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 the Queen Tārādattā, the consort of King Kaliṅgadatta in Takṣaśilā, slowly became oppressed with the burden of her unborn child. And she, now that her delivery was near, being pale of countenance, with tremulous eyeballs,[1] resembled the East in which the pale streak of the young moon is about to rise. And there was soon born from her a daughter excelling all others, like a specimen of the Creator’s power to produce all beauty. The lights kept burning to protect the child against evil spirits, blazing with oil,[2] were eclipsed by her beauty, and darkened, as if through grief that a son of equal beauty had not been born instead. And her father, Kaliṅgadatta, when he saw her born, beautiful though she was, was filled with despondency at the disappointment of his hope to obtain a son like her. Though he divined that she was of heavenly origin, he was grieved because he longed for a son. For a son, being embodied joy, is far superior to a daughter, that is but a lump of grief.[3] Then in his affliction the king went out of his palace to divert his mind, and he entered a monastery full of many images of Buddha.

In a certain part of the monastery he heard this speech being uttered by a begging hermit, who was a religious preacher, as he sat in the midst of his hearers:

“They say that the bestowal of wealth in this world is great asceticism; a man who gives wealth is said to give life, for life depends on wealth. And Buddha, with mind full of pity, offered up himself for another, as if he were worthless straw, much more should one offer up sordid pelf. And it was by such resolute asceticism that Buddha, having got rid of desire and obtained heavenly insight, attained the rank of a Buddha. Therefore a wise man should do what is beneficial to other beings, by abstaining from selfish aspirations even so far as to sacrifice his own body, in order that he may obtain perfect insight.”


34. Story of the Seven Princesses

Thus, long ago, there were born in succession to a certain king named Kṛta seven very beautiful princesses, and even while they were still youthful they abandoned, in disgust with life, the house of their father, and went to the cemetery, and when they were asked why they did it they said to their retinue:

“This world is unreal, and in it this body and such delights as union with the beloved are the baseless fabric of a dream; only the good of others in this revolving world is pronounced to be real; so let us with these bodies of ours do good to our fellow-creatures, let us fling these bodies, while they are alive, to the eaters of raw flesh[4] in the cemetery; what is the use of them, lovely though they be?”


34a. The Prince who tore out his own Eye

For there lived in old time a certain prince who was disgusted with the world, and he, though young and handsome, adopted the life of a wandering hermit. Once on a time that beggar entered the house of a certain merchant, and was beheld by his young wife with his eyes long as the leaf of a lotus. She, with heart captivated by the beauty of his eyes, said to him:

“How came such a handsome man as you to undertake such a severe vow as this? Happy is the woman who is gazed upon with this eye of yours!”

When the begging hermit was thus addressed by the lady, he tore out one eye and, holding it in his hand, said:

“Mother, behold this eye, such as it is; take the loathsome mass of flesh and blood, if it pleases you.[5] [also see note on self-mutilation] And the other is like it; say, what is there attractive in these?”

When he said this to the merchant’s wife, and she saw the eye, she was despondent, and said:

“Alas! I, unhappy wretch that I am, have done an evil deed, in that I have become the cause of the tearing out of your eye!”

When the beggar heard that, he said:

“Mother, do not be grieved, for you have done me a benefit; hear the following example, to prove the truth of what I say:—


34aa. The Ascetic who conquered Anger

There lived long ago, in a certain beautiful garden on the banks of the Ganges, a hermit animated by the desire of experiencing all asceticism. And while he was engaged in mortifying the flesh it happened that a certain king came there to amuse himself with the women of his harem. And after he had amused himself he fell asleep under the influence of his potations, and while he was in this state his queens left him out of thoughtlessness and roamed about in the garden. And beholding in a corner of the garden that hermit engaged in meditation, they stood round him out of curiosity, wondering what on earth he could be. And as they remained there a long time, that king woke up, and not seeing his wives at his side, wandered all round the garden. And then he saw the queens standing all round the hermit, and being enraged he slashed the hermit with his sword out of jealousy. What crime will not sovereign power, jealousy, cruelty, drunkenness and indiscretion cause separately; much more deadly are they when combined, like five fires.[6]

Then the king departed, and though the hermit’s limbs were gashed, he remained free from wrath; whereupon a certain deity appeared and said to him:

“Great- souled one, if you approve, I will slay by my power that wicked man who did this to you in a passion.”

