स वो विघ्नेश्वरः पायात् नमितोन्नमितेव यम्।
अनुनृत्यति नृत्यन्तं सन्ध्यासु भुवनावली॥
[May Vighneśvara, whose evening dance is imitated by the entire world by movements of getting up and bowing down, protect us!]
सखी सखाय भूयाद्वः शम्भोर्भालेक्षणप्रभा॥
[May the brilliance of Śiva's third eye, which has turned red due to his bowing down at Gaurī's feet decked with ālaktaka, give you joy! (Here, ālaktaka, i.e., the red dye on Gaurī's feet adds to the redness of Śiva's third eye)]
देवीं सहृदयानन्दशब्दमूर्तिं सरस्वतीम्॥
[We bow down to Sarasvatī who has taken the form of language that delights the connoisseurs and she, who resides in the lotus-like hearts of poets in the form of a bee]
Naravāhanadatta roamed around the valleys of the Malaya mountain and arrived at a lake. On its banks, he spotted two young and radiant brāhmaṇas who were speaking to each other. He went close to them. They mistook him for Manmatha and said – “Salutations to Kusumāyudha! Why are you roaming around without your floral bow? Where is your companion, Rati?” He replied – “I am not Kāma. I am a human; my Rati is lost!” He narrated his tale and then asked – “Who are you? What is your background?” One of them said with all humility – “How can we tell confidential information to a king like you? Yet, since you have commanded us to do so, I am going to narrate. Pray listen” He started recounting the following tale:
The Story of the young brāhmaṇas and Madirāvatī
There exists a town called Śobhāvatī in the Kaliṅga region; there lived a brāhmaṇa by name Yaśaskara. He had a wife called Mekhalā. I was born to them in their middle-ages. When I was a young lad, there was a drought in the town; my parents moved to the Viśāla-nagara, carrying all the belongings with them, along with me. I was studying in a gurukula. A young kshatriya named Vijayasena was with us.
Once, his sister, Madirāvatī came to our teacher’s house with him. We saw each other and fell in love in no time. That night, I rolled around on the floor, craving for her company, like a fish removed from water. The following day, when I visited my teacher’s house, Vijayasena said – “My mother heard about you from my sister, Madirāvatī. She wishes to see you!” It was as though there were fresh rains in the middle of a desert. I went to their house, was welcomed and hosted well by their mother. I saw Madirāvatī and felt very happy. Vijayasena left me there as he was summoned by his father. Madirāvatī’s caretaker came to me and said – “Ārya! The mālatī creeper which was grown by our dear Madirāvatī has now blossomed; it appears to be blissfully laughing owing to union with Vasanta (spring); our young mistress has plucked the pearl-like buds of the flower, woven a garland out of it, and has sent it across!” Saying so, she brought the garland along with fruits, camphor, and betel leaves and placed it there. I wore that garland, ate the betel leaves and said, “O auspicious lady! What can I say! My life will have proven to be fruitful even if I were to die with the excess of love that I have for your mistress!” She left; Vijayasena escorted me home. Another day, he brought his younger sister to my house. Thus, Madirāvatī and I would meet each other often and by spending time together, our love blossomed. But one day, a prince who came from Ujjayinī asked for her hand in marriage and her father consented. When I heard of the episode, I felt like I had fallen down from the heavens. Now, I won't be able to visit her house. I won't be able to see her. Looking at these circumstances, I was in despair and hung myself (with a noose) to a banyan tree outside town. But sometime later, I felt as if I was lying down with my head resting on someone’s thigh. Thinking that someone had cut the noose and saved my life, I said, “Sir! O kind one! Why did you save me? For virahīs (lovers who are separated from their beloved) like me, death is superior to living!” He learnt all about the Madirāvatī affair and said, “How does suicide solve this problem? Listen to my story; I shall narrate it to you!” Saying so, he recounted his tale:
I hail from Niṣadha-deśa. With a view of traveling to different lands and seeing sights, I left my home and reached Śaṅkhapuri, a town not far from here. I lived there with a teacher and one day, near the Śaṅkha-hrada lake I laid eyes on a maiden of divine beauty who was plucking flowers. She too saw me; she stopped plucking the flowers and cast a glance at me with love-filled eyes and a gentle smile; she stood there looking at me; I was besotted with her. In the meantime, I heard the screams of a few people. An elephant in the rut was fast approaching; I picked up in my arms the maiden who was petrified upon seeing the elephant, and took her to the place where the people had gathered. Listening to the sound made by the people, the elephant too came there. Everyone ran helter-skelter. She went in one direction, I went in another; finally, I reached the teacher's house and was trembling; looking at me, one of my classmates said, "Sir! This disease of yours – has it arisen from artha (wealth) or kāma (desire)? The wealth that is deceitfully gained by cheating others—motivated by greed—will not stay for long; it gets planted as the pāpa root which grows into a tree that yields the fruit of pāpa, under the weight of which the tree gets destroyed. The desire that has eluded us ends up mocking us until our last breath; that is adharma; it will hurl us into the fire of naraka. One who is endowed with fortitude and enthusiasm enjoys all that he gains as a result of his good deeds in the past; cowards like you will get nothing!" Without uttering a word in response, I decided to leave that town and came here instead. Seeing that you had hung yourself, I brought you down, and also heard your story. Your Madirāvatī is right in front of your eyes; instead of striving to win her hand, should you descend to such cowardice?
