Kathāmṛta - 104 - Śaśāṅkavatī-lambaka - The Stories of Vyāghrasena and Sundarasena-Mandāravatī

This article is part 104 of 133 in the series Kathāmṛta

The minister Vikramakesarin finished narrating the story and said, “O king! The elderly brāhmaṇa narrated these stories and said, ‘Trivikramasena got everything he desired by the grace of the vetāla. You also learn this mantra to bring a vetāla under your control; you’ll find your king Mṛgāṅkadatta. You shall accomplish nothing by losing enthusiasm; you are my relative since you have saved me; so I suggest you this course of action!’ Upon his wise counsel, I brought a vetāla under my control and said, ‘Take me to my king Mṛgāṅkadatta!’ I was transported on the shoulders of vetāla to this place by an aerial route. These are the events which have happened since we were separated!”

33. Mṛgāṅkadatta along with his ministers continued his travel and found a divine lake and a tree with fruits near the lake.

Upon seeing this, overcome with hunger, all six of his ministers lost no time in climbing up the tree in order to gather fruits. After some time, Mṛgāṅkadatta grew very worried because none of those who climbed up had returned! He called each one of them by name several times. There was no reply. An anguished Mṛgāṅkadatta cried, “Alas! What shall I do now! I fear a demon in this tree may have devoured them all!” and fell down unconscious. Śrutadhi revived him and instilled him with courage. But Mṛgāṅkadatta was totally dejected and wished to drown himself in that lake. Just then a voice from the skies rang out: “Mṛgāṅkadatta, stop this misadventure! In the end, all will be well. This tree is home to bhagavān Gaṇapati. Your ministers have offended him out of ignorance. Without cleansing their hands and feet and without performing ācamana (ritual sipping of water), despite being impure, swayed by hunger they set foot upon his dwelling. An angry Gaṇapati cursed them: ‘May you all turn into that which you coveted!’ Mṛgāṅkadatta, you must now pray to him. Through his grace all your wishes will come true!” Accordingly, Mṛgāṅkadatta bathed in the lake, observed a fast, sat on a bed of grass and prayed incessantly to Vighneśvara for eleven days. On the twelfth night, in his dream, Gaṇapati appeared and said, “Child! I am pleased with your efforts. Your ministers will be released from their curse. Go with them and you shall obtain Śaśāṅkavatī!” Next morning, Mṛgāṅkadatta took a bath, offered his prayers to the tree and performed pradakṣiṇa (circumambulation). The very next instant, ten ministers of his came down and stood in front of him. In addition to the six who had travelled with him, now there were four more: Vyāghrasena, Sthūlabāhu, Meghabala, and Dṛḍhamuṣṭi. An overjoyed Mṛgāṅkadatta inquired about them. One of them, Vyāghrasena, replied –

The Story of Vyāghrasena and his Three Companions

34. Lord! After we got separated from you due to the curse of the nāga, I wandered around the forest the entire night. The next morning, I thought that if I went to Ujjayinī, I might meet you and so I started walking in that direction. On the way I met Sthūlabāhu, Meghabala, and Dṛḍhamuṣṭi. But they too had no clue regarding your whereabouts. We feared that something untoward has happened and decided to end our lives. Right at that moment, an ascetic youth came there and gave us courage. He led us to his father’s āśrama. There, he gave us freshly ripened fruits from a nearby tree. After satiating our hunger, we met sage Kaṇva who lived in that āśrama. He listened to our story and said “Brave as you are, why would you even think of giving up your lives? Staying enthusiastic when faced with difficulties is the sign of the virtuous. Those who bravely overcome insurmountable challenges through great deeds and finally reap the fruits of destiny are considered great men. Let me tell you the story of Sundarasena and Mandāravatī –listen!” Then he proceeded to narrate their tale –

The Story of Sundarasena and Mandāravatī

In the city of Alakā, lived a king called Mahāsena. His son Sundarasena had five ministers named Caṇḍaprabha, Bhīmabhuja, Vyāghra-parākrama, Vikramaśakti and Dṛḍhabuddhi. One day when he was about to leave with his ministers on a hunt, a saṃnyāsinī named Kātyāyanī arrived from a distant land and blessed him with the words “May victory be yours, O prince!” He paid no heed to her wishes and continued speaking to his friends as he moved ahead. She got angry and shouted – “He is already so arrogant! It is needless to say how he will behave once he marries Mandāravatī, the daughter of the king of Haṃsadvīpa. He will be deaf even to Mahendra’s words. We, common folk, will certainly be disregarded!”

