Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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KALMASHAPADA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] A king of the Solar race, son of Sudasa (hence he is called Saudasa), and a descendant of Ikshwaku.

His legend, as told in the Mahabharata, relates that while hunting in the forest he encountered Saktri, the eldest son of Vasishtha, and as this sage refused to get out of his way, he struck him with his whip. The incensed sage cursed him to become a cannibal. This curse was heard by Vishvamitra, the rival of Vasishtha, and he so contrived that the body of the king became possessed by a man-eating Rakshasa. In this condition he caused human flesh to be served up to a Brahman name Mitrasaha, who discovered what it was, and intensified the curse of Saktri himself, and all the hundred sons of Vasishtha fell a prey to his disordered appetite. After remaining twelve years in this state, he was restored to his natural condition by Vasishtha.

The Vishnu Purana tells the story differently. The king went out to hunt and found two destructive tigers. He killed one of them, but as it expired it was changed into a Rakshasa. The other tiger disappeared threatening vengeance. Kalmashapada celebrated a sacrifice at which Vasishtha officiated. When it was over and Vasishtha went out, the Rakshasa assumed his appearance, and proposed that food should be served. Then the Rakshasa transformed himself into a cook, and, preparing human flesh, he served it is Vasishtha on his return. The indignant sage cursed the king that henceforth his appetite should be excited only by similar food. A wrangle ensued, and Vasishtha having found out the truth, limited the duration of his curse to twelve years. The angry king took water in his hands to pronounce, in his turn, a curse upon Vasishtha, but was dissuaded from his purpose by his wife, Madayanti. "Unwilling to cast the water on the ground, lest it should wither up the grain, and equally reluctant to throw it up in the air, lest it should blast the clouds and dry up their contents, he threw it upon his own feet," and they were so scalded by it that they became black and white, and so gained for him the name of Kalmashapada, 'spotted feet.'

Every day for twelve years, at the sixth watch of the day, he gave way to his cannibal appetite, "and devoured multitudes of men." On one occasion he devoured a Brahman in the midst of his connubial happiness, and the Brahman's wife passed upon him a curse that he should die whenever he associated with his wife. At the expiration of the Vasishtha's curse, the king returned home, but, mindful of the Brahmani's imprecation, he abstained from conjugal intercourse. By the interposition of Vasishtha, his wife, Madayanti, became pregnant, and bore a child in her womb for seven years, when she performed the Caesarean operation with a sharp stone, and child came forth who was called Asmaka (from Asman, 'a stone').

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM