Nala and Damayanti and Other Poems
by Henry Hart Milman
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Transcriber's note:

1. The spelling, accents, and diacritical marks of Sanskrit words is not consistent through the book. The original spelling, accents, and diacritical marks are retained.

2. The in-line notes refer to lines in the poems. These have been converted to footnotes for easy reference. The information regarding the line referred to is however retained.







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Those friends who have taken an interest in my literary productions may feel some surprise at my appearance in the character of a translator of Sanscrit poetry. To those, and indeed to all who may take up the present volume, I owe some explanation of my pretensions as a faithful interpreter of my original text. Those pretensions are very humble; and I can unfeignedly say, that if the field had been likely to be occupied by others, who might unite poetical powers with a profound knowledge of the sacred language of India, I should have withdrawn at once from the competition. But, in fact, in this country the students of oriental literature, endowed with a taste and feeling for poetry, are so few in number, that any attempt to make known the peculiar character of those remarkable works, the old mythological epics of India, may be received with indulgence by all who are interested in the history of poetry. Mr. Wilson alone, since Sir W. Jones, has united a poetical genius with deep Sanscrit scholarship; but he has in general preferred the later and more polished period—that of Kalidasa and the dramatists—to the ruder, yet in my opinion, not less curious and poetical strains of the older epic bards.

A brief account of the manner in which I became engaged in these studies, will best explain the extent of my proficiency. During the two last years in which I held the office of Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford, having exhausted the subject which I had chosen for my terminal course, I was at a loss for some materials for the few remaining lectures before my office should expire. I had been led by the ardent curiosity, which I have ever felt to acquire some knowledge of the poetry of all ages and nations—to examine some of the publications of French and German, as well as English scholars, on the subject of Indian poetry; chiefly those of the Schlegels, of Bopp, and of De Chezy. I was struck with the singularity and captivated by the extreme beauty, as it appeared to me, of some of the extracts, especially those from the great epic poems, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, in their Homeric simplicity so totally opposite to the ordinary notions entertained of all eastern poetry. I was induced to attempt, without any instruction, and with the few elementary works which could be procured, the Grammars of Wilkins and Bopp, the Glossaries of Bopp and Rosen (Mr. Wilson's Dictionary was then out of print and could not be purchased), to obtain some knowledge of this wonderful and mysterious language. The study grew upon me, and would have been pursued with more ardour, perhaps with more success, but for the constant interruption of more imperative professional and literary avocations. In itself the Sanscrit is an inexhaustible subject of interest; in its grammatical structure more regular, artificial, and copious than the most perfect of the western languages; in its origin, the parent from which the older Greek, the Latin and the Teutonic tongues seem to branch out and develop themselves upon distinct and discernible principles.

I ventured to communicate to the Members of the University who attended my lectures, my discoveries, as it were, in the unknown region of Indian poetry, and to introduce translations of such passages as appeared to me of peculiar singularity or beauty. Though I was still moving in the leading-strings of my learned guides, I had obtained sufficient acquaintance with the language to compare their interpretations with the original text. I afterwards embodied some parts of my lectures in an article in the Quarterly Review, in order to contribute as far as was in my power to open this new and almost untrodden field of literature to the English reader.

Still I should not have presumed to form these translations into a separate work, nor acceded to the proposal of the publisher of the present volume, who has himself deserved so well of the students of oriental lore by his excellent translation, or rather recomposition of Adelung's "Historical Sketch of Sanscrit Literature," but for the encouragement and assistance of Mr. Wilson, now, the University may be proud to say, the Boden Professor of Sanscrit at Oxford. To his most friendly care in revising these sheets, I owe the correction of many errors; and Sanscrit scholars will find in the notes some observations on the text, which will contribute to elucidate the poem of Nala. Under the sanction of Mr. Wilson's revision, I may venture to hope that the translation is, at least, an accurate version of the original; and I cannot too strongly express my gratitude for the labour which Mr. Wilson has been so kind as to expend on my imperfect and unpretending work.

The versification, or rather the metrical system, which I have adopted, is an experiment, how far a successful one must be judged by others. The original verse in which the vast epics of Vyasa and Valmiki are composed is called the Sloka, which is thus described by Schlegel in his Indische Bibliothek, p. 36: "The oldest, most simple, and most generally adopted measure is the Sloka; a distich of two sixteen syllable-lines, divided at the eighth syllable." According to our prosodial marks, the following is the scheme:—

u u u u u - - - u u u u u - u - - - - - u - - - - u

u u u u u - - - u u u u u - u u - - - - - u - - - - -

The first four syllables are bound by no rule; the second half, on the contrary, is unalterably fixed, excepting that the last syllable has the common licence of termination. In the second half verse, I do not remember a single instance of deviation from this, though sometimes, but very seldom, the first half verse ends with another quadrisyllable foot. The reader who is curious on the subject, may compare Mr. Colebrooke's elaborate essays on Sanscrit poetry, Kosegarten's preface to his Translation of Nala, and Bopp's preface to his Translation of Selections from the Mahabharata.

In the first translations which I attempted, a few passages from the Bhagavat-Gita, I adhered as nearly as possible to the measure of the original; in the Nala, in order to give the narrative a more easy and trochaic flow, I omitted one syllable, and in some degree changed the structure of the verse.

July 1835.


