The Story of Indīvarasena and Anicchāsena
In the town of Airāvati, there lived a king named Parityāgasena. He had two wives, of which one was his minister's daughter, Adhikasaṅgamā. The other was a princess from a royal family and was called Kāvyālaṅkārā. Being childless, he and his wives propitiated Devī Ambikā, who appeared in a dream gave him two fruits and instructed him as follows: “Mahārāja! Give these to your wives. Two valorous sons will be born to them!” The next day, he gave one fruit to Adhikasaṅgamā and kept the other fruit below his pillow with a view to give it to Kāvyālaṅkārā. Not only did she eat the fruit given to her, but Adhikasaṅgamā also stole the other fruit from under the king's pillow so that she may have two sons. As a result, Kāvyālaṅkārā was overcome by despair and sorrow. In due course, the first wife gave birth to twin sons.
The king named the older one Indīvarasena, as he had eyes that resembled blue lotus. The second son was named Anicchāsena as he was born to his mother who ate the second fruit against the desires of the other queen. This was a cause of envy in the second wife. The boys grew up, became experts in weaponry and set out to conquer all directions. They were accompanied by their grandfather and senior minister Prathamasaṅgama. ‘If you find yourselves in trouble, remember to worship Ambikā; you’ll overcome anything; you both were born because of her blessings!’ the king advised his sons before they set out. They conquered the East and turned South. The envious step-mother having got this information wrote a letter to the vassals who accompanied them as though the king himself had ordered them saying, ‘My sons after conquering everything with their prowess will finally kill me in their avarice to have everything; if you are still loyal to me, kill them immediately!’ They all read the letter, after having a discussion they decided to kill the princes. Since one among them was a friend of the princes, he revealed the plan to them.
The princes and their grandfather left the place immediately on their horses and proceeded towards the Vindhyā forests. The next day due to tiredness and paucity of water the horses died; the grandfather too perished. ‘Just to please our stepmother, did the king make us, who are innocent, suffer?’ with these thoughts they started worshipping Ambikā. Their thirst and hunger vanished immediately. With renewed vigour they proceeded to the abode of Vindhyavāsinī devī and they worshipped her while fasting.
Meanwhile the vassals searched for the princes in vain and later went back to the king and reported everything and showed him the letter. The enraged king scolded them. ‘You fools! Couldn’t you recognise that the letter is fake? After going through so much difficulty to get sons do you think I’ll have them killed? You would have killed them; either due to their luck or by the resourceful minister they have survived!’ He also got hold of the fake letter and launched an investigation by summoning the kāyastha, i.e., the scribe responsible for it. After finding the truth that it was due to the machinations of the second queen Kāvyalaṅkārā, he imprisoned her in the dungeons. An act that is motivated by hatred and is not backed by wise thoughts is going to result in not good, after all! The king also dismissed his vassal from their positions and appointed others instead. The king looked for news regarding his sons and prayed constantly to devī Ambikā.
Meanwhile, Vindhyavāsinī devī propitiated by the tapas of the princes appeared before them. he handed Indīvarasena a sword and said, ‘You can defeat all your enemies with this; everything you wish will be fulfilled!’ They took that sword and travelled to a great city. They asked the rākṣasa who was the guardian of the entrance about the city. He replied, ‘This is Śailapura; Yamadaṃṣṭra is our king.’ They killed him and entered the city and found Yamadaṃṣṭra; he was seated on a throne and was accompanied by two beautiful women. Indīvarasena challenged him and fought with him, as and when he cut off his head it regrew. The girl beside him conveyed something to him in sign language, understanding that he split his head after chopping it. No new head cropped up; the rākṣasa died. The women were happy. When they were asked why, the young maiden narrated the story, ‘Śailapura was initially ruled by the king Vīrabhuja; Yamadaṃṣṭra killed him along with his family and ate them all; since, she, Madanadaṃṣṭrā, was beautiful she was spared and he made her his wife. I’m his sister Khaḍgadaṃṣṭrā; I was instantly smitten seeing you; thus, I conveyed his weakness through sign language.’
