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
Long ago lived a sage, who had a son named Ruru. One day, Ruru saw Pramadvatī, 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.
A kind of non-poisonous water snake.
Pramadvarā in the original.