Category: Children
Level 4.85 12:22 h
The Kathāsaritsāgara ("Ocean of the Streams of Stories") (Devanagari: कथासरित्सागर) is a famous 11th-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales as retold in Sanskrit by the Shaivite Somadeva.

Kathā Sarit Sāgara

The Ocean of Story


Book XII: Saśānkavatī



So far each volume has contained two or three Appendixes, but in both this and the next volume there will be only one. This is due to the subject-matter which they contain. I refer to that most interesting cycle of vampire stories known as the Vetālapañcaviṃśati. Eight of them occur in the present volume, while the remaining sixteen (really fifteen) will appear in Volume VII.

With but few exceptions all the tales are important and worthy of fairly extensive notes. This would mean overcrowding of footnotes or “end of chapter” notes. The history of the collection itself, as well as the frame-story, both require considerable attention. Thus I have decided on the course intimated above.

Once again I have been fortunate in obtaining the valuable services of an expert in the writing of the Foreword — Mr A. R. Wright, President of the Folk-Lore Society. His treatment of the subject is interesting, as it approaches the Indian tales from the standpoint of the European folklorist rather than the Oriental scholar.

Both Dr Barnett and Mr Fenton continue to render me invaluable service, both by proof-reading and expert advice.

N. M. P.

St John’s Wood, N.W.8,
September 1926.

Chapter LXVIII


May Gaṇeśa protect you, who, when he sports, throws up his trunk, round which plays a continual swarm of bees, like a triumphal pillar covered with letters, erected on account of the overthrow of obstacles!

We worship Śiva, who, though free from the hue of passion, abounds in colours, the skilful painter who is ever producing new and wonderful creations. Victorious are the arrows of the God of Love, for, when they descend, though they are made of flowers, the thunderbolt and other weapons are blunted in the hands of those who bear them.

[M] So the son of the King of Vatsa remained in Kauśāmbī, having obtained wife after wife. But though he had so many wives, he ever cherished the head queen, Madanamanchukā, more than his own life, as Kṛṣhṇa cherishes Rukmiṇī. But one night he saw in a dream that a heavenly maiden came and carried him off. And when he awoke he found himself on a slab of the tārkshya gem, on the plateau of a great hill, a place full of shady trees. And he saw that maiden near him, illuminating the wood, though it was night, like a herb used by the God of Love for bewildering the world. He thought that she had brought him there, and he perceived that modesty made her conceal her real feelings; so the cunning prince pretended to be asleep, and in order to test her he said, as if talking in his sleep: “Where are you, my dear Madanamanchukā? Come and embrace me.” When she heard it, she profited by his suggestion, and assumed the form of his wife, and embraced him without the restraint of modesty. Then he opened his eyes, and beholding her in the form of his wife, he said, “O how intelligent you are!” and smiling threw his arms round her neck. Then she dismissed all shame, and exhibiting herself in her real shape, she said: “Receive, my husband, this maiden, who chooses you for her own.” And when she said that, he married her by the gāndharva form of marriage.

But next morning he said to her, by way of an artifice to discover her lineage, about which he felt curious: “Listen, dear one, I will tell you a wonderful story.

161. Story of the Jackal That Was Turned into an Elephant

There lived in a certain wood of ascetics a hermit, named Brahmasiddhi, who possessed by meditation supernatural power, and near his hermitage there was an old female jackal dwelling in a cave. One day it was going out to find food, having been unable to find any for some time on account of bad weather, when a male elephant, furious on account of its separation from its female, rushed towards it to kill it. When the hermit saw that, being compassionate as well as endowed with magical power, he turned the female jackal into a female elephant, by way of a kindness, to please both. Then the male elephant, beholding a female, ceased to be furious, and became attached to her, and so she escaped death.

Then, as he was roaming about with the jackal transformed into a female elephant, he entered a tank full of the mud produced by the autumn rains, to crop a lotus. He sank in the mud there, and could not move, but remained motionless, like a mountain that has fallen owing to its wings having been cut off by the thunderbolt. When the female elephant, that was before a jackal, saw the male in this distress, she went off that moment and followed another male elephant. Then it happened that the elephant’s own mate, that he had lost, came that way in search of her spouse. The noble creature, seeing her husband sinking in the mud, entered the mud of the tank in order to join him. At that moment the hermit Brahmasiddhi came that way with his disciples, and was moved with pity when he saw that pair. And he bestowed by his power great strength on his disciples, and made them extricate the male and female from the mud. Then the hermit went away, and that couple of elephants, having been delivered from both separation and death, roamed where they would.

