Structure[ edit ] The collection, following the story within a story format [1] to maintain continuity, actually contains 72 stories, of which one story acts as the main narrative. The remaining 71 stories are narrated by the parrot. The main story is that of Madana Vinoda, the wayward son of a merchant, and his wife Padmavati. This attempt is successful as the parrot narrates a story that brings Madana to the path of duty. Having learnt his lesson, he sets off on a voyage, presumably on a business venture, leaving his wife alone.

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The tales are told by a pet parrot to its young mistress to distract he from going to a lover while her husband has gone abroad.

These irreverent, sometimes ribald, always uninhinibited accounts of illicit liaisons, ensuing complications and clever escapes are set amidst the common life of towns and villages in India as it then was. This lively and faithful rendering is the first complete translation of the extant Sanskrit text from twelfth century.

So far inaccessible to modern readers, it reveals a now little known, joyous, down to earth face of the ancient language. A not to the new edition The katha literature of Sanskrit is a treasure trove of wonderful stories of all kinds.

Such exposure would also help to make better known the often neglected aspect of Sanskrit as popular literature whose reach went beyond feudal and clerical elites to a more general public.

The present work will I hope open doors to others in this direction. Acknowledgement is also due to Sanjana Roy Choudhury for the initial response and to Pushpanjali Borooah for her cooperation in editing the proofs and arranging a new cover. I have taken the opportunity to make a few corrections and add some more notes, mainly about the sources of verses which embellish the prose text.

This comprises a variety of stories, fables and narratives, sometimes in verse, but often in prose interspersed with gnomic stanzas. It is composed in relatively simple and direct language, in contrast to the more cultivated and refined styles which characterise classical kdvya literature. The kath works catered to a wider cross-section. Best known today through the fables of the Panchatantra and the Hitopadesa, they also include romances, adventures and fantasies whose popularity and currency over the centuries is attested to by numerous recensions and adaptations into other Indian languages.

There are few circumlocutions or polite allusions in its references to sexual and other transgressions, and the language is often blunt, sometimes to the point of crude humor. This may have shocked the pioneering historians of Sanskrit literature. The structure of the Shuka Saptati is the traditional one of tales within tales. The frame story describes the wayward son of a merchant, who is converted to virtuous conduct by the wise talk of a parrot presented to him by his father.

She first pines for her husband, but is soon persuaded by friends to console herself with a lover. As she sets out for the rendezvous, the clever parrot endorses her intent provided she is as smart as the woman Lakshmi in extricating herself from any ensuing problems. This pattern is repeated for sixty-nine evenings, during which the bird continues to distract the heroine from going to meet a lover with tales of cunning escapes out of complicated situations.

At the end of this period she is reunited with her husband,, her virtue intact, while the parrot, or shuka, edifies both with the last of its seventy or saptati tales, which emphasises the importance of forgiveness in marital concord. Including the frame and an introductory story, there are altogether seventy-two tales in the Shuka Saptati. Some form a sequence of their own within the overall framework, for example, five tales about the riddle of the laughing fish 5 to 9 , three about the tiger slayer 42 to 44 , and two about the terrified ghost 46 and Most are short by present- day standards, but some are longer than the others, like the tale of Govinda and the poison maiden 4 , Rambhika and her reluctant lover 11 , and the queen and the court poet of King Vikramaditya Such stories are generally well rounded and include a number of homilies and aphorisms in verse.

Tale 57 also contains a good example of amassed party , the once popular practice of composing separate stanzas around a given maxim or refrain. Some others of this type, for example, tales 49, 63 and 68, are obscure and obviously incomplete in the form in which they have come down.

Some otherwise well-formed tales, like 60 and 64, end abruptly, probably for the same reason. The cycle also includes animal fables like the well-known 31 and 67, and some stories containing fine descriptions in the kvya style of the summer 23 , the spring 41 , and the rains Winternitz7 considered that several Indian stories gained currency in world literature through works like the Shuka Saptati.

