Lāvaṇakalambaka - 20 - Ūrvaśī and Purūrava; Somaprabhā and Guhacandra

This article is part 20 of 133 in the series Kathāmṛta

One of the days following this, Vatsarāja had a lavish party where he enjoyed drinking with Vāsavadattā and Padmāvatī. Later he called for Gopālaka, Rumaṇvanta, Vasantaka, and Yaugandharāyaṇa at a place that was not very crowded.  During the course of his conversation with them, when the topic turned to his days of separation [from Vāsavadattā], he narrated this tale:

The Story of Ūrvaśī and Purūrava

Long ago, there lived a king named Purūrava, a devotee of Viṣṇu; he had the ability to freely move about even in svarga, just as he could on earth. One day, when he was in Nandana-vana, he spotted Ūrvaśī, who was like another arrow of Manmatha. He was immediately besotted by her. She too fell in love with him so deeply her companions – Rambhā and others started quivering out of fear. Longing for her embrace, the king fainted at the spot. Learning about this, Mahāviṣṇu sent word to Indra through Nārada and ensured that Ūrvaśī was married off to the king. Purūrava brought her to earth and lived happily, entangled in each other’s sight.

Once a great war broke out between the Devas and the Asuras; Indra sought Purūrava's help. After Māyādhara was vanquished in the war, a great festival of victory was held. During the festivities, while Rambhā was dancing [to entertain the Devas], Purūrava laughed. Enraged, Rambhā said, “What can you, a mere mortal, understand of the divine art of dance?” He replied, “Having been in the company of Ūrvaśī, I understand it better than even your guru Tumburu!” Upon hearing this, Tumburu was angered and cursed him with the words, “Until you worship Kṛṣṇa, may you be separated from Ūrvaśī!” Accordingly, a few gandharvas—invisible to the king—abducted Ūrvaśī. Thinking that her disappearance was the result of the curse, the king at once proceeded to the Badarikāśrama and began worshipping Hari. Traumatized by the separation from her beloved, Ūrvaśī had become pale and lifeless, and she lay like a woman in a painting in the land of the gandharvas. It was remarkable that she could hold on to her life; keenly anticipating salvation from the curse, she passed her days holding on to a strand of hope. After Purūrava worshipped Viṣṇu, the gandharvas set her free; after that, Purūrava lived with her in joy and peace.

After the king completed narrating this tale, Vāsavadattā felt ashamed that she had been unable to bear the pangs of separation as Ūrvaśī had done in the past. To console her, Yaugandharāyaṇa recounted the following story:

The story of Tejovatī and Vihitasena

Many years ago, king Vihitasena reigned over the kingdom of Timirānagarī, a residence of riches. He had a queen named Tejovatī who was so beautiful that people thought that she was an apsarā who had descended upon earth. The king was so enamoured with her that he never parted from her even for a single moment. He always desired to touch her and could not even tolerate her body being covered by clothes.

One day, the king fell ill due to a stomach ailment. Doctors attending upon him advised him to desist from being with his wife until he had recovered completely. The king did accordingly. However, due to this forced separation from her, he came down with a different affliction - one of the heart! Alarmed by this, the doctors who examined the king’s condition told his ministers, ‘this illness can be healed only by exposing our king to a sudden surge of fear or sorrow. There is no other cure for this!’ The ministers thought: ‘Our king knew no fear even when a huge snake chased him! He didn’t tremble even when the enemy’s armies had invaded the queens’ quarters. How can such a valorous man be made to give in to fear or sorrow?’

    The worried ministers consulted the queen. With her consent, it was decided that queen Tejovatī would be sequestered away safely and king Vihitasena would be told that she had died in a mishap. The ministers put this plan to work, and as expected, when the king heard this news, it threw him into a state of deep sorrow. Miraculously, just like the doctors had predicted, his heart ailment was cured! The elated ministers soon presented queen Tejovatī alive and well, in front of the king. When Vihitasena came to know what had happened, he didn’t lose his temper with queen Tejovatī at all. On the contrary, he came to respect his queen even more because of the sacrifices she had made for the sake of her king and the kingdom.

A dutiful queen is one who wouldn’t shy away from sacrificing her personal happiness to see such plans come to fruition, as opposed to one who merely utters sweet platitudes. A duty-minded person who does the best for the well-being of the kingdom is the right minister, rather than someone who merely carries out the king’s bidding like a servant.

    ‘Thus, O king’, said Yaugandharāyaṇa, ‘our queen Vāsavadattā only did us a favour and has committed no offence. In order for you to gain sovereignty over the world, we needed the king of Magadha on our side’. Listening to this, Vatsarāja agreed that it was a mistake on his part to speak senselessly as he did. He pacified them by saying it was his love for them which made him utter those words.


    The next day, a messenger from the king of Magadha arrived and sought an audience with Vatsarāja. When the messenger was ushered in, he delivered his master’s terse message to Vatsarāja thus: ‘O king! Your ministers have cheated me by playing this charade. Now I deem it your responsibility to conduct yourself in a way which does not cause me grief!’ The king treated the emissary with due respect and sent him to queen Padmāvatī so that he may hear for himself what she had to say. The gentle Padmāvatī, in the company of queen Vāsavadattā, met the messenger. The emissary conveyed to her, the words of the lord of Magadha thus: ‘O daughter! We were tricked into giving your hand in marriage to Vatsarāja. Your husband loves his other wife more. I am aggrieved because of this! Alas! Is this the punishment for begetting a girl child?’ Padmāvatī addressed the messenger thus: ‘Sir! Please convey this message of mine to my dear parents: Why are you dejected thus? My husband showers me with kindness. Queen Vāsavadattā loves me like a sister. Just as you want to know the truth, if you also desire that I don’t lose my life, please don’t think otherwise of my husband!’ The messenger was then bestowed with generous gifts by queen Vāsavadattā, and he soon carried Padmāvatī’s message back to his king.

