Village Folk-tales of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), vol. 1-3

by Henry Parker | 1910 | 406,533 words

This folk-tale entitled “the story of kota” is gathered from oral sources sources, tracing its origin to ancient Ceylon (Sri Lanka). These tales are often found to contain similarities from stories from Buddhism and Hinduism. This is the story nr. 258 from the collection “stories of the western province and southern india”.

IN a certain country there were two brothers, it is said. Of these two the elder one got married. The younger brother had a secret friendship with his elder brother’s wife. One day, the elder brother having succeeded in ascertaining about this, and having gone summoning the younger brother into the midst of the forest, cut off his two hands and his two feet.

Then the younger brother says,

“Elder brother, you having cut off my hands and feet gave me the punishment that is to be inflicted. Please stop even now,”

he said.

Thereupon the elder brother, having placed this Kota[1] without hands and feet in a boat and launched it in the river, sent him away. Prior to launching and sending him off, because he told him to bring and give him a Bana[2] book that was at the younger brother’s house, he brought the book and having placed it on Kota’s breast sent him away.

Well then, this boat with Kota also, going drifting by the margin of the river, two old women having been [there], one said,

“That boat which comes drifting is for me.”

The other woman said,

“Should there be anything whatever inside the boat it is for me.”

Well then, when the boat drifted ashore, out of these two women one took the boat, one having taken Kota gave him to eat.

During the time when he is thus, having heard that they Were beating a notification tom-tom on the road [to proclaim] that to a person who having seized gave him the thieves who are stealing flowers in the King’s flower garden, [the King] will give goods [amounting] to a tusk elephant’s load, Kota caused this notice tom-tom to stop, having said,

“I can.”

Causing them to build a little house in the flower garden, and he himself having told men, they lifted him up and went [with him there]; and lying down inside the little house, on the loft, in a very sweet voice he began to read his Bana book.

At the time when he is saying Bana in this way, at night seven Princesses having come to pluck flowers, and having heard the sweet sound of Kota’s saying Bana, went near the house and told him to open the door. Then, because in order to arise he had not twb feet nor also two hands, when Kota said that he was unable to open the door, one person out of these Princesses having put on a ring able to display extreme power which she had, caused Kota’s hands and feet to be created [afresh]. Then Kota having opened the door said Bana for the Princesses.

The Princesses having heard the Bana, when they were going the youngest Princess on whose hand was the ring went after the whole. Then Kota having seized the hand of the Princess who went after, and drawn her into the house, shut the door.

After it became light, having gone taking the Princess, and having given charge of her to the old woman who took charge of Kota, Kota went to the royal house to say that he caught the thief who plucks the flowers. When going there, Kota went [after] putting on the Princess’s ring of power,[3] having given part of [the Princess’s] clothes to the old woman.

Kota having gone, told the King that he caught the thief. He told him to come with the thief. When Kota came home to bring the thief, he saw that having cheated the old woman, the Princess [after] asking for [and getting] her clothes had gone, and had concealed herself; and Kota’s mind having become disheartened, he went away out of that country.

While thus travelling, having seen six Princesses taking water from a pool that was in the middle of the forest, when Kota went near them he recognised that they were the Princesses who went to steal the flowers; and having seen that the Princess whom he seized was not there, for the purpose of obtaining the Princess he invented a false story in order to go to the place where they are staying. That is, this one, having asked the Princesses for a little water to drink, and having drunk, put into one’s water jar the ring of power that was on his hand, and having allowed them to go, he went behind.

When these six royal Princesses went to the palace of their father the King, Kota also went.

Then when the royal servants asked Kota,

“Why have you come to the royal house without permission ?”

he said that the Princesses had stolen his priceless ring.

He came in order to tell the King, and ask for and take the ring, he said.

“The ring will be in one of the Princesses’ water jars,”

he said. But the whole seven Princesses, ascertaining that it was the ring of the youngest Princess of them, gave information accordingly to the King. Thereupon the King having much warned Kota, told him to give information of the circumstances tinder which he had come, without concealing them. Then Kota in order to obtain the youngest Princess told him how he came.

Having said,

“If you are a clever person able to perform and give the works I tell you, I will give [you] the Princess in marriage,”

the King ordered Kota to plough and give in a little time a yam enclosure of hundreds of acres.

