Kathāmṛta - 55 - Sūryaprabha-lambaka - The Story of Guṇaśarmā

This article is part 55 of 56 in the series Kathāmṛta

One day, the king was having his meal. Guṇaśarmā, who sat in his proximity refused to eat a certain dish which was brought to him by the cook. When asked the reason for his act, he said – ‘Even as I saw it, I came to know that it is filled with poison! You can test it by having it fed to someone else; I will then relieve him of poison and cure him!; When the king asked the cook to eat the particular dish, he fell unconscious upon eating. Guṇaśarmā used a mantra to review him. The cook then confessed – ‘Deva! Your enemy Vikramaśakti instigated me to feed you with poison!’

He saved King Mahāsena two more times from the machinations of Vikramaśakti. Once, when he was bathing in a river, a crocodile caught him and another time, when he was taking a stroll in a garden, a snake stung him. Guṇaśarmā was with the king at all those instances and saved him from death.

As the queen’s insistence grew day to day, he was forced to start teaching veena to her. She then expressed her heart. Guṇaśarmā said – ‘You are the wife of my lord. How can I cheat my lord? Let us not do this!’ She tried variously to convince him and then finally gave up saying, ‘Death will be the outcome of this. I will get you killed and I will die as well’. He replied – ‘So be it! It is better to give up life for the sake of dharma, instead of leading a long life of hundreds of crores of years filled with adharma

She wouldn’t listen to any amount of good counsel. Therefore, he said – ‘If you insist so much, I will need to act as per your request. Wait for a few more days. If we act immediately, others may grow suspicious and discover!’ With these words, he escaped from her pestering for the moment.

As he did not submit himself to her for many days, the queen who was upset with him complained about him to the king. She said that he used force on her and also added it was Guṇaśarmā who had received a bribe from the king Vikramaśakti of Gauḍadeśa and was instigating all activities against the king. She said that she got to know this through the cook’s younger brother.

The king called him to the court and before the assembly accused him of the criminal activities as reported to him by his wife. Guṇaśarmā said – ‘Deva! Please don’t speak so without knowing the truth. Acting in haste is not ethical!’

The king was enraged and rushed at him with a knife in his hand. The king’s guards too attacked him with various weapons in their hands. Guṇaśarmā tackled them all using his magic skill and got them all tied up with their hair. He killed the hundreds of soldiers who chased after him. With the help of adṛśyāñjana, he became invisible, left the country and headed towards the south.

In the south, he met a brāhmaṇa by name Agni-datta and narrated his tale. He invited Guṇaśarmā to his house, hosted him well and show him Sundarī, his daughter. Looking at her, he said – ‘This lady has a mole that resembles a tilaka on her nose. She has a similar mole on her chest. Therefore, she will have co-wives’. Agni-datta was astonished and said – ‘If the husband is rich, he will naturally have co-wives. A poor person finds it difficult to take care of even one wife!’

Sundarī fell in love with Guṇaśarmā. Agni-datta decided to give his daughter in marriage to him and also offered that the couple could stay in his house without any worry. Guṇaśarmā did not agree. He said ‘Ujjayinī is close by. The king might trouble me if he discovers that I am here. Therefore, I will go on a tīrtha-yātrā, get rid of my pāpas and give away my body!’

 

One day, the king was having his meal. Guṇaśarmā, who sat in his proximity refused to eat a certain dish which was brought to him by the cook. When asked the reason for this, he said – ‘Even as I saw it, I came to know that it is filled with poison! You can test it by having it fed to someone else; I will then relive him of poison and cure him!’ When the king asked the cook to eat the particular dish, he fell unconscious upon eating. Guṇaśarmā used a mantra to revive him. The cook then confessed – ‘Deva! Your enemy Vikramaśakti instigated me to feed you with poison!’

He saved the King Mahāsena two more times from the machinations of Vikramaśakti. Once, when he was taking bath in a river, a crocodile caught him and another time, when he was talking a stroll in a garden, a snake stung him. Guṇaśarmā was with the king at all those instances and saved him from death.

As the queen’s insistence grew day by day, he was forced to start teaching vīṇā to her. She then expressed her heart. Guṇaśarmā said – ‘You are the wife of my lord. How can I cheat him? Let us not do this!’ She tried variously to convince him and then finally gave up saying, ‘Death will be the outcome of this. I will get you killed and I will die as well’. He replied – ‘So be it! It is better to give up life for the sake of dharma, instead of leading a long life of hundreds of crores of years filled with adharma’ She wouldn’t listen to any amount of good counsel. Therefore, he said – ‘If you insist so much, I will need to act as per your request. Wait for a few more days. If we act immediately, others may grow suspicious and discover!’ With these words, he escaped from her pestering for the moment.

