Kathāmṛta - 105 - Śaśāṅkavatī-lambaka - The Story of Mṛgāṅkadatta

This article is part 105 of 109 in the series Kathāmṛta

Deva! Kaṇva narrated this story and said, “Whoever would face adversities with courage will get all the fruits later, not the people who would run away in front of calamities; so, cast away your worries; Mṛgāṅkadatta will be reunited with Śaśāṅkavatī and he will rule the earth for a long time.” We found courage from his wise counsel and set out to find you. Bothered by hunger and thirst, we climbed this tree to pluck some fruits and we became fruits ourselves; you came and liberated us; these are the events which happened after the four of us were separated from you — said Vyāghrasena.

35. Then Mṛgāṅkadatta along with all his ministers, crossed forests, cities, rivers, lakes and finally arrived in the vicinity of Ujjayinī. The fort walls resembled the mountains. It was protected by soldiers wielding a variety of weapons. It was impregnable from all sides. Vikramakesarī thought he could use the help of the vetāla to bring Śaśāṅkavatī from her residence. The vetāla appeared as soon as he was called. He was dark complexioned; extremely tall; had the neck of a camel; face of an elephant; foot of a buffalo; eyes of an owl; but he couldn’t enter the city due to the vara given by Īśvara himself. Then Śrutadhi said, “O great king! The king of pulindas Māyāvaṭu, the king of mātaṅgas Durgāpiśāca, the king of kirātas…

This is not necessary for people like us; armies consisting of thousands of cavalry, infantry and charioteers are stationed at all the four doors of the city.” Everyone found his opinion befitting. Thus, they returned to the Vindhya mountains and met their hunter friends of the yore. They paid respects to Mṛgāṅkadatta and his friends and also assembled an army for their help. While they were about to set out for a daṇḍa-yātrā– an attack, Śrutadhi said – “Deva! Let us first try the sāma-mārga. Karmasena is not greedy and we cannot use dāna-mārga with him; as he does not seem to have enemies, we will not be able to use the bheda-mārga as well. The last meaning is the daṇḍopāya – but he is stronger than us!  Even the strong cannot be sure of success in a battle; moreover, a person who goes seeking for a bride should not kill her relatives; therefore, let us resort to sāma first, by trying to send a messenger; if that is not successful, we can finally take to daṇḍa – an assault. As Mṛgāṅkadatta felt that it was a sane advice, he sent a messenger. He went to the court of Ujjayinī, saw the king and handed over the message. A minister by name Prajñākopa tore it open and read it out –

Svasti! This is a message from Mṛgāṅkadatta, the son of Śrī Amaradatta of Ayodhyā. The message is sent to Karmasena, the king of Ujjayinī. It is sent from Karabhagrīvakoṭṭa mūlāṭavi. The following is the message – You are the father to a daughter; daughters are to be given away in marriage. You may get her married to me. The devatas have told me that she is going to be the right bride for me. We can thus develop a fresh alliance. Let the enmity of the past get erased. If not, I will ask my strong biceps to carry out the task.”

Listening to this, the king of Ujjayinī was annoyed. He replied – “They are our enemies at all times. In this letter, he has first spoken about himself and then has brought up my name as though with contempt! Finally, he has proudly declared the strength of his arms – the arrogant fellow. I don’t think this even befits a reply from me. Messenger! Go tell your lord that he may do whatever pleases him”

The messenger conveyed the message to Mṛgāṅkadatta

36. Armies got ready to fight; they met outside Ujjayinī and fought a ghastly battle. On the fifth evening Śrutadhi met Mṛgāṅkadatta in private and said – “When you were engaged in a battle, I went into the city of Ujjayinī in the disguise of a beggar. I will tell you what I saw there: As soon as Karmasena left for the battle, Śaśāṅkavatī sought the permission of her mother and came to the temple of Gaurī. She got a pooja performed seeking the victory of her father. She called one of her friends secretly and said – “Dear friend! This battle is taking place for my sake. The prince has now attacked our city; my father may give me away in marriage! For kings, their kingdom matters more than their children. I don’t know how the prince even looks. It is better to die than marry an ugly looking person. A handsome husband, even if poor, should be preferred; I would not like to marry a man who is not good-looking, even if he is the emperor of the entire world!

