brāhman Śaktideva had made up this story, the princess said, with a laugh:

“Great Brāhman, you have indeed seen that city; but tell me, tell me again, by what path you went.”

When Śaktideva heard that, he again displayed his effrontery, and then the princess had him put out by her servants.

And immediately after putting him out she went to her father, and her father asked her:

“Did that Brāhman speak the truth?”

And then the princess said to her father:

“Though you are a king you act without due consideration; do you not know that rogues deceive honest people? For that Brāhman simply wants to impose on me with a falsehood, but the liar has never seen the Golden City. And all kinds of deceptions are practised on the earth by rogues; for listen to the story of Śiva and Mādhava, which I will tell you.”

Having said this, the princess told the following tale:—


29a. Śiva and Mādhava

There is an excellent city rightly named Ratnapura,[9] and in it there were two rogues named Śiva and Mādhava. Surrounding themselves with many other rogues, they contrived for a long time to rob, by making use of trickery, all the rich men in the town. And one day those two deliberated together and said:

“We have managed by this time to plunder this town thoroughly; so let us now go and live in the city of Ujjayinī; there we hear that there is a very rich man named Śaṅkarasvāmin, who is chaplain to the king. If we cheat him out of his money we may thereby enjoy the charms of the ladies of Mālava. He is spoken of by Brāhmans as a miser, because he withholds[10] half their usual fee with a frowning face, though he possesses treasure enough to fill seven vessels; and that Brāhman has a pearl of a daughter spoken of as matchless; we will manage to get her too out of him along with the money.”

Having thus determined, and having arranged beforehand what part each was to play, the two rogues Śiva and Mādhava went out of that town. At last they reached Ujjayinī, and Mādhava, with his attendants, disguised as a Rājpūt, remained in a certain village outside the town. But Śiva, who was expert in every kind of deception, having assumed the disguise of a religious ascetic, first entered that town alone. There he took up his quarters in a hut on the banks of the Siprā, in which he placed, so that that could be seen, clay, darbha grass, a vessel for begging, and a deerskin. And in the morning he anointed his body with thick clay, as if testing beforehand his destined smearing with the mud of the hell Avīci. And plunging in the water of the river, he remained a long time with his head downward, as if rehearsing beforehand his future descent to hell, the result of his evil actions. And when he rose up from his bath he remained a long time looking up towards the sun,[11] as if showing that he deserved to be impaled. Then he went into the presence of the god, and making rings of kuśa grass,[12] and muttering prayers, he remained sitting in the posture called Padmāsana,[13] with a hypocritical, cunning face, and from time to time he made an offering to Viṣṇu, having gathered white flowers, even as he took captive the simple hearts of the good by his villainy; and having made his offering he again pretended to betake himself to muttering his prayers, and prolonged his meditations as if fixing his attention on wicked ways.

And the next day, clothed in the skin of a black antelope, he wandered about the city in quest of alms, like one of his own deceitful leers intended to beguile it, and observing a strict silence, he took three handfuls of rice from Brāhmans’ houses, still equipped with stick and deerskin, and divided the food into three parts, like the three divisions of the day,[14] and part he gave to the crows, and part to his guest, and with the third he filled his maw; and he remained for a long time hypocritically telling his beads, as if he were counting his sins at the same time, and muttering prayers; and in the night he remained alone in his hut, thinking over the weak points of his fellow-men, even the smallest; and by thus performing every day a difficult pretended penance he gained complete ascendancy over the minds of the citizens in every quarter. And all the people became devoted to him, and a report spread among them in every direction that Śiva was an exceedingly self-denying hermit.

And in the meanwhile his accomplice, the other rogue, Mādhava, having heard from his emissaries how he was getting on, entered that city; and taking up his abode there in a distant temple, he went to the bank of the Siprā to bathe, disguised as a Rājpūt, and after bathing, as he was returning with his retinue, he saw Śiva praying in front of the god, and with great veneration he fell at his feet and said before all the people:

“There is no other such ascetic in the world, for he has been often seen by me going round from one holy place to another.”

But Śiva, though he saw him, kept his neck immovable out of cunning, and remained in the same position as before, and Mādhava returned to his own lodging.

And at night those two met together and ate and drank, and deliberated over the rest of their programme, what they must do next.

