Kathāmṛta - 127 - The Story of the Daśa-kumāra-carita

This article is part 127 of 133 in the series Kathāmṛta

11. The Story of Nitambavatī

Long ago, in the kingdom of Śūrasena, within the city of Madhurā, there lived a young man named Kalahakaṇṭaka. One day, he happened to see a mesmerising portrait of a woman, painted by an artist. He learnt that the beautiful woman in the painting was Nitambavatī, the wife of Anantakīrti, an old merchant from Ujjayinī. Disguising himself as a beggar, Kalahakaṇṭaka went to Ujjayinī and saw her with his own eyes. He was completely smitten by her beauty. He soon devised a clever plan to make her his. He met with the community leaders of Ujjayinī and secured for himself the job of guarding the town’s cremation grounds. He then befriended a wandering jaina mendicant woman by name Arhantikā and through her, sent his missive of love to Nitambavatī. An outraged Nitambavatī remonstrated Arhantikā and shooed her away. Later Arhantikā went back to Nitambavatī and said placatingly, ‘I spoke those words merely because I wanted to test your fidelity. I am highly pleased with your fealty towards your husband. But I am sad that you don’t have any children. This is because your husband is afflicted with pāṇḍu-roga - a skin disease. I have seen his horoscope and it’s clear that this ailment is because of his stars not being favourably aligned. Unless he is cured, you will not bear children. I know a wizard who can help you cure him. Come with me to him and place your foot in his palm. He will charm it with his occult magic. Then later, when you sport with your husband, kick him on his chest with your charmed leg, as part of the foreplay! This will imbue him with great strength and you will soon bear children’. 

A gullible Nitambavatī agreed, and went to the grove bordering the city that very night. As planned, Kalahakaṇṭaka took her foot in his palm. Then on the pretext of putting a magical spell on her leg, he slowly slid off her toe-ring. Then he suddenly scratched her thigh with his knife and fled the spot. Nitambavatī became so angry that she wanted to kill the wily mendicant woman. Then blaming herself for listening to her, she cleaned the wound, took out the other toe-ring, and walked home and went straight to bed, feigning poor health. Clasping the toe-ring in his fist, the shrewd Kalahakaṇṭaka went straight to the merchant Anantakīrti, pretending to be interested in selling it. The old merchant recognized his wife’s ornament, and asked Kalahakaṇṭaka to explain how he came to possess it. The latter said that he will only answer it in front of the town’s business council. While Nitambavatī had lied to her husband that the ring must have gotten loose and slipped off when she had gone to the garden, Kalahakaṇṭaka said this in front of the council: ‘As you all know, I guard the cremation grounds. A few days ago, a woman came in the night and began dragging away a half-burnt corpse. I caught her and slashed her thigh with my knife. I snatched this toe-ring from her too’. After a quick trial, everyone became convinced that Nitambavatī was a śākinī. Her husband forsook her. Overcome with grief, she went to the cremation grounds to hang herself. There Kalahakaṇṭaka met her and expressed his wish. Left with no other option, she gave in.

The brahma-rākṣasa found these stories narrated by Mitragupta agreeable. Then all of a sudden, pearls and raindrops began to fall from the sky. When Mitragupta gazed up, he saw a rākṣasa carrying away a woman forcibly. The brahma-rākṣasa leapt up to the skies and caught hold of the abductor. The woman however began to fall from the sky and Mitragupta managed to catch her in his arms in the nick of time. She was none other than Kandukāvatī. A dissembling rākṣasa who could take up any form, had carried her away when she was in a garden. Mitragupta soon brought her to Dāmalipta. By then, king Tuṅgadhanva and his queen were about to give up their lives on the shores of Gaṅgā, thinking they had lost both their children - Bhīmadhanva and Kandukāvatī. Seeing them alive and well thus, they were overjoyed. Mitragupta married Kandukāvatī, and Bhīmadhanva became his vassal. After this, when Mitragupta went to help Siṃhavarma, the king of Aṅga, he met Rājavāhana there.

12. The Story of Mantragupta

Mantragupta had gone to the kingdom of Kaliṅga. He had camped near a cemetery outside the capital, when he found out about an evil siddha who lurked there. The siddha, using a rākṣasa whom he had under his sway, wanted to abduct Kaliṅgalekhā, the daughter of Kardana, the king of Kaliṅga, and sacrifice her in that cemetery. Mantragupta became aware of the siddha’s evil designs. On the fateful night, just when the siddha was about to commit the heinous deed, Mantragupta swooped down upon him. He deftly snatched the sword from his hand and lopped off his head. Even the rākṣasa was glad to be freed from the clutches of the siddha, and was only too happy to serve Mantragupta, who became his new master. Using his magical powers, the rākṣasa then flew Mantragupta and princess Kaliṅgalekhā back to the palace. Mantragupta began to live there.

When springtime came, one morning, king Kardana along with his queens and his daughter went for a picnic near the shore. There they were ambushed by Jayasiṃha, the king of the Āndhra kingdom, who had stealthily come with a boatful of warriors. He captured Kardana and his family, and took them back as his prisoners. After a few days a brāhmaṇa who had arrived from the Āndhra kingdom informed Mantragupta that Jayasiṃha was forcing princess Kaliṅgalekhā to marry him. But she had turned him away by saying that she was under the spell of a yakṣa who would never tolerate her coming face to face with any man. The brāhmaṇa added that Jayasiṃha had tried many occult rituals to get rid of the said yakṣa, but nothing seemed to have worked. Mantragupta saw an opportunity in this. He disguised himself as a pious sage, took with him his close aides who pretended to be his disciples, and camped on a lake shore near the Āndhra capital. Jayasiṃha soon heard about this powerful new sage who had recently arrived in his kingdom, and approached him for help to drive away the yakṣa whom he despised for standing between him and Kaliṅgalekhā. Mantragupta assured Jayasiṃha of his help. He said that he would first purify the waters of the lake, and after that if the king would take a holy dip and rise, he would acquire a divine form, the very sight of which would make the yakṣa flee for his life. Jayasiṃha readily agreed. Just before the appointed hour, Mantragupta hid himself in an underwater cavern of the lake. When Jayasiṃha took a dip, he dragged him down and killed him. Mantragupta then quickly secured the corpse in the cavern and rose up like the sun at dawn. The royal guards thought that their king Jayasiṃha himself had returned in this new divine form. Since the sage had declared that he would be departing from the city earlier, nobody suspected him. Mantragupta was given a royal welcome and taken back to the palace. Next morning, he summoned Śaśāṅkasenā, the chief attendant of princess Kaliṅgalekhā, and explained everything to her in confidence. Soon, Mantragupta married Kaliṅgalekhā and began to reign over both Kaliṅga and Āndhra. Later, when he rushed to Campānagara, to aid Siṃhavarmā, he met Rājavāhana.

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

 

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About:

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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