Chandrahasa (Kannada: ಚ೦ದ್ರಹಾಸ) was the king of Kuntala kingdom which roughly consisted of parts of the north of present-day Karnataka and south of Maharashtra, India, including Gokarna region. Sometimes an overlapping region Gorashtra is mentioned to be part of Kuntala. The story of Chandrahasa is mentioned in Ashvamedhika Parva of the epic Mahabharata. He was the son of the king Sudharmika of Kerala. He married Vishaye and Champakamalini who was the princess of Kuntala. They had two sons Makaraksha and Padmaksha. Chandrahasa befriends Arjuna who was accompanied by Krishna guarding the Ashvamedha horse of Yudhishthira. Chandrahasa anoints his son Makaraksha as the king and accompanies the army of Arjuna to help Ashvamedha.
The story of Chandrahasa is also depicted in the Kannada epic Jaimini Bharatha of poet Lakshmeesha. The popular story of the prince Chandrahasa is played in popular movies and in Yakshagana.
Chandrahasa was born under the inauspicious Mula star in Arishtamsha. Had six toes in his left foot, another inauspicious sign. It is said as a consequence of these two, the enemy army killed his father and occupied his kingdom. His mother fell into the funeral pyre of her husband as was the custom. Later a maid took him to the Kuntala province and started taking care of him. However, she also died after some time. This orphan was being taken care of by the citizens of that country.
Once, while playing on the bank of the river, Chandrahasa found a uniquely shaped black round stone which was like a big marble. He picked it up and showed it to a learned priest and asked what was it. The priest wondered that it was a Nrisinha Murthy Shaligrama (Sign-Stone of Lord Vishnu) which was very rare, auspicious and very beneficial for the person who finds it and worships it. The priest guided Chandrahasa how to pray and worship the Shaligrama.
Dushtabuddhi (literally one with an evil mind), minister of the king of Kuntala performed Annasantarpane, feeding of people. This boy also went there. The priests who had gathered there noticed the royal features of this boy and told the minister to take special care of the boy. But Dushtabuddhi had other evil designs as the king had no issues and the minister had plans of assuming the throne. In order to get rid of the boy he got some Chandalas and ordered them to kill this boy, promising them suitable gifts. They took the boy to the forest to kill him. Before killing, they asked him his last wish. Chandrahasa said that for the last time he would pray and worship the Shaligrama, which he used to keep always with him. He prayed and then asked the Chandalas why they wanted to kill him. However, Chandalas kept quiet. All of a sudden, all the Chandalas heard the roaring sound of a lion behind each of them and saw a lion jumping on them. Out of fear, they fainted. Chndrahasa helped them and gave them water to drink. Due to the fear of the lion-sight and behaviour of Chandrahasa, their heart melted and they cut off only the sixth finger and showed it to Dushtabuddhi as a proof of killing Chandrahasa. (Note: the inauspicious sign of the boy was thus removed). Kulinda, king of the forest dwelling tribes saw this boy wandering and crying in the jungle, and as he had no issues of his own,brought him home and started bringing him up. Chandrahasa learnt all the aspects of education and won over all the provinces surrounding his kingdom, also added riches to the treasury. Once, when Dushtabuddhi visited their kingdom he recognized him and, having learnt the details from Kulinda, wrote a note to his son to poison him and sent the note to his son through Chandrahasa.
Chandrahasa came to Kuntala province and was resting in the garden in the outskirts of the town; Vishaye, daughter to Dushtabuddhi who had also come there with her maids chanced upon a sleeping Chandrahasa and fell in love with him. She opened the letter addressed to her brother and recognised it as her father’s note. She assumed that her father must have meant Vishaye and not Visha ( meaning poison), promptly changed it and put it back in Chandrahasa’s pocket. Chandrahasa delivered the note to Madana, Dushtabuddhi’s son, was honoured and the wedding took place accordingly. Dushtabuddhi who arrived now was peeved. He commissioned murderers to wait and kill the person who will come to the Kalika temple in the outskirts of the town. (This temple is located in the town of Kuknur in North Karnataka today).He also prevailed upon chandrahasa to visit the temple in the evening, alone assuring him that was their custom. He also ensured Chandrahasa would go to the temple. Madana, Dushtabuddhi’s son was looking after the affairs of the Palace in the absence of his father till now; it happened this day too. When he went to the Palace, the royal priest Galava informed him that the king was on his deathbed and, having seen Chandrahasa earlier had decided he is the right choice as his son-in-law and heir; Madana was asked to convey this message Madana ran into chandrahasa, asked him to rush to the palace immediately and took his place to go the temple,was promptly assassinated there by the murderers sent by Dushtabuddhi. Chandrahasa went to the Palace, was honoured and got married to the princess Champakamalini. When this news reached Dushtabuddhi, he was heart-broken. He was devastated when he learnt of his son’s death. He decided to end his life and went to the Kali temple and beheaded himself. When chandrahasa learnt of this twin tragedy in the morning, he went to the temple and prayed to goddess Kali to restore the two to life. When Kali was not appeased, he proceeded to behead himself; Kali appeared, restored the two to life, granted many boons to chandrahasa.
Chandrahasa ruled this kingdom for many years having invited Kulinda to Kuntala province. He had a son by name Padmaksha from Champakamalini and Makaraksha from Vishaye, the minister’s daughter. When these two boys were walking in the outskirts of the town one day, they chanced upon the stallion of Yudhishtir’s aswamedha yagna; dismayed, they came back and informed their father about it. Chandrahasa came there, met Krishna and Arjuna, treated them in a royal manner, gave them abundant wealth and army for the Yagna. He anointed his son Makaraksha and went with Krishna and Arjuna along with the army.
The story of Chandrahasa seemed to be an inspiration to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where the huntsman is ordered to murder Snow White but is unable to do so.
A full length biographical feature film with the title name Chandrahasa was released in 1965 in Kannada. Directed and produced by B. S. Ranga, the film starred Rajkumar, Udaykumar, K. S. Ashwath, Leelavathi and Pandari Bai playing the pivotal roles. The film had music by S. Hanumantha Rao and was scripted by Chi. Sadashivaiah and Sadashiva Brahmam.
Launched by Vasanth Pictures, the film's soundtrack had multitude of renowned playback singers like Ghantasala, P. Leela, P. Susheela, P. B. Srinivas and S. Janaki singing the songs to the lyrics written by Chi. Sadashivaiah.