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 ...


VICTORY to the elephant-headed god, who, reddening the sky with the vermilion dye shaken off by the wind of his flapping ears, seems to create sunset, even when it is not due.


[M] (main story line continued)  Thus Naravāhanadatta, the son of the King of Vatsa, dwelt happily in his father’s house, after he had won those wives. And one day, when he was in his father’s assembly hall, he saw a man of heavenly appearance come there, descending from heaven.

And after he and his father had welcomed the man, who bowed before him, he immediately asked him:

“Who are you and why have you come?”

Then he answered:

“There is a city in this earth on the ridge of Himavat, called Vajrakūṭa,[1] and rightly so called, as being all made of diamond. There I dwelt, as a king of the Vidyādharas named Vajraprabha, and my name too was rightly given me, because my body is framed of diamond.

And I received this command from Śiva (who was pleased with my austerities):

‘If thou remainest loyal at the appointed time to the emperor created by me, thou shalt become by my favour invincible to thy enemies.’

Accordingly I have come here without delay to pay my respects to my sovereign, for I have already perceived, by means of my science, that the son of the King of Vatsa (who is born of a portion of the God of Love, and appointed by the god who wears a digit of the moon), though a mortal, shall be sole emperor over both divisions of our territory.[2] And though, by the favour of Śiva, a prince of the name of Sūryaprabha was ruler over us for a Kalpa of the gods, still he was only lord in the southern division, but in the northern division a prince called Śrutaśarman was emperor; but your Majesty, being destined for great good fortune, shall be sole emperor here over the wanderers of the air, and your dominion shall endure for a Kalpa.”

When the Vidyādhara said this, Naravāhanadatta, in the presence of the King of Vatsa, said to him again out of curiosity:

“How did Sūryaprabha, being a man, obtain of old time the sovereignty over the Vidyādharas? Tell us.”

Then in private—that is to say, in the presence of the queens and ministers—the King Vajraprabha began to tell that tale.


62. Story of Sūryaprabha and how he attained Sovereignty over the Vidyādharas [3]

Of old there was in the country of the people of Madra a town named Śākala[4]; Candraprabha, the son of Aṅgāraprabha, was king of it, whose name expressed his nature, as he delighted the whole world, but he was like fire in that he scorched his enemies. By his wife, named Kīrtimatī, there was born to that king a son, whose future glory was indicated by his exceedingly auspicious marks.

And when he was born a clear voice sounded from heaven, which rained nectar into the ears of King Candraprabha:

“This king, now born, named Sūryaprabha, is appointed by Śiva as the future emperor over the kings of the Vidyādharas.”

Then that Prince Sūryaprabha grew up in the house of his father, who was distinguished by the delightful favour of the enemy of Pura,[5] and he, being very clever, gradually acquired, while still a child, all knowledge and all the accomplishments by sitting at the feet of a teacher; and then, when he was sixteen years old, and captivated the subjects by his virtues, his father, Candraprabha, appointed him Crown Prince, and he gave him the sons of his own ministers, many in number, Bhāsa, Prabhāsa, Siddhārtha, Prahasta and others.

And while he was bearing with them the burden of a crown prince’s duty, one day a great Asura of the name of Maya came there, and Maya went up in the assembly hall to King Candraprabha, who welcomed him, and said to him, in the presence of Sūryaprabha:

“King, this son of yours, Sūryaprabha, has been appointed as the future emperor of the kings of the Vidyādharas by Śiva; so why does he not acquire the magic sciences that will put him in possession of the dignity? For this reason I am sent here by the god Śiva. Permit me to take him and teach him the right method of employing the sciences, which will be the cause of his obtaining the sovereignty of the Vidyādharas. For he has a rival in this business, a lord of the sky-goers, named Śrutaśarman; he too has been appointed by Śiva. But this prince, after acquiring the power of the sciences, shall conquer him with our help and become emperor over the lords of the Vidyādharas.”

When Maya said this, King Candraprabha said:

“We are fortunate; let this auspicious one be taken by you wherever you wish.”

