Manimekhala, a Divinity of the Sea

By Sylvain Levi

The Indian Historical Quarterly

Vol.VI, No.4, 1930.12, pp. 597-614

p. 597 A large number of the stories of the Pali Jataka has drawn materials from the adventures in the sea. The sea and its navigation evidently occupied a large place in Indian life in the period when these stories were conceived. The study of these texts throws much light on the glorious period, almost completely ignored in other branches of literature, of the Indian civilisation during which the mariners, the missionaries and the merchants of India carried the culture of their fatherland to the islands of the Archipelago, to the Malay peninsula and Indo-China. I shall confine myself here to the study of an obscure divinity of the sea, Manimekhala, "Girdle of Gems," who appears in two stories of the Pali Jataka and, it seems, only in them. The first, which bears the number 442 in Jataka collection and is classified as the fourth in the section of the stories of 10 stanzas, is the Jataka of the brahman Samkha. Buddha narrates this story in connection with a lay follower who had generously treated the community and had at last given footwear to the Teacher and his disciples. Samkha Jataka (442) In the days of yore, Benares was called Molini. When Brahmadatta was the king of Molini there was a brahman call- p. 598 ed Samkha who was rich and had founded alms-houses at the four gates of the city, in its centre, and at the gate of his own house, in six places in all, and in all those places he was used to make great charities to the poor every day and give away hundreds of thousands. One day he said to himself: "When I have exhausted all the money that I have at my house, I will no more be able to give anything; therefore, before it is exhausted, let me go in a boat to the Land of Gold and bring wealth." He had accordingly a ship constructed for him, filled it with merchandise and told his wife and children. "Till my return continue to give without any interruption.'' Then escorted by his slaves and following, he took his umbrella, put his shoes on and towards noon, left for the port. A Pratyekabuddha who was on the (mount) Gandhamadana after recollecting his thoughts, saw this man who was going to search for fortune. "There is," he said to himself, "a great man who is going to search for wealth. Will he have difficulties on the sea or not? '' He thought within himself and discovered that he would have difficulties. "If he sees me," thought he, "he will give me his umbrella and shoes, it is for the gift of his shoes that he will find a plank in the sea to save himself after his ship-wreck. I would therefore be kind to him." He came through the air, descended at a little distance and treading on the burning sand which looked like a bed of charcoal under the power of the wind and the sun, he approached the brahman. The latter saw him and his heart rejoiced: "It is a field of merit that is coming towards me, I will sow there a seed to-day!" He hurried towards (the saint), bowed unto him and said: "Peace be unto you, grant me the favour of leaving the way for a moment and coming under the tree." Samkha proceeded towards the foot of the tree, spread out his tunic and made the Pratyekabuddha sit. He washed his feet with filtered and perfumed water, rubbed them with perfumed oil, and then taking off his own shoes, cleaned them, rubbed them with perfumed oil and passed over to p. 599 (the saint). "Peace be unto you, put this umbrella over your head and go away if you like." He gave him his umbrella and shoes. The saint accepted them for pleasing him, and in order to increase his faith in him, he flew away before his eyes to return to the mount Gandhamadana. The bodhisattva, whose faith increased at this sight, went to the port and started on his voyage. After navigating for seven days, his ship leaked and could not be emptied of water. The multitude trembling for the fear of death, invoked each his own god and created a great noise. The great saint took a servant with him, rubbed his whole body with oil, ate as much sugar as was necessary with melted butter, made his servant eat the same thing, then climbed with him the mast, observed the horizon and remarked: "It is on this side that our city lies"; then taking precaution against the dangers caused by the fishes and tortoises, he jumped with his companion at a distance of several cubits. The multitude perished. The great saint began to cross the ocean with his servant. Seven days passed in this way and during all this time, he washed his mouth with the salt water and observed fast on the sabbath day. At this time the gods, who protected the earth, had installed the goddess Manimekhala to watch over the sea. "If there is a ship-wreck and if men are in danger, men who have taken the three Refuges, or who observe the vow of holiness, or who