The Story of Candrasvāmī
I am a brāhmaṇa named Candrasvāmī and belong to an agrahāra called Brahmasthala; I have a beautiful wife. Once, when I was away, a kāpālika who had come to my house seeking alms spotted my wife. As soon as the kāpālika saw her, my wife developed fever and passed away that evening. Our relatives gathered and cremated her. Upon my return, I came to know of her passing away and rushed to the crematorium. I noticed the kāpālika dropping a pinch of ash on her remains; in no time, she sprung back to life. He escorted her behind him out of the power of his mantra. I followed him with a bow and arrow. He went a two-storied building on the banks of the river Gaṅgā and placed her there. There were two other women like her. I picked up the khaṭvāṅga that he had placed down and shouted – “Kāpālika! You have abducted my wife! I will kill you!” As he did not have his khaṭvāṅga with him, he was powerless and started running from there. I killed him with my arrows and rescued the three women. I escorted them back home. Everyone in the town was astonished. The two other women said – “We are the daughters of the king and merchant of Vārāṇasī. The kāpālika had abducted us out of his magical power. Thanks to you, we are rescued without any blemish.” As I headed back after dropping them at their houses, I came across this son of the merchant. I have brought him here. This is the story of the death and rebirth of my wife.
The king felicitated them and sent them away. He brought Guṇavatī, Candravatī, and Madanasundarī to Ujjayinī. A few days later, he sent a messenger to Kaliṅgasena asking his daughter in marriage. Kaliṅgasena replied – “Who is Vikramāditya to command me to give my daughter in marriage?” He said, full of ego. Therefore, I had to wage a war upon him. When King Vikramāditya reached Kaliṅga with his army, he said to himself: ‘I will surely marry this king’s daughter - it is only a question of when. Given that he will soon become my father-in-law, how could I bring myself to slay him?’So, that night, aided by the vetāla, he went into the palace, unseen by anyone. The vetāla quietly approached the sleeping king of Kaliṅga and whispered ‘Wake up my dear man! How can you sleep so peacefully, when king Vikramāditya has laid siege to your kingdom?’. The king woke up with a start. Then O princess, upon seeing the vetāla’s terrible form and Vikramāditya’s bravery, he agreed to surrender, and duly offered your hand in marriage to our lord. Thus, our king Vikramāditya won you over out of his love for you, risking his life even, and has married you in accordance with traditions of yore. So, think not for even a moment that he just won the hand of some nondescript maiden!’. Listening to these words of the guard Devasena, my mind attained peace - for it dawned on me that my dear husband had resolved to marry me right when he saw my image carved on a pillar. Likewise, smitten by her comely looks in a painting, he married dear Malayavatī too. - Kaliṅgasenā thus narrated this amazing tale to her co-wives. Accompanied by them all, king Vikramāditya continued to live happily, enjoying the comforts of his bountiful kingdom.
The Story of Kṛṣṇaśakti
One day, a prince named Kṛṣṇaśakti, arrived at king Vikramāditya’s palace from the south. He had come away after having suffered untold humiliation at the hands of his relatives. He stood at the main entrance of the palace, and despite being turned away, resolutely stood his ground and declared, ‘I shall serve king Vikramāditya for twelve years, come what may!’. Finally, Kṛṣṇaśakti was appointed a sentry at the palace. Eleven long years passed. In the twelfth year, he received a letter from his wife, who was suffering intensely from pangs of separation from him. One night, when king Vikramāditya set forth for his covert inspection of the city, he saw Kṛṣṇaśakti standing under a streetlamp, reading aloud to himself, the letter from his beloved wife. The letter had the following verse composed in the āryā meter-
संतप्तायत-तरलास्तव विरहे नाथ कठिनहृदयायाः |
निर्यान्त्य-विरतमेते निःश्वासा मे न तु प्राणाः ||
saṃtaptāyata-taralāstava virahe nātha kaṭhinahṛdayāyāḥ |
niryāntya-viratamete niḥśvāsā me na tu prāṇāḥ ||
My lord! Such is my agony of being away from you,
That I only heave deep, distressed sighs.
But so hard-hearted am I,
That my life-breath still does not cease.
After seeing Kṛṣṇaśakti read this letter again and again wistfully, the king returned to the palace with a heavy heart. He thought ‘Poor soul! This sentry’s wife seems to be suffering so much! If this man’s mission does not complete this year, he will surely die of a broken heart’. Then he summoned Kṛṣṇaśakti and said ‘My dear man, go northwards via Oṃkārapīṭha to the village of Khaṇḍavaṭaka forthwith. It is yours to rule! Here, take this royal decree!’. Kṛṣṇaśakti was disappointed. He said to himself: ‘What? A mere village under my charge? Oh, the shame of it! Still, it is the king’s command, and obey it I must!’, and took the decree and departed to Khaṇḍavaṭaka. After passing through Oṃkārapīṭha, as Kṛṣṇaśakti passed through a forest, he saw a few girls playing. He asked them if they knew the way to Khaṇḍavaṭaka. They replied: ‘No, we don’t. But if you travel ten yojanās this way, you will reach our father’s dwelling. He might know!’ When he went there, he was taken aback to see that the girls’ father was a terrible rākṣasa! Still, Kṛṣṇaśakti approached him and said, ‘Sir, do you know the way to the village of Khaṇḍavaṭaka?’. The rākṣasa, impressed with Kṛṣṇaśakti’s courage, said: ‘What do you seek there? It has been lying in ruins for many days now. Well, if you must go there, I will show you the way. See here - as you traverse down this trail, it forks into two. Then you must take the path to the left, and you will soon reach that village. It has a tall fortress.’
Kṛṣṇaśakti followed the rākṣasa’s directions and soon reached Khaṇḍavaṭaka. He beheld a sight that was terrible, and at the same time, beautiful. It was a deserted village. Steeling himself to face whatever lay in store, he went in. Then after traversing through seven levels of fortification, he found a palace.
…he went through the seven levels of fortification to find a palace. He entered the palace and climbed the terrace which was made of gold and was studded with precious gems; there he saw a gem-studded throne, he sat on it. The rākṣasa meanwhile came in with a stick and shouted, ‘O puny human! Why did you sit on the throne?’ The valourous Kṛṣṇaśakti replied, ‘I’m the king now; Vikramāditya has created an inscription to affirm the same; you are all my subjects!’ The rākṣasa bowed and said, ‘I’m just the gatekeeper; how can I violate the orders of Vikramāditya!’ saying so he brought in all the subjects. The ministers came. The royal dignitaries came. The fourfold army too came; everyone bowed down before him with respect; he felicitated them and thought, ‘How great is the noble Vikramāditya, how magnanimous! He mentioned about giving just a mere village but gave me such an expansive kingdom!’ he started reigning over it. His kin were looked after by Vikramāditya in Ujjayinī. After some time, Kṛṣṇaśakti came to Ujjayinī along with his army and prostrated before Vikramāditya, he said, ‘My friend! Didn’t you receive a letter from your wife? Go pacify her!’ Kṛṣṇaśakti was surprised. He went to his home country along with his friends, threw out his brothers, made his wife - who was tormented by pangs of separation - happy and finally started ruling the kingdom.
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 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. Krishnasastri