The story of Anaṅgaratī
The city of Śūrapura was ruled by king Mahāvarāha. His queen was Padmaratī and their only daughter was Anaṅgaratī. When the princess attained youth, the fame of her beauty spread far and wide across the land. Many noble and worthy princes sought her hand. However, out of sheer vanity due to her own beauty, she refused them all. She was hell-bent upon marrying someone who was either valorous or handsome or sagacious. Drawn by the stories of Anaṅgaratī’s beauty, four men from the land to the south descended upon Śūrapura. When the king inquired who they were, one of them said ‘I am a śūdra named Pañcapaṭṭika. I weave five pairs of clothes everyday. I give one to a brahmana, another to lord Parameśvara, and wear the third one. The fourth I give to my wife, if I had one, and earn my living by selling the fifth’. The second one said, ‘I’m a vaiśya, my name is Bhāṣajña, I can communicate with all animals and birds.’ The third said – “I am a kṣatriya by name Khaḍgadhara. I win over everything using my sword.” The fourth said – “I am a brāhmaṇa by name Jīva-datta. I can revive dead women, thanks to the gift given to me by Goddess Gaurī and also because of my own skill”. After introducing themselves, the śūdra, the vaiśya and the kṣatriya praised their own beauty, valour and strength, but the brāhmaṇa skipped the beauty and only praised his valour and strength. The king sent them away with a servant and asked his daughter’s opinion about the men.
She said – “I am not pleased with any of them; one of them is a śūdra who works with threads. What will I gain from marrying him? The second is a vaiśya; what is the use of his knowledge of the birds’ speech? Moreover, how can I marry any of them, being a kṣatriya woman myself? The third belongs to the same varna as me and is brave as well. However, he needs to survive by serving others. He is poor and needs to sell his life for a livelihood. How can I marry him, being the daughter of a King? The fourth is a brāhmaṇa; he is not good looking. He is a fallen brāhmaṇa as he has taken to tasks other than the study of the Vedas. He needs to be punished. Will you hand me over to such a person? You are supposed to be the guarding of varṇāśrama-dharma.
The next day, as the heroes were roaming in the city, an elephant, Padmakabala escaped from the stables and started trampling over people. Khaḍgadhara chopped its trunk off with a single blow of his sword as if it was a lotus stalk. Then he went between its feet, and dealt a second blow to its back. With a third strike of his sword, he cut off the elephant’s legs. The elephant collapsed with a scream and died on the spot. Everyone praised his valour. The news reached the king too.
Another day, the four men were out hunting with the king and each killed a lion. They also killed other animals. The pleased king reported this to his daughter and said – “They are all heroes. You said that the first two belong to a different varna and the brāhmaṇa is fallen. Why don’t you marry the kṣatriya in that case? I’ll make sure that he does not have to make his living out of servitude by installing him as an independent king right away.” She said – “Alright then! Call the purohita and ask him! Let us see what he is going to say!”
The purohita asked for his nakṣatra, calculated for quite a long time and said – “Mahārāja! Only if you don’t get annoyed with me, I’ll tell you something clearly. None of the four men are suitable for our daughter. She is a vidyādharī, who has taken birth as a human due to a curse. In three month’s time, she will be relieved of her curse. If she does not return to her divine worlds then, she can be married off”. The heroes too accepted it and waited for three months.
After three months, when she was asked about marriage, she hid her face with her sari. She had become a jātismara – had got the recollection of her past lives. When they tried to see why she had closed her face, they discovered that her life-breath had left the body. The king and queen both fainted at that ghastly sight. After being revived by the attendants, the king called for Jīva-datta and said – “Now, the rest of the heroes are not going to be of any help. You had said that you can bring a dead woman back to life – now revive her. If she comes back alive, I will get her married to you!”
Jīva-datta sprinkled water upon her and recited a verse set in the metre āryā
अट्टाट्टहासहसिते करङ्कमालाकुले दुरालोके|
चामुण्डे विकराले साहाय्यं मे कुरु त्वरितम् ||
[O Cāmuṇḍī! the deity with the loud laugh, adorned with the garland of skulls, difficult to behold, the terrible! Help me quickly]
Yet, she did not regain life.