piously worship their parents-thou protect them." The goddess for the pride of her sovereignty neglected her duty during seven days. But on the seventh day, she examined the sea and discovered the brahman Samkha who was pious and virtuous. "Now for seven days he has fallen in the sea," she said to herself, "if he had perished I would have been much reproved." Quite confused, she took a golden bowl, filled it with the heavenly viands of exquisite taste, then through the air she appeared before him in the sky and said: "It is now seven days that you have not eaten anything, take this heavenly food." He p. 600 looked up and said: "Take your food away, I am observing the fast." His servant who was following him did not see the goddess, but heard him (his master) speaking. "This brahman," said he to himself, "is of a delicate nature; it is now seven days that he has not eaten anything; he suffers; the fear of death, I think, is making him rave; let me go to console him." The servant then recited a stanza, the first of the story: "Thou knowest much, Oh Samkha. Thou knowest the doctrine well and thou hast seen many samanas and bahmanas. But for talking, thou choosest an improper time. There is nobody here except me to give a reply." Samkha heard him and thought: "He does not know, I believe, that there is a goddess here." He said to him: "My friend, I have no fear of death, but I am talking to some one else." He then recited a stanza, the second: "A beautiful maid with charming eyes, wearing bracelets of shell is offering me food in a golden bowl, and says "take and eat it," But as for myself, I have a pious soul and I declined her, saying, "No, thank you." The servant thereupon addressed him in a stanza, the third: "On seeing a supernatural being appearing before himself, a man of good sense would tell him "Arise". Ask her, therefore, with hands folded out, "Are you a woman or really a goddess?" "You are right," said the bodhisattva and recited a stanza, the fourth: "Since you have been pleased to think of me and since you are requesting me to take food, may I ask you, madam, are you a woman or really a goddess?" The goddess then recited two stanzas: "Samkha, I am a goddess of high rank. If I have come up to this place in the midst of the ocean, I have p. 601 done it out of pity and not out of ill-will. I have come to give you protection." "Do you want to eat and drink? Do you want either to sit or lie down? Do you want, Oh Samkha, carriages ? Whatever it may be, Oh Samkha, you have only to ask for. You will get it as soon as you wish it." The great sage on hearing it said to himself. "Here is a goddess who has come over the surface of the ocean to tell me that she wants to give me this or that. Is it due to my previous meritorious acts or is it through her power that she wants to make those gifts? I am going to ask her." Reflecting thus he questioned her in a stanza, the seventh: "And my libations and all my offerings, if they yield any fruit, is it you who command it. Oh maiden of beautiful hips, fine form and eyebrows! what have I done, tell me, for acquiring it?'' The goddess then said to herself: "If this brahman asks me about the good act he has done, it is because he thinks that I do not know about it. Well, I will tell him about it," and then she uttered a stanza, the eighth: "On the burning road a mendicant was walking. His feet were burning, his throat was dry and he was panting. Then you took off your own shoes for him. Such is the good act of which you are acquiring fruit." The great sage having heard this was full of joy. "What! on this great ocean, where there is nothing on which to rest, the gift of my sandals can bring me whatever I desire! Oh! I did well in becoming charitable to a Pratyekabuddha!" He then uttered a stanza, the ninth: "Oh! that I may have a boat with strong planks through which water cannot pass and which the wind carries! All other vehicles are out of place here. Take me at this very hour to Molini." The goddess was pleased to hear this. She made a ship of seven precious stones. It was eight times hundred and p. 602 forty cubits in length and four times hundred and four cubits in breadth and twenty poles in depth (140 cubits). It had three masts of ruby, the riggings were of gold, the sails were of silver, and the bent oars were also of gold. The goddess filled the boat with seven Kinds of precious stones, kissed the brahman, placed him on the fully equipped boat but did not take any notice of his servant. The brahman gave him the (marvellous) bowl which he had won on account of his good actions, the man became enjoyed at this. Thereupon the goddess kissed him also and placed him on board the ship. She herself piloted the ship to the city of Molini, put all the wealth in the house of the brahman, and then came back to her own place... The goddess of that time is to-day the