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

THEN Sūryaprabha, lying on his couch at night, eager for battle, apart from his wives, said to his minister Vītabhīti:

“I cannot sleep, so tell me, my friend, some strange story of courage and endurance, to amuse me during the night.”

When Vītabhīti heard this request of Sūryaprabha’s, he answered: “I will obey your order”; and he told this story:


62d. King Mahāsena and his Virtuous Minister Guṇaśarman

There is a city Ujjayinī, the ornament of this earth, full of numberless jewels of pellucid water. In that city there lived a king named Mahāsena, beloved by the virtuous, an unequalled treasury of accomplishments, having the beauty both of the sun and moon. He had a wife named Aśokavatī, whom he loved as his life; there was not another woman in the three worlds equal to her in beauty. The king ruled his realm with her for consort, and he had besides a friend, a Brāhman named Guṇaśarman, whom he respected and loved. And that Brāhman was brave and very handsome, and, though young, had thoroughly mastered the lore of the Vedas, and knew the accomplishments, the Śāstras, and the use of weapons, and was always in attendance on the king.

And one day, as he was within the palace, a conversation arose about dancing, and the king and queen said to Guṇaśarman, who was in attendance:

“You know everything, there is no doubt about that; so we have a curiosity to see you dancing. If you know how to dance, kindly exhibit your skill.”

When Guṇaśarman heard this, he said, with a smile on his face:

“I know how to dance, but dancing is a thing not becoming in the king’s court; foolish dancing is generally ridiculous and is censured in the Śāstras. And far from me be shame here in the presence of the king and queen.”

When Guṇaśarman said that, the king answered him, being urged on to it by the queen out of curiosity:

“This will not be like a dance on the stage, or in such places, which would make a man feel ashamed, but merely a private display of skill in the society of friends. And at present I am not your king; I am your friend without ceremony; so rest assured that I will not eat to-day until I have seen your skill in dancing.”

When the king pressed him in this style, the Brāhman consented to do it. For how can servants refuse the request of an importunate lord? Then that Guṇaśarman danced so skilfully with his body that the hearts of both the king and queen danced for joy.

And at the end of it the king gave him a lyre to play upon, and the moment he tested its tones he said to the king:

“This lyre is not in good order, so give me another one; there is a puppy inside this, your Majesty—I know that by the indications of the twanging of the strings.”

Saying this, Guṇaśarman let go the lyre from under his arm. Then the king sprinkled it, and unscrewed and examined it, and a puppy came out of it.[1] Then King Mahāsena praised Guṇaśarman’s omniscience, and was much astonished, and had another lyre brought. He played on that lyre, which, like the Ganges, that flows in three worlds,[2] was charming from its swift stream of music,[3] and purged the ear by its sound. Then in the presence of the king, who with his wife looked on astonished, he exhibited in turn his skill in the nobler studies.

Then the king said to him:

“If you are skilled in fighting, then show me a specimen of the art of binding the enemy’s limbs with your own hands unarmed.”

The Brāhman answered him:

“King, take your weapons and strike at me, that I may show you a specimen of my skill.”

Then, as fast as the king took a sword or other weapon and struck at him, Guṇaśarman, by that artifice of fettering the limbs, immediately disarmed him with ease, and frequently fettered his hand and body, without receiving a wound. Then the king, seeing that he was capable of aiding him in his political affairs, praised that excellent Brāhman of transcendent ability and honoured him highly.

But Queen Aśokavatī, having beheld again and again the beauty and abilities of that Brāhman, suddenly fell in love with him. She thought to herself:

“If I cannot obtain him, of what use is my life to me?”

Then she artfully said to the king:

“Do me a kindness, my husband, and order this Guṇaśarman to teach me to play on the lyre. For when I beheld to-day his skill in playing on the lyre I took a desperate fancy to the instrument.”

When the king heard this, he said to Guṇaśarman:

“By all means teach the queen to play on the lyre.”

Then Guṇaśarman said:

“I will do so, my sovereign; we will begin the practising on an auspicious day.”

