Kathasaritsagara

Kathasaritsagara
   The Kathasaritsagara, The Ocean of the Rivers of Story, by the Kashmiri writer Somadeva (c. 11th century), is one of the most important collec-tions of tales deriving from the lost BRIHATKATHA of GUNADHYA. The work is the source for dozens of stories that have since been repeated over and over in various forms and versions within the Indian literary tradition, both in Sanskrit and in the vernacular languages.
   The work itself consists of 22,000 verses, more than the Iliad and Odyssey combined, divided into 18 books. The first section tells stories about how the collection itself was created—for example, the story of Gunadhya and the story of king Satava-hana. Among the many popular tales in the later sections are the story of Indra and King Shibi, the story of Urvashi and Pururavas (see APSARAS), the story of AHALYA (which appears in another form in the RAMAYANA), and the story of the BRAHMIN and the mongoose. Still other tales include the story of Udayana, the story of Kadambari, and the story of the 10 princes (Dasakumaracarita).
   In the collection are stories of animals such as The Mouse Merchant; The Ichneuman, the Owl, the Cat and the Mouse, the Crane and the Crocodile, the Lion and the Hare; The Parrot Who Was Taught Virtue by the King of the Parrots; and The Ass in the Panther’s Skin. Many of these stories closely resemble Aesop’s fables in their structure and moral objectives. However, a large proportion of the hundreds of stories in this work are dedicated to the lives and adventures of kings, some of whom may have been historical, such as Satava-hana and Vikramaditya.
   Further reading: Aparna Chattopadhyay, Studies in the Kathasaritsagara (Varanasi: A. Chattopadhyay, 1993); N. M. Penzer, ed., The Ocean of Story: Being C. H. Tawney’s Translation of Somadeva’s Katha Sarit Sagara (or Ocean of Streams of Story), 10 vols. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1968–84); J. S. Speyer, Studies about the Kathasaritsagara (Wiesbaden: M. Sandig, 1968); C. H. Tawney, trans., Stories of Vikramaditya (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1963–64); ———, Vetala-panchavimsati: Twenty-five stories of a Vampire from Somadeva (Bombay: Jaico, 1956).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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