Then Maya took leave of the king, and quickly carried off to Pātāla Sūryaprabha and his ministers, whom the king permitted to depart. There he taught the prince ascetic practices of such a kind that by means of them the prince and his ministers quickly acquired the sciences. And he taught him also the art of providing himself with magic chariots, so that he acquired a chariot named Bhūtāsana.

Then Maya brought Sūryaprabha, mounted on that chariot, with his ministers, having acquired the sciences, back to his own city from Pātāla.

And after he had led him into the presence of his parents he said to him:

“Now I depart, enjoy here all the enjoyments given by your magic knowledge until I return.”

After saying this the Asura Maya departed, after having been duly honoured, and King Candraprabha rejoiced in his son’s having acquired the sciences.

Then Sūryaprabha, by virtue of the sciences, was continually roaming through many countries in his chariot, with his ministers, to amuse himself. And wherever any princess beheld him she was immediately bewildered by love and chose him for her husband. The first was the virgin daughter of the King of Tāmraliptī, who was called Vīrabhaṭa; her name was Madanasenā, and she was the first beauty of the world. The second was Candrikāvatī, the daughter of Subhaṭa, the emperor of the western border, who had been carried off by the Siddhas and left somewhere else. And the third was the famous daughter of Kumbhīra, the king of the city of Kāñcī, Varuṇasenā by name, remarkable for her beauty. And the fourth was the daughter of King Paurava, sovereign of Lāvāṇaka, Sulocanā by name, with lovely eyes. And the fifth was the daughter of King Suroha, the lord of the land of China, Vidyunmālā, with charming limbs, yellow as gold. And the sixth was the daughter of King Kāntisena, ruler in the land of Śrīkaṇṭha, surpassing in beauty the Apsarases. And the seventh was Parapuṣṭā, the daughter of King Janamejaya, the lord of the city of Kauśāmbī, a sweet-voiced maid.

And though the relations of these maidens, who were carried off by a surprise, found out what had happened, still, as the prince was confident in the might of his supernatural science, they were pliant as canes. These wives also acquired the sciences, and Sūryaprabha associated with them all at the same time, taking many bodies[6] by his magic skill. Then he amused himself in the company of these wives, and of the ministers Prahasta and others, with roaming in the air, with concerts, drinking-parties and other amusements.

Possessing heavenly skill in painting, he drew the Vidyādhara females, and in that way, and by making sportive, sarcastic speeches, he enraged those charmers, and he was amused at their faces, furrowed with frowns, and with reddened eyes, and at their speeches, the syllables of which faltered on their trembling lips. And that prince went with his wives to Tāmraliptī, and roaming through the air sported in the gardens with Madanasenā.

And having left his wives there he went in the chariot Bhūtāsana and, accompanied by Prahasta only, visited the city called Vajrarātra. There he carried off the daughter of King Rambha before his eyes, Tārāvalī by name, who was enamoured of him and burning with the fire of love. And he came back to Tāmraliptī and there carried off again another maiden princess, by name Vilāsinī. And when her haughty brother Sahasrāyudha was annoyed at it he paralysed him by his supernatural power. And he also stupefied Sahasrāyudha’s mother’s brother, who came with him, and all his retainers, and made his head shorn of hair, because he wished to carry off his beloved ones. But though he was angry he spared to slay them both, because they were his wife’s relatives, but he taunted them, who were downcast on account of the overthrow of their pride, and let them go. Then Sūryaprabha, surrounded by nine wives, having been summoned by his father, returned in his chariot to his city Śākala.

And the King Vīrabhaṭa sent from Tāmraliptī an ambassador to Sūryaprabha’s father, King Candraprabha, and gave him the following message to deliver:

“Your son has carried off my two daughters, but let that be, for he is a desirable husband for them, as he is a master of supernatural sciences, but, if you love us, come here now, in order that we may make a friendship based upon the due performance of marriage rites and hospitality.”