Then he took leave of the king and went home. But he put off for many days beginning to teach the queen the lyre, seeing the changed expression of the queen, and afraid of some mischief.

One day he was standing near the king when he was eating, and when the cook was giving him some condiment he prevented him, saying: “Stop! Stop!”

The king asked what this meant, then the discreet man said:

“This sauce is poisoned, and I detected it by certain indications.[4] For when the cook was giving you the sauce he looked at my face, trembling with fear, and with an eye that rolled apprehensively. And we can at once find out whether I am right. Let this sauce be given to someone to eat and I will counteract the effect of the poison.”

When he said this, the king made the cook eat the sauce, and immediately after he had eaten it he became senseless.

Then Guṇaśarman counteracted the effect of the poison on the cook by a spell, and when the king asked the cook the truth of the whole matter he said this:

“King, your enemy, King Vikramaśakti, sovereign of Gauḍa, sent me here to give you poison. I introduced myself to your Majesty as a foreigner skilful in the culinary art, and entered your kitchen. So to-day I have been discovered by that shrewd man in the act of giving you poison in sauce. Your Majesty knows what to do now.”

When the cook said this, the king punished him, and being much pleased, gave Guṇaśarman a thousand villages for saving his life.

And the next day, as the queen kept vigorously pressing him, the king made Guṇaśarman begin to teach her the lyre. Then, while he was teaching her the lyre, the Queen Aśokavatī indulged in perpetual coquetry, laughter and mirth.

One day, wounded with the arrow of love, she scratched him with her nails frequently in secret, and said to the chaste Guṇaśarman, who entreated her to desist:

“It was yourself that I asked for, handsome man, under the pretext of learning to play the lute, for I am desperately in love with you, so consent to my wishes.”

When she said this, Guṇaśarman answered her:

“Do not talk so, for you are my master’s wife, and such a one as I am should not commit such treason; desist from this reckless conduct.”

When Guṇaśarman said this, the queen continued:

“Why do you possess in vain this beauty and skill in accomplishments? How can you look with a passionless eye on me who love you so much?”

When Guṇaśarman heard this, he answered sarcastically:

“You are right. What is the use of beauty and skill which is not tarnished with infamy by seducing the wife of another, and which does not in this world and the next cause one to fall into the ocean of hell?”

When he said this, the queen said to him, pretending to be angry:

“I am determined to die if you do not do what I say, so, being despised by you, I will slay you before I die.”

Then Guṇaśarman said:

“By all means let it be so. For it is better to live for one moment, bound by the bonds of righteousness, than to live unrighteously for hundreds of crores of Kalpas. And it is far preferable for me to die without reproach, having done no wrong, than for me to have done wrong and to be put to death by the king, with reproach attaching to my name.”

When the queen heard that, she went on to say to him:

“Do not commit treason against yourself and me. Listen, I will tell you something. The king does not neglect to do what I tell him, even if it is impossible; so I will ask him and get territories given to you, and I will have all your servants made barons, so you will become a king, for you are distinguished for good qualities. So what have you to fear? Who can overpower you and how? So grant my wishes fearlessly, otherwise you will not live.”

When the king’s wife said this, seeing that she was determined, Guṇaśarman said to her artfully, in order to put her off for a moment:

“If you are persistently set on this, then I will obey your command; but it will not be advisable to do so immediately, for fear it should get abroad; wait for some days; believe that what I say is true. What object have I in incurring your enmity, which would ensure my destruction?”

Thus Guṇaśarman comforted her with that hope, and agreed to her request, and then departed with heart lightened.

Then, in the course of some days, King Mahāsena went and surrounded King Somaka in his treasure-city. And when the King of Gauḍa, Vikramaśakti, knew that he had arrived there he went and surrounded King Mahāsena; then King Mahāsena said to Guṇaśarman:

“While we are occupied in besieging one enemy we are besieged by another, so now how are we to fight with two enemies, as we are unequal in force? And how long, being brave men, can we remain without fighting a battle? So what are we to do in this difficulty?”

