Kathāmṛta - 63 - Alaṅkāravatī-lambaka - The Stories of Ciradātṛ, Kanakavarṣa and Candrasvāmin

This article is part 63 of 66 in the series Kathāmṛta


There lived a king named Ciradātā in a city called Cirapura. Though the king was a nice person by his nature, he was surrounded by evil men. Prasaṅga and his friends who had come to the service of the king from a distant land did not get any remuneration, though they served him for five long years. Even if they wanted to see the king, they never got a chance to do so.

The king’s son happened to pass away. All his servants came to the king and expressed their pain and tried to console the king. Prasaṅga who was with them did not keep quiet even though the others tried to control him; he said – “Deva! We have been serving you for a long time. Yet, we have not been adequately rewarded yet. We thought that your son would at least remunerate us even if you did not; Fate has taken him away! What are we to expect from this place, here after? Please permit us to go away!” He left with these words.

The king thought – Aha! They had so much trust in my son! They certainly had a great amount of trust in me. I should not let them go!

He called them back and rewarded them such that poverty never sought their company.

Deva! People’s nature is very strange! The king Ciradātā did not pay at the right time and rewarded them after great delay. Let me narrate yet another story:

The Story of Kanakavarṣa-rāja

There was a city named Kanakapura on the banks of the river Gaṅgā. A King named Kanakavarṣa, the son of Priyadarśana, grandson of Vāsuki, ruled the city.

Once, a painter by name Roladeva visited him and said – “Mahāsvāmin! I tied a notice to the entrance of the fortress such that the lord sees it; I did not do so to show off my skill; What shall I paint in the picture? Please command me!” The king said, “Upādhyāya! Paint something that pleases you; do that first and then we shall be able to estimate your skill.” The people in the court said, “Paint a portrait of our king; of what use is sketching the faces of ugly men!” When he painted a picture of the king, everyone showered their praises and said, “If the king is portrayed all alone, it doesn’t look nice to see him alone; draw the picture of one of the queens who is worthy of being his queen!” Saying so, they pointed out to the womenfolk around. He took a close look at all of them and said, “Although there are so many women here, not a single one truly befits the king. The only one who can match him is the princess of Vidarbha, Madanasundarī. When I was there, I learnt that she too has lost her heart to you, O king! I have painted her picture and brought it along.” He then showed the painting. When the king saw her gorgeous form and beauty, he was dumbstruck. He showered the painter with gold for bringing that painting to him. A few days later he sent an enterprising brāhmaṇa named Saṅgamasvāmin to the court of King Devaśakti of Vidarbha. When the king gave his consent, Kanakavarṣa went to Kuṇḍinapura and married her. Just as Rukmiṇī was to Kṛṣṇa, she was an ideal wife to him. He remained there for seven days and came back to his kingdom. Once when he was lying next to her and sleeping, he had a dream: an ugly-faced woman surreptitiously walking up to his resting place, snatching his necklace and crest-jewel, a ghoul with limbs of different animals appeared and wrestled with him. He smashed the ghoul to earth. When he sat on it’s back it flew up carrying him and hurling him into the ocean, with great difficulty he swam back to the shore and when he woke up the necklace and the crest-jewel were as they were before. The following morning, the king asked a mendicant who was well known to him as to the meaning of this dream. He replied, “You will be separated for a while from your wife and children, you will suffer misery for some time and then you will be reunited with them. This is the meaning of your dream!” But at that point in time, he had not yet had a son. Then his court was visited by a paurāṇika who recited the rāmāyaṇa expositing the details of the travails Daśaratha went through to obtain a son. Then on the same night he dreamt of a woman entering his room without opening the doors, She introduced herself as Vāsuki’s daughter, i.e. his father’s sister, Ratnaprabhā. She advised him thus, “Go and propitiate Kumārasvāmin. I’ll enter your body and help you endure the torrential rain which Kumārasvāmin would call upon you to test your endurance. Once you have overcome those obstacles he will be pleased enough to bless you with a son.” Following her advice, he set out to please Kumārasvāmin. After enduring the rain which Kumārasvāmin sent, Gaṇeśa caused more obstacles in the form of a terrible serpent which bit him multiple times. Understanding that he has no other choice, to endure that he praised Gaṇeśa with numerous verses and pleased him. After getting his assurance that he would not cause any more impediments, he continued. Finally he propitiated Lord Kumārasvāmin and obtained a son as a boon. However, upon learning that he had secretly taken the help of a woman, Kumārasvāmin pronounced on him a curse, saying, “May you be separated from your wife and son as soon as he is born!” Hearing this curse the king was terrified, he again propitiated Kumārasvāmin who was pleased with him said, “You reunite with them after a period of a year, not before you endure three great obstacles!” Madanasundarī soon became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He was named as Hiraṇyavarṣa. On the sixth night following the birth of the baby boy, there was a torrential rain, a ferocious lady brandishing a dagger entered the lying-in chamber and picked up the baby that was drinking milk, lying beside Madanasundarī. She ran with the baby in hand. Madanasundarī chased after her shouting, “Oh no! A rākṣasī has abducted my child and is running away!” She ran after them and along with her son, she drowned in a pool. The mother fell where the child had fallen. Then the cloud disappeared. The king remembered the curse and unable to continue living in the capital, went away to Vindhyāṭavi. There, a lion chased after him. But the lion was promptly killed by a vidyādhara who descended from the sky. He had earlier taken help from the selfsame king and upon vanquishing a ghoul, had been elevated to the status of a vidyādhara. As the king went further ahead, an elephant chased after him. The king swiftly moved to the side while the elephant went straight ahead and fell upside down into a chasm. The king was overcome by fatigue and so he bathed in a lake, drank water, ate the lotus stalks, and fell asleep below a tree on the banks of the lake. Then a few śabaras saw him there, tied him up, and took him along with them to Vindhyavāsinī to offer him as bali. When he offered a prayer to the devī, all his bonds fell off. Looking at this miracle, perceiving it to be the grace of the goddess, the king of śabaras set him free. Thus after three great obstacles were overcome and a year had passed, his maternal aunt arrived with his wife and son, and returned them back. She informed that she took them under refuge so that he could overcome the curse of Kumārasvāmin. Then he went back to Kanakapura with his wife and child and son and happily lived ever after.

6. Naravāhanadatta was pleased by the story and asked Marubhūti, “Won’t you tell me a story?” He narrated the story of Candrasvāmin:

The story of Candrasvāmin

In Kamalapura there lived a brāhmaṇa named Candrasvāmin, he had a wife named Devamati. By this wife he begot a son named Mahīpāla and a daughter named Candramati. Famine struck and led to loss of harvest, the king started fleecing his subjects. Devamati suggested that they should all migrate to her hometown. Candrasvāmin said, ‘It’s wrong; during such a famine it is a great pāpa to flee; so i’ll take our kids to your hometown and leave them under the care of your father’ She agreed, he took his children and set out, reached a forest after two-three days. The earth was scorching due to the hot Sun; trees were bereft of leaves; and they were few and far; feeling thirsty in such a place, he made his children rest under a tree and went around in search of water.

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.

Prekshaa Publications

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