When the hermit heard that, he said:

“O goddess, say not so, for he is my helper in virtue, not a harmer of me. For by his favour I have attained the grace of patience. To whom could I have shown patience, O goddess, if he had not acted thus towards me? What anger does the wise man show for the sake of this perishing body? To show patience equally with regard to what is agreeable and disagreeable is to have attained the rank of Brahmā.”

When the hermit said this to the deity, she was pleased, and after healing the wounds in his limbs she disappeared.


34a. The Prince who tore out his own Eye

“In the same way as that king was considered a benefactor by the hermit, you, my mother, have increased my asceticism by causing me to tear out my eye.”

Thus spake the self-subduing hermit to the merchant’s wife, who bowed before him, and being regardless of his body, lovely though it was, he passed on to perfection.


34. Story of the Seven Princesses

“Therefore, though our youth be very charming, why should we cling to this perishable body? But the only thing which, in the eye of the wise man, it is good for is to benefit one’s fellow-creatures. So we will lay down our bodies to benefit living creatures in this cemetery, the natural home of happiness.”

Having said this to their attendants, those seven princesses did so, and obtained therefrom the highest beatitude.


[M] (main story line continued)

“Thus you see that the wise have no selfish affection even for their own bodies, much less for such worthless things[7] as son, wife and servants.”

When the King Kaliṅgadatta had heard these and other such things from the religious teacher in the monastery, having spent the day there, he returned to his palace.

And when he was there he was again afflicted with grief on account of the birth of a daughter to him, and a certain Brāhman, who had grown old in his house, said to him:

“King, why do you despond on account of the birth of a pearl of maidens? Daughters are better even than sons, and produce happiness in this world and the next. Why do kings care so much about those sons that hanker after their kingdom and eat up their fathers like crabs? But kings like Kuntibhoja and others, by the virtue of daughters like Kuntī and others, have escaped harm from sages like the terrible Durvāsas. And how can one obtain from a son the same fruit in the next world as one obtains from the marriage of a daughter? Moreover, I now proceed to tell the tale of Sulocanā. Listen to it.


35. Story of Sulocanā and Suṣeṇa

There was a young king named Suṣeṇa on the mountain of Citrakūṭa, who was created like another God of Love by the Creator to spite Śiva. He made at the foot of that great mountain a heavenly garden, which was calculated to make the gods averse to dwelling in the garden of Nandana. And in the middle of it he made a lake with full-blown lotuses, like a new productive bed for the lotuses with which the Goddess of Fortune plays. This lake had steps leading down into it made of splendid gems, and the king used to linger on its banks without a bride, because there were no eligible matches for him.

Once on a time Rambhā, a fair one of heaven, came that way, wandering at will through the air from the palace of Indra. She beheld the king roaming in that garden like an incarnation of the Spring in the midst of a garden of fullblown flowers.

She said:

“Can this be the moon that has swooped down from heaven in pursuit of the Goddess of Fortune fallen into a cluster of lotuses of the lake? But that cannot be, for this hero’s fortune in the shape of beauty never passes away.[8] Surely this must be the god of the flowery arrows come to the garden in quest of flowers. But where has Rati, his companion, gone?”

Thus Rambhā described him in her eagerness, and descending from heaven in human form she approached that king.

And when the king suddenly beheld her advancing towards him he was astonished, and reflected:

“Who can this be of incredible beauty? She cannot surely be a human being, since her feet do not touch the dust, and her eye does not wink; therefore she must be some divine person. But I must not ask her who she is, for she might fly from me. Divine beings who visit men for some cause or other are generally impatient of having their secrets revealed.”

While such thoughts were passing in the monarch’s mind she began a conversation with him, which led in due course to his throwing his arms round her neck then and there. And he sported long there with this Apsaras, so that she forgot heaven. Love is more charming than one’s native home. And the land of that king was filled with heaps of gold, by means of the Yakṣiṇīs, friends of hers, who transformed themselves into trees,[9] as the heaven is filled with the peaks of Meru.

