"'Having addressed that foremost of mountain thus, Damayanti then went in a northerly direction. And having proceeded three days and nights, that best of women came to an incomparable penance grove of ascetics, resembling in beauty a celestial grove. And the charming asylum she beheld was inhabited and adorned by ascetics like Vasishtha and Bhrigu and Atri, self-denying and strict in diet, with minds under control, endued with holiness, some living on water, some on air, and some on (fallen) leaves, with passions in check, eminently blessed, seeking the way to heaven, clad in barks of trees and deer-skins, and with senses subdued. And beholding that hermitage inhabited by ascetics, and abounding in herds of deer and monkeys, Damayanti was cheered. And that best of women, the innocent and blessed Damayanti, with graceful eye-brows, and long tresses, with lovely hips and deep bosom, and face graced with fine teeth and with fine black and large eyes, in her brightness and glory entered that asylum. And saluting those ascetics grown old in practising austerities, she stood in an attitude of humility. And the ascetics living in that forest, said, Welcome! And those men of ascetic wealth, paying her due homage, said, "Sit ye down, and tell us what we may do for thee." That best of women replied unto them, saying, "Ye sinless and eminently blessed ascetics, is it well with your austerities, and sacrificial fire, and religious observances, and the duties of your own order? And is it well with the beasts and birds of this asylum?" And they answered, "O beauteous and illustrious lady, prosperity attendeth us in every respect. But, O thou of faultless limbs, tell us who thou art, and what thou seekest. Beholding thy beauteous form and thy bright splendour, we have been amazed. Cheer up and mourn not. Tell us, O blameless and blessed one, art thou the presiding deity of this forest, or of this mountain, or of this river?" Damayanti replied unto those ascetics, saying, "O Brahmanas, I am not the goddess of this forest, or of this mountain, or of this stream. O Rishis of ascetic wealth, know that I am a human being. I will relate my history in detail. Do ye listen to me. There is a king—the mighty ruler of the Vidarbhas—Bhima by name. O foremost of regenerate ones, know me to be his daughter. The wise ruler of the Nishadhas, Nala by name, of great celebrity, heroic, and ever victorious in battle, and learned, is my husband. Engaged in the worship of the gods, devoted to the twice-born ones, the guardian of the line of the Nishadhas, of mighty energy, possessed of great strength, truthful, conversant with all duties, wise, unwavering in promise, the crusher of foes, devout, serving the gods, graceful, the conqueror of hostile towns, that foremost of kings, Nala by name, equal in splendour unto the lord of celestials, the slayer of foes, possessed of large eyes, and a hue resembling the full moon, is my husband. The celebrator of great sacrifices, versed in the Vedas and their branches, the destroyer of enemies in battle, and like unto the sun and the moon in splendour, is he. That king devoted to faith and religion was summoned to dice by certain deceitful persons of mean mind and uncultured soul and of crooked ways, and skilful in gambling, and was deprived of wealth and kingdom. Know that I am the wife of that bull among kings, known to all by the name of Damayanti, anxious to find out my (missing) lord. In sadness of heart am I wandering among woods, and mountains, and lakes, and rivers, and tanks and forests, in search of that husband of mine—Nala, skilled in battle, high-souled, and well-versed in the use of weapons. O hath king Nala, the lord of the Nishadhas, come to this delightful asylum of your holy selves? It is for him, O Brahmanas, that I have come to this dreary forest full of terrors and haunted by tigers and other beasts. If I do not see king Nala within a few days and nights, I shall seek my good by renouncing this body. Of what use is my life without that bull among men? How shall I live afflicted with grief on account of my husband?"
"'Unto Bhima's daughter, Damayanti, lamenting forlorn in that forest, the truth-telling ascetics replied, saying, "O blessed and beauteous one, we see by ascetic power that the future will bring happiness to thee, and that thou wilt soon behold Naishadha. O daughter of Bhima, thou wilt behold Nala, the lord of the Nishadhas, the slayer of foes, and the foremost of the virtuous freed from distress. And O blessed lady, thou wilt behold the king—thy lord—freed from all sins and decked with all kinds of gems, and ruling the selfsame city, and chastising his enemies, and striking terror into the hearts of foes, and gladdening the hearts of friends, and crowned with every blessing."
"'Having spoken unto that princess—the beloved queen of Nala—the ascetics with their sacred fires and asylum vanished from sight. And beholding that mighty wonder, the daughter-in-law of king Virasena, Damayanti of faultless limbs, was struck with amazement. And she asked herself, "Was it a dream that I saw? What an occurrence hath taken place! Where are all those ascetics? And where is that asylum? Where, further, is that delightful river of sacred waters—the resort of diverse kinds of fowls? And where, again, are those charming trees decked with fruits and flowers?" And after thinking so for some time, Bhima's daughter, Damayanti of sweet smiles melancholy and afflicted with grief on account of her lord, lost the colour of her face (again). And going to another part of the wood, she saw an Asoka tree. And approaching that first of trees in the forest, so charming with blossoms and its load of foliage, and resounding with the notes of birds, Damayanti, with tears in her eyes and accents choked in grief, began to lament, saying, "Oh, this graceful tree in the heart of the forest, decked in flowers, looketh beautiful, like a charming king of hills. O beauteous Asoka, do thou speedily free me from grief. Hast thou seen king Nala, the slayer of foes and the beloved husband of Damayanti,—freed from fear and grief and obstacles? Hast thou seen my beloved husband, the ruler of the Nishadhas, clad in half a piece of cloth, with delicate skin, that hero afflicted with woe and who hath come into this wilderness? O Asoka tree, do thou free me from grief! O Asoka, vindicate thy name, for Asoka meaneth destroyer of grief." And going round that tree thrice, with an afflicted heart, that best of women, Bhima's daughter, entered a more terrible part of the forest. And wandering in quest of her lord, Bhima's daughter beheld many trees and streams and delightful mountains, and many beasts and birds, and caves, and precipices, and many rivers of wonderful appearance. And as she proceeded she came upon a broad way where she saw with wonder a body of merchants, with their horses and elephants, landing on the banks of a river, full of clear and cool water, and lovely and charming to behold, and broad, and covered with bushes of canes, and echoing with the cries of cranes and ospreys and Chakravakas, and abounding in tortoises and alligators and fishes, and studded with innumerable islets. And as soon as she saw that caravan, the beauteous and celebrated wife of Nala, wild like a maniac, oppressed with grief, clad in half a garment, lean and pale and smutted, and with hair covered with dust, drew near and entered into its midst. And beholding her, some fled in fear, and some became extremely anxious, and some cried aloud, and some laughed at her, and some hated her. And some, O Bharata, felt pity for, and even addressed, her, saying, "O blessed one, who art thou, and whose? What seekest thou in woods? Seeing thee here we have been terrified. Art thou human? Tell us truly, O blessed one if thou art the goddess of this wood or of this mountain or of the points of the heaven. We seek thy protection. Art thou a female Yaksha, or a female Rakshasa, or a celestial damsel? O thou of faultless features, do thou bless us wholly and protect us. And, O blessed one, do thou so act that this caravan may soon go hence in prosperity and that the welfare of all of us may be secured." Thus addressed by that caravan, the princess Damayanti, devoted to her husband and oppressed by the calamity that had befallen her, answered, saying, "O leader of the caravan, ye merchants, ye youths, old men, and children, and ye that compose this caravan, know me for a human being. I am the daughter of a king, and the daughter in-law of a king, and the consort also of a king, eager for the sight of my lord. The ruler of the Vidarbhas is my father, and my husband is the lord of the Nishadhas, named Nala. Even now I am seeking that unvanquished and blessed one. If ye have chanced to see my beloved one, king Nala, that tiger among men, that destroyer of hostile hosts, O tell me quick." Thereupon the leader of that great caravan, named Suchi, replied unto Damayanti of faultless limbs, saying, "O blessed one, listen to my words. O thou of sweet smiles, I am a merchant and the leader of this caravan. O illustrious lady, I have not seen any man of the name of Nala. In this extensive forest uninhabited by men, there are only elephants and leopards and buffaloes, and tigers and bears and other animals. Except thee, I have not met with any man or woman here, so help us now Manibhadra, the king of Yakshas!" Thus addressed by them she asked those merchants as well as the leader of the host saying, "It behoveth you to tell me whither this caravan is bound." The leader of the band said, "O daughter of a great king, for the purpose of profit this caravan is bound direct for the city of Suvahu, the truth-telling ruler of the Chedis."'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'Having heard the words of the leader of that caravan, Damayanti of faultless limbs proceeded with that caravan itself anxious to behold her lord. And after having proceeded for many days the merchants saw a large lake fragrant with lotuses in the midst of that dense and terrible forest. And it was beautiful all over, and exceedingly delightful, (with banks) abounding in grass and fuel and fruits and flowers. And it was inhabited by various kinds of fowls and birds, and fall of water that was pure and sweet. And it was cool and capable of captivating the heart. And the caravan, worn out with toil, resolved to halt there. And with the permission of their leader, they spread themselves around those beautiful woods. And that mighty caravan finding it was evening halted at that place. And (it came to pass that) at the hour of midnight when everything was hushed and still and the tired caravan had fallen asleep, a herd of elephants in going towards a mountain stream to drink of its water befouled by their temporal juice, saw that caravan as also the numerous elephants belonging to it. And seeing their domesticated fellows the wild elephants infuriated and with the temporal juice trickling down rushed impetuously on the former, with the intention of killing them. And the force of the rush of those elephants was hard to bear, like the impetuosity of peaks lessened from mountain summits rolling towards the plain. The rushing elephants found the forest paths to be all blocked up, for the goodly caravan was sleeping obstructing the paths around that lake of lotuses. And the elephants all of a sudden, began to crush the men lying insensible on the ground. And uttering cries of "Oh!" and "Alas!" the merchants, blinded by sleep, fled, in order to escape that danger, to copses and woods for refuge. And some were slain by the tusks, and some by the trunks, and some by the legs of those elephants. And innumerable camels and horses were killed, and crowds of men on foot, running in fright, killed one another. And uttering loud cries some fell down on the ground, and some in fear climbed on trees, and some dropped down on uneven ground. And, O king, thus accidentally attacked by that large herd of elephants, that goodly caravan suffered a great loss. And there arose a tremendous uproar calculated to frighten the three worlds, "Lo! a great fire hath broken out. Rescue us. Do ye speedily fly away. Why do ye fly? Take the heaps of jewels scattered around. All this wealth is a trifle. I do not speak falsely, I tell you again, (exclaimed some one) think on my words, O ye distracted one!" With such exclamation they ran about in fright. And Damayanti awoke in fear and anxiety, while that terrible slaughter was raging there. And beholding slaughter capable of awaking the fear of all the worlds, and which was so unforeseen, the damsel of eyes like lotus leaves rose up, wild with fright, and almost out of breath. And those of the caravan that had escaped unhurt, met together, and asked one another, "Of what deed of ours is this the consequence? Surely, we have failed to worship the illustrious Manibhadras, and likewise the exalted and graceful Vaisravana, the king of the Yaksha. Perhaps, we have not worshipped the deities that cause calamities, or perhaps, we have not paid them the first homage. Or, perhaps, this evil is the certain consequence of the birds (we saw). Our stars are not unpropitious. From what other cause, then hath this disaster come?" Others, distressed and bereft of wealth and relatives, said, "That maniac-like woman who came amongst this mighty caravan in guise that was strange and scarcely human, alas, it is by her that this dreadful illusion had been pre-arranged. Of a certainty, she is a terrible Rakshasa or a Yaksha or a Pisacha woman. All this evil is her work, what need of doubts? If we again see that wicked destroyer of merchants, that giver of innumerable woes, we shall certainly slay that injurer of ours, with stones, and dust, and grass, and wood, and cuffs." And hearing these dreadful words of the merchants, Damayanti, in terror and shame and anxiety, fled into the woods apprehensive of evil. And reproaching herself she said, "Alas! fierce and great is the wrath of God on me. Peace followeth not in my track. Of what misdeed is this the consequence? I do not remember that I did ever so little a wrong to any one in thought, word, or deed. Of what deed, then, is this the consequence? Certainly, it is on account of the great sins I had committed in a former life that such calamity hath befallen me, viz., the loss of my husband's kingdom, his defeat at the hands of his own kinsmen, this separation from my lord and my son and daughter, this my unprotected state, and my presence in this forest abounding in innumerable beasts of prey!"
