COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Saga of Ardschi-Bordschi and Vikramâditja’s Throne, The (With Historical Notice of Vikramâditja)


THE name of Vikramâditja is a household word in the epic mythology of India; and freely it seems to have been adopted by or conferred upon those who emulated the heroic acts of some first great bearer. But as the legendary chroniclers are more occupied with extolling the merits of their favourites, than with establishing their place in the page of history, it becomes a well-nigh impossible task for the modern investigator to trace out and fix the times and seasons of all those who, either in fact or in fiction, have borne the name, or even to distinguish with certainty how many there have been, still less, what are the peculiar deeds and attributes of each.

               A writer (1), who has examined painstakingly into the matter, tells us that the popular mind is only conscious of one Vikramâditja, so that without troubling itself to consider the insufficiency of one life to embrace all the aggregate of wonderful works it has to tell of him, it supposes him rather to have had a prolonged or recurring existence as marvellous in itself as the events of which it is composed. On the other hand, he found that native writers made out the number variously from four to nine, though he could not find that they determined with precision the existence of more than two. An additional difficulty arises from this, that the very distinctive super-appellations derived from their deeds by heroes bearing the name seem to have passed over to others along with the name itself; as, for instance, Gardabharâpa = "donkey-form," given to one of them on account of his being temporarily transformed into a donkey by his father; the name of Sakjaditja is similarly given indiscriminately to others who lived at different periods, though the origin of the word can only be found in an exploit of one of them, who with the aid of Shêsa, the serpent-god, destroyed an oppressor named Sâkja (2). While the name Vikramaâditja itself seems rather a descriptive appellation than a name, being composed of the two Sanskrit words, vikrama and âditja--the sun, or bright exposition of heroic virtue.

               You may form some idea of the uncertainty thus created if you imagine the Roman historians to have been silent, and suppose, that nothing remained to us of the lives of the Emperors, for instance, but certain panegyrics of bards and traditions of the people, eked out by a little scanty assistance from inscriptions and coins, and unsystematic and untrustworthy chronicles. You may then conceive, how with no fixed dates marked out for determining the period of the reign of each, and no literary criterion to distinguish incongruities, a fertile imagination, aiming rather at exciting admiration than conveying information, could run riot with the mass of the acts and adventures, the victories and achievements of the whole number, because the names or titles of "Augustus" and "Cæsar" could be applied to many or all.

               There is also the further difficulty that the heroic myths of India have travelled on from tribe to tribe, and from province to province (3), the character of the hero and his exploits incurring many transformations and fresh identifications under the process (4).

               Not to go into the elaborate discussion which the intricate study of the Indian dynasties has called forth, it may suffice in this place to observe that, in the absence of more regular records, the greatest aid we have in arriving at some fixed knowledge of the events of a remote age in India is derived from inscriptions and coins (5). And, as a specimen of the thought and care that has been brought to bear on the matter, to specify the interesting circumstance connected with this particular instance, that the nearest approach to a satisfactory determination of the date of the chief bearer of the name of Vikramâditja that is likely to be attained has been arrived at from the observation of the influence of Greek art on the execution of certain of the coins (6) which have been preserved and collected, connecting them with the period succeeding Alexander's invasion. A careful collation of these specimens with the most authentic list of the kings has given tolerable authority for asserting that the date of 57 B.C. may be assumed for the date of the first historic (7) Vikramâditja, whose chief honour lies in having overcome and superseded the descendants of the foreign race of rulers who had been in possession of his native country before his time. In pursuing the history of his dynasty, however, the help so far afforded by the coins ceases, and the only written records of him are the collections of popular fables of his deeds. Only one of these collections, and of that the date is unknown, has any pretension to rank as history; and even this is full of wonders and manifest exaggerations. Its author, Ravipati Gurumûrti by name, informs the reader, however, that he had brought together and compared many Sanskrit manuscripts, and sifted much oral tradition in its compilation.

               According to this account, Vikramâditja was the son of a Brahman named Kandrasarman, the fourth son of Vishnusarman, inhabiting a city called Vedanârâjanapura, a name not found in any other writer. Dissatisfied with the ordinary occupations on which he was kept employed by his parents, he ran away from home and after many adventures came to Uggajini, where he married the daughter of Dhvagakîrti, the reigning sovereign of Malâva (8). His son Vikramâditja was the more celebrated hero, and according to another MS. (quoted in W. Taylor's Examination of the Mackenzie MSS.) the former of these two was not called Vikramâditja at all, but Govinda.

