Kathāmṛta - 60 - Alaṅkāravatī-lambaka - The Story of Vikramatuṅga and Vīravara

This article is part 60 of 66 in the series Kathāmṛta

On yet another occasion, the king had to fight a war with a rival from the frontiers. The seeker went with him and defeated many enemy men with his staff. The king was victorious and returned home. Though he had witnessed the strength and skill of the seeker, he did not reward him at all.

Five years rolled on. In the sixth year, the king was overcome with compassion for the seeker and thought – He is suffering so much. Yet, I have not given him anything. I will now give him something, but I’ll disguise it and watch. Let us see if this person has overcome his pāpa and Lakṣmī has something in store for him.

He got a mādala fruit (citrus variety fruit), filled with precious gems and jewels and had it sealed. He then called the seeker into the court and asked him to recite a subhāṣita. He then recited the following Āryā verse:

पूरयति पूर्णमेषा तरङ्गिणीसंहतिः समुद्रमिव |

लक्ष्मीरधनस्य पुनः लोचनमार्गेऽपि नायाति ||

[Just as rivers pour in their waters into the ocean, which is already full of water, Lakṣmī too goes to someone who is full of riches already. She does not appear before a poor person!”]

The king was pleased and gifted him the mādala fruit filled with gems. And all those who saw that sight were astonished. They thought, “Ah! If our king is pleased with anyone, his poverty is alleviated at once. That being the case, why did the king invite this seeker, offer him such respect, and express happiness but without giving him anything but a humble citron fruit!" They felt dejected. The seeker took the fruit with him and departed. On the way, he came across a bauddha-bhikṣu called Rājavandin, to whom he gave the citron and in exchange took a pair of ochre-coloured shawls. He sold the shawls and got sufficient money to pay for his food and drink. The bauddha-bhikṣu deemed the fruit to be beautiful and offered it as a present to the king. When asked where he procured the fruit, he replied that he got it from the seeker. The king was both surprised and sad. He thought, “The seeker’s pāpa has not yet been destroyed!” On the second day, once again he called to his royal assembly the seeker who lived in Siṃhadvāra (main entrance). Having made him sit by his side, the king requested him to recite the same Āryā verse and overjoyed by it, gave him the same citron fruit. Looking at that, all were amazed and they thought, "For a second day in a row, the king's happiness has not resulted in good fortune for a mendicant. Why is that so?" When the seeker was walking out with the fruit, an official who had come to meet the king considered that to be a good omen and took the citron from him in exchange for a pair of garments. The official first offered the fruit to the king followed by the other gifts he had brought. The king asked him where he got the fruit and upon learning about it he thought, "Lakṣmī has not given him darśana!" The seeker sold one of the garments and used the money for his food. He tore the other garment into two and used that to clothe himself. On the third day, again the king invited the seeker and a similar turn of events ensued. The seeker sold the fruit to a courtesan, who purchased it for a piece of gold. When the courtesan offered the fruit to the king, he thought, “Lakṣmī has not yet given him darśana! Despite giving him priceless jewels, that unfortunate fellow hasn't realized it and the fruit keeps coming back to me! My patronage is futile!” On the fourth day, once again the king invited the seeker to his assembly. But this time, when the king offered the fruit to the seeker, it slipped from his hands even as he was about to receive it. The citron fell on the ground and broke in half. The portion that held together the fruit gave way and invaluable gems were scattered all over the assembly floor. Everyone understood the king's generosity and compassion. The king said, "I wanted to see if Lakṣmī would cast her eyes of prosperity on him and thus resorted to this subterfuge. Three days remained for all his pāpas to be washed away. Today, they have been extinguished and Lakṣmī has revealed herself to him!" Along with those gems, the king gave the seeker villages, elephants, horses, and gold, and made him a chieftain of a region within his kingdom. Thus, a dependent, however many travails he experiences, cannot obtain the favour of his master unless he is free of pāpa. Therefore, it appears that this seeker has not yet washed away all his pāpas.—thus he (Gomukha) concluded his tale. Naravāhanadatta then granted him villages, elephants, horses, clothes, ornaments, gold, and silver and gave him a rank equal to a king.