The episode of Nala is extracted from the Vanaparvam, the third part of the Mahabharata, the great Indian poem, which contains 100,000 slokas, or distichs. The sage, Vrihadasva, relates the story of Nala to king Yudishthira, in order to console him under the miseries to which he was exposed by bad success in play. By the terms of the gaming transaction, in which he was worsted by Sakuni, who threw the dice for Duryodhana, he was condemned to wander with his brothers for twelve years in the forest. The adventures of Nala showed how that king, having been in the same manner unfortunate with the dice, had suffered still greater toil and misery, and had at length recovered his kingdom and his wife. The popularity of this fable with the natives, is sufficiently proved by the numerous poetic versions of the story. The Nalodaya, a poem ascribed to Kalidas, should first be mentioned. A new edition of this work has been recently published by Ferdinand Benary; we have a notice of it in the Quarterly Review: it seems to bear the same relation to the simple and national episode of the Mahabharata, as the seicentesti of Italy to Dante or Ariosto, or Gongora to the poem of the Cid. Another poem called Naishadha, in twenty-two books, does not complete the story, but only carries it as far as the fifteenth book. There is a Tamulic version of the same story, translated by Kindersley, in his specimens of Hindu Literature. The third book of the poem of Sriharsha, containing 135 slokas, is entirely occupied with the conversation between Damayanti and the swans (the geese), in which the birds to excite her love, dwell with diffuse eloquence on the praises of Nala.



Lived of yore, a raja, Nala,—Virasena's mighty son, Gifted he with every virtue,—beauteous, skilled in taming steeds: Head of all the kings of mortals—like the monarch of the gods, Over, over all exalted[1]—in his splendour like the sun: Holy, deep-read in the Vedas[2]—in Nishadha lord of earth;[3] Loving dice, of truth unblemished[4]—chieftain of a mighty host. The admired of noble women—generous, with each sense subdued.[5] Guardian of the state; of archers—best, a present Manu[6] he. So there dwelt in high Vidarbha[7]—Bhima, terrible in strength,[8] With all virtues blest, but childless—long for children had he pined. Many an holy act, on offspring[9]—still intent, had he performed. To his court there came a Brahmin,—Damana the seer was named. Him the child-desiring Bhima—in all duties skilled, received, Feasted with his royal consort—in his hospitable hall.[10] Pleased on him the grateful Daman,—and his queen a boon bestowed, One sweet girl, the pearl of maidens—and three fair and noble sons. Damayanti, Dama Danta—and illustrious Damana, Richly gifted with all virtues—mighty, fearful in their might. Damayanti with her beauty—with her brilliance, brightness, grace, Through the worlds unrivalled glory—won the slender-waisted maid. Her, arrived at bloom of beauty,—sate a hundred slaves around, And a hundred virgin handmaids—as around great Indra's queen.[11] In her court shone Bhima's daughter—decked with every ornament, Mid her handmaids, like the lightning[12]—shone she with her faultless form;[13] Like the long-eyed queen of beauty—without rival, without peer. Never mid the gods immortal—never mid the Yaksha race,[14] Nor 'mong men was maid so lovely—ever heard of, ever seen, As the soul-disturbing maiden—that disturbed the souls of gods. Nala too, 'mong kings the tiger[15]—peerless among earthly men, Like Kandarpa in his beauty[16]—like that bright-embodied God. All around Vidarbha's princess—praised they Nala in their joy. Ever praised they Damayanti—round Nishadha's noble king. Hearing so each others virtues—all unseen they 'gan to love. Thus of each, O son of Kunti,[17]—the deep silent passion grew. Nala, in his heart impatient—longer that deep love to bear, To the grove, in secret, wandered—by the palace' inmost court. There the swans he saw disporting[18]—with their wings bedropped with gold: Through the grove thus lightly moving—one of these bright birds he caught. But the bird, in human language—thus the wondering king addressed: "Slay me not, O gentle monarch!—I will do thee service true; So in Damayanti's presence—will I praise Nishadha's king, Never after shall the maiden—think of mortal man but thee." Thus addressed, at once the monarch—let the bright-winged bird depart. Flew away the swans rejoicing—to Vidarbha straight they flew; To Vidharba's stately city:—there by Damayanti's feet, Down with drooping plumes they settled—and she gazed upon the flock, Wondering at their forms so graceful—where amid her maids she sate. Sportively began the damsels—all around to chase the birds; Scattering flew the swans before them—all about the lovely grove. Lightly ran the nimble maidens,—every one her bird pursued; But the swan that through the forest—gentle Damayanti chased, Suddenly, in human language—spake to Damayanti thus.— "Damayanti, in Nishadha—Nala dwells, the noble king— Like the Aswinas in beauty,[19]—peerless among men is he. O incomparable princess—to this hero wert thou wed, Noble birth and perfect beauty—not unworthy fruit had borne. Gods, Gandharvas,[20] men, the Serpents,[21]—and the Rakshasas[22] we've seen, All we've seen—of noble Nala—never have we seen the peer. Pearl art thou among all women—Nala is the pride of men. If the peerless wed the peerless—blessed must the union be." When the bird thus strangely speaking—gentle Damayanti heard, Answered thus the wondering maiden—"Thus to Nala, speak thou too." "Be it so," replied the egg-born—to Vidarbha's beauteous maid. Home then flew he to Nishadha—and to Nala told it all.


