Kathāmṛta - 118 - Viṣamaśīla-lambaka - The Stories of Kesaṭa and Kandarpa

This article is part 118 of 119 in the series Kathāmṛta

The Story of Guṇavatī and Candravatī


A king called Guṇasāgara ruled Kaṭāhadvīpa. He begot a daughter named Guṇavatī

Since siddhas had foretold that one day, she would be the queen of the lord of seven islands, king Guṇasāgara concluded that it could only mean that king Vikramāditya was her future husband. So, he sent her with her retinue on a ship to the latter. On the way, however, near Suvarṇa-dvīpa, a huge whale swallowed the ship and its occupants whole. After this, the beast was pushed by the waves of the ocean to the shores of Suvarṇa-dvīpa. The people there attacked it with sharp weapons and soon slew it. When they slit open its belly, they were amazed at what lay inside. It was a ship and the people it was ferrying, who happened to be still alive. King Candraśekhara, the ruler of that island, was informed of this strange episode right away. The king was none other than the brother-in-law of Guṇasāgara. He immediately recognized his niece Guṇavatī and led her to his home and took good care of her. Candraśekhara too had a daughter, Candravatī, whose hand he wanted to give in marriage to king Vikramāditya. So, after a few days, he arranged for a ship to take both Guṇavatī and Candravatī to him. We commenced our journey at an auspicious hour and safely crossed the high seas and reached here. However, we were then chased by a wild boar and a rogue elephant. We helplessly cried, “O guardians of this realm! We are on our way to present these maidens to Vikramāditya, their future husband. We appeal to you in the name of his power of righteousness! Pray save us!”. Listening to this, the animals suddenly stopped, and addressed us with a human voice thus: “Fear not; since you uttered the name of king Vikramāditya, you have nothing to fear. He is nearby. You will see him soon” and went on their way. This is our story.

After listening to all this, I pointed at king Vikramāditya and said ‘This is the king you have been looking for!’ Then they bowed down and introduced the maidens to him. King Vikramāditya sent the two princesses with vetāla to Madana-sundarī.

We then resumed our journey. On the way, as evening approached, we heard the sound of drum-beats. The king wondered aloud as to where it came from. To this, vetāla answered: “O king! There is a temple nearby. It is a true wonder created by Viśvakarmā. Every evening, this sound originates from there!”. Out of curiosity, we went to see the temple. There, adorned with the garuḍa-ratna, was a śiva-liṅga and facing it stood a tall lamp. In front of this we saw divine damsels perform a fascinating dance, swaying to the tunes of four kinds of instruments which played gandharva-music. After the dance was over, they all vanished into the images sculpted on a pillar, leaving us wonderstruck. Then, as we spent a little more time in the temple looking around, Vikramāditya noticed a sculpture of a divinely beautiful lady carved on one of the pillars. The king was spellbound. He exclaimed, ‘Of what use is my mortal existence, if I am unable to see this fair maiden, whose beauty has been immortalised in stone, for real!’ Vetāla, who was listening to this said ‘O king! This is not difficult at all. A sculptor from Vardhamānapura who has seen Kaliṅgasenā, the princess of Kaliṅga, has carved her image here. So, once we go back to Ujjayinī, we can send word to the king of Kaliṅga that he should give his daughter’s hand in marriage to you. If he is not amenable, you can use your valour to win her’. 

The next day, as we journeyed ahead, we came upon two fine looking men sitting under an Aśoka tree. As soon as they saw the king, they stood up and bowed to him. Vikramāditya asked them: ‘Who are you? What are you doing in this forest?’. To this, one of them replied thus:-

The Story of Dhanadatta

Deva! I am the son of a trader from Ujjayinī. My name is Dhanadatta. One night, I slept with my wife on the roof of my house. The next morning, I wake up to see that she had gone missing. She had given me a garland, which wouldn’t fade as long as she was alive. It did not fade away that morning and therefore, I was sure that she was alive somewhere. As I wondered if an evil spirit had abducted her, a brāhmaṇa from Kāśī came to me – “Let us search for your wife! Come with me! What is the point in lamenting this way?”

I asked him – “I don’t know in which direction she has vanished. How do we search”

He said – “Kesaṭa, who thought he would never find his wife, found her, didn’t he? I will tell you his story, listen – “...


The Story of Kesaṭa

There lived a wealthy brāhmaṇa named Kesaṭa in the city of Pāṭalīputra. He resembled Manmatha in his appearance. In order to find a beautiful wife, he left his house under the pretext of tīrtha-yātrā. He arrived at the banks of the river Narmadā. A large group of people was present there. An old man in the group asked Kesaṭa – “Ārya! I would like you to do a task for me, will you do it? You may find it easy but it will be of tremendous help to me! If you can execute it, I will tell you.” Kesaṭa agreed and the old man said –“I have a son, who isn’t handsome. He is just the opposite of you in his looks. I asked a brāhmaṇa named Ratnadatta to give his daughter in marriage to my son – while doing so, I claimed that he is good looking. The father agreed. We are on our way for the wedding. However, if Ratnadatta sees my son, I am sure that he won’t give his daughter in marriage to him. Therefore, I have come up with an idea. Come with us, marry the girl and give her away to my son!”  Kesaṭa agreed and joined them on their trip. On the way, he stopped by a river to perform sandhyāvandanam; he was attacked by a rākṣasa who caught him and wanted to eat him. He said – “O dear! I am on my way to fulfil my promise to a brāhmaṇa. Once my job is done, I will surely come back to you!” The rākṣasa let him free.