"'The next day, O king, the remnant of that caravan left the place bewailing the destruction that had overtaken them and lamenting for their dead brothers and fathers and sons and friends. And the princess of Vidarbha began to lament, saying, "Alas! What misdeed have I perpetrated! The crowd of men that I obtained in this lone forest, hath been destroyed by a herd of elephants, surely as a consequence of my ill luck. Without doubt, I shall have to suffer misery for a long time. I have heard from old men that no person dieth ere his time; it is for this that my miserable self hath not been trodden to death by that herd of elephants. Nothing that befalleth men is due to anything else than Destiny, for even in my childhood I did not commit any such sin in thought, word, or deed, whence might come this calamity. Methinks, I suffer this severance from my husband through the potency of those celestial Lokapalas, who had come to the Swayamvara but whom I disregarded for the sake of Nala." Bewailing thus, O tiger among kings, that excellent lady, Damayanti, devoted to her husband, went, oppressed with grief and (pale) as the autumnal moon, with those Brahmanas versed in the Vedas that had survived the slaughter of the caravan. And departing speedily, towards evening, the damsel came to the mighty city of the truth-telling Suvahu, the king of the Chedis. And she entered that excellent city clad in half a garment. And the citizens saw her as she went, overcome with fear, and lean, melancholy, her hair dishevelled and soiled with dust, and maniac-like. And beholding her enter the city of the king of the Chedis, the boys of the city, from curiosity, began to follow her. And surrounded by them, she came before the palace of the king. And from the terrace the queen-mother saw her surrounded by the crowd. And she said to her nurse, "Go and bring that woman before me. She is forlorn and is being vexed by the crowd. She hath fallen into distress and standeth in need of succour. I find her beauty to be such that it illumineth my house. The fair one, though looking like a maniac, seemeth a very Sree with her large eyes." Thus commanded, the nurse went out and dispersing the crowd brought Damayanti to that graceful terrace. And struck with wonder, O king, she asked Damayanti, saying, "Afflicted though thou art with such distress, thou ownest a beautiful form. Thou shinest like lightning in the midst of the clouds. Tell me who thou art, and whose. O thou possessed of celestial splendour, surely, thy beauty is not human, bereft though thou art of ornaments. And although thou art helpless, yet thou art unmoved under the outrage of these men." Hearing these words of the nurse, the daughter of Bhima said, "Know that I am a female belonging to the human species and devoted to my husband. I am a serving woman of good lineage. I live wherever I like, subsisting on fruit and roots, and whom a companion, and stay where evening overtaketh me. My husband is the owner of countless virtues and was ever devoted to me. And I also, on my part, was deeply attached to him, following him like his shadow. It chanced that once he became desperately engaged at dice. Defeated at dice, he came alone into the forest. I accompanied my husband into the woods, comforting the hero clad in a single piece of cloth and maniac-like and overwhelmed with calamity. Once on a time for some cause, that hero, afflicted with hunger and thirst and grief, was forced to abandon that sole piece of covering in the forest. Destitute of garment and maniac-like and deprived of his senses as he was, I followed him, myself in a single garment. Following him, I did not sleep for nights together. Thus passed many days, until at last while I was sleeping, he cut off half of my cloth, and forsook me who had done him no wrong. I am seeking my husband but unable to find him who is of hue like the filaments of the lotus, without being able to cast my eyes on that delight of my heart, that dear lord who owneth my heart and resembleth the celestials in mien, day and night do I burn in grief."
"'Unto Bhima's daughter thus lamenting with tearful eyes, and afflicted and speaking in accents choked in grief, the queen-mother herself said, "O blessed damsel, do thou stay with me. I am well pleased with thee. O fair lady, my men shall search for thy husband. Or, perhaps he may come here of his own accord in course of his wanderings. And, O beautiful lady, residing here thou wilt regain thy (lost) lord." Hearing these words of the queen mother, Damayanti replied, "O mother of heroes, I may stay with thee on certain conditions. I shall not eat the leavings on any dish, nor shall I wash anybody's feet, nor shall I have to speak with other men. And if anybody shall seek me (as a wife or mistress) he should be liable to punishment at thy hands. And, further, should he solicit me over and over again, that wicked one should be punished with death. This is the vow I have made. I intend to have an interview with those Brahmanas that will set out to search for my husband. If thou canst do all this, I shall certainly live with thee. If it is otherwise, I cannot find it in my heart to reside with thee." The queen-mother answered her with a glad heart, saying, "I will do all this. Thou hast done well in adopting such a vow!"'
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'O king, having spoken so unto the daughter of Bhima, the queen-mother, O Bharata, said to her daughter named Sunanda, "O Sunanda, accept this lady like a goddess as thy Sairindhri! Let her be thy companion, as she is of the same age with thee. Do thou, with heart free from care, always sport with her in joy." And Sunanda cheerfully accepted Damayanti and led her to her own apartment accompanied by her associates. And treated with respect, Damayanti was satisfied, and she continued to reside there without anxiety of any kind, for all her wishes were duly gratified.'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'O monarch, having deserted Damayanti, king Nala saw a mighty conflagration that was raging in that dense forest. And in the midst of that conflagration, he heard the voice of some creature, repeatedly crying aloud, "O righteous Nala, come hither." And answering, "Fear not," he entered into the midst of the fire and beheld a mighty Naga lying in coils. And the Naga with joined hands, and trembling, spake unto Nala, saying, "O king, I am a snake, Karkotaka by name. I had deceived the great Rishi Narada of high ascetic merit, and by him have I been cursed in wrath, O king of men, even in words such as these: 'Stay thou here like an immobile thing, until one Nala taketh thee hence. And, indeed, on the spot to which he will carry thee, there shalt thou be freed from my curse.' It is for that curse of his that I am unable to stir one step. I will instruct thee in respect of thy welfare. It behoveth thee to deliver me. I will be thy friend. There is no snake equal to me. I will be light in thy hands. Taking me up, do thou speedily go hence." Having said this, that prince of snakes became as small as the thumb. And taking him up, Nala went to a spot free from fire. Having reached an open spot where there was no fire, Nala intended to drop the serpent, upon which Karkotaka again addressed him, saying, "O king of the Nishadhas, proceed thou yet, counting a few steps of thine; meanwhile, O mighty-armed one, I will do thee great good." And as Nala began to count his steps, the snake bit him at the tenth step. And, lo! As he was bit, his form speedily underwent a change. And beholding his change of form, Nala was amazed. And the king saw the snake also assume his own form. And the snake Karkotaka, comforting Nala, spake unto him, "I have deprived thee of thy beauty, so that people may not recognise thee. And, O Nala, he by whom thou hast been deceived and cast into distress, shall dwell in thee tortured by my venom. And, O monarch, as long as he doth not leave thee, he will have to dwell in pain in thy body with thine every limb filled with my venom. And, O ruler of men I have saved from the hands of him who from anger and hate deceived thee, perfectly innocent though thou art and undeserving of wrong. And, O tiger among men, through my grace, thou shalt have (no longer) any fear from animals with fangs, from enemies, and from Brahmanas also versed in the Vedas, O king! Nor shalt thou, O monarch, feel pain on account of my poison. And, O foremost of kings, thou shalt be ever victorious in battle. This very day, O prince, O lord of Nishadhas, go to the delightful city of Ayodhya, and present thyself before Rituparna skilled in gambling, saying, 'I am a charioteer, Vahuka by name.' And that king will give thee his skill in dice for thy knowledge of horses. Sprung from the line of Ikswaku, and possessed of prosperity, he will be thy friend. When thou wilt be an adept at dice, thou shalt then have prosperity. Thou wilt also meet with thy wife and thy children, and regain thy kingdom. I tell thee this truly. Therefore, let not thy mind be occupied by sorrow. And, O lord of men, when thou shouldst desire to behold thy proper form, thou shouldst remember me, and wear this garment. Upon wearing this, thou shalt get back thy own form." And saying this, that Naga then gave unto Nala two pieces of celestial cloth. And, O son of the Kuru race, having thus instructed Nala, and presented him with the attire, the king of snakes, O monarch, made himself invisible there and then!'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'After the snake had vanished, Nala, the ruler of the Nishadhas, proceeded, and on the tenth day entered the city of Rituparna. And he approached the king, saying, "My name is Vahuka. There is no one in this world equal to me in managing steeds. My counsel also should be sought in matters of difficulty and in all affairs of skill. I also surpass others in the art of cooking. In all those arts that exist in this world, and also in every thing difficult of accomplishment, I will strive to attain success, O Rituparna, do thou maintain me." And Rituparna replied, "O Vahuka, stay with me! May good happen to thee. Thou wilt even perform all this. I have always particularly desired to be driven fast. Do thou concert such measures that my steeds may become fleet. I appoint thee the superintendent of my stables. Thy pay shall be ten thousand (coins). Both Varshneya and Jivala shall always be under thy direction. Thou wilt live pleasantly in their company. Therefore, O Vahuka, stay thou with me."'
