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 ...

Chapter XXXIX

[M] (Main story line continued) WHEN Marubhūti had told this story there, the commander-in-chief, Hariśikha, said in the presence of Naravāhanadatta:

“It is true, good women value nothing more than their husbands, and in proof of it listen now to this still more wonderful tale.


53. Story of Śṛṅgabhuja and the Daughter of the Rākṣasa

There is a city on the earth named Vardhamāna, and in it there dwelt a king named Vīrabhuja, chief of righteous men. And though he had a hundred wives, one queen, of the name of Guṇavarā, was dearer to him than his life. And, in spite of his hundred wives, it happened, as Fate would have it, that not one of them bore him a son.

So he asked a physician named Śrutavardhana:

“Is there any medicine able to bring about the birth of a son?”

When the physician heard that, he said:

“King, I can prepare such a medicine,[1] but the king must procure for me a wild goat.”

When he heard this speech of the physician’s, the king gave an order to the warder and had a goat brought for him from the forest. The physician handed over the goat to the king’s cooks and with its flesh prepared a sovereign elixir for the queens.

The king went off to worship his god, after ordering the queens to assemble in one place. And ninety-nine of those queens did assemble in one place, but the Queen Guṇavarā alone was not present there, for she was at that time near the king, who was engaged in praying to his god. And when they had assembled the physician gave them the whole of the elixir to drink, mixed with powder, not perceiving the absence of Guṇavarā.

Immediately the king returned with his beloved, having performed his devotions, and perceiving that that drug was completely finished, he said to the physician:

“What! Did you not keep any for Guṇavarā? You have forgotten the principal object with which this was undertaken.”

After saying this to the abashed physician, the king said to the cooks:

“Is there any of the flesh of that goat left?”

The cooks said:

“The horns only remain.”

Then the physician said:

“Bravo! I can make an admirable elixir out of the centre of the horns.”

After saying this, the physician had an elixir prepared from the fleshy part of the horns, and gave it to Queen Guṇavarā mixed with powder.

Then the ninety-nine wives of the king became pregnant, and all in time brought forth sons. But the head Queen Guṇavarā conceived last of all, and afterwards gave birth to a son with more auspicious marks than the sons of all the others. And as he was sprung from the juice of the fleshy part of the horns, his father, the king, gave him the name of Śṛṅgabhuja, and rejoiced greatly at his birth. He grew up with those other brothers, and though in age he was the youngest of all, he was superior to all in good qualities. And in course of time that prince became like the God of Love in beauty, and like Arjuna in his skill in archery, and like Bhīma in strength. Accordingly the other queens, seeing that Queen Guṇavarā, now that she had this son, was more than ever dear to King Vīrabhuja, became jealous of her.

Then an evil-minded queen among them, named Ayaśolekhā, deliberated with all the others and entered into a conspiracy; and when the king came home one day she exhibited an assumed sadness in her face.

The king asked her the reason, and she said, with apparent reluctance:

“My husband, why do you endure patiently the disgrace of your house? You avert disgrace from others, why do you not avert it from yourself? You know the young superintendent of the women’s apartments named Surakṣita; your Queen Guṇavarā is secretly devoted to him. Since no man but he can penetrate into the women’s apartments, which are strictly watched by guards, she associates with him. And this is a well-known subject of gossip in the whole harem.”

When she said this to the king, he pondered and reflected, and went and asked the other queens one after another in private, and they were faithful to their treacherous plot, and told him the same story.

Then that wise king conquered his anger, and reflected:

“This accusation against these two is improbable, and yet such is the gossip. So I must not without reflecting reveal the matter to anyone. but they must by an artifice be separated now, to enable me to see the termination of the whole matter.”

Having determined on this, next day he summoned Surakṣita, the superintendent of the women’s apartments, into his judgment-hall and, with assumed anger, said to him:

“I have learned, villain, that you have slain a Brāhman, so I cannot endure to see your face until you have made a pilgrimage to holy places.”

When he heard that, he was amazed, and began to murmur:

“How can I have slain a Brāhman, my sovereign?”

But the king went on to say:

“Do not attempt to brazen it out, but go to Kashmir to wash away your sin (where are those holy fields, Vijayakṣetra, and Nandikṣetra the purifying, and the kṣetra[2] of the boar), the land which was hallowed by Viṣṇu, the bowhanded god, where the stream of the Ganges bears the name of Vitastā, where is the famous Maṇḍapakṣetra, and where is Uttaramānasa; when your sin has been washed away by a pilgrimage to these holy places you shall behold my face again, but not till then.”

