Now, I will explain the meaning of the phenomenon you saw in the lake. The incidents there indicate what will befall Mṛgāṅkadatta in the future. He is the lion cub; his ministers are his ten arms. His father, who is like the hunter shooed him away from his kingdom, i.e., the forest, out of anger. He heard of the fame of Śaśāṅkavātī, who is born in avanti; as he rushed towards her, he got stuck in a whirlwind, symbolized by the net and lost his arms which were the ministers. Following this, Vināyaka put them all back in place and he regained his original state. He went further, procured Śaśāṅkavātī with great difficulty and brought her to his kingdom. The hunter-king offered the entire kingdom to him and went away to perform tapas. Īśvara has indicated what is to happen in the future. Thus, your lord will gain the kingdom, ministers and also a wife. I left the place and have come to see you here.
4. Mṛgāṅkadatta continued on his journey in his company and reached a spot on the banks of the river Narmadā. There, as the king of śabaras named Māyāvaṭu was bathing, three water-creatures sprang up and abducted him. When Mṛgāṅkadatta saw that, he plunged into the water with his sword drawn and killed the water creatures, thus delivering the śabara king. Overcome by gratitude, the king took them to his village, offered them great hospitality and luxuries, and bade them to stay on for a few days. One day when Māyāvaṭu was playing dice with his pratīhāra (warder), there was a roar in the sky. At once, he got up from his seat, for he wanted to see the peacocks dancing. The pratīhāra, who was a compulsive gambler, could not bear this and said in a loud voice, as if addressing Mṛgāṅkadatta (who was seated nearby) as well – “What is the point in seeing the dance of those peacocks! They are uneducated in the art of dancing and have nothing to offer; if you are so interested to see a peacock’s dance, come to my house tomorrow morning. I will show you a peacock; it has no peers in the whole wide world!” At once, both the king and Mṛgāṅkadatta said, “In that case, we should definitely see it.” That night, Mṛgāṅkadatta smeared his body with musk, wore dark-coloured clothes, and with a sword in hand, went roaming about all by himself. On the way, unable to see owing to the darkness, he struck his shoulder against a stranger. When Mṛgāṅkadatta asked him, “Who are you?” he said, “I am a thief. Who are you?” Mṛgāṅkadatta offered his hand and said, “I am in the same profession as you.” The two of them became friends and walked together for a distance until they reached an abandoned well that was covered with grass. They entered the well and entered a tunnel that led directly to King Māyāvaṭu’s antaḥpura. In the light, Mṛgāṅkadatta immediately recognized the man as the same pratīhāra he had seen in the morning, gambling with the king; here was no robber! The pratīhāra did not recognize Mṛgāṅkadatta as his thoughts were with the queen. Queen Mañjumatī welcomed him and said, “What’s this? You’ve brought someone with you today!” He offered some assuaging words and said, “Don’t have fear or suspicion; he’s a friend of mine.” She said at once, “How can I get myself to be fearless and firm! Although the king was in the jaws of death, that Mṛgāṅkadatta saved him!” He said, “O my beloved, don’t worry. I will kill them both very soon.” She said, “Ah, how much you boast! When the king was caught by a crocodile in the Narmadā river, Mṛgāṅkadatta single-handedly came forward and saved him; why didn’t you kill him then? You ran away from there, overcome by fear. So, just shut your mouth! Someone might hear you speaking! Then you might have to face trouble from Mṛgāṅkadatta!” He said, “Oh, you have become besotted by Mṛgāṅkadatta! So be it, now, face the consequences!” and raised his sword to slay her. A confidante of the queen who had been hiding behind rushed forward with a dagger in hand, in a bid to attack him. In the meantime, Mañjumatī fled and escaped death. The pratīhāra grabbed the dagger from the servant-girl’s hand in such a manner that her fingers were chopped off. Then he took Mṛgāṅkadatta and proceeded to his house. He called for one of his servants and told him to prepare the bedding for his guest in the peacock’s room. Accordingly, the servant made the bed and kept a lamp next to it. Mṛgāṅkadatta thought to himself, This must be the peacock he spoke about! He then went to the peacock’s cage and opened it. The peacock came out, stared at his face, and began writhing at his feet. When it was rolling at his feet, he observed that its neck was tied with a string. Thinking that the tight thread might be causing pain to the bird, he untied it. At once, it turned into his trusted minister Bhīmaparākrama! Mṛgāṅkadatta embraced him and said in surprise, “My friend! What’s this!” In response, the minister told his story –