               Feeling an interior conviction of his great destiny, Vikramâditja (the son) determined on obtaining supernatural aid in fulfilling it; and, with this view, he devoted himself to prayer and retirement, until he had obtained an apparition of the goddess Kali, the chosen wife of Shiva, who gave him the solemn promise that he should be invulnerable to all enemies with the exception of one who should be supernaturally born; and that he should rejoice in a happy reign of a thousand years (9). By the shrewd advice of his half-brother Bhatti, whom he made his minister, he contrived to obtain out of this promise double the length of years actually named, for he arranged to reign for only six months at a time, spending six months in contemplation in the jungle, so that it took two thousand years to make up a thousand years' reign (10). In another account, he is made to reign 949 years; and, on the other hand, in another (11) only a hundred and six years.

               It might have been expected that a people who raised themselves at so remote a period to a comparatively high degree of civilization, and in other departments of mental exertion distinguished themselves in so marked a manner, should of all things have possessed a copious historical literature, but there are other things to take into account which explain why the contrary is the case (12). A German writer (13) has put the case very summarily. "Their religion," he says, "has destroyed all history for the Hindus. They are taught to look on life as a mere passing condition of probation and sorrow, and its incidents, consequently, as unworthy to be recorded." But this is a hardly fair statement, and only true to a certain extent. Benfey (14) perhaps reaches nearer the mark when he says,--"The life of man was for them but a small portion of the immense divine life pervading the whole universe. It lay, so to speak, rolled up in a fold of the mantle of the godhead. Viewed thus, history became a theme so vast that the infinitesimal human element of it was lost to view. Theosophies, idealisms, allegories, myths, filled up the place of the record of the doings of mortals." Troyer (15) takes nearly the same view, but further calls attention to the influence exercised by the religious teaching concerning re-births and transmigration of souls in working against history becoming a science. Historical characters lost their positive identity, and the effect a man's acts under a previous existence were taught to exercise on his fate diminished the responsibility and merit of, and consequently the interest in, his actions.

               To arrive at a more exact view, however, it is necessary to distinguish between the parts which Brahman and Buddhist teaching have respectively to bear in the matter. The Brahmanical castes became subdivided into groups composed of many families, with no common founder, the preservation of whose name and deeds would have afforded an instigation to building up the materials of a national history. Only at a comparatively late period some traditions were kept up of the heads of these groups, but this in such a way as to serve rather to throw back attention on to the past and restrain it from the contemplation and record of contemporary events, Caste took the place of country, and the interest of the individual was drawn away from national to local interest.

               Next, the history of the gods possessed a much higher importance in their eyes than that of the kings of the earth, while at the same time the humanistic conception of their character rendered the myths concerning them of a nature to clash with and supersede the records of earthly notabilities. Their wars and their loves and their undertakings were indeed often superhuman in scale, but they were yet for the most part no more exalted in nature, than the occupations of men. But from this habit of making their divinities actors in gigantic human incidents, their mind grew used to regard the marvellous and unreal as possible and true, and was at no pains to fix any data with exactness.

               Then their contemplative mode of life kept them out of actual contact with what was going on in the world around them. Most Brahmans lived engrossed by the service of the temple, or else occupied with their families or their disciples. Very few are the examples of their acting as ministers or judges, or taking any part in public life.

               Further, many elements of history may be said to have scarcely existed at all. All changes of manners and customs, all growth of arts and sciences, were impeded by the appointment of fixed laws, and remained pretty much the same for long periods.