With this speech the King Vīrabhuja dismissed the helpless Surakṣita, sending him to a distance on the pretence of a pilgrimage to holy places. Then the king went into the presence of that Queen Guṇavarā, full of love and anger and sober reflection. Then she, seeing that his mind was troubled, asked him anxiously:

“My husband, why are you seized to-day with a sudden fit of despondency?”

When the king heard that, he gave her this feigned answer:

“To-day, Queen, a great astrologer came to me and said:

‘King, you must place the Queen Guṇavarā for some time in a dungeon, and you must yourself live a life of chastity, otherwise your kingdom will certainly be overthrown, and she will surely die.’

Having said this, the astrologer departed; hence my present despondency.”

When the king said this, the Queen Guṇavarā, who was devoted to her husband, distracted with fear and love, said to him:

“Why do you not cast me this very day into a dungeon, my husband? I am highly favoured if I can benefit you even at the sacrifice of my life. Let me die, but let not my lord have misfortune. For a husband is the chief refuge of wives in this world and in the next.”

Having heard this speech of hers, the king said to himself, with tears in his eyes:

“I think there is no guilt in her, nor in that Surakṣita, for I saw that the colour of his face did not change and he seemed without fear. Alas! nevertheless I must ascertain the truth of that rumour.”

After reflecting thus, the king in his grief said to the queen:

“Then it is best that a dungeon should be made here, Queen!”

She replied: “Very good.”

So the king had a dungeon easy of access made in the women’s apartments and placed the queen in it. And he comforted her son Śṛṅgabhuja (who was in despair and asked the reason) by telling him exactly what he told the queen. And she, for her part, thought the dungeon heaven, because it was all for the king’s good. For good women have no pleasure of their own; to them their husbands’ pleasure is pleasure.[3]

When this had been done, that other wife of the king’s, named Ayaśolekhā, said of her own accord to her son, who was named Nirvāsabhuja:

“So our enemy Guṇavarā has been thrown into a dungeon, and it would be a good thing if her son were banished from this country. So, my boy, devise a scheme with the help of your brothers by which Śṛṅgabhuja may be quickly banished from the country.”

Having been addressed in this language by his mother, the jealous Nirvāsabhuja told his other brothers and continued to ponder over a scheme.

And one day, as the king’s sons were practising with their weapons of war, they all saw an enormous crane in front of the palace.

And while they were looking with astonishment at that misshapen bird a Buddhist mendicant, who possessed supernatural knowledge, came that way and said to them:

“Princes, this is not a crane; it is a Rākṣasa named Agniśikha, who wanders about in an assumed shape destroying towns. So pierce him with an arrow, that being smitten he may depart hence.”

When they heard this speech of the mendicant’s the ninety-nine elder brothers shot their arrows, but not one struck the crane.

Then that naked mendicant again said to them:

“This younger brother of yours, named Śṛṅgabhuja, is able to strike this crane, so let him take a bow suitable for the purpose.”

When Nirvāsabhuja heard that, the treacherous one remembered the injunction of his mother, an opportunity for carrying out which had now arrived, and reflected:

“This will be a means of getting Śṛṅgabhuja out of the country.[4] So let us give him the bow and arrow belonging to our father. If the crane is pierced and goes off with our father’s golden arrow sticking in it, Śṛṅgabhuja will follow it, while we are searching for the arrow. And when he does not find, in spite of his search, that Rākṣasa transformed into a crane, he will continue to roam about hither and thither; he will not come back without the arrow.”

Thus reflecting, the treacherous one gave to Śṛṅgabhuja his father’s bow with the arrow, in order that he might smite the crane. The mighty prince took it and drew it and pierced that crane with the golden arrow, the notch of which was made of a jewel. The crane, as soon as it was pierced, went off with the arrow sticking in its body, and flying away, departed with drops of blood falling from the wound.

Then the treacherous Nirvāsabhuja, and the other brothers, instigated by his hints, said to the brave Śṛṅgabhuja:

“Give us back the golden arrow that belongs to our father, otherwise we will abandon our bodies before your eyes. For unless we produce it our father will banish us from this country, and its fellow is not to be made or obtained.”

When Śṛṅgabhuja heard that, he said to those crafty ones:

“Be of good cheer! Do not be afraid. Abandon your terror! I will go and slay that miserable Rākṣasa and bring back the arrow.”

Having said this, Śṛṅgabhuja took his own bow and arrows and went in the same direction in which the Rākṣasa had gone, quickly following up the track of the drops of blood that had fallen on the ground.