nun Uppalavanna, the man is Ananda, and the brahman Samkha is I myself." The second story, no.539, more developed than the former, is one of the last of the collection. It is included in the "large section," and has for its hero one of the greatest names of the Indian tradition-the king Janaka, here Maha-Janaka, of the country of Videha, who has been glorified by the Upanisads, as well as by the epics, as the accomplished type of wisdom and whom Buddhism could not afford to neglect. It is superfluous to say that Maha-Janaka is no other than Buddha in a previous birth. The framework of the story is as vague as possible: One day the assembled monks were extolling the Master for having left the palace for searching and preaching the law. The Buddha intervenes and tells them: "It is not for the first time that I have left a palace,'' and he began to tell them the story of Maha-Janaka. Of this long story, full of incidents, I will draw the attention of the reader only to the episode in which Manimekhala, the goddess of the sea, appears. Mahajanaka Jataka (No. 539) Mahajanaka, the posthumous son of king Aritthajanaka who had been killed by his brother, is brought up in exile at p. 603 Campa, in the house of a brahman who had given hospitality to his mother. His mother puts at his disposal the jewels which she had saved (VI, p.34.). "Well, mother," said he, "give me this wealth, I will take half of it and go to the Land of Gold, I will bring from there much wealth and will recover my throne". He took half of this fortune, procured the articles of trade and embarked on his boat in the company of other merchants who were going to the Land of Gold. Before leaving, he bowed unto his mother and said: "Mother, I am going to the Land of Gold." The mother said: "My child, a voyage does not always succeed, there are many obstacles, better not go. You have abundant wealth for recovering the throne." "No, I will go there, Mother", and he saluted his mother, went out and got on board the ship. This very day, Polajanaka, the first younger brother and the murderer of Aritthajanaka, was attacked by illness and took to bed. Seven hundred merchants had embarked on the boat, in seven days the ship had done seven hundred leagues, but on account of her high speed she could not hold out, the planks cracked, water poured in everywhere and the vessel foundered in the deep ocean. The men wept and cried and invoked all kinds of divinities. But the great sage did neither weep nor cry, nor did he invoke any divinity; when he saw that the boat was foundering, he mixed sugar with clarified butter, filled his stomach with it, soaked in oil two of his robes which were very smooth, dressed himself tight, and held himself close to the mast. When the boat foundered, the mast floated, the men were eaten up by fishes and tortoises, and the water around was full of blood, The great sage clinging to the top of the mast observed: "It is towards this direction that Mithila lies." He then jumped from the top of the mast over the fishes and the tortoises and fell into the sea at a distance of one hundred and forty cubits. This very day Polajanaka died, and from this very moment he began to cross the ocean by force of his arms like a golden trunk of tree rolling on the waves which p. 604 had the colour of gems. He swam for a full day and further on till the seventh day when he observed that it was a full moon day. Then he washed his mouth with saline water and observed the fast. Thereupon the four gods, the protectors of the earth, said: "If there are beings that honour their mother even who are in danger of perishing in the ocean, a danger which they did not merit, you ought to save them." This is what they said to Manimekhala, the daughter of a god, appointed to watch the ocean. But during seven days she did not throw her glance at the sea as the fortune she was enjoying had distracted her thoughts. It is also said that the daughter of a god had gone to an assembly of the gods. "It is now seven days", she said to herself, "that I have not thought of the sea. Let me see what passes there." She then perceived Mahajanaka. "If Mahajanaka had perished I would not have been any longer admitted into the assembly of the gods." At this thought she went near the great sage, standing in the sky with the ornaments on her body and addressing the great sage she pronounced the first stanza: "Who is there that toils in the high sea without even sighting the shores? Thou shouldst know why thou makest such an effort." The great sage told her: "Now it is seven days that I have been traversing the ocean and I have not seen any living being except myself. Who is there that speaks to me?" He looked up into the sky and pronounced the second stanza: "I know what the world is and what the price of effort is. This is why I am striving in the ocean even without sighting the