Sutasoma offers himself to the tigress as prey (Sutasoma narratie)

I Dewa Putu Arsania (1960–)

Date painted: 1982

Buddha was reincarnated as Sutasoma, the son of the King of Hastinapura. As an adult, he was very pious and devout, and did not wish to be married and crowned king. So one night, Sutasoma fled from Hastinapura. When Sutasoma's absence was discovered, the palace was in tumult and the King and Queen were very sad, and were consoled by many people. When he arrived in the forest, the noble Lord Sutasoma prayed in a shrine. The Goddess Widyukarali appeared before him and told him that his prayers had been heard and would be granted. Lord Sutasoma then climbed into the Himalaya mountains in the company of several holy men. When they arrived at a certain hermitage, he was told a story of a king who had been reincarnated as a demon who liked eating humans. The story was that there was once a king called Purusada or Kalmasapada. One day all the meat that had been set aside for the consumption of the king was eaten by dogs and pigs. The chef was concerned, and hurriedly sought out alternatives, but couldn't find any. In desperation he went to a graveyard and cut off the leg of one of the corpses and prepared it for his king. Because he had been reincarnated as a demon, he had found the meal very tasty, and he asked his chef what type of meat the chef had prepared. The chef admitted that the meat had been from a human, and from that moment on, the king loved eating humans. Soon there were no people left in his kingdom, either he had eaten his subjects, or they had fled. Soon the king suffered a wound in his leg which wouldn't heal, and he became more demonic and began to live in the jungle. By the time of Sutasoma's visit to the hermitage, the king had sworn that he would make an offering of 100 kings to the God Kala if he would cure him of his illness. The holy men begged Sutasoma to kill this demonic king, but he refused. Even the Goddess Prithvi beseeched him to kill the king, but he was adamant he would not do it, as he wished to live the life of an ascetic. So Sutasoma continued his journey. One day in the middle of the road he met a Ganesh demon with an elephants head who preyed upon humans. Sutasoma nearly became his victim, but he fought the beast and struck him down so that he fell to the earth. It felt like Satusoma had tried to strike a mountain! The demon surrendered and received a sermon from Sutasoma about the Bhuddist religion and that it is forbidden to kill any living creature. Afterwards, the demon became Sutasomo's disciple. And Sutasoma continued his journey. Next he met with a dragon. He defeated the dragon, and it also became his disciple. Finally, Sutasoma met a hungry tigeress who preyed on her own children! But Sutasoma stopped her and told her why she shouldn't. But the tigeress persisted. Finally Sutasoma offered his own body as food for the tigeress. She jumped on him and sucked out his blood, which was fresh and tasty. But the tigeress realised that what she had done was wrong, and she began to cry and repented. Then the God Indra appeared and made Sutasoma live again. The tiger also became his disciple, and they all continued their journey. By this time, there was a war between the demon king Kalmasapada and king Dasabahu, a cousin of Sutasoma. King Dasabahu happened to meet with Sutasoma and invited him home so that he could marry is daughter. Satusoma was married and returned home to Hastinapura. He had children and became King Sutasoma. Finally, the story of Purusada must be finished. He had gathered together the 100 kings to offer to the God Kala, but Kala didn't want to accept them. Kala wanted to be offered King Sutasoma instead! Purusada made war with Sutasoma, but because Sutasoma didn't resist, he was captured and sacrificed to Kala. Sutasoma was prepared to be eaten so that the 100 kings could go free. Purusada was so affected by this sacrifice that he tried to atone for it. The 100 kings were released

37.5 by 25 cm
water colour on drawing paper

Private Collection of Batuan, Singapore

Depicts: Sutasoma

photo: Ken Cheong