Kathāmṛta - 34 - Caturdārikā-lambaka - The Story of Devadatta

This article is part 34 of 119 in the series Kathāmṛta

The next morning Satyavrata saw him and said, “Sir! I have thought of a plan for you to accomplish your desired objective. It is as follows: There is an island called Ratnakūṭa in the middle of that ocean. The ocean-king has performed a pratiṣṭāpana of Viṣṇu there. On the day of Āṣāḍha-śuddha-dvādaśī, they celebrate a grand festival of the local deity and several tourists from various islands gather there. From one of them you should be able to get some information about Kanakapurī. So let’s go there! The date of the festival is not too far away.” They set out in a boat.

In the distance, Satyavrata saw a banyan tree that was in the form of a mountain and said, “Below that banyan tree, there is a powerful whirlpool. Since our boat is travelling in that direction, it appears to me that our end is near. I am not lamenting for myself. The only sorrow is that you toiled so hard to achieve your goal and that has not yielded fruit. Let that be so. When we go near that banyan tree, grab its branches and hold on to it firmly. Your life may be saved, who knows! Who indeed knows the play of fate or the movement of the waves of the ocean!” In the meanwhile, they came closer to the banyan tree and Śaktideva courageously held onto one of the branches. He was drained of all enthusiasm. “I didn’t see Kanakapurī and at the same time, I let this Satyavrata drown in the ocean!" Troubled by these thoughts, he spent the whole day.

At night, as he sat hidden on the tree, vultures from all directions came and sought refuge in that tree. One of them spoke in a human voice: “This morning I had been to Kanakapurī. I plan to go there tomorrow morning as well. It is a peaceful place. What's the point indeed of roaming aimlessly in far-off places?” Śaktideva was overjoyed to hear that. It was also a confirmation that the place Kanakapurī exists. Later, when the bird was fast asleep, he surreptitiously crept behind it and hid in a nook on its back. In the morning, taking him along, the bird reached Kanakapurī in a flash. Then he carefully got off its back and began roaming about on the ground. He chanced upon two women who were plucking flowers. He went to them and said, “Mother! Which town is this? Who are you?" They replied, "Sir! This is Kanakapurī, the abode of vidyādharas. A vidyādharī named Candraprabhā lives here. This is her garden. We are its sentinels!” He said, “If that is the case, can you introduce me to your mistress?” Then he went along with them to Candraprabhā’s palace. She welcomed him, asked him to narrate the events leading up to his arrival, and recollecting some memory, she heaved a sigh. “Sir! We are four daughters of the vidyādharādhipati Śaśikhaṇḍa. Of the four, I, Candraprabhā, am the eldest. The other three are Candrarekhā, Śaśirekhā, and Śaśiprabhā. Once, my three younger sisters had gone to bathe in the Gaṅgā. In the midst of frolicking during water sports, they happened to throw water on a muni named Agryatapasa. He was enraged and cursed them: “Wretched girls! May you be born as humans!” Accordingly, they proceeded to the world of mortals. Trouble by the turn of events, my father left this town to my care and went away to the forest. Pārvatīdevī came in my dream and prophesied that a man would become my husband. I, who have been anticipating the arrival of such a man, have attained you in the most astonishing manner. I am yours! The following caturdaśī I will go to the Ṛṣabha mountains, tell my father about these developments, and return after taking his blessings. Be here till I return!” Saying so she offered him divine hospitality.

