Kathāmṛta - 62 - Alaṅkāravatī-lambaka - The Story of Camaravāla - The Story of Arthavarman and Bhogavarman

This article is part 62 of 66 in the series Kathāmṛta

Another day, when Naravāhanadatta was in the court, a prince by name Samaratuṅga came to him and said, ‘O lord! My cousin Saṅgrāmavarṣa and his four sons are jointly destroying the country. I will go and arrest them!’ Knowing well that Samaratuṅga had but a small army, Naravāhanadatta offered to send his army along. However, without seeking the support of the king's army he waged a war and arrested all five of them. Naravāhanadatta bestowed upon him royal honours and said, ‘He single-handedly defeated and arrested five of them; isn't it a great wonder!’ In response, Gomukha said, ‘O lord! If you haven’t heard about such a thing, let me narrate you the story of Camaravāla’, he started his narration as follows -

The story of the king Camaravāla

Hastināpura was ruled by a king named Camaravāla. Five kings related to him - Samarabala, Samaraśūra, Samarajita, Pratāpacandra, Pratāpasena - who were ruling the neighbouring kingdoms thought, ‘He is too powerful and will torment us if we are not united; let us all combine our forces and subdue him.’ They asked their astrologer for an auspicious time to start their venture. He thought for a while and said, ‘There are no such times this year! All the omens are bad! If you still go on you won’t achieve victory; he would be greatly benefitted instead; you can enjoy only if Lakṣmī is pleased with you; this is what is in your fate; haven’t you heard of the story of the two merchants?’ and he started narrating it -

The story of the merchants, Arthavarman and Bhogavarman

The kingdom of Kautukapura was ruled by a king named Bahuvarṇaka. As his name suggests, he was quite rich and also munificent. But he never gave anything to the kṣatriya youth Yaśovarman who was his subordinate. Whenever he asked something, he would point towards the Sun and say, ‘I want to give you something, but he forbids me; what can I do?’ Once, during a solar eclipse when the king was magnanimously giving aways many things, Yaśovarman approached him and said, ‘That Sun who would always forbid you is now swallowed by his foe; at least now give me something!’ The king laughed and gave him lots of money and clothes. But those riches got exhausted. His wife died. He set out to the abode of Vindhyavāsinī, made himself a seat of darbhā and performed tapas without food. She appeared in his dreams and said, ‘O my son! I’m propitiated; do you want riches or do you want luck?’ He said he isn’t aware of the difference. She said, ‘Go back to your city and meet the two merchants Arthavarman and Bhogavarman; whoever you think is happy I’ll make you like them.’ As per her instructions, he first visited Arthavarman. He had made a fortune in selling gold and precious gems. He welcomed Yaśovarman and invited him for a meal. He served him ghee, meat and vegetables sumptuously, and he only consumed half a pala[1] of ghee, a bit of flour based food, a piece of meat, and some vegetables. When he asked why he had only so much, he replied, ‘I’d this much only out of courtesy. Generally I consume only one karṣa of ghee and a bit of flour based food, that’s it. If I eat more it causes indigestion’ Yaśovarman finished his dinner and drank milk. Arthavarman drank only a pala of milk. They both slept in the same quadrangle. During the night Yaśovarman dreamt as though someone came with sticks and took Arthavarman to task, ‘Why did you eat more than one karṣa of ghee? Why did you consume meat? You drank one pala of milk?’ They held his legs and dragged him out, he was beaten up with the sticks, and extracted all the excess stuff he had eaten. When he woke up, he saw Arthavarman rolling on the floor clutching his stomach. The servants were trying hard to help their master by massaging his tummy. Soon Arthavarman vomited all that he had eaten and heaved a sigh of relief. Having seen what had happened, Yaśovarman muttered to himself: ‘If this is what he is going through, then of what use are all his wealth and prosperity? Fie upon them’.

