Kathāpīṭhalambaka - 5 - The Story of Cāṇakya and Guṇāḍhya

This article is part 5 of 133 in the series Kathāmṛta

Disobeying the king’s order, Śakaṭālana secretly hid me in his house; he had someone else killed and informed the king that I had been executed. It would not have been possible for them to kill me in any case because I had befriended a rākṣasa. [1]

I had once invoked him, beckoned him to come, and had subsequently shown him to Śakaṭālana too. Similarly, upon a mere thought Gaṅgā would appear before me. I had demonstrated that as well. Śakaṭālana then narrated to me the story of King Āditya-varma, who in the past had similarly harboured suspicions about his minister Śiva-śarma and tried to have him executed; however, owing to the latter’s intellect and also because the real criminal was apprehended, he survived. Listening to that story, my fears were allayed and I regained courage.

This being the case, one day Yogananda’s son Hiraṇya-gupta (also called Hari-gupta) went hunting and even when he was still in the forest, it turned dark; he perched himself on a tree. A while later, a bear came there, climbed up the tree, and sat down by him. It reassured the prince that it meant no harm and told him that it had climbed the tree fearing a lion. The lion (tiger, according to another version) came there and asked the bear to throw down the prince. But the bear did not oblige. When the bear was asleep, the lion asked the prince to throw down the bear. Although he tried to push it, owing to good fortune, it didn’t fall; instead, it woke up. It cursed the prince and subsequently he went mad.[2]

When the king saw this, he said, “If Vararuci was here, he would have divined the reason for this and also suggested a course of action; unfortunately I had him executed!” and felt genuine penitence. Then requesting for full protection of the king, Śakaṭālana had me brought to the presence of the king. Thanks to the divine gift of Sarasvatī, I guessed the cause for the prince’s madness and told the king about it. The prince was freed from the curse and cured of his madness. The king asked me how I learnt about it. I said, “The wise ones can see such things by observing the characteristics, through inferences, and due to their innate talent. It is precisely in this manner that I guessed that the queen has a mole on her waist.” The king was put to shame. Rejecting all gifts and rewards, I returned home happy - now free of the tainted reputation I had got earlier. Upon learning that the king had ordered my execution, my wife had entered the fire and my mother, heartbroken, died out of sorrow – I learnt this from Upavarṣa. Unable to bear that sorrow, I fell on to the earth like a chopped tree. Vairāgya (detachment) suddenly engulfed me and I went away to the forest to perform tapas.

Elsewhere, Śakaṭālana had invited Cāṇakya[3] for brāhmaṇārtha (refers to śrāddhā) in the palace; the king was insistent that another brāhmaṇa by name Subandhu must also be included. Enraged, Cāṇakya resorted to magic spells. Nanda developed a fever and succumbed to it within a week. Then Śakaṭālana had his son Hiraṇya-gupta killed and installed Candra-gupta, the son of Pūrva-nanda, on the throne. He then made Cāṇakya his minister. Thus after taking his revenge and fulfilling his promise, he went away to the forest, overcome by sorrow for the loss of his son. Seeing all this and hearing about it, I felt greatly distressed. Thinking that everything was ephemeral, I set out to seek a darśana of Vindhya-vāsinī and landed up here; owing to her grace, I met you and gained knowledge of my past lives. I heard this grand story; now I have been released from pāpa; I shall discard this mortal coil now. Be here until a brāhmaṇa named Guṇāḍhya comes to this place; like me, he too hails from the Mālyavanta gaṇa and is cursed by the goddess. If you narrate this great tale to him, you will be freed from your pāpa. — So saying, he went to Badarikāśrama and gave up his life.

Guṇāḍhya was serving in the court of King Śālivāhana and as per his oath, he abandoned three languages including Sanskrit; deeply distressed he came for a darśana of Vindhya-vāsinī. As per her orders, he went and met Kāṇabhūti; he was instantly reminded of his previous birth. He addressed him in a language different from the three he had abandoned—Paiśāci—and introduced himself; then he said, “Sir! At once, narrate the tale you heard from Puṣpadanta. Both of us will be released from our curses!”

As per his wishes, Guṇāḍhya narrated his story for the first time in his presence.

Guṇāḍhya’s Story

The is a city called Supratiṣṭhā in Pratiṣṭhāna. There lived a brāhmaṇa called Soma-śarma. He had two sons named Vatsa and  Gulmaka and a daughter named Śrutārthā. Śrutārthā is my mother. Kīrti-sena, the brother of Vāsukī, the king of serpents is my father. My mother and my maternal uncles passed away in my childhood. I came to Dakṣiṇā-patha (South India), pursued my studies, became famous as a learned man and returned back to my own place. I arrived at the capital city, went to the court of the king Sātavāhana, to see him seated on his gem-studded throne. His ministers, Śarva-varma and others, reported to him, “ O king, Here comes Guṇāḍhya, the scholar par excellence and of wide renown. He received me with reverence and made me a minister. I got married, and lived there happily, teaching my students, attending the ministerial duties. Once, while roaming around near the banks of the river Godāvarī, I happened to see a beautiful garden and I enquired about its builder. The gardener replied, “A brāhmaṇa from the Bharu-kaccha village on the banks of the river Narmadā, having pleased Vindhya-vāsinī Devī by his service, built this garden on her orders.”