shores." The goddess interested to hear him talking on religion told him in a verse: "In the endless abyss, thou seest not the shores. Thy effort is useless and thou runnest towards death." But the great sage said: "Who tells you that? If after making all my efforts I must die, I will be blameless." p. 605 He who acts bravely does not repent. He is discharged with regard to all, gods, parents, and ancestors. As much as I can, I will exert myself. I will act bravely striving towards the shores." On hearing this the goddess praised him in a stanza: "On the vast ocean and without the shores in sight, thou makest a long effort without losing thy courage. Thou shalt reach the place which your heart longs for." And she asked him still, "Oh, Sage of great energy, where shall I lead you?"--"To the city of Mithila" was the reply. Thereupon she took him in her arms raising him up like a bunch of garlands and pressing him in her bosom like a cherished child she shot forth through the sky. He had had his whole body burnt while remaining in sea water for seven days, and so he fell deeply asleep through the touch of the goddess. Thus she carried him to Mithila. The then goddess of the sea is to-day Uppalavanna, etc." The two Jatakas have this feature in common that their connection with the life of Buddha is clearly artificial;they have no bearing on any known positive episode of the biography; the circumstances, which are supposed to lead to the story, have been invented for the necessity of the story itself. They have also a large number of other features in common. The two heroes Samkha and Janaka embark in search of fortune to the Land of Gold, Suvarnabhumi, the Chryse Chersonesos of the Greek geographers, this half fabulous land of the Far East which attracted all the adventurers. The place-names, collected by Ptolemy with great difficulty, show in what degree the search of gold haunted the pioneers of Indian civilisation. Let us not ask the narrator of our story for precise information about the voyage. The seven hundred leagues done in seven days by seven hundred merchants who embarked have no more positive significance than that of the mast of ruby, the riggings of gold and the sails of silver belonging to the boat which brought back Samkha. p. 606 The precautions taken in both the cases just before the ship-wreck have a more real character. The teller of the story has not invented anything here but repeats the exact information. A man filled with sugar and butter and with his skin rubbed with oil or better, dressed with a robe soaked in oil which sticks to the body, can resist the slow freezing of the different parts of the body while plunged in the water of the sea. The competitors in swimming even to-day do not act otherwise. The narrator of the story further says that the sharks and the tortoises flock round the sinking boat and redden the water with the blood of the victims. He reproduces the same indications on the goddess Manimekhala in both the texts. If she is asked to watch the sea at the time of ship-wrecks, it is by virtue of a temporary delegation;she was not accustomed to fill such a high post and in her joy she fails to acquit herself. Instead of saving the ship-wrecked hero at once, she lets him float at the mercy of the waves for seven days, confused as she is by the pride of her divine promotion. The story however contains another explanation of her negligence: "It is said (vadanti, ed. of Fausboll, or some say, keci vadanti, ed. of Siam) that she was gone to an assembly of the gods.'' As a good author who edificates, the narrator of the story has preferred the reading which bears a moral lesson: "Too sudden a turn of fortune confuses even the head of the gods." But we can perceive that Manimekhala had interested story- tellers (keci) other than those of the two Jataka accounts. Is it forbidden to us to know more about her? If Manimekhala has not been as yet met with elsewhere in the Sanskrit, Pali or Prakrt literatures, there is another region in India itself where her name has remained famous. Manimekhala is the title of a greet classical poem of the Tamil literature. Tamil, as we know, is a language of the Dravidian family spoken by 16 million people in South India from Madras to Cape Comorin, but its cultural horizon extends far beyond its geographical limits. It possesses a varied and p. 607 original literature which is the richest and the most ancient of the Dravidian literatures with master-pieces of most of the literary types. The poem called Manimekhala (Manimegalei or Manimekhalai in its Tamil form) is one of its classics; it is, so to say, inseparable from another classical poem, the Silappadigaram. "The story of a ring of the knee'', which forms the prologue of the former. These two works have been analysed in detail and translated into French by Prof. Julien Vinson in two