And in the last watch of the night Śiva went back leisurely to his hut. And in the morning Mādhava said to one of his gang:

“Take these two garments and give them as a present to the domestic chaplain of the king here, who is called Śaṅkarasvāmin, and say to him respectfully:

‘There is a Rājpūt come from the Deccan of the name of Mādhava, who has been oppressed by his relations, and he brings with him much inherited wealth; he is accompanied by some other Rājpūts like himself, and he wishes to enter into the services of your king here, and he has sent me to visit you, O treasure-house of glory.’”

The rogue who was sent off by Mādhava with this message went to the house of that chaplain with the present in his hand, and after approaching him, and giving him the present at a favourable moment, he delivered to him in private Mādhava’s message, as he had been ordered; he, for his part, out of his greed for presents, believed it all, anticipating other favours in the future, for a bribe is the sovereign specific for attracting the covetous. The rogue then came back, and on the next day Mādhava, having obtained a favourable opportunity, went in person to visit that chaplain, accompanied by attendants, who hypocritically assumed the appearance of men desiring service,[15] passing themselves off as Rājpūts, distinguished by the maces they carried; he had himself announced by an attendant preceding him, and thus he approached the family priest, who received him with welcomes which expressed his delight at his arrival. Then Mādhava remained engaged in conversation with him for some time, and at last being dismissed by him, returned to his own house.

On the next day he sent another couple of garments as a present, and again approached that chaplain and said to him:

“I indeed wish to enter into service to please my retainers, for that reason I have repaired to you, but I possess wealth.”

When the chaplain heard that, he hoped to get something out of him, and he promised Mādhava to procure for him what he desired, and he immediately went and petitioned the king on this account, and, out of respect for the chaplain, the king consented to do what he asked. And on the next day the family priest took Mādhava and his retinue, and presented them to the king with all due respect. The king too, when he saw that Mādhava resembled a Rājpūt in appearance, received him graciously and appointed him a salary. Then Mādhava remained there in attendance upon the king, and every night he met Śiva to deliberate with him. And the chaplain entreated him to live with him in his house, out of avarice, as he was intent on presents.

Then Mādhava with his followers repaired to the house of the chaplain; this settlement was the cause of the chaplain’s ruin, as that of the mouse in the trunk of the tree was the cause of its ruin. And he deposited a chest in the strongroom of the chaplain, after filling it with ornaments made of false gems. And from time to time he opened the box and by cunningly half showing some of the jewels he captivated the mind of the chaplain, as that of a cow is captivated by grass. And when he had gained in this way the confidence of the chaplain, he made his body emaciated by taking little food, and falsely pretended that he was ill.

And after a few days had passed, that prince of rogues said with weak voice to that chaplain, who was at his bedside:

“My condition is miserable in this body, so bring, good Brāhman, some distinguished man of your caste, in order that I may bestow my wealth upon him for my happiness here and hereafter, for, life being unstable, what care can a wise man have for riches?”

That chaplain, who was devoted to presents, when addressed in this way, said, “I will do so,” and Mādhava fell at his feet. Then whatever Brāhman the chaplain brought, Mādhava refused to receive, pretending that he wanted a more distinguished one.

One of the rogues in attendance upon Mādhava, when he saw this, said:

“Probably an ordinary Brāhman does not please him. So it will be better now to find out whether the strict ascetic on the banks of Siprā named Śiva pleases him or not.”

When Mādhava heard that, he said plaintively to that chaplain:

“Yes, be kind, and bring him, for there is no other Brāhman like him.”

The chaplain, thus entreated, went near Śiva, and beheld him immovable, pretending to be engaged in meditation. And then he walked round him, keeping him on his right hand, and sat down in front of him: and immediately the rascal slowly opened his eyes.

Then the family priest, bending before him, said with bowed head:

“My lord, if it will not make you angry, I will prefer a petition to you. There is dwelling here a very rich Rājpūt from the Deccan, named Mādhava, and he, being ill, is desirous of giving away his whole property: if you consent, he will give you that treasure which glitters with many ornaments made out of priceless gems.”

When Śiva heard that, he slowly broke silence, and said:

“O Brāhman, since I live on alms, and observe perpetual chastity, of what use are riches to me?”

Then that chaplain went on to say to him:

“Do not say that, great Brāhman; do you not know the due order of the periods in the life of a Brahman?[16] By marrying a wife, and performing in his house offerings to the Manes, sacrifices to the gods and hospitality to guests, he uses his property to obtain the three objects of life[17] ; the stage of the householder is the most useful of all.”[18]

Then Śiva said:

“How can I take a wife, for I will not marry a woman from any low family?”