When Guṇaśarman, who was at the side of the king, was asked this question, he answered:

“Be of good courage, my sovereign; I will devise a stratagem that will enable us to get out of this situation, difficult as it is.”

He comforted the king with these words and put on his eyes an ointment[5] that rendered him invisible, and at night went, without anyone seeing him, to the camp of Vikramaśakti.

And he entered into his presence, and woke him up while asleep, and said:

“Know, O King, that I am come a messenger from the gods. Make peace with King Mahāsena and depart quickly, otherwise you will certainly be destroyed here with your army. And if you send an ambassador he will agree to your proposals of peace. I have been sent by the holy Viṣṇu to tell you this. For you are a votary of his, and he watches over the safety of his votaries.”

When King Vikramaśakti heard this, he thought:

“Certainly this is true; if he were any other, how could he enter this carefully guarded tent? This is not what a mere mortal could accomplish.”

When the king had gone through these reflections he said:

“I am fortunate in receiving such a command from the god; I will do what he bids me.”

When the king said that, Guṇaśarman disappeared by the help of his magic collyrium, thus confirming the king’s confidence in him, and went away. And he came and told King Mahāsena what he had done; he threw his arms round his neck and hailed him as the preserver of his life and throne. And the next morning Vikramaśakti sent an ambassador to Mahāsena, and after making peace with him returned home with his army. But Mahāsena conquered Somaka, and having obtained elephants and horses, returned to Ujjayinī a victor, thanks to Guṇaśarman. And while he was there Guṇaśarman saved him from a crocodile while bathing in the river, and from the poison of a snake-bite while in his garden.

Then, after some days had passed, King Mahāsena, having got together an army, went to attack his enemy Vikramaśakti. And that king, as soon as he heard of his approach, marched out to meet him in fight, and a great battle took place between the two. And in the course of it the two kings met in single combat and disabled one another’s chariots. Then, in their fury, they rushed forward sword in hand, and King Mahāsena through carelessness stumbled and fell on the earth. Then the King Vikramaśakti tried to strike him on the ground, but Guṇaśarman cut off his arm with a discus, sword and all, and striking him again in the heart with an iron mace, laid him low.

And King Mahāsena rose up, and was pleased when he saw his enemy dead, and said repeatedly to Guṇaśarman:

“What am I to say? This is the fifth time that you have saved my life, heroic Brāhman.”

Then Mahāsena conquered the army and kingdom of Vikramaśakti, who had been slain by Guṇaśarman, and after overcoming other kings by the aid of Guṇaśarman he returned to Ujjayinī and dwelt there in happiness.

But Queen Aśokavatī did not cease from importunately soliciting Guṇaśarman day and night. But he would never consent to that crime. Good men prefer death to immodest conduct. Then Aśokavatī, finding out that he was resolved, one day, out of enmity to him, affected to be unhappy, and remained with tearful countenance.[6]

Then Mahāsena, coming in, and seeing her in that condition, said:

“What is this, my beloved? Who has offended you? Tell me the name of the man whose life and property I am to take by way of punishment?”

Then the unforgiving queen said with affected reluctance to the king, who had thus addressed her:

“You have no power to punish the man who has injured me; he is not a man you can chastise, so what is the good of revealing the injury to no purpose?”

When she said this, the king pressed her, and she said deceitfully:

“My husband, if you are very anxious to know, listen; I will tell you. Guṇaśarman, who pretends to be a loyal servant,[7] made an agreement with the King of Gauḍa, and in order to get money from him undertook to do you an injury. The wicked Brāhman secretly sent his confidential messenger to Gauḍa, to make the king hand over treasure and so on.

Then a confidential servant, seeing the king despondent, said to him:

‘I will manage this affair for you; do not waste your wealth.’

