Buddhist Studies Review, Vol 23, No 2 (2006)

The Story of the Horse-King and the Merchant Siṃhala, in Buddhist Texts

Naomi Appleton
Issued Date: 3 Feb 2007

Abstract


The Aśvarāja story relates the adventures of a caravan of merchants shipwrecked on an island of demonesses and rescued by a fl ying horse, the aśvarāja, ‘king of horses’. The Siṃhala story continues this narrative to include the chief merchant,Siṃhala, being followed home by a demoness, who tries to get him back before seducing and eating the king. Siṃhala is crowned king and invades the island. Each story
has many versions, both Mahāyāna and non-Mahāyāna. This paper examines five key versions: birth story with ‘ocean of saṃsāra’ metaphor; political and quasi-historical narrative of the invasion of Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese; warning that ‘all women are demonesses’; glorifi cation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara; and Newar warning of the dangers of travelling to Tibet. Each version reveals some of the issues that its
community is preoccupied with.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsrv.2006.23.2.187

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