Damayanti, ever after—she the swan's sweet speech had heard— With herself she dwelt no longer—all herself with Nala dwelt. Lost in thought she sate dejected—pale her melancholy cheek, Damayanti sate and yielded—all her soul to sighs of grief. Upward gazing, meditative—with a wild distracted look, Wan was all her soft complexion—and with passion heart-possessed,[23] Nor in sleep nor gentle converse—nor in banquets found she joy; Night nor day she could not slumber—Woe! oh woe! she wept and said. Her no longer her own mistress—from her looks, her gesture, knew Damayanti's virgin handmaids—to Vidarbha's monarch they Told how pined his gentle daughter—for the sovereign of men. This from Damayanti's maidens—when the royal Bhima heard, In his mind he gravely pondered—for his child what best were done. "Wherefore is my gentle daughter—from herself in mind estranged?" When the lord of earth his daughter—saw in blooming youth mature, Knew he for the Swayembara[24]—Damayanti's time was come. Straight the lord of many peasants[25]—summoned all the chiefs of earth, "Come ye to the Swayembara—all ye heroes of the world!" Damayanti's Swayembara—soon as heard the kings of men, All obeyed king Bhima's summons—all to Bhima's court drew near; Elephants, and steeds, and chariots—swarmed along the sounding land; All with rich and various garlands[26]—with his stately army each— All the lofty-minded rajas—Bhima with the arm of strength, As beseemed, received with honour—on their thrones of state they sate. At this very hour the wisest—of the sages, the divine, Moving in their might ascended—up from earth to Indra's world.[27] Great in holiness and wisdom—Narada and Parvata[28] Honoured entered they the palace—of the monarch of the gods. Them salutes the cloud-compeller[29]—of their everlasting weal, Of their weal the worlds pervading—courteous asks the immortal lord.

NARADA spake.

Well it fares with us, Immortal—in our weal the world partakes— In the world, O cloud-compeller—well it fares with all her kings.


He that Bali slew and Vritra—asked of Narada again— All earth's just and righteous rulers—reckless of their lives in fight— Who the shafts' descending death-blow—meet with unaverted eye— Theirs this everlasting kingdom[30]—even as Kamadhuk is mine.[31] Where are they, the Kshetriya heroes?—wherefore see I not approach All the earth's majestic guardians—all mine ever-honoured guests. Thus addressed by holy Sakra[32]—Narada replied and said: "Hear me now, O cloud-compeller—why earth's kings appear not here. Of Vidarbha's king the daughter—Damayanti, the renowned; Through the earth the loveliest women—in her beauty she transcends— Soon she holds her Swayembara—soon her lord the maid will choose. Thither all the kings are hastening—thither all the sons of kings. Suitors for her hand the rajas—her of all the world the pearl, O thou mighty giant slayer!—one and all approach to woo." As they spake, the world-protectors[33]—with the god of fire drew near; Of the immortals all, the highest—stood before the king of gods. As they all stood silent hearing—Narada's majestic speech, All exclaimed in sudden rapture—thither we likewise will go; All the immortals on the instant,—with their chariots, with their hosts, Hastened down towards Vidarbha—where the lords of earth were met. Nala, too, no sooner heard he—of that concourse of the kings, Set he forth, with soul all sanguine—full of Damayanti's love. Saw the gods, king Nala standing—on the surface of the earth; Standing in transcendent beauty—equal to the god of love.[34] Him beheld the world's high guardians—in his radiance like the sun; Each arrested stood and silent—at his peerless form amazed. All their chariots the celestials—in the midway air have checked. Through the blue air then descending—they Nishadha's king address. Ho! what, ho! Nishadha's monarch—Nala, king, for truth renowned; Do our bidding, bear our message—O, most excellent of men.


Nala made his solemn promise,—"all your bidding will I do;" Then with folded hands adoring—humbly of their will enquired. "Who are ye? to whom must Nala—as your welcome herald go? What is my commanded service?—tell me, mighty gods, the truth." Spake the sovereign of Nishadha—Indra answered thus and said:— "Know us, the Immortals, hither—come for Damayanti's love. Indra I, and yon is Agni,—and the king of waters there— Slayer he of mortal bodies,—Yama, too, is here, O king! Thou, O Nala, of our coming,—must to Damayanti tell: Thee to see, the world's dread guardians—Indra and the rest came down, Indra, Agni, Varun, Yama,—each to seek thine hand are come. One of these celestial beings,—choose, O maiden, for thy lord." Nala, thus addressed by Indra—with his folded hands replied: "Thus with one accord commanding—on this mission send not me. How can man, himself enamoured—for another plead his cause? Spare me then, ye gods, in mercy—this unwelcome service, spare."

THE GODS spake.

