Kathāmṛta - 78 - Velā-lambaka - The Story of Candrasāra and Velā

This article is part 78 of 103 in the series Kathāmṛta

नमताशेषविघ्नौघवारणं वारणाननम् |
कारणं सर्वसिद्धीनां दुरितार्णववारणम् ||

We pray to the elephant faced Ganeśa, who removes all traces of torrents of obstacles!
Who is the cause of all achievements and warder-off of the ocean of hardships!

One day when Naravāhanadatta was in the royal gardens, two princes from another kingdom came to him. One of them said “O prince! We are Ruciradeva and Potaka, the children of the king of Vaiśākhanagara. We need you to help settle a dispute between us brothers. I possess a magnificent elephant and my brother has two swift horses. It’s my wager that my elephant is faster than his horses. But he asserts it’s the other way around. If I am proven wrong, I must give away my elephant to him and if his stand is incorrect, his horses would be mine - this is our covenant. You must come with us to Vaiśākhanagara and resolve this!” Naravāhanadatta agreed to arbitrate between them and mounted their chariot right away and off they went. Upon reaching Vaiśākhanagara, he stayed in the home of Ruciradeva. Whilst there, he visited the temple dedicated to Kāma, the deity of love, there he saw Jayendrasenā, the beautiful sister of Ruciradeva and fell in love with her. The princess too was smitten with Naravāhanadatta.

The race was held the next morning. Potaka unleashed his horses and Ruciradeva let his pachyderm off the chains. Naravāhanadatta rode the elephant and due to his skill and the elephant’s dexterity, the elephant won the race and the steeds now belonged to Ruciradeva. With the dispute resolved, even as Naravāhanadatta was returning to his quarters, a messenger from Vatsarāja came up to him and said “O prince, I have been dispatched by the king with this urgent message: You were just walking about in the gardens, and on the spur of the moment you decided to ride away! Is it befitting that you travel to another kingdom without even informing us? We fear the worst. Hence leave all this and return home immediately”. Listening to this, Naravāhanadatta became worried about how he would bid Jayendrasenā adieu. Right then, a merchant approached him and exclaimed from afar: ‘Victory to the future emperor of the Vidyadharas!’ and bowed down to him. The prince received him with due respects and asked ‘Who are you? What is your story?’. Then the merchant replied:-

The story of Candrasāra

I am a merchant from Lampānagara, the crown jewel of this world. I’m the son of Kusumasāra, Candrasāra is my name. I had once undertaken a journey to a distant island to sell precious stones. The ruler of the land had me arrested and imprisoned. However, Mahīdhara, a renowned merchant there who knew my family, explained my situation to the king and had me released. As days passed, one morning, at a fair, I saw the beautiful daughter of a merchant named Śikhara. I fell in love with her instantly. I approached the merchant and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He thought for a moment and said ‘I cannot give her away myself. There are reasons for this. So I am going to send her to my maternal grandfather. You must go there and wed her!’. Then he put his daughter along with her retinue aboard a ship and set off to the island of Simhala. However, just as I was about to leave to join her, I received the terrible news that the ship on which my beloved had departed, had sunk!

To figure out the truth of the matter, I abandoned all my riches and set out on a boat and followed. It got stuck in a tempest as well and broke apart. My companions drowned in the ocean and lost their lives. I caught on to a plank and floated until I reached a sandy shore. I picked up a piece of gold which I fortunately found there, sold it in a nearby village and bought food and clothes for myself. As I was roaming around aimlessly, I found a muni-kanyā who was performing archanā to a liṅga. I thought ‘Could this be her?’ The next moment, I felt – ‘Ah! Will I be so lucky?’ My right eye throbbed. Gaining confidence, I asked her – ‘You appear like someone who should be living in a palatial mansion. Who are you?’ She did not reply. I hid behind foliage, fearing that she might curse me and watched her. Once she finished her archanā, she walked away from the place and looked at me time and again as though filled with love, as she went. I felt dazed and as though I was blacking out.

After a while, a brilliant muni-kanyā came there and said – “Candrasāra! A merchant named Śikhara, who lives on another island, gave birth to a beautiful maiden. His friend, a bhikṣu by name Jinarakṣita said – ‘You should not hand over the maiden in marriage by yourself. If you do so, it will harm you’. Therefore, she was sent to her grandfather’s place. While she was on her way, her boat broke apart. She was destined to live longer – she came floating on the waves and landed on the seashore.  My father, Mātaṅga muni, who had gone to take bath, spotted her as she struggled to hold on to her life. He brought her to the āśrama and instructed me – ‘Yamunā! Take care of her.’ As she was found on the shore of the ocean, she was named Velā. I have been taking care of her like my own daughter. Even in my brahmacarya, I have got attached to a family in this form. I came to know from my dhyāna that you were her husband in her previous life and that you have arrived here. I sent her to perform archanā such that she will be spotted by you. Come, marry her. May you overcome your difficulties.” Her words were like a downpour of amṛta to me. Mātaṅga offered her to me in marriage.

Once as we were playing in a lake, we happened to splash water on Mātaṅga as he was bathing. He was enraged and cursed us – ‘You will suffer pain of separation!” Velā fell upon his feet and requested him for an antidote – “Candrasāra! When you see Naravāhanadatta winning over the speeding horses on an elephant, you will be free of the curse.” With these words, the sage went away to Śvetadvīpa.

As I was about to depart with my wife to my native place, there was a powerful whirlwind. My wife was on the boat and I was about to get on to it as well. The winds carried the boat away and I fell down unconscious. A tapasvin brought me to the āśrama and consoled me. I then met a merchant who came there after having lost his boat. I went with him in search of my beloved. After roaming around for many days, I arrived at Vaiśākhanagara and discovered that you had come there. I saw you defeating horses with your elephant. I overcame the curse and my insides became free of guilt. The next moment, my beloved was brought to me by sādhus who had rescued her from her drowning ship. Thus, because of you, I have got her back. I have come here to pay my respects to you.’

Ruciradeva was thrilled looking at the greatness of Naravāhanadatta. He got his sister married to him and offered many elephants and horses as gifts to him. He came back to Kauśāmbī with her and lived happily with his older wives.

Here ends Velālambaka

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



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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