This Kota, while going quickly from the old woman after having left the country, obtaining for money a pingo (carrying-stick) load of young pigs that [a man] was taking to kill, for the sake of religious merit sent them off to go into the jungle. When any necessity [for them] reached Kota, when he remembered the young pigs they promised to come and be of assistance to him.

Again, when going, having seen that [men] are carrying a flock of doves to sell, and a collection of fire-flies, taking them for money, for the sake of religious merit [he released them, and] they went away. These doves and fire-flie? promised to be of assistance to Kota.

Because he had done these things in this manner, when [the King] told Kota to dig and give the yams he remembered about the young pigs. Then the young pigs having come, dug and gave all the yam enclosure. Well then, Kota having [thus] dug and given the yams, pleased the King.

Again, the King having sown a number of bushels of mustard [seed] in a chena, told him to collect the whole of it and give it to the King.

Thereupon, when Kota remembered about the doves, all of them having come and collected the whole of the mustard seeds with their bills, gave him them. Having gone to the King and given that also, he pleased the King.

At the last, the King having put all his seven daughters in a dark room, told him to take the youngest Princess by the hand among them, and come out into the light.

Thereupon, when Kota remembered the fire-flies, the whole of them having come, when they began to light up the chamber, Kota, recognising the youngest Princess and taking her by the hand, came into the light.

After that, the King gave the Princess in marriage to Kota. They two lived happily.

Western Province.



Regarding the ring in the jar of water, and the tasks to be performed before the Princess could be married, see vol. i, p. 294.

In the Katha Sarit Sagara (Tavfaey), vol. i, p. 142, a Brahmana who wished to let his wife, a Vidyadhari who had taken refuge on Udaya, the Dawn Mountain, know of his arrival, dropped a jewelled ring into a water pitcher when one of the attendants who had come for water in which to bathe her, asked him to lift it up to her shoulder. When the water was poured over his wife she saw and recognised the ring, and sent for him.

In A. von Schiefner’s Tibetan Tales (Ralston), p. 71, Prince Sudhana, who had made his way to the city of the Kinnara King in search of his wife, the Kinnari Manohara, met with some Kinnara females drawing water for pouring over Manohara, to purify her after her residence with him. He placed her finger-ring in one pot, and requested that it might be the first to be emptied over her. When the ring fell down she recognised it and sent for him, introduced him to her father the King, and after he performed ithree tasks was formally married to him. The third task was the identification of Manohara among a thousand Kinnaris. In this she assisted him by stepping his request.

The incident of the ring sent in the water that was taken for a Princess’s bath, also occurs in Cinq Cents Contes et Apologues (Cha-vannes), vol. i, p. 302. She recognised it, and sent for her husband who had thus notified his arrival in search of her.


The Flower-Garden Story (Variant)

In a certain country there are a King and a Queen, it is said. While the two persons were acquiring merit for themselves a son was born. The child having become big, while he was increasing in size [the Queen] again bore one.

They sent the second Prince to a pansala (residence of a Buddhist monk) to learn letters. When he was at the pansala the two eyes of his father the King having been injured (antara-wela) became blind. The Queen’s two eyes also became blind. Owing to it the big Prince told the younger brother to come.

After he came he said,

“Younger brother (Male), the trouble that has struck us ! Do you night and day say Bana.”[4]

So the younger brother night and day says Bana.

He called to the elder brother,

“Elder brother, come here.”

The elder brother asked,


“For us three persons you are unable to provide hospitality; you bring a wife (hirayak),”

the younger brother said.

The elder brother said,

“For my ear even to hear that don’t mention it to me.”

After that, the younger brother again called the elder brother near.

“For us three persons you are unable to provide hospitality; you bring a [bride in] marriage.”

The elder brother on this occasion (gamane) said “Ha.” When he said it, having gone to another city he asked a [bride in] marriage[5]; having asked he came back. Having gone again he returned, summoning her. After that, for the four persons the Prince is providing hospitality.

One day (dawasakda) he having gone to chop the earthen ridges in the rice field, the Prince’s Princess was pounding paddy in order to [convert it into rice and] cook. To winnow it she leaned the pestle against the wall; it having fallen upon a waterpot the waterpot broke.

When, having seen it, the Princess was weeping and weeping, the Prince (her husband) came from the rice field.

“What are you crying for ?” he asked.

“Here ! (Men), I am crying at the manner you, husband,[6] behaved,”

the Princess said.