"I will do your bidding freely—thus thou'st said, Nishadha's king; Wilt thou now belie thy promise?—Nala, go, nor more delay." By the gods adjured so sternly—thus rejoined Nishadha's king— "Strictly guarded is yon palace—how may I find entrance there?" "Thou shalt enter;" thus did Indra—to the unwilling king reply. In the bower of Damayanti—as they spake, king Nala stood. There he saw Vidarbha's maiden—girt with all her virgin bands; In her glowing beauty shining—all excelling in her form; Every limb in smooth proportion—slender waist and lovely eyes; Even the moon's soft gleam disdaining—in her own o'erpowering light. As he gazed, his love grew warmer—to the softly smiling maid, Yet to keep his truth, his duty—all his passion he suppressed. Then Nishadha's king beholding—all those maids with beauteous limbs From their seats sprang up in wonder—at his matchless form amazed. In their rapture to king Nala—all admiring, homage paid; Yet, not venturing to accost him,—in their secret souls adored. "Oh the beauty! oh the splendour!—oh the mighty hero's strength! Who is he, or God, or Yaksha—or Gandharba may he be." Not one single word to utter,—dared that fair-limbed maiden band; All struck dumb before his beauty—in their bashful silence stood. Smiling, first, upon the monarch—as on her he gently smiled, Damayanti, in her wonder—to the hero Nala spake:— "Who art thou of form so beauteous—thou that wakenest all my love; Cam'st thou here like an immortal—I would know thee, sinless chief. How hast entered in our palace?—how hast entered all unseen? Watchful are our chamber wardens—stern the mandate of the king." By the maiden of Vidarbha—Nala thus addressed, replied:— "Know, O loveliest, I am Nala—here the messenger of gods, Gods desirous to possess thee;—one of these, the lord of heaven Indra, Agni, Varun, Yama,—choose thou, princess, for thy lord. Through their power, their power almighty—I have entered here unseen; As I entered in thy chamber—none hath seen, and none might stay. This, the object of my mission,—fairest, from the highest gods, Thou hast heard me, noble princess—even as thou wilt, decide."


To the gods performed her homage—smiled she, and to Nala spake:— "Pledge to me thy faith,[35] O raja—how that faith, may I requite? I myself, and whatsoever—in the world I have, is thine In full trust is thine[36]—O grant me—in thy turn thy love, O king! Tis the swan's enamouring language—that hath kindled all my soul. Only for thy sake, O hero—are the assembled rajas met. But if thou mine homage scornest—scornest me, all honoured king, Poison for thy sake, fire, water,—the vile noose will I endure."[37] So, when spake Vidarbha's maiden—Nala answered thus, and said:— "With the world's dread guardians present—wilt thou mortal husband choose? We with them, the world's creators—with these mighty lords compared, Lowlier than the dust they tread on—raise to them thy loftier mind. Man the gods displeasing, hastens—to inevitable death— Fair limbed! from that fate preserve me—choose the all excelling gods. Robes by earthly dust unsullied—crowns of amaranthine flowers, Every bright celestial glory—wedded to the gods, enjoy. He, who all the world compressing[38]—with devouring might consumes, Sovereign of the gods, Hutasa,—where is she who would not wed? He, in awe of whose dread sceptre[39]—all the assembled hosts of men, Cultivate eternal justice—where is she who would not wed? Him the all-righteous, lofty minded,—slayer of the infernal host,[40] Of all gods, the mighty monarch,—who is she that would not wed? Nor let trembling doubt arrest thee—in thy mind if thou couldst choose.[41] Varuna, amongst earth's guardians,—hear the language of a friend." To the sovereign of Nishadha—Damayanti spake, and said, And her eyes grew dim with moisture—flowing from her inward grief:— "To the gods, to all, my homage—king of earth, I humbly pay; Yet thee only, thee, my husband—may I choose, Be this my vow!" Answered he the trembling maiden—as with folded hands she stood, "Bound upon this solemn mission—mine own cause how dare I urge. Plighted by a sacred promise—to the everlasting gods; Thus engaged to plead for others—for myself I may not plead. This my duty; yet hereafter—come I on my own behalf, Then I'll plead mine own cause boldly—weigh it, beauteous, in thy thought." Damayanti smiled serenely,—and with tear-impeded speech, Uttered brokenly and slowly—thus to royal Nala spake:— "Yet I see a way of refuge—'tis a blameless way, O king; Whence no sin to thee, O raja,—may by any chance arise. Thou, O noblest of all mortals—and the gods by Indra led, Come and enter in together—where the Swayembara meets; Then will I, before the presence—of the guardians of the world, Name thee, lord of men! my husband—nor to thee may blame accrue." By the maiden of Vidarbha—royal Nala thus addressed, Back again returned, where waited—eager, the expecting gods. Him, the guardians of the world, the mighty—ere he yet drew near, beheld, Him they saw, and bade him instant—all his tidings to unfold— "Was she seen of thee, O monarch—Damayanti with soft smile? Spake she of us all? what said she?—tell, O blameless lord of earth."

NALA spake.

To the bower of Damayanti—on your solemn mission sent, Entered I the lofty portal—by the aged warders watched; Mortal eye might not behold me—there as swift I entered in; None save that fair raja's daughter—through your all prevailing power. And her virgin handmaids, saw I—and by them in turn was seen; And they all in mute amazement—gazed upon me as I stood. I described your godlike presence—but the maid with beauteous face Chooses me, bereft of reason—O most excellent of gods! Thus she spake, that maiden princess,—"Let the gods together come, Come with thee, Oh king of mortals,—where the Swayembara meets; There will I, before their presence—choose thee, raja, for my lord. So to thee, O strong armed warrior—may no blame, no fault ensue." Thus it was, even as I tell you—word for word did it befall. Plainly have I spoke, the judgment—rests with you, of gods the chief!


