Chapter 3 - Bṛhatkathā-śloka-saṅgraha
While Avanti-vardhana ruled Avantī, not even a lowly insect had anything to complain about. One day, during his daily horse ride, he saw a beautiful girl all alone, swaying back and forth on a swing tied off a Beech tree. Against the backdrop of the dark blue skies, she appeared like the moon herself moving upon river Kālindī. Avanti-vardhana’s mind began to sway like a swing. Once he returned home, he gave up food and drink, and also stopped thinking about his duties - dharma and artha. After several days passed thus, one evening he heard a deafening noise, which sounded like the massive swells of an ocean’s surf thrashing a rocky shore. To see what happened, he rushed to the terrace of the inner chambers, along with his retinue. One of the elephants of his stable had gone rogue. It had crushed many trees and demolished several dwellings. It had left trampled people and animals in its wake and was rushing towards a shanty at the outskirts. There, the inebriated chief of the caṇḍālas ordered his daughter to subdue the beast that had gone completely out of control. The maiden took a little water in her lotus like cupped palms and threw it nonchalantly on the pachyderm’s trunk. The maddened elephant instantly sobered down and bowed by touching its trunk upon the ground before her. Amazed by what he saw, the king said, ‘This beautiful maiden is the very art of enchantment personified! If she could bring such a rogue elephant under her sway, it would be no surprise if she could even enchant and enslave sages who have conquered desires! She will make even a mountain unsteady!’ As the king gazed upon her, the lass draped her robe around the tusks of her now pet-elephant forming a swing, and sat upon it and simply said ‘Onward!’. The tusker dutifully began to trudge forward. People nearby soon shed fear and surrounded them. The girl then glanced at the beast and said, ‘The sun is hot!’. The elephant quickly tore off a few leaves from an Asoka tree close by and held it against the sun for her. Within no time she led it to the palace and secured it at its post. Then she bowed to the king and returned to her shanty. A wonderstruck Avanti-vardhana asked his minister, ‘Who is she? Which family and place does she hail from?’. The minister replied, ‘She is Surasa-mañjarī, your highness. She’s the daughter of Utpala-hastaka, the chief of the caṇḍālas’.
The king, reminiscing about her, went to the bedroom and slept. The doctors treated him assuming he has a fever caused by bile. Surohaka who knew that this has to do with the encounter with mātāṅgī and nothing to do with bile, revealed it to the king’s grandmother, Aṅgāravatī. She thought for a moment, “Divine women sometime descend from svarga in the form of mātāṅgī; she might be one such woman; she might have descended for a reason; else how can someone attach a swing to the tusks of the elephant in rut trampling everyone and play with it; unheard of unless some divinity is involved. Keeping aside this discussion, I’ll go to her father and ask her hand for my grandson; is there any dūtī better than me!” she took off on a chariot accompanied by an old brāhmaṇa and reached the place where caṇḍālās lived and saw Utpalahasta. He, who held a bamboo staff, went back a few steps and saluted her from afar. Aṅgāravatī descended from the chariot and said, “I’ve been searching for you; but you are running away! An important accomplishment needs your effort. Come near!” When he came near she said, “Give your daughter’s hand in marriage to my grandson, the king. Don’t be swayed by the people’s discussion that a king shouldn’t even touch a caṇḍālā woman. If you feel proud of divine descent, I’ve an answer for that too. My grandson has been an emperor of your kind!”. Utpalahasta agreed without objection. Aṅgāravatī brought Surasamañjarī in a fully covered and secured cart befitting a queen and delivered her to the king like delivering the life-giving sañjīvanī. The king married her and never ventured out of the palace thinking, “This saṃsāra which is like the city of gandharvas is the ultimate truth; everything else is untrue!”