Thereupon King Candraprabha rewarded the messenger and determined that he would quickly start for that place on the morrow. But he sent Prahasta as an ambassador to Vīrabhaṭa, in order to make sure of his sincerity, and gave him Bhūtāsana to travel in. Prahasta went quickly and had an interview with King Vīrabhaṭa and questioned him about the business, and was informed, and highly honoured by him,[7] and promised him, who smiled graciously, that his masters would come early next morning, and then he returned in a moment to Candraprabha through the air. And he told that king that Vīrabhaṭa was ready to receive him. The king, for his part, being pleased, showed honour to that minister of his son’s. Then King Candraprabha, with Queen Kīrtimatī, and Sūryaprabha, with Vilāsinī and Madanasenā, mounted that chariot Bhūtāsana and went off early next day with retinue and ministers. In one watch only of the day they reached Tāmraliptī, being beheld, as they passed through the air, by the people with eyes the lashes of which were upraised through wonder. And descending from the sky they entered the city side by side with King Vīrabhaṭa, who came out to meet them. The beautiful streets of the town were irrigated at every step with sandalwood water, and seemed to be strewed with blue lotuses by means of the sidelong glances of the city ladies. There Vīrabhaṭa honoured his connection and his son-in-law, and duly performed the marriage ceremony of his daughters. And King Vīrabhaṭa gave at the marriage-altar of those daughters a thousand loads of pure gold and a hundred camels laden with burdens of ornaments made of jewels, and five hundred camels laden with loads of various garments, and fifty thousand horses, and five thousand elephants, and a thousand lovely women adorned with beauty and jewels. And, moreover, he gratified his son-in-law Sūryaprabha and his parents with valuable jewels and territories. And he duly honoured his ministers, Prahasta and others, and he made a feast at which all the people of the city rejoiced. And Sūryaprabha remained there in the company of his parents and his beloved wives, enjoying delights, consisting of various dainties, wines and music.

In the meanwhile an ambassador arrived from Rambha, in Vajrarātra, and in the hall of assembly delivered this message from his master:

“The Crown Prince Sūryaprabha, confiding in the might of his sciences, has insulted us by carrying off our daughter. But to-day we have come to know that he has undertaken to be reconciled to King Vīrabhaṭa, whose misfortune is the same as ours. If in the same way you agree to be reconciled to us, come here also quickly; if not, we will in this matter salve our honour by death.”

When King Candraprabha heard that, he honoured the ambassador, and said to him:

“Go to that Rambha and give him this message from me:

‘Why do you afflict yourself without cause? For Sūryaprabha is now appointed, by Śiva, the future emperor of the Vidyādharas, and inspired sages have declared that your daughter and others are to be his wives. So your daughter has attained her proper place, but you, being stern, were not asked for her. So be appeased, you are our friend; we will come to your residence also.’”

When Prahasta received this message from the king he went through the air and in a single watch he reached Vajrarātra. There he told his message to Rambha, and having been gladly received by him he returned as he came and reported it to King Candraprabha. Then Candraprabha sent his minister Prabhāsa, and had King Rambha’s daughter Tārāvalī conducted to him from Śākala. Then he departed in the air chariot with Sūryaprabha, being dismissed with great honour by King Vīrabhaṭa and all others. And he reached Vajrarātra, which was full of people awaiting his arrival, and was met by Rambha, and entered his palace.

There Rambha, having performed the great feast of the marriage ceremony, gave his daughter countless stores of gold, elephants, horses, jewels and other valuables. And he gratified so lavishly his son-in-law, Sūryaprabha, that he forgot all his own luxuries. And while they were remaining there, delighted with feasts, an ambassador came from the city of Kāñcī to Rambha.

Rambha, having heard his message, said to King Candraprabha:

“King, the lord of Kāñcī, named Kumbhīra, is my elder brother; he has today sent me a trustworthy messenger to speak this speech:

‘Sūryaprabha first carried off my daughter, then yours. And now you have made friendship with him and his father, as I hear, so bring about my friendship also with them. Let them come to my house, that I may with my own hand give my daughter Varuṇasenā to Sūryaprabha.’

So grant this request of my brother’s.”

When Rambha made this request Candraprabha granted it, and sent Prahasta and had Varuṇasenā brought quickly from the city of Śākala to her father, Kumbhīra. And the next day he and Sūryaprabha and Rambha, and Vīrabhaṭa and all, with their attendants, went to the city of Kāñcī. And after they had been met by Kumbhīra they entered the city of Kāñcī, as it were the girdle of the earth, full of many jewels and adorned with excellences.[8] There Kumbhīra bestowed his daughter on Sūryaprabha, with the usual ceremonies, and gave much wealth to the young couple.

