Kathāmṛta - 23 - Lāvaṇakalambaka - The Brave Vidūṣaka at Ujjayinī

This article is part 23 of 28 in the series Kathāmṛta

...Continued from the Previous Part

 

‘If that is the case, don’t feel sad; I’ll go there today; let your only son live; don’t worry about me; I’ve gained special powers; I’m not afraid of the consequences.’ She also agreed. In the evening he went to the palace along with the attendant of the army chief. The princess was like a creeper sagging due to the weight of flowers, haughty due to her youth. That night he worshipped Agni, got his sword, kept it ready and waited sitting awake on the bed in the princess’ room, looking forward to the person who had killed so many people. After everyone was asleep, the door opened. A fierce rākṣasa appeared outside the door and extended his arms which were as terrifying as the yamadaṇḍa into the room. Vidūṣaka immediately swung into action and cut off his arm. The frightened rākṣasa ran away.

The princess as soon as she woke up, saw the gigantic arm and was at once frightened, intrigued and happy. The king too saw the slashed arm the next day, was convinced that Vidūṣaka indeed had some special powers, and gave his daughter in marriage to him.

After spending some time with her, Vidūṣaka left in search of Bhadrā,. First, he reached Tāmralipti along the east coast, befriended a merchant named Skandadāsa, and travelled along with him in his ship. The ship stopped in the middle of the ocean. It couldn’t be moved even after appeasing the ocean by offering precious stones. Skandadāsa declared that ‘Whosoever can make this ship move, I’ll give half of all my assets to him and also my daughter in marriage!’ Hearing this, Vidūṣaka offered his help, ‘I’ll go down and see what might be the impediment; lower me using a rope; once the ship starts moving, bring me back!’ The merchant agreed; the sailors tied ropes around his armpits and lowered him into the ocean. There he saw a gigantic man sleeping, the ship being stuck at his knee. He used his sword to cut it off, the ship moved as the impediment was removed. Thinking that he had to part ways with half of his assets, the merchant cut the ropes leaving him in the sea. Vidūṣaka without losing heart immediately used the leg which he had cut as support and came up. As soon as he reached the surface, a heavenly voice rang, ‘O Vidūṣaka! Indeed you are brave and competent; you’ll reach Kārkoṭakapura in seven days; all your wishes will be fulfilled there; for now you’ll be free from thirst and hunger!’

He reached the city and stayed there in a maṭha. In the evening, the town crier went around announcing, ‘Any brāhmaṇa or kṣatriya who is interested in marrying the princess tomorrow morning should go to the palace and stay with her tonight!’ Despite being pleaded by the brāhmaṇas in the maṭha, telling him not to go, he went. The king Āryavarman received him and led him to his daughter’s palace. Again Vidūṣaka kept himself awake, waiting with his sword ready, and saw a rākṣasa extending his left arm inside.  Looking at that, he thought, “This is the same rākṣasa whose one arm I had severed long back; if I chop off the other arm, just like the last time, he might run away now.” Thinking thus, he went up to the demon, held his tuft and got ready to chop off his head. By this time, the rākṣasa was overcome by fear and pleaded, “Don’t kill me! You are a man of sattva! Show compassion on me! I am a rākṣasa named Yamadaṃṣṭra; both these girls are my daughters; I acted in this manner because I didn’t want them to get married to anyone who wasn’t courageous and heroic; this is the command of Śiva; it seems to me that he ordained it thus, solely for your sake; from now on, I am your friend; I shall appear whenever you desire my presence!” Saying so, the rākṣasa disappeared.

The following morning, the king gave away his daughter in marriage to the brave youth. Vidūṣaka spent a few days in her company and then one night, he stepped out; summoning the rākṣasa by remembering him. The young man proceeded to the Udayagiri siddha-kṣetra with the demon’s help. The rākṣasa said that it wasn’t possible for him to proceed further and went away; the Vidūṣaka walked on, descended upon a lake, and sat down at its banks. After a while, several women came to the spot holding golden vessels in their hands. When they had finished filling up the golden pots with water and were about to return, he asked them, “For whom are you taking this water?” They replied, “In this mountain, a vidyādharī [semi-divine being] named Bhadrā resides; it is for her bath.” One of the women said, “Will you help us carry these vessels?” He agreed to help them and while he was carrying them, he slipped the ring that Bhadrā had given him into one of the vessels. When the women were bathing Bhadrā, the ring fell on her. Upon looking at the ring, she understood what had transpired and immediately called for him. She was delighted upon seeing him and asked, “How did you get here?” He said, “Holding steadfast to your love, overcoming several life-threatening obstacles, I came here, O beautiful maiden; what else can I say!” She said, “Āryaputra! I have nothing to gain from my attendants or my attainments; you are my world; I am your slave!” He said, “O my beloved, if that be the case, let us proceed to Ujjayinī, come!” She consented and abandoning all her divine learning as if one discards a blade of grass, she departed with him the following morning.

Summoning Yamadaṃṣṭra by remembering him, both of them climbed on to his back and first went to Karkoṭapura. Picking up King Āryavarma’s daughter, they proceeded to the sea shore where he picked up all the wealth and the daughters of the merchant who had cheated him, but spared his life. Continuing the journey on the rākṣasa-chariot, they arrived at Pauṇḍravardhanapura. Picking up King Devasena’s daughter there, they finally arrived at Ujjayinī. Even as the townsfolk looked at him with wonder and fear, King Ādityasena came forward and greeted his son-in-law. Vidūṣaka offered his salutations to the king, sent away the rākṣasa, and entered the city with his wives. The princess of that kingdom, who was his first wife, was delighted upon seeing him. When the king asked him, “How did you obtain all these wives? And who was that rākṣasa?,” he narrated in detail all the events that had transpired earlier. Elated upon hearing it, the king gave away half his kingdom to his son-in-law. Vidūṣaka, who was a brāhmaṇa, became a king. The royal umbrella and cāmaras made their appearance. The city of Ujjayinī echoed with the music made by auspicious instruments.

 

Vatsarāja recounted this story and then said, “Thus, if one has the backing of destiny, for the valorous ones, their sattva itself becomes a mantra for attainment!” The ministers and his queens were all overjoyed.

 

The current article is a translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’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 Arjun Bharadwaj, Raghavendra GS, 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.

Author(s)

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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