Kathāmṛta - 124 - The Story of the Daśa-kumāra-carita

This article is part 124 of 128 in the series Kathāmṛta

Chapter 4. The story of Puṣpodbhava

One day, when Puṣpodbhava was searching for prince Rājavāhana, he saw a man falling from the sky. He rushed and managed to catch him just in time and slowly helped him to the ground. Puṣpodbhava was elated when he saw that the man was none other than his father Ratnodbhava. Right then, he heard the voice of a woman. When he rushed to see who that was, he found that it was his long lost mother! She was about to throw herself into fire, for she couldn’t bear to be separated from her husband Ratnodbhava anymore. Thus, after sixteen years, Puṣpodbhava was reunited with his parents. His streak of good fortune continued, when he even found a treasure trove with the help of a magic pigment.
As days passed, Puṣpodbhava fell in love with a beautiful maiden by name Bālacandrikā. However, Prince Dāruvarman of Ujjayinī too wanted to make her his. Deciding to settle this matter once and for all, Puṣpodbhava disguised himself as a woman and slayed Dāruvarman and married Bālacandrikā. Then just like his friend Bandhupāla had suggested, he decided to bide his time, until finally the day came when he met Rājavāhana.

Chapter 5

After a few days, one morning, when Rājavāhana and Puṣpodbhava were walking in the gardens of Ujjayinī, the former’s eyes chanced upon Avantisundarī, the daughter of king Mānasāra. Rājavāhana lost his heart to her. Bālacandrikā, the wife of Puṣpodbhava, who happened to be a dear friend of Avantisundarī, nudged Rājavāhana and Avantisundarī to get to know each other better. Bālacandrikā was soon ferrying love-steeped messages between them. Rājavāhana and Avantisundarī were, in their previous lives, Śāmba and Yajñavatī, who were in fact, husband and wife.
One day, a wizard named Vidyeśvara saw a wistful Rājavāhana in the garden and befriended him. He even promised to help Rājavāhana marry his beloved Avantisundarī. Later in the palace of Mānasāra, while demonstrating his wizardry, at the climax, Vidyeśvara declared that he would marry off his daughter-like Avantisundarī - and he married her off, for real, to Rājavāhana. After the show was over, Rājavāhana and Avantisundarī went to the inner chambers of the palace, where they spent a blissful night.

Chapter 6

Rājavāhana and Avantisundarī fell asleep in each other’s arms. As hours passed, they had a dream and woke up with a start. They were stunned to see that Rājavāhana’s feet had been bound with a silver chain. (This was because, in his past life, Rājavāhana had bound a swan’s leg for all of two moments, using fibres from a lotus flower. Hence, it was ordained that he would suffer imprisonment for two months). The chamberlain saw Rājavāhana with Avantisundarī, and immediately notified Caṇḍavarman, the elder brother of Dāruvarman - who had been slain earlier by Puṣpodbhava. Caṇḍavarman rushed to the scene and had his guards dragged Rājavāhana away and cast into a cell. The same treatment was meted out even to Puṣpodbhava and his family. It turned out that Mānasāra had handed over reins of the kingdom to his son Darpasāra and had renounced the throne. Darpasāra in turn had appointed Caṇḍavarman to rule on his behalf, and had gone to mount Kailāsa in order to undertake austerities. Caṇḍavarman dispatched messengers to inform all that had transpired to Darpasāra. Then, assured that Rājavāhana was in prison, he went to war with Siṃhavarman, the king of Aṅga. This was because Siṃhavarman had refused to give the hand of his daughter Ambālikā in marriage to him. Soon, Caṇḍavarman’s army surrounded Campānagara, the capital of Aṅga. King Siṃhavarman was vanquished and imprisoned. After that, as per the command of Darpasāra, he planned to let loose the elephant Caṇḍapota upon Rājavāhana, in order to crush him to death. Furthermore, he intended to imprison Avantisundarī and her brother Kīrtisāra too.
Meanwhile, the silver chain which had bound Rājavāhana, miraculously turned into a nymph. She greeted Rājavāhana and told him that she was an apsaras named Suratamañjarī who had been cursed to the form of a chain. She also apprised him that it was Vīraśekhara, a vidyādhara, angry that Avantisundarī won’t be his, that had bound him using that chain. Suratamañjarī then took his leave, and went to meet Avantisundarī.
Right about then, Rājavāhana came to know that an assassin had slayed Caṇḍavarman a little while ago, and had also dispatched hundreds of other men to their deaths. He climbed upon the huge Caṇḍapota and went straight to the palace to see who it might be. There he saw that the killer was none other than his friend Apahāravarman.
Soon, Arthapāla, Pramati, Mitragupta, Mantragupta, Viśruta, Prahāravarman (the king of Videha), Kāmapāla (the king of Kāśī), and Simhavarman (the king of Aṅga) - all descended upon Ujjayinī. Seeing all his friends arrive unexpectedly, Rājavāhana’s joy knew no bounds. He recounted the stories of Somadatta and Puṣpodbhava and then asked them to narrate theirs.
Apahāravarman was the first to begin:-

Chapter 7. The story of Apahāravarman

Having heard of a sage named Marīci, who was apparently blessed with divine vision, Apahāravarman went to consult him to find the whereabouts of Rājavāhana. The hermit lived outside the city of Campā, by the shores of the Gaṅgā. But to his ill-luck, he found that the hermit Marīci had gotten himself entangled in a web of deceit by a courtesan named Kāmamañjarī, and had lost his divining abilities that he had acquired through austerities.
Apahāravarman then went to the city of Campā, and met a man named Vimardaka - who too had lost all his possessions, thanks to his costly dalliances with Kāmamañjarī. Promising to help Vimardaka, Apahāravarman soon mastered the arts of gambling and thieving.
One night, as he was roaming the streets of Campā, Apahāravarman saw Kulapālikā, the daughter of Kuberadatta, going somewhere all alone. When he quizzed her, she said that she was on her way to meet her beloved, Dhanamitra, who until recently, was her groom-to-be. However, since Dhanamitra had given away all of his considerable wealth to the poor out of sheer generosity, her father had gone back on his word. He now intended to marry her off to a man named Arthapati, the next morning. Kulapālikā’s heart was set upon Dhanamitra, and she vowed that she would never marry anyone else. Apahāravarman’s heart melted upon hearing her story, and he helped her to reach Dhanamitra. Together they hatched a plan. Accordingly, Dhanamitra and Apahāravarman took Kulapālikā back to her father’s house. Leaving her there, the duo robbed Kuberadatta’s house clean. On their way back, they even robbed the house of Arthapati, the man who was slated to marry Kulapālikā in the morning. Thanks to the pandemonium caused by their mischief, the marriage was put off for a month. They even spread the false word that Dhanamitra had come by his newfound wealth, thanks to an enchanted leather bag given by a seer. Soon enough, the whole city came to believe that Dhanamitra was a wealthy man again. Kuberadatta now had no objection to Dhanamitra marrying his daughter.
As days passed, one morning, Apahāravarman saw Rāgamañjarī, the sister of Kāmamañjarī, dancing. He became enamoured with her. He soon married Rāgamañjarī after securing the blessings of Kāmamañjarī, whom he had managed to entice with the promise of handing her Dhanamitra’s enchanted leather bag.

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 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. 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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