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 ...

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

EARLY the next morning Sūryaprabha set out from the hermitage of Sumeru with his forces to conquer Śrutaśarman. And arriving near the mountain of Trikūta, his dwelling-place, he encamped, driving away the enemy’s army with his own force, which was established there. And while he was encamped there with Sumeru, Maya and others, and was in the hall of council, an ambassador came from the lord of Trikūṭa.

And when he came he said to Sumeru, the Vidyādhara prince:

“The king, the father of Śrutaśarman, sends you this message:

‘We have never entertained you, as you were far off; now you have arrived in our territory with guests, so now we will show you appropriate hospitality.’”

When Sumeru heard this scoffingly ambiguous message, he said in answer:

“Bravo! you will not get another guest such a fit object of hospitality as we are. Hospitality will not bear its fruit in the next world; its fruit is in this. So here we are, entertain us.”

When Sumeru said this, the ambassador returned to his master as he came.

Then Sūryaprabha and the others, established upon an elevated place, surveyed their armies encamped separately.

Then Sunītha said to his father-in-law, the Asura Maya:

“Explain to me the arrangement of the warriors in our army.”

Then that all-knowing prince of the Dānavas said: “I will do so; listen,” and pointing them out with his finger he began to say:

“These kings, Subāhu, Nirghāta, Muṣṭika, and Gohara, and Pralamba, and Pramātha, and Kaṅkaṭa, and Piṅgala, and Vasudatta and others, are considered half-power warriors.[1]

And Aṅkurin, and Suviśāla, and Daṇḍin, and Bhūṣaṇa, and Somila, and Unmattaka, and Devaśarman, and Pitṛśarman, and Kumāraka, and Haridatta and others are all full-power warriors. And Prakampana, and Darpita, and Kumbhīra, and Mātṛpālita, and Mahābhaṭa, and Vīrasvāmin, and Surādhara, and Bhāṇḍīra, and Siṃhadatta and Guṇavarman, with Kīṭaka and Bhīma and Bhayaṅkara—these are all warriors of double power.

And Virocana, and Vīrasena, and Yajñasena, and Khujjara, and Indravarman, and Śevaraka, and Krūrakarman, and Nirāsaka—these princes are of triple power, my son. And Suśarman, and Bāhuśālin, and Viśākha, and Krodhana, and Pracaṇḍa—these princes are warriors of fourfold power.

And Juñjarin, and Vīraśarman, and Pravīravara, and Supratijña, and Marārāma, and Caṇḍadanta, and Jālika, and the three, Siṃhabhaṭa, Vyāghrabhaṭa and Śatrubhaṭa—these kings and princes are warriors of fivefold power.

But this Prince Ugravarman is a warrior of sixfold power.

And the Prince Viśoka, and Sutantu, and Sugama, and Narendraśarman are considered warriors of sevenfold power.

And this King Sahasrāyu is a great warrior. But this Śatānīka is lord of a host of great warriors. And Subhāsa, Harṣa and Vimala, the companions of Sūryaprabha, Mahābuddhi, and Acalabuddhi, Priyaṅkara and Śubhaṅkara are great warriors, as also Yajñaruci and Dharmaruci. But Viśvaruci, and Bhāsa and Siddhārtha, these three ministers of Sūryaprabha, are chiefs of hosts of great warriors. And his ministers Prahasta and Mahārtha are leaders of hosts of transcendent warriors. And Prajñāḍhya and Sthirabuddhi are leaders of hosts of hosts of warriors; and the Dānava Sarvadamana, and Pramathana here, and Dhūmraketu, and Pravahana and Vajrapañjara, and Kālacakra, and Marudvega are leaders of warriors and transcendent warriors. Prakampana and Siṃhanāda are leaders of hosts of leaders of hosts of warriors. And Mahāmāya, and Kāmbalika, and Kālakampana here, and Prahṛṣṭaroman, these four lords of the Asuras, are kings over chiefs of hosts of transcendent warriors. And this Prabhāsa, the general of the army, who is equal to Sūryaprabha, and this son of Sumeru, Kuñjarakumāra—these two are leaders of hosts of chiefs of hosts of great warriors. Such heroes are there in our army, and others besides, girt with their followers. There are more in the hostile army, but Śiva being well disposed towards us, they will not be able to resist our host.”