               Again, the subdivision of the country into multitudinous governments, and the comparatively short duration of any large union of them under one dynasty--as, for instance, the Maurja or the Gupta--further weakened any tendency to the formation of a national spirit. The best preserved attempts at history are those of Lankâ (Ceylon), Orissa, Cashmere, the Dekhan, and other kingdoms or provinces which have all along preserved their identity. Where one country fell under the empire of another its history naturally lapsed in that of the conquering state, or became altogether lost; and as such annexations were mostly effected by violence, it is only to be expected that the conqueror should discourage any thing that would keep up the memory of the rulers he had superseded. The Chronicle of Cashmere, called the Râga Taraginî, or "Stream of Kings," is perhaps the best written. It was compiled by Kalhana Pandita, who lived, however, as late as 1150 of our era, and is carried down to the year 1125. He appears to have laboured to make it as complete and reliable as the vague and scattered materials at his disposal admitted; yet so little was even he capable of appreciating the value of accuracy, that he ascribes to a reign (removed from his own date by no more remote period than 600 years) a length of 300 years. And this is but a small fable by comparison with others of his statements. This Chronicle possesses the peculiarity of being almost the only work of an historical nature compiled under Brahman influence.

               The only work which has any pretension to universality in its scope is the Karnâtaka Râgakula. But though it begins with an account of the creation of the world and the incarnations of Vishnu, and narrates the deeds of typical heroes like Pandarva and Vikramâditja, it yet only contains the history of the Dekhan, and is, after all, a modern work edited at the bidding of English rulers. The only earlier work of the same character is one professing to give the general history of India from Ashokja to Pratîtasena, written in the fourteenth century. This, however, is believed not to have been compiled by a native Indian, and is, at any rate, not the work of a Brahman, though possibly of a Buddhist.

               In the matter of historical compilation we have in general more to thank Buddhism than Brahmanism for. The simple Sûtra, or colloquies of Shâkjamuni with his disciples, written in masajja, a poetical prose pleasingly broken into a sort of cadence, themselves form a kind of history of the country contained in this sort of memoir of its great religionist. The simple Sûtra are of two classes. The first class consists of an account of Buddha's own wanderings and personal dealings both with his disciples and others, and were probably compiled (16) by the first great Sangha, or Synod, within 100 years after his death (17), though bearing marks in many places of having been reconstructed at a later period. The other class takes notice of events and persons belonging to a subsequent period. Besides these there are the Mâhajâna-Sûtra, a more detailed and developed continuation of the same species of chronicle, but bearing marks of having been compiled at a much more advanced date still, for they introduce ideas which do not belong to the early teaching of Buddhism, but to a very late development.

               These writings possess great historical importance, but yet are by no means free from the faults of inaccuracy of date and arrangement; of idealizations of the persons treated of; the introduction of fabulous incidents, transmigrations, and such like. The very desire of the Buddhists to make their records more complete and useful than the Brahmans', often led to additional complications, because it induced all manner of interpolations--as for instance, whole series of kingly personages, the account of whose lives is not even to be set down to the exaggerations of ill-preserved tradition, but to pure fabrication of the imagination.

               More reliance on the whole is to be placed on the great epic poems, and, chiefly, the Purâna and Mahâ Bhârata.

               The works which we now find extant, with the title of Purâna (ancient)--eighteen in number,--are, however, at best but the reproduction of six older compilations, either collected from the recitations of Sûtas (bards), or themselves reproductions of still older compilations, which have probably perished for ever. They contain pretty well all that is known concerning the origin, mode of life, heroic deeds, and ways of theological thought, of those Indian nations who acknowledged either Vishnu or Shiva for their highest god; and traces are to be distinguished by which the statement of earlier and purer belief has been distorted or biassed according to the tenets of the later compiler.