When the King of Gauḍa heard this, he had that messenger of Guṇaśarman’s cast into prison[8]... and the cook who was to administer the poison came here, carefully keeping the secret. In the meanwhile Guṇaśarman’s messenger escaped from prison and came here to him. And he, knowing the whole story, revealed it all, and pointed out to Guṇaśarman[9] that cook, who had entered into our kitchen. Then that scoundrelly Brāhman detected the cook in the act of administering the poison and denounced him to you, and so had him put to death. Then the mother and the wife and the younger brother of that cook came here to find out what had become of him, and the sagacious Guṇaśarman, finding it out, put to death his wife and mother, but his brother escaped somehow or other and entered my palace. While he was imploring my protection and telling me the whole story, Guṇaśarman entered my apartment. When the brother of that cook saw Guṇaśarman and heard his name, he went out and fled from my presence, whither I know not. Guṇaśarman, for his part, when he saw him who had been previously pointed out to him by his servants, was abashed, and seemed to be thinking over something.

And I, wanting to know what it was, said to him in private:

‘Guṇaśarman, why do you seem to be altered to-day?’

And he, being anxious to win me over to his side, as he was afraid of the matter being revealed, said to me:

‘Queen, I am consumed with passion for you, so consent to my wishes, otherwise I cannot live; bestow on me life as a Brāhman’s fee.’

When he had said this, as the room was empty, he fell at my feet. Then I drew away my foot and rose up in bewilderment, and he, rising up, embraced me, a weak woman, by force. And my maid Pallavikā came in at that very moment. The instant he saw her he fled out alarmed. If Pallavikā had not come in the villain would certainly have outraged me. This is the injury he has done me to-day.”

When the queen had told this false tale, she stopped and wept. For in the beginning wicked women sprang from Lying Speech.[10] And the moment the king heard it he was all on fire with anger, for reliance upon the words of women destroys the discrimination even of the great.

And he said, to his dear wife:

“Be comforted, fair one; I will certainly punish that traitor with death. But he must be slain by artifice, otherwise we might be disgraced, for it is well known that five times he has saved my life. And we must not proclaim abroad his crime of offering violence to you.”

When the king said this to the queen, she answered:

“If that crime may not be published, may that other one of his be published, that out of friendship for the King of Gauḍa he attempted treason against his master?”

When she said this, he answered: “You are quite right.” And so King Mahāsena went to his hall of audience.

Then all the kings and princes and barons came to visit the king. And in the meanwhile Guṇaśarman left his house to go to the court, and on the way he saw many unfavourable omens. There was a crow on his left hand, a dog ran from the left to the right, a snake appeared on his right, and his left arm and shoulder throbbed. [also see notes on animals and omens]

He thought to himself:

“These evil omens indicate calamity to me without doubt, so whatever happens to me, I hope no misfortune may befall the king, my master.”

With these thoughts he entered the hall of audience and prayed loyally that nothing untoward might befall the palace. But when he bowed and took his seat, the king did not salute him as before, but looked askance at him with an eye glowing with anger.

And when Guṇaśarman was alarmed as to what it might mean, the king rose up from the seat of justice and sat at his side, and said to the astonished courtiers:

“Hear what Guṇaśarman has done to me.”[11]

Then Guṇaśarman said:

“I am a servant, you are my master, so how can our suit be equal? Ascend your seat of judgment and afterwards give what order you like.”

When the resolute man said this, the king, by the advice of the other ministers, ascended the seat of judgment and said again to his courtiers:

“You know that I made this Guṇaśarman equal to myself, preferring him to my hereditary ministers. Now hear what treason he attempted to commit against me, after making an agreement with the King of Gauḍa by sending messengers to and fro.”

After saying this, the king related to them all the fictitious account of the matter which Aśokavatī had given him. And the king also told to his confidential ministers, after dismissing the crowd, the lying tale of an attempt to outrage her, which she had told against Guṇaśarman.

Then Guṇaśarman said:

“King, who told you such a falsehood, who painted this aerial picture?”

When the king heard that, he said:

“Villain, if it is not true, how did you know that the poison was in the dish of rice?”

When Guṇaśarman said,

“Everything is known by wisdom,”

the other ministers, out of hatred to him, said:

“That is impossible.”

Then Guṇaśarman said:

“King, you have no right to speak thus without inquiring into the truth of the matter, and a king devoid of discrimination is not approved of by those who understand policy.”

