Kathāmṛta - 91 - Śaśāṅkavatī-lambaka - The Story of Vikramakesarin and The Story of Trivikramasena and the Vetala

This article is part 91 of 96 in the series Kathāmṛta

Mṛgāṅkadatta spent the night there and left for Ujjayini the following morning. On his way, he saw a terrible-looking person carrying away his minister Vikramakesarin in the skies. Looking at Mṛgāṅkadatta, he stopped at the point and let the minister down. Vikramakesarin prostrated at the king’s feet. They embraced each other. Then he told the man who had brought him, “You may reappear when I think of you. Now carry on!” before sending him away. Mṛgāṅkadatta was seated with everyone else, overcome by curiosity, asked Vikramakesarin to narrate his story, which he did:

Story of Vikramakesarin

Deva! Having been separated from you owing to the śāpa (curse) of the nāga (divine serpent) I wandered about here and there and finally thought to myself, Let me go to Ujjayinī; I will anyway find him there, and I proceeded in that direction. I then came upon a village called Brahmasthala. I perched myself at the foot of a tree next to a lake. An old brāhmaṇa who had been bitten by a snake came to me and said, "Sir! Get up from this place! Else, you too will incur a fate similar to mine. There is a great serpent coiled here, which has bitten me and I am on my way to jump into the lake and take my life." I dissuaded him from taking this rash step and counteracted the effect of the poison by the use of mantras. He then asked me with great affection my story. "Sir! You have granted me the gift of life; therefore, I shall give you the upadeśa of a vetāla-nātha-mantra, which has come down to me from my father! Here, take it! Indeed, it will be invaluable for people like you, who are endowed with sattva!" I said, "Here I am, separated from Mṛgāṅkadatta; what in the world can I do with a vetāla!" He laughed and said, "What are you saying! Don't you know that you can get whatever you desire with the help of a vetāla? Long ago, King Trivikramasena obtained the wealth and sovereignty of the vidyādharas. Let me tell you his story," he said and narrated the following tale:

Story of Trivikramasena

There is a town called Pratiṣṭhāna on the banks of the Godāvarī river. It was ruled by a famous king by the name of Trivikramasena. Every day, as soon as he entered the āsthāna (royal assembly), a mendicant named Kṣāntiśīla would offer a fruit to the king after paying his respects. This went on for ten years. One day, the mendicant offered the fruit to the king as was usual, and the king gave the fruit to a pet monkey that had unexpectedly escaped from the clasp of its keepers and proceeded towards the king. When the monkey started eating the fruit, a priceless jewel fell out of it. When the king saw it, he called for his kośādhyakṣa (the director of the treasury) and asked, "What have you done with all the fruits that the mendicant has been giving me over the years?" He had been throwing them in one corner of the treasury every day. When they went to inspect the place in the treasury, they found that the fruits had rotted away and the heap of brilliant jewels lay in a corner. Those jewels were brought to the king, who was delighted to see them. Then he gifted those jewels to the treasurer. The following day, when the mendicant came to the āsthāna, the king asked, "Noble mendicant! Why do you spend so much wealth and give me an offering every day? If you don't tell me the reason, then I shall refuse to accept the fruit today!" The mendicant replied, "Mahārāja! I need the help of a courageous hero in the performance of a sādhāna to acquire a mantra; that assistance, I request from you!" The king agreed and the mendicant said, "Then, on the night of the following bahula-caturdaśī, you must come to the cemetery. There you will find me under a banyan tree."
The king followed his instructions, in the evening, he wore black clothes, held a sword in his hand and ventured out of the city incognito and reached the banyan tree where he saw the mendicant. He was happy to see him and he said, ‘O king! If you venture towards the south, you’ll find a śimśapā tree. On the tree hangs a dead body. Bring that to me!’ The king likewise went to the tree, cut off the rope which had fastened the body to the tree, and the body fell down and shrieked. He touched the body to check if it was still living, it sent out a boisterous laugh. The king realized that it was a vetāla, but unperturbed he said, Why do you laugh? Let’s go!’ As soon as he talked the body again flew up and attached itself to the tree. The king didn't give up. He again climbed the tree, brought down the body and started his walk back without talking. The vetāla which resided in the body started talking, ‘O king, to pass time on the way let me narrate a story.’ It started narrating the story:-