Came the day of happy omen[42]—moonday meet, and moment apt; Bhima to the Swayembara—summoned all the lords of earth. One and all, upon the instant—rose th' enamoured lords of earth, Suitors all to Damayanti—in their loving haste they came. They, the court with golden columns[43]—rich, and glittering portal arch, Like the lions on the mountains—entered they the hall of state. There the lords of earth were seated—each upon his several throne; All their fragrant garlands wearing—all with pendant ear-gems rich. Arms were seen robust and vigorous—as the ponderous battle mace, Some like the five-headed serpents—delicate in shape and hue:[44] With bright locks profuse and flowing—fine formed nose, and eye and brow, Shone the faces of the rajas—like the radiant stars in heaven. As with serpents, Bhogavati[45]—the wide hall was full of kings; As the mountain caves with tigers—with the tiger-warriors full. Damayanti in her beauty—entered on that stately scene, With her dazzling light entrancing—every eye and every soul. O'er her lovely person gliding—all the eyes of those proud kings; There were fixed, there moveless rested—as they gazed upon the maid. Then as they proclaimed the rajas—(by his name was each proclaimed) In dismay saw Bhima's daughter—five in garb, in form the same. On those forms, all undistinguished—each from each, she stood and gazed. In her doubt Vidarbha's princess—Nala's form might not discern,[46] Whichsoe'er the form she gazed on—him her Nala, him she thought. She within her secret spirit—deeply pondering, stood and thought: "How shall I the gods distinguish?—royal Nala how discern?" Pondering thus Vidarbha's maiden—in the anguish of her heart— Th' attributes of the immortals—sought, as heard of yore, to see. "Th' attributes of each celestial—that our aged sires describe, As on earth they stand before me—not of one may I discern." Long she pondered in her silence—and again, again she thought. To the gods, her only refuge—turned she at this trying hour. With her voice and with her spirit—she her humble homage paid. Folding both her hands and trembling—to the gods the maiden spake: "As when heard the swan's sweet language—chose I then Nishadha's king, By this truth I here adjure ye—oh, ye gods, reveal my lord; As in word or thought I swerve not—from my faith, all-knowing powers, By this truth I here adjure ye—oh, ye gods, reveal my lord. As the gods themselves have destined—for my lord Nishadha's king; By this truth I here adjure ye—oh, ye gods, my lord reveal. As my vow, so pledged to Nala—holily must be maintained, By this truth I here adjure ye—oh, ye gods, my lord reveal. Each the form divine assume ye—earth's protectors, mighty lords; So shall I discern my Nala—I shall know the king of men." As they heard sad Damayanti—uttering thus her piteous prayer, At her high resolve they wonder—steadfast truth and fervent love, Holiness of soul, and wisdom—to her lord her constant faith. As she prayed, the gods obedient—stood with attributes revealed: With unmoistened skins the Immortals—saw she, and with moveless eyes;[47] Fresh their dust-unsullied garlands—hovered they, nor touched the earth. On his shadow garland-drooping[48]—soiled with dust and moist with sweat, On the earth Nishadha's monarch—stood confessed, with twinkling eyes; On the gods an instant gazed she—then upon the king of men; And of right king Bhima's daughter—named Nishadha's king her lord. Modestly the large-eyed maiden—lifted up his garment's hem, Round his shoulders threw she lightly—the bright zone of radiant flowers; So she chose him for her husband—Nala, that high-hearted maid. Then alas! alas! burst wildly,—from that conclave of the kings, And "well done, well done," as loudly—from the gods and sages broke; All in their extatic wonder—glorified Nishadha's king. Then to royal Damayanti—Virasena's kingly son, To that slender waisted damsel—spake he comfort in his joy; "Since thou'st own'd me for thine husband—in the presence of the gods, For thy faithful consort know me—aye delighting in thy words. While this spirit fills this body—maiden with the smile serene! Thine am I, so long thine only—this the solemn truth I vow." Thus he gladdened Damayanti—with the assurance of his faith; And the happy pair devoutly[49]—worshipped then the present gods. Chosen thus Nishadha's monarch—the bright guardians of the world, In their gladness all on Nala—eight transcendant gifts bestowed; To discern the visible godhead—in the sacrifice, a gait Firm and noble, Sachi's husband—Indra to king Nala gave. Agni gave his own bright presence[50]—whensoe'er the monarch called. All the worlds instinct with splendour—through his power Hutasa gave. Subtle taste in food gave Yama—and in virtue eminence; Varun gave obedient water—to be present at his call; Garlands too of matchless fragrance;—each his double blessing gave.[51] Thus bestowed their gracious favours—to the heavens the gods returned; And the rajas, who with wonder—Nala's marriage saw confirmed With the gentle Damayanti—as they came, in joy returned. Thus the kings of earth departed;—Bhima in his joy and pride, Solemnized the stately bridals—of the maiden and the king. Fitting time when there he'd sojourned,—best of men, Nishadha's king; Courteous parting with king Bhima—to his native city went. Having gained the pearl of women—the majestic lord of earth Lived in bliss, as with his Sachi,[52]—he that those old giants slew. In his joy the elated monarch—shining radiant as the sun, Ruled the subjects of his kingdom—with a just and equal sway. Of the horse the famous offering[53]—like Nahucha's mighty son, Every sacrifice performed he—with rich gifts to holy men. And full oft in flowering gardens—and delicious shady groves, Like a god, the royal Nala—took with Damayanti joy. So begat from Damayanti—Nala, of heroic soul, Indrasena one fair daughter—Indrasen one beauteous son. Thus in sacrifice and pleasance—took his joy the king of men, So the earth with riches teeming—ruled the sovereign of the earth.