While the Asura Maya was saying this to Sunītha another ambassador came from the father of Śrutaśarman and said thus to him:

“The King of Trikūṭa sends this message to you:

‘This is a great feast for heroes—the feast which goes by the name of battle. This ground is narrow for it, therefore let us leave it and go to a place named Kalāpagrāma, where there is a wide space.’”

When Sunītha and the other chiefs with their soldiers heard this, they agreed, and all of them went with Sūryaprabha to Kalāpagrāma. And Śrutaśarman and his partisans also, eager for battle, went to that same place, surrounded with the hosts of the Vidyādharas. When Sūryaprabha and his chiefs saw elephants in the army of Śrutaśarman, they summoned their contingent of elephants, which was conveyed in the chariot that flew through the air. Then Dāmodara, that excellent Vidyādhara, drew up his army in the form of a large needle; Śrutaśarman himself took up his position on the flank with his ministers, and Dāmodara was in front, and other great warriors in other places. And Prabhāsa, the leader of Sūryaprabha’s army, arranged it in the form of a crescent; he himself was in the centre and Kuñjarakumāra and Prahasta at the two horns; and Sūryaprabha and Sunītha and the other chiefs all remained in the rear. And Sumeru, with Suvāsakumāra, stood near him. Thereupon the war-drums were beaten in both armies.

And in the meanwhile the heaven was filled with the gods come to see the battle, together with Indra, and the Lokapālas, and the Apsarases. And Śiva, the lord of all, came there with Pārvatī, followed by deities, and the Gaṇas, and demons, and the mothers.[2] And holy Brahmā came, accompanied by the Vedas, incarnate in bodily form, beginning with the Gāyatrī, and the Śāstras and all the great Ṛṣis. And the god Viṣṇu came, riding on the king of birds, bearing his weapon the discus, accompanied by goddesses, of whom the Goddesses of Fortune, Glory and Victory were the chief. And Kaśyapa came with his wives, and the Ādityas and the Vasus, and the chiefs of the Yakṣas, Rākṣasas and snakes, and also the Asuras, with Prahlāda at their head. The sky was obscured with them, and the battle of those two armies began, terrible with the clashing of weapons, accompanied with loud shouts. The whole heaven was darkened by the dense cloud of arrows, through which the flashes, made by the arrows striking against one another, played like lightning, and rivers of blood flowed, swollen with the gore of many elephants and horses wounded with weapons, in which the bodies of heroes moved like alligators. That battle gave great delight to heroes, jackals and goblins, that danced, waded and shouted in blood.

When the confused mêlée, in which countless soldiers fell, had abated, Sūryaprabha and the other chiefs gradually began to perceive the distinction between their own army and that of the enemy, and heard in order from Sumeru the names and lineage of the chiefs fighting in front of the enemy’s host. Then first took place a single combat between King Subāhu and a chief of the Vidyādharas, named Aṭṭahāsa. Subāhu fought a long time, until Aṭṭahāsa, after riddling him with arrows, cut off his head with a crescentheaded shaft. When Muṣṭika saw that Subāhu was slain, he rushed forward in wrath; he too fell, smitten by Aṭṭahāsa with an arrow in the heart. When Muṣṭika was slain, a king named Pralamba in wrath rushed on and attacked Aṭṭahāsa with showers of arrows, but Aṭṭahāsa slew his retainers, and striking the hero Pralamba with an arrow in a mortal place, laid him low on the seat of his chariot. A king named Mohana, when he saw Pralamba dead, engaged with Aṭṭahāsa and smote him with arrows. Then Aṭṭahāsa cut his bow and slew his charioteer, and laid him low, slain with a terrific blow. When the host of Śrutaśarman saw that the dexterous Aṭṭahāsa had slain those four warriors, expecting the victory, they shouted for joy. When Harṣa, the companion of Sūryaprabha, saw that, he was wroth, and with his followers attacked Aṭṭahāsa and his followers; and with shafts he repelled his shafts, and he slew his followers and killed his charioteer, and two or three times cut his bow and his banner, and at last he cleft asunder his head with his arrows, so that he fell from his chariot on the earth, pouring forth a stream of blood. When Aṭṭahāsa was slain there was such a panic in the battle that in a moment only half the two armies remained. Horses, elephants and footmen fell down there slain, and only the trunks of slaughtered men remained standing in the van of battle.