And in the course of time that excellent Apsaras became pregnant, and bore to King Suṣeṇa an incomparably beautiful daughter, and no sooner had she given her birth than she said to the king:

“O King, such has been my curse, and it is now at an end; for I am Rambhā, a heavenly nymph that fell in love with you on beholding you; and as I have given birth to a child I must immediately leave you and depart.[10] For such is the law that governs us heavenly beings; therefore take care of this daughter; when she is married we shall again be united in heaven.”

When the Apsaras Rambhā had said this she departed, sorely against her will, and through grief at it the king was bent on abandoning life.

But his ministers said to him:

“Did Viśvāmitra, though despondent, abandon life when Menakā had departed after giving birth to Śakuntalā?”

When the king had been plied by them with such arguments, he took the right view of the matter, and slowly recovered his self-command, taking to his heart the daughter who was destined to be the cause of their reunion. And that daughter, lovely in all her limbs, her father, who was devoted to her, named Sulocanā, on account of the exceeding beauty of her eyes.

In time she grew up to womanhood, and a young hermit, named Vatsa, the descendant of Kaśyapa, as he was roaming about at will, beheld her in a garden.

He, though he was all compact of asceticism, the moment he beheld that princess, felt the emotion of love, and he said to himself then and there:

“Oh! exceedingly wonderful is the beauty of this maiden. If I do not obtain her as a wife, what other fruit of my asceticism can I obtain?”

While thinking thus, the young hermit was beheld by Sulocanā, and he seemed to her all glorious with brightness, like fire free from smoke.

When she saw him with his rosary and water vessel she fell in love also, and thought:

“Who can this be that looks so self-restrained and yet so lovely?”

And coming towards him, as if to select him for her husband, she threw over his body the garland[11] of the blue lotuses of her eyes, and bowed before that hermit. And he, with mind overpowered by the decree of Kāma, hard for gods and Asuras to evade, pronounced on her the following blessing:—“Obtain a husband.”

Then the excellent hermit was thus addressed by that lady, whose modesty was stolen away by love for his exceeding beauty, and who spoke with downcast face:

“If this is your desire, and if this is not jesting talk, then, Brāhman, ask the king, my father, who has power to dispose of me.”

Then the hermit, after hearing of her descent from her attendants, went and asked the King Suṣeṇa, her father, for her hand.

He, for his part, when he saw that the young hermit was eminent both in beauty and asceticism, entertained him, and said to him:

“Reverend sir, this daughter is mine by the nymph Rambhā, and by my daughter’s marriage I am to be reunited with her in heaven; so Rambhā told me when she was returning to the sky. Consider, auspicious sir, how that is to be accomplished.”

When the hermit heard that, he thought for a moment:

“Did not the hermit Ruru, when Pramadvarā, the daughter of Menakā, was bitten by a snake, give her the half of his life, and make her his wife?[12] Was not the Caṇḍāla Triśaṅku carried to heaven by Viśvāmitra? So why should not I do the same by expending my asceticism upon it?”

Having thus reflected, the hermit said: “There is no difficulty in it”; and exclaimed:

“Hearken, ye gods! May this king mount with his body to heaven to obtain possession of Rambhā by virtue of part of my asceticism.”

Thus the hermit spoke in the hearing of the court, and a distinct answer was heard from heaven: “So be it.” Then the king gave his daughter Sulocanā to the hermit Vatsa, the descendant of Kaśyapa, and ascended to heaven. There he obtained a divine nature, and lived happily with that Rambhā of god-like dignity, appointed his wife by Indra.


[M] (main story line continued)

“Thus, O King, Suṣeṇa obtained all his ends by means of a daughter. For such daughters become incarnate in the houses of such as you. And this daughter is surely some heavenly nymph, fallen from her high estate owing to a curse, and born in your house; so do not grieve, monarch, on account of her birth.”