When he repeated this over and over again, the king exclaimed that he was an insolent wretch, and aimed a sword-cut at him. But he avoided that blow by employing his trick of fence, and then the other followers of the king struck at him. And he eluded their swords by his artifices of fence and baffled the exertions of them all. And he fettered them, binding them with one another’s hair, showing wonderful skill in the employment of his trick of disarming. And he made his way out by force from that hall of assembly of the king, and he killed about a hundred warriors, who pursued him. Then he put on his eyes that ointment serving to render him invisible, which he had in the corner of his garment, and immediately left that country without being seen.

And he made towards the Deccan, and as he was going along he thus reflected on the way:

“Surely that foolish king was set on by that Aśokavatī. Alas! women whose love is slighted are worse than poison! Alas! kings who do not investigate the truth are not to be served by the good!”

While engaged in such reflections, Guṇaśarman came at last to a village; there he saw a worthy Brāhman under a banyan-tree teaching his pupils. He went up to him and hailed him.

The Brāhman, after welcoming him, immediately asked him:

“O Brāhman, what recension of the Vedas do you recite? Tell me.”

Then Guṇaśarman answered that Brāhman:

“Brāhman, I recite twelve recensions: two of the Sāma Veda, two of the Rig-Veda, seven of the Yajur Veda, and one of the Atharva-Veda.”

Then the Brāhman said:

“You must be a god.”

And he went on to say to Guṇaśarman, whose shape revealed his excellence:

“Tell me, what country and what family did you adorn by being born in them? What is your name, and how did you learn so much?”

When Guṇaśarman heard this, he said to him:


62dd. Ādityaśarman, the Father of Guṇaśarman

In the city of Ujjayinī there was a Brāhman’s son named Ādityaśarman, and when he was a child his father died, and his mother entered the fire with her husband.[12] Then Ādityaśarman grew up in that city in his uncle’s house, reading the Vedas and the books of knowledge, and also the treatises on accomplishments. And after he had acquired knowledge, and was engaged in a vow of muttering prayers, he struck up a friendship with a certain wandering hermit. That wandering hermit went with his friend Ādityaśarman and performed a sacrifice in a cemetery to get a Yakṣiṇī into his power. Then a heavenly maiden, beautifully adorned, appeared to him in a chariot of gold, surrounded with beautiful maidens.

She said to him in a sweet voice:

“Mendicant, I am a Yakṣī named Vidyunmālā, and these others are Yakṣiṇīs. Take a suitable wife from my following according to your pleasure. So much have you obtained by your employment of spells; you have not discovered the perfect spell for obtaining me; so, as I am obtained by that only, do not take any further trouble to no purpose.”

When the Yakṣī said this to him, the mendicant consented, and chose one Yakṣiṇī from her retinue. Then Vidyunmālā disappeared, and Ādityaśarman asked that Yakṣiṇī, whom the hermit had obtained:

“Is there any Yakṣiṇī superior to Vidyunmālā?”

When the Yakṣiṇī heard that, she answered:

“Yes, handsome man, there is. Vidyunmālā, Candralekhā and Sulocanā the third are the best among the Yakṣiṇīs, and among these Sulocanā.”

After saying that, the Yakṣiṇī departed, to return at the appointed time, and the mendicant went with Ādityaśarman to his house. There the loving Yakṣiṇī every day visited the hermit at the appointed time and granted him all that he desired.

One day Ādityaśarman asked her this question by the mouth of that mendicant:

“Who knows the proper spell for attracting Sulocanā?”

And the Yakṣiṇī sent him this message by the mouth of the mendicant:

“There is a place called Jambuvana in the south. There is a mendicant there, named Viṣṇugupta, who has made his dwelling on the banks of the Veṇī; he is the best of Buddhist mendicants, and knows the spell at full length.”

When Ādityaśarman learned this from the Yakṣiṇī, he went in all eagerness to that country, followed by the mendicant out of love. There he duly searched for the Buddhist mendicant, and after he had approached him he served him devotedly for three years, and waited upon him continually. And by the help of that Yakṣiṇī, who was at the beck and call of the first mendicant, his friend, he provided him with heavenly luxuries, ministered seasonably. Then that Buddhist mendicant, being pleased, gave to that Ādityaśarman the spell for obtaining Sulocanā, which he desired, together with the prescribed rites to accompany it.

