Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Gunadhya 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 Guṇāḍhya

He is the author of the celebrated Bṛhatkathā which is a precious mine of Sanskrit Literature. Guṇāḍhya had written this in satanic (paiśācika) language difficult for ordinary people to read or understand. This was translated into Sanskrit by the poet Kṣemendra in a book called Bṛhatkathāmañjarī. This was the first translation and it was in an abridged form. Somadeva made a more elaborate translation and it is this translation that is now known as the Kathāsaritsāgara.

Guṇāḍhya is believed to be an incarnation of the Śivapārṣada, Mālyavān. There is a story behind Mālyavān being cursed and made to be born as man by Pārvatī. Once Pārvatī worried Śiva to tell her a story original and interesting and not heard of by anybody before. Placing Nandikeśa at the door and instructing him not to allow anybody inside Śiva started narrating the story of the Vidyādharas to Pārvatī. At that time Puṣpadanta, chief of the genie-guards of Śiva who was at liberty to go to the presence of Śiva at any time, came there and heedless of the protests of Nandikeśa entered the room. There he found Śiva telling a story to Pārvatī and she was hearing the same with rapt attention. The story was so interesting that Puṣpadanta also heard it standing concealed in a place in the room. After having heard the whole story Puṣpadanta went back unnoticed and told the story to his wife, Jayā. Jayā on another occasion told the story to Pārvatī and the latter was taken aback and she went to Śiva and complained: "Your Lordship told me that the story was unique, not heard of before by anybody. But even Jayā knows it." And she wept with disappointment. Then Śiva stood in meditation for sometime, and knew how Puṣpadanta had entered the room unnoticed and how he had told the story he had heard to Jayā. Śiva explained this to Pārvatī and she immediately sent word for Puṣpadanta who came trembling and confessed everything. Pārvatī then cursed Puṣpadanta and also Mālyavān who came to speak on behalf of Puṣpadanta and made them men. They begged for relief from the curse and then she said, "Long ago Vaiśravaṇa cursed a Yakṣa named Supratīka and converted him into a devil named Kāṇabhūti. This devil is now living in the deep forests on the Vindhya mountains. When you talk with him you will become your old selves again. Puṣpadanta should first tell the story he has heard from Śiva to Kāṇabhūti and then he will be relieved from the curse. Kāṇabhūti will then tell Mālyavān many stories. Then Kāṇabhūti will get release from the curse. Mālyavān should make public all the stories he had heard from Kāṇabhūti and then he will also get release from the curse." Accordingly Puṣpadanta was born as Vararuci in the city of Kauśāṃbī and Mālyavān as Guṇāḍhya in the city of Supratiṣṭhita. (For details see under Vararuci).

The story of how Supratīka became Kāṇabhūti is this: The Yakṣa, Supratīka, got friendly with a demon named Śūlaśiras and they moved about freely as chums. Vaiśravaṇa did not like this and he cursed Supratīka and converted him into a satan. At once, Dīrghajaṅgha, elder brother of Supratīka, came and begged for relief. Vaiśravaṇa then said: "Puṣpadanta will be born on the earth by a curse as man and he will one day come and tell Supratīka many great stories. After hearing them he should narrate them to Mālyavān who will then be born on the earth as man. Supratīka will then get release from the curse and become his old self again". Supratīka was born in the forests of Vindhya as Kāṇabhūti.

This is the story of the birth of Guṇāḍhya. There is a city called Supratiṣṭhita in the country of Pratiṣṭhāna and there lived a brahmin named Somaśarmā. He had two sons, Vatsa and Gulmaka and a daughter named Śrutārthā. Before long the parents died and Śrutārthā grew up under the protection of her brothers. Kīrtisena, brother of Vāsuki, married her by gāndharva rites and Guṇāḍhya was the child born to them.

