Upon listening to this story Gomukha said, “Women are lustful by nature and a pativratā is rare to find. It is true that women are never to be trusted!” and narrated the following tale –
Story of Niścayadatta and Anurāgaparā
There lived a merchant named Niścayadatta in Ujjayinī. Every day, he bathed in the Kṣiprā river, worship Mahākāla, perform dāna to brāhmaṇas and the needy, and anointed himself with sandalwood paste. He would dab the unguent on a stone pillar and anoint himself by rubbing his back on it. Thus the pillar became smooth over time. Once, an artist came there and drew an image of Gaurī on it. Then a sculptor carved the image. After they left, a certain Vidyādharī maiden came to worship Mahākāla at the devālaya and happened to see this sculpture of Gaurī; she worshipped the goddess and entered the pillar in order to get some rest. When Niścayadatta returned the following morning, he found an image of the goddess sculpted on the pillar so he dabbed the unguent on another face of the pillar and began to rub his back on it. The Vidyādharī was captivated by his back and thought to herself, Doesn’t this handsome back have no one to anoint it? Then she herself began applying the paste on his back. The merchant felt her touch on his back, heard the tingling sound of her bangles, and at once caught hold of her hand. From within the pillar the Vidyādharī said, “Ārya! In what way have I wronged you? Let go of my hand!” and pleaded with him. He replied, “Who are you? Appear before me! Only then shall I let go of your hand!” She then came out of the pillar, sat down beside him, and narrated her tale.
“There is a town called Puṣkarāvatī atop the Himālayas and is ruled by King Vindhyapara. I am his daughter Anurāgaparā. I had come here to worship Mahākāla and was resting. Looking at your back, I was enchanted and began anointing it. Now I shall return to my father’s house.” He said, “That’s fine, but you have captured my heart and so how can you depart without letting go of that!” She replied, “If that is the case, come to my town! It is not impossible for you – indeed what is difficult for those who strive!” and departed, soaring in the sky. Repeatedly recollecting her branch-like hand that protruded from that Manmatha Tree-like pillar, he thought, Alas! Although I held her hand, I was unable to win it! It matters not even if I lose my life but I will go to Puṣkarāvatī. And perhaps Fate will assist me in my journey! Thus he spent the whole day brooding and the following morning set out in a northward direction.
On the way, he met three travellers who were also going north. Along with them, he traversed past cities, villages, forests, and rivers and finally reached the northern province. It was infested with mlecchas. The Tājikas there captured the travellers (including Niścayadatta) and sold them off to another Tājika, who then put them together with his other slaves and sent them all as a gift to Muravāra, the Turuṣka. Since Muravāra had just died, the four travellers (now slaves) were delivered to his son. He thought, These slaves were sent to my father as a gift from his dear friend and so tomorrow I shall send them along with my father on his final journey. Accordingly they were bound in chains and jailed. Niścayadatta offered words of reassurance to his fellow travellers and then invoked Goddess Durgā.
Durgā appeared in their dreams and said, ‘Arise my children! You are free from the shackles!’ They did as instructed and left the place; after going some distance, the three merchants, frightened by the developments said, ‘Enough of this mleccha infested hell! We shall go to Dakṣiṇāpatha; you go wherever you like!’ and they turned south. But Niścayadatta smitten, instead went further north.
On the way he met four kāpālikas. He tagged along with them, crossed the Vitastā river and reached a forest by dusk. They were noticed by wood-cutters returning from the forest and were asked, ‘Where are you going at this hour? There are no villages further on this path; there is only a dilapidated śivālaya; if you stay there during the night, you’ll be caught by a yakṣiṇī called Śṛṅgotpādinī who will make horns grow on your heads, make you all go mad, transform you into animals and finally will devour you!’ The kāpālikas ignored the warning and said to Niścayadatta, ‘We are four people; what would that wretched yakṣiṇī be able to do? We have made a habit of spending innumerable nights in funeral grounds for so long; come, nothing will happen!’ They went to the śivālaya and stayed there. They created a huge maṇḍala out of vibhūti, invoked Agni and started chanting rakṣā-mantras. Sometime in the night Śṛṅgotpādinī appeared with her kinnari (a kind of stringed instrument) made of ribcage, stood well outside the maṇḍala, danced playing music, and uttered some mantras looking intensely at one of the kāpālikas. He grew horns, went crazy and fell in the Agni. She dragged his half-burnt corpse and ate it. Other kāpālikas too met their ends in a similar fashion. By the time she ate the fourth kāpālika, Śṛṅgotpādinī was intoxicated by the flesh and blood she had consumed, the kinnari in her hand slipped and fell. Niścayadatta, who was waiting for an opportune moment, picked it up, and started playing it. Since he had listened to her mantras four times, he had memorised them. He started chanting them, while dancing, gazing at the yakṣiṇī. Frightened, she begged, ‘O noble soul! Please don’t kill me; I surrender; please take back the mantras; I’ll fulfil all your wishes; I’ll take you to the place where Anurāgaparā resides!’ He agreed and took back the mantras, she placed him on her shoulders, flew away and landed near another forest by dawn. She placed him down and said, ‘My lord! Our powers wane once the sun rises. So I’ll go to my place now. You stay here till night, have some fruits to satisfy your hunger. I’ll come again after sunset; we can continue our journey to Puṣkarāvatī!’ She left the place. He roamed around in the forest and saw something shining like rubies. Curious, he dug up the earth around to have a closer look and he saw it was the head of a monkey. It’s eyes shone like rubies! Wonderstruck, he started to think what this might be, the monkey started talking like humans, ‘Friend! I’m a brāhmaṇa;due to some reason I’ve become a monkey! Lift me up! I’ll tell you my story!’ He dug up the place surrounding it and freed it. The monkey saluted him, brought him some fruits, and started narrating it’s story-
The Story of Somasvāmī
In Vārāṇasī lives a brāhmaṇa called Candrasvāmī. I, Somasvāmī, am his son. In the same town lived a merchant called Śrīgarbha, whose only daughter Bandhudattā was married to Varāhadatta, a merchant from Madhurāpaṭṭaṇa.
