Kathāmṛta - 29 - Naravāhanadattalambaka - Stories of Śaṅkhacūḍa, Siṃhaparākrama, Birth of Naravāhanadatta

This article is part 29 of 34 in the series Kathāmṛta

By then, Śaṅkhacūḍa spotted them from a distance and shouted – ‘O Garuḍa! Don’t, don’t! He is not a nāga, it is me! Why are you suddenly under an illusion?’ Hearing this, Garuḍa was confused and panicked. Jīmūtavāhana was distressed because the task he had taken up did not find completion. From his conversations with Śaṅkhacūḍa, Garuḍa understood that the person he ate was a vidyādhara and was immensely pained. Garuḍa decided that he had to atone for the pāpa that he had committed – he had eaten a person who had sacrificed himself for the sake of another. As he was about to enter fire, Jīmūtavāhana exclaimed –

‘O lord of birds! Why are you worried? If you truly fear incurring sin, please don’t devour the nāgas anymore. Also be penitent for having done that in the past. That would be true penance indeed. All other forms of austerities are fruitless’. Garuḍa agreed to this and in order to heal Jīmūtavāhana’s wounds as well as to bring the dead nāgas back to life, he flew to the heavens to bring amṛta. In the meanwhile, the compassionate goddess Gaurī herself brought amṛta and lovingly sprinkled it on Jīmūtavāhana. He was instantly healed and became even more handsome than he ever was, and the skies resounded with drums from the heavens! Garuḍa on the other hand flew past the ocean shore showering down the amṛta. All the nāgas who had died at Garuḍa’s hands earlier were suddenly back alive, and the earth for once resembled pātāla!

Malayavati, along with her parents and kinsmen were elated at the sight of the hale and hearty Jīmūtavāhana. Śaṅkhacūḍa went to pātāla. Jīmūtavāhana’s fame spread across the three worlds! Matanga and other enemies surrendered to him fearing for their lives. Then Jīmūtavāhana, along with his parents and his wife, went to the Himalayas and reigned as the emperor of the vidyādharas for a long time.

This story narrated by Yaugandharāyaṇa made the pregnant queen Vāsavadattā happy. She then spent the rest of the day with her husband, fondly talking about their yet to be born son who was destined to be the emperor of the vidyādharas.

3. The next day, when Vatsarāja held court with his ministers, queen Vāsavadattā said: ‘Dear husband, you know only too well that ever since I came to know I am with child, my only concern has been the baby’s well being. Last night, lord Śiva appeared in my dream in his resplendent form smeared with ash, with the crescent moon amidst his matted locks and bearing his trident. The compassionate one said: ‘Dear daughter, you have nothing to worry about, for after all it is with my blessings that your son is taking birth! Know his well being to be my responsibility! Now I will tell you something which is going to happen tomorrow, so you may know that this dream is indeed real. A wicked woman will drag her husband in front of the king and complain bitterly about him. She wishes to kill her husband with the help of her relatives. Do not believe a word of what she will utter. Warn Vatsarāja beforehand. May the life of an innocent man be spared!’ As if by cue, right then, the guard ushered a woman and her husband into the court. The woman complained: ‘O benevolent king, please save me from this cruel husband of mine who is not even providing me with food to eat!’ Thinking that this is what lord Śiva himself had foretold, Vatsarāja was about to hand out a severe punishment to her, when Yaugandharāyaṇa stopped him and quietly suggested: ‘My king, this is not the right way to dispense justice. How will your subjects be convinced of her wrongdoing?’ Nodding in agreement, the king ordered his minister to have the matter thoroughly investigated. Witnesses were tracked and made to depose in open court. From their testimonies it was established beyond doubt that the woman was in fact a liar and that her poor husband was actually innocent. The angry king banished the woman, her son and her relatives from the kingdom, and gave the man a bag of coins to start a new life and find a suitable wife for himself. The king said: ‘It is a vile woman who tortures her husband caught in a bind, just like a crow would hurt a prey caught in a pit-trap! A wife who is both imbued with good qualities and has pleasing demeanour too, is as rare to find as a tree that soothes wayfarers with its thick shadows. Only a fortunate few are blessed with such life partners!’