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'Thus addressed by the king, Nala began to dwell in the city of Rituparna, treated with respect and with Varshneya and Jivala as his companions. And residing there, the king (Nala), remembering the princess of Vidarbha, recited every evening the following sloka: "Where lieth that helpless one afflicted with hunger and thirst and worn with toil, thinking of that wretch? And upon whom also doth she now wait?" And once as the king was reciting this in the night, Jivala asked him saying, "O Vahuka, whom dost thou lament thus daily? I am curious to hear it. O thou blest with length of days, whose spouse is she whom thus lamentest?" Thus questioned, king Nala answered him, saying, "A certain person devoid of sense had a wife well-known to many. That wretch was false in his promises. For some reason that wicked person was separated from her. Separated from her, that wretch wandered about oppressed with woe, and burning with grief he resteth not by day or night. And at night, remembering her, he singeth this sloka. Having wandered over the entire world, he hath at last found a refuge, and undeserving of the distress that hath befallen him, passeth his days, thus remembering his wife. When calamity had overtaken this man, his wife followed him into the woods. Deserted by that man of little virtue, her life itself is in danger. Alone, without knowledge of ways, ill able to bear distress, and fainting with hunger and thirst, the girl can hardly protect her life. And, O friend, she hath been deserted by that man of small fortune and having little sense, with the wide and terrible forest, ever abounding in beasts of prey."
"'Thus remembering Damayanti, the king of the Nishadhas continued to live unknown in the abode of that monarch!'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'After Nala, despoiled of his kingdom, had, with his wife, become a bondsman, Bhima with the desire of seeing Nala sent out Brahmanas to search for him. And giving them profuse wealth, Bhima enjoined on them, saying, "Do ye search for Nala, and also for my daughter Damayanti. He who achieveth this task, viz., ascertaining where the ruler of the Nishadhas is, bringeth him and my daughter hither, will obtain from me a thousand kine, and fields, and a village resembling a town. Even if failing to bring Damayanti and Nala here, he that succeeds learning their whereabouts, will get from me the wealth represented by a thousand kine." Thus addressed, the Brahmanas cheerfully went out in all directions seeking Nala and his wife in cities and provinces. But Nala or his spouse they found not anywhere. Until at length searching in the beautiful city of the Chedis, a Brahmana named Sudeva, during the time of the king's prayers, saw the princess of Vidarbha in the palace of the king, seated with Sunanda. And her incomparable beauty was slightly perceptible, like the brightness of a fire enveloped in curls of smoke. And beholding that lady of large eyes, soiled and emaciated he decided her to be Damayanti, coming to that conclusion from various reasons. And Sudeva said, "As I saw her before, this damsel is even so at present. O, I am blest, by casting my eyes on this fair one, like Sree herself delighting the worlds! Resembling the full moon, of unchanging youth, of well-rounded breasts, illumining all sides by her splendour, possessed of large eyes like beautiful lotuses, like unto Kama's Rati herself the delight of all the worlds like the rays of the full moon, O, she looketh like a lotus-stalk transplanted by adverse fortune from the Vidarbha lake and covered with mire in the process. And oppressed with grief on account of her husband, and melancholy, she looketh like the night of the full moon when Rahu hath swallowed that luminary, or like a stream whose current hath dried up. Her plight is very much like that of a ravaged lake with the leaves of its lotuses crushed by the trunks of elephants, and with its birds and fowls affrighted by the invasion. Indeed, this girl, of a delicate frame and of lovely limbs, and deserving to dwell in a mansion decked with gems, is (now) like an uprooted lotus-stalk scorched by the sun. Endued with beauty and generosity of nature, and destitute of ornaments, though deserving of them, she looketh like the moon 'new bent in heaven' but covered with black clouds. Destitute of comforts and luxuries, separated from loved ones and friends, she liveth in distress, supported by the hope of beholding her lord. Verily, the husband is the best ornament of a woman, however destitute of ornaments. Without her husband beside her, this lady, though beautiful, shineth not. It is a hard feat achieved by Nala in that he liveth without succumbing to grief, though separated from such a wife. Beholding this damsel possessed of black hair and of eyes like lotus-leaves, in woe though deserving of bliss, even my heart is pained. Alas! when shall this girl graced with auspicious marks and devoted to her husband, crossing this ocean of woe, regain the company of her lord, like Rohini regaining the Moon's? Surely, the king of the Nishadhas will experience in regaining her the delight that a king deprived of his kingdom experienceth in regaining his kingdom. Equal to her in nature and age and extraction, Nala deserveth the daughter of Vidarbha, and this damsel of black eyes also deserveth him. It behoveth me to comfort the queen of that hero of immeasurable prowess and endued with energy and might, (since) she is so eager to meet her husband. I will console this afflicted girl of face like the full moon, and suffering distress that she had never before endured, and ever meditating on her lord."'
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'Having thus reflected on these various circumstances and signs, the Brahmana, Sudeva, approached Damayanti, and addressed her, saying, "O princess of Vidarbha, I am Sudeva, the dear friend of thy brother. I have come here, seeking thee, at the desire of king Bhima. Thy father is well, and also thy mother, and thy brothers. And thy son and daughter, blessed with length of days, are living in peace. Thy relatives, though alive, are almost dead on thy account, and hundreds of Brahmanas are ranging the world in search of thee."'
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'O Yudhishthira, Damayanti recognising Sudeva, asked him respecting all her relatives and kinsmen one after another. And, O monarch, oppressed with grief, the princess of Vidarbha began to weep bitterly, at the unexpected sight of Sudeva, that foremost of Brahmanas and the friend of her brother. And, O Bharata, beholding Damayanti weeping, and conversing in private with Sudeva, Sunanda was distressed, and going to her mother informed her, saying, "Sairindhri is weeping bitterly in the presence of a Brahmana. If thou likest, satisfy thyself." And thereupon the mother of the king of the Chedis, issuing from the inner apartments of the palace, came to the place where the girl (Damayanti) was with that Brahmana. Then calling Sudeva, O king, the queen-mother asked him, "Whose wife is this fair one, and whose daughter? How hath this lady of beautiful eyes been deprived of the company of her relatives and of her husband as well? And how also hast thou come to know this lady fallen into such a plight? I wish to hear all this in detail from thee. Do truly relate unto me who am asking thee about this damsel of celestial beauty." Then, O king, thus addressed by the queen-mother, Sudeva, that best of Brahmanas, sat at his ease, and began to relate the true history of Damayanti.'"
"'Sudeva said, "There is a virtuous and illustrious ruler of the Vidarbhas, Bhima by name. This blessed lady is his daughter, and widely known by the name of Damayanti. And there is a king ruling the Nishadhas, named Nala, the son of Virasena. This blessed lady is the wife of that wise and righteous monarch. Defeated at dice by his brother, and despoiled of his kingdom, that king, accompanied by Damayanti, went away without the knowledge of any one. We have been wandering over the whole earth in search of Damayanti. And that girl is at last found in the house of thy son. No woman existeth that is her rival in beauty. Between the eye-brows of this ever-youthful damsel, there is an excellent mole from birth, resembling a lotus. Noticed by us (before) it seems to have disappeared, covered, (as her forehead is) with (a coat of) dust even like the moon hid in clouds. Placed there by the Creator himself as an indication of prosperity and wealth, that mole is visible faintly, like the cloud-covered lunar crescent of the first day of the lighted fortnight. And covered as her body is with dust, her beauty hath not disappeared. Though careless of her person, it is still manifest, and shineth like gold. And this girl—goddess-like—capable of being identified by this form of hers and that mole, hath been discovered by me as one discovereth a fire that is covered, by its heat!"
"'O king, hearing these words of Sudeva, Sunanda washed the dust that covered the mole between Damayanti's eye-brows. And thereupon it became visible like the moon in the sky, just emerged from the clouds. And seeing that mole, O Bharata, Sunanda and the queen-mother began to weep, and embracing Damayanti stood silent for a while. And the queen-mother, shedding tears as she spoke, said in gentle accents, "By this thy mole, I find that thou art the daughter of my sister. O beauteous girl, thy mother and I are both daughters of the high-souled Sudaman, the ruler of the Dasarnas. She was bestowed upon king Bhima, and I on Viravahu. I witnessed thy birth at our father's palace in the country of the Dasarnas. O beautiful one, my house is to thee even as thy father's. And this wealth, O Damayanti, is thine as much as mine." At this, O king, Damayanti bowing down to her mother's sister with a glad heart, spake unto her these words, "Unrecognised, I have still lived happily with thee, every want of mine satisfied and myself cared for by thee. And happy as my stay hath been, it would, without doubt, be happier still. But, mother, I have long been an exile. It behoveth thee, therefore, to grant me permission (to depart). My son and daughter, sent to my father's palace, are living there. Deprived of their father, and of their mother also, how are they passing their days stricken with sorrow. If thou wishest to do what is agreeable to me, do thou without loss of time, order a vehicle, for I wish to go to the Vidarbhas." At this, O king, the sister to (Damayanti's) mother, with a glad heart, said, "So be it." And the queen-mother with her son's permission, O chief of the Bharatas, sent Damayanti in handsome litter carried by men, protected by a large escort and provided with food and drink and garments of the first quality. And soon enough she reached the country of the Vidarbhas. And all her relatives, rejoicing (in her arrival) received her with respect. And seeing her relatives, her children, both her parents, and all her maids, to be well, the illustrious Damayanti, O king, worshipped the gods and Brahmanas according to the superior method. And the king rejoiced at beholding his daughter, and gave unto Sudeva a thousand kine and much wealth and a village. And, O king, having spent that night at her father's mansion and recovered from fatigue, Damayanti addressed her mother, saying, "O mother, if thou wishest me to live, I tell thee truly, do thou endeavour to bring Nala, that hero among men." Thus addressed by Damayanti, the venerable queen became filled with sorrow. And bathed in tears, she was unable to give any answer. And beholding her in that plight, all the inmates of the inner apartments broke out into exclamation of "Oh!" And "Alas!" and began to cry bitterly. And then the queen addressed the mighty monarch Bhima, saying, "Thy daughter Damayanti mourneth on account of her husband. Nay, banishing away all bashfulness, she hath herself, O king, declared her mind to me. Let thy men strive to find out (Nala) the righteous." Thus informed by her the king sent the Brahmanas under him in all directions, saying, "Exert ye to discover Nala." And those Brahmanas, commanded by the ruler of the Vidarbhas (to seek Nala) appeared before Damayanti and told her of the journey they were about to undertake. And Bhima's daughter spake unto them saying, "Do ye cry in every realm and in every assembly, 'O beloved gambler, where hast thou gone cutting off half of my garment, and deserting the dear and devoted wife asleep in the forest? And that girl, as commanded by thee stayeth expecting thee, clad in half a piece of cloth and burning with grief! O king, O hero, relent towards, and answer, her who incessantly weepeth for that grief.' This and more ye will say, so that he may be inclined to pity me. Assisted by the wind, fire consumeth the forest. (Further, ye will say that) 'the wife is always to be protected and maintained by the husband. Why then, good as thou art and acquainted with every duty, hast thou neglected both the duties? Possessed of fame and wisdom, and lineage, and kindness, why hast thou be unkind? I fear, this is owing to the loss of my good luck! Therefore, O tiger among men, have pity on me. O bull among men! I have heard it from thee that kindness is the highest virtue.' Speaking so, if anybody answereth you, that person should by all means, be known, and ye should learn who he is, and where he dwelleth. And ye foremost of regenerate ones, do ye bring me the words of him who hearing this your speech will chance to answer. Ye should also act with such care that no one may know the words ye utter to be at my command, nor that ye will come back to me. And ye should also learn whether that answers is wealthy, or poor, or destitute of power, in fact all about him."