small volumes published in 1900 under the title of Legendes Bouddhistes et Djainas, traduites du tamoul, in the Collection des Conteurs et Poetes de tous pays. Recently again the Manimekhala has been brought to the notice of the Indianists because of a controversy bearing on the literary history; the case is too important to be passed in silence. The master of Indian logic, Dinnaga, the great doctor of the Buddhist Church, has written amongst others a work called the Nyayapravesa which had been preserved only in the Chinese and the Tibetan translations. The Sanskrit original which remained unknown for centuries was discovered a few years ago. A discussion opened on this text is still going on. Is the Nyayapravesa a work of Dinnaga? The last but one canto, the XXIXth of the Manimekhala, contains an exposition of syllogisms and sophisms which is found in the Nyayapravesa with the same examples. This has become a weapon in the arsenal of controversy. Moreover, if we believe that the poet had copied from the logician, then he becomes posterior to the latter. In that case, he lived later than the 6th century A.D. But the Tamil nationalism, as the Tamil country is nowadays passing through a natioual crisis like all other civilised countries, claims for the poem a more ancient date and for its author a complete originality. Professor Krishnaswami Aiyengar of the University of Madras undertook the study of the Manimekhala from this point of view and published in 1928 a series of articles under the title: "The Mammekhalai in its historical setting". He p. 608 had the happy idea of joining with his impassioned arguments a complete translation of the Manimekhala. The work is of Buddhist inspiration and it aims at instructing and edificating. Manimekhala is the name of the heroine, but it is also the name of a deity who is her guardian angel. The young girl is the issue of a tragic love affair between a merchant and a dancing girl. She is the ideal of chastity, charity and faith. She lives at Puhar also called Kaveripattanam, the port of Kaveri, situated at the mouth of this river, which was one of the great markets between India and the Far East since the time of Ptolemy at the end of the second century A.D., and which remained such even in the time of Cosmas (6th century A.D.) and was destroyed in the 15th century by the silting up of the river. The city, of which the splendours have been so often described in the Tamil literature, is now no more than a village of fishermen but is still counted as a place of pilgrimage. The beauty of the young girl kindles love in the heart of prince Udaya who pursues her and intends to take her away during the joyful tumult of the festival of Indra. Her tutelary deity Manimekhala descends from the heavens to protect her. She carries her away over the seas to a sacred island called Manipallavam. There is found a marvellous seat (pitha) on which Buddha had been seating. It awakens in men the memories of their past existences. In front of this seat there is a tank where every year on the day of the anniversary of Buddha's birth, on the full moon day of the month of Vaisakha, appears a miraculous bowl which never gets exhausted. This bowl has a complicated history. In the days of yore the goddess of knowledge, Sarasvati, had given it to one of her favourites, Aputra, "the son of cow," who used it for feeding the people of the extreme south of India. Then having learnt from the merchants from the other side of the sea that there was a famine in the island of Java (Savakam) caused by drought, Aprtra embarked with his bowl for that country. The boat suddenly met a tempest p. 609 and was compelled to stop at the island of Manipallavam for a day. Aputra got down on land, but could not rejoin the boat in time. He remained alone in the deserted island and threw the bowl, which was of no use then, into a tank, wishing that it might come back to the earth once in a year, that on that very day, if a charitable person happens to pass by those shores, the bowl might pass spontaneously into his hands. The young Manimekhala, led there by her guardian angel at a propitious time, thus got the bowl and brought it back to Puhar where her protectress led her back through the sky. With the bowl in her hands she passes by the roads of the town and feeds the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Meanwhile, the prince who had pursued her assiduously is killed by a supernatural being, and public rumour makes the young girl responsible for this murder. She is compelled to flee away through the air to Java where Aputra by transmigration has been miraculously born of a cow, adopted by the king, and has succeeded to him on the throne. A minister of the king who had been to Puhar for signing a treaty of alliance between Java and the Cholas and had known her adventures, recognises her and takes her