Then a chief of the Vidyādharas, named Vikritadaṃṣṭra, angry at the slaughter of Aṭṭahāsa, showered arrows upon Harṣa. But Harṣa repelled his arrows, struck down his chariot horses, and his banner and his charioteer, and cut off his head with its trembling earrings. But when Vikritadaṃṣṭra was killed a Vidyādhara king, named Cakravāla, in wrath attacked Harṣa; he slew Harṣa still fighting on, though fatigued with combat, after his bow had been frequently cut asunder and his other weapons damaged. Angry at that, King Pramātha attacked him, and he too was slain by that Cakravāla in fight. In the same way four other distinguished kings, who attacked him one by one, were slain one after another by that Cakravāla—namely, Kaṅkaṭa, and Viśāla, and Pracaṇḍa and Aṅkurin.

When King Nirghāta saw that, he was wroth, and attacked Cakravāla, and those two, Cakravāla and Nirghāta, fought for a long time, and at last they broke one another’s chariots to pieces and so became infantry soldiers, and the two, rushing furiously together, armed with sword and discus, cleft with sword-strokes one another’s heads and fell dead on the earth. Then the two armies were dispirited, seeing those two warriors dead, but nevertheless a king of the Vidyādharas, named Kālakampana, stepped forward to the front of the fight. And a prince, named Prakampana, attacked him, but he was in a moment struck down by that Kālakampana. When he was struck down, five other warriors attacked Kālakampana—namely, Jālika, and Caṇḍadatta, and Gopaka, and Somila, and Pitṛśarman; all these let fly arrows at him at the same time. But Kālakampana deprived all five of their chariots, and slew them at the same time, piercing the five with five arrows in the heart.

That made the Vidyādharas shout for joy, and the men and Asuras despond. Then four other warriors rushed upon him at the same time, Unmattaka and Praśasta, Vilambaka and Dhurandhara; Kālakampana slew them all easily. In the same way he killed six other warriors that ran towards him, Tejika, and Geyika, and Vegila, and Śākhila, and Bhadraṅkara and Daṇḍin, great warriors with many followers. And again he slew five others that met him in fight, Bhīma, Bhīṣaṇa, Kumbhīra, Vikaṭa and Vilocana.

And a king, named Sugaṇa, when he saw the havoc that Kālakampana had made in the battle, ran to meet him. Kālakampana fought with him until both had their horses and charioteers killed and were compelled to abandon their chariots; then Kālakampana, reduced to fight on foot, laid Sugaṇa, who was also fighting on foot, low on the earth with a sword-cut. Then the sun, having beheld that surprising struggle of Vidyādharas with men, went grieved to rest.[3] Not only did the field of battle become red, filled with streaming blood, but the heaven also became red, when evening set her footprints there. Then the corpses and demons began their evening dance, and both armies, stopping the battle, went to their camps. In the army of Śrutaśarman were slain that day three heroes, but thirty-three distinguished heroes were slain in the army of Sūryaprabha.

Then Sūryaprabha, grieved at the slaughter of his kinsmen and friends, spent that night apart from his wives. And, eager for the fight, he passed that night in various military discussions with his ministers, without going to sleep. And his wives, grieved on account of the slaughter of their relations, met together in one place that night, having come for the sake of mutual condolence. But even on that melancholy occasion they indulged in miscellaneous conversation; there is no occasion on which women are not irrelevant in their talk.[4]

In the course of this conversation one princess said:

“It is wonderful! How comes it that to-night our husband has gone to sleep without any of his wives?”