Then Ādityaśarman, having obtained that spell, and having duly employed it, went into a solitary place and performed there the final sacrifice according to the prescribed ritual, leaving no ceremony out.

Then the Yakṣiṇī Sulocanā appeared to him in an air-chariot, with world-enchanting beauty, and said to him:

“Come! come! I have been won by you; but you must not make me your wife for six months, great hero, if you wish to have by me a son, who will be a favourite of fortune, marked with auspicious marks, all-knowing and invincible.”

When she said this, Ādityaśarman consented, and she took him off in her chariot to Alakā. And Ādityaśarman remained there, looking at her ever near him, with his suspense and doubts at an end, and performed for six months a vow as difficult as standing on the edge of a sword. Then the God of Wealth, being pleased, himself gave that Sulocanā to Ādityaśarman, according to a heavenly ritual. I was born as that Brāhman’s son by her, and I was named Guṇaśarman by my father on account of my good qualities. Then in that very place I learned in succession the Vedas, the sciences and the accomplishments, from a prince of the Yakṣas named Maṇidara.

Then, once upon a time, it happened that Indra came to the God of Wealth, and all who sat there rose up when they saw him. But, as fate would have it, Ādityaśarman, my father, was at that time thinking of something else, and did not rise up in a hurry.

Then Indra, being angry, cursed him, and said: “Out, fool!” Go to your own world of mortals, you are out of place here.

Then Sulocanā fell at his feet and propitiated him, and Indra answered:

“Then let him not go to the world of mortals himself, but let this son of his go, for one’s son is said to be a second self. Let not my word have been spoken in vain.”

When Indra had said so much he was satisfied. Then my father took me and deposited me in my uncle’s house in Ujjayinī. For what is ordained to be a man’s lot must be. There, as it happened, I struck up a friendship with the king of that place. And listen, I will tell you what happened to me there afterwards.


62d. King Mahāsena and his Virtuous Minister Guṇaśarman

After saying this, he described to him what happened from the very beginning, and what Aśokavatī did, and what the king did, ending up with his fight.

And he went on to say to him:

“Brāhman, thus I have fled away to go to a foreign land, and on my way, as I was journeying along, I have seen you.”

When the Brāhman heard that, he said to Guṇaśarman:

“And thus I have become fortunate by your visit, my lord. So now come to my house, and know that I am Agnidatta by name, and this village is my grant from the king; be at ease here.”

After saying this, Agnidatta made Guṇaśarman enter his splendid mansion, in which were many cows, buffaloes and horses. There he honoured that guest with bath and unguents, and robes and ornaments, and with various kinds of food. And he showed him his daughter, Sundarī by name, whose beauty was to be desired even by the gods, on the pretence of getting him to inspect her marks.

And Guṇaśarman, for his part, seeing that she was unsurpassed in beauty, said:

“She will have rival wives. She has a mole on her nose, and consequently I assert that she must have a second one on her breast; and men say that such is the result of spots in these two localities.”

When he said this, her brother, by command of her father, uncovered her breast and beheld there a mole.

Then Agnidatta said in astonishment to Guṇaśarman:

“You are all-knowing, but these moles of hers portend good fortune to us. For wives generally have many rivals when the husband is fortunate; a poor[13] man would find it difficult to support one, much more to support many.”

When Guṇaśarman heard this, he answered him:

“It is as you say; how could ill fortune befall a shape with such auspicious marks?”

When he had said this, Agnidatta took occasion to ask him concerning the meaning of moles and other marks; and he told him what moles and other marks portended on every single limb, both in men and women. [see notes on the significance of moles on the human body]

Then Sundarī, the moment she beheld Guṇaśarman, longed eagerly to drink him in with her eyes, as the female partridge longs to drink the moon.

Then Agnidatta said in private to Guṇaśarman:

“Illustrious one, I give you this my daughter Sundarī. Do not go to a foreign land; remain -at ease in my house.”