[M] “So you see, dear one, that even animals, if they are of a noble strain, do not desert a lord or friend in calamity, but rescue him from it. But as for those which are of low origin, they are of fickle nature, and their hearts are never moved by noble feelings or affection.” When the Prince of Vatsa said this, the heavenly maiden said to him: “It is so, there can be no doubt about this. But I know what your real object is in telling me this tale: so in return, my husband, hear this tale from me.

162. Story of Vāmadatta and His Wicked Wife

There was an excellent Brāhman in Kānyakubja, named Śūradatta, possessor of a hundred villages, respected by the King Bāhuśakti. And he had a devoted wife, named Vasumatī, and by her he begot a handsome son, named Vāmadatta. Vāmadatta, the darling of his father, was instructed in all the sciences, and soon married a wife, of the name of Śaśiprabhā. In course of time his father went to heaven, and his wife followed him, and the son undertook with his wife the duties of a householder. But without his knowledge his wife was addicted to following her lusts, and by some chance or other she became a witch possessed of magical powers.

One day, when the Brāhman was in the king’s camp, engaged in his service, his paternal uncle came and said to him in secret: “Nephew, our family is disgraced, for I have seen your wife in the company of your cowherd.” When Vāmadatta heard this, he left his uncle in the camp in his stead, and went, with his sword for his only companion, back to his own house. He went into the flower-garden and remained there in concealment, and in the night the cowherd came there. And immediately his wife came eagerly to meet her paramour, with all kinds of food in her hand. After he had eaten, she went off to bed with him, and then Vāmadatta rushed upon them with uplifted sword, exclaiming: “Wretches, where are you going?” When he said that, his wife rose up and said, “Away, fool!” and threw some dust in his face. Then Vāmadatta was immediately changed from a man into a buffalo, but in his new condition he still retained his memory. Then his wicked wife put him among the buffaloes, and made the herdsman beat him with sticks.

And the cruel woman immediately sold him in his helpless bestial condition to a trader, who required a buffalo. The trader put a load upon the man, who found his transformation to a buffalo a sore trial, and took him to a village near the Ganges. He reflected: “A wife of very bad character that enters unsuspected the house of a confiding man is never likely to bring him prosperity, any more than a snake which gets into the female apartments.” While full of these thoughts he was sorrowful, with tears gushing from his eyes; moreover he was reduced to skin and bone by the fatigue of carrying burdens, and in this state he was beheld by a certain white witch. She knew by her magic power the whole transaction, and sprinkling him with some charmed water, she released him from his buffalo condition. And when he had returned to human form, she took him to her own house and gave him her virgin daughter, named Kāntimatī. And she gave him some charmed mustard-seeds, and said to him: “Sprinkle your wicked former wife with these, and turn her into a mare.” Then Vāmadatta, taking with him his new wife, went with the charmed mustard-seeds to his own house. Then he killed the herdsman, and with the mustard-seeds he turned his former wife into a mare, and tied her up in the stable. And in order to revenge himself, he made it a rule to give her every day seven blows with a stick, before he took any food.

One day, while he was living there in this way with Kāntimatī, a guest came to his house. The guest had just sat down to his meal, when suddenly Vāmadatta got up and rushed quickly out of the room without eating anything, because he recollected that he had not beaten his wicked wife with a stick that day. And after he had given his wife, in the form of a mare, the appointed number of blows, he came in with his mind easy, and took his food. Then the guest, being astonished, asked him, out of curiosity, where he had gone in such a hurry, leaving his food. Thereupon Vāmadatta told him his whole story from the beginning, and his guest said to him: “What is the use of this persistent revenge? Petition that mother-in-law of yours, who first released you from your animal condition, and gain some advantage for yourself.” When the guest gave this advice to Vāmadatta, he approved it, and the next morning dismissed him with the usual attentions.

Then that witch, his mother-in-law, suddenly paid him a visit, and he supplicated her persistently to grant him a boon. The powerful witch instructed him and his wife in the method of gaining the life-prolonging charm, with the proper initiatory rites. So he went to the mountain of Śri and set about obtaining that charm; and the charm, when obtained, appeared to him in visible shape, and gave him a splendid sword. And when the successful Vāmadatta had obtained the sword, he and his wife Kāntimatī became glorious Vidyādharas. Then he built by his magic power a splendid city on a peak of the Malaya mountain, named Rajatakūṭa. There, in time, that prince among the Vidyādharas had born to him by his queen an auspicious daughter, named Lalitalochanā. And the moment she was born she was declared by a voice, that came from heaven, to be destined to be the wife of the future Emperor of the Vidyādharas.