to the king. She induces Aputra to embark as a pilgrim for the island of Manipallavam, and goes there flying in advance, receives him, and leads him to the marvellous seat. The goddess of the island then comes to the maid to inform her about the catastrophy that had destroyed Puhar after her departure. The goddess ManimekhalB had submerged the capital of the Chola king to punish him for neglecting the celebration of the annual festivity of Indra. ''If you are pained'', she added, "to hear that Manimekhala, the guardian of the sea, has cursed the city of Puhar in this way, you should know it by way of consolation that this same goddess had years ago saved from the sea one of your ancestors who was going to be drowned and who subsequently became the most charitable man of his time." Manimekhala then goes to Vanji (now called Karur, to p. 610 the west of Trichinopoly), then to Kanci (Conjeeveram, to the south-east of Madras) one of the seats of Buddhist culture. The famine was ravaging the place. She visits the great temple raised in the centre of the city where there was a Bodhi tree of gold with leaves of emerald and she asks the king to construct at Kanci a replica of the sacred seat of Manipallavam, and a temple of Manimekhala and celebrate the periodical festivities. Then she goes to attend to the lessons of a famous saint called Aravana Adigal who explains to her the fundamental principles of Buddhism and delivers to her a complete course of logic for refuting the heretics. Aravana also confirmed the story of the events which she had .heard at Manipallavam: "The king of Puhar had neglected the festivity of Indra. Indra, in his turn, ordered the goddess Manimekhala to sink the town of Puhar into the sea. An ancestor of your father, many generations ago, was caught in a ship-wreck; he was lost in the sea like a golden needle on a fine carpet of gold;for seven days he desperately fought for saving his life. His attention being drawn by the quivering of the white cushion, Indra ordered the goddess to save the future Buddha who was endangered in the sea. She picked him up from the sea so that the perfections might be accomplished and the wheel of the law put in motion. Your father heard from the Caranas who were always very well informed that such was the usual function of the goddess Manimekhala and gave you her name." This story, which has been twice repeated in the poem as if for pointing out its importance, is in perfect agreement with the Jataka story. Most of the features reappear, in the Jataka of the brahman Samkha as well as in that of the great Janaka. There may be some hesitation in choosing between the two, but a striking detail dissipates the uncertainty. The poet of the Manimekhala has introduced in his story an unexpected ornament: the ship-wrecked who was floating is compared to 'a golden needle on a rich carpet of gold. This is at least the interpretation of Prof. p. 611 Krishnaswami Aiyengar, but my colleague Prof. Jules Bloch, whom I requested to verify the original, tells me that the text should be translated as 'as a golden needle (usi-Sk. suci) sews (tunniyad) a green mantle (kambala).' The imagery is thus much more appropriate. This kind of ornament is infinitely rare in the poem; to emphasise the interest of the story, the author counts, above all, on the charm of the rhyme which plays in subtle assonances on the second syllable of every verse and on the initial of each hemistich. He counts on the agreement of the assonant lines, each of which is arranged into a complete sentence of variable length. He counts still on the happy choice of words often borrowed from the most secret treasure of the language and for the rest he counts on the ardour of his faith and the value of his doctrines which he preaches. Such a curious comparison introduced by the saint Ayvana in the recalling of an ancient, miracle thus appears in an unexpected relief. The Jataka of the great Janaka offers an exact parallel to this case. The author who has always used a flat prose for his story while describing the ship-wrecked hero floating on the sea makes use of a comparison which does not fit in with the colourless weft, of his style: "He began to cross the ocean as a golden trunk of tree rolls on the waves which have the colour of gems." Such is at least the meaning of the text edited by Fausboll without any variant. But the Siamese edition of the Jataka, published from Bangkok in 1922, which gives a carefully established text, reads here (instead of suvannakkhando viya) suvannakaddali (sic) khando viya, "like the trunk of a plantain tree in gold," a detail, which completely modifies the spirit of comparison. The plantain tree, in the whole Sanskrit literature, is a symbol of illusion; it has the appearance of a tree but is simply constituted by a bunch of leaves. Buddha on different occasions (Majjh. I, 