Mahfil. v 7, V. 7 ( 1971) p. 241.


Graphics file for this page
Theodore Riccardi, Jr.

THE BRAHMAN AND THE SNAKE

A Nepati version of the Sanskrit tale

Until the conquest of the Nepal Valley by Prthivi Narayan Sah of Gorkha in 1768-69, the literary languages of Nepal had been mainly Sanskrit and Newarl. Sanskrit had attained an honored place in the earliest history of the country and had maintained its unrivalled position for many centuries. During the Malla period, however, the use of Newarl increased, and, while it never fully supplanted Sanskrit, by the middle of the eighteenth century it had established itself as the most popular literary language. With the defeat of the Newar kings by Prthivi Narayan, the Newari language went into serious decline, and Nepali, or Gorkhali as it was then called, the language of the new Sah dynasty, quickly became the most important language in the new kingdom. By 1800 the Sah dynasty had consolidated the victories of Prthivi Narayan and continued the territorial expansion and unification of the country until the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814.^ During this time and the two decades immediately following the war, the Nepali language received great encouragement from the leaders of the country. Many of the works produced at this time were translations of Sanskrit works in philosophy, law, and literature. Among the works of literature translated were the Adi^ Udyoga^ and Sabha Parvans of the Mah'ab'havata^ the HitopadeSa^ the Simhasanadvatrim^atika^ various Puranic tales, and at least two versions of the Vetatapanoavim^ati.

The short selection which follows gives a sample of the literature of this period. It is the thirteenth tale, the story of the Brahman and the Snake, of the Vetatapancavim^ati, translated anonymously into Nepali from the Sanskrit of Ksemendra.3 The text is drawn from the Nepali commentary of an incomplete manuscript of Ksemendra^s Brhatkafhamanfap^.^

Translation:

Again the Vetala said: "King Vikramasena, because there is some doubt in my mind, I shall tell you a story. Listen:

"In the city of salvation called Varanasi, there lived a Brahman named Deva^vamin who was as rich as Kubera and as wise as Brhaspati. He has a son called Harisvamin. His wife was named Lavanyavati and she was as beautiful as Rati. One day during the month of Jyaistha, because of the heat, Harisvamin sprinkled himself with perfumed water to cool himself and, taking with him his beautiful wife Lavanyavati,



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