And when the marriage had taken place, Prahasta, after taking food, said to Candraprabha, who was all joyfulness, in the presence of all:

“King, in the country of Śrīkaṇṭha I had an interview with the king of that land[9]; there King Kāntisena, whom I thus happened to see, said to me:

‘Let Sūryaprabha come to my house with that daughter of mine whom he has carried off. I will perform the ceremony for him according to rule. If he refuses I will abandon the body, distracted by love for my daughter.’

This is what he then said to me, and I have now mentioned it on the proper occasion.”

When Prahasta said this King Candraprabha answered:

“Go, then, take Kāntimatī to him; we will go there also.”

When the king said this to him Prahasta went off that moment through the air and did as he had commanded. And next morning Candraprabha and all, with Kumbhīra, went to the land of Śrīkaṇṭha in the air-travelling chariot. There King Kāntisena came to meet them, and making them enter his palace performed the auspicious ceremony of his daughter’s marriage. Then he gave to Kāntimatī and Sūryaprabha an endless quantity of jewels, which excited the wonder of the kings.

While they were all remaining there, enjoying all kinds of pleasure, a messenger came from Kauśāmbī and said:

“King Janamejaya sends this message to your honours:

‘My daughter, of the name of Parapuṣṭā, has been carried off by someone lately. And I have found out to-day that she has come into the power of Sūryaprabha, so let him come with her to my house without fear. I will perform the marriage ceremony according to rule, and so dismiss him with his wife; otherwise you will be my enemies and I shall be yours.’”

Having thus delivered his master’s message, the ambassador remained silent. Then King Candraprabha said to them apart:

“How can we go to the house of that king who sends such haughty messages?”

When the king’s minister, named Siddhārtha, heard that he said:

“Do not entertain wrong notions, King, for he is justified in using such language. For that king is very generous, learned and sprung of a noble race, a hero, one who has offered the aśvamedha sacrifice,[10] ever unconquered by others. How can he have spoken anything unbecoming in speaking according to facts? And as for the enmity which he threatens, he does that now on account of Indra. So you must go to his house, for he is a king faithful to his engagements. Nevertheless, send someone to find out his intentions.”

When they heard this speech of Siddhārtha’s they all approved it. Then King Candraprabha sent Prahasta to sound Janamejaya, and honoured his messenger. And Prahasta went, and after making an agreement with the King of Kauśāmbī brought a letter from him and satisfied Candraprabha.

The king quickly sent that Prahasta, and had Parapuṣṭā conducted from Śākala to Janamejaya. Then Candraprabha and the other kings, preceded by Sūryaprabha,[11] with Kāntisena, went to Kauśāmbī in the chariot. There the King Janamejaya courteously honoured his son-in-law, and his connection, and all the others, by advancing to meet them, and other ceremonies. And after he had performed the ceremony of the marriage rite he gave five thousand elephants and one hundred thousand excellent horses, and also five thousand camels laden with full burdens of jewels, gold, precious apparel, camphor and aloes-wood. And he made such a feast that even the realm of Yama[12] was exclusively engaged in dancing and music, a feast in which excellent Brāhmans were honoured and all kings gratified.

And in the meanwhile the heaven there suddenly became red, as if indicating that it would soon be dyed crimson with blood. And the sky suddenly became full of confused, hurtling noises, as if terrified at beholding a hostile army coming in the air. And a mighty wind immediately began to blow, as if exciting the inhabitants of earth to war against the wanderers of the air. And immediately a great Vidyādhara army was seen in the air, illuminating with brightness the circle of the horizon, loud-shouting, impetuous. And in the midst of it Sūryaprabha and the others beheld with astonishment a very handsome, heavenly youth.

