Kathāmṛta - 79 - Śaśāṅkavatī-lambaka - The Story of the Elephants, The Story of Vāmadatta, and The Story of Mṛgāṅkadatta

This article is part 79 of 119 in the series Kathāmṛta

अव्याद्वो विघ्नविध्वंसकीर्तिस्तम्भमिवोत्क्षिपन् ।
करं गणपतिः क्रीडालीनभृङ्गाक्षरावलिम् ॥
[Let the deity, Gaṇeśa protect you, he plants his trunk like a victory pillar (Kīrtistambha) with the swarming bees around it looking like the letters on the pillar proclaiming his victory over obstacles]

अरागम् अपिरागाढ्यरचनाचतुरं परम् ।
हरं नवनवाश्चर्यसर्गचित्रकरं नुमः ॥
[We bow down to Śiva, who though free from rāga (color/passion), is adept in producing wonderful colorful creations, who continuously produces masterpieces]

जितं स्मरशरैर्येषु पौष्पेष्वपि पतत्स्विह ।
वज्रादीन्यपि जायन्ते कुण्ठितान्येव तद्भृताम् ॥
[Hail the arrows of Smara, which though made of flowers, subdues even the vajra and other weapons and their bearers]

Thus Naravāhanadatta lived happily with his new wife in Kauśāmbī. But Madanamañcukā was dearer to him than his own life. One night while he was asleep he dreamt that some divine woman had taken him to an unknown location. He woke up and found that he was in the foothills of a mountain, below a tree, lying on a tārkṣya rock. Beside him was the beautiful woman who looked as though she was illuminating the whole forest with her brilliance; he gathered that she is the one who has brought him here and he talked as though he was still asleep, ‘O my beloved! Madanamañcukā, where are you, come here!’ When he opened his eyes he saw the woman had transformed herself to Madanamañcukā through her divine powers, smiling he placed his hand on her, she discarded all her coyness, reverted to her original form and said, ‘Āryaputra! Take my hand in marriage!’ Thus he took her hand in marriage by the means of gāndharva-vivāha. The next day, curious to know of her lineage he narrated this story, ‘O my beloved! I will tell you this intriguing story, listen!’

The story of the female elephant belonging to a noble lineage

There lived a muni named Brahmasiddhi who was adept in yogic powers. Near his āśrama, an old female fox resided in one of the burrows. Once while it ventured out to hunt, it was chased by an elephant in rut which was longing for a female. The sympathetic muni saw this and transformed the fox into an elephant. The elephant was pacified and it showed great affection towards it; once while the elephant was trying to uproot some lotuses in the pond, it got stuck in the slime. Seeing this the female elephant deserted it and took another elephant as its partner and went away. Meanwhile by fate the original partner of the elephant came and saw the plight of the elephant stuck in the pond and due to its noble lineage it also ventured into the pond to rescue the male elephant and got stuck, The muni saw them and again being compassionate, used his yogic powers and rescued them. The two elephants lived happily thereafter. Thus even animals, if they are from a noble lineage, would strive hard to help their partners or friends in times of difficulty. Those who are low born and possess no modicum of self control, have no righteous essence nor any inclination for friendship.
The divine maiden listened to this story and replied “That is doubtlessly so. Also, I understood why you narrated this story. Now I too shall recount a story, pray listen!” and proceeded to tell the next story:-

