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Sûta Tells Ardschi-Bordschi Concerning Vikramâditja’s Birth, The


LONG ages ago there lived a King named Gandharva. To him was wedded Udsesskülengtu-Gôa-Chatun (1), the all-charming daughter of the mighty king Galindari.

               Gandharva was a noble King, and ruled the world with justice and piety. Nevertheless Gandharva had no heir, though he prayed continually to Buddha that he might have a son. And as he thus prayed and mourned continually, Udsesskülengtu-Gôa came to him one day, and said, "My lord, since thou art thus grieved at heart because no heir is given to us, take now unto thee another wife, even a wife from among thy people, and perhaps so shalt thou be blessed with succession to the throne." And her words pleased the King, and he chose a wife of low degree, and married her, and in due time she bore him a son.

               But when Udsesskülengtu-Gôa, the all-charming one, saw that the heart of the King was taken from her, and given to the wife of low degree, because she had borne him a son, while she was less favoured by heaven, she was grieved in spirit, and said within herself, "What shall I do now that the heart of my lord is taken from me? Was it not by my father's aid that he attained the throne? And was it not even by my advice that he took this wife who has borne him a son? And yet his heart is taken from me." Nevertheless she complained not to him, but mourned by herself apart.

               Then one of her maidens, when she saw her thus mourning apart, came to her, and said, "Is there not living by the kaitja (2), on the other side of the mountain, a lama, possessed of prodigious powers? Who shall say but that he might find a remedy for the grief of the Khan's wife." And Udsesskülengtu-Gôa listened to the maiden's words, and leaving off from mourning, she rose, and called to her four of the maidens, and prepared her to make the journey to visit the holy man at the kaitja, on the other side the mountain, taking with her good provision of tea (3) and other things needful for the journey.

               Arrived at the kaitja, she made the usual obeisance, and would have opened her suit; but the hermit was at that moment sunk in his meditations, and paid her no heed until she had three times changed (4) her place of kneeling. Then he said, "Exalted Queen! what grief or what necessity brings thee hither to this kaitja thus devoutly?" And when she had told him all her story, he replied,--

               "Mayst thou be blessed with succession to the throne and with many children to gladden thee." At the same time he gave her a handful of earth, bidding her boil it in oil--sesame oil (5)--in a porcelain vessel, and eat it all up.

               The Queen returned home, and, believing in the promise of the hermit, she boiled the earth in sesame oil in a new porcelain vessel, when behold it was changed into barley porridge; but she neglected to eat up the whole of it. Some time after the maiden who had counselled the visit to the hermit, seeing that some of the porridge still remained in the porcelain vessel, she also ate of it, saying, "Who knows what blessing it may bring to me also?"

               Many months had not passed when all manner of propitious tokens appeared upon the land. Showers of brilliant blossoms fell in place of rain from heaven, the melodious voice of the kalavinka (6) made itself heard, and delicious perfumes filled the air. In the midst of this rejoicing of nature the Queen bore the King a son.

               The gladness of the King knew no bounds that now he had an heir to the throne who was born of a princess and not of a wife of low degree, and he ordered public rejoicings throughout the whole kingdom. Further, in his joy he sent an expedition, with the younger wife at its head, and many great men of state, to go to the lama of the kaitja, on the other side of the mountain, and learn what should be the fate of the child.

               When they came to him he was again sunk in his meditations; but when they had opened their matter to him, almost without looking up, he replied,--

               "Tell the King your master that there be got ready for the child against he grow up fifteen thousand waggon-loads of salt, for that will be but small compared with what will be required for the use of his kitchen."

               With such a message the expedition returned to the King.

               When Gandharva heard the prognostics of the hermit, he was struck with astonishment, and with indignation against the child, not understanding the intention of the words. Then he called together the people and announced the thing to them, adding these words, "Of a truth the child must be a hundredfold a schimnu; how could a man use fifteen thousand waggon-loads of salt for the seasoning of his food? It is not good for such an one to live. Let him be taken forth and slain!"

               But his ministers interceded with him and said, "Nay, shall the son of the King and the heir to his royal throne be slain? Shall we not rather take him to some solitary place and leave him to his fate in a thick wood?"

               And the King found their words good; so two of his ministers took the child a long way off to a solitary place, and left him exposed in a thick wood. But as they turned to go away, and one of them yet lingered, the child called after him, saying,--

               "Wait a little space, sir minister; I have a word to say to you!"

