What Ten Young Men Did

By Daṇḍin
Translated by Isabelle Onians
Foreword by Kiran Nagarkar (To be published in the second edition)

What Ten Young Men Did

The crown prince becomes separated from his nine friends. Each of the ten young men has several adventures on his quest to be reunited with the others, culminating in their conquest of all competitor kingdoms. Variegated violence and sorcery figure in their exploits, but love affairs are even more prominent as both motivating factor and indispensable means. Commentators have lambasted Dandin’s heroes for their antiheroic, apparently random, escapades, while in fact the architecture of his plot reveals an elegant, instructive construction.

The book stands apart from the mass of classical Sanskrit literature since it is written in prose, not the ubiquitous verse. In an antique tradition where so much is lost to the passing of time, this work has survived thanks, perhaps, to the narrative of one of the ten youths. Mantra·gupta’s lips have been so ravished with biting kisses that he is constrained to tell his story without allowing his lips to touch, that is, without using the letters m or p or b. Dandin’s artful circumlocutions have a spontaneous feel. The present translation is the first in the long history of translations of this masterpiece to strive to reproduce that effect in English.

I then made a drawing in my likeness, saying:
‘Take this to her. Once she has seen and studied it, she is bound to ask:
“Can there exist a man who looks like this?”
Respond to her:
“What if there were?”
Then bring me her answer.’

651 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-6206-6  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-6206-9  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation


“What Mitra·gupta Did”
(From Chapter 11, pp. 414-431)
(24 pp, 1.41mb)

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Download CSL Front Matter (pdf)
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Download the title page and table of contents and one chapter of the book (in English and Sanskrit on facing pages), bundled together as a .pdf file. You can also download the CSL Front Matter (6pp, 1.3mb). It describes how we transliterate the Sanskrit text in the Roman alphabet and includes a guide to pronunciation. It also explains our system of representing phonetic fusion (sandhi).

You can set Adobe Acrobat Reader to display the Sanskrit text and translation in facing page view. Simply go to “View” in the toolbar, select “Page Layout” and click on “Facing.”

About the Translator

Isabelle Onians translates and edits Sanskrit literature for the JJC Foundation, co-publishers (with NYU Press) of the Clay Sanskrit Library.

About the Foreword Writer

Kiran Nagarkar is an award-winning novelist, playwright and critic. His latest novel, God’s Little Soldier, has been published in many languages. Read Forward (pdf)