There, he found a yakṣiṇī, who had a divine charm. She was in the company of her maidens. Śrīdarśana saw that they were carrying varieties of delicacies and drinks; he gathered courage and went to them seeking the share of a guest. One of the women was impressed with his courage and offered food that would suffice for three people. After the three ate their portions of food, Mukhuraka said – “Ārya! You really are a man filled with divine qualities. I will offer my sister, this charming girl, in marriage to you!” He agreed and said – “So be it! I will marry her once I return to my native place!”
The three continued their journey and arrived at the Mālava-nagara. There, they took residence at the house of an old brāhmaṇa lady. They exchanged information about each other. The old lady said –“There lived a brāhmaṇa named Satyavrata under the patronage of our king. I am his wife and my name is Yaśasvatī; as I did not have children, the king , out of compassion for me, dedicated a quarter of my husband’s usual earnings for my livelihood. The poor soul is now afflicted with leprosy (kṣaya-roga). All the doctors have given up. A sādhaka said – “if you can lend me the assistance of a brave person, I will procure the help of a vetāla and help you get rid of your disease.” The news was made known around the town, no one came forward for the task. The king told his ministers – ‘Go check in the gambling grounds. You might find some newcomers there. Gamblers have no fears for their wife, children, money or wealth. They sleep below trees without any fear.’ Accordingly, the minister called for the head of the gambling grounds. You are the players; if you can take up the task, I will escort you to the gambling pavilion. I will give a handsome honorarium. The king and I will be ever grateful.”
Śrīdarśana agreed. The old lady escorted him to the head of the gambling pavilion, who in turn introduced him to the king. As per the instructions of the sādhaka, on the fourteenth night of the kṛṣṇa-pakṣa, he went to the cremation grounds. The sādhaka said – “Go west for about one krośa – you will find a dead body hanging from a mandāra tree. Bring it here!” He agreed and went ahead to fetch the dead body. However, by the time he reached the spot, he saw that somebody else was taking away the dead body; he ran behind the person and said – “This is my friend’s body. Where are you taking it?” he tried to pull it down from the shoulder of the carrier. The other person too said –“This is my friend’s body!” and held on to it. As they were fighting over the body, a vetāla entered it and made a screeching noise. The person who was carrying it away was shocked listening to its shrieks and died on the spot, out of fear. The vetāla said – “Whoever gives me food will be my friend. I will come with the person” As there was no other food available there, Śrīdarśana chopped his own flesh and offered to it. The vetāla was satisfied and came with him.
Śrīdarśana offered the vetāla to the sādhaka, who worshipped it. He sat upon its chest and performed a homa in its mouth. He used human bones as a ladle for the homa. The next moment, a flame arose from the vetāla’s mouth. Looking at that the sādhaka went and stood by the side. Since he displayed fear in this manner, the vetāla opened its mouth wide, swallowed him whole, and ran away. Śrīdarśana chased after him and the vetāla said, "I am delighted upon seeing your goodness. Hold on to this mustard that has emanated from my mouth. If you tie this to the king's head and hands, his disease will be cured. If they suspect that you have done something to the sādhaka, tear my stomach apart, and point to him!" Saying so, it went away. He spent the night in a maṭha and the following morning, went to the king and narrated all the events that transpired at night. Then, he tied the mustard to him as instructed. Taking the minister along, he went to the vetāla (corpse) and splitting his stomach, he pointed to the body of the sādhaka. The king was cured of his ailment. Soon after that, the king made Śrīdarśana the crown prince since he did not have any children. Subsequently, he got married to Padmiṣṭhā, who had served him so well and was an embodiment of Goddess Lakṣmī. He lived happily with her and with Mukhuraka.
