Kathāmukhalambaka - 11 - Yaugandharāyaṇa's plan - Rūpaṇikā's story

This article is part 11 of 13 in the series Kathāmṛta

Learning of his capture, Caṇḍamahāsena came by himself to the main entrance to the city and escorted him [i.e. Udayana] with great respect into the city. The citizens were thrilled looking at Vatsarāja. "If our king plans to kill this person, by any chance, we will all give up our lives too!" they said. The king Caṇḍamahāsena declared, "I will not get Vatsarāja killed" and with these words, the crowd was brought under control.

Caṇḍamahāsena escorted Vatsarāja into the palace and entrusted Vāsavadattā to his tutelage for gāndharva-vidyā. He said, "O Lord, please train her in music. That will do good to you. Please don’t fret!" Looking at her, Vatsarāja fell in such deep love that his anger vanished. His eyes and heart were placed in her. Out of embarrassment his eyes turned away but his mind would never leave her and return. Starting that very day, Vatsarāja started teaching her music in the gāṇdharva-śālā and stayed there looking at her all the time. He had the extraordinary ghoṣavatī-vīṇā on his lap, music in his throat, and Vāsavadattā in front of him – nothing more was needed to please his mind. Vāsavadattā too served him with unshakeable devotion, just like Lakṣmī would take care of Viṣṇu.

Back at Kauśāmbī, the people heard that Vatsarāja had been captured. Enraged, they wished to surround the city of Ujjayinī and attack it. However, Rumaṇvān consoled them by saying, "Caṇḍamahāsena is very strong. We cannot win him over by the force of our armies. Moreover, it might pose a threat to Vatsarāja’s life. Therefore, let us not attack the city. We will try to win him over with the strength of our intellect."

Yaugandharāyaṇa said, "All of you stay back here and take care of the kingdom. The time is not yet ripe for us to display our valour. Vasantaka and I will go ahead, use our strategy and rescue the king. It is only when the waters are flowing high and there is immense pressure that the lighting should strike, giving fire and light – such should be the working of a genius too! I have several magical skills – breaking through a wall, bringing down fortresses, and performing vanishing acts!" With these words, he left the city along with Vasantaka.

He met the king of Pulindas in the Vindhya forest and asked him to keep a large army stationed there for the protection of Vatsarāja who would walk that path. He then went to the smaśāna of Mahā-kāla. There, a brahma-rākṣasa named Yogeśvara came as his friend. Yogeśvara taught him how to alter his shape and become unrecognizable. As per his advice, Yaugandharāyaṇa put on the guise of a mad person, short in stature, a bald pate, and appearing like a thief. Anyone who saw had no choice but to laugh at him. He also altered Vasantaka so that he became a person with a large tummy, protruding teeth, and ugly in appearance.

Yaugandharāyaṇa then sent Vasantaka first to the palace and he followed him shortly after. Vasantaka entered the city and went around the streets dancing and singing. A few boys gathered around him. His appearance and behaviour generated a lot of curiosity among the citizens. As all of them came close to the palace, this news fell on Vāsavadattā’s ears. She sent her ceṭī (female attendant) and invited him to the gāṇdharva-śālā. Yaugandharāyaṇa too followed him and entered the palace along with him. As soon as he saw Vatsarāja who was now a captive, he couldn’t control the flow of tears from his eyes. Because of the indications given by Yaugandharāyaṇa, Vatsarāja came to know of his true identity. Yaugandharāyaṇa used his yogic powers and made himself invisible to Vāsavadattā and the ceṭī. He remained visible only to the king. When Udayana understood that, he played along and ordered the ceṭī, “Dārikā! Go and fetch everything required for the Sarasvatī-pūjā!” Hearing that she left the place with Vāsavadattā. In this way, the situation being favourable to him, Yaugandharāyaṇa taught the king how to break the fetters as well as mesmerise and capture Vāsavadattā just by caressing his fingers on the vīṇā. Then he also said that Vasantaka was waiting at the palace door in disguise and that he should be made to stay in his vicinity. After giving instructions on the things to be done once Vāsavadattā was under captivity, he left the place. Meanwhile when Vāsavadattā returned with the materials required for the pūjā, he said, “There is a brāhmaṇa waiting outside. Let us give the dakṣiṇā to him, bring him in.” As soon as he entered inside and saw Vatsarāja he started lamenting, causing fear in the king’s mind that their secret might no longer remain so, prompting him to say, “O brāhmaṇa! I’ll relieve you from the agitation which you are undergoing as a result of sickness and remove the deformities; don’t cry, stay close to me!”