“I am his sister Khaḍga-daṃṣṭrā. I am smitten with you and hence I signalled!” Indīvarasena married her in the gāndharva way. After spending a few days there, he conjured up a flying machine out of thin air through his sheer powers of meditation and his divine sword. He asked his younger brother Anicchāsena to fly home to their father and inform him about all that had happened. Anicchāsena did his elder brother’s bidding and flew home. His parents were relieved and happy to see him home, and they were wonderstruck as they listened to him narrate all that had transpired.
After a few days, one night, Anicchāsena woke up with a start, due to a horrible nightmare. Fearing what may have befallen Indīvarasena, he took his parents and flew back to Śailapura in the same aircraft. When they went inside the palace, they saw both Khaḍga-daṃṣṭrā and Madanadaṃṣṭrā wailing loudly. A shocked Anicchāsena quizzed them as to what happened. A tearful Khaḍgadaṃṣṭrā replied “I caught your brother flirting with Madanadaṃṣṭrā one day, when I was bathing. I chastised him, and as my temper soared, I did something foolish. Unaware of the consequences of what I was about to commit, I waited for him to fall asleep and I cast his sword into fire, for I thought that weapon was the source of his pride which I wanted to punish. As flames enveloped it, the sword turned black and the very next instant, my lord fell down senseless. We tried hard, but could not revive him. Unable to bear this sorrow, Madanadaṃṣṭrā and I were about to take our own lives when you arrived! Take this sword and punish us for the wicked act we performed that befits a rākṣasa.”
Right then, a solemn voice from the skies boomed “Take heart, prince Anicchāsena! Your brother is not dead. The insult to the sword has angered the devī Vindhyavāsinī. Her ire has rendered Indīvarasena unconscious. Khaḍga-daṃṣṭrā is blameless. She and Madana-daṃṣṭrā were his wives in their previous birth. Now pray to Vindhyavāsinī. All will be well!”. When they did as the voice commanded, the magical sword began to shine brightly. Within moments Indīvarasena regained consciousness, to everyone’s relief. It was decided that they should all fly back to Irāvatī. Within no time they boarded the flying machine and a swift flight took them home.
Next morning, as his father held court, Indīvarasena handed him over the charge of all the kingdoms he had conquered. Right at that instant, the memories of his previous birth came flooding back to him. He turned to the king and said “Father! On the lower slopes of Himalayas there is a city called Muktāpura. It is ruled by a vidyādhara king called Muktāsena. He had two sons named Padmasena and Rūpasena. A vidyādhara girl named Ādityaprabhā married Padmasena. Having learnt about this, even her friend Candrāvatī married the same man as well. After the women became co-wives their friendship began to sour. They would quarrel over even the smallest of matters. Padmasena grew unhappy at the turn of events and decided to become a recluse and sought his father’s permission to depart to the forests. King Muktāsena refused to permit his son to take this drastic step. When Padmasena pressed the matter again and again, the vidyādhara king grew upset and cursed him ‘Oh, why merely take to the forests? I’d rather you take birth among mortals. May this quarrelsome Ādityaprabhā be born a rākṣasī who will join you in time. So may Candrāvatī, who will eventually do you good. May Rūpasena also join you in the mortal world as your brother. I curse you Indīvarasena, to suffer, as you get caught between two quarrelsome wives for just enough time. Only when you have conquered many kingdoms and you have handed over their charge to your father, may you regain the memory of your previous birth. At that time this curse shall be lifted from you all!’. O king, I am Padmasena reborn. Rūpasena is none other than Anicchāsena. Ādityaprabhā is Madanadaṃṣṭrā and Candrāvatī is Khaḍgadaṃṣṭrā. Our curses are lifted now!” They soon gave up their mortal bodies and became vidyādharas and flew straight to Muktāpura. There they were warmly received by an eager Muktāsena who embraced them as they bowed down to him. Having learnt their lesson, Ādityaprabhā and Candrāvatī gave up quarrelling and their household remained happy forever.
Narrating this story, Gomukha said “So as you saw from this story O king, great travails do not spare even the great ones. So, it is natural that others too are bound to suffer their share of difficulties and enjoy their share of happiness. Worry not, it will not be too hard for you to make Karpūrikā yours!”. As they travelled on, they came upon a lake and decided to camp there for the night.
