The present book contains the first Indian edition of 17 (out of 34) legends, from the Garland of Birth-Stories (Jatakamala) by the Kashmirian poet Haribhatta who lived not later than 400CE. His composition, written in the prosimetric campu style, is a worthy successor to Aryasura's Jatakamala. An exemplary representative of the chaste style (vaidarbhi ritih), it enchants the reader by its perfectly lucid Sanskrit, the great variety of metres (29) and superb prose sections, which can be regarded as forerunners of Dandin's and Bana prose novels. The legends, which are meant to illustrate the six moral perfections (paramita), viz, giving, morality, forbearance, striving, meditation and wisdom, are chosen not only from the rich store-house of Buddhist narrative literature, but occasionally also from other sources, e.g. the Mahabharata or even folk tales. In contrast to his predecessor Aryasura, Haribhatta follows the way of playwrights and boldly alters the original plot in order to achieve more dramatic effects. His stories vary considerably in length: between 6 pages (containing 28 stanzas) such as the legend of the ascetic Javalin (No.26) and 60 pages (containing 242 stanzas) such as the legend of prince Sudhana and his wife, the Kinnari Manohara (No.25, still unpublished), the latter story being in fact a veritable lover romance.
Until 1973, Haribhatta's work was known only from its medieval Tibetan translation. Between 1973 and 1976, Michael Hahn discovered ten of its legends in anonymous manuscripts from Nepal. They were published (in Latin script) in Japan in 2007. In 2004, Michael Hahn got access to another fragmentary Sanskrit manuscript that permitted him to include seven more legends in the present Indian edition. An English translation is currently being prepared.
A CD containing colour photographs of the oldest manuscript of Haribhatta's Jatakamala from Nepal is attached to book.