"'Thus instructed by Damayanti, O king, the Brahmanas set out in all directions in search of Nala overtaken with such disaster. And the Brahmanas, O king, searched for him in cities and kingdoms and villages, and retreats of ascetics, and places inhabited by cow-herds. And, O monarch, wherever they went they recited the speeches that Damayanti had directed them to do.'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'After a long time had passed away, a Brahmana named Parnada returned to the city (of the Vidarbhas), and said unto the daughter of Bhima, "O Damayanti, seeking Nala, the king of Nishaidhas, I came to the city of Ayodhya, and appeared before the son of Bhangasura. And, O best of women, I repeated those words of thine in the presence of the blessed Rituparna. But hearing them neither that ruler of men, nor his courtiers, answered anything, although I uttered them repeatedly. Then, after I had been dismissed by the monarch, I was accosted by a person in the service of Rituparna, named Vahuka. And Vahuka is the charioteer of that king, of unsightly appearance and possessed of short arms. And he is skillful in driving with speed, and well acquainted with the culinary art. And sighing frequently, and weeping again and again, he inquired about my welfare and afterwards said these words, 'Chaste women, although fallen into distress, yet protect themselves and thus certainly secure heaven. Although they may be deserted by their lords, they do not yet become angry on that account, for women that are chaste lead their lives, encased in the armour of virtuous behaviour. It behoveth her not to be angry, since he that deserted her was overwhelmed with calamity, and deprived of every bliss. A beautious and virtuous woman should not be angry with one that was deprived by birds of his garment while striving to procure sustenance and who is being consumed with grief. Whether treated well or ill, such a wife should never indulge in ire, beholding her husband in that plight, despoiled of kingdom and destitute of prosperity, oppressed with hunger and overwhelmed with calamity.' Hearing these words of his, I have speedily come here. Thou hast now heard all. Do what thou thinkest proper, and inform the king of it."
"'O king, having heard these words of Parnada, Damayanti with tearful eyes came to her mother, and spake unto her in private, "O mother, king Bhima should not, by any means, be made acquainted with my purpose. In thy presence will I employ that best of Brahmanas, Sudeva! If thou desirest my welfare, act in such a way that king Bhima may not know my purpose. Let Sudeva without delay go hence to the city of Ayodhya, for the purpose of bringing Nala, O mother, having performed the same auspicious rites by virtue of which he had speedily brought me into the midst of friends." With these words, after Parnada had recovered from fatigue, the princess of Vidarbha worshipped him with profuse wealth and also said, "When Nala will come here, O Brahmana, I will bestow on thee wealth in abundance again. Thou hast done me the immense service which none else, indeed, can do me, for, (owing to that service of thine), O thou best of the regenerate ones, I shall speedily regain my (lost) lord." And thus addressed by Damayanti, that high-minded Brahmana comforted her, uttering benedictory words of auspicious import, and then went home, regarding his mission to have been successful. And after he had gone away, Damayanti oppressed with grief and distress, calling Sudeva, addressed him, O Yudhishthira, in the presence of her mother, saying, "O Sudeva, go thou to the city of Ayodhya, straight as a bird, and tell king Rituparna living there, these words: 'Bhima's daughter, Damayanti will hold another Swayamvara. All the kings and princes are going thither. Calculating the time, I find that the ceremony will take place tomorrow. O represser of foes, if it is possible for thee, go thither without delay. Tomorrow, after the sun hath risen, she will choose a second husband, as she doth not know whether the heroic Nala liveth or not.'" And addressed by her, O monarch thus, Sudeva set out. And he said unto Rituparna, all that he had been directed to say.'"
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'Having heard the words of Sudeva king Rituparna, soothing Vahuka with gentle words, said, "O Vahuka, thou art well-skilled in training and guiding horses. If it pleases thee, I intend to go to Damayanti's Swayamvara in course of a single day." Thus addressed, O son of Kunti, by that king, Nala felt his heart to be bursting in grief. And the high-souled king seemed to burn in sorrow. And he thought within himself, "Perhaps Damayanti in doing this is blinded by sorrow. Or, perhaps, she hath conceived this magnificent scheme for my sake. Alas, cruel is the deed that the innocent princess of Vidarbha intends to do, having been deceived by my sinful and low self of little sense. It is seen in the world that the nature of woman is inconstant. My offence also hath been great; perhaps she is acting so, because she hath no longer any love for me owing to my separation from her. Indeed, that girl of slender waist, afflicted with grief on my account and with despair, will not certainly do anything of the kind, when especially, she is the mother of offspring (by me). However whether this is true or false, I shall ascertain with certitude by going thither. I will, therefore, accomplish Rituparna's and my own purpose also." Having resolved thus in his mind, Vahuka, with his heart in sorrow, spake unto king Rituparna, with joined hands, saying, "O monarch, I bow to thy behest, and, O tiger among men, I will go to the city of the Vidarbhas in a single day. O king!" Then, O monarch, at the command of the royal son of Bhangasura, Vahuka went to the stables and began to examine the horses. And repeatedly urged by Rituparna to make haste, Vahuka after much scrutiny and careful deliberation, selected some steeds that were lean-fleshed, yet strong and capable of a long journey and endued with energy and strength of high breed and docility, free from inauspicious marks, with wide nostrils and swelling cheeks, free from faults as regards the ten hairy curls, born in (the country of) Sindhu, and fleet as the winds. And seeing those horses, the king said somewhat angrily, "What is this, that thou wishest to do? Thou shouldst not jest with us. How can these horses of mine, weak in strength and breath, carry us? And how shall we be able to go this long way by help of these?" Vahuka replied, "Each of these horses bears one curl on his forehead, two on his temples, four on his sides, four on his chest, and one on his back. Without doubt, these steeds will be able to go to the country of the Vidarbhas. If, O king, thou thinkest of choosing others, point them out and I shall yoke them for thee." Rituparna rejoined, "O Vahuka, thou art versed in the science of horses and art also skillful (in guiding them). Do thou speedily yoke those that thou thinkest to be able." Thereupon the skillful Nala yoked upon the car four excellent steeds of good breed that were, besides, docile and fleet. And after the steeds had been yoked, the king without loss of time mounted upon the car, when those best of horses fell down upon the ground on their knees. Then, O king, that foremost of men, the blessed king Nala began to soothe horses endued with energy and strength. And raising them up with the reins and making the charioteer Varshneya sit on the car, he prepared to set out with great speed. And those best of steeds, duly urged by Vahuka, rose to the sky, confounding the occupant of the vehicle. And beholding those steeds gifted with the speed of the wind thus drawing the car, the blessed king of Ayodhaya was exceedingly amazed. And noticing the rattle of the car and also the management of the steeds, Varshneya reflected upon Vahuka's skill in guiding horses. And he thought, "Is he Matali, the charioteer of the king of the celestials? I find the same magnificent indications in the heroic Vahuka. Or, hath Salihotra versed in the science of horses taken this human shape so beautiful? Or, is it king Nala the reducer of hostile towns that hath come here? Or, it may be that this Vahuka knoweth the science that Nala knoweth, for I perceive that the knowledge of Vahuka is equal to that of Nala. Further, Vahuka and Nala are of the same age. This one, again, may not be Nala of high prowess, but somebody of equal knowledge. Illustrious persons, however, walk this earth in disguise in consequence of misfortune, or agreeably to the ordinance of the scriptures. That this person is of unsightly appearance need not change my opinion; for Nala, I think, may even be despoiled of his personal features. In respect of age this one equals Nala. There is difference, however, in personal appearance. Vahuka, again is endued with every accomplishment. I think, therefore, he is Nala." Having thus reasoned long in his mind, O mighty monarch, Varshneya, the (former) charioteer of the righteous Nala, became absorbed in thought. And that foremost of kings Rituparna, also, beholding the skill of Vahuka in equestrian science experienced great delight, along with his charioteer Varshneya. And thinking of Vahuka's application and ardour and the manner of his holding the reins, the king felt exceedingly glad.'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'Like a bird coursing through the sky, Nala soon crossed rivers and mountains, and woods and lakes. And while the car was coursing thus, that conqueror of hostile cities, the royal son of Bhangasura, saw his upper garment drop down on the ground. And at soon as his garment had dropped down the high-minded monarch, without loss of time, told Nala, "I intend to recover it. O thou of profound intelligence, retain these steeds endued with exceeding swiftness until Varshneya bringeth back my garment." Thereupon Nala replied unto him, "The sheet is dropped down far away. We have travelled one yojana thence. Therefore, it is incapable of being recovered." After Nala had addressed him thus, O king, the royal son of Bhangasura came upon a Vibhitaka tree with fruits in a forest. And seeing that tree, the king hastily said to Vahuka, "O charioteer, do thou also behold my high proficiency in calculation. All men do not know everything. There is no one that is versed in every science of art. Knowledge in its entirety is not found in any one person, O Vahuka, the leaves and fruits of this tree that are lying on the ground respectively exceed those that are on it by one hundred and one. The two branches of the tree have fifty millions of leaves, and two thousand and ninety five fruits. Do thou examine these two branches and all their boughs." Thereupon staying the car Vahuka addressed the king, saying, "O crusher of foes, thou takest credit to thyself in a matter which is beyond my perception. But, O monarch, I will ascertain it by the direct evidence of my senses, by cutting down the Vibhitaka. O king, when I actually count, it will no longer be matter of speculation. Therefore, in thy presence, O monarch, I will hew down this Vibhitaka. I do not know whether it be not (as thou hast said). In thy presence, O ruler of men, I will count the fruits and leaves. Let Varshneya hold the reins of the horses for a while." Unto the charioteer the king replied, "There is no time to lose." But Vahuka answered with humility, "Stay thou a short space, or, if thou art in a hurry, go then, making Varshneya thy charioteer. The road lies direct and even." And at this, O son of the Kuru race, soothing Vahuka, Rituparna said, "O Vahuka, thou art the only charioteer, there is none other in this world. And, O thou versed in horse lore, it is through thy help that I expect to go to the Vidarbhas. I place myself