One day, a wealthy merchant named Upendraśakti brought a Gaṇapati made from precious gems and gave it to the crown prince, who performed its prāṇa-pratiṣṭhāpana (installation) and gave a grant of a thousand villages to ensure that continuous worship takes place for the mūrti of Ratna-gaṇapati. Pleased with all his worship and devotion, Gaṇeśa told his gaṇas, "Among the islands of the West, the island of Haṃsadvīpa is ruled by the king Anaṅgodaya, who has a daughter by name Anaṅgamañjarī. She offered her worship to me and pleaded, 'Give me the lord of the earth as a husband!' Therefore, let us help unite her with this Śrīdarśana; then, both their prayers will be answered and their devotion will bear fruit. And as a result, Upendraśakti, who brought me from the sea, will also be benefitted." Accordingly the gaṇas took him to Haṃsadvīpa and made him lie down next to Anaṅgamañjarī. In the middle of the night, both of them awoke and were surprised to find themselves in the presence of the other. They wanted to exchange ornaments and get married in the gāndharva style but by then, the gaṇas put them to sleep and brought back Śrīdarśana to his own palace. They both experienced pangs of separation. Śrīsena had it announced in his land that anyone who possessed any information about Haṃsadvīpa should immediately come forward. Nobody knew a thing. There, Anaṅgodaya went to Brahmasena, a siddha-yogī, and told him what took place. Learning all the details from Brahmasena, the king said, "Where is Mālavadeśa, where is Haṃsadvīpa! How in the world can I ever get a glimpse of him?" Seeing him lament thus, Brahmasena said, "I will arrange for that." Saying so, he instantly appeared at the spot where Śrīsena was. He went to a nearby Gaṇapati devālaya and began offering worship. Even as Brahmasena was seated and performing pūjā, Upendraśakti's son Mahendraśakti came there and held him tight. He had gone mad long back and would roam about naked. Brahmasena hit him once. Immediately he regained consciousness and ashamed at being in the nude, he ran back home. This news spread like wildfire and soon, Śrīsena along with Śudarśana came to meet him. "You must cure my son too!" they pleaded. He replied, "What can I do to cure that thief! In the middle of the night, he came to Haṃsadvīpa, stole both Anaṅgamañjarī's heart as well as ornaments, and has brought it here! Even so, I shall do as per your bidding." Saying so, he held Śrīdarśana's hand. Both disappeared from there. Reaching Haṃsadvīpa, he obtained Anaṅgamañjarī. He brought her back. From the two wives, he respectively begot sons named Padmasena and Anaṅgasena. He became the king after Śrīsena and ruled the earth.
Once when he was in the palace along with his wife, he heard a brāhmaṇa screaming. He summoned him and asked the reason, he said, “my resplendent (dīptaśikha) Agni spewed out aṭṭahāsa and was destroyed by the dark clouds (kālamegha) along with the streak of light (jyotirlekhā) and smoke (dhūmalekhā)!” and he disappeared. The king was stunned, ‘What did he say? Where did he disappear?’ By the time he was thinking thus, both his wives cried, and with tears flowing from their eyes, died. Seeing that even the king lost consciousness. Mukharaka revived him and arranged for the funeral rites of the two queens. The king gave his kingdom to the two sons and retired to the forest to perform tapas. When he was roaming around in the forest, he reached a banyan tree, beneath the tree he saw two divine beauties who held two fruits and offered him, “O king! Take them!” he asked, “Who are you?” They replied, “Come with us!” and took him through a passage in the tree, where there was a city made of gold. He ate the fruit and relaxed while they narrated the story:-
“There lived a brāhmaṇa named Kamalagarbha in Pratiṣṭhānapura. He had two wives named Pathyā and Balā. They lived together till they grew old and then, requesting Agni that they should remain husband and wives for many more lives to come, they entered the Agni. Later the same Kamalagarbha was born as ‘Dīptaśikha’, son of Pradīptākṣa and the younger brother of Aṭṭahāsa. His wives Pathyā and Balā were born as Jyotirlekhā and Dhūmalekhā, daughters of the yakṣa named Dhūmaketu. They performed tapas to please Śiva in a bid to find a groom. Śiva appeared before them and reminded, ‘Both of you had entered Agni with a request that your husband of your previous life should also be your husband in this life; the same Dīptaśikha has born as a human owing to the curse of his lord as Śrīdarśana. Go to the human world, marry him and once the curse is lifted all of you will become yakṣas!’ Likewise they were born as Padmiṣṭhā and Anaṅgamañjarī and were wedded to Śrīdarśana. Aṭṭahāsa came as a brāhmaṇa and reminded this in a cryptic form which lead to their deaths. Those two queens you had were us and you are the very same Dīptaśikha.”
Listening to this Śrīdarśana at once became jātismara (someone who remembers past lives) and was transformed into Dīptaśikha. O Vicitrakatha! I’m that yakṣa, these are my two wives, Jyotirlekhā and Dhūmalekhā. Even for us who are of divine birth, sorrow and happiness come along as per their whim; what to say about humans! You’ll definitely meet your king Mṛgāṅkadatta in due course; don’t worry; this is my abode in the mortal realm; you can stay here; I’ll stay here till your desires come to fruition and then I’ll go to Kailāsa–He thus made me stay with him for sometime. After knowing that you all have arrived, he brought me here when you were all sleeping. Thus you saw me in that situation; and I saw you all!
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.