Therefore, will you go and see how he looks? You are no different from your name, Caturikā – the clever one. You are intelligent; you are competent to accomplish this task!" Accordingly, she came to the army camp in a clandestine fashion, looked at you said, "Mother! It is not possible for even Ādiśeṣa to describe the physical form of that prince; such a person will not exist even among the siddhas, gandharvas, and devatās!" From that moment onwards, Śaśāṅkavatī has lost her heart to you; therefore, go secretly to the Gaurī-devālaya tonight and escort her from there; both of you go away to Māyāvaṭu’s house; following that, the king and I shall come there. This war will not end; let the army not get annihilated; you and the king should be safe; fighting a bloody war that threatens life is the last resort – thus the wise ones aver!" And so, that night he went into Ujjayinī along with his counsellors. There were only a handful of sentinels at the door and even they had gone to sleep. Following the directions given by Śrutadhi, they reached the Puṣpakaraṇḍaka garden and saw the Gauryāśrama that was swathed in the bright moonlight. By that time, all of Śaśāṅkavatī's companions had fallen asleep. She alone was awake and her mind was flooded with thoughts. For my sake, every single day, kings and warriors on both sides are losing their lives. Goddess Gaurī came in my dream and promised me that the prince of that land will become my husband. I too love him dearly. But my father will not give this unfortunate girl’s hand in marriage to him owing to the longstanding enmity and the arrogant writing. If Fate is adverse, how indeed do I believe the dream? I see no path that leads to the attainment of my beloved. And so, it is better to give up my life. With these thoughts, she was trying to hang herself—using her uttarīya as a noose—to the Aśoka tree that was in front of the devālaya. In the meantime, her companions awoke and came in search of her. "O Daughter! Don't fret; what I promised you in your dream will not be false. Mṛgāṅkadatta has come to you; he is nearby; unite with him and be happy!" Thus, an incorporeal voice was heard from within the garbha-gṛha. Overcome with anxiety, she looked around. Vikramakesarī came forward and said, "Devi! The prince has been trapped by your lasso of love and he is near you!" Then he pointed to the prince. When she saw Mṛgāṅkadatta, she experienced horripilation and stood motionless. He came forward and said, "O damsel with gentle features! I have been captivated by your good qualities and having abandoned land and country, relatives and friends, I have come a long way. Having performed tapas—roaming about the forests, sleeping on the ground, being withered by the harsh sun, and filling my stomach with fruits and roots—finally I have received the amṛta-like fruit! If you truly love me, then come with me and brighten the eyes of all the elders at home! Let the war stop; let both sides live in peace!" With her eyes fixed to the ground, Śaśāṅkavatī said in a soft voice, "O āryaputra! I have sold myself to your good qualities; therefore, do whatever you feel is right!" Listening to those nectar-like words, he was overjoyed. He bowed down to Devī Gaurī and then he made the princess sit behind him on his horse. His counsellors took her companions with them on horseback. With eleven people fully armed riding on horses, the city sentinels did not have the courage to stop them. All of them safely reached Māyāvaṭu's house.