Upon hearing this, the prince grew curious, called her, asked for forgiveness and sent her away to Vikramasena’s house with his men. Once he returned from the hunt, he asked her about Mandāravatī. The saṃnyāsinī spoke about Mandāravatī’s beauty and showed him the portrait of the princess that she had drawn. As the prince lost himself in admiring the beauty of the painting, the ministers asked her to paint the prince next to Mandāravatī. They said that if the prince’s painting is true to his real appearance, then it can be believed that the portrait actually represents Mandāravatī. She drew a fine portrait of the prince. The prince then rewarded her appropriately and took the painting away with him.

Looking at him, who had given up food and water and lost in thoughts gazing at the painting, his father asked – “Why should he worry so much? Mandāradeva of Haṃsadvīpa is a good friend of mine! I will ask him!” With these words, he sent a messenger to Mandāradeva.

The messenger carried the portrait drawn by the tāpasī and also the message of the king. Mandāradeva and his family felt that the prince was the best match for his daughter. Mandāravatī too was thrilled. Thus, Mandāradeva sent a messenger named Kumāradatta in reply. Upon hearing the nakṣatra [constellation under which one is born] of the bride from him, they decided that the kārtika-śuddha-pañcamī would be the best lagna for the wedding. This was conveyed to Mandāradeva as well. Everyone looked forward to the wedding.

Mandāravatī felt that the wait of three months was too long. She was lost in her thoughts about Sundarasena; she gave up food and water and lost weight. Looking at this, her father said – “You will need to stay with your husband anyway; instead of going there later, go there now. Why worry? He got her sent on a boat with his minister Vinītamati. On their journey over the sea, the boat broke apart due to torrential rains. Vinītamati and all his belongings were drowned in the water. The waves pushed Mandāravatī ashore. The ṛṣi Mataṅga who had come to the sea-shore to bathe, escorted her to his āśrama.

