The story of Bhadrabāhu and his intelligent minster
There lived a king named Bhadrabāhu in the Magadha kingdom. He had an intelligent minister named Mantragupta.
One day, the king called the minister and said, “Dharmagopa, the king of Kāśī, has a stunningly beautiful daughter named Anaṅgalīlā. I have asked him many a time for her hand in marriage but he has categorically refused, either due to hostility or on account of his arrogance arising out of his possessing an invincible elephant named Bhadradanta. What shall we do about this?” The minister replied, “Deva! Is valour the sole path to victory? Can we not succeed by means of intelligence?” The next morning, the minister went to Vārāṇasī dressed as a pāśupata ascetic taking along with him four or five companions. They were disguised as his pupils and they sang his praises to no end. One night, as they were moving about in secret, the minister saw the chief mahout’s wife leave her house accompanied by three or four armed men. He silently followed them until they reached a house. Seeing the house from afar and making a mental note, he returned to his abode. The next morning, the keeper of elephants was frantically looking for his wife and his wealth, fearing theft.The minister sent his ‘disciples’ to the mahout’s house, they saw that he had consumed poison which was quickly nullified by the antidote the minister’s companions possessed. They told him, “Why do you worry about this? Come to our guru; he knows everything!” Saying so, they brought him to the minister. The ‘ascetic’ pretended to meditate deeply and after a moment, told the mahout the location of the house that he had seen at night. The mahout went there with a posse of sentinels, who surrounded the house. He killed the thieves and recovered his wife and wealth. The next day he went to the ‘ascetic’ and invited him to dinner at his house. The minister said, “I eat only once, at night. Also, I don’t go to anybody’s house.” Therefore, the elephant keeper arranged for a feast that night near the elephant stables. When he went there, the minister took with him a poisonous serpent hidden inside the hollow of a bamboo stick. When everyone had fallen asleep, he sent the serpent into the ear of the elephant Bhadradanta. The serpent poisoned the elephant and it died. The next morning, the minister returned to his hometown. Dharmagopa’s pride was crushed. As a result, when an emissary was sent to his court seeking his daughter’s hand in marriage to King Bhadrabāhu, he meekly gave his consent. Kings bow down when the time is not right.
Listening to this, a minister named Vicitrakatha said, “Everything is possible with the grace of the Supreme! I will narrate a story to demonstrate that!” Then he recounted this tale –
The Story of Puṣkarākṣa and Vinayavatī
King Bhadrākṣa, who ruled over Takṣaśilā, was desirous of a son and so every day he worshipped Lakṣmī, the deity of prosperity, by invoking her in a sword and offering a hundred-and-eight lotuses to her. One day, during the worship, he realized that there was one lotus less and to make good, he tore off his heart-lotus and offered that itself. The devī was pleased and granted him a boon that he would have a son who would be a great emperor. He was given the name Puṣkarākṣa. When the son came of age, Bhadrākṣa crowned him king and retired to the forest. Every day Puṣkarākṣa worshipped Śiva and requested for a good wife. An incorporeal voice was heard: “Your desire will be fulfilled.” One day, when he had gone on a hunt he saw two snakes entwined together and a camel that was about to eat them both. Struck by compassion, he killed the camel. At once, it turned into a vidyādhara and said, “Mahārāja! There was a vidyādhara named Raṅkumālin and he fell in love with a beautiful vidyādhara woman named Tārāvalī, their wedding resulted in her father’s anger who cursed them saying that they would be separated for sometime. Then when they were travelling, they lost their way and got separated in the forest. Tārāvalī searched for her husband desperately and reached another forest across the western ocean. A jambu tree looked as though full of compassion trying to console her, she took the form of a bee and rested on one of the flowers, drinking nectar from it. Immediately she saw her husband and she shed a tear of joy on that flower and transformed herself again to her original form. Now having transcended the curse they happily went home. The jambu flower produced a fruit and the fruit produced a beautiful maiden in due course. Vijitāśu-muni was wandering in search of fruits, this particular fruit being ripe fell down, out came the beautiful maiden who bowed respectfully seeing him. He understood everything and adopted her as his daughter and named her Vinayavatī, since I troubled Vinayavatī, he was enraged and cursed me.. He also told me, ‘You will be freed from the śāpa when King Puṣkarākṣa kills you; he is the one who will eventually marry Vinayavatī! I have become free, thanks to you!’ On the shores of the opposite side of the ocean there is a forest named Surabhimāruta, go there and you’ll find Vinayavatī!” Puṣkarākṣa then ventured towards the western ocean and reached a temple dedicated to mother deity, Caṇḍikā, he sang praises and spent the night there. Next morning, by the time he woke up, he was transported to the opposite shores by the (gaṇa) attendants of Caṇḍikā. There he saw the āśrama of Vijitāśu, he approached and prostrated before him. He said, ‘O Puṣkarākṣa! Come! Vinayavatī, for whom you have come so far, has just gone out to get samit. Take her hand by marriage as soon as she comes back. You were a couple in your previous lives too :-
The previous lives of Puṣkarākṣa and Vinayavatī
In the city of Tāmralipti, there lived a merchant named Dharmasena along with his beautiful wife, Vidyullekhā. He was beaten up, wounded, robbed and decided to end his life together with his wife by entering into the fire. They saw a swan couple flying. Since their minds were fixated upon those swans when they entered the Agni, they were reborn as swans in their next life.
During the rains, a storm uprooted their tree, and the swans were separated, longing for the female swan, the male flew to the Mānasa lake. There another female assured him that there is still hope. He finally found the female swan and spent the rainy season there. Unfortunately the female was shot by a hunter. The hunter took the swan and on the way he saw armed men approaching him. Fearing that they might snatch the female swan from him, he got some grass and used it to cover the bird leaving it there. By fate the grass he had cut was a life-giving herb and the female was revived. The male meanwhile had settled elsewhere grieving for his partner. It was caught in a fisherman’s net. The female arrived and saw it’s plight. Quickly thinking what to do, the female went to the nearby lake, took a necklace of someone who was bathing and flew back to the fisherman. Seeing it he followed it leaving the other birds he had caught. The female swan deposited on a rock, when he went up to get the necklace, it stuck the eye of a monkey which was on a tree near the net with its beak. The monkey frightened lost its balance and fell down and net, tearing it. All the birds were freed and they flew away. Meanwhile the owner of the necklace found the fisherman and assuming he was a thief cut off his right arm and retrieved the necklace.
The swans reached a river where a muni was worshipping Śiva. Again a hunter shot an arrow resulting in their fall, the lotus which they were carrying fell on Śiva. The hunter took the male and gave the female to the muni.
O Puṣkarākṣa! You are the male swan, by the flower which fell on Śiva you are born in the royal family. The female is Vinayavatī since her flesh was used in propiating Śiva, she is born in the family of vidyādharas.” Puṣkarākṣa asked him, “O learned one! How did we end up as swans if the Agni is known to burn all our pāpa?” He replied, “A dying being’s last thoughts dictates its future life. Let me narrate the story of Lāvaṇyamañjarī–
The story of Lāvaṇyamañjarī
There lived in the city of Ujjayinī a brāhmaṇa girl named Lāvaṇyamañjarī, who had taken the vow of brahmacarya. She saw a brāhmaṇa boy named Kamalodaya and was attracted towards him. But she didn’t violate her vow and instead she went to the banks of the river Gandhavatī and abandoned her life while her thoughts were fixed on him. She was born as a courtesan but due to her good deeds in her previous life she remembered everything and she confided it to a brāhmaṇa named Coḍakarṇa, later since she was pure by heart, she attained sadgati though she was a courtesan.
Likewise if you think about anything/ intensely during your final moments you become that.”, saying this, he sent him to take a bath.
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.