Kathāmukhalambaka - 16 - The Story of Bālavinaṣṭaka, The story of Ruru and ḍuṇḍubha

This article is part 16 of 42 in the series Kathāmṛta

The Story of Bālavinaṣṭaka

Long ago there lived a brāhmaṇa named Rudraśarmā; he had two wives; of the two, one of them gave birth to a child and subsequently died. The other wife failed to properly take care of the child; its hands and legs were shrivelled, its stomach was bloated. Husband asked, “Why do you treat an orphan with such contempt?”, she retorted saying, “I’ve been taking good care of him; but what more can be done? He is like this by his very nature! What am I to do?. He thought maybe she was right and stopped questioning her. When that boy, Bālavinaṣṭaka attained the age of five, being intelligent, thought, “My step-mother is ill treating me to such an extent. I’ve to teach her a lesson!”, following this, when his father returned to the palace once, he told him in secrecy with a sweet childish tone, “O father! I’ve two fathers!”. As this went on daily, he grew suspicious thinking that his wife has a paramour, following which he started ignoring her. Noticing that and thinking why this has happened even though she has never erred, realizing that the boy might have spoken ill of her, taking him into confidence by dressing him up and giving him tasty food, making him sit on her lap, she asked him, “Dear child! What did you do so that your father has started treating me with contempt?”. He frightened her by saying, “All your attention is towards your son, you have been ignoring me; if you don’t mend your ways, I’ll make this even more difficult to you”. She requested, “I’ll change, please make your father return to his usual self”. The boy said, “Today when he comes back, make your Ceṭī hold a mirror; I’ll take care of the rest!”. When that was done, the boy showed his father, his own reflection and said, “Father! See here! This is my second father”. Hearing this Rudraśarmā’s doubts were cleared. He repented for being unnecessarily harsh on his wife and returned to being his usual self.

Narrating this story Yaugandharāyaṇa concluded, “Even a child, if proper care is not taken, may resort to mischief. Therefore everyone in the king’s palace should be kept happy!”. Everyone was happy to hear this. Both the ministers were so good in this task that each one of them thought that these two ministers were devoted to them alone and no one else. The king himself felicitated all his ministers with clothes, jewelry and other appropriate things. Gopālaka returned to his city.

After some time, Vāsavadattā was distressed when she noticed that Vatsarāja was having a secret affair with one of the attendants of the royal harem, viracikā. Once, he addressed the queen by that name and was caught! The king prostrated before her and begged for forgiveness; she was full of tears and then was pacified. Then Gopālaka sent Vāsavadattā an attendant, Bandhumati as a gift, whom he had won. She was also called Mañjulikā. The girl looked like another Lakṣmī who had risen from the ocean of beauty. Vatsarāja secretly married her in Gāndharva style in the royal creeper-bower with the help of Vasantaka. Vāsavadattā had hid herself in the royal garden while this happened and saw this. Enraged, she threw Vasantaka into the prison for helping the king. Vatsarāja took the help of, Sāṅkṛtyāyanī, a female mendicant who came from Vāsavadattā’s native and was able to pacify her. Then with her consent, the official wedding happened; Vasantaka was released. He came to her smiling and said, “O queen! Bandhumati committed a mistake! What did I do? Upset about the snake (venomous), but vent it out on a Ḍuṇḍubha (non-venomous snake)?”. Vāsavadattā asked, “What do you mean?”, following which he narrated this story:-

The story of Ruru and ḍuṇḍubha[1]

Long ago lived a sage, who had a son named Ruru. One day, Ruru saw Pramadvatī[2], the beautiful foster daughter of sage Sthūlakeśa and he fell in love with her. She was the abandoned daughter of a vidyādhara and the apsarā Menaka who was raised by the venerable Sthūlakeśa. With the blessings of the rishi, the arrangements for the wedding of Ruru and Pramadvatī began. Before the wedding could take place, one day, just as fate would have it, Pramadvatī was killed by a snake bite. Ruru’s grief knew no bounds. A voice from the skies consoled him thus: ‘O brahmana! Her share of life is over. Bestow her with half of your life if you wish to make her live again!’ Ruru happily did so and having brought Pramadvatī back to life, married her.

Then on, whenever Ruru saw a snake, he would kill it in vengeance, remembering how Pramadvatī had lost her life due to one. One day, a ḍuṇḍubha, seeing Ruru approach menacingly with intention to kill it, addressed him thus in a human voice: ‘O Brahmana! Why are you trying to kill me, a ḍuṇḍubha, in your hatred for snakes? The animal which killed your wife was a snake, different from a ḍuṇḍubha. A snake is poisonous, and ḍuṇḍubha isn’t’. Listening to this, Ruru paused and asked: ‘Who are you?’ The ḍuṇḍubha replied, ‘I am a cursed sage. Thanks to the exchange of words with you, I have been relieved of it!’, and disappeared.

- It is keeping this story in mind, O devi, that I said: ‘It is not fair to take out one’s hatred towards a snake, upon a poor ḍuṇḍubha.’

Since Vatsarāja would often give into indulgences, there were many such occasions. He became absorbed in drinking, playing the veena, staring into the eyes of his beloved and was having a jolly time.

End of Kathāmukhalambaka

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.


[1]A kind of non-poisonous water snake.

[2]Pramadvarā in the original.



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.

Prekshaa Publications

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...