Nala, chosen by Bhima's daughter—the bright guardians of the world, As they parted thence, with Kali[54]—Dwapara approaching saw. Kali as he saw, did Indra—did the giant-killer say, "Here, with Dwapara attended—whither, Kali, dost thou go?" Kali spake, "the Swayembara—we of Damayanti seek; Her I go to make my consort—into her mine heart hath passed." "Closed and ended is that bridal,"—Indra answered with a smile, "Nala she hath chosen for husband—in the presence of us all." Thus addressed by Indra, Kali—in the transport of his wrath, All the heavenly gods saluting,—thus his malediction spake, "Since before the Immortals' presence—she a mortal spouse did choose, Of her impious crime most justly—heavy be the penal doom." Kali hardly thus had spoken—than the heaven-born gods replied: "With our full and liberal sanction—Damayanti chose her lord. Who to Nala, with all virtue—rich endowed, would not incline? He that rightly knows each duty—he who ever rightly acts, He who reads the whole four Vedas—the Puranas too the fifth,[55] In his palace with pure offerings—ever are the gods adored, Gentle to all living creatures—true in word and strict in vow; Good and constant he, and generous—holy, temperate, patient, pure; His are all these virtues ever—equal to the earth-guarding gods. Thus endowed, the noble Nala—he, O Kali, that would curse, On himself recoil his curses—only fatal to himself. Nala, gifted with such virtues—he, O Kali, who would curse— Be he plunged in hell's dark torments—in the deep and vasty lake." Thus the gods to Kali speaking—to their native heavens arose. Soon as they had parted, Kali—thus to Dwapara began: "I my wrath can curb no longer—I henceforth in Nala dwell; From his kingdom will I cast him—from his bliss with his sweet bride. Thou within the dice embodied—Dwapara my cause assist."


Bound by that malignant treaty—Kali with his dark ally, Haunted they the stately palace—where Nishadha's monarch ruled; Watching still the fatal instant—in Nishadha long they dwelt. Twelve long years had passed ere Kali—saw that fatal instant come. Nala after act uncleanly—the ablution half performed,[56] Prayed at eve, with feet unwashen—Kali seized the fatal hour. Into Nala straight he entered—and possessed his inmost soul. Pushkara in haste he summoned—come with Nala play at dice, Ever in the gainful hazard—by my subtle aid thou'lt win, Even the kingdom of Nishadha—even from Nala all his realm. Pushkara by Kali summoned—to his brother Nala came, In the dice of dice embodied[57]—Dwapara stood silent by. Pushkara the hero-slayer—to king Nala standing near: "Play we with the dice, my brother,"—thus again, again he said. Long the lofty-minded raja—that bold challenge might not brook, In Vidarbha's princess' presence—deemed he now the time for play. For his wealth, his golden treasures—for his chariots, for his robes, Then possessed by Kali, Nala—in the game was worsted still. He with love of gaming maddened,—of his faithful friends not one Might arrest the desperate frenzy—of the conqueror of his foes. Came the citizens assembling—with the counsellors of state, To behold the king approached they—to restrain his dread disease. Then the charioteer advancing[58]—thus to Damayanti spake: "All the city, noble princess—stands assembled at the gate, Say thou to Nishadha's monarch—'All his subjects here are met; Ill they brook this dire misfortune[59]—in their justice-loving king'." Then, her voice half choked with anguish—spake the sorrow-stricken queen, Spirit-broken, Bhima's daughter—to Nishadha's sovereign spake, "Raja, lo! the assembled city—at the gate their king to see: With the counsellors of wisdom—by their loyal duty led. Deign thou, monarch, to admit them,"—thus again, again she said. To the queen with beauteous eyelids—uttering thus her sad lament, Still possessed by wicked Kali—answered not the king a word. Then those counsellors of wisdom—and those loyal citizens, "'Tis not he," exclaimed in sorrow,—and in shame and grief went home. Thus of Pushkara and Nala—still went on that fatal play; Many a weary month it lasted—and still lost the king of men.


Damayanti then beholding—Punyasloka, king of men,[60] Undistracted, him distracted—with the maddening love of play. In her dread and in her sorrow—thus did Bhima's daughter speak; Pondering on the weighty business—that concerned the king of men. Trembling at his guilty frenzy—yet to please him still intent. Nala, 'reft of all his treasures—when the noble woman saw, Thus addressed she Vrihatsena,—her old faithful slave and nurse, Friendly in all business dextrous—most devoted, wise in speech: "Vrihatsena, go, the council—as at Nala's call convene, Say what he hath lost of treasure—and what treasure yet remains." Then did all that reverend council—Nala's summons as they heard, "Our own fate is now in peril"—speaking thus, approach the king. And a second time his subjects—all assembling, crowded near, And the queen announced their presence;—of her words he took no heed. All her words thus disregarded—when king Bhima's daughter found, To the palace, Damayanti—to conceal her shame returned. When the dice she heard for ever—adverse to the king of men, And of all bereft, her Nala—to the nurse again she spake: "Go again, my Vrihatsena,—in the name of Nala, go, To the charioteer, Varshneya,—great the deed must now be done." Vrihatsena on the instant—Damayanti's words she heard, Caused the charioteer be summoned—by her messengers of trust. Bhima's daughter to Varshneya—winning with her gentle voice, Spake, the time, the place well choosing—for the deed, nor spake in vain: "Well thou know'st the full reliance—that in thee the king hath placed, In his fatal hour of peril—wilt not thou stand forth to aid? As by Pushkara is worsted—ever more and more the king, More and more the fatal frenzy—maddens in his heart for play. As to Pushkara obedient—ever fall the lucky dice, Thus those dice to royal Nala—still with adverse fortune fall. Nor the voice of friend or kindred—as beseems him, will he hear; Even to me he will not listen—in the madness of his heart. Of the lofty-minded Nala—well I know 'tis not the sin, That my words this senseless monarch—in his frenzy will not hear. Charioteer, to thee my refuge—come I, do thou my behest; I am not o'er calm in spirit—haply he may perish thus. Yoke the much-loved steeds of Nala—fleet of foot, as thought, are they, In the chariot place our children—to Cundina's city go.[61] Leave the children with my kindred—and the chariot and the steeds; Then or dwell there at thy pleasure—or depart where'er thou wilt." When the speech of Damayanti—heard king Nala's charioteer, He, the chief of Nala's council—thus in full divan addressed, Weighed within their solemn conclave—and their full assent obtained, With the children in the chariot—to Vidarbha straight he drove. There he rendered up the horses—with the chariot there he left. That young maiden Indrasena—Indrasen, that noble boy. To king Bhima paid his homage—sad, for Nala's fall distressed, Thence departing, to Ayodhya[62]—took the charioteer his way. In his grief to Rituparna—that illustrious king, he came, As his charioteer, the service—entered of the lord of earth.


