Kathāmṛta - 64 - Alaṅkāravatī-lambaka - The Stories of Candrasvāmin, Prabhākara and Cakra

This article is part 64 of 66 in the series Kathāmṛta

Candrasvāmin met Siṃhadaṃṣṭra, a śabara chief and asked him for a water source nearby, he called his men and said, ‘Show him water!’ They took him to their village and tied him up. He understood he had been deceived. Thinking about his children’s future if he is killed and offered as a bali he started worshipping Sūrya. A voice from the sky told him, ‘Candrasvāmin, you won’t be killed; you’ll reunite with your children!’ The children meanwhile waiting for their father, afraid, started crying. A merchant caravan passing by heard their plight and the chief among them, Sārthadhara was moved and he took them along. The minister of Tārāpura, Anantasvāmin who was with him heard the story from Mahīpala. Seeing that he is a brāhmaṇa boy, resplendent, regularly doing his daily rituals like Agnikārya without fail. He took permission of the merchant and started taking care of the boy keeping him under his refuge. The śabara chief was cautioned by Sūrya who appeared in his dream to release Candrasvāmin, he came to his village and granted him freedom. Candrasvāmin roamed around searching for his children and reached a town called Jalapura, there he stayed in a brāhmaṇa’s house where he was told, ‘Few days ago, a merchant named Kanakavarman found a brāhmaṇa boy and a girl in the forest and he took them under his refuge; I heard that he went to the Nārikeladvīpa. I don’t know where it is’

Listening to this, Candrasvāmin felt hope stirring within him. He thought it indeed may be his children. He found a merchant travelling to Nārikeladvīpa and obtained permission to join him. When he reached there, he found that Kanakavarman had traveled further to Karpūradvīpa. Later when he got to Karpūradvīpa, he came to know that the merchant had gone further to Kaṭāhadvīpa. Similarly he had to travel even to Suvarṇadvīpa and Siṃhaladvīpa before he finally reached Kanakavarman’s town of Citrakūṭapura. Then he rushed to the merchant immediately. To his ill-luck, however, Candrasvāmin found that the children adopted by the trader were not his; they were someone else’s! He wept inconsolably and was sad beyond words. He said to himself: ‘my accursed fate has made me wander far and wide in vain. Now if I don’t find my children before the end of this year, I will cast off my body on the banks of Ganga through penances!’.

At that time, a wise man came to him and consoled Candrasvāmin thus: ‘Take heart, friend. You shall get back your children through the grace of Nārāyaṇī!’. Placing his faith in these words, Candrasvāmin roamed the agrahāras (colonies), villages and towns and finally came to a forest. Tired from roaming the woods, he finally came upon some fruit and water with which he satiated himself. He then climbed up a tree to spend the night, thinking it was too dangerous to be on the ground at dusk due to predators like tigers and lions on the prowl. At some time that night, many mother goddesses like Nārāyaṇī and others came near the tree and stood there waiting for Bhairava. When the attendants asked Nārāyaṇī about the delay in arrival of Bhairava, she laughed but didn’t reply. After a lot of persuasion she said, ‘This would bring me shame, but still I’ll narrate it!’ and she narrated the story of Prabhākara[1] - There is a king named Surasena who rules Surapura. He has a daughter named Vidyādharī who is known for her beauty. He wanted her to marry someone who is a worthy husband. Meanwhile the king Vimala who had a son named Prabhākara, having heard about Vidyādharī sent a messenger asking for her hand in marriage to Prabhākara. Surasena agreed and the wedding happened with great fanfare. Vidyādharī then went along with her husband to his place. That night she found out that Prabhākara was a eunuch! ‘Oh what a calamity!’ she thought and spent the whole night thinking about it. She sent a letter to her father saying, ‘You have given me to a eunuch without a proper background search’ Seeing the letter Surasena was enraged, he thought he had been deceived by that charlatan Vimala. He sent a message saying he will destroy Vimala for deceiving him and his daughter. Seeing the letter Vimala consulted his ministers. A minister by name Piṅgadatta said, ‘There is only one solution. I know one yakṣa by the name Sthūlaśiras. He’ll be pleased with mantras and grant whatever you ask. I’ll instruct you with the mantra. When he is pleased, ask for Prabhākara’s manhood. Thus you’ll avoid confrontation with Surasena.’ Heeding to his advice Vimala did so and Prabhākara attained manhood while Sthūlaśiras became a eunuch. Having enjoyed Prabhākara’s new found manhood, Vidyādharī thought that she was deceived somehow before and again wrote a letter to her father confessing she was wrong. Bhairava who got to know this got enraged, and cursed Sthūlaśiras to remain a eunuch. This is the cause for his delay. Meanwhile Bhairava arrived. Everyone worshipped him and he performed the tāṇḍava. Candrasvāmin noticed all these things staying on top of the tree. An attendant of Nārāyaṇī noticed the brāhmaṇa who sat atop the tree. She fell in love with him that very instant. Even Candrasvāmin’s mind swayed looking at her. This did not escape the eyes of Goddess Nārāyaṇī. When everyone left, she questioned them both. The goddess’ servant acknowledged this to be true. Candrasvāmin said ‘Mother! I too accept that my mind wavered; what can one do about it? Even so, I shall not allow myself to touch any woman other than my dear wife. I wish to desist at least from sinful action, if not thought!’. The words rang true and the goddess was impressed with Candrasvāmin. She said ‘Worry not my son! May you reunite with your wife and children soon. Here, take this garland of blue lotuses. This magical garland can cure any kind of poison and thus save anyone from a certain death!’ and went away with her attendants.