When the day of caturdaśī came, she said to him, “I go out with my attendants; don’t feel bored that you have to stay alone; bear with it for only two days. Go wherever you want; but don’t go to the second floor!”, and she left. Śaktideva roamed around a bit but couldn’t control his curiosity and ventured into the second floor. There were three maṇṭapas studded with precious gems; the door to one of the maṇṭapas was open; he entered it and saw the daughter of the generous king was lying there dead! ‘I’m taking such a huge risk for her sake; but alas she lies dead here! But what a surprise! Her face still looks full of life; there is indeed some magic in this!’ He ventured into the other two maṇṭapas and saw two other girls resembling her, similarly lying dead. Surprised, he came out and saw a pond and a horse on the banks. He climbed down and mounted the horse. It threw him off to the pond. When he got up, he was in the pond which was in the gardens of Vardhamānapura. He was stunned; he felt sad that he was tricked; then he went to his house while thinking - who would know what is in store in the future. The next day the palace officials went around announcing, ‘If there is any brāhmaṇa or a kṣatriya who has seen Kanakapurī the king wants to give his daughter by marriage and also crown him as his heir apparent!’ Śaktideva said, “I’ve seen it!’ He was taken to the palace; they thought he was again lying. Śaktideva said he is willing to undergo any punishment if he is found to be lying. The king sent him to his daughter. She also thought he might be lying. He said, ‘Lie or not! There in Kanakapurī you are lying dead, here you are alive, what does it mean? Tell me what sorcery is this!” As soon as he said that, the princess said to her father, ‘He has indeed seen Kanakapurī; soon enough he will marry me there; now I’ve to go back to that body; I was born as your daughter due to a curse by an ascetic; as soon as a human sees you in Kanakapurī you’ll be liberated and you’ll marry him; you’d remember your past life in this life; was the ascetic’s words!’ Saying so she left her body. Śaktideva, having suffered loss on both the fronts, was sad, but remembering Kanakarekhā’s words that his wish would be fulfilled; he decided ‘why should I be sad!’ He again ventured towards Kanakapurī.

When he reached Viṭaṅkapura he found Samudradatta whom he had met during the previous shipwreck. He had floated after finding a log and somehow had reunited with his father’s ship and had thus returned. His fellow merchants were about to leave for the island of Utsthala. He went along with them and was going to Viṣṇudatta’s maṭha along the market street, Satyavrata’s children saw him and inquired, ‘My father had gone with you to Kanakapurī; you alone have returned; It is indeed you who killed him!” Thundering thus, they took him before goddess Caṇḍī to sacrifice him and locked him up in the temple for the night. Without losing heart, Śaktideva devotedly sang hymns to the goddess before falling asleep. The goddess appeared in his dreams and instilled courage in him with the following words: ‘Śaktideva! Don’t be afraid. No harm shall befall you. Satyavrata’s daughter Bindumatī will come to see you in the morning and you shall wed her. You will be released from this prison soon. Know Bindumatī to be a divine woman who has taken birth in this form due to a curse’. Next morning, it turned out exactly like the goddess had foretold, and Śaktideva lived happily with Bindumatī for some time. One day Bindumatī told Śaktideva in absolute secrecy: ‘On this island you will obtain another wife. In the due course of time when she is in her eighth month of her pregnancy you must cut open her womb and take out the foetus. You must not show any compassion. Trust me, there is a reason for my saying this!’ She made him swear that he will do her cruel bidding. When they were talking thus, Bindumatī’s brother rushed in saying that a huge wild boar had been running amuck outside, killing whoever came in its way. Without wasting a moment, Śaktideva unsheathed his sword and ran after the boar and stuck it hard with his weapon. The injured creature then ran straight into a cave. Śaktideva followed it unhesitatingly. Therein, instead of the wild boar he found a big garden. He then saw an amazingly beautiful woman walking fast towards him. When he quizzed her, she said ‘I am the daughter of king Caṇḍavikrama. My name is Bindurekhā. A rākṣasa named Jvalitalocana had carried me away. Today he assumed the form of a wild boar and went out in search of prey. To my good fortune, a valiant man seems to have hurt him badly. He ran in severely wounded moments ago and soon fell down dead! I am finally free!’ When Śaktideva revealed that it was he who had thrust his blade into the rākṣasa, an elated Bindurekhā exclaimed ‘then you shall be my husband!’, and married him. In the course of time, Bindurekhā became pregnant. In the eighth month of her pregnancy, as if on cue, Bindumatī came to Śaktideva and reminded him of his promise. When Śaktideva approached Bindurekhā with a heavy heart, she said calmly: ‘Dear husband! Why are you worried? I know that Bindumatī has asked you to carve out my foetus. You must do it. There is a reason for this. Trust me when I tell you that this won’t be a barbaric act’ and proceeded to narrate this story -