               The Mahâ Bhârata concerns itself more exclusively with the deeds of the gods and heroes, and is itself often referred to in the Purânas. Both of them bear witness that it was the frequent custom, on occasions of great gatherings of the people for public sacrifices and popular festivals, and also in the places of retirement of religious teachers round whom disciples gathered, that the stories of gods and heroes should be sung or told, and eagerly listened to. Such stories were collected into the Mahâ Bhârata by Vjâsa = "the Arranger" (who also occupied himself with the recompilation of the Vêda), son of Satjavati = "the truthful one," daughter to Vasu, king of Magadha. Vasu had conferred great benefits on his subjects, and was held in proportionate honour. His great work was the construction of a canal, of which mythology has thus preserved the memory. The mountain-god, Kôlâhola, fell in love with the stream-goddess, Shirktimatî. As she sported past the tower of Kêdi, he barred her further progress by here damming her course with a mountain. Vasu saw her distress, and came to rescue her by striking the mountain with his foot, and thus delivering her from her imprisonment. The goddess in gratitude devoted her twin children to his service. He made her son the leader of his armies, and married her daughter Girikâ, by whom he also had twins--a son, whom he made king of Matsja; and a daughter, Satjavati, who, as we have seen, married the father of Yjâsa. This was the Rishi Parâsara who obtained for her the name of Gandha, and the corresponding character of "sweet-scented," as heretofore, from the occupation to which she had been devoted by her father of ferrying people across the Jamuna, she had acquired a smell of fish. She is also called, Gandhahali = "the sweet-scented dark one," which latter appellation is explained by the story that she made Parâsara observe that the other Rishis were in the habit of watching her from the other side of the river, on which he constructed a mist to conceal her, or make her "dark" to them. Why "the Arranger" of legends should have "the truthful one" ascribed to him for his mother, is easy enough to see. Parâsra was reckoned his father because he was the inventor of chronology, which ought to precede any attempt to make chronicles out of traditions. The legend further says that Parasâra made acquaintance with Satjavati while on a pilgrimage, which may be taken as an embodiment of the fact that it was such gatherings which afforded opportunity for collecting Sagas.

               Of somewhat similar nature is the Râmâjana--a collection of Sagas concerning Rama, sometimes called the brother, and sometimes an incarnation of Vishnu, but also containing stories of other gods, as well as a variety of quasi-religious episodes. While displaying the usual exaggerations common to the Sagas of all nations, these Indian Sagas have one leading peculiarity in the frequent Avatâra, or incorporation of Vishnu or Rama in the persons of their heroes (18).

               Lassen (19) reckons both the Mahâ Bhârata and the Râmâjana to have been compiled about 300--50 B.C.; but it is impossible to fix the dates of any of them with absolute certainty. One theory for arriving at it is, that they possess strong inherent evidence of being Brahmanical productions; and as they contain no allusion to so great an event as the establishment of Buddhism, while they yet make allusions to certain predictions of the wane of Brahmanism (seemingly suggested by details of the mode of the sudden spread of the teaching of Shâkjamuni), it may be inferred that the latest date for their compilation (which in any case must have extended over a prolonged period) would be coeval with the period of the greatest development in Central India of the latter school.

               It is evident, however, that none of these poems are of a nature to supply any sound basis for the historiographer. The very lists of the kings that they supply, carry with them inherent evidence of untrustworthiness in the readiness with which recourse is had to the introduction of supernatural means for supplying missing links in the fabulous periods of their chronology.

               In the tenth century and later, several Muhammedan writers undertook the history of India; but they are very untrustworthy. For this place, it may suffice to mention that, by the most important of them, Vikramâditja is made out to be a grandson of Porus, and his name transformed into that of Barkamaris (20).

               I will now give you a specimen of what are considered the purely legendary accounts of Vikramâditja's origin, and you will see that they are barely more extravagant than the historical one I have introduced above (21).

               In a jungle (22) situated between the rivers Subhramatî and Mahi, in Gurgâramandala, lived the Rishi Tâmralipta, who gave his daughter Tamrasena for a wife to King Sadasvasena. They lived happily, and had a family of six sons, but only one daughter, Madanrekhâ. One day, when a servant of theirs named Devasarman was working in the forest, he heard the voice of some invisible being speaking to him, and bidding him go and demand for it the hand of Madanrekhâ in marriage. When he hesitated, not daring to ask so great a matter of his master, the voice threatened him with fearful penalties if he failed to obey its behest. As the voice continued day after day to admonish him, he at last begged his master to come and listen to it for himself; who, recognizing it for that of King Gandharva, whom Indra had transformed into an ass, he felt constrained to comply, and he accordingly bestowed his daughter on him. Though proud of the alliance of so great a king as Gandharva, Tâmrasena was nevertheless distressed that her daughter's husband should wear so ungainly an appearance. What was her joy when she one day discovered that, whenever he went to visit her, he left his donkey's form outside the door, and appeared like other men. She was not slow to take advantage of the circumstance by burning the donkey's form: the spell was thus destroyed, and Gandharva delivered from the operation of the curse. After a time they had a son, whom Gandharva desired his wife to call Vikramâditja, telling her at the same time that her handmaid would also have a son, who was to be called Bhartrihari, and who should devote himself to his service. Having uttered these counsels, he went up to the deva's paradise. Meantime, Madanrekhâ, having heard that her father designed to kill the infant, delivered it to the care of a gardener's wife, with the charge to conceal it, and then put an end to her own life. The gardener's wife fled with the young prince to Uggajini, where he passed his youth. The incidents of the burning of a form temporarily laid aside, of danger threatening the life of the infant, of a flight from his birthplace, and of a half-brother, in some way inferior to himself, yet devoted to him, pervade, not only both these accounts, but also the more detailed legend which is to follow in the text.

