Maṇimēkhalai

Book XX
[Kāñcana kills Udayakumāra]

By order of the king, and through the kindness of the beautiful damsel, Maṇimēkhalai, what was a cruel house of punishment was transformed into a house of charity, those of evil deeds, who, after undergoing suffering’s [161] due, take their birth where the good life is possible, the premises of the State prison were now occupied by a shrine for the teacher of the truth, residential rooms for those that practise charity, halls for cooking and dining, provided with everything required for living and security.

Udayakumāra heard of all that took place resulting in this transformation. He still held to his resolution to take possession of Maṇimēkhalai when she should be out of the hall of guests, and then learn from her directly the secret of her art and whatever of wisdom she may have to impart to him while she should be in his chariot.

With his mind thus set, in spite of the fact that the wise might disapprove and the king might get angry, he reached the guests’ house where Maṇimēkhalai used to be distributing food.

About that time, the Vidyādhara Kāñcana, husband of Kāyaśaṇḍikai noted that the day of redemption for his wife had already arrived, and, seeing that his wife did not yet return to him, he started in search of her. Having looked in vain for her in all the likely places of the vast city, he at last found her in the act of feeding those that were hungry. He approached her, and assuming the familiarity of the husband to the wife, asked with a sense of grateful relief whether the one vessel from which she was providing food for such a vast number was a miraculous bowl that some God, out of pity for her, presented to her to get rid of her great suffering.

Even though she was in the guise of Kāyaśaṇḍikai, Maṇimēkhalai, without exhibiting any affectionate response that he expected, passed on to where Udayakumāra was, and, pointing to him a woman of extreme old age, who apparently was a woman of beauty in her days, exhorted him that that was the inevitable condition all beautiful women should come to ultimately. This human body, however beautifully it may be made [162] by the form of the flesh, by dress, jewellery, flowers and unguents, it is all a delusion created by people of old.

Kāñcana seeing the intimacy of her attitude and conversation to Udayakumāra took it that she was in love with the prince and had therefore abandoned him. Angry that Udayakumāra should have been the cause of her estrangement, and resolving to make sure, he entered the hall, like a poisonous cobra its hole. Udayakumāra on the contrary, his affection for Maṇimēkhalai not abated by all that was said, did not give up his pursuit of love to her, feeling certain that it was she that had assumed the form of Kāyaśaṇḍikai and had caused misunderstanding in the Vidyādhara Kāñcana.

He resolved therefore to return to the hall at dead of night to probe more into the matter and assure himself whether he was right. Still overborne with his love to her and being guided by that feeling alone to the neglect of all other cautious considerations, he left his palace at dead of night, like a tiger going out for its prey and entered the hall as he projected. The Vidyādhara who was there already, feeling sure that the prince had come there to visit his wife Kāyaśaṇḍikai secretly, like an angry cobra coming out to attack without spread hood, drew his sword and cut the prince in two. Having done this, he rushed up to Kāyaśaṇḍikai to rise up into the air with her when the statuette on the pillar exclaimed:

‘Vidyādhara, approach not, approach not. She is Maṇimēkhalai in disguise as Kāyaśaṇḍikai. Listen to what had happened to the latter. Having got rid of her unquenchable hunger, on rising up in the air towards her home, not knowing the fact that those that go by the air avoid crossing over that part of the Vindhyas where is the shrine of the Goddess Vindhyavāsinī, she floated across over the shrine. Goddess Durgā, angry that this insult [163] should have been offered to her, drew her in by the shadow and made a meal of her as has always been usual. Be not vexed with what you have done to this prince. It is his past deeds that have resulted in this. Yet you must bear the consequences of the evil deed although done in ignorance.’

Sad at heart at the turn that events took, Kāñcana flew across the air homewards towards Kailāsa.