Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Devasmita included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Devasmitā

A Gem of a woman who was much devoted to her husband. The story of Devasmitā has been so often quoted in ancient Indian literature. She was the daughter of a Vaiśya called Dharmagupta and was married to Guhasena, son of a Vaiśya called Dhanadatta, who belonged to Tāmraliptinagara.

After the death of his father Guhasena decided to go to Kaṭāhadvīpa for trade, and Devasmitā, a very suspicious wife, objected to it. When his other relations began pressing him to go to the dvīpa for trade and his wife not to go, Guhasena could not take a decision on the matter. He began a penance so that God might take the decision in the matter. Devasmitā also followed him. Then God appeared to them in their dreams and gave each of them a red lotus flower saying, "both of you keep one flower each with you, and while both of you are away from each other if either of you go astray the lotus flower in the hands of the other person will fade." And, on awaking both of them had a flower in their hands. Guhasena with his flower in his hands started for Kaṭāhadvīpa, and Devasmitā stayed at home with her eyes fixed on her lotus flower. Guhasena reached the dvīpa and traded in gems. Everybody was surprised to find in his hands a lotus flower which never faded. Four Vaiśya youngsters wanted to understand the secret of it and one day they invited Guhasena to their house and treated him to liquor very liberally. When he got absolutely drunk they questioned him about the secret of the lotus flower, and he, though in indistinct words, explained it to them. When the secret was thus out all the four youngsters decided to seduce his wife. They extracted from him the information that he was not returning in the near future, and they then came to Tāmralipti.

At that time there lived in Tāmralipti a bogus Sannyāsinī (a female anchorite) called Yogakaraṇḍikā. The four youths from Kaṭāhadvīpa visited her, and she undertook to fulfil their desire. She asked them to halt at her house and then went to Devasmitā with some refreshments. Devasmitā’s bitch barked very violently at the bogus anchorite when she told the former thus:—"Child! don't you see the bitch barking at my very sight. The bitch is crying thinking of her previous birth at my sight. Herself (the bitch) and I were, in our last birth, the wives of a Brahmin. Since our husband was a courtier at the palace often he was away from home and in his absence I used to satisfy the cravings of sex by associating freely with other males. I had even at that time realised the truth that there was no duty higher than satisfying the senses, and so I am now reborn with memories of the past life. As for this bitch in her past life as co-wife with me of the Brahmin, she sinned against her sense-organs by upholding, in ignorance, her chastity, as a punishment for which she was born as dog in this life. Yet, she remembers her past.

Though Devasmitā saw through the false and treacherous heart of the bogus anchorite, without expressing it she talked in all respect with her. Believing that she had succeeded in her mission she told Devasmitā about the four youths who had come from Kaṭāhadvīpa, and Devasmitā welcomed the idea very gladly.

Devasmitā got some liquor and mixed poison in it. When it was night one of the Vaiśya youths came, and after rendering him unconscious by administering the poisoned liquor to him Devasmitā stripped him of all his clothes and ornaments, got him scratched on the brows by the bitch and threw him into a cow dung heap. Before it was dawn next day he returned to the anchorite’s house, took a bath and dressed himself up in decent clothings. His other three companions also visited Devasmitā one after the other in the next three days, and they too underwent the same experience as the first one. Lastly the bogus sannyāsinī also was got down and Devasmitā cut her limbs and sent her away. And, after this Devasmitā put on the garb of a merchant and went to Kaṭāhadvīpa and identified her husband from among a thousand merchants. Guhasena too felt his own doubts about her identity. But, without revealing her identity she saw the king and told him that she had certain matters to submit before the prajāpariṣat (popular assembly). The King accordingly convened a session of the assembly and Devasmitā identified the four youths who had tried to seduce her and submitted all details regarding the episode. The King then gave her a lot of money, appointed the four youths as her servants and sent her back home with Guhasena. (Kathāsaritsāgara, Kathāmukhalaṃbakam, Taraṅga 5).

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