The other sons returned delighted to their mothers, and Śṛṅgabhuja, as he went on step by step, at last reached a distant forest. Seeking about in it, he found in the wood a great city, like the fruit of his own tree of merit fallen to him in due time for enjoyment. There he sat down at the root of a tree to rest, and as if in a moment beheld a maiden of wonderful beauty coming there, appearing to have been made by the Creator in some strange way of ambrosia and poison; since by her absence she deprived of life, and by her presence she bestowed it.

And when the maiden slowly approached him, and looked at him with an eye raining love, the prince fell in love with her, and said to her:

“Gazelle-eyed one, what is the name of this city, and to whom does it belong? Who are you, and why have you come here? Tell me.”

Then the pearly-toothed maid turned her face sideways, and fixed her eyes on the ground, and spake to him with sweet and loving voice:

“This city is Dhūmapura, the home of all felicity; in it lives a mighty Rākṣasa, by name Agniśikha; know that I am his matchless daughter, Rūpaśikhā by name, who have come here with mind captivated by your unparalleled beauty. Now you must tell me who you are and why you have come here.”

When she said this, he told her who he was, and of what king he was the son, and how he had come to Dhūmapura for the sake of an arrow.

Then Rūpaśikliā, having heard the whole story, said:

“There is no archer like you in the three worlds, since you pierced even my father with a great arrow when he was in the form of a crane. But I took that golden arrow for my own, by way of a plaything. But my father’s wound was at once healed by the minister Mahādaṃṣṭra, who excels all men in knowledge of potent drugs for curing wounds. So I will go to my father, and after I have explained the whole matter I will quickly introduce you into his presence, my husband. So I call you, for my heart is now fully set upon you.”

Having said this, Rūpaśikhā left Śṛṅgabhuja there and immediately went into the presence of her father, Agniśikha, and said:

“Father, there has come here a wonderful prince named Śṛṅgabhuja, matchless for gifts of beauty, birth, character and age. I feel certain that he is not a man; he is some portion of a god incarnate here below; so if he does not become my husband I will certainly abandon my life.”

When she said this to him, her father, the Rākṣasa, said to her:

“My daughter, men are our appropriate food. Nevertheless, if your heart is set upon it, let it be so; bring your prince here and show him to me.”

When Rūpaśikhā heard that, she went to Śṛṅgabhuja, and after telling him what she had done she took him into the presence of her father. He prostrated himself, and Agniśikha, the father of the maiden, after saluting him courteously, said to him:

“Prince, I will give you my daughter Rūpaśikhā if you never disobey my orders.”

When he said this, Śṛṅgabhuja, bending low, answered him:

“Good! I will never disobey your orders.”

When Śṛṅgabhuja said this to him, Agniśikha was pleased, and answered:

“Rise up! Go and bathe, and return here from the bathroom.”

After saying this to him, he said to his daughter:

“Go and bring all your sisters here quickly.”

When Agniśikha had given these orders to Śṛṅgabhuja and Rūpaśikhā they both of them went out, after promising to obey them.

Then the wise Rūpaśikhā said to Śṛṅgabhuja:

“My husband, I have a hundred sisters, who are princesses, and we are all exactly alike, with similar ornaments and dresses, and all of us have similar necklaces upon our necks. So our father will assemble[5] us in one place and, in order to bewilder you, will say: ‘Choose your own love out of the midst of these.’ For I know that such is his treacherous intention; otherwise why is he assembling all of us here? So when we are assembled I will put my necklace on my head instead of my neck; by that sign you will recognise me; then throw over my neck the garland of forest flowers. And this father of mine is somewhat silly; he has not a discerning intellect; besides, what is the use against me of those powers which he possesses by being a Rākṣasa? So, whatever he says to entrap you, you must agree to, and must tell it to me, and I shall know well enough what further steps to take.”

Having said this, Rūpaśikhā went to her sisters, and Śṛṅgabhuja, having agreed to what she said, went to bathe. Then Rūpaśikhā came with her sisters into the presence of her father, and Śṛṅgabhuja returned, after he had been washed by a female servant.

Then Agniśikha gave a garland of forest flowers to Śṛṅgabhuja, saying:

“Give this to that one of these ladies who is your own love.”

He took the garland and threw it round the neck of Rūpaśikhā,[6] who had previously placed the necklace on her head by way of token.

Then Agniśikha said to Rūpaśikhā and Śṛṅgabhuja:

“I will celebrate your marriage ceremony to-morrow morning.”

