Continued from Part I
With a heavy heart, Pushpadanta and Malyavaan proceeded to the earth eager to come back as soon as their curses were fulfilled.
Pushpadanta was born as Vararuchi and Malyavaan as Gunadhya in different places with no memory of their previous lives.
As was pre-destined, in the course of time Vararuchi who was now a scholar at Kaushambi, happened to meet the Pisacha Kanubhuti in the forests of the Vindhya mountains. The meeting brought back all the memories of his previous life and all the stories he had overheard at Kailasa.
Vararuchi narrated all the tales to Kanubhuti. Kanubhuti being a Yaksha in Pisacha form had extraordinary memory power and as Vararuchi was narrating, his brain was recording everything like a tape recorder. The narration ran to roughly seven lakh verses. Kanubhuti had committed every word to his memory.
Interestingly, Vararuchi had started the narration with his own story of transgressing his limits and the curse that followed.
After fulfilling his duty, Vararuchi was consumed by a raging fire wherein he shed his mortal body and regained the form of Pushpadanta and happily proceeded home to Kailasa, glad to be beside his beloved Lord and Mother.
Malyavaan had been born as Gunadhya. He became a courtier (some say court poet) in the court of King Shalivahana (a Satavahana king) at Pratishtana (the present Paithan in Maharashtra).
Earlier in his life, this Gunadhya had lost a bet with someone, due to which he had vowed never to write in Sanskrit or Prakrit languages ever.
As was pre-destined for Gunadhya also, he met Kanubhuti who was waiting to narrate the tales to him so that he could get relief from his curse.
The relief of the curse for Gunadhya (Malyavaan reborn) would happen only if he made the stories well-known on the earth as per Ma Parvathi’s words. Since he would not write in Sanskrit he had to learn another language to write down these stories. Therefore, he learnt the Paisachi language from Kanubhuti and after mastering the language, Gunadhya wrote down all the verses as retold by Kanubhuti. Since palm leaf scripts and ink were not available in the jungle, Gunadhya used pieces of tree bark as paper and his own blood as ink!
After painstakingly writing them down, he proceeded to the court of King Shalivahana with great hope that the king would acknowledge it and publicise it.
However, King Shalivahana, being a lover of classical Sanskrit looked down upon Gunadhya’s work as it was written in the Paisachi language. Also the fact that it was written with blood made it repulsive and distasteful and Shalivahana sent Gunadhya away.
Not knowing what to do, Gunadhya went to meet Kanubhuti, but Kanubhuti had already been relieved from the curse and had gone back to his abode.
Gunadhya was desperate to be relieved from his curse. Feeling utterly miserable, he went to a remote corner of the dense jungle. He collected some wood and started a fire. One by one, he chanted aloud the verses from the barks on which he had written them and started throwing them into the fire.
The wild animals and birds were attracted to the sound of the chanting which was mystically magical. They came and quietly stood, some with tears streaming in their eyes. Herds of deer, groups of monkeys, lions, tigers, bears and flocks of birds and even reptiles gathered to listen to Gunadhya.
So enchanted they were that they even forgot their natural enmity. Days and nights passed in this way with Gunadhya chanting and burning up what he had written, one bark after another and the animals listening quietly not even moving from their places, as if enchanted.
In the meanwhile, the cooks of the king Shalivahana complained to the king that, as bizarre as it sounded, no animals were seen in the forest and as a result not enough meat was available for consumption.
A curious Shalivahana decided to go himself to the jungle with a team and investigate. The team went into the forest and the king heard the mesmerizing chants of Gunadhya and rushed in that direction only to find that Gunadhya was burning up all that he had written. The king was amazed at the behavior of the animals and realised that this was a great piece of literature which he had summarily dismissed just because it was in Paisachi language.
Shalivahana rushed to Gunadhya and pleaded him to stop. Gunadhya stopped but by that time only one lakh verses of the seven lakhs remained. The king respectfully carried them back to Pratishtana. With the help of two disciples of Gunadhya named Gunadeva and Nandideva, the king got the whole work translated to Sanskrit and popularized it after which Gunadhya was relieved from his curse.
The verses which were saved contained stories covering a whole range of characters from heaven, earth and hell, mythical, human and celestial and characterized a whole gamut of human qualities like valour, sadness, happiness, sacrifice, honesty, integrity, cowardice, infidelity, death, to name a few.
This collection of Gunadhya was called Brihadkatha from which Somadeva wrote Kathsaritasagara.
Another Kashmir Pandit Kshemendra of Kashmir and Budhaswamin of Nepal were also inspired by Brihadkatha and wrote ‘Brihadkathamanjari’ and ‘Brihadkathaslokasamgraha’ respectively.
So here comes the end of the ‘Story of stories’ – and of course a beginning for us to start savouring the stories of the evergreen “Kathasaritasagara”.