He then went ahead to chop his head with a longsword off saying – “The knowledge blessed upon me by Vindhyavāsinī is now turned useless. What is the use of my living!” A voice was then heard from the skies – “Ārya, Jīva-datta! Don’t do this; Anaṅgaprabhā is a vidyādharī. She had turned into a human because of her father’s curse and has now returned to her world. Worship Vindhyavāsinī. With her grace, you will obtain the same vidyādharī as your wife!" said the incorporeal voice. Accordingly he propitiated Vindhyavāsinī and she appeared in his dream. She said, "There is a town called Vīrapura in the Himālayas and it is ruled by a vidyādhara king named Samara. He had a daughter named Anaṅgaprabhā born to him by his queen Anaṅgavatī. Her beauty and youth made her very vain and she refused to marry anyone. Her parents were enraged with her and cursed her by saying: ‘May you be born as a mortal; even there you will not know the pleasure of a husband. After living that life for sixteen years, you shall come back here. An ugly fellow who has been cursed because of lusting after a hermit's daughter will marry you. Although you will not desire it, he will take you away. You will chase after other men and lead a life of adultery. In his previous life, he had abducted eight wives of other men and so he is cursed to suffer the sorrow of eight births in this birth itself. You too shall suffer the pain of eight births in this one birth! Let all your learning go away! May you have several husbands. Madanaprabha, who desires your hand in marriage and is a match for you, will also be born as a mortal. After you marry him, he will become a vidyādhara. You too will then be freed from this curse and you will come and live with him here!’ That same Anaṅgaprabhā was born on earth as Anaṅgaratī and has now returned to her father's home. Go to Vīrapura and win over her father and get her as a wife. Take this sword. With this, you will be able to travel in the sky. You will be victorious!” When he woke up, he found a sword in his hand. Accordingly Jīvadatta went to Vīrapura, won her hand in marriage, and set out to bring her back to earth. On the way, Anaṅgaprabhā beheld a beautiful mountain and said, “Let us rest here awhile, I am exhausted!” Using the power of his magical sciences, he produced food and drink, which they consumed. Impelled by destiny, he told her, “Will you sing a melodious song?” She began singing a devotional kīrtana in praise of Śiva and he fell asleep listening to it. In the meantime, a king named Harivara, who had grown weary after hunting, came there in search of drinking water and attracted by the devotional song that he heard, he came upon Anaṅgaprabhā. They both instantly developed a liking for each other. She said at once, “Before my husband awakes, let us escape to your city!” She thought that she could take him along and soar in the sky. But all her knowledge was taken away from her owing to her infidelity towards her husband. She was unable to fly in the air. Therefore, he made her sit in his chariot and rode to his city in great haste. When Jīvadatta awoke from his slumber, he was shocked to find that his wife had vanished and his sword was missing. Therefore, he set out all alone and reached a nearby village. There, he went to the house of a wealthy brāhmaṇa. The lady of the house, Priyadattā, called her servant-maids and told them, “Go at once and wash the feet of that brāhmaṇa. Poor man, he has not eaten for thirteen days!” He was astounded to hear those words. After finishing his meal, he asked her, “O Mother! How did you learn about my story? Do you know the whereabouts of my wife and my sword?” She said, “With the sole exception of my husband, I do not entertain even thoughts or dreams about other men; I never send a guest away without properly honouring him; due to such conduct, I know the past, the present and the future. Anaṅgaprabhā has been carried off by a king named Harivara, while you were away. You can never get her back. Not just that, she being unchaste would again find someone else. The sword was given to you for one purpose and since that is fulfilled the weapon being a divine one returned to Vindhyavāsinī. Abandon all your thoughts about her. It is futile to dwell upon her.”
The current article is a translation of Prof. A R Krishnasastri’s Kannada classic Kathāmṛta along with additional segments added from the original Kathā-sarit-sāgara (of Soma-deva). Bṛhat-kathā-mañjarī (of Kṣemendra) and Bṛhat-kathā-śloka-saṃgraha (of Budha-svāmin) have also been referred to. The translation has been rendered by Raghavendra GS, Arjun Bharadwaj, Srishan Thirumalai, and Hari Ravikumar.