Having said this, he dismissed those two lovers and his other daughters to their apartments, and in a short time he summoned Śṛṅgabhuja and said this to him:

“Take this yoke of oxen and go outside this town and sow in the earth the hundred khārīs[7] of sesame-seed which are piled there in a heap.”

When Śṛṅgabhuja heard that he was troubled, and he went and told it to Rūpaśikhā, and she answered him as follows:

“My husband, you need not be in the least despondent about this; go there at once; I will easily perform this by my magic power.”

When he heard this, the prince went there and, seeing the sesame-seeds in a heap, despondently began to plough the land and sow them, but while he was beginning he saw the land ploughed and all the seeds sown in due course by the might of his lady-love’s magic power, and he was much astonished.

So he went to Agniśikha and told him that this task was accomplished.

Then that treacherous Rākṣasa again said to him:

“I do not want the seeds sown; go and pile them up again in a heap.”

When he heard that, he again went and told Rūpaśikhā. She sent him to that field, and created innumerable ants,[8] and by her magic power made them gather together the sesame-seeds. When Śṛṅgabhuja saw that, he went and told Agniśikha that the seeds had been piled up again in a heap.

Then the cunning but stupid Agniśikha said to him:

“Only two yojanas from this place, in a southerly direction, there is an empty temple of Śiva in a wood. In it lives my dear brother Dhūmaśikha.

Go there at once, and say this in front of the temple:

‘Dhūmaśikha, I am sent by Agniśikha as a messenger to invite you and your retinue: come quickly, for to-morrow the ceremony of Rūpaśikhā’s marriage is to take place.’

Having said this, come back here to-day with speed, and to-morrow marry my daughter Rūpaśikhā.”

When Śṛṅgabhuja was thus addressed by the rascal he said, “So be it,” and went and recounted the whole to Rūpaśikhā.

The good girl gave him some earth, some water, some thorns and some fire, and her own fleet horse, and said to him:

“Mount this horse and go to that temple and quickly repeat that invitation to Dhūmaśikha as it was told to you, and then you must at once return on this horse at full gallop, and you must often turn your head and look round; and if you see Dhūmaśikha coming after you, you must throw this earth behind you in his way. If in spite of that Dhūmaśikha pursues you, you must in the same manner fling the water behind you in his path. If in spite of that he comes on, you must in like manner throw these thorns in his way. If in spite of them he pursues, throw this fire in his way;

and if you do this you will return here without the Daitya; so do not hesitate—go, you shall to-day behold the power of my magic.”

When she said this to him, Śṛṅgabhuja took the earth and the other things, and said, “I will do so,” and mounting her horse went to the temple in the wood. There he saw an image of Śiva, with one of Pārvatī on his left and one of Gaṇeśa on his right, and, after bowing before the Lord of the Universe,[9] he quickly addressed to Dhūmaśikha the form of invitation told him by Agniśikha, and fled from the place at full speed, urging on his horse. And he soon turned his head and looked round, and he beheld Dhūmaśikha coming after him. And he quickly threw that earth behind him in his way, and the earth, so flung, immediately produced a great mountain. When he saw that the Rākṣasa had, though with difficulty, climbed over that mountain and was coming on, the prince in the same way threw the water behind him. That produced a great river in his path, with rolling waves. The Rākṣasa with difficulty got across it and was coming on when Śṛṅgabhuja quickly strewed those thorns behind him. They produced a dense, thorny wood in Dhūmaśikha’s path. When the Rākṣasa emerged from it the prince threw the fire behind him, which set on fire the path with the herbs and the trees. When Dhūmaśikha saw that the fire was hard to cross, like Khāṇḍava,[10] he returned home, tired and terrified. For on that occasion the Rākṣasa was so bewildered by the magic of Rūpaśikhā that he went and returned on his feet, and he did not think of flying through the air.

Then Śṛṅgabhuja returned to Dhūmapura, free from fear, commending in his heart that display of his love’s magic power. He gave up the horse to the delighted Rūpaśikhā, and related his adventure, and then went in to the presence of Agniśikha.

He said:

“I went and invited your brother Dhūmaśikha.”

When he said this, Agniśikha, being perplexed, said to him:

“If you really went there, mention some peculiarity of the place.”

When the crafty Rākṣasa said this to Śṛṅgabhuja, he answered him:

“Listen, I will tell you a token. In that temple there is a figure of Pārvatī on the left side of Śiva, and of Gaṇeśa on his right.”

When Agniśikha heard that he was astonished, and thought for a moment:

“What! Did he go there, and was my brother not able to devour him? Then he cannot be a mere man; he must be a god; so let him marry my daughter, as he is a fitting match for her.”