When Guṇaśarman heard this speech of his, he said to him:

“True, I should be happy to do so, but as I have been on a false charge scorched with the fire of the king’s contempt, it does not please me. A lovely woman, the rising of the moon, and the fifth note of a lute, these delight the happy but afflict the miserable. And a wife who falls in love of her own accord with a man is sure to be chaste, but if she is given away by her father against her will she will be like Aśokavatī.[14] Moreover, the city of Ujjayinī is near to this place, so the king may perhaps hear of my whereabouts and oppress me. So I will wander round to holy places, and will wash off the stains of sin contracted ever since my birth, and will abandon this body, then I shall be at rest.”

When he said this, Agnidatta answered him, smiling:

“If even you show so much infatuation, what are we to expect from others? What annoyance can you, a man of pure character, derive from the contempt of a fool? Mud thrown at the heaven falls upon the head of the thrower. The king will soon reap the fruit of his want of discrimination, for Fortune does not long wait upon a man blind with infatuation and wanting in discrimination. Besides, if you are disgusted with women from your experience of Aśokavatī, do you not feel respect for them on beholding a good woman, for you know signs? And even though Ujjayinī be near this place, where you are now, I will take steps to prevent anyone’s knowing that you are here. But if you desire to make a pilgrimage to sacred places, then I say: that is approved by the wise only for a man who cannot, according to the scriptures, attain happiness by performing the actions enjoined by the Vedas; but he who can acquire merit by offerings to the gods, to the manes of deceased ancestors and to the fire, by vows and muttering prayers, what is the use of his wandering about on pilgrimages? A pilgrim whose pillow is his arm, who sleeps upon the ground, and lives on alms, and drinks only water, is not free from cares, even though he has attained equality with hermits. And as for your desiring to abandon the body,[15] in this wise you are also led astray, for in the next world suicides suffer more severe pains than here. An unbecoming fault and folly is not to be committed by one so young and wise: decide for yourself: you must certainly do what I tell you. I will have made for you here a spacious and beautiful subterranean dwelling; marry Sundarī, and live at ease in it.”

When he was thus diligently schooled by Agnidatta, Guṇaśarman agreed to his proposal, and said to him:

“I accept your offer; for who would abandon a wife like Sundarī?[16] But I will not marry this your daughter till I have accomplished my ends. In the meanwhile I will propitiate some god with strict asceticism, in order that I may be revenged on that ungrateful monarch.”

When he said this, Agnidatta gladly consented, and Guṇaśarman rested there in comfort during the night. And the next day Agnidatta had a secret subterranean dwelling constructed for his comfort, called Pātālavasati.[17]

And while he was there Guṇaśarman said in secret to Agnidatta:

“Tell me, what god, granting boons to his worshippers, shall I propitiate here by performing vows, and what spell shall I use?”

When the brave man said that, Agnidatta answered him:

“I have a spell for propitiating the god Svāmikumāra, which was told me by a teacher; so with that propitiate the general of the gods, the foe of Tāraka, desiring whose birth the gods, oppressed by their enemies, sent Kāma to Śiva (and he, after burning him up, decreed that henceforth he should be born in the mind), whose origin they say was various, from Śiva, from the fire-cavity, from fire, from the thicket of reeds and from the Kṛttikās, and who, as soon as he was born, made the whole world bend by his irresistible might, and slew the unconquered Asura Tāraka.”

Then Guṇaśarman said: “Tell me that spell.” And Agnidatta gave Guṇaśarman that spell. With it Guṇaśarman propitiated Skanda in the subterranean dwelling, unremitting in his vow, waited upon by Sundarī.

Then the six-faced god appeared to him in visible form and said:

“I am pleased with you; choose a boon.[18]. . . You shall possess an inexhaustible treasury, and, after conquering Mahāsena, you shall, my son, advance irresistibly and rule the earth.”

