Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Gunavara 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 Guṇavarā

A heroine, devoted to her husband, in the ancient literature of India. There is a story in Kathāsaritsāgara describing the depth of her devotion to her husband.

Guṇavarā was the queen of Vīrabhuja, King of the country of Vardhamāna. He had besides Guṇavarā ninetynine other wives. But none had any children. So, the King asked the chief physician of the state to suggest a way to remedy this. The physician asked for a white and horned goat to be brought and he then made with its flesh a preparation. Then sprinkling over it a special medicinal dust, he gave it to the wives to eat. But Guṇavarā who never left her husband for a moment came late to take the preparation and by the time she came the others had already consumed the whole lot. Then by an order of the King the horns of the goat were made into a similar preparation and Guṇavarā took it with the dust sprinkled over it. All the wives got a child each. Guṇavarā’s son was named Śṛṅgabhuja.

All the other wives of Vīrabhuja became jealous of Guṇavarā. They told the King that Guṇavarā was in love with a servant of the palace. The King did not believe it. But he thought he would test her. The King called the servant in question and accusing him of having committed the murder of a brahmin sent him away from the state on a pilgrimage. Sorrow-stricken the servant set out for the pilgrimage. The King then approached Guṇavarā and said that a sannyāsin had declared that he, the King, would lose his crown if one of his wives was not put in a cell underground. Guṇavarā who adored her husband readily agreed to live underground.

The other wives were satisfied and yet they wanted to send away her son, Śṛṅgabhuja also from the palace. One day when all the children were playing in the court-yard a stork came and sat perched on the top of the palace. The princes attempted to catch hold of it. A sannyāsin who came there then informed the children that the stork was none other than Agniśikha, a demon, who had come there to capture and take away the children. All the children then tried to drop it down by arrows. But none succeeded. Then Śṛṅgabhuja took a golden arrow from the palace and sent it against the bird. The arrow struck the demon but the bird flew away carrying the golden arrow.

The other princes found it as an opportunity to rebuke Śṛṅgabhuja and they, led by Nirvāsabhuja, reproached him for losing the golden arrow. Unable to bear their insult Śṛṅgabhuja went after the stork following the path of the blood drops which fell on the ground from the wound. At last he reached Dhūmapura, the land of Agniśikha. There he fell in love with Rūpaśikhā, the daughter of Agniśikha. They were soon married and yet Agniśikha gave Śṛṅgabhuja great trouble. At last Śṛṅgabhuja and Rūpaśikhā took the golden arrow and eloped from the place one night and reached the city of Vardhamāna. Agniśikha followed them but the magic powers of Rūpaśikhā made him turn back. When King Vīrabhuja saw his son Śṛṅgabhuja he was extremely happy. The King then released Guṇavarā from the dungeon and praised her for her devotion to her husband. He loved her more and treated her with greater affection than before. At that time the servant who had been sent away also returned. (Taraṅga 5, Ratnaprabhālaṃbaka, Kathāsaritsāgara).

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