Kathāmṛta - 41 - Madanamañcukā-lambaka - The Story of Viṣṇudatta and Seven Brāhmaṇa-putras - the story of Kadalīgarbhā

This article is part 41 of 48 in the series Kathāmṛta

At his residence, Yaugandharāyaṇa invited a brahma-rākṣasa by name Yogeśvara. He instructed him, ‘Keep an eye on the activities of Kaliṅgasenā. Vidyādharas also usually have an eye on her. If you see her in the company of a siddha or a vidyādhara, it is good for us!’ The brahma-rākṣasa asked, ‘Why shouldn’t I abuse her or kill her?’ The minister replied, ‘That is great adharma; if we work such that dharma is not violated, that will in itself help us. Therefore, silently observe the mistakes that she makes of her own accord. The work of the rājya will be executed on its own!’ The brahma-rākṣasa became invisible and began living in Kaliṅgasenā’s house, unseen to human eyes. When Somaprabhā met Kaliṅgasenā she said, “I came here this morning and stood beside you, being invisible. I heard all that which transpired between Yaugandharāyaṇa and you. Although I warned you against doing such a thing, why didn’t you pay heed to my words! It is true that if one undertakes an act of ill omen, destruction is bound to result. Let me tell you a story in this regard—

The Story of Viṣṇudatta and Seven Brāhmaṇa-putras

Long ago, in the city of Antarvedi there lived a brāhmaṇa named Vasudatta. His son Viṣṇudatta set out to the city of Valabhī for his higher studies. He found seven sons of brāhmaṇas who were all of his age. However, they were not educated like he was; they were utter fools. As they proceeded on their journey, perceiving a bad omen en route, Viṣṇudatta told them, ‘Let us not travel any further today. Let us proceed on another day when the portents are favourable.’ They said, ‘We aren't afraid of all this! If you're so scared, then don't come with us, stay back! As for us, we shall leave at once. If it becomes dawn, then who knows if our relatives and friends will let us go.’ To ward off the evil omen, Viṣṇudatta silently prayed to Śrīhari and was on the verge of departing when he saw another bad omen. He stayed back. They said, ‘It was our mistake bringing this fellow who trembles at the movement of a crow!’ and mocked him. He thought, What is the point in trying to tell them the same thing again? Let the Almighty do good to them all! and went ahead with them. That evening, they reached a village of hunters and found residence in one of the homes there after asking around. The sole inhabitant of that home was a young woman. The seven brāhmaṇa boys fell asleep after nightfall. Viṣṇudatta alone was awake and vigilant. Some young man entered the house secretly and disappeared into the woman’s bedroom. Seeing that Viṣṇudatta was pained. Oh! We have taken refuge in the house of a wicked woman! It is unlikely that her husband is so young. When I saw her first, I suspected her to be a licentious woman! But having found no other resting place, we had to come here. In the meantime, a hunter chief stormed the house brandishing a sword and asked, ‘Who are you all?’ Guessing that he must be the master of the house, Viṣṇudatta replied, ‘We are travellers.’ Soon after, the hunter went into his wife's bed-chamber and instantly killed the young man. Without getting into his wife's affairs any further, he simply lay down and fell asleep. Seeing this Viṣṇudatta was amazed. Under these circumstances, how was he able to fall asleep? After a while, the woman heaved her paramour's corpse on her shoulders, picked up his severed head in her hand, and went outside. She buried his remains under a heap of ashes and returned. Viṣṇudatta saw all this from a distance and then went back to the house and lay down on the ground amidst the others. After she returned home, she picked up her husband's sword and killed him. She then shouted, ‘Oh god! These travellers have killed my husband!’ and began wailing aloud, rousing the villagers. People gathered around at once and were ready to kill them all. Viṣṇudatta then said, ‘Without reason don't commit the crime of brahma-hatyā. We did not commit this murder; it is she!’ Then he narrated all the events that transpired from the beginning and pointed to the freshly-buried corpse in the heap of ashes. She remorsefully accepted her mistake. They escaped from death and continued on their journey. Thus if you don’t listen to the wise you’d regret later. Yaugandharāyaṇa is a wise minister. He might have been the one who is causing problems; even after the wedding he might find some flaw. Of course the problem of a co-wife would always be there! — so saying she narrated another story:—

