Kathāmṛta - 114 - Suratamañjarī-laṃbaka - The story of Tārāvaloka

This article is part 114 of 119 in the series Kathāmṛta

7. Upon observing his conduct, Sage Kaśyapa expressed his appreciation. He said, “O noble one! There never was an emperor equal to you; when you are seated on the dharmāsana—the seat of justice—you are not swayed by passion, prejudice, or malice. In the past, emperors such as Ṛṣabha were riddled with several flaws and ended up getting destroyed, losing all their wealth. Indra punished Ṛṣabha, Sarvadamana, and Bandhujīvaka for their excessive arrogance. When Seer Nārada asked Jīmūtavāhana how he attained such an exalted place, he replied, ‘I gave away as dāna both my kalpavṛkṣa as well as my body.’ Since he bragged about his deeds of puṇya, he fell from the exalted pedestal. Indīvarākṣa, the son of the Emperor Viśvāntara, raped the wife of King Vasantatilaka of Cedi, who then killed him. Lamenting for that wicked son, Viśvāntara lost all courage and died. It is only Emperor Tārāvaloka who committed no mistake after ascending to the throne and ruled over the empire for a long time; after enjoying his vast kingdom and wealth, finally he gave up everything owing to vairāgya [intense detachment] and retired to the forest. Never stray from the path of justice and ensure that your vidyādhara subjects too adhere to dharma at all times!” Naravāhanadatta asked, “How did Tārāvaloka take a human form and how did he gain all the wealth of the vidyādharas?” In response, Kaśyapa narrated this tale—

The Story of Tārāvaloka

Long ago there lived a king named Candrāvaloka in the kingdom of Śibi. He had a wife named Candralekhā. He had a renowned elephant by the name of Kuvalayāpīḍa. No enemy of his could defeat him in battle because he had the support of this remarkable creature. He had a good-looking son through Candralekhā whose name was Tārāvaloka. When Tārāvaloka came of age, King Candrāvaloka got him married to Mādrī, the royal princess of Madra and made him the crown prince. He gained fame in all quarters because he had the habit of granting whatever was asked of him. He had twin sons whom he named Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. They grew up as the cynosure of all eyes, loved to no end by their father and grandfather. This being the case, some of the enemies of Tārāvaloka invited few brāhmaṇas and coerced them to ask Tārāvaloka to give them Kuvalayāpīḍa in charity; if he gives them, then he can be defeated, otherwise his reputation would be smeared– was their rationale. They approached Tārāvaloka and asked him to give his elephant. He thought, ‘What use this elephant would be to these brāhmaṇas? Someone might be behind this! Let it be so, I’ll give the elephant; can any asker go away empty handed?’ and he gave the elephant. His subjects were distrubed and they went to Candrāvaloka and complained, “Your son has given away Kuvalayāpīḍa, it seems like he is about to renounce everything, undertake sannyāsa, and give the kingdom to you; send him to perform tapas; or get back the elephant; otherwise we will make someone else the ruler!” The king sent for his son, Tārāvaloka came in and substantiated his conduct, “Yes; I gave away the elephant; there is nothing worth keeping without giving it away to people in need; What use do I’ve with the kingdom which is anyway in the control of the subjects? What use do I’ve with treasures which aren’t useful to others? It is better to stay with the trees in the forest for they donate their fruits willingly to others rather than stay with these people who are like animals!” He wore tree barks, took his wife and children along with him to the forest. The children travelled in the chariot. Some brāhmaṇas whom he met on the way asked him for horses, he donated them, he and his wife drew the chariot. In the forest he encountered another brāhmaṇa who asked for the chariot, he donated that too and they continued by walking. They stayed beneath a tree, once Mādrī had ventured into the forest collecting flowers and fruits when an old brāhmaṇa came and asked Tārāvaloka to give away their children, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. ‘Fate seems to test my fortitude; So be it!’ thinking so Tārāvaloka gave away his children. Mādrī came back with flowers and fruits to see her husband alone sitting with a forlorn face, frightened, she asked, “Where are the children?”. He replied, “A poor brāhmaṇa came and asked for them, I gave them away”. “So be it; can any asker go away empty handed?” –she said. Their fortitude shook the throne of Indra. He disguised himself as a brāhmaṇa came to Tārāvaloka and asked to give his wife. Tārāvaloka didn’t even think for a while and went ahead, Indra stopped him, “O Rājarṣi! What do you want to achieve by giving away such a chaste wife?” Tārāvaloka, “I’ve no achievement in my mind; when someone asks for something, any time – even if it is my life – my vow is to give it!” Indra appeared in his true form and blessed him, “The discussion was enlightening! Don’t give away your wife; you’ll soon become the king of vidyādharas.” and then he disappeared. The old brāhmaṇa meanwhile who took away the children, lost his way roaming around, finally reached the city where Candrāvaloka ruled, and was selling them in the market. A few concerned citizens realised that these children were none other than Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa, the sons of Tāravaloka, and took them along with the old man to their king Candrāvaloka. There, the teary eyed king paid the old man and got back his grandchildren. He then took them to his son’s hermitage. Upon seeing his father, Tāravaloka ran to him and bowed down. Then, miraculously, a four tusked elephant, goddess Lakṣmī and the vidyādhara-chiefs descended from the heavens. Goddess Lakṣmī had Tāravaloka, his wife Mādrī, and their children Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa mount the elephant and took them to the vidyādhara realm. For a long time, Tāravaloka lorded over the vidyādhara kingdom. Then at last, he developed detachment to worldly life and left for the forests to undertake austerities and lead the life of an ascetic. Thus, although human, due to his virtuous actions, Tāravaloka became the emperor of vidyādharas. However, other men, who too had attained it, eventually fell from their position due to sinful actions. Hence I say, Naravāhanadatta, never allow sins to be committed - either by yourself or through others!

Having listened to this story from sage Kaśyapa, Naravāhanadatta said ‘So be it’ and turned to the vidyādharas and declared, “Now on, if any of my citizens transgress dharma, they will certainly be deemed fit to be put to death!” and had this message spread far and wide across the kingdom. His subjects obeyed his words faithfully.

Thus Naravāhanadatta spent his days during the rainy season in sage Kaśyapa’s hermitage in mount Asita, along with his maternal uncle Gopālaka.

Here ends Suratamañjarī-lambaka

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 G S, 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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