When King Kaliṅgadatta had heard this tale from the Brāhman who had grown old in his house, he left off being distressed, and was comforted. And he gave to his dear young daughter, who gave pleasure to his eyes, as if she had been a digit of the moon, the name of Kaliṅgasenā. And the Princess Kaliṅgasenā grew up in the house of her father amongst her companions. And she sported in the palaces, and in the palace gardens, like a wave of the sea of infancy that is full of the passion[13] for amusement.

Once on a time the daughter of the Asura Maya, named Somaprabhā, as she was journeying through the sky, saw her on the roof of a palace engaged in play.

And Somaprabhā, while in the sky, beheld her lovely enough to bewilder with her beauty the mind even of a hermit, and feeling affection for her, reflected:

“Who is this? Can she be the form of the moon? If so, how is it that she gleams in the day? But if she is Rati, where is Kāma? Therefore I conclude that she is a mortal maiden. She must be some celestial nymph that has descended into a king’s palace in consequence of a curse; and I am persuaded I was certainly a friend of hers in a former life. For my mind’s being full of exceeding affection for her tells me so. Therefore it is fitting that I should again select her as my chosen friend.”

Thus reflecting, Somaprabhā descended invisible from heaven, in order not to frighten that maiden; and she assumed the appearance of a mortal maiden to inspire confidence, and slowly approached that Kaliṅgasenā.

Then Kaliṅgasenā, on beholding her, reflected:

“Bravo! Here is a princess of wonderful beauty come to visit me of her own accord. She is a suitable friend for me.”

So she rose up politely and embraced that Somaprabhā. And making her take a seat, she asked her immediately her descent and name.

And Somaprabhā said to her:

“Be patient, I will tell you all.”

Then in the course of their conversation they swore friendship to each other with plighted hands. Then Somaprabhā said:

“My friend, you are a king’s daughter, and it is hard to keep up friendship with the children of kings. For they fly into an immoderate passion on account of a small fault. Hear, with regard to this point, the story of the prince and the merchant’s son which I am about to tell you.”


36. Story of the Prince and the Merchant's Son who saved his Life

[also see notes on the story of the Prince and the Merchant’s son]

In the city of Puṣkarāvatī there was a king named Gūḍhasena, and to him there was born one son. That prince was overbearing, and whatever he did, right or wrong, his father acquiesced in, because he was an only son. And once upon a time, as he was roaming about in a garden, he saw the son of a merchant, named Brahmadatta, who resembled himself in wealth and beauty. And the moment he saw him he selected him for his special friend, and those two, the prince and the merchant’s son, immediately became like one another in all things.[14] And soon they were not able to live without seeing one another; for intimacy in a former birth quickly knits friendship. The prince never tasted food that was not first prepared for that merchant’s son.

Once on a time the prince set out for Ahicchatra in order to be married, having first decided on his friend’s marriage. And, as he was journeying with his troops, in the society of that friend, mounted on an elephant, he reached the bank of the Ikṣuvatī, and encamped there. There he had a wine-party when the moon arose; and after he had gone to bed he began to tell a story at the solicitation of his nurse. When he had begun his story, being tired and intoxicated, he was overcome with sleep, and his nurse also, but the merchant’s son kept awake out of love for him. And when the others were asleep, the merchant’s son, who was awake, heard in the air what seemed to be the voices of women engaged in conversation.

The first said:

“This wretch has gone to sleep without telling his tale, therefore I pronounce this curse on him. To-morrow he shall see a necklace, and if he take hold of it, it shall cling to his neck, and that moment cause his death.”

Then the first voice ceased and the second went on:

“And if he escape that peril, he shall see a mango-tree, and if he eat the fruit of it he shall then and there lose his life.”

Having uttered this, that voice also ceased, and then the third said:

“If he escape this also, then, if he enter a house to be married, it shall fall on him and slay him.”

Having said so much, that voice also ceased, and the fourth said:

“If he escape this also, when he enters that night into his private apartments he shall sneeze a hundred times; and if someone there does not a hundred times say to him, ‘God bless you,’ he shall fall into the grasp of death. And if the person who has heard all this, shall inform him of it in order to save his life, he also shall die.”

