Friday, December 5, 2008

Vishu Sharma's "Kaulik & the Princess" (short story, free): Among the ancient precursors to science fiction

I'd been looking for an online English translation of this story for a while, & finally found it. Among the earliest stories featuring a small flying machine, though it flies by magic. Original is Sanskrit, & often listed among children's stories.

I loved it first time I read it, but I was much younger then; not sure how adults will respond on first exposure.

A love struck young man builds this wooden flier with the help of his carpenter friend to impress the girl. By posing as Lord Vishnu himself! Roger Zelazny's famous novel "Lord of Light" is, in some sense, a more detailed & more drastic version of it.

For readers unfamiliar with Indian mythology:

  1. Vishnu is one of the most important Hindu gods - part of the Trinity of Creation. He's the main deity in probably over half of all Hindu temples, in the form of one of his two popular avatars - Ram or Krishna. There is a lot more to his mythology, but this is not the place for details; whole sites must be out there for that.
  2. Garuda is a bird & Vishnu's mount.
First published: around 200 BC in Sanskrit as one of the stories in Panchtantra, among the most widely read children's story books anywhere.
Read full text of an English translation at Google Books.