Vasantaka agreed and said, “By your grace, O king!”

Seeing his diseased face the king was overcome with laughter. Vasantaka also laughed, accentuating those ugly features further. Following that Vāsavadattā too laughed. She asked, “O brāhmaṇa, What have you learnt?”

He replied, “O devi! I know how to tell stories!”

She said, “Tell me a story then,” following which he told her a story filled with humor and intrigue –

The Story of Rūpaṇikā

In the city of Madhurā, once upon a time, there lived a courtesan by name Rūpaṇikā. She lived with her mother Makara-daṃṣṭrā. Once while she was on the way back from the temple after finishing her duties for the day, she happened to see a charming youth, fell in love and sent for him through her ceṭī. He said, “I’m a brāhmaṇa by the name of Lohajaṅgha; I’m not rich. Who am I amongst the rich people who can visit Rūpaṇikā?” When the ceṭī replied, “She would not expect money from you,” he agreed and went there. As soon as she saw him she came to him, placed her hands on his shoulders, embraced him, and took him inside to her room. She left everyone else and was devoted only to him causing him to stay with her. Seeing this, her mother was dejected and advised her thus: “What is this? Why are you having this relationship with this poor man? You can touch even a corpse but would anyone touch some destitute? What is love for a courtesan? Shoo him away, don’t end up becoming bankrupt!” Hearing this Rūpaṇikā replied in anger, “Don’t say so! O mother! He is dearer to me than even my life; I already possess so much money now. What is the use of earning even more? Don’t ever talk to me about this again!” Her mother ventured out, saw a prince going with his armed guards, brought him to her house, and said, “This wretched cheat has encroached my house. Can you throw him out and stay with my daughter instead?”

He assented and came to her house. At that time, Rupaṇikā had gone to the temple. Even Lohajaṅgha was not home. But as soon as he returned, the royal guards severely thrashed him and dumped him in a drain. Lohajaṅgha somehow gathered himself and left town. Once Rupaṇikā came home, she learnt about what had transpired and began to wail inconsolably. Seeing that, the prince simply went his way.

Meanwhile, Lohajaṅgha undertook a pilgrimage. On the way, while passing through a forest, he came upon what was left of the carcass of an elephant. He observed that jackals, having entered the dead animal from behind, had finished off all the flesh and only its hide was left. He pushed himself into the hide and fell fast asleep due to sheer exhaustion. In a little while, a heavy downpour came about. The hide got thoroughly drenched and began to shrink. Its opening was soon shut. Then a deluge swept downhill and carried away the carcass, along with its occupant, to the Gaṅgā. Thereon, it eventually reached the ocean. A bird of Garuḍa’s lineage scooped it up, hoping for a sumptuous treat. Setting itself down on the shore, when the giant bird tore the skin open with its sharp beak, to its surprise, instead of flesh, it saw a man within. So it left the carcass there and flew away. Amidst that din, Lohajaṅgha woke up and let himself out through the hole made by the bird. After finding that the bird flew so much and deposited him across the sea, in Laṅkā, he was astonished. A couple of rākṣasas saw this and reported it to Vibhīṣaṇa. Mindful of the greatness of Lord Rāma, Vibhīṣaṇa said, "Bring him here with due respect. Let him be treated to our hospitality!"

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.

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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