Kathāmṛta - 76 - Śaktiyaśo-lambaka - The Stories of Unchaste Women and Fools

This article is part 76 of 97 in the series Kathāmṛta

Early next morning, the three men began their journey. After travelling for several hours, they came by a pond and rested there until the sun went down. At night, as the stars began to dot the night sky, they climbed up a tree on the shore and sat down on one of the branches. After a little while, they witnessed something miraculous. From the depths of the pond arose a man. From his mouth, he pulled out a woman and then a bed. As the three men perched atop the tree watched incredulously, the strange man went to sleep with his woman on that bed. Once the man was sound asleep, the woman spotted a traveller lying down under a tree nearby. The traveller softly asked the woman as to who she was. She replied coyly, “He’s Nāga, and I am his wife Nāgakanyā. You have nothing to fear. I have known ninety-nine travellers like you. You are the hundredth.” Right at that moment, Nāga woke up and became furious at what was transpiring right under his nose. He attacked them both and bit them hard. Nāga’s wife and the traveller were consumed by the poisonous flames raised by his bites and were soon reduced to ashes. Then he slowly waded into the pond and plunged back to his realm. Looking at this, Śaśi and the others thought: Even though this man safeguarded his wife within his own body, he was not able to ensure her chastity. This makes one wonder if it is even possible to guard one’s women when they are all by themselves at home? Culturing themselves with emotions like universal friendship, the three men eventually obtained peace of mind. Practicing renunciation and restraint in all their actions, they finally attained mokṣa. Their wicked wives soon came upon untold miseries due to their unscrupulousness and fell out of favour in both this world and the next. Thus it follows that excessive attachment to women is a harbinger of woes. The wise spurn such ways and attain salvation through renunciation.

After listening to this story, Naravāhanadatta went to sleep.

9. The following night, Gomukha narrated the next story to help Naravāhanadatta pass the time.

The Story of the Headless Man and the Unchaste Woman

Long ago, in a distant town lived a wealthy merchant. He had a son who was endowed with the grace of Bodhisattva. When the merchant’s wife died, he married another woman and drove out his son and daughter-in-law. The young couple roamed the woods in search of food and water. Bodhisattva cared for his wife so much that he would carve out and offer flesh from his own body to her, so that she never went hungry. On the eighth day, they came upon a stream, whose banks were lined with several fruit bearing trees. They camped there for the night. Next morning when Bodhisattva went to take a bath in the stream, he saw a man floating. His enemies had chopped off his limbs and had cast his trunk into the river. Yet, somehow he had clung on to dear life. Out of sympathy, Bodhisattva brought him to the bank and revived him. As time passed, one day when Bodhisattva was away to gather fruits, his wife began to desire the limbless, headless man. Having grown tired of her husband, she sent him one day to fetch a herb from a gorge nearby, on some pretext. Even as Bodhisattva was helping himself down using a rope, the vile woman cut off the rope, sending him into a free fall. He plunged to the river beneath with a loud splash. Miraculously, he survived. He was swept away by the swift currents but he luckily reached the shore near a town downstream. The king of that land was dead and the disheartened townsfolk had unchained the royal elephant to let it wander freely, now that it had no master. As fate would have it, the elephant came to the shore where a weary Bodhisattva lay. Lifting him up by its trunk, it gently placed him atop its back and ambled back to the capital. Awestruck by the sight of this, the citizens took it as a sign from the gods and decided to crown Bodhisattva their king. In the meanwhile, the deceitful wife earned her daily bread by carrying around the headless and limbless man, roaming the streets begging for alms, pretending to be a woman of unrivalled chastity. As fate would have it, she eventually came to the very city where Bodhisattva now reigned. When the tales of such a pious woman reached his ears, the king became curious to know who this devoted woman was and asked her to be brought before him. He recognised her as his wife and said, “Owing to the pāpa you have acquired for pushing your husband into the river, you will need to beg with this skull!” She fell unconscious upon hearing it. Ministers came to know about her, chopped her nose off and sent her away. This is what happens to the characterless women; wealth naturally comes to the peaceful ones.

The Story of a Lady, a Lion, Svarṇacūḍa, a Snake, and a Bodhisattva

A Bodhisattva was once walking through a forest when he heard someone call out from the depths of a well. He peeped inside and saw a lady fallen there. She said, “Mahātman! I have fallen here into the well along with a lion, a svarṇacūḍa bird, and a snake. Please rescue us!” The Bodhisattva tried to rescue them using the power of this tapas. However, he had lost the magical skill. He thought: She must be a lady of fallen character; as I spoke to her, I must have lost my powers. He pulled them out through a chain he made out of dry grass. They all bowed down to him in gratitude. He was stunned seeing that the birds and the animals were speaking like humans and sought to know more about them. The lion was a vidyādhara named Vajravega. As he was disobedient, he was cursed by his father. The snake was the son of a muni. Svarṇacūḍa was actually a vidyādhara named Rajatadoṣṭra. He once snatched away the piñjara that his elder sister was playing and was thus cursed. The boy had captured a snake with three faces and had used it to scare his companions. One of his companions had cursed him. The lady was the wife of a kṣatriya who was in the royal service. Her husband wanted to punish her, for she had an affair with another man. She had escaped from him at night and as she was blinded by the darkness, she fell into the well. Once the Bodhisattva got them out of the well, they were all to be liberated from their śāpa. They promised him that they would come whenever he required their help. The lady became the assistant of the queen of Gotravardhana. The Bodhisattva was hungry and thought of the lion. It gave him the flesh of a deer and went back as a vidyādhara. When the Bodhisattva thought of svarṇacūḍa, it brought him a chest full of gems and ornaments. Bodhisattva started trading the precious gems and ornaments and reached Gotravardhana’s city. He deposited the chest in the house of an old woman and went to the marketplace. There, he spotted the lady who he had rescued from the well. He informed her of the ornaments he had brought. She informed the queen, who in turn informed her husband. The king called for the Bodhisattva, took the precious items from him by force and put him behind bars. The Bodhisattva then thought of the snake. The snake told him, “I will go, captivate the king, and keep him arrested at a place. I will not free him unless you ask me to do so. Tell him that you are trying to rescue him, let the king give you half his kingdom.” Saying so, the snake went ahead and captured the king. Thus, the Bodhisattva procured half of the kingdom. The son of the sage was freed of his form as a snake.

