The story of Vikramasimha and two brāhmaṇas
There lived a king by the name Vikramasimha in Ujjayinī. He had no equal on the battlefield and he was aching for showing his prowess. His minister Amaragupta who discovered this longing, casually mentioned, ‘O king! This is the curse of being an invincible warrior. Even Bāṇa, who possessed thousand arms, had to please Śiva to find himself a worthy enemy. He ended up battling the all-powerful Viṣṇu who cut off all his arms. Thus you shouldn’t be dissatisfied about this. The forest is a good enough arena to show your skills. Wild animals are to be slayed and their population should be kept under check. But be warned, this shouldn’t happen in excess, turning it into a vice. Such excesses were the reason for the downfall of kings like Pāṇḍu.’ Thus being counselled and cautioned, he set out for hunting and saw two men speaking to each other in a dilapidated temple outside the city. Even when he returned from his hunt, he was surprised to see that they were still speaking to each other at the same spot. Doubting that they might be spies, he asked his men to bring them to his court and asked them about their conversation. One among them sought assurance for no harm and said the following –
A brāhmaṇa named Karabhaka lived here in your city. I am his son. I lost my parents at a very young age and as an orphan, learned the usage of weapons and also practised gambling. Out of my pride, I decided to use my skills at shooting arrows and headed towards the forest. On my way, I came across a lady who was traveling with her family. An elephant in rut chased them – the others abandoned her and left the place. As I went ahead to help her, the elephant started chasing me. I let it follow me a long distance and saved myself by hiding behind the branches of a fallen tree. The elephant broke down the branches of the tree. I went back and saw the lady. She was happy that I had come back without facing any harm. She said – ‘Because you saved me in such difficult circumstances, you are my husband henceforth. What use do I have of that coward husband who left me in times of trouble and ran for his dear life. My husband and the rest of my family is coming behind. You follow us. When we get a chance, we can both elope together!’
I followed them without being noticed. All of us reached Lohanagara. Her husband made his living on his business. I spent the day in the temple located outside the city. There, I met this brāhmaṇa who is now my friend. When he heard my story, he said, ‘She has a sister-in-law, who is planning to apprehend a sum of money and run away with me; with her help, I will ensure that your task is accomplished!’ He then narrated the story to her. The next day, she brought her brother's wife (i.e., the woman he had rescued) to the temple. She made my friend don the disguise of her brother's wife and went away with him. As for the merchant's wife, I made her dress up as a man and brought her to Ujjayinī. That night, when everyone was fast asleep, the merchant's younger sister and my friend left, hiding themselves in a group of travellers, and finally arrived here. Thus, we both obtained women who loved us and came to us of their own accord. But we were afraid to stay at any place. We began thinking what to do next. They can do anything to us!
Thus he concluded his story.
Vikramasiṃha was delighted. He assuaged their fears saying, ‘You can live in this city without the slightest fear. I shall also give you the money that you need!’ They lived peacefully with their women under the care of Vikramasiṃha. Thus, wealth comes to people who dare to accomplish things on their own even when such deeds are sometimes questionable. Even kings are impressed by those who are intelligent and adventurous, and help such people. As a result of the noble and ignoble karmas done in this birth and previous births, we attain commensurate fruits and rewards (or punishments). Therefore, the spark that came from the sky into your womb must have fallen there owing to your karma and it must be a divine being! – saying so, he concluded his narration.
2. The pregnant Tārādattā, in due course, gave birth to a divinely beautiful girl child. Kaliṅgadatta was overcome by worry as it wasn't a boy and to find solace, he went to a Buddhist vihāra. A bhikṣu there gave him dhārmic counsel: ‘Indeed, dāna equals tapas in the cycle of worldly life; out of his compassion, Buddha gave of himself. Thus, a man endowed with viveka should not despair and must work for the welfare of all beings. It is only then you will attain perfect wisdom.’