Thus he said and concluded his tale.
In the meantime, he happened to see Madirāvatī arrive at a nearby devālaya accompanied by the sounds of auspicious musical instruments; she had come there to offer worship. So I rushed to the devālaya, upon the indication of my new friend, and I hid behind the mātṛkā vigrahas (images of the mother deities), looking at what circumstances would unfold. As was the custom in her family, Madirāvatī had come there to offer worship to Manmatha before her wedding. She wanted to do it in privacy, so she sent everyone away, closed the door of the devālaya. Then she said, ‘O husband of Rati! Though you know who my beloved is, I’ve been be cheated; if not in this life at least in my next life I want that young brāhmaṇa to be my husband!’ saying so she wanted to kill herself by hanging. I hurriedly went and snatched the noose and said, ‘My beloved! Why such desperate measures? That slave of yours is here right in front of you!’ My friend interjected saying, ‘I’ll disguise myself as Madirāvatī and I’ll go with her attendants; let her wear my clothes and come with you; exit from the other door, travel during the night and cross the borders of this country; don’t worry about me; Paramātman will surely take care of me.’ saying so he disguised himself as Madirāvatī and left. We too left from the other door, traveled overnight and reached a city called Acalapura. There our wedding happened in the house of a brāhmaṇa. I was indeed happy; but I didn’t know what happened to my friend; then once during the auspicious day of Uttarāyaṇa I’d been to the river Gaṅgā for the puṇyasnāna I reunited with that friend. By the time I was able to listen to his story you came– he said.
Naravāhanadatta asked him, “What’s your story? How did you escape from such a dire situation? Friends like you are indeed rare.” He narrated his story:-
The story of the second brāhmaṇa youth
That night I disguised myself as Madirāvatī, climbed her śibikā and went to the house of Somadatta. The preparations for the wedding were afoot and the brāhmaṇas were waiting for the auspicious lagna. They covered me in a veil and made me sit in a room. I was surrounded by women; one such young beauty who looked like a nāga woman adorned with a crest jewel and white dress came swaying and sat beside me; lo and behold! she was the beauty who had been my beloved! “Is it a coincidence? A dream maybe! Or is it real?” I thought. It seems she was a close friend of Madirāvatī; she had come to meet her once before Madirāvatī would go to her husband’s place; she declared, ‘I’ve to talk to my close friend for a while in secrecy’ and sent everyone else away. She latched the door and said, ‘my dear friend Madirāvatī! While you long for one I feel sad that your father has decided to give your hand in marriage to someone else; still there is the possibility of you uniting with your beloved; I’ll tell you my story listen: when I had been to Śaṅkha-hrada to bathe, I saw brāhmaṇa youth who looked as though Candra himself has forsaken the sky and has landed on the earth; meanwhile an elephant in rut charged all of a sudden and he took me someplace filled with people and left me there; I don’t know his name or lineage; I don’t know where he is now; I’m trying to forget it by seeing you; now even you are going away; now the only choice I’ve is to kill myself.’ Thus weeping tears she filled my ears with ambrosia. Can anyone describe her joy when she lifted the veil and saw me! I said “My beloved! In order to meet you I too faced a lot of difficulties. I will tell you later, for now is not the time. Right now let us see how to escape from here”. She replied “Let us go out via the rear door. It leads to a garden which is attached to my father’s house. From there we could go anywhere!”. Accordingly, packing up her ornaments, we started to travel that very night and by the next morning we were in a dense forest. Around noon, a wild bull bearing injuries all over came running at us. It was followed closely by a man on a horse. He drove a spear into the beast and brought it down. Looking at us he asked affectionately as to who we were. I replied “We are a couple. As we were traveling, we were attacked by some thieves and got lost - but now looking at you, we feel our strength returning!”. He said “I am the king of hunters. I was out on a hunt. I live close by. Come, stay at my house as my guests”, and thus he treated us as if we were his own family. Thus even in lawless lands, by luck do we come across noble men. Since my beloved was tired, we let her ride the horse and the hunter and I walked alongside. After crossing the forest, we reached an agrahāra (township) and were soon married. Now I came here to bathe in the Gaṅgā. Here I met my friend and I saw my master too. This is my story!, he said.
Naravāhanadatta listened to this story and congratulated them. Right then, Gomukha and the other ministers who were roaming around in search of him came there. Traveling with them, Lalita-locanā and the brāhmaṇa youth, Naravāhanadatta finally reached Kauśāmbī.
Here ends Madirāvatī-laṃbaka
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.