Many of the fairy tales told around the world can be traced to India, leading many scholars to suggest that India is the home of stories. The original collection known as Brihat-katha, or the ocean of stories, was written in a language called Paisachi, the language of ghosts, which is neither Sanskrit nor Prakrit. It is now lost. However, part of it remains, as Katha-sarit-sagar.
The story goes that Shiva narrated these tales to his wife, Shakti. They were overheard by Shiva’s attendants, the ganas, who passed it on to the ghosts, Pisachas. They were, in turn, overheard and understood by Gunadhya, who had sworn never to speak in Sanskrit and Prakrit, having lost a bet to his king. Gunadhya wrote the stories down using his blood as ink and gave it to king Shalivahana, but the king found the language strange and felt Gunadhya was simply a madman who claimed to speak the ‘language of ghosts’. So Gunadhya, with a heavy heart, began reading the stories aloud in the forest to the birds and the beasts; burning the manuscript page by page. The king, who had rejected the manuscript, happened to be in the forest hunting, and observed the birds and beasts listening spellbound to the strange language of a sage. He realised that Gunadhya was not madman as he first suspected, but was, in fact, truly telling a story known only to ghosts until then. He stopped Gunadhya and saved what remained of the book. Of the seven sections of the great narrative, only one remained from which all the fantastic adventure stories of the world have come into being. These stories had no religious leanings but were eventually absorbed and turned into Buddhist, Jain and Hindu stories.
The story goes that Shiva narrated these tales to his wife, Shakti. They were overheard by Shiva’s attendants, the ganas, who passed it on to the ghosts, Pisachas…
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.