13. The story of Viśruta
Viśruta was roaming the dense forests of the Vindhyas in search of Rājavāhana, when he saw an eight year old boy standing next to a well, crying. When he asked the boy what aggrieved him, he replied that his old servant who had tried to draw water from the well had fallen in. Viśruta calmed the boy down and pulled the old man out and inquired further. He came to know that the boy was prince Bhāskaravarmā of Vidarbha, and that the old man was Nāḻījaṅgha, his servant. The prince was the son of king Anantavarmā of Avantī. The king had become indifferent to his duties, completely neglected statecraft and had fallen into wrong company. Sensing that this was the right time to strike, the neighbouring king Vasantabhānu had attacked and killed Anantavarmā and had assumed lordship over Avantī. The dead king’s old minister Vasurakṣita however had managed to flee, taking with him the young prince Bhāskaravarma, princess Mañjuvādinī and queen Vasundharā.
Vasurakṣita died on the way, but the queen managed to reach Māhiṣmatī and sought help from her husband’s step brother Mitravarmā. To her horror, it soon dawned upon her that Mitravarmā coveted her. She spurned his advances, and this angered Mitravarmā who then hatched a plan to have prince Bhāskaravarma assassinated. Tipped off by the queen in the nick of time, Nāḻījaṅgha took the prince far away from Māhiṣmatī, into the forests of the Vindhyās.
Viśruta resolved to help the young prince regain what was rightfully his. He relayed instructions via Nāḻījaṅgha to queen Vasundharā about what needed to be done. Accordingly, she lied to Mitravarma that her son was devoured by a tigress near the Vindhyās, and that she no longer objected to marrying him. Mitravarma was elated. When he rushed to meet her, she welcomed him and placed around his neck an ornate chain of gold steeped in poison, which Viśruta had sent. The venom killed Mitravarma within moments.
Setting in motion the next part of their plan, Viśruta and Bhāskaravarmā arrived at Māhiṣmatī, disguised as kāpālikas, the feared practitioners of occult magic. They made a cemetery their home, and received alms from the queen herself in order to sustain themselves. Soon one night they hid themselves inside the temple of goddess Vindhyavāsinī on the banks of the river Reva. The next morning, in front of everyone gathered for worship, they came out from the inner sanctum of the temple, as if the goddess herself had let them out. They spread the word that the prince hadn’t died, and that it was in fact mother Vindhyavāsinī herself who had, in the form of a fierce tigress, secured the young prince away in the forests. Viśruta then married princess Mañjuvādinī and assumed stewardship over Māhiṣmatī.
Next Viśruta attacked and killed Vasantabhānu, the king of Aśmaka and crowned Bhāskaravarma as the king of his father’s kingdom, Vidarbha. A grateful Bhāskaravarma declared Viśruta as the ruler of Utkala. Then Viśruta travelled to Campānagara to help Siṃhavarma, and met Rājavāhana there.
The eight young men who reached Campānagara sent word to Somadatta who was in Pāṭalīputra, to come and join them. Once he arrived, they had a wonderful time, exchanging stories of their valourous exploits. Right then, they received a letter from Rājahaṃsa from Puṣpapurī. It stated that sixteen years ago, when Rājavāhana had gone away, his parents were about to end their lives. At that time, Vāmadeva had managed to dissuade them by saying that the nine young men - including Rājavāhana, shall return home after having completed their conquests in sixteen years. Now that the stipulated time was over, and since it had reached Rājahaṃsa’s ears that the valiant young men were at Campānagara, he had asked them to return forthwith. The young men, accompanied by their wives and attendants, soon reached Mālava. There they fought and killed Mānasāra and released Puṣpodbhava from prison. Rājavāhana’s beloved Avantisundarī also joined them and they travelled to Puṣpapurī. An aged Rājahaṃsa and the parents of all the young men were elated upon seeing their valorous sons return with beautiful brides. Rājavāhana was crowned the king of both Magadha and Mālava. The other young men became his vassals and assumed kingship over the other kingdoms. Soon thereafter, Rājahaṃsa and his queen Vasumatī decided that the time was ripe for them to retire to the forests, and bid their erstwhile life adieu. Treading the path of renunciation, the old couple eventually attained salvation.
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