The following night Gomukha narrated this story to entertain Naravāhanadatta–
A great muni resided in Dhāreśvara. He addressed his disciples, ‘If any of you have seen or heard something extraordinary tell me!’ One of his disciple narrated this story:--
The Story of the parivrājakas of Kaśmīra and Pāṭalīputra
A parivrājaka proud of his erudition resided in Kaśmīra. He declared that he would defeat everyone in scholarly debate and set out to reach Pāṭalīputra, on the way he sat beneath a tree. Another parivrājaka came there with daṇḍa and kamaṇḍala. He said that he is coming from Pāṭalīputra and he is travelling to Kaśmīra where he want to engage in scholarly debates and defeat everyone there. The first parivrājaka thought, ‘If I can’t defeat this one scholar from Pāṭalīputra can I ever go there and defeat everyone else?’ He said, ‘O muni! What are you doing? How can seeking mukti and this malady of debating be related? Can anyone cross a huge ocean using a stone boat? A seeker of mukti should take a vow of śama (tranquillity) and dama (self-restraint)!’ The second parivrājaka was happy and he said, ‘From now on you are my guru!’ he prostrated and returned in the same way he had come. The parivrājaka sat there smiling, he heard the conversation of a yakṣa and yakṣiṇi accompanied by their kin. The yakṣa beat the yakṣiṇi using a garland and she acted as though she was dead. Everyone was crying; after sometime she opened her eyes as though she was rejuvenated. The yakṣa asked, ‘What did you see?’ She said, ‘I was taken to the world of Yama by a dark complexioned man……..
He was tall as a tree and had thick and bushy curly hair. His eyes were red as embers and he held a rope in his hand. However the officials there had me released and sent back’. The yakṣa laughed disparagingly and exclaimed, “How is it even possible for someone stuck by a garland of flowers to die? And further, how is it possible for someone to travel to the abode of Yama and return alive to tell the tale? O foolish woman! You act like the women of Pāṭalīputra! It is ruled by a king called Siṃhākṣa. Let me tell you what transpired with him. On the evening of the waxing moon’s thirteenth day, accompanied by his wives, ministers and priests, the king was on his way to pray to goddess Saraswati, the presiding deity of the city. As they went, they noticed people with different disabilities and illnesses appeal fervently to the passers by. The beggars were sick and were pleading desperately thus: ‘Alms to the poor! Medicines for the sick! In this world devoid of all essence, only mercy and kindness matter. Of what use is charity done to someone whose stomach is already full!’. The women in the retinue were overcome with a sense of pity and begged their husbands to let them care for the wretches. The men acceded. The women took the destitute to their very homes and began to look after them tenderly. They beseeched their husbands to get the medicines for the sick and nursed them slowly back to health. Since they were constantly taking care of these sick people, they soon grew attached to them and began to freely mix with them and soon enough, started to even have illicit affairs with them. Soon, one day, when the king observed that the women were sporting nail-marks and love-bites, he asked his queen in a very courteous, inoffensive and fearful tone as to what was going on. To this the queen replied ‘My king! Although this is not something to be talked about, I will tell you, since it is a wondrous thing. The mace wielding deity visits me every night and goes back into the portrait at sunrise!’ The foolish king concluded that this was Lord Viṣṇu’s divine deed. Even the ministers and others believed in the same story. Do you, my dear yakṣī, take me for a similar fool? Off with it!” and thus ridiculed her. Listening to this, the wandering mendicant bowed to the yakṣa with joined palms and prayed thus: ‘Master! I have come to your hermitage, seeking your refuge. Please forgive me for having overheard your conversation!’. The yakṣa was impressed by the man’s truthfulness and said ‘What boon do you seek, my dear man?’. The mendicant said ‘I only wish you to not be angry with your wife’. The yakṣa said ‘Now that makes me even more happy! Alright, so be it. Now ask me for another boon!’. To this, the mendicant replied ‘If it pleases you, my lord, I wish you would treat me like your son!’. Now appearing before the mendicant accompanied by yakṣī, the yakṣa said ‘Alright! From this day on, you shall not suffer any difficulties. May you be victorious in every debate, fight and wager you undertake!’, and vanished. Spending the rest of the night there, as the sun rose, the mendicant departed for Pāṭalīputra. Upon reaching his destination, he met king Siṃhākṣa and defeated all the scholars of his court in scholarly debates. Then he declared ‘A mace wielder emerges from a portrait, carves love-bites and nail-marks and disappears back into the same portrait! Now, what does this mean? Can anyone solve this riddle?’ and challenged the wise men in the king’s court. Despite their best efforts, the scholars there couldn’t unravel this and simply stared at each other. Then at last when the mendicant revealed the matter to the king, the latter realised what had happened, and out of gratitude, offered him half of the kingdom. The mendicant however politely refused the king’s generous offer, saying he was more attached to his own native town. The king then gifted him with innumerable jewels and precious stones instead. The mendicant, now a wealthy man, brought his riches back to Kāśmir and settled down happily. I heard this story from the man himself!
After narrating this story, Gomukha said ‘Thus, the ways of wicked women are myriad and strange!’ and proceeded to narrate the story of Ekādaśamārikā:-
In the province of Mālava, a certain person gave birth to two sons and then a daughter. At her very birth, the mother passed away. Following this, in no time, the two older brothers also passed away. She, therefore, got the nickname ‘Trimārikā’ – the one who killed three others. She was married off at the right age. Her husband passed away too. As she lost ten such husbands, people started calling her ‘Daśamārikā’. She thought she had enough of marriage and asked her father to stay at her place.
