Kathāmṛta - 81 - Śaśāṅkavatī-lambaka - The Story of Śrutadhī and The Story of Vimalabuddhi

This article is part 81 of 110 in the series Kathāmṛta

He was delighted to see Vinayavatī who was gathering flowers on the river bank while he was on the way to take bath. He bathed and by the time he came back, the parents of Vinayavatī - Tārāvalī and Raṅkumālin- had arrived. Raṅkumālin welcomed him and gave his daughter’s hand to him in marriage and also gave him a divine chariot. ‘Rule the earth bound by the four oceans with Vinayavatī!’, blessed Vijitāśu. Puṣkarākṣa ascended the chariot along with Vinayavatī and was transported back across the ocean, he ruled his kingdom for a long time happily with his wife.

3. It was decided that the prince would go to Ujjayinī in utmost secrecy, disguised as a mahāvratin. Bhīmaparākrama arranged for the appropriate costume for that involving khaṭvāṅga, kapāla etc. Meanwhile, a senior minister who was with Mṛgāṅkadatta’s father happened to pass nearby Mṛgāṅkadatta’s house, having chewed some betel, Mṛgāṅkadatta spat down from the balcony which fell on his head. It was an inadvertent mistake; but the minister was humiliated and wanted to settle scores; he was waiting for an opportunity which presented itself when Amaradatta was down with Cholera, he grabbed it and complained to him about Mṛgāṅkadatta saying that he is resorting to black magic. The commander-in-chief raided Bhīmaparākrama’s house and there the kapāla etc were found. The king seething in anger banished Mṛgāṅkadatta and his ministers. Mṛgāṅkadatta saluted his parents in his mind , worshipped Vināyaka, and set out to Ujjayinī. They reached a forest by the evening. They saw a lake nearby and decided to camp for the night there. There was a parched tree on the banks. In the night in the moonlight it suddenly blossomed, flowered and finally was full of fruits. The ripened fruits started falling down too. All of them ate those fruits and satisfied their hunger. They were tasty. But in an instant the tree was transformed into a brāhmaṇa. Mṛgāṅkadatta, surprised, asked who he was, he started narrating his story:-

The story of the brāhmaṇa named Śrutadhī

In Ayodhya lived a brāhmaṇa called Damadhi; I’m his son, Śrutadhī; during a famine when my mother died, my father brought me here. On that very day, a kind soul gave him five fruits. My father gave me three of them and kept aside two for himself and went to take a bath. By the time he returned, I had gobbled up even his share and lay sprawled on the floor, pretending to be sleeping soundly. When he saw my mischief he became angry and cursed me, “May you become a dried up tree. May you, however, bear fruits on moonlit nights. Your curse will be lifted only when a stranger is satiated by your fruits!” and went away. Today, thanks to you, my curse was lifted.

Mṛgāṅkadatta then narrated his story to Śrutadhī. He then continued his sojourn along with his ministers and Śrutadhī too, who had expressed keen desire to accompany them. Pressing forward, when they reached Kari-maṇḍita forest, the brāhmaṇas who resided there received them warmly, and offered them plenty of milk and fruits. After enjoying their hospitality, the retinue traveled further and arrived at the colony of hunters, whose chief Śaktirakṣita happened to be a childhood friend of Mṛgāṅkadatta. Long ago when they were still children, Śaktirakṣita’s father, the then chieftain, was seized by Mṛgāṅkadatta’s father. The man had offered to swap his custody with that of his own son Śaktirakṣita in order to go free. In due course of time when the old chieftain died, Mṛgāṅkadatta prevailed upon his father to have Śaktirakṣita freed and returned to him the charge of his tribe in the woods. Out of gratitude, Śaktirakṣita played a gracious host to them and also decided to join them in their quest.

As they continued their journey, they came across an ascetic. “I am a disciple of Śuddhakīrti”, he said, and added: “Up north from here grows a single aśoka tree. There is a nāga temple beneath it. It is inhabited by a nāga called Pārāvata. He possesses a sword named Vaiḍūryakānti. Whoever owns it is destined to lord over the siddhas. In order to secure it, I need the assistance of fierce warriors. Thus far I have waited in vain, and hence I sit here gloomily brooding over my sorry fate!”. Mṛgāṅkadatta vowed that along with his friends, he would help the ascetic. Onward they went and came to the nāga temple. There the ascetic began to perform various rituals in a blazing sacrificial fire. Within no time, a divinely beautiful woman magically emerged from the tree and embraced him passionately. The stunned ascetic immediately forgot the incantations he was reciting. The sacred vessel he used for the rituals slipped out of his hand and crashed on the floor. Right then, Pārāvata stepped out. Gazing upon the nāga’s terrible form, the ascetic’s heart gave away and he collapsed dead right there, out of sheer fright. Then, the nāga turned to Mṛgāṅkadatta and others, cursed them angrily thus: “All of you wretches are guilty of assisting him. May you all get separated from each other for some time!”. At that very instant, darkness enveloped them and none could see or hear anything. They ran helter-skelter shouting each others’ names loudly in the black of the night. After a month or two, Mṛgāṅkadatta was finally able to locate Śrutadhī. Together as they proceeded to Ujjayinī, they fortuitously came across Vimalabuddhi who narrated to them, his story:-

The story of Vimalabuddhi

Afflicted by the curse of the nāga I wandered for what felt like eternity and finally reached the hermitage of the sage Brahmadaṇḍin. After partaking of the fruits the kind sage offered me, I began to gather my strength. Soon one day, I started to explore the surroundings and came upon a cave. Unable to contain my curiosity I walked in. Shortly, to my amazement, I came to a mansion built of precious stones. When I peeped in through the bars of its windows, I noticed a woman turning a wheel swarmed with bees. Even as I stared perplexedly, they began to feed upon the foamy milk and blood spat out by an ox and a donkey respectively. The bees then transformed into white and black colored spiders and began to weave webs of variegated hues, using their own droppings. In those webs began to blossom, several benign and poisonous flowers. Even as the spiders lay happily in their web, a white and black headed python suddenly came out of nowhere and bit them all. The woman then put them in pots. The bees escaped from there, fell into the same net and started shrieking. Their screams disturbed the meditation of a tapasvī, who let out a stream of blazing fire from his forehead. This burnt down the net. The bees entered a coral reef and disappeared into the light above it. The woman too vanished.
He was astonished seeing these sights and continued to roam around. He spotted a lake full of lotuses, sat on its shore and looked into the woods around. He saw a hunter who had captured a lion’s cub in a net. It had ten shoulders. The cub escaped from his hands and he chased after it. It was running towards the call of a lioness which it had heard from another forest. There was a heavy wind, because of which it lost its limbs. A person with a large tummy came there the next moment and fixed its limbs. It then came back to its own forest with the lioness. Looking at this, the hunter offered to the lion the forest in which he was situated and disappeared from there.
Thereafter, I came to the āśrama and reported everything I had seen to Brahma-daṇḍin. The muni, who was a trikālajña – knower of the past, present and future – said – “Īśvara, who is pleased with you made you have those visions; you are blessed. The lady you say is Māyā. The wheel she was spinning is the saṃsāra-cakra – the wheel of time/ world. The bees in the wheel are the animals. The bull and the donkey represent dharma and adharma. Milk and blood that oozed out from the animals’ mouths are puṇya and pāpa, respectively. As they were consuming whatever was available at their own spots, they turned white and black, knitted the saṃsāra-jāla (the net of saṃsāra), experienced happiness and sadness and were killed by a snake which had a mouth that symbolized śubha and aśubha, i.e., auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. Māyā then put them in different yonis – they came out from there and again fell in the net. Then, the black bees prayed to Parameśvara and surrendered to him. Looking at them, the white ones too developed vairagya and prayed to Parameśvara. With this, Parameśvara, who was in the form of a tapasvī burnt the net with jñānāgni – fire of knowledge. They entered the āditya-maṇḍala (orb of the sun) and transcended it to reach paramdhāma. Māyā, the saṃsāra-cakra and dharma-adharma vanished.  In this manner, white and black animals suffer in the world because of their karma; they attain liberation upon performing ārādhana directed towards Śiva.

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

Author(s)

About:

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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