Vikramaditya picked up Vetal from the Ashoka tree, placed him on his shoulder and started walking silently in the pitch darkness. As they walked on quietly, Vetal said to the king Vikramaditya, ‘ O King you are an exceptionally brave and wise man. So allow me to tell you a tale for your amusement. Listen carefully and answer my question at the end.” Thus Vetal began narrating the tale of Dhaval-

“King Yashketu was a well-known ruler, and the glorious city of Shobhavati was his capital. He had built an exquisite temple for goddess Parvati in the centre of the city. Every year during the bright lunar fortnight in the month of Ashadha, people from different parts of his kingdom would visit the temple and offer their prayers. It was believed that if the goddess was pleased with their devotion she would grant all their prayers.

Once a washerman by name Dhaval came to the temple. While he was performing his pooja he happened to see Madansundari, daughter of  Shuddhapata. He was captivated by her beauty and fell in love instantly. With the help of his friends, Dhaval found who she was, but did not muster the courage to approach her. Next day when he returned home, he was so deeply in love that he could not eat or sleep, and kept thinking on Madansundari.  When his mother noticed his sad state she got worried and informed her husband Vimala about Dhaval’s love for Madansunadari.

Father saw his son’s condition and said, “Son, why do you grieve over such a small issue? I know Shuddhapata, the father of the girl. We are equal in status, wealth and deeds, I will go and ask her hand in marriage for you. Don’t be sad”. So went Vimala to Shuddhapata’s house and made the marriage proposal of his son Dhaval to Madansundari. Shuddhapata accepted the proposal and soon enough Dhaval and Madanasundari were married in a very lavish ceremony.

Dhaval brought his beautiful bride to his father’s home. Madansundari herself an ardent devotee of goddess Parvati, too fell in love with Dhaval. Thus they began their married life on a happy note. One day Madansundari’s brother came home to visit the couple. He was received courteously by his sister, Madansundari and served him a sumptuous meal. Her brother told her that Shuddhapata has invited the newly married couple to visit their home and celebrate the festival of their family god. Dhaval immediately agreed and the young couple set out on a journey along with the bride’s brother.

As they reached Shobhavati, they saw the temple of Parvati. Dhaval said to his wife and brother-in-law, “Come, let’s visit the shrine of the goddess!’ But the brother hesitated for a while saying-” How can we approach the goddess empty-handed.” Dhaval thought to himself, after all, goddess Parvati had helped him get Madansundari as his wife; so how can he not pay his gratitude to her?

“In that case, both of you wait here. I will go alone and have a quick darshan of the goddess.” He said to his wife and brother in law and entered the temple. As he saw the magnificent idol of Parvati with eighteen hands trampling upon a buffalo demon, Mahisha; Dhaval was overwhelmed by the goddess’s presence and thought to himself. “People worship the goddess with different kinds of sacrifices. And I have come here with empty hands. What can I offer her so that I can obtain salvation?”

He noticed a sword offered to the goddess kept in the corner of the shrine. He picked up the sword and in a single swoop cut off his head as an offering to the goddess.

After a long wait, Madansundari and her brother wondered why was Dhaval taking so long? Finally, the brother told Madansundari “ Sister let me go inside the temple and remind him that we are getting late. Please wait outside, I will bring him along.” Saying thus, he went inside the temple. To his shock and horror, he saw Dhaval lying on the floor in a pool of blood with his head chopped off. Shocked and in grief, he thought to himself “ How can I break this horrible news to my sister? What if she thinks that I killed her husband?” Not knowing how he can deal with the situation in extreme grief he picked up the same sword and chopped off his own head. When her brother too did not return Madansundari got anxious. She entered the temple only to find her husband and her brother dead before the goddess Parvati with their heads chopped off.

Horrified to see her brother and husband dead, she cried in unbearable pain and grief to Parvati “O dear Goddess, you who are the most blessed, chaste and holy and you who occupy half of your husband’s body, you who are the refuge of women and who take away grief why have you taken my husband and brother at the same time? I have worshipped you exclusively, so listen to this pathetic request of mine, before I prepare to abandon my ill-fated body. Wherever and whenever I am born again, O goddess let these two be my husband and my brother”. Saying thus she folded her hands in prayer for the last time and picked up and raised the sword lying in a pool of blood. As she was about to stab the sharp blade into her heart, she heard a commanding voice “Do not act in haste O daughter! I am pleased with your courage and your display of devotion towards me. Throw away that sword. And attach the heads of your husband and brother back to their bodies. By my grace, they will come alive and rise again”.

Madansundari was overjoyed she fell at her feet in great reverence and then rushed towards the bodies of her husband and brother lying nearby. Overwhelmed by her joy excitement she attached her husband’s head on her brother’s body and vice versa. Both the men rose up hail and hearty, however, their heads had been exchanged with each other. There was joy all around as they marvelled at what had happened. After praising the goddess they started back on the journey, but soon Madansundai realised the mistake she had made while fixing the heads.  She had switched the heads. Perplexed and shocked she wondered “ How do I know, who is my husband and who is my brother?”

Vetala paused, waiting to see King Vikramaditya’s reaction, but Vikramaditya kept walking without showing a reaction. Finally, Vetal coaxed him,“ Tell me O king which one of the two mixed up people is her husband? Tell me if you know the answer.” So the King answered “Of course the one who had the head of the husband. Because head rules the limbs and isn’t one’s personal identity depends on the head?.” When Vetala heard the answer he broke into a wicked smile and in the blink of an eye returned to the Ashoka tree to hang upside down from its branches.


Story collected by: Vidya Kamat

Text Souce: Tales from Kathasaritsagar, Tr. By Arshia Sattar

Location: Pan India

Image Source: Wikipedia