Kathāpīṭhalambaka - 6 - The Bṛhatkathā is Narrated

This article is part 6 of 8 in the series Kathāmṛta

The next day, early in the morning, King Śātavāhana left the place. Deciding not to consume any food, he performed rigorous tapas to appease Kumāra-svamī.[1] [2] Because of the Deity's blessings, Śātavāhana turned into a scholar in a split second. Śarva-varma was paid reverence befitting kings and was given rulership of the province of Maru-kaccha on the banks of the river Narmadā. The queen, the daughter of Viṣṇu-śakti, who was the reason for this transformation was made the main queen.

My tongue was tied; unable to participate in any activities, I silently bowed down to the king and with two of my disciples left the city with a view to get a darśana of Vindhya-vāsinī Devī. She appeared in my dream and ordered me to proceed to the Vindhyā forest and see you there. I came here and saw the Piśācas; by repeatedly listening to their conversations from afar I learnt this language; it became the path to liberate me from the silence. Since you had been to Ujjayinī, I waited until your return. Upon your arrival when I started conversing with you in this fourth language, I remembered all the events of the past.

After listening to Guṇāḍhya’s story, Kāṇabhūti said, “I came to know about your arrival even as I was in Ujjayinī thanks to my Rākṣasa friend Bhūti-varma,”[3] and in his own language he narrated a divine story containing seven stories in it. Guṇāḍhya spent seven years composing the story consisting of seven hundred thousand verses in Paiśācī-bhāsā. There was no ink in the forest for that reasons and also to avoid his work being stolen by the Vidyā-dharas, he used his own blood as ink.

Seeing that Kāṇabhūti was liberated from his curse, for Guṇāḍhya to become free, the stories had to be made public. When he was thinking about that, his disciples, Guṇa-deva and Nandi-deva suggested that it should be offered to King Śātavāhana, who was a rasika. Subsequently they took the work to him. Guṇāḍhya waited for them in the garden in the outskirts of Pratiṣṭhāna. His disciples presented his work to the king. Śātavāhana, proud of his scholarship and overcome by jealousy, said, “Seven hundred thousand verses and in that dull Paiśācī-bhāsā, written in blood! Fie upon it!” They brought back the book and narrated the event to Guṇāḍhya. Distressed, he went up a hill nearby and prepared an Agni-kuṇḍa (sacred fire). He narrated the stories to the birds and animals present there and upon the completion of a story, he offered the pages to the fire. Persuaded by his disciples, he preserved the story of Nara-vāhana-datta consisting of a hundred thousand verses. Meanwhile the king became ill. The court physicians opined that the illness was due to partaking of parched meat. The cook informed the king that it was the only type of meat that the hunters brought. All the animals in the forest – deers, boars, and bisons near the hill were mesmerised by listening to stories and have stopped eating food and drinking water; thus the meat appears to be devoid of juicy parts. Curious, the king went there to see what was happening. He saw amidst the animals, Guṇāḍhya with matted locks, tears flowing from his eyes, sitting near the agni-kuṇḍa, offering his stories one by one. The king prostrated himself before the ascetic and asked him to narrate what happened. Speaking in Paiśācī-bhāsā, Guṇāḍhya revealed how he got the story from Puṣpa-danta. Having understood that Guṇāḍhya was an avatāra of one of the gaṇas, the king requested him to present the story.

Guṇāḍhya replied, “O king! I have burnt six stories consisting of six hundred thousand verses already. This story consisting of one hundred thousand verses is the only story remaining. Take this; my disciples will be able to explain it!” So saying, he took leave from the king, discarded his mortal body by the means of yoga, and was liberated from the curse. The king returned to his capital with the Bṛhat-kathā presented to him by Guṇāḍhya, felicitated Guṇa-deva and Nandi-deva, listened to the story, and wrote the kathā-pīṭha in the same language. Due to their extraordinary nature, being full of rasa and intrigue, the stories eclipsed even the stories of the devas and gained fame in the three worlds.

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]Here (1) the story of Mūṣaka-seṭṭi, a merchant who using a mouse as his initial investment, finally becoming wealthy and (2) the story of the brāhmaṇa, an expert in Vedas but naive in everything else, approaching a courtesan named Caturikā to learn worldly affairs, are also narrated.

[2] Here Kāṇabhūti enquires about the origin of the name ‘Śāta-vāhana.’ The answer – Śakti-matī, the wife of the king Dīpa-karṇi died due to snake-bite. He remained unmarried after her death. Once in his dream Śiva appeared and told him, “In the forest you’ll see a boy who will be riding a lion. Bring him to your kingdom he’ll be your son.” A yakṣa by name Śāta had transformed himself into a lion and had made his own son ride on him. He was struck by the arrow of the king Dīpa-karṇi resulting in deliverance of his curse. Since Śāta himself was the 'vāhana' (vehicle), the son attained the name ‘Śāta-vāhana.’ After Dīpa-karṇi retired to the forest in his old age for vāna-prastha, Śātavāhana became the king.

[3] The Sanskrit grammar treatise which Śarva-varma composed to this end has become famous as Kātantra or Kalāpaka.
Here we find stories about why they get the names 'Puṣpa-danta' and 'Mālya-vanta.' They are the children of a brāhmaṇa called Govinda-datta. Deva-datta and Soma-datta were their original names. Both worshipped Parameśvara and were blessed by him. Since he was unable to understand the behaviour of the princess of Pratiṣṭhāna who took a bite out of flowers using her teeth, the followers of Parameśvara named him Puṣpa-danta. Likewise, since one of them was worshiping Parameśvara using roots, they named him Mālya-vanta.



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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