               And the minister stood still in great astonishment. But the child said, "Bear these words faithfully unto the King:--

               "It is said that when the young of the peacock are first fledged their feathers are all of one blue colour, but afterwards, as they increase in proportions, their plumage assumes the splendid hues admired by men. Even so when a King's son is born. For a while he remains under the tutelage of his parents; but if, when he has come to man's estate, he would be a great king, worthy to be called king of the four parts of the universe (7), it will behove him to call together the princes of the four parts of the universe to a great assemblage and prepare for them a sacred festival (8), at which such may be their number who may come together to honour it, that fifteen thousand waggon-loads of salt may even fall short of what is required!

               "So the parrots, when they first break through their egg-shell, appear very much like any other birds, but when they are full grown they learn the speech of man and grow in sagacity and wisdom (9). Even so when a King's son is born. For a while he remains under the tutelage of his parents; but when he comes to man's estate, if he would be a mighty king, worthy of being called king of the four parts of the universe, it will behove him to call together all kings and devas and princes of the earth, with all the countless Bodhisattvas, and all the priests of religion, and prepare for them a great religious banquet. At such a banquet it is well if fifteen thousand waggon-loads of salt suffice for the seasoning. This for your King."

               The minister took the message of the child word for word to the Gandharva, who when he heard it clasped his hands in agony and rose up, saying,--

               "What is this that I have done! Of a certainty the child was a Bodhisattva (10). But it is the truth that what I did to him I did in ignorance. Run now swiftly and fetch me back my son." The minister therefore set out on his way without stopping to take breath; but what haste soever he made the King's eagerness was greater, and at the head of a great body of the people Gandharva himself took his way in all speed to the place in the thick grove where they had laid the child. And since he did not find him at the first, he broke out into loud lamentations, saying,--

               "0 thou, mine own Bodhisattva! who so young yet speakest words of wisdom, even young as thou art exercise also mercy and forgiveness. O how was I mistaken in thee! Set it not down to me that I knew thee not!"

               While he wandered about searching and thus lamenting, the cry of a child made itself heard from the depths of a grotto there was in the grove, which when the King had entered he found eight princes of the serpent-gods (11) busy tending the child. Some had woven for him a covering of lotus-blossoms; others were dropping honey into his mouth; others were on their knees, bowing their foreheads to the ground before him. Thus he saw them engaged, only when he entered the cave they all at once disappeared without leaving a trace behind (12).

               Then the King laid the child on a litter borne by eight principal men, and amid continual lamenting of his fault, saying, "O my son, Bodhisattva, be merciful; I indeed am thy father," he brought him to his dwelling, where he proclaimed him before all the people the most high and mighty Prince Vikramâditja.

               When the Sûta had concluded this narrative, he turned to Ardschi-Bordschi and said,--

               "Thus was Vikramâditja wise in his earliest youth; thus even in infancy he earned the homage of his own father; thus was he innately great and lofty and full of majesty. If thou, O Ardschi-Bordschi! art thus nobly born, thus indwelt with power and might, then come and mount this throne; but, if otherwise, then on thy peril desist from the attempt."

               Then Ardschi-Bordschi once more approached to ascend the throne; but as he did so two other of the sculptured figures, relinquishing their guardant attitude, stood forward to bar the way, the warrior-figure striking him on the breast, and the Sûta thus addressing him,--

               "Halt! O Ardschi-Bordschi! as yet hast thou but heard the manner of the wonderful birth of Vikramâditja; as yet knowest thou not what was the manner of his youth."

               And all the thirty-two sculptured figures answered and said,--

               "Halt! O Ardschi-Bordschi!"

               But the Sûta continued, saying, "Hearken, O Ardschi-Bordschi! and ye, O people, give ear, and I will tell you out of the days of old concerning the youth of Vikramâditja.


(1) Udsesskülengtu-Gôa-Chatun, a heaping up of synonyms of which we had an example, note 2, Tale XVII. Both words mean "beautiful," "charming." Goâ is a Mongolian expression by which royal women are called (as also chatun). Thus we sometimes meet with Udsessküleng, sometimes Udsesskülengtu (the adjunct tu forming the adjective use of the word); Udsesskülengtu-Goa, Udsesskülengtu-Chatun, or Udessküleng-Gôa-Chatun. (Jülg.)