And at that moment the herald of the Vidyādharas proclaimed with a loud voice, in front of that youth, whose name was Dāmodara:

“Victory to the Crown Prince Dāmodara, son of King Āṣāḍha! O mortal, dweller on the earth, Sūryaprabha, fall at his feet. And do homage, O Janamejaya; why have you given your daughter to an undeserver? Propitiate, both of you, this god at once, otherwise he will not be appeased.”

When Sūryaprabha heard this, and saw that army, he was wroth and, seizing his sword and shield, he flew up into the heaven by his science. And all his ministers flew up after him, with their weapons in their hands, Prahasta, and Prabhāsa, and Bhāsa, and Siddhārtha, and Prajñāḍhya, and Sarvadamana, and Vītabhīti and Śubhaṅkara. And the Vidyādharas fought a great fight with them. And on one side Sūryaprabha, and on the other Dāmodara advanced, not slaying their enemies with their swords, but receiving their weapons on their shields. Those men, few in number, and those air roamers, a hundred thousand in number, found equality in battle, fighting with one another. And all sword-blades there flashed red with blood, falling on the heads of heroes, like the glances of the God of Death. And the Vidyādharas fell on the earth, with their heads and their bodies, in front of Candraprabha, as if imploring protection out of fear. Sūryaprabha shone in the world with the glory of the Vidyādharas which he had seen. The sky was red with blood, as if with vermilion shed abroad. And Sūryaprabha at last reached, and fought face to face with, Dāmodara, who was armed with a sword and a shield. And as he fought he broke through his enemy’s guard by a skilful management of his weapons, and laid him on the earth, having cleft his shield with his sword. And while he was preparing to cut off the head of his struggling foe, Viṣṇu came and made a threatening sound in the sky. Then Sūryaprabha, having heard that sound, and having beheld Hari, prostrated himself, and out of respect for the god spared to slay Dāmodara. Hari carried him off somewhere as his votary and saved him from death, for the adorable one delivers in this world and the next his faithful followers. And the troops of Dāmodara fled in different directions. Sūryaprabha, for his part, descended from heaven to his father’s side. And his father, Candraprabha, welcomed him on his returning unwounded with his ministers, and the other kings praised him now that his valour had been seen.

And while they were all engaged in joyfully talking over the combat another ambassador, belonging to Subhaṭa, arrived there. And he came and delivered a letter in the presence of Candraprabha; and Siddhārtha, opening it, read it out in the assembly. It ran as follows:

“The august King Candraprabha, the pearl-jewel of a noble race, is thus respectfully solicited by King Subhaṭa in the Concan. We have learned that our daughter, who was carried off by some beings in the night, has come into the hands of thy son, and we rejoice thereat. Make an effort, thou and thy son Sūryaprabha, to come with her to our house, without raising any objection, in order that we may behold our daughter returned, as it were, from the other world, and perform for her at once the ceremony required for marriage.”

When this letter was read by Siddhārtha, the King Candraprabha, consenting, welcomed the messenger and rejoiced. And he quickly sent Prahasta to the western border and had Subhaṭa’s daughter, Candrikāvatī, conducted into her father’s presence. And the next morning they all went, with Sūryaprabha in front, and in company with Janamejaya, in the chariot to the western border. There King Subhaṭa, pleased at recovering his daughter, showed them much honour, and celebrated his daughter’s marriage festival. And he bestowed on Candrikāvatī jewels and other gifts in such liberal profusion that Vīrabhaṭa and the others were ashamed at what they had given. Then, while Sūryaprabha was remaining there in the house of his father-in-law, there came from Lāvāṇaka also an ambassador belonging to King Paurava.

He delivered to Candraprabha this message from his master:

“My daughter Sulocanā has been carried off by the fortunate Prince Sūryaprabha: that does not grieve me; but why should he not be brought with her to my house, in order that we may perform the marriage ceremony?”

When King Candraprabha heard that he honoured the messenger in his joy and had Sulocanā escorted by Prahasta into the presence of her father. Then they, Subhaṭa and all, in the company of Sūryaprabha, went to Lāvāṇaka in the chariot, that came as soon as it was thought of. There Paurava performed the joyful marriage ceremony, and bestowed jewels liberally on Sūryaprabha and Sulocanā, and honoured the kings also. And while they were remaining there in delight, entertained by the king, Suroha, the King of China, also sent an ambassador. That king, like the others, requested, by the mouth of the ambassador, that, as his daughter had been carried off, they would come with her to his palace.