Once when both the king and queen were on the balcony, they observed the street previously occupied by the caṇḍālas was now empty. Surasamañjarī started crying. The king asked her the reason, she said, “When my father was in Saptavarṇapura, he had agreed that he’ll give me in marriage to Ipphaka. When flying once a garland which adorned my father, flew off and landed on Nārada who was doing Sandhyāvandanā on the banks of the river Gaṅgā and transformed itself into a snake. Nārada cursed, “Whoever is the owner of the garland will be born as a caṇḍālā!” When my father apologized he said, “A curse is like an arrow which once released can’t be taken back; When the son of Gopāla will marry your daughter, this curse will end!” Thus being endowed with such a ‘boon’ enclosed in the curse we sought your refuge. Since the curse has ended now he has departed. Now thinking of how Ipphaka might find you and torture you I am worried and so I’m crying. There is a solution to this which is easy, but it is difficult for a king to adhere. The vidyādhara emperor has a rule, if a king is in the antaḥpura he shouldn’t be subjected to any punishment or torture irrespective of his crime. The king smiled and replied, “This request is indeed a boon!” From that day it was impossible to see him outside, during the day or night, like the moon on a new moon day.
As days rolled by, once, on the eve of an auspicious day, nearly everyone from Ujjayinī undertook a journey to Śivataṭāka, in order to make udaka-dāna – ritual offerings of sanctified waters to their ancestors. Avanti-vardhana was so eager to travel for this occasion, that he forgot entirely about what Surasa-mañjarī had warned him about. Having decided to travel come what may, he somehow had his sleeping queen placed in a palanquin and began the journey to Śivataṭāka. When they were about to reach their destination, Surasa-mañjarī woke up and realised to her horror that they were on a boat, far away from the safety of their palace. She pleaded with her husband that they must turn back at once. The king did not pay heed to her requests, for all he wanted to do was reach Śivataṭāka and enjoy the carnival there. Right then, as if on cue, Ipphaka swooped down upon them. Within no time he bound both Avantivardhana and Surasa-mañjarī, and leapt up to the skies, carrying them away, even as everyone could only watch. The king’s grandmother Aṅgāravatī came to know of this. She immediately deputed the king’s ministers to inform Pālaka, who had retired to Mount Asita, about what had happened. When an anxious Pālaka relayed the alarming news to sage Kāśyapa, the latter replied, ‘Worry not, Pālaka! I assure you that all this will end on a positive note. If you don’t believe me, just keep an eye on the skies; for good news will arrive any moment now!’, and thus calmed him down. Just as Kāśyapa had said, a divine being soon descended from the skies, along with both Avanti-vardhana and queen Surasa-mañjarī, with a bound Ipphaka in tow. The radiant man solemnly bowed down to Kāśyapa and said, “O venerable one, I am Divākaradeva, a faithful servant of Naravāhanadatta, the emperor of the vidyādharas. As I was flying over Avanti on my way from the Himalayas towards Malayachala, I saw this low born vidyādhara caṇḍāla. Ipphaka kidnapped the king and his queen. I challenged him to either release them or fight me. Then we fought, and I defeated him and presented him to our emperor Naravāhanadatta. When the emperor questioned the haughty Ipphaka as to why he abducted them, he replied, ‘This king had kidnapped my wife; that’s why I did this!’ Then my master ordered me, ‘Bind Ipphaka and take him to Kāśyapa and others. If he proves himself right, Surasa-mañjarī shall be his. On the other hand, if he cannot, we will garland him with oleander flowers and parade him on a donkey! Now, I have already informed Kāśyapa Āryuṣa and uncle Pālaka that I will arrive at mount Asita tomorrow to meet them. So I will see you soon’. Emperor Naravāhanadatta then felicitated Avantivardhana and gifted him divine apparel. Later, he embraced him lovingly and sent him with me. Thus, O sage, I have brought them all here. My master, emperor Naravāhanadatta will come here tomorrow to meet you”. Listening to the words of Divākaradeva, everyone became jubilant. They hardly batted an eyelid that night in their eagerness to meet Naravāhanadatta.
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