Having said this, the voice ceased.[15]

And the merchant’s son having heard all this, terrible as a thunderstroke, being agitated on account of his affection for the prince, reflected:

“Beshrew this tale that was begun and not finished, for divinities have come invisible to hear it, and are cursing him out of disappointed curiosity. And if this prince dies, what good will my life do to me? So I must by some artifice deliver my friend, whom I value as my life. And I must not tell him what has taken place, lest I too should suffer.”

Having thus reflected, the merchant’s son got through the night with difficulty

And in the morning the prince set out with him on his journey, and he saw a necklace in front of him and wished to lay hold of it.

Then the merchant’s son said:

“Do not take the necklace, my friend; it is an illusion, else why do not these soldiers see it?”

When the prince heard that, he let the necklace alone, but going on further he saw a mango-tree, and he felt a desire to eat its fruit. But he was dissuaded by the merchant’s son, as before. He felt much annoyed in his heart, and travelling on slowly, he reached his father-in-law’s palace. And he was about to enter a building there for the purpose of being married, but just as his friend had persuaded him not to do so, the house fell down. So he escaped this danger by a hair’s-breadth, and then he felt some confidence in his friend’s prescience.

Then the prince and his wife entered at night another building. But the merchant’s son slipped in there unobserved. And the prince, when he went to bed, sneezed a hundred times, but the merchant’s son, underneath it, said a hundred times, “God bless you”; and then the merchant’s son, having accomplished his object, of his own accord left the house in high spirits.

But the prince, who was with his wife, saw him going out, and through jealousy, forgetting his love for him, he flew into a passion, and said to the sentinels at his gate:

“This designing wretch has entered my private apartments when I wished to be alone, so keep him in durance for the present, and he shall be executed in the morning.”

When the guards heard that, they put him under arrest, and he spent the night in confinement; but as he was being led off to execution in the morning he said to them:

“First take me into the presence of the prince, in order that I may tell him a certain reason which I had for my conduct, and then put me to death.”

When he said this to the guards, they went and informed the prince, and on their information and the advice of his ministers the prince ordered him to be brought before him. When he was brought, he told the prince the whole story, and he believed it to be true, for the fall of the house carried conviction to his mind. So the prince was satisfied, and countermanded the order for his friend’s execution, and he returned with him to his own city, a married man. And there his friend, the merchant’s son, married and lived in happiness, his virtues being praised by all men.


[M] (main story line continued)

“Thus the children of kings break loose from restraint and, slaying their guides, disregard benefits, like infuriated elephants. And what friendship can there be with those Vetālas, who take people’s lives by way of a joke? Therefore, my princess, never abandon your friendship with me.”

When Kaliṅgasenā heard this story in the palace from the mouth of Somaprabhā, she answered her affectionate friend:

“Those of whom you speak are considered Piśācas, not the children of kings, and I will tell you a story of the evil importunity of Piśācas.[16] Listen.


37. Story of the Brāhman and the Piśāca

Long ago there was a Brāhman dwelling on a royal grant, which was called Yajñasthala. He once upon a time, being poor, went to the forest to bring home wood. There a piece of wood, being cleft with the axe, fell, as chance would have it, upon his leg, and piercing it, entered deep into it. And as the blood flowed from him he fainted, and he was beheld in that condition by a man who recognised him and, taking him up, carried him home. There his distracted wife washed off the blood and, consoling him, placed a plaster upon the wound. And then his wound, though tended day by day, not only did not heal, but formed an ulcer.

Then the man, afflicted with his ulcerated wound, poverty-stricken, and at the point of death, was thus advised in secret by a Brāhman friend who came to him:

“A friend of mine, named Yajñadatta , was long very poor, but he gained the aid of a Piśāca by a charm, and so, having obtained wealth, lived in happiness. And he told me that charm; so do you gain, my friend, by means of it, the aid of a Piśāca; he will heal your wound.”

Having said this, he told him the form of words, and described to him the ceremony as follows:—

“Rise up in the last watch of the night, and with dishevelled hair and naked,[17] and without rinsing your mouth, take two handfuls of rice as large as you can grasp with your two hands, and muttering the form of words go to a place where four roads meet,[18] and there place the two handfuls of rice and return in silence without looking behind you. Do so always until that Piśāca appears and himself says to you: ‘I will put an end to your ailment.’ Then receive his aid gladly, and he will remove your complaint.”

