Sulasa and Sattuka

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, there was a beautiful woman of the town, called Sulasa, whose price was a thousand pieces a night. There was in the same city a robber named Sattuka, as strong as an elephant, who used to enter rich men’s houses at night and plunder at will. One day he was captured. Sulasa was standing at her window when the soldiers led Sattuka, his hands bound behind his back, down the street toward the place of execution.

She fell in love with him on sight, and said, “If I can free that stout fighting man, I will give up this bad life of mine and live respectably with him.” She sent a thousand pieces to the chief constable, and thus gained his freedom. They lived together in delight and harmony for some time, but after three or four months, the robber thought, “I shall never be able to stay in this one place. But one can’t go empty handed. Her ornaments are worth a hundred thousand pieces. I will kill her and take them.”

So he said to her one day, “Dear, when I was being hauled along by the king’s men, I promised an offering to a tree deity on a mountain top, who is now threatening me because I have not paid it. Let us make an offering.”

She consented to accompany her husband to the mountain top to make the offering. She should, he said, to honor the deity, wear all of her ornaments.

When they arrived at the mountain top, he revealed his true purpose: “I have not come to present the offering. I have come with the intention of killing you and going away with all your ornaments. Take them all off and make a bundle of them in your outer garment.”

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“Husband, why would you kill me?”

“For your money.”

“Husband, remember the good I have done you. When you were being hauled along in chains, I paid a large sum and saved your life. Though I might get a thousand pieces a day, I never look at another man. Such a benefactress I am to you. Do not kill me. I will give you much money and be your slave.”

But instead of accepting her entreaties, he continued his preparations to kill her.

“At least let me salute you,” she said. “I am going to make obeisance to you on all four sides.” Kneeling in front of him, she put her head to his foot, repeated the act at his left side, then at his right side, then from behind. Once behind him, she took hold of him, and with the strength of an elephant threw him over a cliff a hundred times as high as a man. He was crushed to pieces and died on the spot. Seeing this deed, the deity who lived on the mountain top spoke this stanza:

Wisdom at times is not confined to men; A woman can show wisdom now and then.

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So Sulasa killed the robber. When she descended from the mountain and returned to her attendants, they asked where her husband was. “Don’t ask me,” she said, and mounting her chariot she went on to the city.

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