Kathāmṛta - 28 - Naravāhanadattalambaka - Jīmūtavāhana's past life, Story of Śaṅkhacūḍa.

This article is part 28 of 67 in the series Kathāmṛta

By then she had gotten off the lion and had collected flowers from the lake for the lord’s worship. Pulindaka bowed down to her solemnly. The surprised maiden asked him who he was and how he managed to reach these hazardous regions. He said: ‘O lady, I am a hunter and a devotee of Śiva. I came here to hunt elephants for the pearls embedded in their heads. As soon as I saw you, I remembered Vasudatta, my friend who saved my life. He is the perfect match for you in both looks and youth. The woman destined to marry him is indeed most fortunate!’ The curious maiden asked: ‘Where is this friend of yours? Can you show him to me?’ An elated Pulindaka readily agreed. He took leave of her and started his journey back home, but not before acquiring all the pearls and kastūrī he had come in search of. Upon his return, Pulindaka came straight to me with a multitude of precious gifts along with hundreds of thousands of gold coins. We joyously celebrated the whole of next day and night. He then told me the story of the beautiful maiden he had met by that lake in the Himalayas. He persuaded me to undertake a journey in order to meet her and even insisted that we must depart the same night! With my curiosity piqued, I relented. We began our journey and reached the lake by evening the next day. We bathed in the lake and ate fresh fruits and rested that night. The next morning, just like Pulindaka had said, the maiden came riding a lion. After she offered her prayers at the temple, the hunter gently informed her about me and presented me to her. Overcome with shyness at my sight, she said: ‘Last night lord Śiva came in my dreams and said: Tomorrow you will meet the man who is ordained to be your husband!, I take it that it is indeed you that the lord told me about. Your friend here is truly like an elder brother to me!’ Unable to believe my luck, I was only too happy to give my assent to the sweet maiden’s proposal. Then the three of us rode atop the lion straight to the town of Valabhi. Seeing us thus my awestruck father welcomed us warmly. The very next day, following the advice of our family priest, I married the beautiful damsel. That very instant, the lion miraculously transformed to a man who wore divine attire and ornaments. Even as everyone looked on with amazement, he bowed to me and said: ‘I am a vidyādhara named Citrāṅgadā. This maiden is Manovati, my daughter, who is dearer to me than my life. So much so that I used to always carry her in my arms. Once when I was crossing the Gaṅgā, my necklace fell into the river.

There Nārada who was bathing was angered, he cursed him saying, ‘Due to this haughty behavior, may you be born as a lion. Carry her on your back in the Himālaya. Once she marries a human, your curse will end!’ Now I’m free as per his words.”, saying so he leapt to the skies. My father was happy and gave the whole jungle kingdom to the king of kirātas. I had a son with Manovatī. After he came of age, I gave up everything and went to Kālañjara along with my wife. Śabara also came there. We all worshipped Śaṅkara, with thoughts that all of us will have same kind of relationship in our next life and then left our mortal bodies. I am born as Jīmūtavāhana, you are Śabara and your sister is Manovatī-- he said.

With the consent of the father they got married. Once when he was roaming on the seashore with his wife and brother-in-law, he saw a youngster in deep sorrow. The youngster was bidding goodbye to his mother. She was lamenting, ‘Oh my son!’ An attendant left him on one of the rocks and went away. Jīmūtavāhana approached him and said, ‘What is your aim? Why is your mother crying?’ He narrated his story as follows:-

The Story of Śaṅkhacūḍa

Long back, Kaśyapa had two wives, Kadrū and Vinatā. While conversing casually, Kadrū said that Sūrya’s horses are black in colour; Vinatā said they were white. It was decided that whoever is wrong would become the slave of the other. In a bid to win at all costs, Kadrū made her children, the nāgas, use their venomous breaths to colour the horses black. Vinatā became her slave. Her son Garuḍa asked Kadrū the way to liberate her. The nāgas said, ‘Vainateya! The deities are about to churn the milky ocean. If you get amṛta from there, she will be liberated from slavery!’ Hearing this, Garuḍa went to the milky ocean and fought valiantly for amṛta. Impressed by this, Viṣṇu asked him, ‘What boon do you want?’ He said, ‘Let the nāgas be my food!’ Viṣṇu agreed. Indra saw Garuḍa earning a share of amṛta through his valour and said, ‘Oh king of birds! You should see to it that the foolish nāgas would never be able to drink amṛta; I’ll get it back!’ Garuḍa agreed. Seeing him back with Viṣṇu’s boon, the frightened nāgas stood far away. Garuḍa called them out saying, ‘Here, I have brought amṛta; If you all are afraid, I’ll place it on the darbhā grass, you all can take it; I’ll take my mother with me!’ Thus, Vinatā was released. While Garuḍa took her away, Indra came, deluded the nāgas, snatched the amṛta from them and went away.

The dejected nāgas thought that they could savour a few drops of amṛta which might have fallen on the blades of the darbhā grass. The licked the grass which caused their tongues to split into two. Garuḍa then started attacking the nāgas and feasted upon them. Whenever Garuḍa dived deep into the pātāla-loka, the nāgiṇīs had miscarriages.

Looking at the devastation that the nāga clans were facing, Vāsuki prayed to Garuḍa – ‘I will send one nāga every day to the sand dunes on the shores of the ocean for your consumption. Please don’t come to pātāla and kill us all. You are the one who is going to be under tremendous loss, if you do so’ Garuḍa agreed and Vāsuki sent a nāga everyday for his consumption. Countless nāgas got killed in this manner. Today is my turn; my name is Śaṅkhacūḍa. I have arrived at the sacrificial stone to become Garuḍa’s food. My mother is weeping for me.

Jīmūtavāhana heard his words and was greatly pained. ‘What kind of overlordship is Vāsuki’s? He seems to be devoid of all strength. He is offering his own citizens as food into the mouths of the enemy. Why did he not offer himself first to Garuḍa? Having been born to Kaśyapa as well, should Garuḍa perform so much of pāpa just to feed himself? Let it be; I will sacrifice my body today to rescue you. Do not worry!’

Śaṅkhacūḍa said – ‘O revered one, filled with great strength! No! Please don’t say so. Should we sacrifice a pearl for saving a piece of glass? Should I get you killed and become a black mark on my family?’ With these words, he decided to go to offer salutations to Gokarṇeśvara before Garuḍa came there. He headed to the place.

Jīmūtavāhana thought this to be the right opportunity and wanted to send Mitrāvasu to his house to assign some task to him. At that moment, a strong wind below. He figured that the wind was due to the coming of Garuḍa and he went to the sacrificial stone and sat on top of it. The next moment, Garuḍa sat upon him, pecked him with his beak and caused him to bleed. The śiromaṇi (crest jewel) fell off. He then took him to the peak of the mountain and started eating him. There was a shower of flowers immediately and Garuḍa was stunned looking at this. Śaṅkhacūḍa who came back from Gokarṇeśvara after offering his prayers saw that the sacrificial stone was covered with blood. ‘O dear! The great soul must have offered himself on my behalf. I don’t know where Garuḍa has carried him!’ He followed the track left behind by the drops of blood fallen on the ground.

Looking at Jīmūtavāhana who seemed to be pleased, an astonished Garuḍa stopped eating him. Jīmūtavāhana said – ‘O Garuḍa! My body is still full of blood and flesh! Your stomach is not full yet. Why do you stop feasting?’ Garuḍa said – ‘O gentle one! You are not a nāga; Tell me who you are!’ Jīmūtavāhana replied – “I am a nāga; please finish the task you started’.

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.

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.

Prekshaa Publications

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