[M] “Know, my husband, that I am that very Lalitalochanā, and that knowing the facts by my science, and being in love with you, I have brought you to this very Malaya mountain, which is my own home.” When she had in these words told him her story, Naravāhanadatta was much pleased, and entertained great respect for his new wife. And he remained there with her. And immediately the King of Vatsa and his entourage learnt the truth, by means of the supernatural knowledge of Ratnaprabhā, and the other wives of Naravāhanadatta that possessed the same powers.

Note on the Story of VĀmadatta

This story contains several fiction motifs, which are to be found in the Nights, where, however, they have been used in three quite distinct tales.

The first part of our story resembles the “Tale of the Ensorcelled Prince” a sub-story of “The Fisherman and the Jinni.” (See Burton, vol. i, pp. 69-80.) Here the wife appears at first to be very loving, and it is only due to the introduction of the overhearing motif that the husband becomes cognizant of her infidelity. The lover is a negro. The husband sees them together and badly wounds the negro. Later he tries to kill him, but his wife utters some unintelligible words and turns his lower half to stone. In this helpless condition she beats him with a hundred stripes a day. Finally he is rescued by a king who impersonates the negro. Rather similar is the “History of Sidi Nu’uman” (Burton, Supp., vol. iii, p. 325 et seq), where the husband discovers that his wife is a corpse-eater. She thereupon turns him into a dog. He is finally released by being sprinkled with water by a “white” witch. He is then taught a charm by which he turns his wife into a mare, which he whips and stirrups without mercy. A similar story is current at Palena, in Abruzzi. (See Vol. II, p. 202 n 1, of this work.)

The second part of our tale appears, with certain differences, in “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad,” which is the very next tale to “The Fisherman and the Jinni.”

Here two black bitches are led into the room and scourged by the lady of the house till her wrists fail her. She then hugs and kisses them. Later the Caliph demands an explanation, and this explanation forms “The Eldest Lady’s Tale” (Burton, vol. i, pp. 162-173). She had been disgracefully treated by her two sisters, and on her saving a serpent’s life they are changed into dogs. The serpent says, however, that if she fails to deal them three hundred stripes a day, she herself will share a like fate.

In a Kalmuck tale (No. II of Busk and Jülg, p. 183 et seq. of Coxwell) a Khan and his minister take their revenge on two women who had ill-treated them, by turning them into asses. In this shape they work for three years, till out of pity they are made to resume their former shape. As Coxwell has shown in his notes on this story (p. 238), the punishment of women by changing them into various animals is a motif found in many Russian collections. In the Votyak (Finnish tribe, N.-E. Russia) tale, “The Magic Bird,” three girls are turned into black mares and harnessed to heavy loads (Coxwell, p. 591). In the Mordvin (Finno-Turkish people between the Volga and Oka) tale “Enchanter and Enchantress” (p. 570) the wicked wife becomes a mare. In the Ossetian (S. Caucasian) tale “Tsopan” (p. 1011) the hero, after being turned successively into a duck and a dog, comes into possession of a felt whip, by the help of which he turns his wife and her new giant-husband into asses. In a Finnish tale, “The Merchant’s Son” (p. 647), the tsar’s daughter is punished by being turned into a beautiful horse, on which both sons ride. — n.m.p.

Chapter LXIX

[M] Then Naravāhanadatta, having obtained that new bride, Lalitalochanā, sported with her on that very Malaya mountain, delightful on account of the first burst of spring, in various forest purlieus adorned with flowering trees.

And in one grove his beloved, in the course of gathering flowers, disappeared out of his sight into a dense thicket; and while he was wandering on, he saw a great tank with clear water, that, on account of the flowers fallen from the trees on its banks, resembled the heaven studded with stars.

And he thought: “I will wait until my beloved, who is gathering flowers, returns to me; and in the meanwhile I will bathe in this lake and rest for a little upon its bank.” So he bathed and worshipped the gods, and then he sat down on a slab of rock in the shade of a sandalwood-tree. While sitting there he thought of his beloved Madanamanchukā, who was so far off, beholding the gait of the female swans that rivalled hers, and hearing the singing of the female cuckoos in the mango-creepers that equalled hers, and seeing the eyes of the does that recalled hers to his mind. And as soon as he recollected her, the fire of love sprang up in his breast, and tortured him so that he fainted; and at that moment a glorious hermit came there to bathe, whose name was Piśangajata. He, seeing the prince in such a state, sprinkled him with sandal-water, refreshing as the touch of his beloved. Then he recovered consciousness and bowed before the hermit. But the hermit said to him: “My son, in order that you may obtain your wish, acquire endurance, for by means of that quality everything is acquired. And in order that you may understand this, come to my hermitage and hear the story of Mṛigānkadatta, if you have not already heard it.” When the hermit had said this, he bathed and took the prince to his hermitage, and quickly performed his daily prayers. And Piśangajata entertained him there with fruits, and ate fruits himself, and then he began to tell him this tale of Mṛigānkadatta.

