Kathāmukhalambaka - 9 - The story of Śrīdatta, cont.

This article is part 9 of 14 in the series Kathāmṛta

Śrīdatta went in search of water for her. As he looked for a source of water, it got dark. While he found water roaming around the forest, he had lost his way. The next morning, anxious to see his beloved, he arrived at the spot where the dead horse lay. He however, did not find Mṛṅgākavatī or his friends at the spot. Therefore, distracted, he placed his sword down and he climbed up a tree looking around when the leader of a Śabara clan came to the spot and took away the sword Mṛgāṅka which was placed at the foot of the tree. Śrīdatta climbed down the tree and asked him if he knew anything about Mṛgāṅkavatī. He said – ‘She has gone to our village. You too go there! I’ll come along later and will return the sword in the village when I would meet you again.’ He put him in the company of other hunters and sent him away.

Upon reaching the hunters’ village, he was told by the hunters who accompanied him to sleep and refresh himself. Śrīdatta, exhausted by his search for water and later his beloved, agreed and soon fell asleep. When he woke up he saw he had been tricked and had been fastened with fetters. Mocanikā who was serving the Śabara chief, Śrīcaṇḍa[1], came to him one day and said, “The chief has gone out to attend some pressing affairs, but once he returns, you’ll be sacrificed to Caṇḍikā. You were tricked for this very reason, and therefore you have been well-fed so as to fatten you up for the sacrifice! But I know there is an escape route for you. The daughter of the Śabara chief, a girl by name Sundarī is in love with you. Marry her and she’ll liberate you.” He married her in secret. She became pregnant, and the news reached her mother through Mocanikā. She met him and said, “My husband is cruel and will never show mercy. You escape now but never forget my daughter.” He escaped from the place. Before doing so, he informed Sundarī that the sword that her father was carrying was his and it should be kept safe. Having said so, he went in search of Mṛṅgākavatī. (It was evident that she had not come to the village. He had been caught by the Śabara to sacrifice him to Caṇḍī). Again he searched for Mṛgāṅkavatī for a long time. On his way, he noticed some good omens, following those omens, he came to the same place where his horse had died. There, he found a hunter and he enquired, the hunter asked – ‘Are you Śrīdatta?’ Śrīdatta replied, “Yes I’m that unfortunate soul.” Having heard that, he said, “After seeing your beloved lamenting, I was moved, I first took her to my village but seeing the hunters there I was afraid for her and so I took her to Nāgasthala near Mathura and left her in the refuge of a brāhmaṇa, Viśvadatta.” Upon approaching Viśvadatta, he said, “In this remote village, void of people, it is difficult to look after and protect her, so I took her to Mathura and left her under the care of my friend, who is the minister of Śūrasena. You can stay here and leave for Mathura tomorrow morning.” He spent that night there and left for Mathura the next morning. Upon reaching its outskirts, he found a lake with clear waters, where he took a refreshing bath, relieved himself of his travel fatigue. While bathing he found a bundle of clothes which he carried on his shoulders without inspecting its contents and continued his journey. The king’s attendants found him, searched his belongings, accused him of being a thief and arrested him, for the bundle he carried contained a garland. The thieves had hid the bundle containing it in the lake before making their escape. The king without much deliberation, pronounced death penalty as the punishment. When he was being taken to the place of his execution, Mṛgāṅkavatī, who was residing in the house of the chief minister, heard the drum beats accompanying the announcement of his execution by chance, and requested the minister to rescue him saying that he was her husband.The minister requested the king on her behalf and stopped his execution. Being rescued, it dawned upon him that the minister was indeed his paternal uncle, Vigatabhaya who had earlier left his kingdom. He narrated his travails to him. Vigatabhaya said, “Fear not my son! A yakṣī whom I had once subdued, has given me five thousand horses and seven crore gold coins. You can have them all and accomplish your goal.” Then Śrīdatta married his beloved and stayed there. But his heart was always thinking about his friends, Bāhuśālin and others, who had undergone so much trouble for him. One day Vigatabhaya said, “Son! The king Śūrasena has a daughter. She has to be accompanied during her travel to the kingdom of Avanti! You can marry her and combine their army along with the one you already have. With this joint force, you will be able to win the kingdom which the Goddess Śrī has already promised”. Śrīdatta also travelled with his uncle. On the way in the Vindhyā forest, a huge band of thieves, showered arrows on them, killed all their soldiers, took them captive and made them travel to a nearby village. While they were about to be sacrificed in the temple of Caṇḍī, they were rescued by Sundarī, daughter of the chief of the hunters, and were taken to her home. Since her father had already passed away without a male progeny, Śrīdatta got their village too. He also got his sword back, his uncle and all his men who were in captive were released, the daughter of Śūrasena too married him; He sent for both his fathers-in-law, Bimbakarāja, Śūrasena; They gladly sent their forces to help their son-in-law. By then Bāhuśālin and others had already recovered from their injuries and had learnt all the events which had happened and they came to him. With all their help, Śrīdatta killed Vikramaśakti, and lived happily ever after with Mṛgāṅkavatī and his other wives. O king!, like this, even when the separation with their beloved is long and difficult, the courageous would finally overcome that and find happiness – Saṅgataka said.

The next morning they continued their journey and in few days they reached the serene hermitage of the Ṛṣi Jamadagni. Jamadagni received them with respect and returned his wife and son. They narrated their stories to each other. After a few days, they took leave from Jamadagni and came back to Kauśāmbī. At the right time, he coronated Udayana as the crown prince and made the sons of his ministers, Yaugandharāyaṇa, Rumaṇvān, and Vasantaka as his ministers. Upon attaining old age, he renounced worldly pleasures and with his wives and ministers, he went to the Himalayas to complete his final journey.

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.

Footnotes

[1]Referred to as Śrīdaṇḍa in Bṛhat-kathā-mañjarī.

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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