After thus reflecting he sent Śṛṅgabhuja as a successful suitor to Rūpaśikhā, but he never suspected that there was a traitor in his own family. So Śṛṅgabhuja went, eager for his marriage, and after eating and drinking with her managed somehow to get through the night.

And the next morning Agniśikha gave to him Rūpaśikhā with all the magnificence appropriate to his magic power, according to due form, in the presence of the fire. Little in common have Rākṣasas’ daughters and princes, and strange the union of such! Wonderful indeed are the results of our deeds in a previous state of existence!

The prince, after he had obtained that beloved daughter of the Rākṣasa, seemed like a swan who had got hold of a soft lotus, sprung from mud. And he remained there, with her, who was devoted to him alone, enjoying various dainty delights provided by the magic power of the Rākṣasa.

When some days had passed there, he said in secret to the Rākṣasa’s daughter:

“Come, my beloved, let us return to the city of Vardhamāna. For that is my capital city, and I cannot endure to be banished from my capital city by my enemies, for people like myself hold honour dear as life. So leave for my sake the land of your birth, though it is hard to leave; inform your father, and bring that golden arrow in your hand.”

When Śṛṅgabhuja said this to Rūpaśikhā she answered:

“I must immediately obey your command. I care not for the land of my birth, nor for my relatives; you are all those to me.[11] Good women have no other refuge than their husbands. But it will never do to communicate our intention to my father, for he would not let us go. So we must depart without that hot-tempered father of mine knowing of it. And if he hears from the attendants and comes after us, I will bewilder him by my knowledge, for he is senseless and like an idiot.”

When he heard this speech of hers, he set out delighted on the next day with her, who gave him the half of her kingdom, and filled a casket with priceless jewels, and brought that golden arrow; and they both mounted her splendid horse Śaravega,[12] having deceived the attendants by representing that they were going for a pleasure excursion in the park, and journeyed towards Vardhamāna.

When the couple had gone a long distance the Rākṣasa Agniśikha found it out, and in wrath pursued after them through the air.

And hearing afar off the noise produced by the speed of his flight, Rūpaśikhā said to Śṛṅgabhuja on the road:

“My husband, my father has come to make us turn back, so remain here without fear; see how I will deceive him. For he shall neither see you nor the horse, since I shall conceal both by my deluding power.”

After saying this, she got down from the horse and assumed by her deluding power the form of a man.[13] And she said to a woodcutter who had come to the forest to cut wood:

“A great Rākṣasa is coming here, so remain quiet for a moment.”

Then she continued to cut wood with his axe. And Śṛṅgabhuja looked on with a smile on his face.

In the meanwhile that foolish Rākṣasa arrived there, and lighted down from the air on beholding his daughter in the shape of a woodcutter, and asked her whether she had seen a man and woman pass that way.[14]

Then his daughter, who had assumed the form of a man, said with great effort, as if tired:

“We two have not seen any couple, as our eyes are fatigued with toil, for we two woodcutters have been occupied here in cutting a great quantity of wood to burn Agniśikha, the King of the Rākṣasas, who is dead.”

When that silly Rākṣasa heard that, he thought:

“What! Am I dead? What does that daughter matter to me? I will go and ask my own attendants at home whether I am dead or not.”[15]

Thus reflecting, Agniśikha went quickly home, and his daughter set out with her husband as before, laughing as she went.

And soon the Rākṣasa returned in high spirits, for he had asked his attendants, who could not help laughing in their sleeves, whether he was alive, and had learnt that he was. Then Rūpaśikhā, knowing from the terrible noise that he was coming again, though as yet far off, got down from the horse and concealed her husband as before by her deluding power, and taking letters from the hand of a letter-carrier who was coming along the road, she again assumed the form of a man.

And so the Rākṣasa arrived as before, and asked his daughter, who was disguised as a man:

“Did you see a man and a woman on the road?”

Then she, disguised as a man, answered him with a sigh:

“I beheld no such person, for my mind was absorbed with my haste, for Agniśikha, who was to-day mortally wounded in battle, and has only a little breath left in his body, and is in his capital desiring to make over his kingdom, has dispatched me as a messenger to summon to his presence his brother Dhūmaśikha, who is living an independent life.”

When Agniśikha heard that he said:

“What! Am I mortally wounded by my enemies?”

And in his perplexity he returned home again to get information on the point. But it never occurred to him to say to himself:

“Who is mortally wounded? Here I am, safe and sound.”