(2) Kaitja or Chaitga is a sacred grotto where relics were preserved, or marking a spot where some remarkable event of ancient date had taken place. We are told that King Ashokja (246 B.C.) caused kaitjas to be built, or rather hewn, in every spot in his dominions rendered sacred by any act of Shâkjamuni's life [1]; as also over the relics of many of the first teachers (p. 390). The number of these is fabled in the Mahâvansha (v. p. 26) to have been not less than 84,000! He opened seven of the shrines in which the relics of Shâkjamuni were originally placed, and divided them into so many caskets of gold, silver, crystal, and lapis lazuli, endowing every town of his dominion with one, and building a kaitja over it. These were all completed by one given day at one and the same time, and the authority of the Dharma (law) of Buddha was proclaimed in all. In process of time great labour came to be spent on their decoration, till whole temples were hewn out of the living stone, forming almost imperishable records of the earliest architecture of the country, and to some extent of its history and religion too. The most astonishing remains are to be seen of works of this kind, with files of columns and elaborate bas-reliefs sculptured out of the solid rock.

(3) Abbé Huc tells us that the Mongolians prepare their tea quite differently from the Chinese. The leaves, instead of being carefully picked as in China, are pressed all together along with the smaller tendrils and stalks into a mould resembling an ordinary brick. When required for use a piece of the brick is broken off, pulverized, and boiled in a kettle until the water receives a reddish hue, some salt is then thrown in, and when it has become almost black milk is added. It is a great Tartar luxury, and also an article of commerce with Russia; but the Chinese never touch it.

(4) An accepted token of veneration and homage. (Jülg.)

(5) Sesame-oil. See note 2, Tale V.

(6) Kalavinka = Sanskrit, Sperling, belongs to the sacred order of birds and scenes, in this place to be intended for the Kokila. (Jülg.)

               The Kokila, or India cuckoo, is as favourite a bird with Indians as the nightingale is with us. For a description of it see "A Monograph of Indian and Malayan Species of Cuculidæ," in Journal of As. Soc. of Bengal, xi. 908, by Edward Blyth.

(7) You are not to imagine that by "four parts of the universe" is meant any thing like what we have been used to call "the four quarters of the globe." The division of the Indian cosmogony was very different and refers to the distribution of the (supposed) known universe between gods of various orders and men, to the latter being assigned the fourth and lowest called Gambudvîpa [2].

(8) Concerning such religious gatherings, see Köppen, i. 396, 579-583; ii. 115, 311.

               At such a festival held by Aravâla, King of Cashmere, on occasion of celebrating the acceptance of the teaching of Shâkjamuni as the religion of his dominion, it is said in a legend that there were present 84,000 of each order of the demigods, 100,000 priests, and 800,000 people.

(9) The parrot naturally takes a prominent place in Indian fable, both on account of his sagacity, his companionable nature, and his extraordinary length of days. He did not fail to attract much notice on the part of the Greek writers on India; and Ktesias, who wrote about 370 B.C., seems to have caught some of the peculiar Indian regard for his powers, when he wrote that though he ordinarily spoke the Indian's language, he could talk Greek if taught it. Ælianus says they were esteemed by the Brahmans above all other birds, and that the princes kept many of them in their gardens and houses.

(10) Bodhisattva. See p. 346 and note 1, Tale XI.

(11) Concerning the serpent-gods, see supra, note 1 to Tale II.; and note 4, Tale XXII.

(12) A legend containing curiously similar details is told in the Mahâvansha of Shishunâga, founder of an early dynasty of Magadha (Behar). The king had married his chief dancer, and afterwards sent her away. Partly out of distress and partly as a reproach she left her infant son exposed on the dunghill of the royal dwelling. A serpent-god, who was the tutelar genius of the place, took pity on the child, and was found winding its body round the basket in which it was cradled, holding its head raised over the same and spreading out its hood (it was the Cobra di capello species of serpent, which was the object of divine honours) to protect him from the sun. The people drove away the serpent-god (Nâga) with the cry of Shu! Shu! whence they gave the name of Shishunâga to the child, who, on opening the basket, was found to be endowed with qualities promising his future greatness. In this case, however, the serpent-god seems to have borne his serpent-shape, and in that of Vikramâditja, the eight are spoken of as in human form.


[1] Burnouf, i. 265.

[2] See supra, p. 351 and p. 385.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Sûta Tells Ardschi-Bordschi Concerning Vikramâditja’s Birth, The
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: unclassified

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