Kathāmṛta - 99 - Śaśāṅkavatī-lambaka - The Stories of Śaśiprabhā and Jīmūtavāhana

This article is part 99 of 102 in the series Kathāmṛta

Story 15

22. Trivikramasena heaved the corpse onto his shoulder for the fifteenth time and began to walk. The vetāla began to narrate yet another story:-

In the kingdom of Nepāla is the city of Śivapura. A king called Yaśaḥketu lived there long ago. He had a daughter named Śaśiprabhā. One day when she went to the town carnival, she saw a young man called Manasvāmi. He too noticed Śaśiprabhā. It was love at first sight. Right at that moment, an elephant in rut broke off its chains and ran amok. Seeing it charge towards them, the princess’ retinue ran helter-skelter. A brave Manasvāmi however, gathered Śaśiprabhā in his arms and carried her all the way to the safety of her mansion. The whole episode caused the bonds of their love to grow stronger. Manasvāmi then went to a siddha named Mūladeva and sought his help. He turned into an aged brāhmaṇa; as he handed over another tablet to Manasvāmī, he held it in his mouth and turned into a girl. He escorted her to the king and said – “Ārya!  I wanted to get this girl married to my son and brought her from a great distance; I came here only to find out that he has vanished; let the girl stay in your palace until I search for my son and bring him back. You are, after all, the caretaker of everyone!” The king called his daughter and said – “Let the girl stay with you; let her have her meals in your company and sleep by your side!” The king’s daughter agreed.

After a couple of days, one night, Śaśiprabhā was lamenting. Manasvāmī asked – “Why are you crying? What are you worried about?” He managed to get her to reveal her love for him. The next moment, he got the tablet out from his mouth and his real form was revealed. Śaśiprabhā was thrilled and stayed with him happily. From then on, he popped the tablet into his mouth during the day and appeared like a woman. At night, he would remove it and appear like a man.

Once, Śaśiprabhā was away to attend her uncle’s wedding. There, the minister’s son saw Manasvāmī, who was like an assistant to Śaśiprabhā. He fell in love with Manasvāmī immediately and started craving for her company. He even gave up food and water in his longing for her. He was already married. Everyone gathered there said – “Let us get the minister’s son married to this girl. If his wife’s father comes questioning, let us deal with it later. We can convince and console him somehow. If this boy dies out of his pangs for love, the father will be devastated. He may even die because of the loss of his son!” The king decided to do so. The girl (Manasvāmī), however, said – “O king! You wish to get a girl, who was brought with a different purpose, married to someone else. You are the king. You will be subject to dharma and adharma that comes out of it. I will agree upon a condition. I will not stay with my husband right now; he should perform a tīrthayātrā for six months; if he insists that I marry him right away, I will cut my tongue and die!” The minister’s son agreed, married Manasvāmī who was in the guise of a girl, left him with his first wife and set out on a tīrthayātrā.

Manasvāmī waited for the right time. One night, when he was with the minister’s first wife, he said – “I have got a boon from Vishnu. I can transform myself into a man at night!” Saying so, he pulled out the tablet from his mouth and stood as a man. He started having an affair with her then on. As the six months of tīrthayātrā of the minister’s son was coming to an end, Manasvāmī eloped with her. Learning about all the events, Mūladeva brought his friend named Śaśi and told the king – “This is my son. Where is the girl I had left under your care?” The king replied – “Svāmin! She has gone away somewhere. Instead of her, I am ready to get my daughter married to your son!” Mūladeva agreed. They eventually got married. Śaśi brought his wife home. Manasvāmī appeared there and declared that Śaśiprabhā was his wife. He said that he had married her due to the anugraha of the guru in the past. Śaśi argued – “I don’t know who you are. The king got her married to me with Agni as the witness.” Their dispute found no solution.

Having thus narrated the tale, the vetāla said, “Mahārāja! Tell me, what is just; to whom should Śaśiprabhā be a wife? If not, your head will break into pieces!” In response, the king said, “It is only fair that the princess is Śaśi’s wife; it is to him that the king had the princess married off in a manner befitting dharma. Manasvāmī had married her stealthily through the gāndharva mode. Everyone should have what is rightfully theirs; how can a thief get authority over what is legitimately theirs?”
No sooner than the king said this the vetāla left the king’s shoulder and magically reached the same spot he was at before.