Strange are the fools that the Creator produces and wonderfully obscured with the quality of darkness! And when he arrived at home and found that the tale was false he would not expose himself again to the laughter of the people, tired of being imposed upon, and forgetting his daughter.

And Rūpaśikhā, after deluding him, returned to her husband as before; for virtuous women know of no other good than the good of their husbands. Then Śṛṅgabhuja, mounted on the wonderful horse, again proceeded rapidly with his wife towards the city of Vardhamāna. Then his father Vīrabhuja, having heard that he was returning in company with her, went out much pleased to meet him. The king, when he saw him adorned with that wife, like Kṛṣṇa with Bhāmā, considered that he had gained afresh the bliss of sovereign sway.

And when his son got down from his horse and clung to his feet with his beloved, he raised him up and embraced him, and with his eyes, in which stood the water of joyful tears, performed in noble wise the auspicious ceremony that put an end to his own despondency, and then conducted him into his palace, making high festival. And when he asked his son where he had been, Śṛṅgabhuja told him his whole history from the beginning. And after summoning his brothers, Nirvāsabhuja and all, into his father’s presence he gave them the golden arrow. Then the King Vīrabhuja, after what he had heard and seen, was displeased with those other sons, and considered Śṛṅgabhuja his only true son.

Then that wise king drew this true conclusion:

“I suspect that, as this son of mine out of spite was banished by these enemies, brothers only in name, though he was all the while innocent, so his mother Guṇavarā, whom I love so well, was falsely accused by their mothers, and was all the while innocent. So what is the use of delay? I will find out the truth of it immediately.”

After these reflections the king spent that day in performing his duties, and went at night to sift his other wife Ayaśolekhā.

She was delighted to see him, and he made her drink a great quantity of wine,[16] and she in her sleep murmured out, while the king was awake:

“If we had not falsely slandered Guṇavarā, would the king ever have visited me here?”[17]

When the king heard this speech of the wicked queen, uttered in her sleep, he felt he had attained certainty, and rose up in wrath and went out; and going to his own chamber he had the eunuchs summoned, and said to them:

“Take that Guṇavarā out of the dungeon, and after she has bathed bring her quickly; for the present moment was appointed by the astrologer as the limit of her stay in the dungeon for the purpose of averting the evil omens.”

When they heard that, they said: “So be it.” And they went and quickly brought the Queen Guṇavarā into the presence of the king, bathed and adorned. Then that wedded pair, happy in having crossed the sea of separation, spent that night unsated with mutual embraces. Then the king related to the queen with delight that adventure of Śṛṅgabhuja, and told his son the circumstances of his mother’s imprisonment and release.

In the meanwhile Ayaśolekhā, waking up, found out that the king was gone, and guessing that he had entrapped her with his conversation, fell into deep despondency. And in the morning the King Vīrabhuja conducted his son Śṛṅgabhuja, with his wife Rūpaśikhā, into the presence of Guṇavarā. He came, and was delighted to behold his mother emerged from the dungeon, and with his new wife he worshipped the feet of his parents. Guṇavarā, embracing her son, who had returned from his journey, and her daughter-in-law, obtained in the way above related, went from joy to joy.

Then, by the order of his father, Śṛṅgabhuja related to her at length his own adventure, and what Rūpaśikhā did.

Then Queen Guṇavarā, delighted, said to him:

“My son, what has not that Rūpaśikhā done for you? For she, a heroine of wonderful exploits, has given up and sacrificed for you her life, her family, her native land—these three. She must be some goddess, become incarnate for your sake by the appointment of Destiny. For she has placed her foot on the head of all women that are devoted to their husbands.”

When the queen had said this, the king applauded her speech, and so did Rūpaśikhā, with head modestly bent.

Just at that moment the superintendent of the women’s apartments, Surakṣita, who had been long ago slandered by that Ayaśolekhā, returned home from visiting all the holy bathing-places. He was announced by the doorkeeper, and bowed delighted at the king’s feet, and then the king, who now knew the facts, honoured him exceedingly.

And by his mouth he summoned the other queens who were wicked, and said to him:

“Go! fling all these into the dungeon.”

When the Queen Guṇavarā heard that, and the terrified women were thrown into the dungeon, she said, out of compassion to the king, clinging to his feet:

“King, do not keep them for a long time in the dungeon! Have mercy, for I cannot bear to see them terrified.”

By thus entreating the king she prevented their imprisonment, for the only vengeance that the great make use of against their enemies is compassion. Then those queens, dismissed by the king, went ashamed to their houses, and would even have preferred to have been in the embrace of death. And the king thought highly of the great-hearted Guṇavarā, and considered, because he possessed that wife, that he must have accomplished virtuous acts in a former state of existence.