In the lake present in this pleasure garden, Śātavāhana while sporting with his wives, splashed water on them. One of his wives said, “modakaistāḍaya (मोदकैस्ताडय).” Hearing that, the king ordered for sweets (modaka/मोदक) to be brought there. She laughed and said, “O king, why bring the sweets! I said, don’t splash water, mā + udakaiḥ  + tāḍaya (lit. 'don’t beat with water'), you were not able to make out the sandhi mā + udakaiḥ!” The king was embarrassed, he abandoned the sport and came back; disturbed in his thoughts he stopped partaking of food and water. He stopped talking. Both Śarva-varma and I became aware of this. When we enquired with one of his servants named Rājahaṃsa, he said that other queens said, “The daughter of Viṣṇu-śakti, a mithyā-paṇḍitā (scholar only in appearance / half-baked scholar) uttered something which led to the present situation.” Śarva-varma said, “The king seemed to be worried that he is a dullard; I already knew this; this is the reason he suffered this ignominy.” We went to the palace in the morning. No one was allowed inside. I somehow managed to get inside. Śarva-varma also followed me. I sat beside the king and asked him, “O king! Why are you so disturbed without any valid reasons?” The king remained silent. Śarva-varma said, “O king! Previously you had asked me ‘Will I ever gain erudition at all?’ Therefore, yesterday I performed svapna-māṇavaka (‘dream-charm’) before sleeping; In my dreams I saw a divine boy who made a white lotus bloom and threw it down from the sky, from that emerged a divine woman clad in white and entered your mouth, I woke up; I think she is Sarasvatī; I’ve no doubt about that.” Immediately Śātavāhana shifted his gaze upon me and asked, “With persistent effort, how much time does it need to attain erudition? Wealth doesn’t shine without knowledge; the opulence of a fool is like the ornaments on a log!” I replied, “O king! Grammar is like the entrance (mukha) to all other branches of knowledge. It takes twelve years to master it; But I’ll make you a master of it in just six years!” Listening to my words, in a flash Śarva-varma declared, “How would jovial and carefree people undergo so much trouble to learn grammar? I’ll make you a master of it in just six months!” Enraged, I replied, “It is impossible! If you can do it in six months, I’ll abandon speaking all the languages – Saṃskṛta, Prākṛta, and Deśya – which are in vogue among the human race.” Śarva-varma retorted and vowed, “If I am not able to keep my words, I’ll carry your footwear on my head for twelve years.” We both returned to our houses. Śarva-varma knew that the vow he had taken was impossible to accomplish. He discussed it with his wife. She suggested, “In this difficult time, you have no other refuge except Kumāra-svamī!”

To be continued...

The current article is a translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’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. Read other works of Prof. Krishna Shastri here.


[1] Vararuci tells Śakaṭālana - "No one can kill me, anyway. I am friends with a rākṣasa. If I wish, he will swallow the entire world for my sake. He will appear before me even if I merely think of him. We will need to eliminate the king called Indradatta who is here and not my friend who is a dvija. Śakaṭālana then asked Varauci to show him the rākṣasa and the latter mediates upon him. In no time, the rākṣasa appears causing immense fear and astonishment to Śakaṭālana. When Śakaṭālana seeks to know how him befriended a rākṣasa, Vararuci narrates the following tale - "In the past, the king Yogananda noticed that his security guards who were protecting the frontiers of the kingdom were vanishing one after the other, day by day. The king asked me to look into the matter. I spotted the rākṣasa there. He stopped me and asked - "Who is the most beautiful woman in the city". Hearing it, I laughed out loud and said - "Whoever a person is in love with will be the most beautiful to his eyes". As I had answered his question correctly, I was saved from being killed and he said - "I am pleased with your answer and will be your friend hereafter. I will come to you whenever you think of me..

Vararuci then invokes Gaṅgā and at her appearance, recites a stotra to her. Astonished by my capabilities, Śakaṭāla became obedient to me.

[2] The bear also adds that the curse will get mitigated once everyone in the kingdom gets to know of this incident

[3] Śakaṭāla who was planning to eliminate Yogananda through his smartness once comes across a brāhmaṇa named Cāṇakya on the path. He spotted Cāṇakya who was digging the earth and when he asked the reason behind this, Cāṇakya said – "A blade of grass hurt my foot – I am trying to eliminate it from its roots." Hearing this, Śakaṭāla decides that this strong-willed and irascible man could help overthrow Yogananda. 



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

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...