Once the king refused, the commander married her. Once when the king was roaming, he saw her standing in the balcony of the commander’s house. As soon as he saw her it was as though he was put under a mesmerising spell. He came back to the palace and laid down with great mental agony. Having understood the reason for his present situation, the commander offered, ‘She is your servant, not parastrī; I’ll abandon her in the temple, you can have her.’ Even after persuasion the king said, ‘I’ll not even touch anyone who is a parastrī; if you abandon her it would amount to committing adharma and you’ll be punished for that!’ Everyone was thus silenced. But the king eventually died, unable to bear the agony. Similarly without Vāsavadattā what would happen to Vatsarāja! — he said. Yaugandharāyaṇa replied, ‘A duty-bound king would bear such misery. For the sake of Rāvaṇa’s destruction when the deities — by plan — separated Sītā from Rāma, didn’t he bear the agony?’ ‘Rāma is indeed a God; he can bear anything; but mere mortals can’t.’ saying so Rumaṇvān narrated the following story: —
The story of Illaka and his beloved wife
In Madhura, lived a merchant named Illaka; he had a wife who was beloved and her mind was fixated upon him; once he had to travel for business to a distant island; she also wanted to accompany him; even though she adorned herself with makeup and was ready to travel, he left her and went alone. She leaned on the door and watched him till he was visible to her and as soon as he was no more seen she died. Hearing that the merchant came back held her — the Lakṣmī who had descended from the heavens — on his lap and died. Like this due to separation, both the husband and wife died. Therefore we should take care that the king and queen are never separated. — he said. Yaugandharāyaṇa replied, ‘I’ve deliberated upon all such things and I’ve arrived at a decision; these things are inevitable if the state affairs have to go on smoothly; I’ll narrate a story, listen!’ He narrated the following: —
The story of the king Puṇyasena
Long back, in Ujjayinī, lived a king by the name Puṇyasena. He was once attacked by his enemy who was strong. Since it was impossible to defeat him, the intelligent ministers floated a rumour saying that the king is no more. They hid him and performed the funeral rights to some unknown body with stately honours; then they sent a message to the enemy king, ‘Now our kingdom has no king, please become our king’ He agreed. He sent back his troops. Immediately Puṇyasena was brought out and he killed the enemy king with his army. Likewise we have to spread this rumour that the queen has been burnt in the fire accident and with courage we should achieve our goals — he said.
Taking the decision of Yaugandharāyaṇa into consideration, Rumaṇvān said, ‘If this is your final plan, let us discuss this with Gopalaka.’ Yaugandharāyaṇa agreed and called Gopalaka to discuss their plan. Being a well-wisher to the king he agreed. Rumaṇvān again became agitated and said, ‘Hearing that the queen is burnt, Udayana might even die due to shock! We should take this scenario into consideration!’ Yaugandharāyaṇa reaffirmed that they need not think too much about it; seeing Gopalaka who would not be too disturbed, the king will console himself; he is a competent person, not so weak-hearted; the wedding will take place soon. Immediately after that we can show him Vāsavadattā! After taking everyone’s consent Rumaṇvān approached Udayana and said, ‘O king! We should now proceed to Lāvāṇaka. It’s a beautiful place; made for hunting; the king of Magadha always causes some or the other disturbance there; going there would serve both the purposes, i.e. hunting and also protection of the kingdom!’ Udayana agreed and with Vāsavadattā he was ready to travel. All of a sudden, sage Nārada descended from the heavens, blessing the king with a garland of the heavenly Pārijāta and also blessing the queen saying that she’ll beget a son who would become the king of Vidyādharās he said, “O king! Seeing the queen I remembered one thing; Your ancestors the Pāṇḍavas together were married to Draupadī; she was also an exquisite beauty like Vāsavadattā; thinking about the troubles which often accompanies such beauty I had narrated this story of Sundopasunda saying, ‘Don’t behave in such a way that a beautiful woman like Draupadī would be cause of strife between; that would be the root cause of trouble’ Here goes the story — There lived rākṣasa brothers named Sunda and Upasunda who were invincible and cause of trouble all over the three worlds. To destroy them, Brahmā made Viśvakarmā create a damsel called Tilottamā. As per the orders of Brahmā she went to the garden of Kailāsa where the brothers were present to seduce them. As soon as they saw her they started fighting in a bid to get her and both perished. So I had advised them that, whenever Draupadī is with your elder brother, treat her like a mother, whenever she is with your younger brother, think of her as though she is your daughter-in-law. Then all of you will be happy and your unity will remain. They all agreed to it and therefore they were happy. Remembering their affection I wanted to visit you. If you listen to the good counsel of your ministers then you will flourish; but for a small interval of time you’ll encounter trouble. Don’t worry too much about it; it will eventually end in happiness”, saying so he vanished. Yaugandharāyaṇa and others found their confidence reaffirmed hearing Nārada’s advice to the king.
According to the plan, along with the king and queen, they came to Lāvāṇaka. Seeing that Udayana has arrived with his army, wary that he might attack, the king of Magadha sent a messenger to Yaugandharāyaṇa. He was welcomed by the minister in an appropriate manner. The king of Vatsas stayed there and would daily go hunting. On one such occasion, Yaugandharāyaṇa, Rumaṇvān and Vasantaka along with Gopalaka went to see Vāsavadattā. Gopalaka went in first and after he spoke with her Yaugandharāyaṇa went in and requested her to help in this matter related to the king. Even though it would cause her great agony due to the separation from her beloved, she agreed to it. Yaugandharāyaṇa made her to disguise herself as a brāhmaṇa woman, made Vasantaka disguise himself as a man who has been blind in one eye, disguising himself as an old brāhmaṇa took both of them along and went to Magadha.
Vāsavadattā’s mind was completely lost in the thoughts of her beloved husband. Only her body walked on absentmindedly, behind Yaugandharāyaṇa. As soon as they left, Rumaṇvān set her house on fire and cried out loud: ‘Alas, alas! Vasantaka and the queen have perished in fire!’ The house burned down to ashes.
Yaugandharāyaṇa, along with Vāsavadattā and Vasantaka, reached the capital city of Magadha after a long walk. Having found out that princess Padmāvatī was in a garden, they went there seeking an audience with her. As they were about to approach the princess, the royal guards stopped them. Padmāvatī however saw Vāsavadattā who looked like a brahmana maiden and told her guards to let them approach her. When the princess enquired who they were, Yaugandharāyaṇa replied: ‘O Lady! This is my daughter Avantikā. Unfortunately, her husband became addicted to bad habits and has forsaken her. I intend to seek him out and bring him back to her. Until then, I wish to leave her in your kind care. This young man is her brother. If she has him nearby, she will not feel lonesome!’ Padmāvatī graciously agreed. Yaugandharāyaṇa then wasted no time in returning to Lāvaṇaka.
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.
A woman who is not one's wife, woman married to someone else.