Naravāhanadatta woke up at sunrise, roused Gomukha from his sound sleep and excitedly said “Early this morning, in my dreams a lady of divine beauty in a white sari visited me. She said ‘Child! Worry not. From here you shall travel to a strange city on the coastline and rest there. From there you will reach an astonishing place that is on the seashore. You may rest there and head to Karpūra-saṃbhava-pura. You get Karpūrikā there.’ She disappeared right after providing such reassurance. I woke the next moment!” Gomukha was pleased. “The deities have blessed you. Your task will be quickly accomplished.”
They left from there and reached the seashore. They found a large city there and entered it. As they walked along the streets filled with shops there, they found that all its inhabitants – merchants, beautiful women and others were made of wood but were walking as though they were filled with life. As they were lifeless, they proceeded to the palace without talking to any one of them. There, elephants, horses and everything else was as it was before. They entered and saw a radiant man was seated on a gem studded throne. His servants and family were machines made of wood! He got up, welcomed them and seated Naravāhanadatta on his throne. He asked about their background and purpose of coming. Naravāhanadatta narrated his tale and asked – “Who are you? What is the story of this astonishing city?’ The man replied –
The Story of Prāṇadhara and Rājyadhara
There lived a king called Bāhubala in Kāñcī, a city that is akin to the girdle of mother earth. We were two brothers and worked as carpenters in his kingdom. We were experts in the śāstra composed by Maya, pertaining to the principles of using wood. My elder brother was called Prāṇadhara and my name was Rājyadhara. My brother had a lot of bad habits, came in contact with prostitutes and also eyed my earning. I too, out of my love for my elder brother gave him as much as I could. However, that never satisfied him. He made two mechanised swans which would fly with the help of ropes. He let them into the royal treasury at night and made them enter throw its windows. They opened the treasure chests with their beaks and stole a lot of money for him. Using this technique, he robbed the king’s treasury day and night.
I tried to stop him from doing so but he wouldn’t listen to me. Does a person who is fallen into bad habits have the patience to tell a moral activity from an immoral one?
At night, the locked door of the royal treasury would only remain locked. There was no rat or mouse. Yet, there was something going missing every day. The guard of the treasury who observed this complained to the king. The king commanded a few of his men to stay in the treasury and remain awake at all times. They noticed the mechanised swans entering throw the window and snapped the ropes which let them fly.
My brother who came to know this came running to me – “The guards of the treasury have caught my swans. We should escape from here right away. We are the ones who perform māyā-yantras. The king will soon know that we have performed such a heinous deed and will have us arrested! Therefore, let us fly away from here in my vimāna. If we press its button once, it will fly eight hundred yojanas at a stretch!” He got on to the vimāna along with his family but I did not. He flew far away.
Once he was gone, I too got scared and decided to fly away in my vimāna; I flew for about two hundred yojanas and went ahead for two hundred more yojanas….; following that, I got out of the vimāna, thinking that it would be too close to the sea, and set out on foot to finally reach this town. It was completely deserted. Driven by curiosity, I entered this palace. There were royal attires, ornaments, beds, and bedsheets befitting a king. Having bathed in the garden well, eaten fruits, and lying down on the bed, I thought to myself, What shall I do all alone here? Tomorrow morning, I will go somewhere else. At least I don't have any fear from the king! With these thoughts, I fell asleep. Early in the morning, a divine personage who had mounted a peacock appeared in my dream and said, “Noble sir! Continue to reside here. Don't go anywhere. At lunch time, if you go to the middle hall of the palace, you will get food to eat.” Saying so he disappeared. Realizing that it was a sacred spot established by Kumārasvāmī, I stayed on. During meal-time, divine foods such as milk, ghee, and rice manifested from the sky and fell on a golden plate that was laid out. Ever since, I have lived here. I get whatever I want. But I don't have my wife or family. Therefore, I created these artificial people out of wood. Although a humble carpenter, I lead a life of royalty Thus he said.
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.