Once when Bandhudattā was in Vārāṇasī to visit her parents, she happened to see me from the window of her quarters. She was instantly smitten with me. She sent her friend as her messenger to convey what lay in her heart. That day, Bandhudattā and I met at her friend’s home. We became so close that we started to meet there every day. After a while, as it was to happen, Bandhudattā’s husband came to Vārāṇasī in order to take her back to Madhurāpaṭṭaṇa. But she was so much in love with me that she couldn’t even bear the thought of leaving me. We were both heartbroken and didn’t know what to do next. Just then, her friend Sukhaśayā hit upon an idea. She told Bandhudattā, “Worry not dear friend. I know two powerful mantras. If you recite the first one and tie a thread around someone’s neck, he will instantly turn into a monkey. And should you chant the second one and untie the thread, he will transform back into human form. If you wish, I can turn your beloved Somasvāmi to a monkey and you can take him with you to Madhurāpaṭṭaṇa, as your pet. Worry not, for I will impart you the knowledge of the mantras. Whenever you are alone with him, just chant the mantra and your lover will be in your arms!” We both loved the idea. The day of travel came, and using the mantra, my beloved Bandhudattā turned me into her pet monkey. Despite my outward form, I was fully aware of what was happening. As you can see, I could even talk.
As we began our journey, Varāhadatta’s servant carried me on his shoulder. On the way, out of nowhere, a troop of monkeys fell upon us. They must have seen me being carried by the servant, and to my ill luck, they reserved their worst for us. They scratched and gnawed at the hapless servant’s face and bruised him badly. Shrieking in horror, the poor man threw me down and ran for his life. The monkeys then turned their ire upon me. Bandhudattā and her husband tried hard to rescue me. They fought hard to chase the rapacious lot away using rocks and sticks, but alas, to no avail. The monkeys scratched every inch of my body and tortured me to no end. To my good fortune, owing to the magic thread around my neck, I escaped serious harm and managed to flee. In doing so, I got separated from my fellow travellers and lost my way. I tried circling back over and over again, but could not find them. Dejected, I wandered aimlessly from one forest to another and finally ended up here. Little did I know that my troubles were far from being over. One day as I sat rueing my fate, a rogue elephant caught me unawares. The beast grabbed me by its trunk, lifted me high in the air and brought me down hard upon an anthill which had turned into muck due to rains. I got trapped in the muck and couldn’t wiggle myself out. The rainfall abated and as the muck dried, I was stuck inside. I prayed fervently to Lord Śiva and began meditating upon the great lord. Due to his grace, hunger and thirst did not bother me and miraculously, I am still alive and well. Today, thanks to you, I have been freed. Now, if only I could find a yogini who would be kind enough to chant the mantra to undo my fate and remove the thread around my neck, I would turn back to human form.
Amazed by the story of Somasvāmī, Niścayadatta began to recount his tale. As he finished, Somasvāmi said “Dear sir! Like me, you too have suffered a lot for a woman. Know this from me, O friend, wealth and women are ephemeral. If Anurāgaparā gets a man of her own kind, it is certain that she will grow tired of you. So heed my advice, I beg you. Do not go to Puṣkarāvatī. Climb onto the yakṣiṇī’s back and return to your home in Ujjayinī. When I was swooning over Bandhudattā like a fool, my friend Bhavaśarmā had tried to bring me to my senses by narrating to me the ordeal he went through. Listen to his story!”
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 GS, Arjun Bharadwaj, Srishan Thirumalai, and Hari Ravikumar.