Story 16

23. For the sixteenth time, King Vikramasena heaved the corpse onto his shoulders and set out. The vetāla began narrating another story:

The vidyādhara king Jīmūtaketu ruled over the city of Kāñcanapura that lay in the foothills of the Himavat mountains. There was a kalpa-vṛkṣa (wish-fulfilling tree) in the garden of his house. He had a son named Jīmūtavāhana, who was born from the essence of a bodhisattva; he was a jātismara (one who remembers his past lives); he was a generous philanthropist and an extremely noble lad with great compassion for all animals and utterly respectful to all his gurus. When he was anointed to be the Crown Prince, he once went up to his father and said, "What is the reason for protecting and preserving this kalpa-vṛkṣa? All those people who constantly discriminated between us and them – where are they now? What good did it do for them? And are they even significant compared to it? Therefore, I shall use the kalpa-vṛkṣa for the sake of larger welfare; wealth is ephemeral; good deeds alone are eternal." The father gave his consent and so Jīmūtavāhana went to the kalpa-vṛkṣa, bowed down, and said, "Deva! You have fulfilled all the desires of my ancestors; now, kindly fulfil a desire of mine. Ensure that there is no poverty in the world; I am granting you to the people of the world." It rose high above and showered gold on all people, removing their poverty. As a result, Jīmūtavāhana’s fame spread far and wide. His cousins were overcome by envy and they declared war on his kingdom. At that point Jīmūtavāhana went to his father and said, "If you take up a weapon in your hand and enter the battlefield, is there someone who can defeat you? But does it make sense to wage a war and kill our cousins just for this wretched body? What do we need from this kingdom? Let us go elsewhere and live a life adhering to dharma, which is indeed the means to happiness both here and hereafter. Let these avaricious folks live happily with the kingdom that they are so greedy for!" The king said, "Child, the reason I want the kingdom is so that I can give it to you; if you are choosing to donate it of your own volition, will this old man object to it?" Jīmūtavāhana brought his parents to the Malaya mountain and they built an āśrama there. He spent his time taking care of his parents. There he befriended Mitrāvasu, the son of Siddharāja Viśvāvasu. When Mitrāvasu's younger sister Malayavatī had come to the Gaurī devālaya for worship, Jīmūtavāhana saw her. They both fell in love. Viśvāvasu decided to give his daughter's hand in marriage to Jīmūtavāhana out of respect for him. Also, since Jīmūtavāhana remembered his past births, he indicated that even in his previous birth, he was married to Malayavatī and had befriended Mitrāvasu.

After the wedding, he was on the beach where he saw a huge pile of bones. He informed him that those are the bones of nāgas, who were eaten by Garuḍa, one per day and who were being sacrificed by Vāsuki to avoid destruction of Pātāla. Hearing this, Jīmūtavāhana was saddened. “How can Vāsuki, being the king, sacrifice his subjects like this? Out of his thousand tongues, even one couldn’t afford to say, ‘take me instead of my subjects!’” he thought. Mitrāvasu went home on the pretext of work. By then the king’s attendants brought a boy named Śaṅkhacūḍa and left him there. He was to be sacrificed that to Garuḍa and his mother was lamenting asking for help to save her child. Jīmūtavāhana was willing to sacrifice himself in place of him. But both the mother and the son protested. “You are more valuable than my son!” said the mother; “How can a stone be exchanged with a gem?” asked the son. Śaṅkhacūḍa consoled his mother and went to see the deity gokarṇeśvara by the time Garuḍa would arrive. Jīmūtavāhana took his place instead.  After sometime Garuḍa flew down picked him and headed towards Malayagiri. When he was eating, Jīmūtavāhana in his mind was repeatedly thinking, “Let my body be useful like this in every future life of mine! Without being helpful to others I want neither svarga nor mokṣa!” Garuḍa pleased by his conduct asked him, “You are not one of the nāgas; who are you? O noble one!” His crest jewel meanwhile was drenched in blood and had fallen near Malayavatī. She took that to her in-laws who were terrified to see it and came running. Meanwhile even Śaṅkhacūḍa arrived and asked Garuḍa, “Why are you eating the vidyādhara! He isn’t a nāga; I’m your prey!” Garuḍa remorsefully thought, “Alas! What have I done? I’ve eaten a bodhisattva out of my ignorance?” Malayavatī, gazing at the sky, started praying devī Pārvatī, “O mother! You had promised that I’ll be the wife of the future emperor of vidyādharas; now your words sound hollow; please bring my husband back to life!” Pārvatī appeared in a flash and sprinkled a few drops of kalaśodaka to revive Jīmūtavāhana. Garuḍa said, “I’m pleased with your magnanimity! Ask me whatever you want!” Jīmūtavāhana replied, “Henceforth please don’t eat the nāgas; let all the nāgas you had previously eaten also be revived!” All the vidyādharas appeared and took him to the Himalaya. There he lived with Malayavatī happily ever after.

The vetāla finished the narration and asked the king, “O king! Between Śaṅkhacūḍa and Jīmūtavāhana, whose sattva is the greatest? If you know the answer and yet don’t speak, your head will crack into pieces!” The king replied, “For Jīmūtavāhana its a trait which has been his for many lives; so it isn’t so great; Śaṅkhacūḍa even though had escaped death and had gone far away, he returned and rushed to sacrifice his own body to the enemy who had gone quite far already. I deem this the greater act of virtue”, he said.

Since Trivikramasena spoke, the vetāla vanished from his shoulder and flew back to his original place.

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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