When the covetous chaplain heard that, he thought that he would be able to enjoy his wealth at will, and, catching at the opportunity, he said to him:

“I have an unmarried daughter named Vinayasvāminī, and she is very beautiful; I will bestow her in marriage on you. And I will keep for you all the wealth which you receive as a donation from Mādhava, so enter on the duties of a householder.”

When Śiva heard this, having got the very thing he wanted, he said:

“Brāhman, if your heart is set on this,[19] I will do what you say. But I am an ascetic who knows nothing about gold and jewels: I shall act as you advise; do as you think best.”

When the chaplain heard that speech of Śiva’s he was delighted, and the fool said, “Agreed,” and conducted Śiva to his house. And when he had introduced there that inauspicious guest named Śiva,[20] he told Mādhava what he had done, and was applauded by him. And immediately he gave Śiva his daughter, who had been carefully brought up, and in giving her he seemed to be giving away his own prosperity lost by his folly. And on the third day after his marriage he took him to Mādhava, who was pretending to be ill, to receive his present.

And Mādhava rose up and fell at his feet, and said what was quite true:

“I adore thee whose asceticism is incomprehensible.”[21]

And in accordance with the prescribed form he bestowed on Śiva that box of ornaments made of many sham jewels, which was brought from the chaplain’s treasury.

Śiva for his part, after receiving it, gave it into the hands of the chaplain, saying:

“I know nothing about this, but you do.”

And that priest immediately took it, saying:

“I undertook to do this long ago, why should you trouble yourself about it?”

Then Śiva gave them his blessing, and went to his wife’s private apartments, and the chaplain took the box and put it in his strong-room.

Mādhava for his part gradually desisted from feigning sickness, affecting to feel better the next day, and said that his disease had been cured by virtue of his great gift.

And he praised the chaplain when he came near, saying to him:

“It was by your aiding me in an act of faith that I tided over this calamity.”

And he openly struck up a friendship with Śiva, asserting that it was due to the might of Śiva’s holiness that his life had been saved.

Śiva, for his part, after some days said to the chaplain:

“How long am I to feast in your house in this style? Why do you not take from me those jewels for some fixed sum of money? If they are valuable, give me a fair price for them.”

When the priest heard that, thinking that the jewels were of incalculable value, he consented, and gave to Śiva as purchase-money his whole living. And he made Śiva sign a receipt for the sum with his own hand, and he himself too signed a receipt for the jewels, thinking that that treasure far exceeded his own wealth in value. And they separated, taking one another’s receipts, and the chaplain lived in one place, while Śiva kept house in another. And then Śiva and Mādhava dwelt together, and remained there, leading a very pleasant life consuming the chaplain’s wealth. And as time went on, the chaplain, being in need of cash, went to the town to sell one of the ornaments in the bazar.

Then the merchants, who were connoisseurs in jewels, said after examining it:

“Ha ! the man who made these sham jewels was a clever fellow, whoever he was. For this ornament is composed of pieces of glass and quartz with various colours and fastened together with brass, and there are no gems or gold in it.”

When the chaplain heard that, he went in his agitation and brought all the ornaments from his house, and showed them to the merchants. When they saw them, they said that all of them were composed of sham jewels in the same way; but the chaplain, when he heard that, was, so to speak, thunderstruck. And immediately the fool went off and said to Śiva:

“Take back your ornaments and give me back my own wealth.”

But Śiva answered him:

“How can I possibly have retained your wealth till now? Why, it has all in course of time been consumed in my house.”

Then the chaplain and Śiva fell into an altercation, and went, both of them, before the king, at whose side Mādhava was standing.

And the chaplain made this representation to the king:

“Śiva has consumed all my substance, taking advantage of my not knowing that a great treasure which he deposited in my house[22] was composed of skilfully coloured pieces of glass and quartz fastened together with brass.”

Then Śiva said:

“King, from my childhood I have been a hermit, and I was persuaded by that man’s earnest petition to accept a donation, and when I took it, though inexperienced in the ways of the world, I said to him,

‘I am no connoisseur in jewels and things of that kind, and I rely upon you,’

and he consented, saying,

‘I will be your warrant in the matter.’

And I accepted all the donation and deposited it in his hand. Then he bought the whole from me at his own price, and we hold from one another mutual receipts; and now it is in the king’s power to grant me help in my sorest need.”

Śiva having thus finished his speech, Mādhava said:

“Do not say this; you are honourable, but what fault have I committed in the matter? I never received anything either from you or from Śiva; I had some wealth inherited from my father, which I had long deposited elsewhere; then I brought that wealth and presented it to a Brāhman. If the gold is not real gold, and the jewels are not real jewels, then let us suppose that I have reaped fruit from giving away brass, quartz and glass. But the fact that I was persuaded with sincere heart that I was giving something is clear from this, that I recovered from a very dangerous illness.”