163. Story of Mṛigānkadatta

There is a city of the name of Ayodhyā famous in the three worlds. In it there lived in old time a king named Amaradatta. He was of resplendent brightness, and he had a wife named Surataprabhā, who was as closely knit to him as the oblation to the fire. By her there was born to him a son named Mṛigānkadatta, who was adored for his ten million virtues, as his bow was bent by the string reaching the notches.

And that young prince had ten ministers of his own: Prachaṇḍaśakti and Sthūlabāhu, and Vikramakeśarin, and Driḍhamushṭi, and Meghabala and Bhīmaparākrama, and Vimalabuddhi, and Vyāghrasena and Guṇākara, and the tenth, Vichitrakatha. They were all of good birth, young, brave and wise, and devoted to their master’s interests. And Mṛigānkadatta led a happy life with them in his father’s house, but he did not obtain a suitable wife.

And one day his minister Bhīmaparākrama said to him in secret: “Hear, Prince, what happened to me in the night. I went to sleep last night on the roof of the palace, and I saw in a dream a lion, with claws terrible as the thunderbolt, rushing upon me. I rose up, sword in hand, and then the lion began to flee, and I pursued him at my utmost speed. He crossed a river, and stuck out his long tongue at me, and I cut it off with my sword. And I made use of it to cross that river, for it was as broad as a bridge. And thereupon the lion became a deformed giant. I asked him who he was, and the giant said: ‘I am a Vetāla, and I am delighted with your courage, my brave fellow.’ Then I said to him: ‘If this is the case, then tell me who is to be the wife of my master Mṛigānkadatta.’ When I said this to the Vetāla, he answered: ‘There is in Ujjayinī a king named Karmasena. He has a daughter, who in beauty surpasses the Apsarases, being, as it were, the receptacle of the Creator’s handiwork in the form of loveliness. Her name is Saśānkavatī, and she shall be his wife, and by gaining her he shall become king of the whole earth.’ When the Vetāla had said this he disappeared, and I came home: this is what happened to me in the night, my sovereign.”

When Mṛigānkadatta heard this from Bhīmaparākrama, he summoned all his ministers, and had it told to them, and then he said: “Hear what I too saw in a dream. I thought we all entered a certain wood; and in it, being thirsty with travelling, we reached with difficulty some water; and when we wished to drink it, five armed men rose up and tried to prevent us. We killed them, and then in the torments of our thirst we again turned to drink the water, but lo! Neither the men nor the water were to be seen. Then we were in a miserable state; but on a sudden we saw the god Śiva come there, mounted on his bull, resplendent with the moon on his forehead; we bent before him in prayer, and he dropped from his right eye a teardrop on the ground. That became a sea, and I drew from it a splendid pearl necklace and fastened it round my neck. And I drank up that sea in a human skull stained with blood. And immediately I awoke, and lo! the night was at an end”

When Mṛigānkadatta had described this wonderful sight that he had seen in his dream, the other ministers rejoiced, but Vimalabuddhi said: “You are fortunate, Prince, in that Śiva has shown you this favour. As you obtained the necklace and drank up the sea, you shall without fail obtain Saśānkavatī and rule the whole earth. But the rest of the dream indicates some slight amount of misfortune.”

When Vimalabuddhi had said this, Mṛigānkadatta again said to his ministers: “Although the fulfilment of my dream will no doubt come to pass in the way which my friend Bhīmaparākrama heard predicted by the Vetāla, still I must win from that Karmasena, who confides in his army and his forts, his daughter Saśānkavatī by force of policy. And the force of policy is the best instrument in all understanding. Now listen, I will tell you a story to prove this.

163A. King Bhadrabāhu and His Clever Minister

There was a king in Magadha named Bhadrabāhu. He had a minister named Mantragupta, most sagacious of men. That king once said of his own accord to that minister: “The King of Vārāṇasī, named Dharmagopa, has a daughter named Anangalīlā, the chief beauty of the three worlds. I have often asked for her in marriage, but out of hostility that king will not give her to me. And he is a formidable foe, on account of his possessing an elephant named Bhadradanta. Still I cannot bear to live any longer without that daughter of his. So I have no measure which I can adopt in this business. Tell me, my friend, what I am to do.” When the king said this, his minister answered him; “Why, King, do you suppose that courage and not policy ensures success? Dismiss your anxiety; I will manage the matter for you by my own ingenuity.”