This being so, once a great warrior from the Southern country named Pralambabāhu came to the king's assembly. He said, "Having heard about your fame, I have come to your feet. While on the earth, I will never forsake you and will follow you like a shadow but in the air, I cannot travel, I say this because I have heard that your lordship is the emperor of the vidyādharas. I need a salary of a hundred gold pieces every day." Naravāhanadatta agreed to his terms and employed him in royal service. Gomukha said to Naravāhanadatta, ‘O king! Such people are also routinely employed by kings; I’ll tell you a story; Please listen!’ ,and he narrated it.

The story of Vikramatuṅga and Vīravara.

There lived a king named Vikramatuṅga who ruled Vikramapura. One day a valourous brāhmaṇa youth by name Vīravara came from the province of Mālava in search of a job. A wife named Dharmavatī, son by name Sattvavara, daughter by name Vīravatī, a sword fastened to his belt, a shield in one hand and a mirror in the other - these were his paraphernalia. He demanded a salary of 500 dinars per day, the king seeing his well-built body befitting to his valour agreed and offered him. Curious as to how he would spend his money, the king appointed some of his spies to investigate. They reported, ‘He gives his wife 100 dinars for daily expenses such as food etc; he spends 100 more for clothing; another 100 he spends in the pūjā of deities; finally he donates the remaining 200 to the brāhmaṇas and poor.’ Except taking some time for bathing, daily worship and food, he would always be at vigil in the main entrance. After observing his conduct the king was fully satisfied and he called back his spies. One night it was raining; to check if he was still present or not the king from the balcony called out, ‘Who is there?’ Vīravara answered, ‘I’m here!’ The king was surprised, he thought, ‘In such torrential rain he is still standing alert!’ A woman crying far away was heard; ‘There is none who is afflicted in my kingdom! Who would this be!’, thinking so the king asked Vīravara, ‘A woman is crying; inquire who is she? Why is she crying? Go now!’ Vīravara at once obeyed his command and ventured out. The king followed him incognito out of curiosity. On the outskirts, near a pond, one woman was crying, ‘O my beloved! O compassionate one! O valourous one! How can I leave you?’ Vīravara saw her and asked, ‘Who are you? Why are you crying?’ She replied, ‘I’m Bhūdevī; our valiant king Vikramatuṅga will be dead in three days; would I ever get such a husband? So I’m crying. But by foresight I see that good will follow evil as did Suprabha, the son of one of the heavenly deities in svarga’ and then she narrated the story -

Suprabha by his foresight came to know that his puṇya would be exhausted in the next six days, not only that, he will go back to the earth and be born as a pig! He lamented about his situation. When Indra heard about it, he came and enquired about his problems. After listening, he said, ‘There is indeed a way out of this misery. Have faith in Śiva, start chanting the pañcākṣarī, ‘om namaḥ śivāya’ He will definitely help you come out of this trouble, you’ll not only burn all your pāpa but you’d obtain so much puṇya that you will neither leave svarga nor be born as a pig.’ Suprabha followed his instructions and sought refuge under Śiva. He repeatedly chanted the pañcākṣarī for six days and then he was transported to a place better than svarga. -

Like Suprabha I too am lamenting knowing my future.’ Vīravara asked, ‘Is there any way this can be averted?’ She said, ‘There is only one way; You are the only one capable.’ He replied, ‘O Bhūdevī! Tell me; even if I have to sacrifice myself or even my wife and children I’m ready to do so!’ She said, ‘There is a temple of Caṇḍī in the vicinity of the palace; if you sacrifice your son there the king will live; there is no other way!’ Immediately Vīravara went to his house, awakened his wife and told her everything. She said, ‘Whatever is favourable to the king should be done; let’s wake up the son!’

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.

The original Kannada version of Kathāmṛta is available for free online reading. So are the other works of Prof. Krishna Shastri



Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.

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