The Stories of Seven Impassioned Princesses and a Prince
Long ago, a king had seven daughters. From a young age, they were endowed with vairāgya; they renounced their father's palace and lived in the cemetery. When people around them asked the reason for their behaviour, they replied—
The only thing of value in this material world is the welfare of others. Let animals and birds be satiated because of us. What's the use of this physical beauty? Saying thus they narrated the story of a prince. Long back, there was a young prince, who in spite of his beauty and youth, became a saṃnyāsī. He once went to a merchant's house. The merchant's wife was bewitched when she saw his attractive eyes and said, ‘Oh! How can you take up such a severe vow of celibacy! How fortunate would that woman who is regarded with love by these eyes be!’, Upon listening to that, he gouged out one of his eyes and held it in his hand. Then he said, ‘O Mother! What's there in this? See for yourself! It's all just flesh and blood. If you desire it so much, take it! What attraction do you find in this?’ She was aghast. ‘It is me, this wretch, that made you pluck out your eye! Woe upon me!’ He simply said, ‘Don't feel bad, O Mother! I have indeed been helped by you. I shall tell you a story about that, listen!
Long ago, on the banks of the Gaṅgā, there lived an ascetic. A king and his wives had come there for leisure. After the king had fallen asleep, his wives stealthily went to the ascetic who was sitting in a state of samādhī. They surrounded him and began wondering why he was seated thus. In the meantime, the king awoke from his slumber. Not finding his wives near him, he went towards the ascetic and upon seeing them there, enraged, he pulled out his sword and slashed the ascetic. Seeing that the ascetic was calm even as his body was slashed, a deity appeared and said to him, ‘O noble one! If you permit I’ll kill this wicked king!’ He replied, ‘Devi! Please don’t! He has actually helped me adhere to the path of my dharma. If not for his deed whom would I forgive and for what? Being steadfast in both favourable and unfavourable situations is indeed the brahma-pada!’ The deity was satisfied with his answer and she cured him of his injuries and vanished. Like that king, you have also helped me on my path to dharma - saying these words he went away to perform austerities. The princesses said — Even we have come to this cemetery for the welfare of all living beings — the wise don’t feel proud of even their own bodies; so what would wives, children and worldly belongings mean to them…’ Kaliṅgadatta came back after listening to this. There he met an old brāhmaṇa who was a well-wisher who said, ‘O king! Why worry about your progeny being a daughter? They are better than sons. Sons would always be waiting to usurp the throne; waiting to just swallow their own father given a chance; can one attain the puṇya which comes by kanyādāna through any other means? Kings like Kuntibhoja escaped from the terrible wrath of sage Durvāsa only because of a dutiful daughter like Kunti. Let me narrate the story of Sulocanā —
The story of Sulocanā
There was a king named Suṣeṇa who ruled the mountain kingdom of Citrakūṭa. He had constructed a garden and a lake near the foothills. Once while he was sporting there, the apsaras Rambhā noticed him and instantly was smitten. She came down, confessed her love and married him. After sometime she gave birth to a daughter and said to the king, ‘O king! I’m Rambhā; I came down since I fell in love; It is our tradition to leave once we give birth to a child; we will meet again in the heavens once our daughter attains a marriageable age and gets married!’ saying so she took off. His ministers consoled him saying, ‘This is the way of the celestials. Did Viśvāmitra abandon his pursuits after Menakā abandoned him after giving birth to Śakuntalā. You should stop worrying and look after your daughter.’ He named his daughter Sulocanā as she had beautiful eyes. Sulocanā grew up to be a lovely maiden. Once when she was in the garden, an ascetic named Vatsa, a descendent of Kaśyapa saw her and thought, ‘What is the use of all these austerities if I can’t have this beautiful girl as my wife?’ Sulocanā also instantly fell in love. She asked him to approach her father to ask for her hand. When he approached the king, he said, ‘She is the daughter of Rambhā, who had informed me that once Sulocanā is married I will be united with her in heaven. Consider how that will be accomplished.’ Vatsa thought, ‘Didn’t Ruru save his wife Pramadvarā by giving away half his life? Didn’t Viśvāmitra send Triśaṅku to heaven by spending all the puṇya he gained by his austerities? Shouldn’t this be possible to me?’ So he gave all the puṇya in exchange for his marriage with Sulocanā, sending his father in law to heaven.
The well-wisher continued, ‘Thus such daughters always bring fortune to their fathers and families. Your daughter too is some divine being who has descended down due to some curse. She will bring good fortune to you.’ Hearing these words from the old brāhmaṇa Kaliṅgadatta was delighted. He cast off all his worries and celebrated the birth of his daughter. He named her kaliṅgasenā.
To be continued...
The current article is a translation of Prof. A R Krishnasastri’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 merchant’s wife was rescued by the hero while the merchant’s younger sister was the beloved of the hero’s friend. When the latter wished to elope with the hero’s friend, she decided to dress him up disguised as her sister-in-law so that people have no suspicion.