The story of Vāmadatta and his unscrupulous wife

In Kānyakubja lived a brahmana named Vāmadatta. He had a wife named Śaśiprabhā. She was an unchaste and wayward woman, who possessed knowledge of the occult and wielded control over śākinī. One day, Vāmadatta was summoned to camp with the king for some time. Before he could return, his uncle came up to him and revealed in confidence that Śaśiprabhā was moving around with a cowherd who minded buffaloes. One night an enraged Vāmadatta came home stealthily to catch them red handed and punish them. Śaśiprabhā however spotted him and exclaimed ‘Fie up on you, O lowly man!’ and cast a pinch of mud on his face. Vāmadatta was instantly transformed into a he-buffalo. However he remembered everything that had happened. That day on, he became one among a herd of buffaloes and was frequently on the receiving end of the stick. One day a merchant bought him and took him away to his town on the banks of the Ganga. There, Vāmadatta lived on as a beast of burden and was filled with sorrow thinking, “If the wife one has trusted all along has fallen wayward, it is just like having a snake in one’s dwelling! What good can one expect from her?”. Observing this, a yoginī learnt about his story, and out of kindness, sprinkled water imbued with magic upon him and turned Vāmadatta back to his original human form. She then took him home and gave in marriage, the hand of her own daughter Kāntimatī. The yoginī then gave him a cupful of mustard endowed with magical powers and said ‘If you pour this over your unchaste first wife, she will turn into a mare!’. Vāmadatta then went back to Kānyakubja, and avenged his humiliation and misery by killing Śaśiprabhā’s paramour and then turned her into a mare which he tied down in his stable. That day on, he never partook of lunch before landing seven blows upon the mare first. One day a guest came to his home. When they sat down for lunch, Vāmadatta suddenly remembered that he hadn’t yet stuck his first-wife-turned-mare yet and hurriedly got up . After sticking her seven times, he felt content and came back to partake of lunch. Overcome with surprise, the guest quizzed him “Why did you suddenly leave your food and get up?”. Then Vāmadatta told him about his past. Listening to this, the guest advised him thus: ‘My dear man, of what use is this grudge? Beseech your mother-in-law who released you from the life of a beast of burden, for something good instead!’. Paying heed to the guest’s sage advice, once when his mother-in-law had come to visit, Vāmadatta requested and received the knowledge of kālasaṅkarṣiṇī. He then mastered it in Śrīparvata and turned into a vidyādhara and built a city in the Rajatakūṭa of the Malaya mountain range. In due course of time, Vāmadatta and Kāntimatī were blessed with a daughter. At the time of her birth, a voice in the heavens proclaimed “She will one day be the wife of the emperor of vidyādharas!”. O beloved Aryaputra, I am that girl Lalitalocanā. I have fallen in love with you and that is why I flew you here’.
Now that she had revealed to him about her family and lineage, Naravāhanadatta realized that she was a vidyādharī and became elated.
One day, when he was taking a stroll with her, she vanished even as she was picking flowers. He saw rājahaṃsīs, cuckoos and deer there, which reminded him of Madanacumbikā. Thinking of her, he fainted on the spot. Piśaṅgajaṭa, a sage who had come to take bath in the lake there sprinkled cold water on his face and woke him up. He said – “Ārya! Gather courage. Come to our āśrama – we will tell you the story of Mṛgāṅkadatta.” After he finished his āhnika and phalāhāra, he told the following story.

The Story of Mṛgāṅkadatta and his ministers.

There lived a king by name Amaradatta in the city of Ayodhyā. He had a son by name Mṛgāṅkadatta . He had ten ministers who names were – Pracaṇḍaśakti, Sthūlabāhu, Vikramakesarin, Dṛḍhamuṣṭi, Meghabala, Bhīmaparākrama, Vimalabuddhi, Vyāghrasena, Guṇākara and Vicitrakatha. They were all wise, brave and wished the best for their lord.
One day, one of his ministers, Bhīmaparākrama came to the king and said – “Prabhu! Last night, I suddenly woke up from my sleep and saw a lion running towards me. I immediately got up and followed it with a spear in my hand. It stuck its tongue out and I chopped it off with my weapon. It immediately transformed into a man who looked terrible. It said – ‘I am a vetāla. I am impressed with your honesty. Tell me what you want to know.’ I asked – ‘Who will be the wife of our king?’ The vetāla replied – ‘The city of Ujjayinī is ruled by a king named Karmasena. He has a beautiful daughter named Śaśāṅkavātī. She will be his wife. Once he marries her, your king will rule the earth.’ Having spoken these words, the vetāla vanished from the place.
The prince narrated this to his ministers, and said – “Yesterday, I had a dream – we were all in a forest. When we went to drink water in the forest, five men came up to us holding weapons and stopped us. We killed them and went ahead to drink water, only to discover that there was no water at all. The five men were not there either. At the moment, Īśvara appeared and dropped a tear from his right eye on to the earth. The drop grew into an ocean. From the ocean emerged a pearl necklace, which I picked up and wore around my neck. I drank the ocean using a human skull. The next moment, I woke up and it was daylight around me.”
Vimalabuddhi, who heard this said – “Mahārāja! Īśvara has blessed you. You will definitely win the hand of Śaśāṅkavātī and rule the earth. You might encounter some troubles too – that is what the dream seems to suggest”. He thus explained the dream.
Mṛgāṅkadatta said – “It seems likely that this is going to happen, based on what the vetāla said and the dream that I had. Still, I will need to get an army ready, capture his fort and defeat the arrogant Karmasena with my intellect. I can then procure Śaśāṅkavātī. It is right planning and wisdom that help in achieving goals. I will narrate a story in connection with this –

To be continued...

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



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...


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


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


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


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


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...


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...


“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...