Scarce Varshneya had departed—still the king of men played on, Till to Pushkara his kingdom—all that he possessed, was lost. Nala then, despoiled of kingdom—smiling Pushkara bespake: "Throw we yet another hazard—Nala, where is now thy stake? There remains but Damayanti—all thou hast beside, is mine. Throw we now for Damayanti—come, once more the hazard try." Thus as Pushkara addressed him—Punyasloka's inmost heart By his grief was rent asunder—not a single word he spake. And on Pushkara, king Nala—in his silent anguish gazed. All his ornaments of splendour—from his person stripped he off, With a single vest, scarce covered,—'mid the sorrow of his friends. Slowly wandered forth the monarch—fallen from such an height of bliss. Damayanti with one garment—slowly followed him behind. Three long nights Nishadha's monarch—there without the gates had dwelt. Proclamation through the city—then did Pushkara bid make, "Whosoe'er befriendeth Nala—shall to instant death be doomed." Thus, as Pushkara gave order—in the terror of his power, Might the citizens no longer—hospitably serve the king. Near the walls, of kind reception—worthiest, but by none received; Three nights longer staid the monarch—water was his only drink, He in unfastidious hunger—plucked the fruits, the roots of earth. Then went forth again the outcast:—Damayanti followed slow. In the agony of famine—Nala, after many days, Saw some birds around him settling—with their golden tinctured wings. Then the monarch of Nishadha—thought within his secret heart, These to-day my welcome banquet—and my treasure these will be. Over them his single garment—spreading light he wrapped them round: Up that single garment bearing—to the air they sprang away; And the birds above him hovering—thus in human accents spake, Naked as they saw him standing—on the earth, and sad, and lone:— "Lo, we are the dice, to spoil thee—thus descended, foolish king! While thou hadst a single garment—all our joy was incomplete." When the dice he saw departing—and himself without his robe, Mournfully did Punyasloka—thus to Damayanti speak: "They, O blameless, by whose anger—from my kingdom I am driven, Life-sustaining food unable—in my misery to find— They, through whom Nishadha's people—may not house their outcast king— They, the forms of birds assuming—my one robe have borne away. In the dark extreme of misery—sad and frantic as I am, Hear me, princess, hear and profit—by thy husband's best advice. Hence are many roads diverging—to the region of the south,[63] Passing by Avanti's city[64]—and the height of Rishavan; Vindhya here, the mighty mountain[65]—and Payoshni's seaward stream;[66] And the lone retreats of hermits—on the fruits of earth that live; This will lead thee to Vidarbha—this to Cosala away,[67] Far beyond the region stretches—southward to the southward clime." In these words to Damayanti—did the royal Nala speak, More than once to Bhima's daughter—anxious pointing out the way. She, with voice half choked with sorrow—with her weight of woe oppressed, These sad words did Damayanti—to Nishadha's monarch speak:— "My afflicted heart is breaking—and my sinking members fail, When, O king, thy desperate counsel—once I think of, once again. Robbed of kingdom, robbed of riches—naked, thirst and hunger worn; How shall I depart and leave thee—in the wood by man untrod. When thou sad and famine-stricken—thinkest of thy former bliss, In the wild wood, oh, my husband,—I thy weariness will soothe. Like a wife, in every sorrow—this the wise physicians own, Healing herb is none or balsam—Nala, 'tis the truth I speak."

NALA spake.

Slender-waisted Damayanti—true, indeed, is all thou'st said; Like a wife no friendly medicine—to afflicted man is given. Fear not that I thee abandon—Wherefore, timid, dread'st thou this? Oh, myself might I abandon—and not thee, thou unreproached.


If indeed, oh mighty monarch—thou wilt ne'er abandon me, Wherefore then towards Vidarbha—dost thou point me out the way. Well, I know thee, noble Nala—to desert me far too true, Only with a soul distracted—would'st thou leave me, lord of earth. Yet, again, the way thou pointest—yet, again, thou best of men, Thus my sorrow still enhancing—oh, thou like the immortal gods; If this be thy better counsel—'to her kindred let her go,' Be it so, and both together—to Vidarbha set we forth. Thee Vidarbha's king will honour—honour'd in his turn by thee; Held in high respect and happy—in our mansion thou shall dwell.


NALA spake.

