Kathāmṛta - 84 - Śaśāṅkavatī-lambaka - The Story of Guṇākara, and The Story of Vinītamati

This article is part 84 of 119 in the series Kathāmṛta

Now, we have to escape from here with great speed; else, fearing that his secret will be revealed, he will kill me. Since this room has been locked from outside, we can't depart through the door. Therefore, tie the thread around your neck, transform into a peacock, fly out of the window; I will extend my hand and untie the thread around your neck. I will tie that around my neck, become a peacock, and then fly out of the window. Then you untie the thread around my neck – saying so, he ensured that it was executed similarly, following which they both proceeded to Mṛgāṅkadatta's abode. The next morning the king of śabaras, Māyāvaṭu, invited Mṛgāṅkadatta to play a game of dice. Śrutadhī reminded, “Aren’t we supposed to see the peacock dancing?” the king of śabaras instructed his attendant to bring the peacock. When he went home, neither he found the peacock nor the acquaintance who had introduced himself as a thief. He came back and reported that the peacock was missing. Noticing that Mṛgāṅkadatta and Śrutadhī were smiling, seeing each other, Māyāvaṭu inquired the reason. Mṛgāṅkadatta reported everything that had happened. Māyāvaṭu, at once killed that attendant and banished his wife. He spared her life only because Mṛgāṅkadatta intervened.

5. Once when Mṛgāṅkadatta, his friends, his ministers, and Māyāvaṭu were discussing, the commander-in-chief of Māyāvaṭu arrived and reported, “My king! You had asked for a man to be given as a bali to the Devī, we have brought one; he is courageous; he single handedly killed five hundred of our soldiers; we have thrashed him in such a way that he can’t even move and we have brought him here!” Māyāvaṭu instructed, “Bring him here, so that everyone can see!” Immediately they brought a man who was wounded due to multiple cuts from the sword, covered with dirt, looking like an elephant in the rut, all tied up so that he cannot escape. As soon as he saw him, Mṛgāṅkadatta recognised him to be his minister Guṇākara, with tears flowing from his eyes he ran and embraced him. Māyāvaṭu knowing what had happened expressed his regret, brought a healer and made them treat all his wounds. After he had adequate rest, Mṛgāṅkadatta asked him, “My dear friend! Narrate your story!”

The story of Guṇākara

My prince! Once we got separated, I roamed around and reached the abode of Devī Vindhyavāsinī. Due to the incessant balis being offered to the Devī, the place looked as though it was the home of Yama. Not able to bear the separation from you I thought of offering myself as bali and took up my sword. An old tapasvinī came and inquired. I narrated my story, after listening to it she said, “My son don’t kill yourself! Even dead people have come back and have reunited; why not the living? Let me narrate a story!”

The story of Vinītamati

In the city of Ahicchatra lived a king called Udayatuṅga. His guard Kamalamati had a son called Vinītamati. One full-moon day when he noticed the moonlit sky he thought of taking a stroll. When he had covered a mile he heard some woman crying. He proceeded in that direction and saw a divine woman under a tree crying, he approached her and asked, “Who are you? Why are you crying?”  She replied, “Sir, I am Vijayavatī, the daughter of Gandhamālin, a nāga chief. Long ago, in a battle, as the tides of fortune turned, my father had to beat a retreat. Because of this, he earned the wrath of Vāsuki who cursed him, ‘May you taste defeat at the hand of your enemies and become their slave!’. Soon after this, a yakṣa named Kālajihva defeated him and took him away as his slave. To release my father from this bondage, I undertook severe austerities to please goddess Gaurī. At long last, the divine mother appeared before me and spoke to me in a soothing voice thus: ‘Daughter! Your father is now in the servitude of the yakṣa Kālajihva, who flies around the enchanted Mānasa-sarovara in the form of a cakravāka bird. Seek out the brave Vinītamati of Ahicchatra. Give him this horse and sword and beg him for help. He will surely defeat the yakṣa and unite you with your father’, and then she vanished. Thus I have come here seeking your help. I was waiting for you to step out of your house and sought your attention through my wails'.' Vinītamati rose to the challenge and agreed to help her. He mounted the horse gifted by goddess Gaurī. Armed with the divine sword, he immediately rode to Mānasa-sarovara. As soon as Kālajihva saw Vinītamati approach menacingly, he gave up his bird-form and stood up. In a flash, Vinītamati swooped down upon him. Grabbing him by the knot of his hair, just as he was about to bring down the sword upon his neck, the petrified yakṣa conceded defeat and begged him for mercy. Kālajihva gifted the victorious Vinītamati a magical ring which had powers to ward off all difficulties and then released Gandhamālin from enslavement. The nāga chief, now free, was only too happy to give the hand of his daughter Vijayavatī in marriage to Vinītamati. Thus did Vinītamati accomplish great deeds of valour overnight and returned home with a magical sword, an enchanted ring, a divine horse, and above all, a beautiful nāga bride. His exploits and achievements filled his father with great pride.

One day, Kamalamati asked Vinītamati in private: “Child! Did you know that Udayavatī, the daughter of our king Udayatuṅga is highly erudite? The king has vowed that the man who defeats her in a scholarly debate will win her hand. Many have already tried and lost. You are so brave and valorous; won’t you be able to win her hand?”. Vinītamati replied “Father! What is the point of a debate with a woman! However, I shall do it since it’s your wish!”. The very next morning, he strode to the palace. The assembly of scholars soon gathered. Shortly the princess stepped into the hall and put forth her scholarly challenge (pūrva-pakṣa). It felt like a garland of word-jewels woven together, strung with the rays of glow from her pearl like teeth. Vinītamati only needed a moment to hand Udayavatī, her first ever defeat. The princess however felt in her heart that she was the winner, for she had obtained a husband who had outmatched her. Thus, Vinītamati lived happily with his nāga-wife and the princess.

One morning a poor brāhmaṇa came to Vinītamati as a beseecher, but put forth a long list of conditions. Vinītamati grew upset and summoned his servant and whispered in his ear, “Fill a vessel to its brim with sand and close its mouth with a piece of cloth and give it away to him!”. When the brāhmaṇa received the vessel, he felt elated at how heavy it weighed in his hand. Imagining it to be filled with gold, he took it to  a secluded place, looking over his shoulder all the way. With his heart racing with excitement, he opened the hefty vessel. His excitement immediately turned into gloom when he found that it was filled with mere sand. Disenchanted, he emptied the vessel where he stood and walked away.

As time rolled past, Udayatuṅga became old and handed over the reins of his kingdom to his son in law and went on pilgrimage to the shores of Gaṅgā. Thanks to the effects of his magical ring, Vinītamati’s kingdom saw no calamities and prospered greatly.
One day, a Buddhist monk from a foreign land came to Vinītamati and challenged him to a debate. He declared: “If I lose, I will serve brāhmaṇas for the rest of my life. If you lose, you must adopt Buddhism”. Vinītamati agreed to this stipulation. The king lost the debate and had to submit to the way of Saugata (the Buddha).
The bhikṣu helped him see an āṇava-svapna (fleeting dream). In the dream, the servants of the para-loka offered him hot sand and asked him to eat it. This was the result of offering sand to a person who sought alms. As a sign of repentance, he offered ten crore golden coins to undo the act.
The next day too, he dreamed as though being offered hot sand. He was distressed and said – “How can a person like me follow dharma that is so difficult!”
The bhikṣu upon hearing this said – “No! It is not so. A wise and courageous person who is enthusiastic as well is taken care of by the devatās and they also fulfil his desires. If you haven’t heard the Varāha-jātaka of Bodhisattva, I will narrate it, listen”

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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