When his friend had said this to him, the Brāhman did as he had been directed. Then the Piśāca, being conciliated, brought heavenly herbs from a lofty peak of the Himālayas and healed his wound.

And then he became obstinately persistent, and said to the Brāhman, who was delighted at being healed:

“Give me a second wound to cure, but if you will not I will do you an injury or destroy your body.”

When the Brāhman heard that, he was terrified, and immediately said to him, to get rid of him:

“I will give you another wound within seven days.”

Whereupon the Piśāca left him, but the Brāhman felt hopeless about his life.[19]


[M] (main story line continued) Having reached this point in her story, Kaliṅgasenā broke off in the middle from shame at its immodest ending, but presently she spoke again to Somaprabhā as follows:—


37. Story of the Brāhman and the Piśāca

Hereupon his cunning daughter, a widow, seeing her Brāhman father downcast at being unable to find another wound, having questioned him, said:

“I will delude this Piśāca. Go back to him and say: ‘Will you please heal my daughter’s wound?’ [Then leave the rest to me.]”

Hearing this, and joyfully consenting, the Brāhman went off and brought the Piśāca to his daughter.

Thereupon she displayed to him her yoni, saying privily:

“Gentle sir, pray heal this wound of mine.”

The stupid Piśāca repeatedly applied an ointment to the fissure, but was unable to heal it. As time passed he began to grow tired, and, raising her slightly, examined her to see whether the wound was healing or not.

But as soon as he beheld beneath it another wound, he became greatly alarmed, and reflected:

“Before the one wound is healed, lo! here is another one that has arisen. It is indeed a true adage that says: ‘When cracks appear, misfortunes multiply.’ Who is capable of closing the opened path of life whence people arise and by which they perish?”

Musing thus, the silly Piśāca, from fear of imprisonment at having obtained an opposite end [to that which he had been trying to reach], fled away and disappeared. And thus the Brāhman was released by his daughter deceiving the Piśāca, and remained in happiness, having surmounted his disease [of body and soul].


[M] (main story line continued)

“Such are Piśācas; and some young princes are just like them, and, though conciliated, produce misfortune, my friend; but they can be guarded against by counsel. But princesses of good family have never been heard to be such. So you must not expect any injury from associating with me.”

When Somaprabhā heard from the mouth of Kaliṅgasenā in due course this sweet, entertaining and amusing tale, she was delighted.

And she said to her:

“My house is sixty yojanas[20] distant hence, and the day is passing away; I have remained long, so now I must depart, fair one.”

Then, as the lord of day was slowly sinking to the western mountain, she took leave of her friend, who was eager for a second interview, and in a moment flew up into the air, exciting the wonder of the spectators, and rapidly returned to her own house.

And after beholding that wonderful sight Kaliṅgasenā entered into her house with much perplexity, and reflected:

“I do not know, indeed, whether my friend is a Siddha female, or an Apsaras, or a Vidyādharī. She is certainly a heavenly female that travels through the upper air. And heavenly females associate with mortal ones led by excessive love. Did not Arundhatī live in friendship with the daughter of King Pṛthu? Did not Pṛthu by means of her friendship bring Surabhi from heaven to earth? And did not he, by consuming its milk, return to heaven though he had fallen from it? And were not thenceforth perfect cows born upon earth?[21] So I am fortunate; it is by good luck that I have obtained this heavenly creature as a friend; and when she comes to-morrow I will dexterously ask her her descent and name.”

Thinking such thoughts in her heart, Kaliṅgasenā spent that night there, and Somaprabhā spent the night in her own house, being eager to behold her again.

[Additional note: on cross-roads]

Footnotes and references:


The word tārakā means also “a star.” So here we have one of those puns in which our author delights.


Also “full of affection.” This is a common pun.—See Vol. II, pp. 166 - 169.—n.m.p.