in thy hands. It behoveth thee not to cause any obstacle. And, O Vahuka, whatever thy wish. I will grant it if taking me to the country of the Vidarbhas to-day, thou makest me see the sun rise." At this, Vahuka answered him, saying, "After having counted (the leaves and fruits of the) Vibhitaka, I shall proceed to Vidarbha, do thou agree to my words." Then the king reluctantly told him, "Count. And on counting the leaves and fruits of a portion of this branch, thou wilt be satisfied of the truth of my assertion." And thereupon Vahuka speedily alighted from the car, and felled that tree. And struck with amazement upon finding the fruits, after calculation, to be what the king had said, he addressed the king, saying, "O monarch, this thy power is wonderful. I desire, O prince, to know the art by which thou hast ascertained all this." And at this the king, intent upon proceeding speedily, said unto Vahuka, "Know that I am proficient at dice besides being versed in numbers." And Vahuka said unto him, "Impart unto me this knowledge and, O bull among men, take from me my knowledge of horses." And king Rituparna, having regard to the importance of the act that depended upon Vahuka's good-will, and tempted also by the horse-lore (that his charioteer possessed), said, "So be it. As solicited by thee, receive this science of dice from me, and, O Vahuka, let my equine science remain with thee in trust." And saying this, Rituparna imparted unto Nala the science (he desired). And Nala upon becoming acquainted with the science of dice, Kali came out of his body, incessantly vomiting from his mouth the virulent poison of Karkotaka. And when Kali, afflicted (by Damayanti's curse) came out (of Nala's body), the fire of that curse also left Kali. Indeed, long had been the time for which the king had been afflicted by Kali, as if he were of unregenerate soul. And Nala the ruler of the Nishadhas, in wrath, was bent upon cursing Kali, when the latter, frightened, and trembling, said with joined hands, "Control thy wrath, O king! I will render thee illustrious. Indrasena's mother had formerly cursed me in anger when she had been deserted by thee. Ever since that time undergoing sore affliction I resided in thee, O mighty monarch, O unconquered one, miserably and burning night and day with the venom of the prince of snakes. I seek thy protection. If thou dost not curse me who am affrighted and seek thy protection, then those men that will attentively recite thy history, shall be even free from fear on my account." And thus addressed by Kali, king Nala controlled his wrath. And thereupon the frightened Kali speedily entered into the Vibhitaka tree. And while the Kali was conversing with Naishadha, he was invisible to others. And delivered from his afflictions, and having counted the fruits of that tree, the king, filled with great joy and of high energy, mounted on the car and proceeded with energy, urging those fleet horses. And from the touch of Kali the Vibhitaka tree from that hour fell into disrepute. And Nala, with a glad heart, began to urge those foremost of steeds which sprang into the air once and again like creatures endued with wings. And the illustrious monarch drove (the car) in the direction of the Vidarbhas. And after Nala had gone far away, Kali also returned to his abode. And abandoned by Kali, O king, that lord of earth, the royal Nala, became freed from calamity though he did not assume his native form.'"
"Vrinadaswa said, 'After Rituparna of prowess incapable of being baffled had, in the evening, arrived at the city of the Vidarbhas, the people brought unto king Bhima the tidings (of his arrival). And at the invitation of Bhima, the king (of Ayodhya) entered the city of Kundina, filling with the rattle of his car all the ten points, direct and transverse, of the horizon. And the steeds of Nala that were in that city heard that sound, and hearing it they became delighted as they used to be in the presence of Nala himself. And Damayanti also heard the sound of that car driven by Nala, like the deep roar of the clouds in the rainy season. And Bhima and the steeds (of Nala) regarded the clatter of that car to be like that which they used to hear in days of yore when king Nala himself urged his own steeds. And the peacocks on the terraces, and the elephants in the stables, and the horses also, all heard the rattle of Rituparna's car. And hearing the sound, so like the roar of the clouds, the elephants and the peacocks, O king, began to utter their cries, facing that direction, and filled with delight such as they experience when they hear the actual roar of the clouds. And Damayanti said, "Because the rattle of his car filling the whole earth, gladdens my heart, it must be King Nala (that has come). If I do not see Nala, of face bright as the moon, that hero with countless virtues, I shall certainly die. If I am not clasped today in that hero's thrilling embrace, I shall certainly cease to be. If Naishadha with voice deep as that of the clouds doth not come to me today, I shall enter into a pyre of golden brilliance. If that foremost of kings, powerful as a lion and gifted with the strength of an infuriated elephant, doth not present himself before me, I shall certainly cease to live. I do not remember a single untruth in him, or a single wrong done by him to others. Never hath he spoken an untruth even in jest. Oh, my Nala is exalted and forgiving and heroic and magnificent and superior to all other kings, and faithful to his marriage vow and like unto a eunuch in respect of other females. Night and day dwelling upon his perceptions, my heart, in absence of that dear one, is about to burst in grief."
"'Thus bewailing as if devoid of sense, Damayanti, O Bharata, ascended the terrace (of her mansion) with the desire of seeing the righteous Nala. And in the yard of the central mansion she beheld king Rituparna on the car with Varshneya and Vahuka. And Varshneya and Vahuka, descending for that excellent vehicle, unyoked the steeds, and kept the vehicle itself in a proper place. And king Rituparna also, descending from the car, presented himself before king Bhima possessed of terrible prowess. And Bhima received him with great respect, for in the absence of a proper occasion, a great person cannot be had (as a guest). And honoured by Bhima, king Rituparna looked about him again and again, but saw no traces of the Swayamvara. And the ruler of the Vidarbhas, O Bharata, approaching Rituparna, said, "Welcome! What is the occasion of this thy visit?" And king Bhima asked this without knowing that Rituparna had come to obtain the hand of his daughter. And king Rituparna, of unbaffled prowess and gifted with intelligence, saw that there were no other kings or princes. Nor did he hear any talk relating to the Swayamvara, nor saw any concourse of Brahmanas. And at this, the king of Kosala reflected a while and at length said, "I have come here to pay my respects to thee." And the king Bhima was struck with astonishment, and reflected upon the (probable) cause of Rituparna's coming, having passed over a hundred yojanas. And he reflected, "That passing by other sovereigns, and leaving behind him innumerable countries, he should come simply to pay his respect to me is scarcely the reason of his arrival. What he assigneth to be the cause of his coming appeareth to be a trifle. However, I shall learn the true reason in the future." And although king Bhima thought so, he did not dismiss Rituparna summarily, but said unto him again and again, "Rest, thou art weary." And honoured thus by the pleased Bhima, king Rituparna was satisfied, and with a delighted heart, he went to his appointed quarters followed by the servants of the royal household.'
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'And, O king, after Rituparna had gone away with Varshneya, Vahuka took the car to the stables. And there freeing the steeds, and tending them according to rule, and soothing them himself, sat down on a side of the car. Meanwhile, the princess of Vidharva, Damayanti, afflicted with grief, having beheld the royal son of Bhangasura, and Varshneya of the Suta race, and also Vahuka in that guise, asked herself, "Whose is this car-rattle? It was loud as that of Nala, but I do not see the ruler of the Nishadhas. Certainly, Varshneya hath learnt the art from Nala, and it is for this the rattle of the car driven by him hath been even like that of Nala. Or, is Rituparna equally skilled with Nala so that the rattle of his car seemeth to be like that of Nala?" And reflecting thus, O monarch, the blessed and beauteous girl sent a female messenger in search of Nishada.'"
"'Damayanti said, "O Kesini, go thou and learn who that charioteer is that sitteth by the car, unsightly and possessed of short arms. O blessed one, O faultless one, approaching him, cautiously and with suit words, make thou the usual inquiries of courtesy and learn all particulars truly. Having regard to the feeling of satisfaction my mind experienceth, and the delight my heart feeleth, I am greatly afraid this one is king Nala himself. And, O faultless one, having inquired after his welfare, thou shalt speak unto him the words of Parnada. And, O beauteous one, understand the reply he may make thereto." Thus instructed, that female messenger, going cautiously, while the blessed Damayanti watched from the terrace, addressed Vahuka in these words, "O foremost of men, thou art welcome. I wish thee happiness. O bull among men, hear now the words of Damayanti. When did ye all set out, and with what object have ye come hither. Tell us truly, for the princess of Vidarbha wisheth to hear it." Thus addressed, Vahuka answered, "the illustrious king of Kosala had heard from a Brahmana that a second Swayamvara of Damayanti would take place. And hearing it, he hath come here, by the help of excellent steeds fleet as the wind and capable of going a hundred yojanas. I am his charioteer." Kesini then asked, "Whence doth the third among you come, and whose (son) is he? And whose son art thou, and how hast thou come to do this work?" Thus questioned, Vahuka replied, "He (of whom thou inquirest) was the charioteer of the virtuous Nala, and known to all by the name of Varshneya. After Nala had, O beauteous one, left his kingdom, he came to the son of Bhangasura. I am skilled in horse-lore, and have, therefore, been appointed as charioteer. Indeed, king Rituparna hath himself chosen me as his charioteer and cook." At this Kesini rejoined, "Perhaps Varshneya knoweth where king Nala hath gone, and O Vahuka, he may also have spoken to thee (about his master)." Vahuka then said, "Having brought hither the children of Nala of excellent deeds, Varshneya went away whither he listed: He doth not know where Naishadha is. Nor, O illustrious one, doth anybody else know of Nala's whereabouts; for the king (in calamity) wandereth over the world in disguise and despoiled of (his native) beauty. Nala's self only knoweth Nala. Nala never discovereth his marks of identity anywhere." Thus addressed, Kesini returned, "The Brahmana that had before this gone to Ayodhya, had repeatedly said these words suitable to female lips, 'O beloved gambler, where hast thou gone cutting off half my piece of cloth, and deserting me, his dear and devoted wife asleep in the woods? And she herself, as commanded by him, waiteth expecting him clad in half a garment and burning day and night in grief. O king, O hero, do thou relent towards her that weepeth ceaselessly for that calamity and do thou give her an answer. O illustrious one, do thou speak the words agreeable to her for the blameless one panteth to hear them.' Hearing these words of the Brahmana thou didst formerly give a reply! The princess of Vidarbha again wisheth to hear the words thou didst then say."'