Then King Candraprabha was delighted, and he had the King of China’s daughter, Vidyunmālā, also conducted by Prahasta to her father’s house. And on the next day Candraprabha and all went, including Paurava, together with Sūryaprabha and his retinue, to the land of China. There the king came out to meet them, and led them into his own treasure-chamber, and there performed the marriage ceremony of his daughter. And he gave to Vidyunmālā and Sūryaprabha an immense quantity of gold, elephants, horses, jewels and silk garments. And, being invited by Suroha, Candraprabha and the others continued there for some days in various enjoyments. And Sūryaprabha, who was in the prime of youth, was adorned by that Vidyunmālā,[13] as the rainy season, when the clouds abound, is adorned by the lightning garland.

Thus Sūryaprabha and his relatives, accompanied by his various charmers, enjoyed delights here and there in the houses of his fathers-in-law. Then he took counsel with Siddhārtha and his other ministers and dismissed one by one to their own lands Vīrabhaṭa and the other kings, with numbers of horses, and then took leave of that King Suroha, and, accompanied by his daughter, with his own parents and followers ascended that chariot Bhūtāsana and went triumphant to his own city of Śākala. In that city great rejoicing took place on account of his arrival; in one place there was the occupation of dancing, in another the delight of music; in one place the amusement of drinking, in another the toilet rites of fair-eyed ladies; in another the voice of bards loud in the praise of him who had obtained what he desired. Then he had brought his other wives, who had remained in their fathers’ houses, and with the stores of elephants and horses bestowed by their fathers, that were brought with them, and with the innumerable camels bowed down with burdens full of various jewels, he displayed in sport the wealth obtained by the conquest of the world, and aroused the wonder of his subjects.

Then Śākala, inhabited by that fortunate one, appeared glorious, as if the chiefs of the gods, of the followers of Kuvera and of the snakes,[14] had made in it many deposits of much wealth. Then Sūryaprabha dwelt there with Madanasenā, enjoying the pleasures he desired, happy in that all blessings were fully bestowed upon him, in the society of his parents, with his ministers, accompanied by his other wives, expecting every day Maya, who had made a promise to return.

[Additional note: Aśvamedha (horse-sacrifice)]

Footnotes and references:


I.e. diamond-peak.


For ubhayavedyeka the Petersburg lexicographers read ubhayavedyardha.


This story, with the usual sub-stories introduced, stretches to the end of Book VIII, p. 121.—n.m.p.


Identified by General Cunningham with the Saṅgala of Alexander (Ancient Geography of India, p. 179 et seq.).


I.e. Śiva.


This division of personality (kāya-vyūha) is more usually practised by the gods. In the Mahābhārata (iii, 305) Sūrya impregnates Kuntī without destroying her virginity by transferring a portion of his own energy by means of his yoga power. See the note at the end of the next chapter.— n.m.p.


I read bodhitaḥ.


Kāñcī means “girdle,” guṇa, “excellence” and thread.” The last clause might be translated “made of threads.”


The D. text reads prabhraman gatavān aham; thus Prahasta says: “King, in the course of my wandering I arrived in the country of Śrīkaṇṭha.” See Speyer, op. cit., p. 116.—n.m.p.


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


I read Sūryaprabha for Sūryacandra.


What Yama, the judge of the dead, is doing here seems hard to understand. The D. text clears the difficulty by its reading of vādyanrittaikamayaṃ lokamahotsavam, which simply means that “he gave a great festival to his guests which entirely consisted of music and dancing.” See Speyer, op. cit., p. 116.—n.m.p.


Vidyunmālā means “garland of lightning.”


The D. text reads... bhujaga-nagaraiḥ instead of... bhujaṅga-varaiḥ; thus we get a better meaning:

“... appeared, by its great wealth and heavy treasures, as if it were made up of the cities of the gods, of Kubera, and of the Snakes, put together.”

See Speyer, op. cit., p. 116.— n.m.p.

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