As he did not submit himself to her for many days, the queen who was upset with him complained about him to the king. She said that he used force on her and also added it was Guṇaśarmā who had received a bribe from the king Vikramaśakti of Gauḍa-deśa and was instigating all activities against the king. She said that she got to know this through the cook’s younger brother.

The king called him to the court and before the assembly accused him of the criminal activities as reported to him by his wife. Guṇaśarmā said – ‘Deva! Please don’t speak so without knowing the truth. Acting in haste is not ethical!’

The king was enraged and rushed at him with a knife in his hand. The king’s guards too attacked him with various weapons. Guṇaśarmā tackled them all using his magic skill and got them all tied up with their hair. He killed the hundreds of soldiers who chased after him. With the help of adṛśyāñjana, he became invisible, left the country and headed towards the south.

In the south, he met a brāhmaṇa by name Agni-datta and narrated his tale. He invited Guṇaśarmā to his house, hosted him well and show him Sundarī, his daughter. Looking at her, he said – ‘This lady has a mole that resembles a tilaka on her nose. She has a similar mole on her chest. Therefore, she will have co-wives’. Agni-datta was astonished and said – ‘If the husband is rich, he will naturally have co-wives. A poor person finds it difficult to take care of even one wife!’

Sundarī fell in love with Guṇaśarmā. Agni-datta decided to give his daughter in marriage to him and also offered that the couple could stay in his house without any worry. Guṇaśarmā did not agree. He said ‘Ujjayinī is close by. The king might trouble me if he discovers that I am here. Therefore, I will go on a tīrtha-yātrā, get rid of my pāpas and give away my body!’

Agnidatta laughed and said, “Do you also have such infatuation! What indeed is the trouble for a man of pure character if the ignorant ones stoop to insult? If a handful of mud is thrown to the sky, it falls on the head of the one who threw it. After your experience with Aśokavatī, if you have developed disgust towards women, why shouldn't you similarly develop respect and devotion towards women after seeing a sādhvī? So what if Ujjayinī is nearby? I will ensure that nobody knows that you are here. The puṇya that is acquired by a householder who lives at home and performs the deva-pitṛ-karmas as well as agni-kārya, japa, tapas, and other observances – will he ever be able to acquire that if he roams about from town to town (going on pilgrimages)! If you kill yourself, it shall be even worse in the afterlife! Therefore, listen to my words of counsel. Marry Sundarī and settle down here peacefully!”

Guṇaśarmā said, “So be it – but first, I must fulfil my vow. I have to invoke some devatā and ensure that I annihilate that ungrateful king!”

Following that, he received a mantra from Agnidatta to propitiate Kumārasvāmī and went to perform rigorous austerities to invoke the deity. Sundarī helped him greatly in his worship. Kumārasvāmī appeared before him and said, “May you be blessed with infinite wealth! Using that, defeat Mahāsena and become the king of the land!” Thus he blessed Guṇaśarmā with a boon. Soon afterward, Guṇaśarmā became the lord of Ujjayinī, married Sundarī and many other women, and lived happily ruling the kingdom.

After Sūryaprabha heard this tale narrated by Vītabhīti, he slowly drifted into sleep.

7. The next morning, the battle resumed. The devas and the asuras joined the battle. Brahmā advised Indra, “This is not a suitable time for victory, so call for peace!” In the meantime, Prabhāsa released the pāśupatāstra; over and above that Hari sent forth his Sudarśana-cakra. Sūryaprabha and Śrutaśarmā were engaged in dual combat; when he was on the verge of defeat, Śrutaśarmā released the brahmāstra. Indra released his vajrāyudha while others released various mahāstras. But Sūryaprabha shot the pāśupatāstra to counter them all. Eventually, Sūryaprabha won and Śrutaśarmā was captured. Śiva appeared there and brokered for peace between the armies. Accordingly Śrutaśarmā bowed down to Sūryaprabha and obtained the overlordship of Uttaravedi. Sūryaprabha became the emperor of Dakṣiṇavedi. All those who had died in the war in both armies regained their lives. In deference to Pārvatī’s wishes, Sumeru had his daughter Kāmacūḍāmaṇī married off to Sūryaprabha. There was a grand feast at his palace for everyone. Sūryaprabha himself went to invite Pārvatī and Parameśvara for his grand coronation and escorted them to his kingdom. He was crowned emperor in a grand ceremony on the Ṛṣabha mountain with much fanfare. Mayāsura was the one who coronated him and placed the crown over his head. Divine musical instruments were sounded. Pārvatī, Parameśvara, and the maharṣis blessed him. In this manner, although born a mere mortal, Sūryaprabha went on to become an emperor of the vidyādharas thanks to the grace of Hara (Śiva).

Thus narrating the saga of Sūryaprabha, Vajraprabha offered his salutations to Naravāhanadatta and flew away in the sky. Naravāhanadatta happily spent his days in his father's house in anticipation of becoming the emperor of the vidyādharas.

Here ends the Sūryaprabha-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 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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