The story of Bhīmaparākrama
My Lord! Once we were separated I wandered in the forest and found a silk cotton tree. There was a mūrti of Gaṇeśa, I bowed down before it and being tired, I sat down. “I’m the sole reason for all this; if I hadn’t narrated the story of the vetāla, this wouldn’t have happened; I’ll lay down my life.” taking such a vow I stopped partaking of food and water. An old man came by and asked me, “Boy! Why such a forlorn face?” I narrated my plight and he said, “Even being such a courageous man, why do you think like a weak woman and preparing to die? Even women in face of adversities won’t lose courage. Let me tell you a story, listen.” And he narrated the following story –
The story of Kamalākara and Haṃsāvalī
In the city of Kosala lived a king named Vimalākara. He had a son named Kamalākara who was resplendent, handsome and munificent. A vandin by name Manorathasiddhi would repeatedly sing the following gāthā
कमलाकरमप्राप्ता क्व रतिं हंसावली लभताम् ||
[How does Haṃsāvalī (/group of swans) find happiness other than Kamalākara(/abode of lotuses) who is being praised by the group of dvijas(/groups of birds)]
Surprised, the prince asked, ‘why do you sing this again and again?’ The vandin replied thus –
“My prince! When I roamed around, once I had been to the city of Vidiśā where I happened to stay in the house of Darduraka who was a music teacher. During a casual conversation he informed me that princess Haṃsāvalī is performing a new dance item the next day. I went there to see the performance. Dancing to the breezy youth, she looked like the new shoots which had emerged from the tree of Smara, seeing her I couldn’t help but think that indeed you are the only man worthy to be her husband. After the performance I ventured out of the palace and put up a notice saying that if there is a better painter than me, they can come forward. None dared to challenge me and so I was hired as the royal painter. I painted your portrait there. One of my trusted friends came about singing and dancing as though he was mad. I brought him in and showed your portrait, and he saw it, started dancing while describing it, “My god! Kamalākara! Kamalākara!!” It caught the attention of the princess who asked, “Who is this? Who is the painter?”, I came forward and said, “I painted the prince as he is handsome; this maniac might have seen him!” The king Meghamālin shooed off my friend and sent me away.
However from that day on, Haṃsāvalī grew fond of you. Soon she began to wither pining for you. She visited the Viṣṇu temple everyday, under the pretext of overcoming lethargy. One day when I happened to be there to worship the lord, she noticed me. She then summoned me and treated me with due respect and gifted me with fine garments and precious ornaments. When I stepped out, I saw that on the edge of the regalia she gave me was written a śloka which I recited earlier. As soon as I read it, I understood her sentiment and I came here to inform you of this. Here is that garment! And here is the śloka she wrote!”
Thus when Manorathasiddhi showed him the dress, prince Kamalākara picked it up and read the śloka. He instantly felt as if Haṃsāvalī herself had entered his heart through his eyes and ears. When he was lost in thought about how to secure her hand, the king sent for him and said, “Son! If kings constantly remain home and appear sluggish like snakes charmed through incantations, it doesn’t portend well. You have always been reveling in pleasures and have not shown hunger for conquest at all. So this is my command. I want you to mobilize our army and crush our enemy, the king of Aṅga and only then return home!”. Out of deference to his father’s command, prince Kamalākara enthusiastically led his troops and accomplished the mission soon. He then sent the defeated king of Aṅga as his prisoner back to his father and declared “I will now press forward and conquer other kings!”
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.