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'O son of the Kuru race, hearing these words of Kesini, Nala's heart was pained, and his eyes filled with tears. And repressing his sorrow, the king who was burning in grief, said again these words, in accents choked with tears: "Chaste women, though overtaken by calamity, yet protect themselves, and thereby secure heaven. Women that are chaste, deserted by their lords, never become angry, but continue to live, cased in virtue's mail. Deserted by one fallen into calamity, bereft of sense, and despoiled of bliss, it behoveth her not to be angry. A virtuous lady should not be angry with one that was deprived by birds of his garment while striving to procure sustenance and who is burning in misery. Whether treated well or ill she would never be angry, seeing her husband in that plight, despoiled of his kingdom, bereft of prosperity, oppressed with hunger, and overwhelmed with calamity." And, O Bharata, while speaking thus, Nala oppressed with grief, could not restrain his tears, but began to weep. And thereupon Kesini went back to Damayanti, and acquainted her with everything about that conversation as well as that outburst of grief.'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'Hearing everything, Damayanti became oppressed with grief, and suspecting the person to be Nala, said unto Kesini, "O Kesini, go thou again, and examine Vahuka, and staying in silence at his side mark thou his conduct. And, O beauteous one, whenever he happens to do anything skilful, do thou observe well his act while accomplishing it. And, O Kesini, whenever he may ask water or fire, with the view of offering him obstruction, thou shalt be in no hurry to give it. And marking everything about his behaviour, come thou and tell me. And whatever human or super-human thou seest in Vahuka, together with anything else, should all be reported unto me." And thus addressed by Damayanti, Kesini went away, and having marked the conduct of that person versed in horse-lore, she came back. And she related unto Damayanti all that had happened, indeed, everything of human and superhuman that she had witnessed in Vahuka. And Kesini said, "O Damayanti, a person of such control over the elements I have never before seen or heard of. Whenever he cometh to low passage, he never stoopeth down, but seeing him, the passage itself groweth in height so that he may pass through it easily. And at his approach, impassable narrow holes open wide. King Bhima had sent various kinds of meat—of diverse animals, for Rituparna's food. And many vessels had been placed there for washing the meat. And as he looked upon them, those vessels became filled (with water). And having washed the meat, as he set himself to cook, he took up a handful of grass and held it in the sun, when fire blazed up all on a sudden. Beholding this marvel, I have come hither amazed. Further, I have witnessed in him another great wonder. O beauteous one, he touched fire and was not burnt. And at his will, water falling floweth in a stream. And, I have witnessed another greater wonder still. He took up some flowers, began to press them slowly with his hands. And pressed by his hand, the flowers did not lose their original forms, but, on the contrary, became gayer and more odorous than before. Having beheld wonderful things I have come hither with speed."'
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'Hearing of these acts of the virtuous Nala, and discovering him from his behaviour, Damayanti considered him as already recovered. And from these indications suspecting that Vahuka was her husband, Damayanti once more weepingly addressed Kesini in soft words, saying, "O beauteous one, go thou once more, and bring from the kitchen without Vahuka's knowledge some meat that hath been boiled and dressed (by him)." Thus commanded, Kesini, ever bent on doing what was agreeable to Damayanti, went to Vahuka, and taking some hot meat came back without loss of time. And Kesini gave that meat, O son of the Kuru race, unto Damayanti. And Damayanti who had formerly often partaken of meat dressed by Nala, tasted the meat that was brought by her hand-maid. And she thereupon decided Vahuka to be Nala and wept aloud in grief of heart. And, O Bharata, overwhelmed with grief, and washing her face, she sent her two children with Kesini. And Vahuka, who was the king in disguise, recognising Indrasena with her brother, advanced hastily, and embracing them, took them up on his lap. And taking up his children like unto the children of the celestials, he began to weep aloud in sonorous accents, his heart oppressed with great sorrow. And after having repeatedly betrayed his agitation, Naishadha suddenly left children, and addressed Kesini, saying, "O fair damsel, these twins are very like my own children. Beholding them unexpectedly, I shed tears. If thou comest to me frequently people may think evil, for we are guests from another land. Therefore. O blessed one, go at thy ease."'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'Beholding the agitation of the virtuous and wise Nala, Kesini returned unto Damayanti and related everything unto her. And thereupon Damayanti with a sorrowful heart and eager to behold Nala, again despatched Kesini to her mother, asking her to say on her behalf: "Suspecting Vahuka to be Nala, I have tried him in various ways. My doubt now only relates to his appearance. I intend to examine him myself. O mother, either let him enter the palace, or give me permission to go to him. And arrange this with the knowledge of my father or without it." And thus addressed to Damayanti, that lady communicated unto Bhima the intention of his daughter, and upon learning it the king gave his consent. And, O bull of the Bharata race, having obtained the consent both of her father and mother, Damayanti caused Nala to be brought to her apartments. And as soon as he saw Damayanti unexpectedly, king Nala was overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, and bathed in tears. And that best of women, Damayanti, also, upon beholding king Nala in that condition, was sorely afflicted with grief. And, O monarch, herself clad in a piece of red cloth, and wearing matted locks, and covered with dirt and dust, Damayanti then addressed Vahuka, saying, "O Vahuka, hast thou ever seen any person acquainted with duty, who hath gone away, deserting his sleeping wife in the forest? Who, except the virtuous Nala, could go away, deserting in the woods, his dear and unoffending wife overcome with fatigue? Of what offence was I guilty in the eyes of that monarch since my early youth that he should go away deserting me in the woods while asleep overcome with fatigue? Why should he whom I formerly chose in preference to the gods themselves abandon his ever-devoted and loving wife who had become the mother also of his children? Before the fire, and in presence also of the celestials, he had taken my hand, vowing, 'Verily I will be thine.' Oh, where was that vow when he deserted me. O represser of foes." While Damayanti was saying all this, tears of sorrow began to flow plentifully from her eyes. And beholding her thus afflicted with grief, Nala also, shedding tears, black of those of the gazelle with extremities of reddish hue, said, "O timid one, neither the loss of my kingdom nor my desertion of thee was my act. Both were due to Kali. And, O foremost of virtuous women, lamenting for me day and night, and overcome with sorrow, thou hadst in the woods cursed Kali, and so he began to dwell in my body, burning in consequence of thy curse. Indeed burning with thy curse, he lived within me like fire within fire. O blessed girl, that our sorrows might terminate, that wretch have I overcome by my observances and austerities. The sinful wretch hath already left me, and it is for this that I have come hither. My presence here, O fair lady, is for thy sake. I have no other object. But, O timid one, can any other woman, forsaking her loving and devoted husband, ever choose a second lord like thee? At the command of the king, messengers are ranging this entire earth, saying, 'Bhima's daughter will, of her own accord, choose a second husband worthy of her.' Immediately on hearing this, the son of Bhangasura hath arrived here." Hearing these lamentations of Nala, Damayanti, frightened and trembling, said with joined hand, "It behoveth thee not, O blessed one, to suspect any fault in me. O ruler of the Nishadhas, passing over the celestials themselves, I choose thee as my lord. It was to bring thee hither that the Brahmanas had gone out in all directions, even to all the sides of the horizon, singing my words, in the form of ballads. At last, O king, a learned Brahmana named Parnada had found thee in Kosala in the palace of Rituparna. When thou hadst returned a fit answer to those words of his, it was then, O Naishadha, that I devised this scheme to recover thee. Except thee, O lord of earth, there is no one in this world, who in one day can clear, O King, a hundred yojanas with horses. O monarch, touching thy feet I can swear truly that I have not, even in thought, committed any sin. May the all-witnessing Air that courseth through this world, take my life, if I have committed any sin. May the Sun that ever courseth through the sky take my life, if I have committed any sin. May the Moon, that dwelleth within every creature as a witness, take my life, if I have committed any sin. Let the three gods that sustain the triple worlds in their entirety, declare truly, or let them forsake me today." And thus addressed by her, the Wind-god said from the sky, "O Nala, I tell thee truly that she hath done no wrong. O king, Damayanti, well guarding the honour of thy family, hath enhanced it. Of this we are the witnesses, as we have been her protectors for these three years. It is for thy sky that she hath devised this unrivalled scheme, for, except thee, none on earth is capable of travelling in a single day a hundred yojanas. O monarch, thou hast obtained Bhima's daughter, and she hath also obtained thee. Thou needst not entertain any suspicion but be united with thy partner." And after the Wind-god had said this, a floral shower fell there and the celestial kettle-drum began to play, and auspicious breezes began to blow. And beholding those wonders, O Bharata, king Nala, the represser of foes, cast away all his doubts in respect of Damayanti. And then that lord of earth, remembering the king of serpents, wore that pure garment and regained his native form. And beholding her righteous lord in his own form, Bhima's daughter of faultless limbs embraced him, and began to weep aloud. And king Nala also embraced Bhima's daughter devoted to him, as before, and also his children, and experienced great delight. And burying her face in his bosom, the beauteous Damayanti of large eyes began to sigh heavily, remembering her griefs. And overwhelmed with sorrow, that tiger among men stood for some time, clasping the dust-covered Damayanti of sweet smiles. And, O king, the queen-mother then, with a glad heart, told Bhima all that had passed between Nala and Damayanti. And the mighty monarch answered, "Let Nala pass this day in peace, to-morrow I shall see him after his bath and prayers, with Damayanti by his side." And, O king, they passed that night pleasantly, in relating to each other the past incidents of their life in the forest. And with hearts filled with joy, the princess of Vidarbha and Nala began to pass their days in the palace of king Bhima, intent upon making each other happy. And it was in the fourth year (after the loss of his kingdom) that Nala was re-united with his wife, and all his desires gratified, once more experienced the highest bliss. And Damayanti rejoiced exceedingly in having recovered her lord even as fields of tender plants on receiving a shower. And Bhima's daughter, thus recovering her lord, obtained her wish, and blazed forth in beauty, her weariness gone, her anxieties dispelled and herself swelling with joy, ever like a night that is lit by the bright disc of the moon!'