... Petavatthu 18

Here is another translation by The Thālaka Group (@fiachra.harte, @khagga, @ficus, @a.messenger, @gillian).

We would be grateful for all corrections and any suggestions.

We often discuss among ourselves the relative merits of staying as close as possible to the original versus producing easy-to-read text. We would be interested to hear your views, esp as they relate to the below. :pray:

6. Kaṇhapetavatthu

Kanha’s Peta Story

King Kanha, aka Kesava
Ghata, younger brother to the king
Rohineyya, courtier the king

[Rohineyya to King Kanha]
“Uṭṭhehi Kaṇha kiṁ sesi,
Wake up Kanha, why are you sleeping?
Ko attho supanena te;
How do you benefit from sleep?
Yo ca tuyhaṁ sako bhātā,
Hadayaṁ cakkhu ca dakkhiṇaṁ;

Your own brother who is like your heart and right eye [an expression refering to a close relationship].

Tassa vātā balīyanti,
For him, the winds become strong [an expression meaning “he is not well”].
Sasaṁ jappati kesavā”ti.
He is muttering about bunnies, O Kesava.

“Tassa taṁ vacanaṁ sutvā,
Rohiṇeyyassa Kesavo;
Taramānarūpo vuṭṭhāsi,
Kesavo, having heard the speech of Rohineyya, rose quickly,
bhātusokena aṭṭito.
concerned for his brother.

[King Kanha to his brother]
Kiṁ nu ummattarūpova,
Kevalaṁ dvārakaṁ imaṁ;

Why do you wander through the whole city of Dvaraka
Saso sasoti lapasi,
muttering, “A bunny! A bunny!”?
kīdisaṁ sasamicchasi.
What kind of “bunny” do you want?

Sovaṇṇamayaṁ maṇimayaṁ,
One made of gold? A jeweled one?
Lohamayaṁ atha rūpiyamayaṁ;
One made of metal? One of silver?
Made of mother of pearl and coral and decorated with stones?
Kārayissāmi te sasaṁ.
I will have a bunny made for you.

Santi aññepi sasakā,

(If you wish it) to be a bunny from the forest
Tepi te ān-ay-issāmi,
I will have them brought to you
kīdisaṁ sasamicchasī”ti.
What kind of “bunny” do you want?”

[The brother to King Kanha]
“Nāhamete sase icche,
I wouldn’t want any of these bunnies!
ye sasā pathavissitā;
These bunnies are earthly;
Candato sasamicchāmi,
I want the bunny from the moon [a reference to the Hare on the Moon].
taṁ me ohara kesavā”ti.
Bring me that one, Kesava.

[King Kanha to his brother]
“So nūna madhuraṁ ñāti,
jīvitaṁ vijahissasi;

Surely, you, dear relative, are wasting your life like one intoxicated.
Apatthiyaṁ patthayasi,
You wish for what cannot be wished for,
candato sasamicchasī”ti.
you want the bunny from the moon.

[Brother to King Kanha]
“Evañce Kaṇha jānāsi

If you know this well enough to instruct another
Kasmā pure mataṁ puttaṁ,
ajjāpi manusocasi.

Why earlier today were you mourning your dead son?

Na yaṁ labbhā manussena,
amanussena vā pana;
Jāto me mā mari putto,

This – a son is born to me; let him not die – is not obtainable, by a human, non-human, or any other kind of being:
kuto labbhā alabbhiyaṁ.
How is it possible to obtain what can’t be obtained?

Na mantā mūlabhesajjā,
osadhehi dhanena vā;

Not by incantation, the principal medicine, herbs, or by wealth,
sakkā ānayituṁ kaṇha,
is it possible, O Kanha, to bring back
yaṁ petamanusocasi.
the person who has passed on whom you mourn.

Mahaddhanā mahābhogā,
Persons of great wealth, of great riches,
raṭṭhavantopi khattiyā;
even with a kingdom and great possessions,
with any and all resources,
tepi no ajarāmarā.
They too are not free from decay and death.

Khattiyā brāhmaṇā vessā,
Warriors, brahmans, merchants,
suddā caṇḍālapukkusā;
workers, and outcastes
ete caññe ca jātiyā,
by birth in these or any other (class/circumstances)
tepi no ajarāmarā.
They too are not free from decay and death.

Ye mantaṁ parivattenti,
They who recite incantations
chaḷaṅgaṁ brahmacintitaṁ;
the 6 disciplines of Vedic interpretation, divinely inspired,
ete caññe ca vijjāya,
by knowledge of these or any other (thing,)
tepi no ajarāmarā.
they too are not free from decay and death.

Isayo vāpi ye santā,
Seers who are holy men,
saññatattā tapassino;
the self controlled ascetic,
Sarīraṁ tepi kālena,
vijahanti tapassino.

even ascetics abandon the body at the time of death.

Bhāvitattā arahanto,
The self composed arahats,
katakiccā anāsavā;
Fully perfect without influxes,
nikkhipanti imaṁ dehaṁ,
they lay aside the body
having destroyed merit and demerit.

[The King to his brother]
“Ādittaṁ vata maṁ santaṁ,
Surely, me being inflamed
ghatasittaṁva pāvakaṁ;
like a fire sprinkled with ghee
Vārinā viya osiñcaṁ,
sabbaṁ nibbāpaye daraṁ.
all sadness is extinguished as though doused with rain.

Abbahī vata me sallaṁ,
sokaṁ hadayanissitaṁ;

Surely, you have pulled out for me the arrow of grief that was lodged in my heart,
Yo me sokaparetassa,
me being overcome by grief,
puttasokaṁ apānudi.
you removed the grief for my son

Svāhaṁ abbūḷhasallosmi,
I myself am the one pulling out the arrow
sītibhūtosmi nibbuto;
I’m cooled, quenched,
Na socāmi na rodāmi,
I don’t grieve, I don’t cry,
tava sutvāna bhātika”.
having heard my brother.

evaṁ karonti sappaññā,
The wise do this:
ye honti anukampakā;
They are merciful,
Nivattayanti sokamhā,
Turning people from grief
ghaṭo jeṭṭhaṁva bhātaraṁ.
Like Ghata with his older brother.

Yassa etādisā honti,
amaccā paricārakā
Subhāsitena anventi,

His friends and companions accompany him in this way with well-spoken words,
ghaṭo jeṭṭhaṁva bhātaran-ti.
Like Ghata with his older brother.


Thanks for sharing your latest translation!
I really have no idea- but is there some relationship between the names Kaṇha and Ghaṭa and the passage ‘ghatasittaṁva pāvakaṁ’ and the idea of ‘kaṇha-vattanin’ the black trail of fire after being sprinkled with ghee?
Or in other words, do the names of the characters in this story have symbolic meaning? Would they be worth translating?


Thanks Stephen - it actually hadn’t occurred to us!

You’re probably right. I’ll ponder how to look into that. As @ficus pointed out, there’s a Jataka story related to this and we’ve seen symbolic names in the Jataka before.

Or it could be Kaṇha is punning on their names. Either way it needs to be noted.


A pun on their names makes it extra cool :sunglasses:


When I read stories like this in the PetaV or Jataka, I often feel as if I’m missing out on some vaguely sensed back-story. That would likely have been understood by people 1000s of years ago.
But I don’t really know.
Thanks again for working on this!