After giving him this great boon Skanda disappeared, and Guṇaśarman obtained inexhaustible treasure. Then the successful hero married, according to the prescribed rites, with splendour suited to his greatness, the daughter of the Brāhman Agnidatta, who fell more in love with him every day, like his future good fortune in affairs come to him in bodily form.

And then having collected, by virtue of his surpassing accumulation of inexhaustible treasure, an army consisting of many horses, elephants and foot-soldiers, he marched to Ujjayinī, overrunning the earth with the forces of all the kings that crowded to his banner out of gratitude for his gifts. And after proclaiming there to the subjects that immodest conduct of Aśokavatī, and after conquering King Mahāsena in battle, and deposing him from the throne, he obtained the dominion of the earth. And King Guṇaśarman married many daughters of kings besides Sundarī, and his orders were obeyed even on the shores of the sea, and with Sundarī as his consort he long enjoyed pleasures to his heart’s content.


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

“Thus King Mahāsena, in old time, suddenly incurred calamity through being unable to discriminate the character of men, being a man of dull intellect, but the clear-headed Guṇaśarman, with the help of his own resolute character alone, obtained the highest prosperity.”

After Sūryaprabha had heard this chivalrous tale at night from the mouth of his minister Vītabhīti, the royal hero, who was longing to traverse the great sea of battle, gained great confidence, and gradually dropped off to sleep.

[Additional note: on “women whose love is scorned”]

Footnotes and references:


See note on next page.— n.m.p.


There are three different styles of music called tāra, udāra and mudāra. So the word mārga contains a pun.


Ogha means “current,” and also “quick time” in music.


This “Quintessence” or “Deduction” motif, as it might be called, is widely spread in Eastern folk-tales, and occurs in Chapter LXXXII, where I shall add a note on the subject. As we saw in my note on the “Story of Hariśarman” in Vol. Ill, pp. 75, 76, the “lucky guess” or “Dr Knowall” motif merges into the above in stories where the “guess” is changed into a “deduction.”— n.m.p.


In the Nights (Burton, vol. v, p. 308) we read of a similar magic ointment which has the power of conveying dry-shod over the water anyone who anoints his feet with it.—n.m.p.


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


Chhalāhataḥ is a mistake for chhalādṛtaḥ. See Böhtlingk and Roth (s.v. han with á). The MS. in the Sanskrit College has chhalādataḥ.


Here Brockhaus makes a hiatus. But Speyer (op. cit., pp. 119, 120) shows that there is no necessity for such a supposition, as, by the D. text, it is obvious that the cook is first mentioned in śl. 104, not 105—thus instead of “servant” we should read “cook.” Barnett would also change the adjective to “trusty.” There is also some difficulty in śl. 106.

Speyer conjectures tadrakṣacāpalyenaiva tato nirgatya bandhanāt, “afterwards, having made his escape from prison in consequence of the negligence of his gaolers.”

For fuller details see Speyer as quoted above.—n.m.p.


I read Guṇaśarmaṇaḥ or Guṇaśarmaṇe.


In this śloka the D. text reads asatyavacanam paścāj instead of asatyavacanāt pāpā, thus meaning, “for in the beginning Lying Speech was born, thereafter wicked women.”—n.m.p.


The Sanskrit College MS. reads nyāyam for prāptam, “hear my suit against Guṇaśarman.” This makes far better sense.


See Appendix I, where I have treated the subject of sati at some length. —n.m.p.


Daridryo is probably a misprint for daridro.


Speyer (op. cit., p. 165) conjectures svavaśa as the correct reading of svartua, thus bringing out the contrast of the forced marriage and the love-match.— n.m.p.


I read dehatyāgam and vāñcasi.——There are also two other improvements in the D. text. In śl. 229 read tadeṣa for na dosho, and in śl. 231 jñāto should be added between yathā and icchasi. Speyer (p. 121) would translate:“And as for your striving for happiness by abandoning the body... Therefore, this folly is unbecoming to one so young and wise as you are; decide for yourself... at ease in it unknown.”—n.m.p.


I.e. “beautiful.” There is a pun here.


Pātāla = Hades— i.e. the world below; vasati = dwelling.


Here Brockhaus supposes a hiatus.

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