Even while he was a boy he went to the south for his education and there from a brahmin he studied all arts and sciences. When he completed his studies he started on a tour and at that time became the minister of a king called Sātavāhana. He married from there. One day his (Sātavāhana's) wife rebuked the king when the latter made some linguistic errors and Sātavāhana became dejected and moody from that day onwards. Then there came to the court of the King a brahmin named Śarvavarman who promised to make the King proficient in languages within six months. But Guṇāḍhya said that it was not possible to do so within six months. They made a bet. Guṇāḍhya swore that if Śarvavarman would teach the King the Śabdasāstra (science of language-sounds) within six months he (Guṇāḍhya) would abandon his knowledge of Sanskrit, Prakrit and local language. On the other hand if Śarvavarmā failed to accomplish the feat the latter should wear on his head for twelve years the chappals of Guṇāḍhya. Śarvavarman agreed and went to do penance to please Subrahmaṇya. Subrahmaṇya granted him a boon by the power of which Śarvavarman made Sātavāhana a scholar in Sanskrit. Defeated, Guṇāḍhya abandoned his knowledge of all languages and bidding adieu to the King by gestures left for the Vindhyan forests.

When Guṇāḍhya went to the forests Kāṇabhūti, King of the Satans was not in his place. He heard the satans speaking in their peculiar language and intelligent that he was he picked up the language. and when Kāṇabhūti came he spoke to him in his own language. Kāṇabhūti told in the satanic language the great stories of seven Vidyādharas. Guṇāḍhya took seven years to write the stories in the satanic language and compile them into seven lakhs of granthas to form a Mahākāvya. There were no writing materials available for him and Guṇāḍhya wrote them all on leaves using blood and twigs. When he started reading his book all the devas assembled in the sky to hear it. On hearing it Kāṇabhūti got release from the curse. It is this book containing seven lakhs of granthas that is called the Bṛhatkathā.

Guṇāḍhya then thought of how to keep alive such an interesting and gigantic book and then two of his companions Guṇadeva and Nandideva suggested to him to dedicate the book to the King, Sātavāhana. Guṇāḍhya agreed to that and the two disciples took the book to the King. The King read the whole story. But did not like it. It was very elaborate. The language was satanic. It was written with blood. The King looked at the book with contempt.

When the disciples found that the King was not in favour of the work, they took it back to Guṇādhya. Guṇāḍhya felt a great dejection. He went to a hillock nearby with his disciples and made a big fire-pit. He set aside the story of the Vidyādhara named Naravāhanadatta composed of a lakh of granthas for the use of his disciples and then started putting into the fire-pit the rest, reading aloud each leaf before he put it into the fire. The sad disciples watched it weeping. Even the wild animals of the forest flocked to the place and stood there listening to Guṇāḍhya. At that time Sātavāhana became a sick man. The physicians of the palace said that the illness was caused by the dry flesh he was taking. The cook was called in and he accused the hunters who supplied them with flesh daily. The hunters were questioned and they informed the King that only such flesh was available since all the beasts and birds were standing without food listening to a man who was reading something from a leaf and then burning it in a fire-pit before him. Sātavāhana immediately went to the place guided by the hunters. There to his astonishment he found Guṇāḍhya sitting before a fire-pit surrounded by weeping beasts and birds and throwing leaves of his book one by one into the fire after reading each before it was put into the fire. Sātavāhana ran to him and prostrated before him. Guṇāḍhya then told Sātavāhana his story in satanic language beginning from the curse on Puṣpadanta down to his destroying his own work in the fire. His disciples translated his talk to the King. The King was awe-strickeṅ and he asked for the granthas. But by that time he had already burnt six lakhs of granthas containing six stories. He gave to the King the remaining one lakh of granthas. After that, bidding farewell to the King, Guṇāḍhya jumped into the fire and abandoned his life on earth and went to the presence of Śiva.

King Sātavāhana accompanied by the disciples of Guṅāḍhya came to his palace carrying the 'Bṛhatkathā' containing the story of Naravāhanadatta. He gave presents to Guṇadeva and Nandideva who explained to him the book in Sanskrit. King Sātavāhana added a preface to the book to explain to the public how the book came to be written in satanic language. The book very soon got world fame. (Pīṭhānulaṃbaka Kathāsarit sāgara).

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