Kathāmṛta - 117 - Viṣamaśīla-lambaka - The Story of Malayavatī

This article is part 117 of 119 in the series Kathāmṛta

The Story of Malayavatī

In the city of Ujjayinī lived an artist called Nagarasvāmī. Once every two days, he painted a beautiful portrait of a woman and offered it to king Vikramāditya as a gift. One day he forgot his routine, and by the time he realised it, it was too late. He grew worried about what to do next. At that time, a traveller from a distant land came and gave him a bag made of leather and went on his way. When Nagarasvāmī opened it, he saw that it contained a portrait of a woman. The artist took it to the king and offered it to him. After gazing upon it for a while, king Vikramāditya said ‘My dear man, this doesn’t look like your work. This must have been done by Viśvakarmā himself, for no human could ever paint such a breathtaking painting!’. Then, Nagarasvāmī narrated what had happened. The king could not take his eyes off the beautiful painting all day. Later that night, as he slept, he had a dream. In it, he found himself on a strange island. Upon seeing him, several women, armed with sharp weapons, cried out loud, ‘Strike! Impale!’ and rushed forward. Then an ascetic-woman suddenly came from nowhere and quickly ushered him to her house and said, ‘Don’t you know any better? Our princess Malayavatī absolutely detests men. If any man were to be seen on this island, her friends would lose no time in slaying him. She is coming this way with her friends. I saw this, and I brought you here to save your life’. Then she quickly made him change into the garb of a woman. Right then, the maiden in the painting entered with her retinue and said, ‘We saw a man come this way. Who is he? Where is he?’. The ascetic-woman replied, ‘How could a man ever come here? This is my sister’s daughter. She is here as my guest’, pointing at Vikramāditya. Even as she laid her eyes on Vikramāditya, Malayavatī became infatuated with him, even though he was in the guise of a woman. After thinking for a moment, she said ‘Isn’t your guest, my guest too? Let her come to my house, and took his hand in hers and led him to her palace. For the rest of the day, Malayavatī wouldn’t part from him for even a single moment. Therefore, her sakhīs playfully got her married. As he spent the night with her in the palace, trying to cajole her, the time-keeper announced sunrise. The king was angry and banished the time-keeper from the city.

The king badly wanted to procure Malayavatī – he thought of her in his dreams as well. The pratihārī Bhadrāyudha suggested an idea. Accordingly, a new pavilion was constructed. The king was asked to paint everything he had seen in his dream. All vandis who visited the pavilion from other towns were fed with tasty food filled with six flavours and gifted clothes and gold.  It was also announced that anyone who managed to find the place depicted in the painting would be amply rewarded; The pavilion became a legend. People from far and wide spoke about it. A vandi named Śambharasiddhi had his meal at the place, saw the painting and asked – “Who painted this? I always thought that I was the only person who had seen the city; I have now realized that someone else has seen it as well!” He was taken to the king. He said – “A city called Malayapura lies in another island. A king called Malayasiṃha rules the place – he has a daughter named Malayavatī. She hates men. Once, she happened to see a great man in her dream and the moment she saw him, all her hatred for men vanished. She got married to him in her dream and by the time she entered his antaḥpura, the guardian dasī woke her up. She has lost her mind for him and has declared – ‘if I don’t unite with him in the next six months, I will jump into fire’. This took place five months ago. Poor thing! Don’t know what fate has in store!”

The next moment, the king asked the vandi to accompany him to the island. He set out with the pratihārī Bhadrāyudha. As the period of six months was coming to an end, Malayavatī was getting ready to enter fire. As the king went there, Malayavatī recognised him as the man she had dreamt of. She informed her father about his coming. As soon as the king reached the spot, the vandi called out with his arms raised up –

 

jaya nijatejaḥsādhita-bhūtagaṇa-mleccha-vipina-dāvāgne|

jaya deva saptasāgara-sīma-mahī-māninī-nātha!

jaya vijita-sakala-pārthiva-vinata-śirodhāritāti-gurvājña!

jaya viṣamaśīla-vikramavārinidhe vikramāditya!

[Victory to the fire, which has vanquished the devils called mlecchas!

Victory to the lord of the entire earth!

Hail the emperor, who has subdued all kings

Hail the ocean of valour, Vikramāditya!]

 

Malayasiṃha realised that Vikramāditya had arrived there and prostrated before him. He escorted him home, took care of his hospitality and got his daughter married to him. Vikramāditya was wonderstruck – he had seen in his dream, what he saw in the painting; he saw in reality, what he witnessed in his dream.