Meanwhile in Ujjayinī the news that the princess was kidnapped spread; the queen informed this to Karmasena through the city chief. That evening, the news that Mṛgāṅkadatta and his friends had entered in disguise, was known to Karmasena through the spies, who thundered addressing his five hundred riders, ‘get hold of that rogue; or better kill him! I’ll arrange for extra forces and will follow you!’ and sent them away. The commander himself led them. But on the way the city chief met him and informed him that some warriors had taken away the princess. The king with no other choice spent the night without any action. The next morning he sent a messenger to Mṛgāṅkadatta’s camp with this message. “Mṛgāṅkadatta has anyway taken away my daughter; whatever happened let us not dwell much about it; who is better than him? So please grace us with all your presence; I’ll give my daughter’s hand in marriage to him rightfully.” Everyone in Mṛgāṅkadatta’s camp believed this to be true, came to the house of Māyāvaṭu, and told Mṛgāṅkadatta about it. He said, “Have you all ever thought about whether it is prudent to go to Ujjayinī? The king is a tyrant; how can we believe that it’s a good thing to visit him? We have nothing to do there since we have already got his daughter!” Śrutadhi interjected, “I feel it is appropriate to go; he has mellowed down and has sent for you; why would he return back from the battlefield when his daughter hasn’t been secured? If you go with the army what is the worst thing they can do to you? If you go this would lead to love and affection; later this would be helpful too; he is not comfortable with this illegal wedding; therefore he has sent for you; so it is proper to heed his request!” Everyone agreed. Mṛgāṅkadatta was not happy about marrying without the consent of his parents. To bring them he sent Bhīmaparākrama to Ayodhyā. By then the king Amaradatta had become aware of the machinations of his minister which had resulted in unjust punishment to Mṛgāṅkadatta; in rage he had ordered the minister to be killed with all his family members and finally in sorrow he had left the kingdom and resided in the temple dedicated to Viṣṇu in Nandigrāma. Bhīmaparākrama met him and narrated everything. Amaradatta became happy and at once he traveled to Kāñcanapura with his wife and ministers on an elephant. His joy knew no bounds seeing his only son after a long time. The mother too couldn’t leave him for a minute. Meanwhile Karmasena sent another messenger, “If you don’t come to Ujjayinī I’ll send my son Suṣeṇa; he’ll give the hand of my daughter to you in marriage instead of me!”  Amaradatta agreed, “Let us have the wedding in Ayodhya; Let Suṣeṇa come there; we shall honor him along with all these people; we can go ahead and make arrangements.” They left Māyāvaṭu so that he could bring Suṣeṇa and the rest set out on an auspicious day…

The citizens of Ayodhyā decorated the entire city and received them with great pomp and fervour. As the panegyrists, attendants and singers sang songs of praise, auspicious musical instruments were sounded and everyone entered the city to great celebration. Māyāvaṭu arrived with Suṣeṇa. He greeted the king and offered him his respects. Suṣeṇa met his sister and said “I have this message from father: Dear daughter, I do not think that what you did was inappropriate. It is only today that I came to know that goddess Gaurī had spoken in a dream that Mṛgāṅkadatta shall be your husband. Do follow your husband’s footsteps - for that is the way of the virtuous women”. After listening to these words, Śaśāṅkavatī gathered courage and shed her abashment. On the day of the wedding, Suṣeṇa gifted bars of gold, ornaments made of precious stones, elephants and horses and helped conduct his sister’s wedding with great fanfare. Just like lord Viṣṇu married goddess Lakṣmī, Mṛgāṅkadatta married Śaśāṅkavatī and became overjoyed. Suṣeṇa, Māyāvaṭu, Durgapisacha and other friends partook in the celebrations and stayed back for a few days and after being duly honoured, finally departed to their respective homes. Amaradatta grew old and crowned his son king and left along with this minister to Kāśi. Mṛgāṅkadatta conquered the earth with the help of his friends and ruled happily along with this queen Śaśāṅkavatī. In his rule, the kingdom was free from famine, thievery and attacks from enemies and everyone lived happily.

Narrating this story to Naravāhanadatta in Malayavana, Piśaṅgajaṭa said “Just like how Mṛgāṅkadatta faced and overcame all difficulties to finally unite with Śaśāṅkavatī, you too shall unite with Madana-mañcukā”. Naravāhanadatta listened to this and took heart and bowed down to him and began his search for his missing charming-eyed maiden.

 

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/

 

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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

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