233; Sam. IV, 167) uses the parable of the man who went with his axe in search of good wood (Sara-) and cut only the trunk of a plantain tree. The trunk of p. 612 the plantain tree reappears again in the enumeration of illust ions along with wave, bubble of water, mirage etc., in the Samyutta, II, 141 and in the Sanskrit Mahavyutpatti, 2826 (edition of Sakaki). The trunk of the plantain tree is also the mark of physical beauty; the dictionary of "the Pali Text Society" quotes the authority of the commentary of the Vimanavatthu, p.280. In fact, the commentator in this passage explains the expression sampanna-uru -thana of the text by kadalikkhanda-sadisa-uru (a Woman who has her thighs similar to trunks of banana tree). The same expression occurs in a witty stanza introduced by the commentator Ravicandra in his edition of Amaru, but not known to other commentators: urudvayam mrgadrsah kadalasya kandau madhyam ca vedir atulam stanayugmam asyah/ lavanyavariparipuritasatakumbha- kumbham manojanrpater abhisecanaya// "Oh, the beauty with the eyes of a deer, her two thighs are like the trunks of a plantain tree, her middle is like the altar, her breasts are incompsrable. Her two golden cups are filled with a liquor of salacity. (Every thing is ready) for the consecration of the king of love." Chezy, the first Professor of Sanskrit in the College de France, in his Anthologie Erotique which he published under the pseudonym of Apudy, translated it or rather paraphrased it in this way (no.42): "with thighs firm and polished as the trunk of the plantain tree." The author could not be further misunderstood than this. The trunk of the plantain tree is neither strong nor polished. The poet wanted to suggest in the place of the ungraceful image of the two ritualistic posts the impression of delicate fragility which is attached to the plantain tree. Therefore if we accept the reading of the Siamese edition, the ship-wrecked hero rocked by the waves, when he is compared with the trunk of a plantain tree, is shown to us as a poor little thing, weak and small, lost on the vast surface p. 613 of the ocean. And it was 110 doubt thus that the Tamil poet understood the text of the Jataka while he substituted the already used image by the comparison with the needle on a piece of cloth. Let us go back to Manimekhala(1); it is henceforth established that, whether heroine or goddess, she is precisely associated with a locality. Her original residence was at Puhar, in the port, where the great river of the South, the Kaveri, empties itself and which was one of the great centres of trafftic between India and the islands of the Archipelago. She had her temple, her cult and her festivities at Kanchi (not far from Madras), the holy city of Buddhism in the south of India. She is one of the nume rous deities, "the guardians of the sea," but her proper domain is that region of the ocean which extends from Cape Comorin to the marvellous El Dorado of the Far East. Beyond this zone of the earth and water she is unknown. The Jatakas in which she appears and plays the role which agrees so closely with her local functions could not have been imagined except in Puhar or Kanchi. They were surely narrated to the pious pilgrims in some temple or convent. We know, from the Chinese pilgrims specially, how other Jatakas were connected with well-determined sites or sanctuaries. In the very cycle of the Jatakas of the sea, I would content myself in referring to the Suparaka-Jataka, preserved in the Sanskrit as well as the Pali collections. The old and blind pilot who, by force of his piety, saves his boat from the submarine whirlpool hidden at the extremity of the earth is the eponymous hero of the great port situated in ancient times near Bombay which saw the flowing of the Greek trade towards ______________________ 1. While this paper was going to the press the chance of a research in another line has led me to learn that the goddess of the sea, Manimekhala, is still known under this same name in the Cambo- dian theatre, I have written to Cambodia for more information. When I get them, I hope to publish them in this same Quarterly. p. 614 the beginning of the Christian era. We are too much used to consider India as a massive block. But the slow progress of our knowledge permits us to separate the elements little by little and to discover under the appearance of factitious unity, the infinite variety of elements which have formed the magnificent whole of Indian civilisation. The Jataka, the epic of stories, has been able to mould in a harmonious contrast, the legends, the short local stories collected from the four corners of India; it is for a merit of the same kind that the noble epics, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and in Greece the Homeric poems, have been recognised as the symbols of the civilisation which produced them.