Observing that Padmāvatī was worried a lot for her family back home in Magadha, Vāsavadattā summoned Vasantaka and asked him to narrate a story to entertain her. Vasantaka narrated this story -


The Story of Somaprabhā and Guhacandra

In Pāṭaliputra, there lived a wealthy merchant called Dharmagupta. He had a beautiful daughter called Somaprabhā. A miracle took place at her birth. Dharmagupta’s house was brilliantly lit up in a flash. To everyone’s amazement, the new-born sat up and spoke. A scared Dharmagupta bowed down to her and asked: ‘O revered goddess!  You have incarnated in my house – pray tell us who you are!’

She said, ‘I’ll bring good fortune to you by staying in your house; please don’t give me away to anyone!’

Dharmagupta was frightened. He hid the child and spread a rumour that the child was dead.

The child grew up into a beautiful and charming girl. Once as she stood in the balcony watching the Vasantotsava, she was spotted by Guhacandra, the son of a merchant. He fell in love at first sight and returned home enchanted by her beauty. His father, Guhasena, having learnt the reason for his son’s distress, went to Dharmagupta’s house and asked his daughter’s hand in marriage for his son. Dharmagupta told him that he had no daughter at all.

Guessing that he might have hid his daughter, Guhasena approached the king who he knew well. He gave the king a precious gem as a gift, asking him to help him secure Somaprabhā as his son’s wife. The king directed the head of the city to take action.

 The head of the city with the aid of several soldiers swamped Dharmagupta’s house and held his neck as if to squeeze his life out. Somaprabhā requested her father, ‘Why should you suffer for me? Give me to Guhacandra, but make my in-laws swear that he will invite me to bed!’ Guhasena happy within himself thought – ‘Let the wedding take place, rest can be sorted out later.’

 Soon after the wedding, Guhasena instructed his son, ‘Take her to the bedroom, let us see what she’ll do! How would a husband not touch his wife!’

Upon hearing this Somaprabhā saw gave her father-in-law a menacing glance and gestured her index finger as though suggesting a command of Yama.. The next moment, Guhasena collapsed and died. Everyone was frightened.

Guhacandra thought to himself, ‘O God! We have brought home the goddess of death!’

Without conjugal happiness, emaciated, he took a vow to perform daily samārādhana for brāhmaṇas. Somaprabhā also offered them dakṣiṇā, all in silence.

Once, an old brāhmaṇa who had come for the samārādhana was surprised seeing her divine beauty. He asked Guhacandra, ‘Who is this girl? How is she related to you?’ Guhacandra narrated his travails to him. The brāhmaṇa initiated him to a mantra for the worship of Agni. Guhacandra worshipped Agni chanting the mantra and the deity manifested before him. He said, ‘I’ll come to your house in the form of a brāhmaṇa, partake of meals, stay overnight and I’ll help you achieve your goal!’

Accordingly, Agni came and stayed there for the night. After the first quarter of night, Somaprabhā got up and left the house. The brāhmaṇa woke Guhacandra up and said, ‘Follow me! You’ll get to know your wife’s secret!’ They both were transformed into bees and followed her. She crossed the outskirts of the town, reached a big banyan tree and climbed it. There another woman resembling her was seated on a divine seat. Flute, vīṇā and other musical instruments resounded the environment. She appeared like the full moon light and had attendants fanning her. Somaprabhā sat beside her, sharing half her seat. Guhachandra, who watched the two women of equal brilliance felt that the night was adorned with three moons. The women had a sumptuous meal and drank divine wine. Then she said, ‘O sister! Today a resplendent brāhmaṇa has come home and for some reason, my heart has some suspicion. I’ll go home.’, with these words, she climbed down.

Guhacandra and the brāhmaṇa who were in the form of bees, returned home and slept as though they knew nothing about the events of the night.

She entered the house from the back door. Then the brāhmaṇa said, ‘Now do you understand? Your wife is no mortal. She is a divine being. The other one is her elder sister; how would a divine damsel cohabit with a mere human? I’ll teach you a mantra and a scheme for this. If they are used in tandem, it will have the effect of the wind stoking the flames.” Saying so, he taught both the mantra and the plan and vanished from the place.

Guhacandra inscribed the mantra on the door of her room. In the evening, as per the plan, he decorated himself beautifully and sat down chatting with a prostitute who bore close resemblance to his wife. Since the mantra had already begun to have its effect, she renounced her drink and asked with envy, “Who is she?” He said, “She is a prostitute. We have fallen in love with each other. I’ll be going to her house tonight!” Turning her eyes, face, and hands away, she said, “Oh that’s the reason for all this decoration? Why do you need her? Come to me! I am your wife.” Thus, owing to the potency of the mantra, she came under his control. Guhacandra went to her quarters and enjoyed the best of pleasures. In this manner, she was captured using a mantra and lost her connect with the world of devas. Guhacandra lived in her company happily ever after.


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 Arjun Bharadwaj, Raghavendra GS, 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.



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

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

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, Śatāvadhānī 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 to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


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...