Just then, Vasantaka who was nearby quipped: ‘Your majesty, the bonds of friendship and hatred are usually inherited from attachments of previous births!’ and proceeded to tell this story:

The Story of Siṃhaparākrama

A king called Vikramacaṇḍa ruled over Vārāṇasi. He had a minister by name Siṃhaparākrama. He was matchless in warfare and gambling. He had a wife named Kalahakārī (literally, ‘the cantankerous one’). Her body was crooked as was her mind. The immense wealth that Siṃhaparākrama regularly earned from the king and through gambling, he would hand it over to her. She gave birth to three sons. Even so, she was utterly foolish and could not spend even a moment without getting into a quarrel. “What do you have to worry about? Wherever you like, you go and eat and drink and make merry! What about us? There's nothing!” Thus she tormented him day after day. In whatever quantity he brought her food and drink, delicacies and dresses, and uttered sweet words of consolation, he simply could not avoid her fury and acrimony. Distraught and disgusted, he left his home and proceeded to a place near Vindhyavāsini; he sat down in a place having given up food and water. She came to him in a dream and said, “Child! Go to Vārāṇasi. If you dig at the base of the biggest banyan tree of the town, you will find buried treasure. Inside that, you will find an emerald cup. To anyone—man or beast—who peeks into it, the entire life-story of their previous births will be revealed. Using that, if you learn about the story of your and your wife's previous lives, your troubles will melt and you will live in peace!” Upon executing her command, he came to know that in their previous lives, he was a lion and she was a bear. He realized that their enmity and constant quarrel was a result of the remnants from their previous lives. Forsaking sorrow and attachment, he went about knowing the stories of the previous lives of various young maidens and finally came across a girl who was a lioness in her previous birth. He then married that girl who was called Siṃhaśrī. Ensuring that Kalahakārī was provided for, in terms of food and clothing, he happily settled down with his second wife and lived happily, enjoying all his riches. Therefore, the affection and enmity displayed by one's wife or other people are all a result of the happenings in previous lives, O Mahārāja!

Saying so, he concluded his narration.

The king spent his days just seeing the moon-face of the pregnant devī without ever being satisfied with it. In the meantime, Yaugandharāyaṇa had a son named Marubhūti, Rumaṇvān had a son named Hariśikha, Vasantaka had a son named Tapantaka, and the security officer Nityodita or Ityaka had a son named Gomukha. When they were born, an incorporeal voice said, “They will all become ministers to the son of Vatsarāja!” As the appointed time came closer, one day Vāsavadattā began to feel the labour pains. She entered the delivery room. It was decorated with varied pictures and paintings. The branches of the sun-plant and the śami tree were fixed in the windows for the sake of protection from evil spirits. The ministers had secured the place by employing various mantras and tantras to keep away all the mātṛgaṇas. In due course, just as the sky gives birth to the moon, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who seemed to be pervaded by amṛta. Even as her son was born, the delivery room and her heart light up with great effulgence. When a messenger took the news to the king, Vatsarāja felt like granting him the entire kingdom as a gift. But he did not do so, simply because that such a thing would have been inappropriate. When he saw the face of his son, it appeared like the līlā-kamala (a lotus used for sport or adornment) of the sāmrājya-lakṣmī (the kingdom personified as a goddess). Even as he and his ministers were basking in the joy, a voice from the sky said, “Mahārāja! This son of yours is an avatāra of Kāmadeva. Call him ‘Naravāhanadatta.’ He will become an emperor ruling over all the Vidyādhara kings!” There was a shower of flowers. Divine drums were sounded.

In the palace too musical instruments were played; there was a lot of merriment in the city. The king felicitated everyone. The child grew like the waxing moon. As instructed by the divine voice, the child was named as Naravāhanadatta. The child grew, milk teeth started appearing, and he started speaking, the king’s delight knew no bounds. The ministers brought their sons so that they can also stay with the prince. The purohita, Śantikara also brought in Piṅgalikā’s twin sons Śāntisoma and Vaiśvanara. Thus in his childhood itself Naravāhanadatta was bestowed with six able ministers. It is impossible to describe Vatsarāja’s delight seeing the smiling face of his son, how the time just flew!

End of Naravāhanadattalaṃbaka

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.

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