So, the next day, the minister set out for Vārāṇasī, disguised as a Paśupata ascetic, and he took six or seven companions with him, who were disguised as his pupils, and they told all the people, who came together from all quarters to adore him, that he possessed supernatural powers. Then, as he was roaming about one night to find out some means of accomplishing his object, he saw in the distance the wife of the keeper of the elephants leave her house, going along quickly through fear, escorted in some direction or other by three or four armed men. He at once said to himself: “Surely this lady is eloping somewhere, so I will see where she is going.” So he followed her with his attendants. And he observed from a distance the house into which she went, and then he returned to his own lodging.

And the next day, as the elephant-keeper was wandering about in search of his wife, who had gone off with his wealth, the minister contrived to send his own followers to meet him. They found that he had just swallowed poison because he could not find his wife, and they counteracted by their knowledge the effect of the poison, pretending that they did it out of pure compassion. And they said to him, “Come to our teacher, for he is a seer and knows everything”; and so they brought him to the minister. And the elephant-keeper fell at the feet of the minister, who was rendered more majestic by the insignia of his vow, and asked him for news of his wife. The minister pretended to meditate, and after a time told him the place where she was taken by the strange men at night, with all the signs by which he might recognise it. Then the elephant-keeper bowed again before him, and went with a host of guards and surrounded that place. And he killed those wicked men who had carried off his wife, and recovered her, together with her ornaments and his wealth.

And the next day he went and bowed before, and praised, that supposed seer, and invited him to an entertainment. And as the minister did not wish to enter a house, and said that he must eat at night, he made an entertainment for him at nightfall in the elephant-stables. So the minister went there and feasted with his followers, taking with him a concealed serpent, that he had by means of a charm got to enter the hollow of a bamboo. Then the elephant-keeper went away, and, while the others were asleep, the minister introduced, by means of the bamboo, the serpent into the ear of the elephant Bhadradanta, while it was asleep. And he spent the night there, and in the morning went back to Magadha, his native land. But the elephant died from the bite of the snake.

When the clever minister returned, having smitten down the elephant as if it were the pride of that King Dharmagopa, the King Bhadrabāhu was in ecstasies. Then he sent off an ambassador to Vārāṇasī to ask for the hand of Anangalīlā. The king, who was helpless from the loss of his elephant, gave her to him; for kings, who know times and seasons, bend like canes, if it is expedient to do so.

163. Story of Mṛigānkadatta

“So, by the sagacity of that minister Mantragupta, the King Bhadrabāhu obtained Anangalīlā. And in the same way I must obtain that wife by wisdom.” When Mṛigānkadatta said this, his minister Vichitrakatha said to him: “You will succeed in all by the favour of Śiva which was promised you in a dream. What will not the effective favour of the gods accomplish? Hear in proof of it the story I am now going to tell.”

163B. Pushkarāksha and Vinayavatī

There was in the city of Takshaśilā a king of the name of Bhadrāksha. He, desiring a son, was worshipping Lakshmī every day with one hundred and eight white lotuses upon a sword. One day, as the king was worshipping her without breaking silence, he happened to count the lotuses mentally, and found that there was one missing. He then gave the goddess the lotus of his heart spitted on the sword, and she was pleased and granted him a boon that would ensure his having a son that would rule the whole earth. And she healed the wound of the king and disappeared. Then there was bom a son to the king by his queen, and he possessed all the auspicious marks. And the king called him Pushkarāksha, because he obtained him by the gift of the lotus of his heart. And when the son, in course of time, grew up to manhood, Bhadrāksha anointed him king, as he possessed great virtues, and himself repaired to the forest.

Pushkarāksha, for his part, having obtained the kingdom, kept worshipping Śiva every day, and one day, at the end of his worship, he asked him to bestow on him a wife. Then he heard a voice come from heaven, saying: “My son, thou shalt obtain all thy desire.” Then he remained in a happy state, as he had now a good hope of success. And it happened that one day he went to a wood inhabited by wild beasts, to amuse himself with hunting. There he saw a camel about to eat two snakes entwined together, and in his grief he killed the camel. The camel immediately became a Vidyādhara, abandoning its camel body, and, being pleased, said to Pushkarāksha: “You have done me a benefit. So hear what I have to tell you.”

WholeReader. Empty coverWholeReader. Book is closedWholeReader. FilterWholeReader. Compilation cover