Kathāmṛta - 30 - Caturdārikā-lambaka - Story of Śaktivega

This article is part 30 of 133 in the series Kathāmṛta



मदघूर्णितवक्त्रोत्थैः सिन्दूरैश्छुरयन्महीम्।

हेरम्बः पातु वो विघ्नान् स्वतेजोभिर्दहन्निव॥

(Kathā-sarit-sāgara 5.1.1)

Gaṇeśa’s intoxicated nodding of head is making sindhūra applied on his face fall off, whose sprinkling on the ground is colouring the earth – it appears as though, his tejas is sprinkling forth to remove obstacles

Vatsarāja’s only worry was his son’s well-being. To ease his concerns, Yaugandharāyaṇa said, “Your highness! Please don’t worry! Your son is safe. In fact, just to preclude even the possibility of some disaffected vidyādhara harming your son because he is foretold to be their master, Śiva himself has appointed an invisible Gaṇeśa [i.e., one of the leaders of Śiva-gaṇas] named Stambhaka to guard him. Devarṣi Nārada told me about this!”

Even as they conversed thus, a man of seemingly divine origins decked with a crown and earrings, carrying swords, descended from the heavens. An astonished Vatsarāja welcomed him and inquired as to who he was. The divine being said. “O king! I used to be a mortal being of this earth. Now I am a vidyādhara. My name is Śaktivega. Through my divine knowledge I became aware that your bright son is destined to become our emperor. I have come here with the hope to meet with him!” The amazed king asked, “O Śaktivega, pray tell how does one become a vidyādhara? What powers does it bestow? How did you come to acquire them?” To this, Śaktivega replied, “O king! Worthy ones become vidyādharas through ardent worship of Śiva in their present or previous births. It endows them with mastery over many powers like vidyā-sādhana (knowledge acquisition), khaḍga-sādhana (sword-play), mālā-sādhana (spiritual practice) and many more. Let me tell you how I came to be a vidyādhara,” and proceeded to narrate his story.

The Story of Śaktivega

In the city of Vardhamānapura lived a king named Paropakārī. His queen was Kanakaprabhā. They had a daughter named Kanakarekhā. It was as though Brahmā had created her to make Lakṣmī overcome her pride about her beauty.

When the princess grew into a beautiful young maiden, the king broached the topic of her marriage with his queen. Queen Kanakaprabhā laughingly said, “Just today, I saw her playing with a doll of a baby she had made by herself. When I teased her with the question – When will I get to see your wedding, dear daughter?  she steadfastly refused to marry. She also says that she has her own specific reason for this stubbornness.” An anxious king then went to his daughter and asked, “Dear daughter, why are you averse to marriage? Entrusting the hand of one’s daughter to a suitable man is said to wash away one’s pāpas. Not just this, how can a woman possibly be by herself forever? Only in her childhood does a daughter live with her parents, not after her marriage. If a girl blossoms into a woman and yet lives in her father’s house, she is termed a ‘vṛṣalī.’ And the man who marries her will be termed ‘vṛṣalī-pati’.” She replied, “Alright, Father! But I have a request. Pray give my hand in marriage only to a brāhmaṇa or a kṣatriya who has visited the town of Kanakapurī” King Paropakārī happily agreed.

The next day, the king addressed his court with the words: “Has anyone of you seen Kanakapurī? If you have, then step forward. I hereby vow to give my daughter’s hand in marriage to him and also to name him my heir!” To the king’s disappointment, nobody had even heard of such a place. Then the king had his word spread far and wide in the entire kingdom. The news reached the ears of a brāhmaṇa named Śaktideva who, having gambled away all his wealth, was languishing in a state of penury. His father, Baladeva, had banished him from his house house and he could not visit the prostitutes either, as he had lost his wealth by gambling. Therefore, he decided, I’ll lie to them that I have seen it. There is no one who has seen or heard of such a town. If I manage to procure the princess, let me do so!

Making up his mind thus, he met the king’s men who were making the announcement and said that he had seen such a place. The king’s men escorted him to the royal court and the king took him to his daughter. The princess asked him, “Have you seen Kanakapurī?” He replied, “Yes, I have. As I was traveling all around the world for my education, I also happened to visit Kanakapurī.” She then asked, “Which path did you take to get there? How is the city?” He said, “Starting from this city, I went to Harapura and then reached Vārāṇasī. From there, I went to Pauṇḍravardhananagara and from there reached Kanakapurī. It was as beautiful as Amarāvatī – one cannot even pause to blink an eye while savouring its beauty. I stayed there for a while, got educated and came back!” She laughed and said, “Aha! You must have certainly seen the place. Tell me once again – which path did you take to reach the city?” He replied just as he had done before. The princess got one of her maidens throw him away from the place. When her father, the king came to speak to her she said, “Father! Don’t you know that evil men cheat the innocent? He came here to cheat me. He was a liar. He hasn’t been to that particular place. Fraudsters cheat in many different ways!” She then narrated the following tale—

The Story of Śiva and Mādhava

Śiva and Mādhava were two fraudsters who lived in a city called Ratnapura. They joined hands with the other fraudsters in the city and duped rich men through deceitful schemes. They thought, We have looted the entire city. Let us now head to Ujjayinī – we have heard that Śaṅkarasvāmī, the Rāja-purohita in the town is very wealthy. Hemakes his living out of the dakṣiṇa he is offered and apparently always has a frown on his face.  Brāhmaṇas in the city have nicknamed him satakumbhīnidhāna-kīnāśa [i.e., he is like Yama – the deity of death possessing seven pots full of wealth]. Let us extract money from him and taste the beauty of the Mālava women. He seems to have a pretty daughter. If circumstances permit, we can procure her too!’ They left the city with this in mind.

Mādhava disguised himself as a prince and took residence in the outskirts of Ujjayinī along with his family. Śiva, who was well-versed in several techniques of deception disguised himself as a brahmacārī and entered the city He also visibly possessed a begging bowl made of mud and also deer skin. Every morning he performed mṛttikā-śauca, i.e., bathing in mud, observed suryopāsana and seated himself in the padmāsana.  He performed pūjā to Śiva using flowers and leaves. This was followed by japa. In the afternoon, he clad himself in the hide of a deer and visited the houses of brāhmaṇas and sought bhikṣānna. A part of it was offered as vāyasa-bali [an offering to crows] and a part of it was offered to guests. He ate the remaining part. He would then start his japa and tapas. This routine of his drew the attention of the people in the town. They exclaimed, “Aha! What a great tapasvī! He is so full of peace within himself!” They displayed great devotion to him. In the meanwhile, Mādhava went to the Siprā river to bathe, and bowed down displaying great devotion to his aide, Śiva who was seated before the deity performing japa. When people gathered around this fake tapasvī, Mādhava, who was in the disguise of a prince said - “There is no other tapasvī like him! I have seen him many times!” Though Śiva – the fake tapasvī - saw him, he did not bend down his neck that was raised up. He continued to sit as he was. Mādhava left the place. At night, both of them met, ate and drank together and planned the further course of action.


To be continued...

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.



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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