The story of Kadalīgarbhā

Near the city of Ikṣumatī lies a forest. Along flows a river by the same name, both created by Viśvāmitra. There is the hermitage of the ascetic Maṅkaṇaka. While he performed penance standing on his head, the apsaras Menakā passed by along the sky. The cupid struck and as a result a daughter was born in a plantain tree. She was thus named Kadalīgarbhā. A king named Dṛḍhavarman saw Kadalīgarbhā, in their hermitage and married her with his permission. The apsaras owing to their friendship with Menakā came down and gave her mustard seeds, advising her, ‘While going to your husband’s house, sow these seeds along the way; if he rejects you, you can use the trail of mustard plants to come back to your father’s hermitage!’ Once the king reached the palace the senior queen consulted the minister in secrecy, ‘The king is smitten and has avoided me since he got married to a new wife; can’t you help me in overcoming this competitor?’ He said, ‘O queen! This is not our work. Separating the king and his beloved isn’t befitting to us; this would fit right into what the crooked pravrājikā would do. Such charlatans would do anything!’ She replied, ‘Indeed, I’ll let go of this; why should we indulge in such an act which would bring censure from good people.’ But she couldn’t let go of it and called upon a pravrājikā to ask for help. She replied, ‘Big deal! I shall do it; I know a lot of tricks which can be used to accomplish this!’ She came back and thought, ‘Despite my boasts, I actually don’t have a way around this. Palace affairs are fraught with danger. What should I do? Maybe there is only one way out now.’ Then she went to her friend, the barber and told him everything. He thought, ‘This is a great opportunity to earn; but the new queen shouldn't be harmed; her father would come to know about everything through his divine powers; we should somehow separate her and take advantage of the senior queen; if we do it in secret the king will become a servant; then at an opportune time we can reveal it to him; if everything is done carefully both the king and the hermit's daughter would be favourable to us; and our work will be done.’ he said to her, ‘So be it! But it isn't prudent to kill the new wife; the king would come to know of it eventually and will punish us all by death; we would incur the sin of killing a woman and we might also be cursed by her father; so we should use tact while doing this; the senior queen will find solace; we will find reward; this isn't a big deal; I've achieved things far better. Let me tell you how I thwarted the king’s father —

Dṛḍhavarman’s father was a womaniser. I was his servant. As soon as he saw my wife he was smitten and started an affair with her when I was absent. Her behavior altered and I found out what was happening. But what could a mere barber do to the king. I started eating less and became emaciated and pale. The king saw me and inquired what had happened. I ignored the question for a while to build some curiosity and then with an assurance that I’ll not be punished I told him that my wife is a witch who extracts my entrails when I’m asleep, sucks all the life and replaces it, resulting in malnourishment and emaciation. The king had second thoughts about her and devised a plan to test her. Having decided, he provided me with food. After sowing such seeds of doubt, I came home and started crying. When my wife asked me, I told her, This is a secret which should never be shared. The king has teeth as hard as diamonds - on the other end of his alimentary canal - where it should never be. My razors break every time. For a barber, what is more important than his razor to support his livelihood? My wife also made up her mind to investigate it. When the king visited her, they made love and he pretended to sleep. She slowly stretched out her hand to find the concealed teeth. He woke up with a start, screaming, ‘Witch! Witch!’ and ran out. Thus I saved my wife.

— First we should take an old man in the palace into our confidence. Then we should make him tell the king that, ‘Your wife is a goblin’, in secrecy everyday. She is from the forest; she doesn't have her own attendants; everyone is from here; so we can find someone who would do this; once the king is afraid someone should put some dismembered hands and legs in her room; seeing them the king himself will banish her; the queen would have gotten rid of a co-wife; you will be rewarded.’ Thus he instructed. The devious mendicant woman had the queen do exactly this. Eventually, the king fell for this and forsook Kadalīgarbhā. With a heavy heart, she left for her father’s hermitage. She found her way back by following the trail of mustard plants she had sown earlier. Upon seeing her, Maṅkaṇaka did suspect that something was wrong. Later through dhyāna, he figured everything out and took her to king Dṛḍhavarman. There he explained what had transpired, to the king. At the same time, the barber arrived and confirmed everything. He said, ‘Your majesty! I have thus saved queen Kadalīgarbhā from going astray and suffering loss of character. I have ensured that the senior queen is happy too!’ Since the barber’s version of events matched with what sage Maṅkaṇaka had said, the king believed his words and gave him a lot of money. Then he threw the senior queen out and lived happily with Kadalīgarbhā.

Thus, my dear Kaliṅgasenā, co-wives are a big source of trouble in many ways. Be wary of them. There is a lot of time between now and your marriage to Vatsarāja. You are so beautiful that even the gods desire you. Hence you must protect yourself carefully. This day forward, I will not be able to come to meet you here since you are in the house of your future husband. To tell you the truth, even my husband will object to my coming here. Since he has divine vision, I will not be able to come here without his knowledge. Today I begged his permission to meet you. In the future, if he allows me, I shall come again”. As Somaprabhā bade goodbye to Kaliṅgasenā, both were moved to tears.

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 original Kannada version of Kathāmṛta is available for free online reading. So are the other works of Prof. Krishna Shastri.

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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