The Story of Kaliṅgasenā

One day as they were talking amidst themselves about king Vikramāditya, queen Kaliṅgasenā said to her co-wives, “What our lord did for Malayavatī is not really extraordinary - for, did he not, having been enamoured by my sculpture, make me his by treading the path of valour? Now listen to this incident which our servant Devasenā told me, when my heart was weighed down by the sorrow that the king did not wed me in the traditional way!”, and began to narrate this story:-

Long ago, when I was the king’s servant, I once saw a huge boar in the forest. The king gave it a long chase. The boar however managed to slip through. We then realised that our entire retinue had not kept up with us. Upon seeing that I was the only one who accompanied him through the chase, the king asked ‘How far do you think we have come?’. I replied: ‘Lord! We have travelled three hundred yojanās!’. He asked ‘How did you manage to run this far?’. Said I, ‘Thanks to my foot-unguent, your majesty’, and proceeded to tell him the story of how I acquired it:-

When my wife passed away, I undertook a pilgrimage. Along the way, one evening, I came across a temple, where I thought I could rest for the night. A woman received me with courtesy as her guest. As night fell, to my amazement, she opened her mouth wide enough to span the whole heaven and earth and thundered, ‘Have you ever seen a mouth like this?’. I drew my sword. Then, steeling myself, my brows knit, I shot back: ‘Have you ever seen a man like me?’. She then went back to her benign form and said ‘I am Caṇḍī, a yakṣī. I am pleased with your courage. What do you seek?’. I replied ‘If you are truly happy, pray grant me the means by which I may undertake all my pilgrimages with ease!’. She then gave me this foot-unguent. Thanks to it, I could run alongside you, criss-crossing this tough forest terrain. My lord - do you need me to bring you any fruits to eat?’. The king replied, ‘I don’t want anything. Satiate yourself if you want’. Then I ate a karkaṭikā fruit (gourd). Thanks to my cursed luck, it immediately transformed me into a huge python. Then the king wasted no time in summoning vetāla, and commanded him to bring me back to human form. But vetāla said this was beyond his reach. So the king went into the village nearby where the people of the bhil tribe dwelled, to find out if anyone there knew the cure for my affliction. There, the commander of the tribe bowed down to king Vikramāditya with reverence, and said that his son knows the cure. When the young man prepared a green hued concoction and squeezed a few drops of it into my nose, I gained back my human form. Then the commander took us all to his home and offered us his hospitality. Later, when we sat down after dinner, the king was astonished when he noticed that while the commander was young, all his sons were old men. The commander Ekākīkesari began to narrate the reason for this:-

 

The Story of Ekākīkesari

I am a brāhmaṇa. My name is Candrasvāmī. One day when I had gone to the forest to fetch firewood, a monkey obstructed my path. It did not cause me any trouble, although it definitely seemed to be in some kind of affliction, and kept pointing me to a different trail. I decided to follow it to see what lay there. It trudged ahead, but kept turning back every few steps, as if to make sure that I followed it. Eventually it led me up a tree, where I found a female ape bound fast by creepers.

I climbed the tree, cut off all the restraints and released them. They prostrated before me. The male gave me a divine fruit. Then I brought some wood, came home, and my wife and I ate the fruit; from then we have never been afflicted by old age or disease; when my town was struck by famine we migrated to this place. When I came here it was ruled by a śabara chief called Kāñcanadaṃṣṭra; i sought refuge under him; seeing my valour in war he gave me the position of the commander-in-chief; when he grew old and was without progeny he gave his kingdom to me.

Saying so he gave the hand of his daughter Madanasundarī to the king; we stayed there for a week and returned. The boar which was seen before was spotted again and the king killed it. The vetāla ripped its stomach apart and out came a man. By the time they wanted to ask his background, an elephant which looked like a mountain charged in. The king killed the elephant too. The vetāla again ripped its stomach apart and out came a divine man and a divinely beautiful woman. The man who emerged from the boar said–

 

The Story of Śubha, Bhadra, and Dhanadatta’s Wife

Mahārāja! We are two divine beings Śubha and Bhadra; just for fun we took the form of boar and elephant and was roaming in the forest, we happened to see Kaṇva immersed in dhyāna. He was frightened and he cursed us, ‘Till Vikramāditya kills you, be in the same form and keep wandering this forest!’ Now we are liberated by you. She will narrate her story now. Touch the backs of the boar and the elephant, they would transform into a sword and a shield.

They disappeared. Transforming the elephant and the boar to the sword and the shield as told, he turned towards the woman and asked her background. She said, “I’m the wife of Dhanadatta, a merchant in Ujjayinī; when I was sleeping on the terrace the elephant swallowed me and brought me here; when I was in its stomach no one was there except me. But when the stomach was ripped apart I saw this man emerging from it!” The king consoled her and said, “Join the womenfolk in my retinue! I’ll help you reunite with your husband.’ he sent her with the vetāla to accompany Madanasundarī

Before the vetāla returned, the king saw two princesses going with a huge retinue and asked the chamberlain to be brought. I did as I was told; the king asked the chamberlain about the princesses and he narrated the following–

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. 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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