               While all this uncertainty surrounds the circumstances of Vikramâditja's birth, his mode of attaining the throne, and the extent and even the locality of his dominions, are narrated with equal diversity; while, though an important era still in use is dated from him, extending from 57 B.C. to 319 A.C. when commences the Ballabhi-Gupta dynasty, the particular event by which he deserved so distinguished a commemoration has been by no means determined with certainty (23).

               In a version of his story called Vikramakaritra, it is said simply, that King Prasena of Uggajinî dying without heirs, Vikramâditja was chosen king (24). According to another, the last king of the Greco-Indian dynasty abdicated in his favour out of disgust with life after the death of his wife. According to the legends a Vetâla (25) obtained possession of the throne and every night strangled the king, who had been raised to it in the course of the day by the ministers, until Vikramâditja undertook to maintain himself in power, and succeeded in propitiating the Vetâla. It is easy to read under cover of this imagery the original fact of a hero delivering his people from an oppressor.

               What people or country it was that Vikramâditja delivered is difficult to decide, as he is named in the sagas of many nations as belonging to each (26). We have already seen him seated king in the capital of Malwa. The more legendary accounts ascribe to him the widest range of dominion. In the Ganamegaja-Râgavansâvali (27) we find him in possession of Bengal, Hindostan, the Dekhan, and Western India; and in the Bhogaprabandha (28) he is reckoned conqueror of the whole of India; while in the Bhavishja-Purâna (29) it is told that he had 800 kings tributaries under him, though whether the list could be authentically made out is more than questionable. What can be proved with some certainty is, that he reigned over Malwa, Cashmere, and Orissa, from which it may perhaps be inferred that he was also master of the intervening country--namely, the Punjaub and the eastern portion of Rajputana (30).

               Besides his glories as a warrior and deliverer of his country, the honour is also ascribed to him of being the patron of science and art. There is reason to think he promoted the study of architecture, though no monuments actually remain which can with certainty be ascribed to his reign. He attracted to his court the most distinguished poets and learned men of his epoch, and an obscure poem concerning nine jewels said to have adorned his throne is generally understood to represent the votaries of a certain cycle of the arts and sciences whom he had under his protection. It is true some of those he is said to have protected are found to have actually lived at a subsequent period; but this is only one of the chronological inaccuracies to which I have already adverted as so common--the fact remains that he did actually promote the pursuit of letters, not only on the testimony of these exaggerated accounts, but also in the improvement which may be observed from his time forward in the condition of public muniments. One of the most fantastic stories about him, in which (31) Indra defers to him to decide between the respective claims to perfection in dancing of two apsarasas, or nymphs, shows at least that he was considered an authority in matters of taste. The oldest Sanskrit dictionary extant is reckoned the work of Amarasinha, or Amaradeva, his minister, and one of the six of the above-named nine jewels who are believed to have had an historical existence (32); in this dictionary the Ram and the Bull of the Zodiac are mentioned in such a way that it may be inferred he was familiar with the present nomenclature of the twelve signs, giving support to the theory that the Greeks received that terminology from the Chaldees, and did not originate it, as was long supposed (33). An inscription found at Buddha-Gaja, and copied by Wilmot in the year 1783, is preserved in As. Res. i. 284, though the original stone has since been lost, in which a curious legend is told of him, showing that as early as A.D. 948 (fixed by experts for the date of the inscription) an undisputed tradition taught that the oldest Sanskrit dictionary was written by one of the nine jewels of Vikramâditja's throne. This legend says, "This Amaradeva, one of the nine jewels of Vikramâditja's throne, and his first minister, was a man of great talent and learning. Once, when on a journey, this famous man found in the uninhabited forest the place where Vishnu was incarnate in the person of Buddha. Here, therefore, he determined to remain in prayer till Buddha should show himself to him. At the end of twelve years of austerities he heard a voice calling to him and asking what he desired. On his reply that he desired the god should appear to him, he was told that in the then degenerate condition of the world such a favour was impossible; but that he might set up an image of him, which would answer the same purpose as an apparition. In consequence of this communication he erected a stately temple, which he furnished with images of Vishnu and his avatars, or incarnations, Pândava, Brahma, Buddha, and the rest.