Many Shuka Saptati stories can themselves be traced to other sources like the Kathdsarits4qara and the collections of fables already mentioned. Equally interesting are the sources of the over three hundred stanzas in Sanskrit and Prakrit which occur in many china Saptati tales.

Several quotations were later interpolations, for instance those from the Kama Sutra in tale 57 classifying lovers and beds. The sourcing and cross referencing of Kath stories and verses remains a fruitful field for further research. The oldest known manuscript of the Shuka Saptati is from the fifteenth century AD. Academic opinion holds that the work was in existence long before it emerged in the form in which it is now available. One scholar traced it to the. Current scholarship dates it, as such, to not later than the second part of the twelfth century AD, though many of its stories may be much older.

The work is presently extant in two Sanskrit recessions. Their critical editions were prepared by the German scholar Richard Schmidt just over a hundred years ago, and termed by him as the simplifier and the oration texts. The first is attributed to a Shvetambara Jaina monk, and the second to the brahmin Chintamani Bhatta. Some scholars consider that the simplifier is probably older than the oration. It has a simple, sometimes abrupt style, with brief sentences and occasional condensation of the narrative to the point of obscurity.

The oration is more elaborate and ornate. Both recessions contain over fifty common stories, but have differences in wording, names of some characters and verse quotations. Neither is considered the or-text. An eastern Rajasthani version of the Shuka Saptati has been recorded as derived from another Sanskrit recension by Devadatta, son of Purushottama Deva. Translations of the work have a long history. The fourteenth century adaptation of the Sanskrit text into Persian has already been mentioned.

This was the Tuti Namah of Ziya al-din Nakhshabi, which was abridged by Muhammad Qadiri in the seventeenth century under the same name, but confined to only thirty-five stories.

The Nakhshabi version was also rendered into Turkish with the omission of some bawdy tales. A translation into German from the Persian in brought the work to the West. Others have been recorded in Malay, Mongolian and Newari. Gladwin at the end of the last century. An examination of available records suggests that the present is the first translation of the complete work into English from the original Sanskrit. That text is of the simplifier recession, though this detail has not been mentioned in its published version.

It was brought out with commentaries in Sanskrit and Hindi by Pandit Ramakanta Tripathi, which the present translator has consulted with profit but not always followed. Apart from the invocation, the stanzas interspersing the prose text of the Shuka Saptati are of three kinds: narrative, descriptive and gnomic. The first type have generally been rendered in prose to maintain continuity with the overall narrative of the stories.

The others have been presented in verse form for closer correspondence with the original text. It also attempts to convey something of the flavor of the original, which may account for the occasional use of archaisms, especially in the prose renderings.

Some repetitious phrases, like those which conclude most stories, have occasionally been recast to provide variety. Each story has also been given a title for ready reference. Others have been treated in accordance with academic practice, except that diacritics have been used only to indicate long vowels.

To translate the Shuka Saptati was a fascinating experience. The language is simple and unembellished, but the best stories are notable for their human insight and earthy humor, succinctness of presentation and suddenness of impact. Their cynical depiction of human propensities gives them a universal dimension despite the unacceptability of the attitude towards women projected in some stories.

Set in scenes varying from royal courts to market places, and urban centers to village communities, they also provide an absorbing social documentation of ancient Indian conditions. I am grateful to Renuka Chatterjee, Editor-in-Chief of HarperCollins Publishers India for her ready response which encouraged me to undertake this translation. I would also like to thank Arpita Das for helping to edit the copy for publication and Oroon Das for designing the cover.

Special appreciation is due to my son Vikram and his wife Annika for their computer assistance at a crucial juncture. Above all, I thank my wife Priti for her careful review as away of my drafts, and for her unstinting support in this as in all my endeavours. Contents A Note to the New Edition xi.


Shuka Saptati: Seventy Tales of the Parrot






Shukasaptati, Ĺšukasaptati, Shuka-saptati: 5 definitions


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