Because she cannot perform the śrāddha, etc. Mohammedans describe a daughter by exactly similar expressions—viz. “a domestic calamity,” etc.—n.m.p.


Beasts of prey, or possibly Rākṣasas.


Cf. the translation of the Life of St Brigit by Whitley Stokes (Three Middle Irish Homilies, p. 65):

“Shortly after that came a certain nobleman unto Dubthach to ask for his daughter in marriage. Dubthach and his sons were willing, but Brigit refused. Said a brother of her brethren named Beccān unto her: ‘Idle is the fair eye that is in thy head not to be on a pillow near a husband.’ ‘The son of the Virgin knoweth,’ said Brigit, ‘it is not lively for us if it brings harm upon us.’ Then Brigit put her finger under her eye and drew it out of her head till it was on her cheek, and she said: ‘Lo, here is thy delightful eye, O Beccān.’ Then his eye burst forthwith. When Dubthach and his brethren saw that, they promised that she should never be told to go to a husband. Then she put her palm to her eye and it was whole at once. But Beccān’s eye was not whole till his death.”

That the biographers of Christian saints were largely indebted to Buddhist hagiology has been shown by Liebrecht in his “Essay on the Sources of Barlaam and Josaphat” (Zur Volkskunde, p. 441). In Mr Stokes’ book, p. 34, will also be found a reference to the practice of showing reverence by walking round persons or things keeping the right hand towards them. This is pointed out by Mr Stokes in his Preface as an interesting link between Ireland and India. He has sent me the following quotation, in the Revue Celtique, vol. v, p. 130, from P. Cahier, Characteristiques des Saints, i, 105:—

“A certain virgin Lucia (doubtful whether of Bologna or of Alexandria), se voyant fréquemment suivie par un jeune homme qui affectait de Vaccompagner partout dès q’elle quittait sa maison, hd demanda enfin ce qui T attachait si fort à ses pas. Celui-ci ayant répondu que c’etait le beauté de ses yeux, la jeune fille se servit de son fuseau pour faire sortir ses yeux de leur orbite, et dit à son poursuivant quil pouvait les prendre et la laisser désormais en repos. On ajoute que cette generosité effrayante changea si fort le cœur du jeune homme qu’il embrassa la profession religieuse.”

The story of the ascetic who conquered anger resembles closely the Khantivādi-Jātaka, No. 313 in Fausböll’s edition, vol. iii, p. 39. It is also found in the Bodhisattva Avadāna, under the title “Kṣānti Jātaka,” and in the Mahāvastu Avadāna in a form closely resembling that of the Pāli Jātaka book. See Dr Ilajendra Lāl Mitra’s Account of the Buddhist Literature of Nepal, pp. 55, 159, 160.——

In the seventeenth vezir’s story of The History of the Forty Vezirs (E. J. W. Gibb, 1886, p. 191 et seq.) and Die Vierzig Veziere oder weisen Meister (W. F. A. Behrnauer, 1851, p. 212), we read of a woman in Mecca who had a store of wheat. She fell in love with a youth and promised to give him some if he would lie with her. He feigned to consent, and going alone into a room of the house prepared to castrate himself, when he was miraculously saved from his dilemma. In the story of “Penta the Handless” in the Pentamerone, third day, second diversion (Burton, vol. i, p. 249 et seq.), the King of Preta-secca wishes to commit incest with his sister. She can hardly believe he is really in earnest, but he makes this quite clear, declaring that her beautiful hands have especially fascinated him. She retires and gets a slave to cut off her hands.

“Then she laid them in a faenza basin and sent them covered with a silken napkin to her brother, with a message that she hoped he would enjoy what he coveted most, and desiring him good health and twins, she saluted him.”


They are compared to the five sacred fires-for which see p. 160n1 of this volume.—n.m.p.


Literally, “the worthless straw-heap of,” etc.


Here there is a pun on the two meanings of Śrī.


It is hard to understand why they had to turn themselves into trees. The explanation must be that Brockhaus misread vṛṣtair for vṛkṣair. Thus the meaning would be that the Yakṣiṇīs poured down the gold as rain from heaven, a much more likely interpretation. See Speyer, op. cit., p. 109. —N.M.P.


