2. Next Gomukha started narrating the story of Kumudikā:-
The Story of Kumudikā
In the city of Pratiṣṭhāna, there lived a king named Vikramasiṃha. His wife was Śaśilekhā. His cousins Mahābhaṭa, Vīrabāhu and a few other kinsmen who bore him ill-will, joined together and attacked his city. Disregarding the advice of his ministers to make peace, Vikramasiṃha readied for war. When their armies clashed, the king rode out on his elephant and started to let fly arrows from atop. When his kinsmen saw him all alone on the field, they joined together and fell upon him. Seeing this, the army of Vikramasiṃha began to retreat. Then paying heed to his minister Anantaguṇa’s signals, the king jumped off from the elephant and climbed on to his horse and galloped with his minister in tow to Ujjayinī. There he went to the house of Kumudikā, a renowned prostitute in the city. Looking at Vikramasiṃha, she thought ‘The brilliance and signs on this man clearly indicate that he is a king of some city. If I invite him in, all my goals will be fulfilled!’ She then got up and received him with all honour and treated him to great hospitality. She said, ‘Since your lordship decided to grace my home out of sheer generosity, it has been sanctified! I am overwhelmed with gratitude! Today, all my past deeds of merit have borne fruit. Through your warmth you have bought me off and I am your humble slave from now on. Lord, I happen to be in possession of a hundred elephants, twenty thousand steeds of high pedigree and a house fully stocked with precious stones. Please know that everything I have is yours!’
King Vikramasiṃha was not just happy there, he even used to give away Kumudikā’s wealth in alms, as if it were his own, to all seekers and destitutes who knocked on her door. Surprisingly, this caused her to be happy! He was elated that she was so affectionate towards him. His wise minister Anantaguṇa cautioned him thus: ‘Lord! I have never seen lasting virtues in whores. She shows complete devotion, no doubt. But I am still curious as to the reason behind all this show of unexpected generosity’. The king retorted: ‘Don’t talk like that! Kumudikā will even give up her life for me - I can prove this to you’.
Vikramasiṃha slowly reduced his food intake and within a few days, became thin and emaciated. One day rolling on his bed, he started acting as if he was in terrible pain. Then he slowly made himself still, thereby faking his own death. As was to happen, he was taken to the cemetery for the last rites. Kumudikā, although warded off, did not listen to anyone - she forced her way there. Then, to everyone’s amazement, she even climbed up the funeral pyre. Just when they were about to set it afire, Vikramasiṃha yawned and sat up as if he got up from slumber. Seeing him alive, everyone was happy and brought him home.
Then the king told his minister ‘I hope you saw what she did!’.
He said, “Still, I won’t believe everything; there must be some reason behind this. We might get to know that also.”
He then defeated his enemies with her help and also with the assistance of his friends. He spoke to Kumudikā who was with him – “Tell me what you wish for! I will grant it.”
She replied –“Lord! My beloved Śrīdhara has been imprisoned in Ujjayinī for a very small fault of his. He must be freed. I served you all this while, having seen kingly qualities in you, with the intention of putting forth my request of freeing him. I even climbed up the funeral pyre with you thinking that my wish won’t be fulfilled!”
He agreed, went with his army to Ujjayinī and freed Śrīdhara. They lived happily ever after.
Therefore, it is difficult to understand what prostitutes have in their minds.
After listening to Gomukha’s story, Tapantaka said – “Deva! Let alone prostitutes, it is hard to trust women who are legally married as well. Let me tell you something astonishing that I have seen with my own eyes!” He narrated the following:
The Story of Candraśrī
There lived a merchant by name Balavarmā in this city. His wife was called Candraśrī. One day, she spotted a young and handsome merchant from her window. She fell in love with him on first sight. She got one of her friends invite him to her house, met him there and had an affair with him. Everyone except her husband came to know of this. Yet, she visited her friend’s place every day to meet him.
Balavarmā fell sick with fever and got bedridden. Still, she did not stop visiting her paramour. Her husband even passed away. She informed this to her paramour, and mounted the funeral pyre of her husband.
It is really hard to understand women’s minds. They get into illicit affairs. Yet, they give up their life with the passing of their husbands.
Hariśikha then interrupted – “Haven’t you heard what happened to Devadāsa who was right here?”
The Story of Duśśīlā
Devadāsa had a wife named Duśśīlā, who true to her name was a woman of bad character. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew about it. When her husband was away to the king’s palace for some work, she welcomed an unknown man and had him stay in the attic. Devadāsa came home and was resting. The man who was hiding in the attic came down and killed Devadāsa.
The next morning, she came out to the streets and screamed – “Thieves have killed my husband”
Relatives and friends gathered at his house and wondered – “The thief does not seem to have robbed anything but has only killed Devadāsa. How is this possible?”
They asked the young son of Devadāsa who was nearby – “Who killed your father, dear child?”
The child replied – “There was a man who came in the morning and was hiding in the attic. He came down at night, right before my eyes and killed my father; before he did so, my mother picked me up even as I was sleeping next to father!”