               One of the earliest dramatists of India, Kâlidâsa, many of whose plays possess great literary merit,--though some ascribed to him are manifestly by inferior hands,--may have been, it is thought, one of those who wrote under Vikramâditja's protection. In a play called Maghadûta, he describes his capital of Uggajini with an enthusiasm which suggests it was his own favourite place of residence. His plays contain valuable pictures of the manners of the times. And from these, among other details, it appears it was not only considered an indispensable qualification of a well-bred man, that he should be conversant with the great heroic poems, but that they were commonly in the mouth of the people also. Other details imply the attainment of a degree of civilization and refinement, which it would probably surprise most of us to find existing at this date. His two most meritorious pieces are entitled Abhignana-Shukuntalâ ("The finding of Shukuntalâ"), and Vikramorvashi-Urvashi ("Urvashi won by Heroism.") We have also three hundred short poems by Vikramâditja's brother or by some courtier poet who gave him the honour of the composition; these poems display unusual powers of description and delicacy of sentiment. The first shataka, or hundred poems, is entitled shringâra, containing love-songs; the second, niti, on the government of the world; and the third, vairâgja, the suppression of human passions. It is probable that the writer of a justly celebrated drama named Mrikkhakatika, whose name has been merged in that of King Shûdraka, King of Bidisha (now Bhilsa), his patron to whose pen he modestly ascribed his work, lived also not long after this time.

               The length of Vikramâditja's reign is as difficult to fix as any other circumstance of his history, and it is not clear whether the æra which dates from him was originally reckoned from the commencement or the end of his reign; we have already seen the duration which fable ascribes to it; to this may be added the further fabled promise which, it is told, the great gods Vishnu and Shiva made concerning him, that he should come back to earth in the latter times to deliver his people from the oppression of the Mussulman invaders, just as the Mongols expect Ghengis Khan and Timour (34), and just as in Europe similar promises of a future return as a deliverer linger round the memories of King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Frederick Barbarossa.

               The legend of the Wisdom of Vikramâditja being so mysteriously connected with his throne, that whosoever sat on it was endowed with some measure of his excellences; and that the figures with which it was adorned guarded it from the approach of the unworthy, is brought forward in the story of more than one Indian sovereign. Travelling in the wake of Buddhist literature, the myth came to the far East, where Mongolian bards have worked out of it a saga connected with one of their own rulers (35), with such variations in the treatment as might be expected at their hands.


(1) Professor Wilson.

(2) Reinaud, Fragments relatifs à l'Inde.

(3) See a most extraordinary instance of this noticed in note 11 of the Tale in this volume entitled "Vikramâditja makes the Silent Speak."

(4) Thus Reinaud (Mémoire Géographique sur l'Inde, p. 80) speaks of a king of this name who governed Cashmere A.D. 517, as if he were the original Vikramâditja.

(5) The honour of being the first to work this mine of information belongs to H. Todd; see his "Account of Indian Medals," in Trans. of As. Soc.

(6) The art of coining at all was, in all probability, introduced by the Greeks.--Wilson, Ariana Antiqua, p. 403; also Prinsep, in Journ. of As. Soc. i. 394.

(7) In the list of kings given by Lassen, iv. 969, 970, there are eight kings called Vikramâditja, either as a name or a surname, between A.D. 500 and 1000.