This reminds us of a similar incident in Kālidāsa’s Vikramorvaśī. See Vol. II, p. 257.—n.m.p.


In the svayaṃvara the maiden threw a garland over the neck of the favoured suitor——as in the case of Draupadī (Vol. II, p. 16).—n. m. p.


See Vol. I, pp. 188-189, where the form of the name is Priṣaḍvarā.—n. m. p.


Rasa also means “water.”


The same idea is found in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, sc. 2, beginning: “We, Hermia, like two artificial gods, etc.”


Cf. Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, pp. 69, 71, for the three dangers. The custom of saying “God bless you,” or equivalent words, when a man sneezes is shown by Tylor (Primitive Culture, vol. i, pp. 88-94) to exist in many parts of the world. He quotes many passages from classical literature relating to it. “Even the Emperor Tiberius, that saddest of men, exacted this observance.” See also Sir Thomas Browne's Vulgar Errors, Book IV, chap. ix, “Of Saluting upon Sneezing.” Cf. also Coelho’s Contos Populares Portuguezes, No. 51, “Pedro e Pedrito,” p. 118, and Grimm’s Irische Märchen, pp. 106, 107. Zimmer in his Alt-Indisches Leben, p. 60, quotes from the Atharva-Veda, “vor Ungliick-bedeutendem Niesen.”——This curious custom merits more than this short note, so I have discussed it at greater length in Appendix I (pp. 303-315).—n.m.p.


There is a story illustrating the “pertinacity” of goblins in Wirt Sikes’s British Goblins, p. 191.


See note on “Nudity in Magic Ritual” in Vol. II, p. 117 et seq.—n.m.p.


See note at the end of this chapter.—n.m.p.


Tawney omitted the rest of the story from this point, but, following the D. text, I have restored the missing portion, to make this edition of the Kathā Sarit Sāgara complete and unabridged in every detail.

Tawney remarked in a note that Wilson stated the story in our text to be precisely the same as that of Le petit diable de Papefiguiere of La Fontaine. I think, however, it would be more correct to say that it resembles the French version. La Fontaine has rather missed the humour and harmless fun of Somadeva’s tale, and, by his omission of the latter part of the story, his lines seem pointless.

In the little Dutch edition of 1700 they read:

A ces mots au folet, Elle fait voir.... Et quoy?
Chofe terrible. Le (liable en eut une peur tant horrible,
Qu’il fe figna, penfa prefque tomber,
One n’avoit vû, ne lû, n’oüi conter,
Que coups de grife euffe femblable forme,
Bref auffi-tôt qu’il apperçut l’énorme,
Solution de continuité,
II demeura fi fort épouventé,
Qu’il prit la fuite & laiffa là Perrette,
Tous les voifins chommerent la défaite,
De ce démon: le Clerge ne fut pas,
Des plus tardifs à prendre part au cas.”

A version rather more closely resembling that of the original Sanskrit had already appeared, however, in Rabelais, Book IV, chap. lxvii. Tales of outwitting the devil occur in practically every large collection of stories throughout the world, while an incident similar to that in our text is found in quite a considerable number. See, for instance, O. Kallas, “Achtzig Märchen dcr Ljutziner Esten,” Verhandlungen der Gelehrien Estnischen Gesell-schaft, vol. xx, pt. ii, p. 192, No. 67; L. Lambert, “Contes populaires du Languedoc,” Revue des Langues Romanes, June 1885, 3rd series, vol. xiii. (vol. xxviii of the whole collection), pp. 47-48; Ernst Wolgemuth, Der Träumende Musen-Freund, 1670, p. 83, No. 95; L. Foulet, “Le Roman de Renard,” Bibliothèque de l’Êcole des Hautes Etudes, Paris, 1914, p. 486; Nicolaides, Contes licencieux de Constantinople et de l’Asic mineure, Paris, 1906, pp. 77 and 93; and Anthropophyteia, vol. i, pp. 129, 154, 364 and 494. These two latter I have not personally verified.—n.m.p.


See Vol. I, p. 3n1—n.m.p.


See Vol. II, p. 241.—n.m.p.

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