Kathāmṛta - 107 - Pañca-lambaka - The Story of Naravāhanadatta and the Cunning Vidyādharī

This article is part 107 of 109 in the series Kathāmṛta

तुष्टेन येन देहार्धमप्युमायै समर्पितम्।
स वो ददात्वभिमतं वरदः पार्वतीपतिः॥

May Śiva, who has given half his body to Umā being pleased with her, grant your wishes.

निशि विघ्नजितो वोऽव्यात् ताण्डवोद्दण्डितः करः।
शोणश्चन्द्रातपत्रस्य तन्वन्विद्रुमदण्डताम्॥

Śiva's hand which has won over all the vighnas, is stretched upwards during his sandhyā-tāṇḍava.
It appears like a coral stick holding up the umbrella formed by the moon. May his hand protect you.

1. Naravāhanadatta thus secured several wives, who were very charming. He lived with the senior-most queen, Madanamañcukā in Kauśāmbi and enjoyed the pleasures of his father’s kingdom. He spent his time savouring music and dance.

One day, he was not able to find Madanamañcukā in the antaḥpura. He asked her caretakers and they did not know either. He searched for her and there was no trace of her presence anywhere. He was extremely worried. Then, a guardian of the antaḥpura said, “Before Madanamañcukā got married, a vidyādhara had come down to meet her as he had spotted her on the terrace. He introduced himself as Mānasavega and requested her father Kaliṅgasena for her hand in marriage. She did not agree. He has secretly come and kidnapped her.” Rumaṇvanta said, “There is immense security around this city. I am sure no one has abducted her; she must be hiding somewhere out of romantic anger!” He then narrated the following tale:

The Story of Aśrutā and Aṅgira

In the past, a sage named Aṅgira wished to marry Sāvitrī, the daughter of Aṣṭāvakra. However, by then, it was decided that she would be given to someone else in marriage. Aṅgira, thus married, Aśrutā, the daughter of Aṣṭāvakra’s brother. His newly-married wife knew that he had previously desired Sāvitrī.

One day, she found her performing japa silently, for a very long time. She asked him again and again, “Who are you so deeply thinking of?” He said, “My dear! I am thinking of Sāvitrī!” Aśrutā thought that Sāvitrī was a reference to that daughter of the sage and was enraged. She left the house, went to the forest and was ready to hang herself. Then, the Devī Sāvitrī appeared before her and said, “Don’t hurry, my daughter! Your husband was not thinking of a lady named Sāvitrī, but was praying to me!” The devī consoled Aśrutā. Aṅgira came searching for his wife, found her in the forest and brought her back home.

After narrating this story, Rumaṇvanta said, “Women will not tolerate anything that comes in the way of their love; your wife might be upset for some insignificant mistake of yours. Search for her! Vastarāja said, “Yes! I don’t think she has met with any harm! Madanamañcukā is Rati-devī; there has been an incorporeal voice which declared that she will be the wife of Naravāhanadatta, who is an avatāra of Kāma-deva. She will enjoy the riches of vidyādharas for a kalpa! This can never go false!”

And so, everyone went in search of her. At that instant, a vidyādharī named Vegavatī assumed the physical form of Madanamañcukā and came to the pleasure garden; Marubhūti saw her and promptly reported the news to Naravāhanadatta. When he rushed to the spot and approached her with the intention of embracing her, she stepped back and said, "O ārya-putra! Don't touch me! I had made a solemn promise to the yakṣas that if I obtained you as my husband, I will offer bali to them; but I forgot all about my vow and therefore they have brought me here; they told me, 'you should marry him once again and then offer bali to us, and after that if you so desire you can obtain your husband!' Therefore, please marry me once again, and make it quick! I will then be able to keep my word." This was the cunning plan that she devised to obtain him as her husband!

Naravāhanadatta said, "So be it!" and having called for a purohita by name Śāntisoma, he married her according to the prescribed rites. Some time later, she approached her husband who lay beside her and said, "O beloved one! Look at my face!" Wondering why she would put forth such a strange request, he turned towards her and realised that she was not Madanamañcukā at all! She was someone else. When he asked, "Who are you? Tell me the truth!" she replied, "O my beloved one, I am the daughter of a vidyādhara king named Vegavanta who rules over Āṣāḍhapura; my elder brother Mānasavega has abducted Madanamañcukā by means of māyā and taken her to the royal garden of our kingdom; he has a śāpa [curse] that he will die if he tries to tie up a woman. Therefore, he has not laid his hand on that noble lady; he requested me to cajole her and convince her. It is only after I heard your name from her lips that I fell madly in love with you. I hatched a scheme in a bid to marry you. Come, let us go to where your beloved awaits you!" Saying so, she took him and soared in the sky. By the time it was morning, both husband and wife were missing! Vatsarāja as well as Vāsavadattā and Padmāvatī were aghast; they felt like a bolt of thunder had struck them.

At Āṣāḍhapura, when Mānasavega saw his sister Vegavatī bringing Naravāhanadatta, he rushed to kill both of them. But she assumed the form of Bhairava and induced a hallucination in her brother before hurling him to a burning mountain. She then hid Naravāhanadatta in an old and dilapidated well and said, "Stay here; may all be auspicious with you!" She then went away somewhere in order to strengthen her vidyās, which had all weakened owing to her fight with an elder [i.e. her elder brother].

2. After a while, a gandharva named Vīṇādatta saw him in the well, lifted him up and asked, "You are a human being; how in the world did you land up in a gandharva town?" Having heard his story, and impressed by his regal bearing, the gandharva took Naravāhanadatta to his house and extended great hospitality. In that town, Naravāhanadatta saw everyone carrying vīṇās and playing them; his interest was piqued and he asked the reason for it. Vīṇādatta replied, "Our gandharva-rāja Sāgaradatta has a daughter named Gandharvadattā. She is more beautiful than even an apsarā; she is an expert at playing the vīṇā and performs on it the Viṣṇu-gītā that she learnt from Bhagavān Viṣṇu himself. She has taken an oath that she will marry the person who can play the Viṣṇu-gītā in all three grāmas [i.e. ṣaḍja-grāma, gāndhāra-grāma, and madhyama-grāma]; everyone wants to play the vīṇā so that they can marry her; but none has learnt it!” When Naravāhanadatta said that he would be able to perform the task, Vīṇādatta took him to the palace. Gandharvadattā sat beside her father and started playing the vīṇā. Naravāhanadatta was mesmerised by her beauty and singing. He said, “O princess! There is some mismatch in the notes played; there might be some hair intertwined with the strings of the vīṇā!” When she observed the vīṇā carefully she found it. Even the gandharvas were surprised; it was Naravāhanadatta’s turn to play the vīṇā; hearing the music he played, everyone in the gathering were stunned as though they were images rather than living beings. Gandharvadattā just melted in love. The wedding followed.

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 G S, 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



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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