Next morning Yaśovarman took Arthavarman’s leave and went to the home of Bhogavarman. Even there he was respectfully received and invited for lunch. The home was spic and span and furnished adequately. The household was not overflowing with opulence, but had just the right amount of apparel and jewels. In fact Bhogavarman didn’t even have enough money in hand for the day’s expenses, and had to pawn someone’s vessels with someone else in order to procure money. He handed the money thus received to his dutiful wife and asked her to prepare a good meal. Right at that moment, a friend of Bhogavarman’s came along and persuaded him to accompany him for lunch at his home thus: ‘All other friends have already arrived; they are waiting just for you! Come with me at once!’ Bhogavarman however replied ‘I cannot join you today. I have a guest at home!’. The friend immediately said ‘Let him join us! Your guest is our friend! Come on, get up!’, and forcefully took Bhogavarman and Yaśovarman in tow. Together, they had a sumptuous lunch in the friend’s house.

When they returned home in the evening, a nice and hot meal was awaiting them. After a satiating dinner Bhogavarman summoned the servants and asked ‘is there any food left for the night?’. When they replied in the negative, he just said ‘May we drink milk tomorrow! For tonight, let’s content ourselves with water’. Then, both Yaśovarman and Bhogavarman slept side by side in the same quarters.

That night, Yaśovarman had another strange dream. He saw a couple of men being chased around and thrashed mercilessly with sticks by another gang of men who kept cursing ‘You despicable sons of whores! Instead of making all the arrangements for what Bhogavarman needed for the night, where had you gone?’ The ones getting caned were just wailing ‘Mercy! Oh spare us! Oh please forgive us this once!’. He woke up and spent the rest of the night ruminating over what he experienced that day. He thought to himself: ‘The enjoyment that Bhogavarman reaps without worries is way superior to possessing all the riches of the world which one cannot enjoy’. Next morning he took leave of Bhogavarman and went to Vindhyavāsinī and beseeched her to be blessed with enjoyment instead of wealth. After returning home, he started enjoying each day, whatever he received in a relaxed manner, being completely devoid of worries.

- Thus, all of one’s possessions which one cannot even enjoy amount to nothing. On the other hand, even a little good luck which leads to enjoyment is any day better!

Concluding this story, the astrologer said: ‘Give up chasing fortune! Instead look for enjoyment in your lives. Don’t go to war with Camaravāla. Also the omens foretell that the time is not auspicious to embark upon such an adventure. And if you do, beware that the signs are ominous. It doesn’t look like victory will be yours!’ However, without paying heed to the sage advice of the astrologer, all the five men went to war with Camaravāla. Although their army was four times as big as Camaravāla’s, the latter emerged victorious. All the five kings were imprisoned and their entire armies were decimated. Some of the soldiers who survived managed to flee.

Among the miserable five was king Pratāpasena, whose wife Yasholekha also became Camaravāla’s. Thinking ‘after all he has won me in battle’, she joined his queens’ quarters. After a few days, she entreated the king and got her husband and the other four kings released with due respect and they were allowed to return to their kingdoms. Thus the five invaders goaded on by their hatred went to war without giving adequate thought to their foe’s strengths and weaknesses, and were brought to their knees by the courageous Camaravāla.

Naravāhanadatta appreciated the story that was narrated by Gomuka. He went ahead to perform his snāna and āhnika for the day.

5. On yet another day, when Naravāhanadatta was at Alaṅkāravatī’s mansion along with his ministers, Marubhūti’s servant came there and said –“Deva! I have been serving Marubhūti for two years now. He has provided my family with food and clothing. He has also promised me fifty Dinars per year over and above it but has not given the amount to me yet. When I asked for it, he got me beaten up. If you don’t look into the matter, I will give up my life by falling into the fire!”

Listening to these words, Marubhūti said – “It is true that I was to give this person Dinars; however, I do not possess any Dinars now!”

Everyone laughed listening to him.

Naravāhanadatta exclaimed – “What is this stupidity! Is this your intellect? Get up! Don’t delay any further – reward him with a hundred Dinars!”

Marubhūti felt ashamed. He got up, brought a hundred Dinars and paid his servant.

Gomukha then said – “Deva! The citta-vrtti of Marubhūti is one of the strangest creations of Brahmā. Haven’t you heard the story of Ciradhātṛ-rāja and his servant?” Listen now

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


[1]pala and karṣa are units of measurements, 1 pala is equivalent to 4 karṣas.



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.

Prekshaa Publications

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