The Story of the Horse-King and the Merchant Si?hala, in Buddhist Texts


  • Naomi Appleton Oriental Institute, Oxford



Aśvarāja story, Sinhalese, Siṃhala story, Horse King in Buddhist Texts


The A?var?ja story relates the adventures of a caravan of merchants shipwrecked on an island of demonesses and rescued by a fl ying horse, the a?var?ja, ‘king of horses’. The Si?hala story continues this narrative to include the chief merchant,Si?hala, being followed home by a demoness, who tries to get him back before seducing and eating the king. Si?hala is crowned king and invades the island. Each story has many versions, both Mah?y?na and non-Mah?y?na. This paper examines five key versions: birth story with ‘ocean of sa?s?ra’ 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 Avalokite?vara; and Newar warning of the dangers of travelling to Tibet. Each version reveals some of the issues that its community is preoccupied with.

Author Biography

Naomi Appleton, Oriental Institute, Oxford

DPhil. candidate in Buddhist Studies Oriental Institute, Oxford University


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How to Cite

Appleton, N. (2007). The Story of the Horse-King and the Merchant Si?hala, in Buddhist Texts. Buddhist Studies Review, 23(2), 187–201.