Then they realized that it was the handiwork of her paramour and so they chased after him and killed him. They took charge of the child and drove her away from the town. Thus, women who are besotted with other men will not hesitate to even take a life — thus he said.
In a similar vein Gomukha narrated the tale of Vajrasāra and Marubhūti recounted the story of Siṃhabala; listening to these, Naravāhanadatta went to sleep.
3. The following morning, when he finished his morning activities and proceeded to his pleasure garden, a group of vidyādharīs descended from the sky. One of them, akin to the full moon amidst all the stars, was exceedingly beautiful. The prince went to her and said, “O auspicious damsel! Who are you? Why have you come here?”
She said, “There is a town called Kāñcanaśṛṅga in the Himācala, which is ruled by a vidyādhara king by name Sphaṭikayaśa and I am his daughter. My name is Śaktiyaśā. I pleased Pārvatī-devī with my vratas and stotras and she blessed me by saying, ‘O daughter! You will attain ten times more knowledge than what your father has obtained. The future cakravartī, Naravāhanadatta, will be your husband!’ Thus, she granted me a boon. Last night, she appeared in my dream and said, ‘Tomorrow morning, go and see your husband; in another month, your father will get you married to him!’ Accordingly, I came here. Now, I shall take your leave.” Saying so, she flew into the sky with her friends and attendants, and reached her father's home.
Naravāhanadatta was completely lost in her thoughts and a month seemed like an eon to him. This being the case, Gomukha narrated a story to cheer him up:
The Story of Sumanarāja
Long ago, King Sumanarāja ruled over the city of Kāñcanapurī. One day, when he was in the court, the sentinel came up to him and announced that a huntress by name Muktālatā had come there. The king granted her permission to enter. She came into the court with a birdcage held in her hand. Looking at her astounding form, everyone thought, "She is no human; she is a divine maiden!" She offered her salutations to the king and said, "Deva! The parrot in this cage knows the four Vedas. It knows all vidyās and all the arts as well as poetry. I have brought it here thinking that it might be of use to you. You must kindly accept it!"
The parrot recited a verse:
राजन्! युक्तमिदं सदैव यदयं देवस्य संधुक्ष्यते
आसां प्रज्वलतीह दिक्षु दशसु प्राज्यः प्रतापानलः॥
Then it gave an explanation for it:
O king, it is indeed appropriate
that the dusky smoke of your courage
increases by the sighs of your enemies' wives
who have become widows.
But it is strange that the fire of your valour
burns brightly in the ten directions
even as the flood of tears flow
owing to the humiliation of defeat!
Following this, the parrot said, “Which aspect of what śāstra shall I now expound?” The king was stunned into silence. The minister said, “O lord! This parrot must have been a seer in a past life and perhaps cursed to be reborn thus; it must be repeating all that it had learnt in an earlier life from memory!” The king addressed the parrot with the words: “Noble one! What is your story? Who are you? What does it mean for a parrot to be so erudite!” In response, the parrot narrated this tale:
The Story of the Parrot
There is a rohiṇī tree near the Himavat (Himalaya) mountain; I was born there; as soon as I was born, my mother died; my father brought me up, guarding me by his own feathers. Once a group of hunters came to the forest and caused pandemonium killing many animals. One old man climbed the tree, caught and killed all the parrots by breaking their necks; I also fell down entangled in my father’s feathers. By the time he climbed down I came out of my father’s feathers, crawled to safety by hiding between the fallen leaves; the next day with great difficulty, to quench my thirst I somehow reached the padmasaras (lake) nearby; the sage Marīci who had finished his bath saw me and was moved, he helped me drink water, placed me on one of the leaves and took me to the Āśrama. The Kulapati, Pulastya saw me and laughed; when his disciples asked him for the reason he said, ‘this has become a parrot due to a curse; so seeing it I laughed out of pity; I’ll narrate it’s story after my daily rituals’ and then he narrated the following story:-
The Story of Somaprabha
The kingdom of Ratnākarapura was ruled by the king Jyotiṣprabha. He propitiated Śiva by performing rigorous austerities and as a result, he got a son by his wife Harṣavatī. As she dreamt that Candra was hidden in her face, the boy was named Somaprabha. At the appropriate age, he was crowned as the heir apparent and the minister's son, Priyaṅkara was made his minister. The charioteer of Indra, Mātali arrived one day and said, ‘You were once a vidyādhara who was the friend of Indra; out of that friendship, he has sent you this horse named Āśuśravas; this horse is the progeny of the divine horse Uccaiśravas; take this along and you’ll be invincible’ He went on a military campaign taking this horse and while returning back he was on a hunting expedition near the Himalayas, he chased a kinnara studded with precious gems for a long time. He arrived at a huge lake and thought of spending the night there, he heard some music; he followed the source and saw a divine beauty singing in front of a Śivaliṅga. She welcomed him seeing his handsome form and asked him, ‘Who are you? How did you come to this inaccessible place alone?’ He told his story and asked her to narrate her own. Teary eyed, she started narrating her story:-
The Story of Manorathaprabhā
There is a city named Kāñcanābha in the foothills of the Himalayas; there lives the chief of vidyādharas by name Padmakūṭa. I’m his daughter; my name is Manorathaprabhā. By my special powers I would wander every day for three hours visiting āśramas, islands, mountains, forests, gardens and many such places and would reach home by lunch time. Once I was sporting in one of the lakes nearby and saw a muniputra and his friend.