When Mādhava said this to him without any alteration in the expression of his face, the king laughed, and all his ministers, and they were highly delighted.

And those present in court said, laughing in their sleeves:

“Neither Mādhava nor Śiva has done anything unfair.”

Thereupon that chaplain departed with downcast countenance, having lost his wealth. For of what calamities is not the blinding of the mind with excessive greed the cause? And so those two rogues Śiva and Mādhava long remained there happy in having obtained the favour of the delighted king. [also see note on thieves]


29. Story of the Golden City

“Thus do rogues spread the webs of their tongue with hundreds of intricate threads, like fishermen upon dry land, living by the net. So you may be certain, my father, that this Brāhman is a case in point. By falsely asserting that he has seen the City of Gold, he wishes to deceive you, and to obtain me for a wife. So do not be in a hurry to get me married; I shall remain unmarried at present, and we will see what will happen.”

When the King Paropakārin heard this from his daughter Kanakarekhā, he thus answered her:

“When a girl is grown up, it is not expedient that she should remain long unmarried, for wicked people envious of good qualities falsely impute sin. And people are particularly fond of blackening the character of one distinguished; to illustrate this, listen to the story of Harasvāmin which I am about to tell you.”


29b. The Iniquity of Scandal

There is a city on the banks of the Ganges named Kusumapura,[23] and in it there was an ascetic who visited holy places, named Harasvāmin. He was a Brāhman living by begging; and constructing a hut on the banks of the Ganges, he became, on account of his surprisingly rigid asceticism, the object of the people’s respect.[24]

And one day a wicked man among the inhabitants, who could not tolerate his virtue, seeing him from a distance going out to beg, said:

“Do you know what a hypocritical ascetic that is? It is he that has eaten up all the children in this town.”

When a second there who was like him heard this, he said:

“It is true; I also have heard people saying this.”

And a third confirming it said: “Such is the fact.” The chain of villains’ conversation binds reproach on the good. And in this way the report spread from ear to ear, and gained general credence in the city.

And all the citizens kept their children by force in their houses, saying:

“Harasvāmin carries off all the children and eats them.”[25]

And then the Brāhmans in that town, afraid that their offspring would be destroyed, assembled and deliberated about his banishment from the city. And as they did not dare to tell him face to face, for fear he might perhaps eat them up in his rage, they sent messengers to him.

And those messengers went and said to him from a distance:

“The Brāhmans command you to depart from this city.”

Then in his astonishment he asked them: “Why?” And they went on to say:

“You eat every child as soon as you see it.”

When Harasvāmin heard that, he went near those Brāhmans, in order to reassure them, and the people fled before him for fear. And the Brāhmans, as soon as they saw him, were terrified and went up to the top of their monastery. People who are deluded by reports are not, as a rule, capable of discrimination.

Then Harasvāmin, standing below, called all the Brāhmans who were above, one by one, by name, and said to them:

“What delusion is this, Brāhmans? Why do you not ascertain with one another how many children I have eaten, and whose, and how many of each man’s children?”

When they heard that, the Brāhmans began to compare notes among themselves, and found that all of them had all their children left alive. And in course of time other citizens, appointed to investigate the matter, admitted that all their children were living.

And merchants and Brāhmans and all said:

“Alas! in our folly we have belied a holy man; the children of all of us are alive; so whose children can he have eaten?”

Harasvāmin, being thus completely exonerated, prepared to leave that city, for his mind was seized with disgust at the slanderous report got up against him by wicked men.[26] For what pleasure can a wise man take in a wicked place, the inhabitants of which are wanting in discrimination? Then the Brāhmans and merchants, prostrating themselves at his feet, entreated him to stay there, and he at last, though with reluctance, consented to do so.


29. Story of the Golden City

“In this way evil men often impute crime falsely to good men, allowing their malicious garrulity full play on beholding their virtuous behaviour. Much more, if they obtain a slight glimpse of any opportunity for attacking them, do they pour copious showers of oil on the fire thus kindled. Therefore if you wish, my daughter, to draw the arrow from my heart, you must not, while this fresh youth of yours is developing, remain unmarried to please yourself, and so incur the ready reproach of evil men.”

Such was the advice which the Princess Kanakarekhā frequently received from her father the king, but she, being firmly resolved, again and again answered him:

“Therefore quickly search for a Brāhman or Kṣatriya who has seen that City of Gold and give me to him, for this is the condition I have named.”