The Story of Devadatta

A long time ago, in the city of Kambukāpura, there lived a brāhmaṇa named Haridatta. He had a son named Devadatta who, even though educated, was a habitual gambler. His wretched vice of gambling eventually made him lose all his possessions including even the clothes that he wore. Feeling ashamed, he couldn’t bear to show his face to his father and instead took refuge in a dilapidated temple. He found an ascetic called Jālapāda there. When Devadatta bowed to him, the ascetic broke his silence and enquired as to what ailed his mind. He soon understood Devadatta’s situation and said: ‘Gentleman! Know that no amount of money is ever enough once a man starts to gamble. If you want to escape this predicament of yours, do exactly as I say. And you will become a vidyādhara!’. With these words, Jālapāda made Devadatta stay with him in that run down temple. The next night he led him to a cemetery. There, under a banyan tree, Jālapāda performed some rituals. He placed before the tree some cooked rice and cast some offerings upon it. Then he turned to Devadatta and said, ‘You must do exactly like I did and say the words: ‘Vidyutprabhā! Accept my worship!’ Then we shall both attain our goals’. When Devadatta did as he was told, the tree split open with a deafening sound, and a divine woman emerged from it. She said, ‘Sir! My mistress invites you, please come!’, and took him inside.

A divine woman came out and said ‘O lord! My mistress is calling for you, come in!’ She escorted him inside. There he saw a ranta-mandira – a building made of gems. On a bed in the room, a beautiful woman lay. She welcomed him, sat him at her side and said – ‘Revered one! I am the daughter of the king of yakṣas by name Ratnavarṣa and I am called Vidyutprabhā. Jālapāda is worshipping me. I will grant him some siddhis but I am in love with your form. Please marry me.’ He agreed and stayed with her. In the due course, she turned pregnant. He came to the mahāvrati and with a lot of fear reported everything that had happened. He said – “In fact, all that you did is good. Go back, cut open the womb of the yakṣa lady and bring me the foetus!’

Unsure how to do the assigned task, he went to the yakṣiṇī and stood with a sorrowful face. She said ‘Āryaputra! Why worry? As per the instructions of Jālapāda, tear open my womb and take the foetus out! If you don’t do so, I will do it myself!’ While he was still unsure of what to do next, she handed over her foetus to him and said – ‘The person who eats it is going to become a vidyādhara. Take it!’ She added – ‘I was a vidyādharī and had turned into a yakṣiṇī because of a curse. Now, I am relieved of the curse and will return to the Vidyādhara-loka. I will see you there!’ With these words, she flew away.

He brought the foetus and offered it to Jālapāda. He asked Devadatta to worship Bhairava and saw him away. By the time he came back, Jālapāda had cooked the foetus and eaten it. He turned into a vidyādhara and flew away right in front of Devadatta’s eyes. Feeling cheated by him, Devadatta went to the crematorium and invoked a vetāla in a dead body. He pleased it by offering his own flesh. He then flew to the Vidyādhara-loka where Jālapāda currently resided. He saw that Jālapāda was insisting Vidyutprabhā to be his wife. As soon as Jālapāda saw him there, the sword with which he was threatening her slipped down. Devadatta picked the sword up. However, he did not kill Jālapāda, and instead sent to him away with the vetāla, to the place where he originally resided. The next moment Parvati appeared there and blessed him with vidyās and also made him the lord of the vidyādharas. Thereafter, he stayed happily as Vidyādhara-rāja with Vidyutprabhā as his wife.

Bindurekhā, upon narrating this story, said – ‘Therefore, don’t worry about anything else. Just remove my foetus!’ Around the same time, he also heard an incorporeal voice, which said – ‘Śaktideva! Remove the foetus without any second thoughts. As soon as you grasp its throat, it will turn into a sword’. He then gathered courage, pulled out the foetus and it turned into a sword the next moment. He became a vidyādhara. Bindurekhā vanished from there.

He then went to Bindumatī and told her everything that had transpired. She said ‘O Lord! We are three sisters. We got cursed in Kanakapurī and are born here. The other two got relived of the curse and went there. I am going there now. Candraprabhā is older than all of us. You too, with the power of the sword, come as quickly as possible. You may marry the four of us and several others. You can then rule our father’s kingdom!’ He consented to her thoughts and went to Kanakapurī through an aerial route. From there, they travelled to the king of vidyādharas by name Śaśikhaṇḍa. He was happy and named Śaktideva as Śaktivega. He offered him his vidyās and daughters to him.

I am that Śaktivega. In deference to my father-in-law’s wishes, I came here to pay my respects to your son, who will, in due course, become an emperor of the vidyādharas. Saying so, he took leave of Vatsarāja and went away, taking a celestial path. The king, who was accompanied by infants, his queens, and his ministers, was extremely delighted.

End of Caturdārikālaṃbaka

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.

Prekshaa Publications

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