“Lady! In the kingdom of Mālava lived a brahmana named Agnidatta. He had two sons named Śaṅkaradatta and Śāntikara. At a very young age Śāntikara left home in his quest of learning. Nobody knew where he went. Śaṅkaradatta married me.
My father-in-law died later. My mother-in-law followed him doing Sahagamana. Since I was pregnant, my husband left me there and traveled and unable to overcome the loss of his parents, committed suicide by drowning himself in the river Sarasvatī. The people who accompanied him during the trip came back and gave the news. Since I was pregnant, the relatives forbid me from doing Sahagamana. In the meantime a group of thieves entered and looted our agrahāra. Fearing for my chastity I fled the place with three more women and spent one month elsewhere doing menial jobs. Then I heard that Vatsarāja is a noble man, who cares for orphans like us and came here. Here I delivered the twins. Firstly I’m still sad, upon that in a foreign land, impoverished and then I’ve got twins. Thinking how I would nurture them, I left all the shame which is the ornament of women, came to the royal assembly, and begged Vatsarāja. Who wouldn’t be moved seeing the plight of small children? By the king’s grace and orders I landed at your feet. All my difficulties were checked at your doors. I’m Piṅgalikā, I don’t know the whereabouts of Śāntikara.” Hearing this the queen said, ‘In the group of Purohitas there is one person by the same name; he has come from a foreign kingdom; maybe he is your brother-in-law!’, and she sent for him, and after inquiring about his native and other details she concluded that it is the same person. Śāntikara took Piṅgalikā under his refuge and took care of her. Vāsavadattā named the two sons of Piṅgalikā as Śāntisoma and Vaiśvānara and appointed them as the Purohitas of her yet to be born son. The world is blind; It is guided by its karma to it’s destination which is the fruits of it; human endeavour is just a pretext. Some days passed, a potter’s wife came to Vāsavadattā bringing her five sons along. Vāsavadattā said to Piṅgalikā, ‘O friend! She has five sons! I’ve none; did you notice this?’ Piṅgalikā replied, ‘O Devi! So many kids are only born to people who have sinned to torment them! For you it would be a son adorned with good qualities; Soon the son befitting to you will be born!’ This became a reason to worry about. Seeing Vāsavadattā worried, Vatsarāja upon the suggestion of Nārada took a vow to worship Śiva with Vāsavadattā. He also announced through the town criers that the whole city should undertake such a vow. After three days of worship which was accompanied by intense fasting, Śiva appeared in their dream and said, ‘Wake up! A son will be born in you descending from Manmatha; he will be blessed by me and will eventually rise to the position of the emperor of Vidyādharas!’, saying so, he vanished. The next day they broke the fast. After a few more days, Vāsavadattā dreamt of someone with matted locks giving her a fruit. Vatsarāja was delighted realizing that in the form of that fruit, Parameśvara had blessed him with an illustrious son.
2. Vāsavadattā became pregnant. She longed for aerial travel and stories of Vidyādharas. Yaugandharāyaṇa applied everything he knew in yantra, mantra and indrajāla, made her fly and narrated the stories of the Vidyādharas—
The Story of Jīmūtavāhana
There lived a Vidyādhara by name Jīmūtaketu in the Himālayas. There was a kalpavṛkṣa – a wish giving tree in his garden which had come down to him in ancestral inheritance. He prayed to the tree and begot a son called Jīmūtavāhana who was a jāti-smara, a dāna-vīra and was kind to all animals. When he came of age and became the crown prince, he sought permission from his father and went to the kalpavṛkṣa one day. He said to the tree – “Deva! You have fulfilled our requests at several instances. Please grant this wish to us now. Please rid the earth of its poverty. I will give you away in the form of dāna to seekers.” The tree rained gold coins on earth. Everyone was happy. People started praising him and spoke about him everywhere – ‘Jīmūtavāhana is a kind and generous person. He is born out of part of Bodhisattva. Who else can be such a benevolent giver?’ Hearing this, his relatives became jealous. As Jīmūtaketu no longer had the support of the kalpavṛkṣa, it became easier to them to win him over. The joined hands together and got ready to attack him. Jīmūtavāhana met his father and said – “Father! I cannot fight my relatives for the sake of this body which is like a bubble on the surface of water and for the sake of this wealth which can burn out any day. I will give up the kingdom and retire to a forest. Let these greedy ones stay here. I don’t want our family to get exterminated!” Listening to his words, the father Jīmūtaketu said – “If you, a young boy, are ready to give up your kingdom considering it like a blade of grass, why should I, an old one, be possessive about it?”
Jīmūtavāhana went to the Malaya mountains along with his parents. He befriended a person by name Mitrāvasu, the son of Siddhādhirāja called Viśvāvasu. Jīmūtavāhana spotted his friend’s sister and they fell in love with each other because of conditioning from their previous lives. Mitrāvasu too offered to get his sister Malayavati married to him. Jīmūtavāhana recollected that in his past life, she was his wife and Mitrāvasu was his friend. He narrated the following tale:
Story of Jīmūtavāhana’s Past Life
I was moving around in the skies as a Vidyādhara and once happened to reach the peaks of the Himālayas. Śiva who was with Gaurī down below got enraged because I had gone beyond him. He cursed me – ‘Be born as a human! Marry a Vidyādharī and give your position to a son born out of her womb. Then, because of jāti-smara, you will be reborn as a Vidyādhara!’ I was thus born as Vasudatta to a rich merchant of Vallabhīnagara.
After having sufficiently grown up, I once travelled across islands for trade and was attacked by thieves. They kidnapped me and took me to their village to offer me in sacrifice to their deity Caṇḍī. Their leader by name Pulindaka who was worshipping the devī developed sympathy for me, made a saṅkalpa that he would offer himself in the form of bali to the devī. An incorporeal voice resounded, “No! Don’t do so! I am pleased. Please seek the boon you desire!”
Thus spoke a voice from the sky. Pulindaka said: ‘Mother, you are pleased. What use do I have for any other boons? But then again, if you wish to bless me, may this merchant be my friend in my next life too!’ The goddess granted him his wish. Then the chief of the hunters returned all my goods back to me. Thus, thanks to my good fortune, I escaped the jaws of death and returned home alive and well. Happy to have me back safe and sound, my father hosted a splendid feast. A few days later, the chief of the hunters was captured and imprisoned by the royal guards for robbing wayfaring merchants. Through my father’s influence with the king, I got him released by paying a hundred thousand gold coins. Thus I returned the favour Pulindaka had done me when he had spared my life. He returned home with the thought that he should offer me something precious as a gift. Pulindaka felt that his stock of pearls and kastūrī were inadequate. So, making up his mind to hunt a few elephants and extract pearls from their heads, he journeyed to the Himalayas. There he came upon a big lake with a temple on its shore. He lay there in wait for elephants to come to quench their thirst. Just then, he saw a most astonishing sight. A beautiful maiden came riding a lion to worship Śiva at that temple. The mesmerized hunter thought: ‘Who might this maiden be? She cannot be a mere human, for how could she then roam these forests riding a lion? On the other hand, if she were a goddess, how is it possible that I can see her? I must have done something good in my past life for my eyes to behold this sight!’ He then slowly approached her.
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.
Someone who can remember events from all his past lives.