(8) The kingdom of Malâva answers to the present province of Malwa, comprising the table-land enclosed between the Vindhja and Haravatî ranges. The amenity of its climate made it the favourite residence of the rulers of this part of India, and we find in it a number of former capitals of great empires. It lay near the commercial coast of Guzerat, and through it were highways from Northern India over the Vindhja range into the Dekhan. It is also well watered; its chief river, the Kharmanvati (now Kumbal), rises in the Vindhja mountains, and falls into the Jumna. At its confluence with the Siprâ, a little tributary, was situated Uggajini = "the Victorious," now called Uggeni, Ozene, and Oojein, and still the first meridian of Indian astronomers. It also bore the name of Avantî = "the Protecting," from the circumstance of its having given refuge to this Vikramâditja in his infancy.

(9) This length of reign is actually ascribed to him in the Chronological Table out of the Kalijuga-Râgakaritra, given in Journ. of the As. Soc. p. 496.

(10) This resolution was quite in conformity with the prevailing religious teaching. In the collection of laws and precepts called the Manû, many rules are laid down for this kind of life, and were followed to a prodigious extent both by solitaries and communities; e.g. "When the grihastha = 'father of the house,' finds wrinkles and grey hairs coming, and when children's children are begotten to him, then it is time for him to forsake inhabited places for the jungle." It is further prescribed that he should expose himself there to all kinds of perils, privations, and hardships. He is not to shrink from encounters with inimical tribes; he is to live on wild fruits, roots, and water. In summer he is to expose himself to the heat of fierce fires, and in the rainy season to the wet, without seeking shelter; in the coldest winter he is to go clothed in damp raiment. By these, and such means, he was to acquire indifference to all corporeal considerations, and reach after union with the Highest Being. Manû, v. 29; vii. 1-30; viii. 28; x. 5; xi. 48, 53; xvii. 5, 7, 24; xviii. 3-5, &c., &c. It is impossible not to be struck, in studying such passages as these, with a reflection of the inferiority which every other religious system, even in its sublimest aims, presents to Christianity. If, indeed, there were a first uniform limit appointed to the hand of death at the age of threescore years and ten, then it might be a clever rule to fix the appearance of wrinkles, grey hairs, and children's children as the period for beginning to contemplate what is to come after it; but, as the number of those who are summoned to actual acquaintance with that futurity before that age is pretty nearly as great as that of those who surpass it, the maxim carries on the face of it that it is dictated by a very fallible, however well-intentioned, guide. Christianity knows no such limit, but opens its perfect teaching to the contemplation of "babes;" while, practically, experience shows that those who are called early to a life of religion are far more numerous than those in advanced years.

(11) Given in W. Taylor's Orient. Hist. MSS., i. 199.

(12) "The Indians have no actual history written by themselves." (Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde, i. 357, note 1.)

(13) Klaproth, Würdigung der Asiatischen Geschichtschreiber.

(14) Indien, p. 17.

(15) Examen Critique, p. 347.

(16) But only committed to memory. See supra, p. 333.

(17) Burnouf, Introduction à l'Hist. du Buddh., vol i.

(18) Concerning the late introduction of this idea, see supra, pp. 337-8.

(19) Indische Alterthumskunde, i. 839.

(20) Lassen, iii., p. 44.

(21) Mommsen (History of Rome, book iv., ch. viii.), writing of Mithridates Eupator, who died within a few years of the date ascribed to Vikramâditja's birth, says, "Although our accounts regarding him are, in substance, traceable to written records of contemporaries, yet the legendary tradition, which is generated with lightning expedition in the East, early adorned the mighty king with many superhuman traits. These traits, however, belong to his character just as the crown of clouds belongs to the character of the highest mountain peaks; the outline of the figure appears in both cases, only more coloured and fantastic, not disturbed or essentially altered."

(22) The legend from which the following is gathered has been given by Wilford, in a paper entitled "Vikramâditja and Salivâhâna, their respective eras."

(23) See Lassen, Indische Alterthumskunde, ii. 49-56.

(24) Wilson, in Mackenzie Collection, p. 343.

(25) A vetâla is a kind of sprite, not always bad-natured, usually carrying on a kind of weird existence in burial-places. "They can possess themselves of the forms of those who die by the hand of justice, and assume them. By the power of magic men can make them obedient, and use them for all manner of difficult tasks above their own strength and sufficiency." Brockhaus' Report of the R. Saxon Scientific Soc. Philologico-historical Class, 1863, p. 181. "The Vetâlas were a late introduction among the gods of popular veneration." (Lassen, iv. 570.) "They came also to be regarded as incarnations of both Vishnu and Shiva." (Lassen, iv. 159.)