Attracted by the looks of the sage’s son, I inquired about his background. His friend explained: ‘Not too far away from here lives a sage called Dīdhitimanta. My friend was born to him through the divine mind of goddess Lakshmi. His name is Raśmimanta’. Then, my friends and I introduced ourselves to them. Raśmimanta and I fell in love with each other then and there. Soon, a friend of mine came from home in search of me. She informed me that my dear father awaited my return for lunch. With a heavy heart, I left my friend and Raśmimanta there and hurried home. I quickly partook of my meal and rushed back to them. I was but away for a very little while, and yet, unable to bear separation from me, my beloved Raśmimanta had fallen down motionless, dead, heartbroken. Unable to bear this sorrow, I wanted to join him on the funeral pyre. Just then, a man with a brilliant halo about him came down from the heavens like a meteor, easily lifted up his body and flew away. I was still adamant about giving up my life by jumping into the fire, until a voice from the skies rang out: ‘Manorathaprabhā, stop! It is ordained that you shall reunite with your beloved Raśmimanta, in time!’. From then on, waiting for that day when my destiny would come true, I have been constantly praying to lord Śiva here. And I don’t know where that friend of my beloved went either!’. That day, Somaprabha stayed there and accepted the hospitality of Manorathaprabhā.
Next morning a vidyādhara named Devajaya arrived at the hermitage and addressed Manorathaprabhā: ‘Lady! Taking after you, your dear friend Makaraṇḍikā vows that she will remain unwed just like you. I am here to convey a request on behalf of her father Siṃhavikrama to please dissuade her from this foolishness and set her on the right path’. An alarmed Manorathaprabhā agreed immediately. When they were about to depart to the vidyādhara realm, Somaprabha chimed in: ‘May I join you both? I have never seen the home of the vidyādharas’. They agreed and took him along. Soon, Manorathaprabhā reached the home of Makaraṇḍikā and advised her thus: ‘Dear friend! I have already chosen Raśmimanta as my husband and I only await his return. Give up this stubbornness. Listen to your father. You must get married!’. Makaraṇḍikā had by then fallen in love with the radiant Somaprabha and she expressed her desire to marry him.
Just as Manorathaprabhā left to return to her hermitage, Somaprabha’s minister Priyaṅkara arrived with a message that his father, king Jyotiṣprabha wished to see him right away. In deference to his father’s command, Somaprabha had to return home with a heart rendered heavy from the sorrow of separation from his new found love. Makaraṇḍikā could not bear to be away from Somaprabha either. Her parents tried very hard to console her, but to no avail. Overcome with sheer frustration at her obsession, they cursed her: ‘May you live among the hunter folk for a while!’ and soon passed away heartbroken, worrying about her. The same Siṃhavikrama was reborn as this parrot. His wife became a wild boar in her next birth. Thanks to the power of austerities undertaken in its previous birth, this bird still remembers all the knowledge it had acquired in its past life. I only laughed out of the amusement I felt thinking about this strange cycle of karma. When the bird narrates this strange story in the king’s court, it will be released from the curse. Somaprabha will then marry Makaraṇḍikā, now reborn as a hunter girl. Manorathaprabhā too will get back to Raśmimanta who is now reborn as a king - thus sage Pulastya narrated my entire story.
No sooner did the sage finish his words than could I recollect the story of my previous birth as Siṃhavikrama. The kind sage Marīci took care of me like a father. Once my wings became strong, I began to gleefully roam the skies. Then, on one unfortunate day, I fell into a hunter’s trap. Today, I find myself here, and my sins have been washed away. If the sage’s foretelling is true, I shall be soon released from this parrot-life.
Right then, guided by lord Śiva in their dreams, Somaprabha and Manorathaprabhā reached the court of King Sumana. As she gazed upon Somaprabha, Muktalata was immediately transformed into Makaraṇḍikā and ran into his arms. King Sumana saw Manorathaprabhā. Then, right in front of them, the body of Raśmimanta fell from the heavens! As if by miracle, Sumana entered his old body and lo behold! The seer’s son Raśmimanta was back alive, delighting the heart of Manorathaprabhā. He took her hand in his and returned to his hermitage. Somaprabha too returned back to his city with his wife.
The parrot reached the puṇya-lokas that it had acquired due to its tapas.
In this manner, animals that are far apart, if destined to meet, will certainly come together.
4. After narrating this story, Gomukha said – “Deva! The wise, who wish to fare well here and hereafter, though may not be extraordinary in their personality, will control their aggression and anxiety.
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.