Hearing that, another said:

“Our husband is to-day grieved on account of the slaughter of his followers in battle, so how can he take any pleasure in the society of women?”

Then another said:

“If he were to obtain a new beauty he would that instant forget his grief.”

Then another said:

“Do not say so; although he is devoted to the fair sex, he would not behave in this way on such a sad occasion.”

While they were thus speaking, one said with wonder:

“Tell me why our husband is so devoted to women, that, though he has carried off many wives, he is perpetually marrying new princesses and is never satisfied.”

One of the wives, a clever woman of the name of Manovatī, said when she heard this:

“Hear why kings have many loves. The good qualities of lovely women are different, varying with their native land, their beauty, their age, their gestures and their accomplishments; no one woman possesses all good qualities. The women of Karnāṭa, of Lāṭa, of Saurāṣṭra and Madhyadeśa please by the peculiar behaviour of their various countries. Some fair ones captivate by their faces like an autumn moon, others by their breasts full and firm like golden ewers, and others by their limbs, charming from their beauty. One has limbs yellow as gold, another is dark like a priyaṅgu, another, being red and white, captivates the eyes as soon as seen. One is of budding beauty, another of full-developed youth, another is agreeable on account of her maturity, and distinguished by increasing coquetry. One looks lovely when smiling, another is charming even in anger, another charms with gait resembling that of an elephant, another with swan-like motion. One, when she prattles, irrigates the ears with nectar; another is naturally beautiful when she looks at one with graceful contraction of the eyebrows. One charms by dancing, another pleases by singing, and another fair one attracts by being able to play on the lyre and other instruments. One is distinguished for good temper, another is remarkable for artfulness, another enjoys good fortune from being able to understand her husband’s mind. But, to sum up, others possess other particular merits; so every lovely woman has some peculiar good point, but of all the women in the three worlds none possesses all possible virtues. So kings, having made up their minds to experience all kinds of fascinations, though they have captured many wives for themselves, are for ever seizing new ones.[5] But the truly noble never, under any circumstances, desire the wives of others. So this is not our husband’s fault, and we cannot be jealous.”

When the head wives of Sūryaprabha, beginning with Madanasenā, had been addressed in this style by Manovatī they made one after another remarks to the same effect. Then, in their merriment, they laid aside all the ties of reserve, and began to tell one another all kinds of secrets. For, unfortunately, there is nothing which women will not let out when they are met together in social intercourse and their minds are interested in the course of the conversation. At last that long conversation of theirs was somehow or other brought to an end, and in course of time the night passed away, during which Sūryaprabha was longing to conquer the host of his enemies, for he was alone, intently waiting for the time when the darkness should depart.[6]

Footnotes and references:


For a parallel to the absurdities that follow see Campbell’s Tales of the West Highlands, p. 202.


The personified energies of the principal deities, closely connected with the worship of the god Śiva. Professor Jacobi compares them with the Greek goddesses called μητέρες, to whom there was a temple in the Sicilian town of Engyion (Indian Antiquary, January 1880).——The mothers are sixteen in number, and are worshipped at sacrifices, weddings, house-warmings, etc. At a wedding fourteen are worshipped in the house, one outside the village and one near the front door where the wedding is celebrated. As the mothers are supposed to be the planets which influence the unborn child, they are also worshipped to bring about an easy delivery. For further details see R. E. Enthoven, The Folk-Lore of Bombay, 1924, pp. 185-187.—n.m.p.


For āvaham I read āhavam.


Speyer (op. cit., p. 118) considers Tawney’s interpretation of aparāçrayāḥ by “not irrelevant in their talk” as being too forced. The D. text reads the last two words of the line as kathā svapurāçrayā, which Speyer would translate, “. . . there is no occasion on which women would not talk of the chronique scandaleuse of their town.” —n.m.p.


Labdhakakṣyāḥ is probably a misprint for baddhakakṣyāḥ.


I read abhikāṅkṣā for abhikāṅkṣo, which is found in Brockhaus’s text. This is supported by a MS. in the Sanskrit College.

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