(26) Two interesting instances of the way in which traditionary legends become attached to various persons as they float along the current of time, have been brought to my notice while preparing these sheets for the press. I cannot now recall where I picked up the story of "The Balladmaker and the Bootmaker," which I have given in "Patrañas," but I am sure it was told of a wandering minstrel, and as occurring on Spanish soil, as I have given it. I have since met it in "The Hundred Novels" of Sacchetti (written little after the time of Boccacio) as an episode in a no less celebrated life than that of Dante, thus: "... Going out and passing by Porta S. Piero (Florence), he (Dante) heard a blacksmith beating on his anvil, and singing 'Dante' just as one sings a common ballad; mutilating here, and mixing in verses of his own there; by which means Dante perceived that he sustained great injury. He said nothing, however, but went into the workshop, to where were laid ready many tools for use in the trade. Dante first took up the hammer and flung it into the road; took up the pincers and flung them into the road; took up the scales and flung them out into the road. When he had thus flung many tools into the road, the blacksmith turned round with a brutal air, crying out, 'Che diavol' fate voi? Are you mad?' But Dante said, 'And thou; what hast thou done?' 'I am busied about my craft,' said the blacksmith; 'and you are spoiling my gear, throwing it out into the road like that.' Said Dante, 'If you don't want me to spoil your things, don't you spoil mine.' Said the smith. 'What have I spoilt of yours?' Said Dante, 'You sing my book, and you say it not as I made it; poem-making is my trade, and you have spoilt it.' Then the blacksmith was full of fury, but he had nothing to say; so he went out and picked up his tools, and went on with his work, And the next time he felt inclined to sing, he sang Tristano and Lancellotte, and left Dante alone." "... Another day Dante was walking along, wearing the gorget and the bracciaiuola, according to the custom of the time, when he met a man driving an ass having a load of street sweepings, who, as he walked behind his ass, ever and anon sang Dante's book, and when he had sung a line or two, gave the donkey a hit, and cried 'Arrri!' Dante, coming up with him, gave him a blow on his shoulder with his armlet ('con la bracciaiuola gli diede una grande batacchiata,' literally 'bastonnade:' bracciaiuola stands for both the armour covering the arm, and for the tolerably formidable wooden instrument, fixed to the arm, with which pallone-players strike the ball), saying, as he did so, 'That "arrri" was never put in by me.' As soon as the ass-driver had got out of his way, he turned and made faces at Dante, saying, 'Take that!' But Dante, without suffering himself to be led into an altercation with such a man, replied, amid the applause of all, 'I would not give one of mine for a hundred of thine!'" (2.) It was lately mentioned to me that there is a narrow mountain-pass in the Lechthal, in Tirol, which is sometimes called Mangtritt (or St. Magnus' step), and sometimes Jusalte (Saltus Julii, the leap of Julius), because one tradition says Julius Cæsar leapt through it on horseback, and another that it opened to let St. Magnus pass through when escaping from a heathen horde.


(27) Quoted by W. Taylor, in Journ. of As. Soc. vii. p. 391.

(28) Quoted by Wilford, as above.

(29) Quoted in Wilford's "Sacred Isles of the West."

(30) Lassen.

(31) Roth, Extrait du Vikrama-Charitram, p. 279.

(32) Lassen, ii. p. 1154.

(33) Lassen, ii. 1122-1129.

(34) Abbé Huc narrates how enthusiastically the young Mongol toolholos, or bard, sang to him the Invocation of Timour, of which he gives the refrain as follows:--"We have burned the sweet-smelling wood at the feet of the divine Timour. Our foreheads bent to the earth, we have offered to him the green leaf of tea, and the milk of our herds. We are ready: the Mongols are on foot, O Timour!

"O Divine Timour, when will thy great soul revive?        
Return! Return! We await thee, O Timour!"

(35) See Note 11 to "Vikramâditja makes the Silent Speak."

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Saga of Ardschi-Bordschi and Vikramâditja’s Throne, The (With Historical Notice of Vikramâditja)
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Sagas from the Far East; or, Kalmouk and Mongolian Traditionary Tales
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1873
Country of Origin: Mongolia & Russia
Classification: Introduction

Back to Top