After having narrated this, Gomukha started narrating the story of the fools.

The Story of the Fools (Continued)

A śramaṇa was once bitten by a dog and was wounded. He thought: Everyone who sees me keeps asking what wound is this; I have to tell the same to each one of them. Instead, I will inform everyone at once! He then proceeded to his vihāra and started beating the drum that lay on the roof. Concerned about what had transpired, everyone rushed to the spot. Addressing all of them he said in a loud voice, “Look here! A dog bit me and it has left me wounded. All of you take a good look at it! Don’t come to me one by one and ask me about it!” They all said, “Such a huge fracas for such a small thing!” and went away laughing.

Once, a miser was eating raw flour without even adding salt to it; he fed the same tasteless flour to his wife too. They knew not even the taste of cooked rice. This being the case, one day, driven by some stroke of destiny, he asked his wife to make kheer. As she was cooking the sweet-dish, a friend came to their house without prior notice. Fearing that he would have to share the sweet-dish with the guest, he lay down on his bed and held his breath. His wife screamed, “Oh my! You are gone!” and began wailing. The friend suspected this to be play-acting and he screamed, “Oh my friend! Why did you die?” He then sat down by the bed, shedding tears. Hearing the news of his death, his relatives started pouring in. Even so, fearing that he would have to share the kheer, he lay down motionless. They tied up his ‘corpse,’ took him to the cemetery, and placed him on the funeral platform. At that point, his wife whispered in his ears that they were getting ready to set fire to the pyre. Even then, he did not flinch. Unwilling to share the sweet-dish, he gave up his life. All that he had accumulated with his years of hard work went away to the undeserving.

In a maṭha in Ujjayinī, there lived an innocent teacher. He was unable to sleep properly owing to the infestation of rats. A friend of his, who saw his plight, suggested that he raise a cat. He had no idea what a cat was. He asked, “What does a cat look like? Where can I get one?” His friend replied, “It is ash-coloured, with shining eyes; the fur on its back is hairy and soft; you will find it walking about on the streets.” He then called his disciples and said, “Now that you know the characteristics of a cat, go and catch one somewhere!” They went searching here and there, and finally they found a boy on the street who was dressed in deerskin. Thinking that this was a cat, they caught him and brought him to their teacher. The next day, the teacher’s friend came there and said, “A cat is a four-legged creature, not a two-legged human! Don’t you know even that!” They said, “Well, in that case we shall go in search of such a creature!” and released the boy from the ropes that they had tied him with.

In a maṭha, there once lived a chief who was utterly naive. Having heard that the dharmaśāstras hail the construction of a lake as a great act of puṇya, he had a lake constructed near his maṭha. One day when he went to see the lake, he found that some mud had been dug and removed. Another day, mud had been taken out from another spot. Wondering who could be behind this, he spent the entire day waiting to catch the culprit. Suddenly a bull descended from the sky and began ploughing the region with its horns. “This is a bull descended from svarga-loka! Why not go with it to svarga?” Thinking this, he held on to its tail. It flew along with him and in a flash reached Kailāsa. There he feasted and drank to his heart’s content and when he desired to reunite with his family and friends, he held the tail of the bull and returned to earth. Having learnt of his experience, they pleaded with him: “Take us also with you and treat us to some heavenly modakas!” He consented. He held onto the tail of the bull; one of them held on to his legs; the third man held the legs of the second. Like this a human chain was formed and they were flying in the sky. One of them asked the chief, “How big were the modakas you ate?” He replied by showing their size using both his arms stretched – “They were this huge!” thus releasing the tail which he had held before. All of them fell down and died.

Another fool was lost and asked for directions, the passer-by showed a tree and said, “Just go along, up the tree, and you’ll find the way!” He took it literally and held on to a branch of the tree like a pendulum; below that was a river. A mahout brought an elephant there so that it could bathe. The fool saw him and called out, “Oh noble soul! Help me get down!” The mahout held on to him with both his hands, the elephant meanwhile ran away; to attract some other people who might rescue them he asked the mahout, “If you can sing, please sing loudly! Hope someone might come and rescue us!” When he sang, the fool applauded in appreciation and released his grip on the branch. Immediately both fell into the river and drowned.

Naravāhanadatta fell asleep listening to the story.

To be contiuned...

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.

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.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...