A few days later, he summoned a few brāhmaṇas and said ‘I had a dream in the early hours this morning. In it, I was out for my routine horse ride, when a wild elephant appeared out of nowhere. My royal elephant sensed the odour of the wild beast’s rut, and got incensed. Tearing off its binding post, it rushed forward and confronted it. The wild elephant reared its trunk and trumpeted disdainfully. My elephant fell upon it and drove its tusks hard into it. Unruffled, the wild pachyderm tossed aside my elephant using its marble-pillar-like tusks.
When my royal elephant retreated thus, I wanted to make it turn back around and give its opponent a fitting battle. So, I frantically asked those nearby for a goad, for hadn’t I learnt everything about elephants from Vatsarāja himself? However, nobody would give me one. Right about then, I woke up in terror. Now please analyse this dream of mine and pray tell whether it bodes well or ill!’. Even though the brahmaṇas knew that king Pālaka’s dream portended badly, they chose to tell him what they thought would make him happy instead. So, they said, ‘O king! The wild elephant you saw in your dream was Vināyaka himself. And the royal elephant which stood against it signifies an obstacle to your benevolent rule. It appears as though Lord Gaṇeśa flung away what may have been a great obstacle for you, and has thus blessed you!’. The king was not convinced with their explanation. Then the ministers said “Your highness! We have heard from our father, about an incident which happened when your father, the mighty Pradyota was about to be crowned king. Your father had a dream where he was on the throne, and a strange bird with seven wings flew in and nestled itself upon his head. When he quizzed everyone as to what it meant, nobody spoke up. Then a man named Śāṇḍilya stood up and said ‘Why are you all silent? If you fear backlash from your master, tell people like me. If his dream foretells of bad times to come, we must clearly say so, and also recommend remedial measures. If there are no remedies, then it makes sense to be quiet like you are!’. The king asked Śāṇḍilya to expound further, and the latter said, ‘O king! This may begin badly for you, but be assured that it will end on a good note. So pray don’t get enraged at what I am about to tell you! The harsh sounding bird you dreamt of, signifies a thunderbolt. The seven wings of the bird represent a duration of seven fortnights. There is no need for any further explanation. You must surely not ascend the throne now. Instead, make someone you want dead ascend the throne. In exactly three and a half months, he will be charred to death by the strike of a lightning bolt!’ King Pradyota didn’t like what Śāṇḍilya said. In a wrathful tone he commanded his minister, my father Bharatarohaka, ‘Have this foul man’s eyes gouged out!’. Bharatarohaka replied calmly, ‘As you command, my king!’, and as if preparing for it, he looked at the brahmaṇas and winked at them. They addressed the king politely, ‘Lord! The wise don’t take madmen seriously. This brahmaṇa, Śāṇḍilya is not just crazy, he’s dim-witted too. So, we must not blind him, but let us instead imprison this insolent son of a widow for seven fortnights. We could always punish him after that. Pray, ignore his words, your majesty, and ascend the throne as planned. If what he says turns out to be true, let him be rewarded later. If not, may he suffer the punishment prescribed by Manu and others seers of the past. Now, be that as it may, it would augur well if your majesty would complete the traditionally prescribed remedial rituals for well-being and worship Mahākāla in the meanwhile!’. Accordingly, the king had Śāṇḍilya imprisoned and moved to the temple of Mahākāla to undertake austerities. On the last day of the seventh fortnight thence, right at noon, a huge cloud appeared over Ujjayinī. Blanketing the entire sky within moments, it soon began to send down a barrage of hailstones all over. Then in a flash, a blinding thunderbolt struck the king’s image placed on the throne and pulverised it with a deafening sound. Stunned by what he had just witnessed, a now grateful Pradyota had Śāṇḍilya released from prison forthwith and honoured him duly. O son of Pradyota, if you consent, we can summon Śāṇḍilya and ask him about your dream too”. Soon, Śāṇḍilya arrived at the court. Addressing king Pālaka courageously, he said: ‘O king! Do not lose your temper like your father did. Know that the wild elephant you saw in your dream to be an enemy king. The royal elephant represents, but of course, you. In your dream, what you saw was the enemy king driving you away. So do what is proper now!’. The court was soon dismissed, and everyone went their way. Only Surohaka, the minister, stayed back. The king sat gloomily on the throne, cloaking his head, and began to worry as to who his dethroner may be. Surohaka said in a sorrowful and piteous tone, ‘Cheat your dream like how your father did, your majesty! Whatever will happen, will happen soon. So why not install a low-born on the throne temporarily and move to the forests for a while?’.
The king however remained silent. Right then, Avanti-vardhana, the son of Gopāla, came there. The boy was playing with a ball, which bounced off and went underneath the throne. He asked his sister Avanti-vardhana-yaśā to fetch it. She retorted derisively, ‘Take it yourself! Am I your slave for you to order me around like this?’. Avanti-vardhana approached the throne and casually tipped it over with his left hand, causing his uncle, King Pālaka, to fall off, and reached to pick up the ball with his right. Taking cue by what had happened, Pālaka summoned the community leaders and said, “Pray, delay no further. Crown Avanti-vardhana king. When my elder brother was leaving, he had told me right in front of you all, ‘Take care of Avanti-vardhana, as you would, me’. As you all know, I have kept my word. Now let him ascend his father’s throne. The throne was given to me for safekeeping, and I am returning it now to the rightful heir!”. Nobody in the assembly said anything. Avanti-vardhana thus became the king of Ujjayinī. Pālaka, clad in deer skin, had his head shaved and retired to sage Kāśyapa’s hermitage in mount Asita with only a kamaṇḍalu (a small water jug with a handle and a snout, used by ascetics) in his hand, to undertake austerities.
Thus ends the second chapter of Bṛhatkathā-śloka-saṅgraha composed by Budhasvāmī
The current article is a translation of Prof. A R Krishnasastri’s Kannada classic Kathāmṛta. The translation has been rendered by Raghavendra G S, 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. Krishnasastri