Then the king, determined to banish his other sons by an artifice, had them summoned, and spake to them this feigned speech:

“I have heard that you villains have slain a Brāhman traveller, so go and visit all the holy bathing-places in succession. Do not remain here.”

When the sons heard that, they were not able to persuade the king of the truth, for when a ruler is bent on violence who can convince him?

Then Śṛṅgabhuja, beholding those brothers departing, with his eyes full of tears produced by pity, thus addressed his father:

“Father, pity their one fault; have mercy upon them.”

Having said this, he fell at the feet of that king. And the king, thinking that that son was able to bear the burden of sovereignty, being even in his youth like an incarnation of Viṣṇu, full of glory and compassion, hiding his real sentiments and cherishing his anger against them, nevertheless did what Śṛṅgabhuja asked. And all those brothers considered their younger brother as the saviour of their lives. And all the subjects, beholding the exceeding virtue of Śṛṅgabhuja, became attached to him.

Then the next day his father, King Vīrabhuja, anointed as crown prince Śṛṅgabhuja, who was the oldest in virtue of them all, though he had elder brothers. And then Śṛṅgabhuja, having been anointed, and having obtained the leave of his father, went with all his forces to conquer the world. And having brought back the wealth of numerous kings, whom he overcame by the might of his arm, he returned, having diffused the splendour of his glory through the earth. Then, bearing the weight of the realm with his submissive brothers, the successful Prince Śṛṅgabhuja, giving pleasure to his parents, who remained in the enjoyment of comfort, free from anxiety, and bestowing gifts on Brāhmans, dwelt at ease with Rūpaśikhā, as if with incarnate success.


[M] (Main story line continued)

“Thus virtuous women serve their husbands in every way, devoted to them alone, like Guṇavarā and Rūpaśikhā, the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.”

When Naravāhanadatta, in the society of Ratnaprabhā, heard this story from the lips of Hariśikha he was much delighted, and exclaimed: “Bravo!” Then he rose up and quickly performed the religious ceremony for the day, and went with his wife into the presence of his father, the King of Vatsa, and after eating, and whiling away the afternoon with singing and playing, he spent the night with his beloved in his own private apartments.

[Additional note: the “magic obstacles” motif]

Footnotes and references:


Cf. the lichi in the fifteenth of Miss Stokes’s Indian Fairy Tales, and the pāyasa in the sixteenth Sarga of the liāmāyaṇa. See also Gonzenbach, Sicilianische Märchen, p. 269, and Bernhard Schmidt’s Griechische Märchen, pp. 104, 117, 120. The beginning of this tale belongs to Mr Baring-Gould’s “Gold-child” root. Another parallel is to be found in Kaden’s Unter den Olivenbäumen, p. 168. See also Sagas from the Far East, p. 268; Birlinger, Aus Schwaben, p. 105; and “Volsunga Saga” in Hagen’s Helden-Sagen, vol. iii, pp. 8-9——See Vol. II, p. 136nl, to which I would add Crooke, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 227-228.—n.m.p.


Kṣetra here means “a holy field” or sacred spot.


This part of the story reminds one of the “Clerk’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.


See Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, p. 80, where numerous parallels are adduced. Cf. also Gonzenbach’s Sicilianusche Märchen, vol. i, p. 199.


The D. text reads saṃghaṭayati instead of saṃghaṭṭayati.—n.m.p.


the story of “The Golden Lion” in Gonzenbach’s Sicilianische Märchen, vol. ii, p. 76, where the lady places a white cloth round her waist. See Dr Köhler’s note on the passage. Cf. also the hint which Messeria gives to her lover in “The Mermaid,” Thorpe’s Yule-tide Stories, p. 198, and the behaviour of Singorra on p. 214. See also “The Hasty Word,” Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, p. 368, and “The Water King and Vasilissa the Wise,” p. 128; Veckenstedt’s Wendische Sagen, pp. 256, 258; and Liebrecht’s Zur Volkskunde, p. 408, and Wirt Sikes’ British Goblins, p. 39. The washing of the hero by a cheṭī is quite Homeric (Odyssey, xix, 386). In a Welsh story (Professor Rhys, Welsh Tales, p. 8) a young man discovers his lady-love by the way in which her sandals are tied. There are only two to choose from, and he seems to have depended solely upon his own observation.——Cf. also the Svayarrivara of Damayantī, where she has to resort to an “ Act of Truth ” in order to discover which of her numerous suitors is Nala. See p. 181 of this volume.—n.m.p.


