Udayana started reigning over the kingdom which he inherited from his father on a prosperous note. However, he gradually handed it over to Yaugandharāyaṇa and the other ministers and became preoccupied with hunting and playing the vīṇā. The vīṇā playing used to take place every day, all day. Also, with the enthralling power of the vīṇā, he used to ensnare rut elephants. He did have this constant refrain though: ‘I don’t see anywhere a bride who is best suited for me, both in terms of lineage and appearance. I hear that there is Vāsavadattā. But how do I secure her hand?’.
Likewise, in Ujjaini, King Caṇḍamahāsena, the father of Vāsavadattā thought, ‘the perfect match for my daughter is none other than Udayana. However, he is my foe. How do I bring him under my sway and make him my son-in-law? There is only one way; he keeps roaming the woods alone, in order to capture elephants; it’s his only weakness which can be exploited, that would be the right time to snare him!’ He went to the temple of Durgā and prayed for his success. He heard a heavenly voice saying, “O king! Your wish will bear fruit shortly” He came back and discussed this with his minister, Buddhadatta. However his minister said ‘Udayana is a man of high self esteem. He is stubborn and won’t give in to inducements. He is a man of valour and is affectionate to his servants. He can’t be plied through negotiations, but we can try!’
Accordingly, Caṇḍamahāsena sent Udayana a missive saying, “my daughter wishes to be your disciple in order to learn music. If you accept our hand of friendship, do come here and train her”. Upon hearing these words, Udayana summoned Yaugandharāyaṇa and told him behind closed doors: ‘Did you listen to the arrogant words of that king? What does he think to send for me thus?’ Desirous of his master’s welfare, the minister replied unhesitatingly: “O king! The word everywhere is that you are obsessive about your habits. What has happened now is the unfortunate outcome of this. Caṇḍamahāsena wants to hold sway over you by enticing you with his gem of a daughter. My advice to you is to rid yourself of such habits going forward.” Vatsarāja sent his answer: “If your daughter desires to be my disciple, may she be sent to Kauśāmbi”. Next, he summoned his ministers and said: “Let us ride right now to capture and bring him here”. Yaugandharāyaṇa replied: “O king! This is not possible. Nor is it wise in the first place. Caṇḍamahāsena bears great influence. We need to bring him over to our side. Let me tell you about him in depth -
“In the city of Ujjayinī lived a king named Mahendravarman. His son was Jayasena. Mahāsena is the son of Jayasena. In his youth he thought about his strengths and decided that he did not possess a sword befitting his physical strength, nor a wife befitting his lineage. To alleviate these shortcomings, he started a penance to please Caṇḍī. He cut pieces of his own flesh and offered it as āhuti! The goddess, pleased, appeared before him, gifted him with a sword and said: ‘This sword will make you invincible to your enemies. In near future, you will also marry Aṅgāravatī, the daughter of asura Aṅgāraka. You will be renowned as Caṇḍamahāsena for accomplishing such a strenuous penance!’ That sword and his ferocious elephant named Naḍāgiri are like the Vajra and Airāvata for Indra.
Once, during a hunt, Mahāsena saw a menacing wild boar. Although he let loose his sharp arrows, it escaped unhurt. It pushed aside the king’s chariot and disappeared into a hole in the earth. When Mahāsena went after it down the hole, he came upon a magnificent city. He saw a pond there and sat down on its edge. Just then, a woman accompanied by her retinue came there. She addressed him thus tearfully: ‘Who are you, O handsome young man? Why did you come here?’ The king narrated his story and asked ‘Who are you? And why do you weep?’ She replied lovingly: ‘The wild boar you chased is the rākṣasa Aṅgāraka. I am Aṅgāravatī, his daughter. All these girls are princesses, whom he has abducted from their kingdoms and turned them into my servants. Now, having abandoned his boar form, he is fast asleep with exhaustion. Once he is awake, he will surely harm you. This is the reason for my anguish!’.
Hearing this, the king said ‘O lady! If you are in love with me, continue to cry once your father wakes up. If he asks you why you are upset, ask him – ‘What will become of me, if someone beats you up and kills you?’ He will give you a certain answer and that will do good to you and to me as well!’
She did so and the rākṣasa laughed – ‘Who can kill me? My entire body is as hard as diamond. There is only one delicate spot on my palm, however, as I carry my bow with this hand, but it is always covered!’ The king who was listening to this conversation from his hiding spot, approached Aṅgāraka when he was performing pooja to Śiva and invited him for a duel. Aṅgāraka, in silence lifted his left hand up and signalled as though to ask him to wait for a bit. Right at the moment, the king shot an arrow targeting the weak spot on the rākṣasa’s body. The rakshasa pronounced – ‘as I have been shot when I was thirsty, the person who killed me should offer jalatarpaṇa to me, one a year; if not, his five ministers will die!’
The king brought Aṅgāravatī to Ujjayinī and got married to her. He begot two sons named Gopālaka and Pālaka from her. The king performed Indrotsava at their birth. Indra, who was pleased with these ceremonies appeared in the king’s dream and said – ‘With my blessings you will beget an extraordinary daughter who is unmatched in the world! She shall give birth to a son who will become the king of Vidyādharas’ Accordingly, a daughter was born. As she was gifted to the king by Indra, she was named Vāsavadattā. She is now of age to be married. Therefore, it is not possible to win him over; moreover, he has decided to give his daughter in marriage to you. You will marry her of your own accord!” he said.
On the other side, Caṇḍamahāsena received the reply from Vatsarāja. Upon hearing it, he thought – ‘This king of Vatsa is too proud of himself. Will he come here? Thinking so, if we send our daughter there by ourselves, it will spoil our stature as well. Therefore, we will need to plan well and capture him.’ With this in his mind, he spoke to his ministers and prepared a mechanised elephant. He housed several brave warriors in the body of the elephant and let it free in the Vindhya forest. Vatsarāja’s men spotted the elephant from a distance and informed him of its presence in the forest. The king was thrilled and gifted them a thousand gold coins.
‘If I can procure an elephant that can be a suitable rival to Caṇḍamahāsena’s Naḍāgiri, it is as good as him being under my control! He will then offer Vāsavadattā to me on his own.’ With these thoughts, he set out the very next morning paying no heed to the good counsel of his ministers. The astrologers noticed the lagna in which he set out and declared the fruit – ‘He will procure a girl for himself and will also be subject to imprisonment because of this.’ He did not care for this either. He reached the Vindhya forest, letting his army stay away fearing that the elephant may run away when many people approach it at a time. He went ahead with the vīṇā in his hand, with just one assistant. The elephant looked real. He walked playing the vīṇā, thinking about the manner in which he should capture it. As he was deeply engrossed in his own music and it was dusk, he was not able to see that the elephant was an artificial one. The elephant too appeared as though it was enjoying the playing of the vīṇā. It seemed to have stretched its ears up; coming towards him now and going a bit away. Like this it took him to a far-off place. At the right moment, the soldiers who were within its body jumped out and surrounded him on all sides. He was enraged too, pulled out his long knife and started combating with the people at the front. The other soldiers caught hold of him from behind. While the rest fought with his army, Vatsarāja was brought captive to Caṇḍamahāsena.
To be continued...
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 Raghavendra GS, Arjun Bharadwaj, Srishan Thirumalai, and Hari Ravikumar.