Candrasvāmin spent the rest of the night atop the tree. Next morning he climbed down and resumed his search. After much wandering around, he came to Tārāpura. There he bathed in a lake and was on his way back when he heard strangers around him crying ‘Alas!’. A puzzled Candrasvāmin asked them what had happened, and they replied: ‘Our genial minister Anantasvāmin had adopted two children. He didn’t have children of his own, and he loves these two a lot more than he does his own life. Today due to accursed luck, the boy Mahīpala was apparently bitten by a black cobra! We fear it may be fatal!’. Concluding that they were talking about his own son, Candrasvāmin ran to where the boy lay. He was relieved that he had with him the blue-lotus garland which the prescient devi had gifted him. He made his way through the crowd to get to the boy. He held the garland near Mahīpala’s nose. Miraculously, the effect of poison waned and the boy stirred to everyone’s relief. The minister, the king and all the citizens of the kingdom were elated. Thinking that Candrasvāmin was surely imbued with divine powers, they all honoured him graciously. At the invitation of the minister he moved to his house to stay for a few days. Mahīpala and Candrasvāmin had recognized each other. Even then they were cautious and did not divulge this fact to anyone. King Tārāvarman, impressed with the qualities of Mahīpala, offered the hand of his daughter Bandhumatī to him. He also gifted him half his kingdom.

After all these events, one day, Candrasvāmin addressed his son thus: ‘Let us go to our hometown and bring back your mother. She may curse you for having forgotten her after you were crowned king. Anyone who incurs a curse from one’s parents can never be happy. Devotion to one’s parents will beget everything one desires, for it is like the divine cow of plenty, Kāmadhenu. Let me tell you the story of Cakra, the son of a merchant from the city of Dhavala. He went to trade against the wishes of his parents to Svarṇadvīpa. He gained a lot of wealth and while on the voyage back his ship was torn to shreds by the torrential winds and he alone escaped as his death was not yet imminent. While exhausted ashore he saw a dream where a terrible man of dark complexion tied his neck in his noose and dragged him to a court. From there he was thrown into an iron cell where a man was being tortured by a heated wheel running on his head. When asked about his plight he said, ‘I’m Khaḍga a merchant's son and this is my parents’ curse since I disobeyed them. But they assured me that it will last only a month and today is the last day.’ Cakra contemplated and said, ‘I’m also guilty of the same crime so I have lost all my wealth. What use is my life? I’ll take your place.’ Thus Khaḍga was released. Cakra declared, ‘May all the people who have incurred such a sin be released and let I alone be subjected to such torture in place of all of them.’ With this resolute declaration the deities were pleased, they showered flowers and said, ‘You are a noble man! Such compassion has destroyed all the pāpa you have incurred. You are released! You’ll possess extraordinary wealth!’ He was thus released and transported to the city of Dhavala with inexhaustible riches by the vidyādhara youth who was sent by Indra to aid him. Candrasvāmin finished narrating this story. To further illustrate the value of parents, he proceeded to narrate the story of Dharmavyādha -

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

Footnotes

[1]The story of Prabhākara is very similar to the story of Śikhaṇḍin in the Mahābhārata

Author(s)

About:

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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