Back in Alakāpattana, Sundarasena too was counting days – he couldn’t wait to spend time with Mandāravatī. The king travelled to Haṃsadvīpa with his ministers and soldiers. On the sea-shore, Sundarasena met the king of Śaśāṅkapura, left his army with him and left for Haṃsadvīpa in his boat. After a couple of days, there was a storm in the sea and the boat was about to drown. Sundarasena declared – “It is because of my pāpa that a storm has risen in the sea. I will jump into the waters.” With these words, he jumped off the boat. Mahendrāditya and the ministers followed him. A huge wave arose and threw them all in different directions. However, Sundarasena and his minister Dhṛḍhabuddhi were together; by chance, they came across an abandoned boat that was floating their way and they climbed onto it to get ashore safely. Two ascetics who had come to bathe in the water found them, spoke words of solace, and took them to their āśrama. Elsewhere, Bhīmabhuja and Vikramaśakti swam in different directions and reached ashore independent of each other. Thinking that Sundarasena too would have safely reached the water-bank like they had done, they promptly set out in search of him. Caṇḍaprabha and Vyāghraparākrama as well as Mahendrāditya reached ashore; Mahendrāditya proceeded to Śaśāṅkapura. The other two went to Alakāpuri. By a stroke of fortune, Sundarasena came to the āśrama of Mataṅga ṛṣi where Mandāravatī was staying. She was amidst a bevy of damsels who were plucking flowers; even as he was amazed to set eyes on her, all the girls proceeded to have a bath in the nearby pond. A crocodile seized Mandāravatī as she entered the pond; at once, Sundarasena plunged into the water and struck the crocodile with the sword that he held in his hand, killing it. Since they had seen each other’s portraits, at first they started out with some suspicion but soon they got talking and became acquainted with each other. All suspicions were cleared and it was evident that they were indeed Sundarasena and Mandāravatī. Mataṅga ṛṣi hosted them for a few days in his āśrama and then bade them farewell as they set out to Alakāpaṭṭaṇa. They reached the ocean shore and he decided to travel by a merchant boat. He first had Mandāravatī climb aboard. The merchant was besotted by her and made signs with his eyes to the boatman, who started moving the boat forward even before Sundarasena and Dhṛḍhabuddhi could get on. Not knowing what to do and engulfed by concern for her, he was almost like a madman; they roamed about the forest aimlessly and were trapped by weapons-carrying hunters. Even a fierce battle with them proved useless; they brought an army, inflicted wounds, had their hands and legs tied and threw them into a prison. There, they found Bhīmabhuja and Vikramaśakti in a similar plight with hands and legs tied up. He learnt from them that on the following caturdaśī, the hunter-king was going to offer them as sacrifice to Devī. On the appointed day, the king of hunters Vindhyaketu came to the devālaya and told his companions, "Where is that hero, that elderly creature? Go and bring him here!" They brought Sundarasena and made him stand before the hunter-king. He recognized at once that the king of hunters was a vassal to his father. But what is the use of spelling it out to him? Whatever is destined to happen, let it happen! Thinking thus, he remained silent. Vindhyaketu felt that he knew this person and began asking him questions about himself. But in response, he simply said, "How does it matter who I am? Why ask these questions here?" After speaking for a little while, he recognized Sundarasena beyond doubt and said, "Alas! Alas!" before prostrating himself on the ground. “Mahāsena! Mahārāja! In return for all the grace you showered on me, what a great sin this wretched man was about to commit! I brought your son—who is equal to your very breath—to this pitiable condition! Why did Sundarasena come here?” Saying these words aloud, he held the young man in a tight embrace. He released all the prisoners who were to be offered in sacrifice to the Devī and instead performed a ritual worship of the goddess with prayers; then he took them all to his house and extended great hospitality. The prince told him all that had transpired. Listening to that, he said, "Don't worry sir! Strange are the games of Fate; the Fate that did all this to you and dragged you here will also reunite you with your beloved!" Even as he was speaking these words of solace, his Commander-in-Chief entered, saluted him, and said, “Deva! Some merchant with loads of money, attendants and a gem of a woman had come to this forest; we have caught him and have brought him here!” When an enquiry was conducted they learnt that she was Mandāravatī and he was the merchant who had stolen her. Sundarasena ran and embraced her. Both saw each other and wept. Vindhyaketu decided that the merchant should be killed; but Sundarasena stopped him. So Vindhyaketu confiscated all his wealth, which was dearer to the merchant than his very life, and sent him away. The dead aren’t really dead; one who has lost all his wealth is the one who would die every day! The king of śabaras arranged a great feast to celebrate the reunion of the couple and also sent the news to Mahāsena through his messenger. By the time he reached, Mahāsena and his wife, with no news about their son were in deep sorrow and were about to die by agnipraveśa (entering into the sacred fire). They were relieved to hear the news from the messenger about the well-being of their son. The people were happy too. Along with the king of Haṃsadvīpa who had come in search of his daughter, the king went to welcome his son, his ministers and four-fold army in tow. It was as though the ocean was swelling with joy seeing the full moon. The son and daughter-in-law prostrated before the king. Hearing the story, Mahendrāditya came from Śaśāṅkapura. Vindhyaketu too had come along with the prince. In all their presence, the wedding of Mandāravatī and Sundarasena happened with full pomp and glory during the same auspicious lagna that was decided earlier by the purohita.


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 G S, 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. A R Krishnasastri at https://ark.sirinudi.org/



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.

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