Kesaṭa married Rūpavatī. She and her friends were thrilled that she got such a good-looking husband. They were to sleep at night. Rūpavatī saw that her husband was asleep with his face in the other direction. She pretended to be asleep next to him. Kesaṭa thought that she had fallen asleep and left, looking for the rākṣasa. Rūpavatī followed him, out of curiosity, without his knowledge. The rākṣasa was pleased with his honesty and said – “Ārya! You are an honest man; you are filled with sattva. Your father Desaṭa of Pāṭalīputra is now sanctified as well; come, I will feast upon you!” Rūpavatī came forward and said – “Please eat me! What is my fate going to be, if you consume my husband?”

The rākṣasa replied – “Beg for alms!” Rūpavatī asked – “Who will provide alms to a woman?” The rākṣasa said – “Anyone who denies you alms will have his head shattered into a hundred pieces!” She then demanded – “In that case, I request my husband as alms from you!” By the time he offered back her husband, his head shattered into a hundred pieces. She returned home with Kesaṭa before dawn.

The next morning, they ate their food and left for a tour. As they approached the river bank, the old brāhmaṇa seated Rūpavatī and her family in a boat and Kesaṭa in another. The old man sat in a different boat. As per the old man’s instructions, the ferrymen driving Kesaṭa’s boat dropped him off in the middle of the river and returned to the shore swimming. Kesaṭa’s boat was driven by the river into the ocean. However, as Kesaṭa was destined to live longer, waves brought him to a lake. As he lay on the shore on the lake thinking about his fate, he heard some sound at night; when he tried to investigate, he found a man fallen from the sikes. Kesaṭa asked him who he was and the man in turn asked Kesaṭa the same question. Kesaṭa narrated his tale. The other man said – “O! Your story is like me; listen to me now!

The Story of Kandarpa

A town called Ratnapura lies on the banks of the river Veṇā. I belong to the town and my name is Kandarpa. Once, I was at the lake to fetch water – I slipped and fellow into the lake. The flowing water dropped me off by a tree the next morning; I got out on the store, taking the help of a branch of the tree. There, I found a mātṛ-devālaya and visited it. I bowed down to the mātṛdevatāss and pleaded – “O Mothers! I am here to take refuge in you; please protect this helpless soul!” I spent the day there. That night, Yoginīs emerged at night and they spoke to each other – “Today, we are headed to Cakrapura to visit Cakramela. How will this brāhmaṇa fare when we are away? He has surrendered to us. Therefore, let us keep him in a safe place before we leave; we can get him back as we return!” They decked me up well, took me through the skies and dropped me off at a brāhmaṇas place. A wedding ceremony was going on there; everyone was looking forward to welcome the bridegroom; looking at me, they thought I was the bridegroom and got me married to the girl. The guests were happy thinking that I was a good match for the girl. I slept with the girl, Sumanasā, that night. The next morning, yoginīs who were returning from Cakramelaka escorted me back. As we were flying in the skies, another group of yoginīs appeared in the sky and they fought over me – each group wanted to possess me. In their fight, they dropped me inadvertently and I have fallen here. I don’t know the town in which I got married to Sumanasā – I don’t know what I should do now. However, looking at you, I feel that all my difficulties have come to an end.

We started our trip in the morning and reached a town called Bhīmapura; there was a commotion near the river Ratnanadī which flows nearby. Curious, we went to see what it was about. A huge fish which was somehow transported upstream from the ocean was stuck. People were cutting it for its meat. A woman emerged out of its stomach causing wonder amongst the people. See her Kandarpa addressed Kesaṭa, ‘She is the woman Sumanasā whom I’d married; but I don’t know how she ended up in the belly of this fish; let’s wait and watch; things will unravel.’ The people meanwhile started asking her, ‘Who are you? What has happened?’ She replied thus, ‘I’m the daughter of Jayadatta from Ratnākarapura; my name is Sumanasā; a handsome, young brāhmaṇa married me; but he abandoned me on the same night when I was asleep; in spite of searching for him he was not to be found; I threw myself into the river; this fish gobbled me up and ordained by fate, it brought me here!’ hearing this, a brāhmaṇa named Yajñasvāmī in the crowd ran towards her and said, ‘Come my child! You are my sister’s daughter!’ She lifted her head, recognised him as her maternal uncle and prostrated before him. Immediately she recalled her situation and said, ‘O my uncle! Prepare a funeral pyre for me; for someone like me without a husband Agni is the only refuge!’ She adamantly stuck to her decision. Kandarpa came forward, she saw him and prostrated before him with tears in her eyes. Yajñasvāmī brought them home as guests and affectionately took due care of them. After a few days, Kesaṭa said to Kandarpa, “You have found your wife; take her along and go to Ratnapura; I, who haven’t found a wife will go on a tīrtha-yātrā and finally give up this body!” Yajñasvāmī interrupted, “Why despair? If you are alive you’ll get everything eventually; let me narrate the story of Kusumāyudha, listen!” and he narrated the story of Kusumāyudha–

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




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

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...