Afterwards the Princess said,

“Go and conduct me to my village.”

When the Prince said,

“What shall I go and escort you for ? Cook thou,”

he called to the younger brother,

“Younger brother, come heire.”[7]

The younger brother having come, asked,

“What ?”

“While she is cooking for us let us go to cut a stick,”

the elder brother said.

Afterwards the two persons having gone to the chena jungle cut the stick. After having cut it[8] the elder brother said,

“You lie down[9] [for me] to cut the stick to your length.”

When he was lying down the elder brother cut off his two feet and two hands.

He having cut them, when he was coming away the younger brother said,

“If you are going, pick up my book and place it upon my breast.”

After having placed it, the elder brother went away[10]; the younger brother remained saying and saying Bana.

After the elder brother went, seven widow women having gone to break firewood and having heard that he was saying Bana, the seven persons came to the place and saw the Prince.

“A Yaka or a human being (manuswayekda) ?”

they asked.

The Prince asked,

“Does a Yaka or a human being ask ? The Bana a human being indeed is saying,”

he said.

“And human beings indeed ask,”

the widow women said. Well, having said thus they came to hear the Bana.

While hearing it, a woman having said,

“Ade ! We having been here, the gill of rice will be spoilt[11]; let us go to break firewood,”

six persons went away.

The other woman saying,

“I [am] to go home carrying (lit., lifting) Kota,”

and having stayed, lifting him and having gone and placed him [there], and cooked rice, and given him to eat, while he was [there] he heard the notification by beat of tom-toms:—

“At the King’s garden thieves are plucking the flowers.”

On seeing that widow, Kota said,

“I can catch the thieves; you go to the King and tell him.”

Then the woman having gone to the place where the King is, the King asked,

“What have you come for?”

Well then, the woman said,

“There is a Kota (Short One) with (lit., near) me; that one can catch the thieves, he says.”

The King [asked],

“What does he require[12] for it ?”

Afterwards she said,

“You must build a house.”

Then the King having built a house in the flower garden, having taken Kota the woman placed him in the house. In the evening having placed [him there], and lit the lamp, and placed the book, she came to her house.

Well then, when Kota is saying Bana, five Naga Maidens[13] having come to pluck the flowers hear the Bana. Until the very time when light falls they heard the Bana.

When the light was falling the five Naga Maidens said,

“We [are] to go; we must give him powers (waram).”

That Kota said,

“Who said she will give power to me ?”

Then out of the five persons one said,

“I will give powers for one hand to be created”;

well then, for one hand to be created the Naga Maiden gave powers. [For] the other hand to be created another Naga Maiden gave powers. Also [for] the two feet to be created other two gave powers. The other Naga Maiden’s robes (salu) Kota hid himself. Those four persons were conducted away[14]; one person stayed in that house (that is, the one whose clothes he had concealed).

After that, the King came to look at the flower garden. Having come, when he looked[15] the flowers [were] not plucked. Having become pleased at that he gave Kota charge of the garden, to look after it, and he gave a thousand masuran, also goods [amounting] to a tusk elephant’s load, a district from the kingdom.

That Kota handed over the district to the widow woman; those goods[16] [amounting] to a tusk elephant’s load he gave to the woman. Having split his thigh he put those masuran inside it.

Tom-tom Beater, North-western Province.



 In the Story of Madana Kama Raja (Natesha Sastri), p. 87, a Prince, by the advice of an old woman for whom he worked, carried ofE the robe of Indra’s daughter when she came to bathe in a pool. He handed it to the old woman, who in order to conceal it tore open his thigh, placed the robe in the cavity, and stitched up the wound.

Footnotes and references:


Lit., “short person.”


Buddhist Scriptures, and other religious works.


Bala-aeti mudda, power-possessing ring.


That is, recite the Buddhist Scriptures, apparently with a view to their parents’ recovering their sight as a reward for his religious zeal.


Magulak aehaewwa.


Hura. To screen herself she blamed him for leaving her alone with the younger brother, thus suggesting that he had behaved improperly to her.


Male, mehe waren ko ; ko is intensitive, making the order more imperative, like our “I say.”


Kapala hitan.




Yanda giya.


Waeradeyi, will go wrong.


Onaenne =onae wenne.




Aeradi-wuna ahakata ; I am not sure of the exact meaning.




In these stories I have translated wastu as “goods,” this being in the plural number, and wastuwa as “wealth.”