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'Having passed that night, king Nala decked in ornaments and with Damayanti by his side, presented himself in due time before the king. And Nala saluted his father-in-law with becoming humility and after him the fair Damayanti paid her respects to her father. And the exalted Bhima, with great joy, received him as a son, and honouring him duly along with his devoted wife, comforted them in proper words. And duly accepting the homage rendered unto him, king Nala offered his father-in-law his services as became him. And seeing Nala arrived, the citizens were in great joy. And there arose in the city a loud uproar of delight. And the citizens decorated the city with flags and standards and garlands of flowers. And the streets were watered and decked in floral wreaths and other ornaments. And at their gates citizens piled flowers, and their temples and shrines were all adorned with flowers. And Rituparna heard that Vahuka had already been united with Damayanti. And the king was glad to hear of all this. And calling unto him king Nala, he asked his forgiveness. And the intelligent Nala also asked Rituparna's forgiveness, showing diverse reasons. And that foremost of speakers versed in the truth, king Rituparna, after being thus honoured by Nala, said, with a countenance expressive of wonder, these words unto the ruler of the Nishadhas. "By good fortune it is that regaining the company of thy own wife, thou hast obtained happiness. O Naishadha, while dwelling in disguise at my house, I hope I did not wrong thee in any way, O lord of the earth! If knowingly I have done thee any wrong, it behoveth thee to forgive me." Hearing this, Nala replied, "Thou hast not, O monarch, done me ever so little an injury. And if thou hast, it hath not awakened my ire, for surely thou shouldst be forgiven by me. Thou wert formerly my friend, and, O ruler of men, thou art also related to me. Henceforth I shall find greater delight in thee. O king, with all my desires gratified, I lived happily in thy abode, in fact more happily there than in my own house. This thy horse-lore is in my keeping. If thou wishest, O king, I will make it over to thee." Saying this, Naishadha gave unto Rituparna that science and the latter took it with the ordained rites. And, O monarch, the royal son of Bhangasura, having obtained the mysteries of equestrian science and having given unto the ruler of the Naishadhas the mysteries of dice, went to his own city, employing another person for his charioteer. And, O king, after Rituparna had gone, king Nala did not stay long in the city of Kundina!'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'O son of Kunti, the ruler of the Nishadhas having dwelt there for a month, set out from that city with Bhima's permission and accompanied by only a few (followers) for the country of the Nishadhas. With a single car white in hue, sixteen elephants, fifty horses, and six hundred infantry, that illustrious king, causing the earth itself to tremble, entered (the country of the Nishadhas) without loss of a moment and swelling with rage. And the mighty son of Virasena, approaching his brother Pushkara said unto him, "We will play again, for I have earned vast wealth. Let Damayanti and all else that I have be my stake, let, O Pushkara, thy kingdom be thy stake. Let the play begin again. This is my certain determination. Blessed be thou, let us stake all we have along with our lives. Having won over and acquired another's wealth or kingdom, it is a high duty, says the ordinance, to stake it when the owner demands. Or, if thou dost not relish play with dice, let the play with weapons begin. O king, let me or thyself have peace by a single combat. That this ancestral kingdom should, under all circumstances and by any means, be recovered, there is the authority of sages for holding. And, O Pushkara, choose thou one of these two things—gambling with dice or bending the bow in battle!" Thus addressed by Nishadha, Pushkara, sure of his own success, laughingly answered that monarch, saying, "O Naishadha, it is by good fortune that thou hast earned wealth again to stake. It is by good fortune also that Damayanti's ill-luck hath at last come to an end. And O king, it is by good fortune that thou art still alive with thy wife, O thou of mighty arms! It is evident that Damayanti, adorned with this wealth of thine that I will win, will wait upon me like an Apsara in heaven upon Indra. O Naishadha, I daily recollect thee and am even waiting for thee, since I derive no pleasure from gambling with those that are not connected with me by blood. Winning over to-day the beauteous Damayanti of faultless features, I shall regard myself fortunate, indeed, since she it is that hath ever dwelt in my heart." Hearing these words of that incoherent braggart, Nala in anger desired to cut off his head with a scimitar. With a smile, however, though his eyes were red in anger, king Nala said, "Let us play. Why do you speak so now? Having vanquished me, you can say anything you like." Then the play commenced between Pushkara and Nala. And blessed be Nala who at a single throw won his wealth and treasures back along with the life of his brother that also had been staked. And the king, having won, smilingly said unto Pushkara, "This whole kingdom without a thorn in its side is now undisturbedly mine. And, O worst of kings, thou canst not now even look at the princess of Vidarbha. With all thy family, thou art now, O fool, reduced to the position of her slave. But my former defeat at thy hands was not due to any act of thine. Thou knowest it not, O fool, that it was Kali who did it all. I shall not, therefore, impute to thee the faults of others. Live happily as thou choosest, I grant thee thy life. I also grant thee thy portion (in the paternal kingdom) along with all necessaries. And, O hero, without doubt, my affection towards thee is now the same as before. My fraternal love also for thee will never know any diminution. O Pushkara, thou art my brother, live thou for a hundred years!"
"'And Nala of unbaffled prowess, having comforted his brother thus gave him permission to go to his own town, having embraced him repeatedly. And Pushkara himself, thus comforted by the ruler of the Nishadhas saluted that righteous king, and addressed him, O monarch, saying these words with joined hands, "Let thy fame be immortal and live thou happily for ten thousand years, thou who grantest me, O king, both life and refuge." And entertained by the king, Pushkara dwelt there for a month and then went to his own town accompanied by large force and many obedient servants and his own kindred, his heart filled with joy. And that bull among men all the while blazed forth in beauty of person like a second Sun. And the blessed ruler of the Nishadhas, having established Pushkara and made him wealthy and freed him from troubles, entered his richly decorated palace. And the ruler of the Nishadhas, having entered his palace, comforted the citizens. And all the citizens and the subjects from the country horripilated in joy. And the people headed by the officers of state said with joined hands, "O king, we are truly glad to-day throughout the city and the country. We have obtained to-day our ruler, like the gods their chief of a hundred sacrifice!"'"
"Vrihadaswa said, 'After the festivities had commenced in the city that was full of joy and without anxiety of any kind, the king with a large force brought Damayanti (from her father's home). And her father, too, that slayer of hostile heroes, Bhima of terrible prowess and immeasurable soul, sent his daughter, having honoured her duly. And upon the arrival of the princess of Vidarbha accompanied by her son and daughter, king Nala began to pass his days in joy like the chief of the celestials in the gardens of Nandana. And the king of undying fame, having regained his kingdom and becoming illustrious among monarchs of the island of Jamvu, began once more to rule it. And he duly performed numerous sacrifices with abundant gifts to Brahmanas. O great king, thou also wilt with thy kindred and relatives, so blaze forth in effulgence soon. For, O foremost of men, it was thus that subjugator of hostile cities, king Nala, had fallen into distress along with his wife, in consequence, O bull of Bharata race, of dice. And, O lord of the earth, Nala suffered such dire woe all alone and recovered his prosperity, whereas thou, O son of Pandu, with heart fixed on virtue, art sporting in joy in this great forest, accompanied by thy brothers and Krishna. When thou art also, O monarch, mixing daily with blessed Brahmanas versed in the Vedas and their branches, thou hast little cause for sorrow. This history, besides, of the Naga Karkotaka, of Damayanti, of Nala and of that royal sage Rituparna, is destructive of evil. And, O thou of unfading glory, this history, destructive of the influence of Kali, is capable, O king, of comforting persons like thee when they listen to it. And reflecting upon the uncertainty (of success) of human exertion, it behoveth thee not to joy or grieve at prosperity or adversity. Having listened to this history, be comforted, O king, and yield not to grief. It behoveth thee not, O great king, to pine under calamity. Indeed, men of self-possession, reflecting upon the caprice of destiny and the fruitlessness of exertion, never suffer themselves to be depressed. They that will repeatedly recite this noble history of Nala, and that will hear it recited, will never be touched by adversity. He that listeneth to this old and excellent history hath all his purposes crowned with success and, without doubt, obtaineth fame, besides sons and grandsons and animals, a high position among men, and health, and joy. And, O king, the fear also that thou entertainest, viz., (Some one skilled in dice will summon me), I will for once dispel. O thou of invincible prowess, I know the science of dice in its entirety. I am gratified with thee; take this lore, O son of Kunti, I will tell unto thee.'"
Vaisampayana continued, "King Yudhishthira then, with a glad heart, said unto Vrihadaswa, 'O illustrious one, I desire to learn the science of dice from thee.' The Rishi then gave his dice-lore unto the high-souled son of Pandu, and having given it unto him, that great ascetic went to the sacred waters of Hayasirsha for a bath.
"And after Vrihadaswa had gone away, Yudhishthira of firm vows heard from Brahmanas and ascetics that came to him from various directions and from places of pilgrimage and mountains and forests that Arjuna of high intelligence and capable of drawing the bow with his left hand, was still engaged in the austerest of ascetic penances, living upon air alone. And he heard that the mighty-armed Partha was engaged in such fierce asceticism that none else before him had ever been engaged in such penances. And Dhananjaya, the son of Pritha, engaged in ascetic austerities with regulated vows and fixed mind and observing the vow of perfect silence, was, he heard, like the blazing god of justice himself in his embodied form. And, O king, (Yudhishthira) the son of Pandu hearing that his dear brother Jaya, the son of Kunti, was engaged in such asceticism in the great forest, began to grieve for him. And with a heart burning in grief, the eldest son of Pandu, seeking consolation in that mighty forest held converse with the Brahmanas possessed of various knowledge who were living with him there."