A khārī = about three bushels.


Cf. the way in which Psyche separated the seeds in The Golden Ass of Apuleins, Lib. VI, cap. x, and the tasks in Grimm’s Märchen, Nos. 62, 186 and 1 93. A similar incident is found in a Danish tale, Svend’s Exploits,” p. 353 of Thorpe’s Yule-lide Stories. Before the king will allow Svend to marry the princess, he gives him a task exactly resembling the one in our text. He is told to separate seven barrels of wheat and seven barrels of rye which are lying in one heap. The ants do it for him because he had on a former occasion crumbled his bread for them. So in No. 83 of the Sicilianische Märchen the ants help Carnfedda because he once crumbled his bread for them. See also the story of the beautiful Cardia, in the same collection, p. 188. The hero has first to eat a cellarful of beans; this he accomplishes by means of the king of ravens, his brother-in-law. He next disposes of a multitude of corpses by means of another brother-in-law, the king of the wild beasts; he then stuffs a large number of mattresses with feathers by the help of a third brother-in-law, the king of the birds. See also Stokes’ Indian Fairy Tales, tale xxii, and the note at the end of this chapter. The tasks are also found in the Pentamerone of Basile (Burton, vol. i, p. 196 et seq.; vol. ii, pp. 305 et seq. and 511 et seq.); in Gaal, Märchen der Magyaren, p. 182 (the title of the tale is Die dankbaren Thiere”: some grateful ants are found at p. 339); in Grössler’s Sagen aus der Grafschaft Mansfeld, pp. 60, 6l; in Waldau’s Böhmische Märchen, pp. 18, 142, 262; and in Kuhn’s Westfälische Märchen, vol. ii, p. 249, where frogs, ants and wasps help the hero.

——Cf. also Macculloch, Childhood of Fiction, pp. 17, 205, 240, 392; Nights (Burton, Supp., vol. v, p. 5); Crooke, “Some Notes on Homeric Folk-Lore,” Folk-Lore, vol. xix, 1908, p. 158; Hartland, Legend of Perseus, vol. i, p. 49, and vol. iii, p. 102; Clouston, Popular Tales and Fictions, vol. i, p. 237 et seq.; Chauvin, op. cit., vi, p. 200; Cosquin, Contes Populaires de Lorraine, vol. ii, p. 242; and Bolte, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 19 et seq., and vol. iii, pp. 338-339 and 406 et seq. Cf. also Grimm No. 165 and its numerous analogues in Bolte, op. cit., vol. iii, p. 276 et seq. Some further examples of the “Tasks” motif will be found in the note on the “Magic Obstacles” motif at the end of this chapter, with which they are inseparably linked.—n.m.p.


I.e. Śiva.


A forest in Kurukṣetra sacred to Indra and burnt by Agni the God of Fire with the help of Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa.


“Ἕκτορ, ἀτὰρ σὺ μοί ἐσσι παττὴρ καὶ πότνα μήτηρ ἠδέ κασίγνητοσ, οὺ δέ ωοι θαλερὸς παρακοίτης”— Iliad, Book VI.


I.e. “ like an arrow in speed.”


For this part of the story see Sicilianische Märchen, No. 14, with Dr Köhler’s note.


In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, viii, 355, the domintis asks Mestra, who has been transformed into a fisherman, if she has seen herself pass that way.


Cf. the story of “Die kluge Else” the thirty-fourth in Grimm’s Kinder-und Hausmärchen, where the heroine has a doubt about her own identity and goes home to ask her husband; and No. 59 in the same collection. Cf. also Campbell’s Tales from the West Highlands, vol. ii, p. 375, where one man is persuaded that he is dead, another that he is not himself, and a third that he is dressed when he is naked. See also the numerous parallels given in Ralston’s Russian Folk-Tales, p. 54. Liebrecht ( Zur Volkskundé), p. 128, mentions a story in which a woman persuades her husband that he is dead. See also Bartsch’s Sagen, Märchen mid Gebräuche aus Meklenburg, vol. i, p. 508. In Prym and Socin’s Syrisclie Märchen, No. 62, p. 250, the flea believes himself to be dead, and tells everyone so.——See also Clouston, The Book of Noodles, 1888, p. 157 et seq.—n.m.p.


Cf. Hagen’s Helden-Sagen, vol. ii, p. 167, where Ake makes his wife Wolfriana intoxicated with the object of discovering her secret.


Reading avadishyāma. I find that this is the reading of a MS. in the Sanskrit College.

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