The Vetāla-pañcavimśati. Story 1

There lived a king named Pratāpamakuṭa in the kingdom of Vāranāsī; he had a son named Vajramakuṭa. The son of the minister named Buddhiśarīra was his close friend. Once while hunting they ventured deep into the forest and they saw a lake. There a divine beauty had arrived to take bath, the prince and the beauty saw each other and were instantly smitten; the lady took out a lily which she had decorated her locks with, placed it on her ear and then she bit another; she decorated her hair again with a lotus and placed her hand on her heart; then she went away without speaking anything.

The prince returned to the city but was incessantly thinking about her and asked his friend, ‘I couldn’t get any information about her!’ he replied, ‘Didn’t you understand her signs? By placing the lily on her ear she meant that she is from the kingdom ruled by Karṇotpala, by biting it she revealed that she is the daughter of Dantaghāṭaka, by decorating her locks with a lotus she hinted that her name is Padmāvatī, By placing her hand on her heart she suggested that you are her very life.’  the prince decided to proceed further and he along with his friend again ventured out in the pretext of hunting, on the way they rode rapidly to purposely lose their attendants and went to the kingdom of Kaliṅga. Karṇotpala was indeed the king. They found where Dantaghāṭaka resided and found a place nearby which was owned by an old lady and stayed there in secret. Buddhiśarīra asked the old woman, ‘O mother do you know Dantaghāṭaka?’ She said, ‘Of course I know him. I was Padmāvatī’s nanny.’ he replied, ‘Can you please go and inform Padmāvatī that the prince she saw in the forest is here?’ He also assured her that they’ll give her money. She agreed and informed Padmāvatī, who as though enraged, slapped her cheeks and sent her back. The prince was disappointed. But Buddhiśarīra was delighted. “Look at this! Smearing powdered camphor on her palms, she has left the imprint of her all ten fingers on the old woman’s face. What she means is that this is the waxing phase of the moon and there are still ten days to go before you may meet her”, he explained. When the waning fortnight started, they sent the old woman again. This time, Padmāvatī herself brought the matter up. She then dipped three of her fingers in the juice of lac and slapped the old woman on her chest. Observing the mark of three fingers, the minister’s son Buddhiśarīra understood that Padmāvatī is having her menstrual cycle and would want to wait for another three days. When the old woman visited again after three days, Padmāvatī received her cordially and treated her to tasty food and royal courtesies and stayed by her side through the day. Just after sunset, upon receiving word that a rut elephant was running amok, she grew afraid and told the old woman:“Do not leave through the front door. Instead use the rope ladder hung from the window to get down to the garden. My friends will help you down”. Upon hearing what transpired, the wise Buddhiśarīra interpreted it for his friend, prince Vajramakuṭa. He said “Today your wish will be fulfilled. You must go to the King’s garden tonight. Then climb up the rope ladder to Padmāvatī’s chambers!”. Vajramakuṭa did exactly that and found that the attendants of Padmāvatī stood watch on the roof and even helped him up. After spending a blissful few days with Padmāvatī, Vajramakuṭa told her: “My friend Buddhiśarīra, the minister’s son, came away with me, but is now living alone in the house of your old nanny. I need to talk to him. I promise you that I’ll return soon” and started getting ready to leave. A curious Padmāvatī asked “Did you decipher my signals yourself or did your friend interpret them for you?”. Vajramakuṭa replied “All of this is the work of the wise Buddhiśarīra. Truth be told, I could not understand the signals at 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.

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

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...