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A 16th century folio from an Indian retelling of the Kathasaritsagara

Kathasaritsagara (Devanagari कथासरित्सागर "ocean of the streams of stories") is a famous Sanskrit 11th-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales as retold by a Saivite Brahmin named Somadeva.

Nothing is known about the author other than that his father's name was Ramadevabatta. The work was compiled for the entertainment of the queen Suryamati, wife of king Anantadeva of Kashmir (r. 1063-81).

It consists of 18 books of 124 chapters and approximately 22,000 ślokas (distichs)[1] in addition to prose sections. The principal tale is the narrative of the adventures of Naravahanadatta, son of the legendary king Udayana. A large number of tales are built around this central story, making it the largest existing collection of Indian tales. It also contains early recensions of the Panchatantra in Book 10; and the Vetālapañcaviṃśati, or Baital Pachisi, in Book 12.

The Katha-sarit-sagara is generally believed to derive from Gunadhya's lost Brhat-katha ("Great or Long Story"), written in the lost Paisachi dialect. But the Kashmirian (or "Northwestern") Brhat-katha which Somadeva adapted may be quite different from the Paisachi ur-text, as at least 5 apparent descendants of Gunadhya's work exist — all quite different in form and content, the best-known (after the Katha-sarit-sagara itself) probably being the Bṛhat-kathā-śloka-saṃgraha of Budhasvamin from Nepal. Like the Panchatantra, tales from the Katha-sarit-sagara (or its related versions) travelled to many parts of the world.

Probable relationship between versions of the Brihatkatha

The only complete translation into English[2] is by C. H. Tawney (1837–1922), published in two volumes (1300 pages in all) in 1880 & 1884. This was greatly expanded, with additional notes and remarks comparing stories from different cultures, by N. M. Penzer, and published in ten volumes ("privately printed for subscribers only") in 1924-1928.

Another translation was to be published in seven volumes by the Clay Sanskrit Library, translated by Sir James Mallinson, but it published only two volumes, reaching up to canto 6.8, before the publisher ended operations.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Penzer 1924 Vol I, p xxxi. The śloka consists of 2 half-verses of 16 syllables each. Thus, syllabically, the Katha-sarit-sagara is approximately equal to 66,000 lines of iambic pentameter; by comparison, John Milton's Paradise Lost weighs in at 10,565 lines. All this pales in comparison to the (presumably legendary) 700,000 ślokas of the lost original Brhat-katha.
  2. ^ And, at least as of the 1960s, the only complete translation into any European language. (Igor D. Serebryakov: "A Few Thoughts on the Katha Sarit Sagara" pp a-b in Tawney (1880, rpt. 1993 New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal).


Sanskrit text
  • Arshia Sattar (1997), Tales from the Kathasaritsagara includes key selections from the Kathasaritsagara. Published by Penguin Classics.
  • Radhavallabh Tripathi, Katha Sarit Sagar (Hindi). National Book Trust.ISBN 9788123714318.

External links[edit]