When the king heard that, reflecting that his daughter, who remembered her former birth, had completely made up her mind, and seeing no other way of obtaining for her the husband she desired, he issued another order to the effect that henceforth the proclamation by beat of drum was to take place every day in the city, in order to find out whether any of the new-comers had seen the Golden City.

And once more it was proclaimed in every quarter of the city every day, after the drum had been beaten:

“If any Brāhman or Kṣatriya has seen the Golden City, let him speak; the king will give him his own daughter, together with the rank of crown prince.”

But no one was found who had obtained a sight of the Golden City.

Footnotes and references:


The elephant-headed god has his trunk painted with red lead like a tame elephant, and is also liable to become mast.


Followers and attendants upon Śiva.—See Vol. I, p. 202.— n.m.p.


The modern Burdwan.—This is, however, not necessarily so (Barnett).—N.M.P.


Kanaka-prabhā means “lustre of gold.”—n.m.p.


I.e. “gold-gleam” or “streak of gold.”—n.m.p.


See Vol. I, p. 1 18n2 .—n.m.p.


For an account of the Wanderjahre of young Brāhman students see Dr Biihler’s introduction to the Vikramāṅkadevacharita.


More literally, “those whose eyes do not wink.” The epithet also means “worthy of being regarded with unwinking eyes.” No doubt this ambiguity is intended.—“The city of Indra” is svarga —a temporary paradise, where the blessed enjoy unequalled delights before their next birth on earth. The duration of the stay is in proportion with their good deeds in their previous life. In Vol. I, p. 59, Vararuci speaks of the “perishable joys of Svarga.” It is here that the Gandharvas and Apsarases are in continual service of Indra, as we have already seen (Vol. I, p. 201). —n.m.p.


I.e. the city of jewels.


Āskandin is translated “granting” by Monier Williams and the Petersburg lexicographers.


For the amazing austerities of Hindu ascetics see Vol. I, p. 79n1. —n.m.p.


These are worn on the fingers when offerings are made.


A particular posture in religious meditation, sitting with the thighs crossed, with one hand resting on the left thigh, the other held up with the thumb upon the heart, and the eyes directed to the tip of the nose.


There seem to be two or three mistakes in Brockhaus’ text. D. reads bhikṣātrayaṃ tataḥ... cakre triḥ satyam iva khaṇḍaśaḥ, “ he divided the begged food, three handfuls of rice, into three parts, just as he broke asunder the truth.” See Speyer, op. cit., pp. 104, 105. —n.m.p.


Kārpaṭika may mean a pilgrim, but it seems to be used in the Kathā Sarit Sāgara to mean a kind of dependent on a king or great man, usually a foreigner. See Chapters XXXVIII, LIII and LXXXI of this work.


First he should be a Brahmachārin or unmarried religious student, next a Gṛhastha or householder, then a Vānaprastha or anchoret, lastly a Bhikṣu or beggar.


I.e. virtue, wealth, pleasure: dharma, artha, kāma.


In his translation of this story from the D. text in The Golden Town, 1909, Barnett adds “among the men in the four orders” before “the stage,” thus making the meaning clearer. —n.m.p.


Graha also means “planet”— i.e. inauspicious planet. Śiva tells the truth here.


I.e. the auspicious or friendly one.


There is probably a double meaning in the word “incomprehensible.”


Perhaps we ought to read dattvā for tntra.


The city of flowers—i.e. Pāṭaliputra.——See p. 39n1 of this volume.— n.m.p.


Perhaps we ought to read yayau for dadau. This I find is the reading of an excellent MS. in the Sanskrit College, for the loan of which I am deeply indebted to the Principal and Librarian.


A report similar to that spread against Harasvāmin was in circulation during the French Revolution. Taine in his history of the Revolution, vol. i, p. 418, tells the following anecdote:—

“M. de Montlosier found himself the object of many unpleasant attentions when he went to the National Assembly. In particular a woman of about thirty used to sharpen a large knife when he passed and look at him in a threatening manner.

On inquiry he discovered the cause—

Deux enfants du quartier ont disparu enlevés par des bohémiens, et c’est maintenant un bruit répandu que M. de Montlosier, le marquis de Mirabeau, et d’autres députés du côté droit se rassemblent pour faire des orgies dans lesquelles ils mangent de petits enfants.”


Cf. Virgil’s well-known description of the growth of rumour, Æneid, iv, 74 et seq.—N.M.P.

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