Janamejaya said, "O holy one, after my great-grandfather Partha had gone away from the woods of Kamyaka, what did the sons of Pandu do in the absence of that hero capable of drawing the bow with his left hand? It seemeth to me that mighty bowman and vanquisher of armies was their refuge, as Vishnu of the celestials. How did my heroic grandsires pass their time in the forest, deprived of the company of that hero, who resembled Indra himself in prowess and never turned his back in battle?"
Vaisampayana said, "After Arjuna of unbaffled prowess had gone away from Kamyaka, the sons of Pandu, O son, were filled with sorrow and grief. And the Pandavas with cheerless hearts very much resembled pearls unstrung from a wreath, or birds shorn of their wings. And without that hero of white steeds that forest looked like the Chaitraratha woods when deprived of the presence of Kuvera. And, O Janamejaya, those tigers among men—the sons of Pandu—deprived of the company of Arjuna, continued to live in Kamyaka in perfect cheerlessness. And, O chief of the Bharata race, those mighty warriors endowed with great prowess slew with pure arrows various kinds of sacrificial animals for the Brahmanas. And those tigers among men and repressers of foes, daily slaying those wild animals and sanctifying them properly, offered them unto the Brahmanas. And it was thus, O king, that those bulls among men afflicted with sorrow lived there with cheerless hearts after Dhananjaya's departure. The princess of Panchala in particular, remembering her third lord, addressed the anxious Yudhishthira and said, 'That Arjuna who with two hands rivals the thousand-armed Arjuna (of old), alas, without that foremost of the sons of Pandu, this forest doth not seem at all beautiful in my eyes. Without him, whenever I cast my eyes, this earth seems to be forlorn. Even this forest with its blossoming trees and so full of wonders, without Arjuna seems not so delightful as before. Without him who is like a mass of blue clouds (in hue), who hath the prowess of an infuriated elephant, and whose eyes are like the leaves of the lotus, this Kamyaka forest doth not seem beautiful to me. Remembering that hero capable of drawing the bow with his left hand, and the twang of whose bow sounds like the roar of thunder, I cannot feel any happiness, O king!' And, O monarch, hearing her lament in this strain, that slayer of hostile heroes, Bhimasena, addressed Draupadi in these words, 'O blessed lady of slender waist, the agreeable words thou utterest delight my heart like the quaffing of nectar. Without him whose arms are long and symmetrical, and stout and like unto a couple of iron maces and round and marked by the scars of the bow-strings and graced with the bow and sword and other weapons and encircled with golden bracelets and like unto a couple of five-headed snakes, without that tiger among men the sky itself seemeth to be without the sun. Without that mighty-armed one relying upon whom the Panchalas and the Kauravas fear not the sternly-exerting ranks of the celestials themselves, without that illustrious hero relying upon whose arms we all regard our foes as already vanquished and the earth itself as already conquered, without that Phalguna I cannot obtain any peace in the woods of Kamyaka. The different directions also, wherever I cast my eyes, appear to be empty!'
"After Bhima had concluded, Nakula the son of Pandu, with voice choked with tears, said, 'Without him whose extraordinary deeds on the field of battle constitute the talk of even the gods, without that foremost of warriors, what pleasure can we have in the woods? Without him who having gone towards the north had vanquished mighty Gandharva chiefs by hundreds, and who having obtained numberless handsome horses of the Tittiri and Kalmasha species all endowed with the speed of the wind, presented them from affection unto his brother the king, on the occasion of the great Rajasuya sacrifice, without that dear and illustrious one, without that terrible warrior born after Bhima, without that hero equal unto a god I do not desire to live in the Kamyaka woods any longer.'
"After Nakula's lamentations, Sahadeva said, 'He who having vanquished mighty warriors in battle won wealth and virgins and brought them unto the king on the occasion of the great Rajasuya sacrifice, that hero of immeasurable splendour who having vanquished single-handed the assembled Yadavas in battle, ravished Subhadra with the consent of Vasudeva, he, who having invaded the dominion of the illustrious Drupada gave, O Bharata, unto the preceptor Drona his tuition fee—beholding, O king, that Jishnu's bed of grass empty in our asylum, my heart refuses consolation. A migration from this forest is what, O represser of foes, I would prefer for without that hero this forest cannot be delightful.'"
Vaisampayana said, "Hearing these words of his brothers as also of Krishna, all of whom were anxious on account of Dhananjaya, king Yudhishthira, the just, became melancholy. And at that time he saw (before him) the celestial Rishi Narada blazing with Brahmi beauty and like unto a fire flaming up in consequence of sacrificial libation. And beholding him come, king Yudhishthira with his brothers stood up and duly worshipped the illustrious one. And endued with blazing energy, the handsome chief of the Kuru race, surrounded by his brothers, shone like the god of a hundred sacrifices encircled by the celestials. And Yajnaseni in obedience to the dictates of morality adhered to her lords, the sons of Pritha, like Savitri to the Vedas or the rays of the Sun to the peak of Meru. And the illustrious Rishi Narada, accepting that worship, comforted the son of Dharma in proper terms. And, O sinless one, addressing the high-souled king Yudhishthira, the just, the Rishi said, 'Tell me, O foremost of virtuous men, what it is that thou seekest and what I can do for thee.' At this, the royal son of Dharma bowing with his brothers unto Narada, who was the revered of the celestials, told him with joined hands, 'O thou that art highly blessed and worshipped by all the worlds when thou art gratified with me, I regard all my wishes in consequence of thy grace, as already fulfilled, O thou of excellent vows! If, O sinless one, I with my brothers deserve thy favour, it behoveth thee, O best of Munis, to dispel the doubt that is in my mind. It behoveth thee to tell me in detail what merit is his that goeth round the worlds, desirous of beholding the sacred waters and shrines that are on it.'
"Narada said, 'Listen, O king, with attention, to what the intelligent Bhishma had heard before from Pulastya! Once, O blessed one, that foremost of virtuous men, Bhishma, while in the observance of the Pitrya vow, lived, O king, in the company of Munis in a delightful and sacred region, near the source of the Ganga, that is resorted to by the celestial Rishis and Gandharvas and the celestials themselves. And while living there, the resplendent one gratified with his oblations the Pitris, the gods and the Rishis, according to the rites inculcated in the scriptures. And once on a time while the illustrious one was engaged in his silent recitations, he beheld Pulastya—that best of Rishis, of wonderful appearance. And beholding that austere ascetic blazing with beauty, he was filled with great delight and exceeding wonder. And, O Bharata, that foremost of virtuous men, Bhishma, then worshipped that blessed Rishi according to the rites of the ordinance. And purifying himself and with rapt attention, he approached that best of Brahmarshis, with the Arghya on his head. And uttering aloud his name, he said, "O thou of excellent vow, blessed be thou, I am Bhishma, thy slave. At sight of thee, I am freed from all my sins." And saying this, that foremost of virtuous men, Bhishma, restraining speeches stood, O Yudhishthira, in silence and with joined hands. And beholding Bhishma that foremost of the Kurus, reduced and emaciated by the observance of vows and the study of the Vedas, the Muni became filled with joy.'"
"'Pulastya said, "O thou of excellent vows, I have been much gratified with thy humility, thy self-control, and thy truth, thou blessed one versed in morality! O sinless one, it is for this virtue of thine which thou hast acquired from regard to thy ancestors, that I have been gratified with thee and thou hast, O son, obtained a sight of my person. O Bhishma. my eyes can penetrate into everything. Tell me what I may do for thee. O sinless one, O thou foremost of the Kuru race, I will grant thee whatever thou mayst ask me."
"'Bhishma said, "O highly blessed one, when thou who art worshipped by the three worlds hast been gratified with me and when I have obtained a sight of thy exalted self, I regard myself as already crowned with success. But, O thou foremost of virtuous persons, if I have deserved thy favour, I will tell thee my doubts and it behoveth thee to dispel them, O holy one, I have some religious doubts in respect of tirthas. Speak of those to me in detail, I desire to hear thee. O thou that resemblest a celestial himself, what is his merit, O regenerate Rishi, who goeth round the whole earth (visiting shrines). O tell me this with certainty."
"'Pulastya said, "O son, listen with attention. I will tell thee of the merit which attacheth to tirthas and which constituteth the refuge of the Rishis. He whose hands and feet and mind and knowledge and asceticism and acts are under wholesome control, enjoyeth the fruits of tirthas. He who has ceased to accept gifts, he that is contented, he that is free from pride enjoys the fruits of tirthas. He that is without sin, he that acts without purpose, he that eats light, he that has his senses under control, he that is free from every sin, enjoys the fruits of tirthas. O king, he that is free from anger, he that adhereth to truth, he that is firm in vows, he that regardeth all creatures as his own self, enjoyeth the fruits of tirthas. In the Vedas the Rishis have declared in due order the sacrifices and also their fruits here and hereafter truly. O lord of earth, those sacrifices cannot be accomplished by him that is poor, for those sacrifices require various materials and diverse things in large measures. These, therefore can be performed by kings or sometimes by other men of prosperity and wealth. O lord of men, that rite, however, which men without wealth, without allies, singly, without wife and children, and destitute of means, are capable of accomplishing and the merit of which is equal unto the sacred fruits of sacrifices, I will now declare unto thee, thou best of warriors! O thou best of the Bharata race, sojourns in tirthas which are meritorious and which constitute one of the high mysteries of the Rishis, are even superior to sacrifices. He is a poor man who having gone to a tirtha hath not fasted for three nights, who hath not given away gold, and who hath not distributed kine. Indeed, one acquireth not, by the performance of the Agnishtoma and other sacrifices distinguished by large gifts, that merit which one requireth by a sojourn to a tirtha. In the world of men, there is that tirtha of the God of gods, celebrated over the three worlds by the name of Pushkara. One that sojourneth there becometh equal unto that deity. O high-souled son of the Kuru race, during the two twilights and mid-day there is the presence of hundred thousand millions of tirthas in Pushkara. The Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the Sadhyas, the Maruts, the Gandharvas, and the Apsaras are ever present, O exalted one, in Pushkara. It was there, O king, that the gods, the Daityas and Brahmarshis, having performed ascetic devotions there, obtained great merit and finally attained to god-hood.