One day, a handsome traveller came to their residence. She felt that she should get married once again and to him. He too fell in love with her. The father said – ‘You have already lost ten husbands. If this person dies, it will add up to eleven. This is absolutely shameless!’ The traveller who heard this, said – ‘I will not die. I too have lost ten wives.’ We both make the perfect match.
They got married. After a few days, he passed away out of cold and fever. She then went ahead to the banks of Gaṅgā and became a sanyāsinī.
The story of a man who became rich because of an ox
A man owned an ox – that was his wealth. Though he encountered lots of troubles due to the oxen, he refused to sell it! He was okay being hungry. He went to the devi Vindhyavāsinī’s temple to perform tapas, giving up food and water. The devī told him – “Sell your ox, you will live in comfort!” He, however, thought that he would become empty handed if he sold the only ox he had and, therefore, did not sell it. A wise friend told him – ‘O fool! Listen to the devi – sell it! You will get another one!’ Accordingly, he sold one and happened to procure another. He kept selling one after the other and lived in comfort. Fate rewards each person as per his sattva; a person who lacks sattva, will never procure wealth.
A rouge becoming the minister
There lived a rouge in a certain town in Dakṣiṇāpatha. He was occupied all the time in cheating others. As he had great ambitions, he was not satisfied with filling his stomach this way and desired to earn a lot of wealth. He put on the guise of a wealthy merchant and went to the palace. The king was deceived by his appearance and welcomed him generously. He told the king – ‘Lord! Please spend a moment everyday to talk to me in private before the royal assembly. I will offer five hundred dinars as a tribute to you!’ The king felt that this was a reasonable proposition and agreed. The world thought that he was appointed as the prime minister.
One day, as the rouge spoke to the king in the assembly as per their understanding, he kept looking at a Niyogi. As he stepped out of the palace, the Niyogi asked him the reason for his behaviour. The rouge told him – ‘The king said that you had captured his kingdom; therefore, I saw your face. I will console him!’ The Niyogi got scared, came to his house and offered a thousand gold coins.
Yet another day, he spoke to the king in a similar manner and told the Niyogi, “I have set everything right; don’t lose heart, be brave!” In this manner, one by one he earned money from all the Niyogis, kings, princes, and servants. One day, he encountered the king and said, “Lord! Every day I gave you five hundred coins and thanks to your grace, I earned fifty million gold coins; you must accept it all; this has nothing to do with me!” The king reluctantly accepted half the amount, felt overjoyed, and promptly appointed him to the position of the Prime Minister. Subsequently, he generously donated all he wanted to others and found great happiness. Thus, the wise ones earn a great deal of money without committing much pāpa. Just as a man who digs a well and gets dirty in the process finally ends up cleaning himself with the water that springs out of the well, such a person washes away all his transgressions using the rewards he has obtained.
The Story of Hemaprabhā and Lakṣmīsena
King Buddhiprabha ruled over the town of Ratnākara-nagara. He had a daughter of matchless beauty by name Hemaprabhā. She was a vidyādharī who was born in human form owing to a śāpa. Owing to that past saṃskāra, she would play on the swing all day long. Everyone around her were concerned that she would fall down while swinging wildly all day but she refused to pay heed to anyone’s words; exasperated with her behaviour, her father beat her, once. But that was sufficient to evoke rage in her; citing an excuse of going to wander in the forests, she permanently stayed put in the woods after giving everyone the slip. She ate fruits and roots. One day, when the king had gone hunting in the forest, he saw her – she had become a tapasvinī. Both of them were overcome by sorrow. The king offered words of solace and told her, “Come, let us go to your mother!” She simply said, “The Divine has shown me this path; I cannot forsake this life of tapas and come with you.” The king had a small house constructed for her at the very spot in the forest and every day sent freshly prepared boiled rice to her from the palace. She would offer the cooked food to her guests and continued to survive on fruits and roots. One day, a pravrājikā came there and inquired about her life and in response Hemaprabhā said, “I was pressing my father’s feet and at one point, I stopped. ‘Are you sleeping!’ snapped my father and kicked me with the same foot that I had been massaging. I was enraged and I left home to come here.” The two of them became fast friends. Once, Hemaprabhā told her, “Last night, I had a dream; in that, I crossed a huge river, then climbed onto an elephant and climbed a mountain; there I saw Śiva and I sat near him, playing the vīṇā. There, upon seeing a divinely handsome man, I jumped to the sky along with you!” Her friend said, “You might have been born due to such a śāpa; now the time has come for you to be released of the curse!” Thus she interpreted the dream. The next day, a royal prince riding a horse came near Hemaprabhā, who was in the attire of a tāpasī, and offered his salutations. He was a prince by name Lakṣmīsena. The moment she laid eyes on him, she recollected all the events from her previous birth. All her lost knowledge of various vidyās returned to her. She recalled that they were husband and wife. So also, Lakṣmīsena’s minister and her companion were husband and wife. In the meantime, Buddhiprabha came there in search of his daughter. He learnt that his daughter was actually a vidyādharī. All of them were released from their śāpas, returned to the world of the vidyādharas, and lived in peace.
Naravāhanadatta spent many days like this. On the day of the wedding, a group of vidyādharas descended from the sky. Spaṭikayaśa brought his daughter along and with the powers of vidyā he procured all the riches required for the wedding and completed the formalities. It was as though the rays of the Sun blossomed the lotus.
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