"Mighty is thy father's kingdom—once was mine as mighty too; Never will I there seek refuge—in my base extremity. There I once appeared in glory—to the exalting of thy pride; Shall I now appear in misery—to the increasing of thy shame?" Nala thus to Damayanti—spake again, and yet again, Comforting the noble lady—scant in half a garment clad. Both together by one garment[68]—covered, roamed they here and there; Wearied out by thirst and famine—to a cabin drew they near. When they reached that lowly cabin—then did great Nishadha's king With the princess of Vidarbha—on the hard earth seat them down; Naked, with no mat to rest on—wet with mire and stained with dust. Weary then with Damayanti—on the earth he fell asleep. Sank the lovely Damayanti—by his side with sleep opprest, She thus plunged in sudden misery—she the tender, the devout. But while on the cold earth slumbered—Damayanti, all distraught Nala in his mind by sorrow—might no longer calmly sleep; For the losing of his kingdom—the desertion of his friends, And his weary forest wanderings—painful on his thought arose; "If I do it, what may follow?—what if I refuse to do? Were my instant death the better—or to abandon her I love. But to me too deep devoted—suffers she distress and shame; Reft of me she home may wander—to her royal father's house; Faithful wandering ever with me—certain sorrow will she bear, But if separated from me—chance of solace may be hers." Long within his heart he pondered—and again, again weighed o'er. Best he thought it Damayanti—to desert, that wretched king. From her virtue none dare harm her[69]—in the lonely forest way, Her the fortunate, the noble—my devoted wedded wife. Thus his mind on Damayanti—dwelt in its perverted thought, Wrought by Kali's evil influence—to desert his lovely wife. Of himself without a garment—and of her with only one. As he thought, approached he near her—to divide that single robe. "How shall I divide the garment—by my loved one unperceived?" Pondering this within his spirit—round the cabin Nala went; In that narrow cabin's circuit—Nala wandered here and there, Till he found without a scabbard—shining, a well-tempered sword. Then when half that only garment—he had severed, and put on, In her sleep Vidarbha's princess—with bewildered mind he fled. Yet, his cruel heart relenting—to the cabin turns he back; On the slumbering Damayanti—gazing, sadly wept the king; "Thou, that sun nor wind hath ever—roughly visited, my love! On the hard earth in a cabin—sleepest with thy guardian gone. Thus attired in half a garment—she that aye so sweetly smiled, Like to one distracted, beauteous—how at length will she awake? How will't fare with Bhima's daughter—lone, abandoned by her lord, Wandering in the savage forest—where wild beasts and serpents dwell. May the suns and winds of heaven—may the genii of the woods,[70] Noblest, may they all protect thee—thine own virtue thy best guard." To his wife of peerless beauty—on the earth, 'twas thus he spoke. Then of sense bereft by Kali—Nala hastily set forth; And departing, still departing—he returned again, again; Dragged away by that bad demon—ever by his love drawn back. Nala, thus his heart divided—into two conflicting parts, Like a swing goes backward, forward—from the cabin, to and fro. Torn away at length by Kali—flies afar the frantic king, Leaving there his wife in slumber—making miserable moans. Reft of sense, possessed by Kali—thinking still on her he left, Passed he in the lonely forest—leaving his deserted wife.


Scarcely had king Nala parted—Damayanti now refreshed, Wakened up, the slender-waisted—timorous in the desert wood. When she did not see her husband—overpowered with grief and pain, Loud she shriek'd in her first anguish—"Where art thou, Nishadha's king? Mighty king! my soul-protector—O, my lord! desert'st thou me. Oh, I'm lost! undone for ever—helpless in the wild wood left; Faithful once to every duty—wert thou not, and true in word. Art thou faithful to thy promise—to desert me thus in sleep. Could'st thou then depart, forsaking—thy devoted, constant wife; Her in sooth that never wronged thee—wronged indeed, but not by her. Keep'st thou thus thy solemn promise—oh, unfaithful lord of men, There, when all the gods were present—plighted to thy wedded wife? Death is but decreed to mortals—at its own appointed time, Hence one moment, thus deserted[71]—one brief moment do I live.— But thou'st had thy sport—enough then—now desist, O king of men, Mock not thou a trembling woman—show thee to me, O my lord! Yes, I see thee, there I see thee—hidden as thou think'st from sight, In the rushes why conceal thee?—answer me, why speak'st thou not. Wherefore now ungentle stay'st thou—like to one forsworn, aloof? Wherefore wilt thou not approach me—to console me in my woe? For myself I will not sorrow—nor for aught to me befalls. Thou art all alone, my husband,—I will only mourn for thee. How will't fare with thee, my Nala—thirsting, famished, faint with toil. Nor beholding me await thee—underneath the trees at eve." Then, in all her depth of anguish—with her trouble as on fire, Hither, thither, went she weeping—all around she went and wailed. Now springs up the desolate princess—now falls down in prostrate grief; Now she pines in silent sorrow—now she shrieks and wails aloud. So consumed with inward misery—ever sighing more and more, Spake at length king Bhima's daughter—spake the still devoted wife: "He, by whose dire imprecation—Nala this dread suffering bears, May he far surpass in suffering—all that Nala suffers now, May the evil one, to evil—who the blameless Nala drives, Smitten by a curse as fatal—live a dark unblessed life." Thus her absent lord lamenting—that high-minded raja's queen, Every-where her lord went seeking—in the satyr-haunted wood.[72] Like a maniac, Bhima's daughter—wandered wailing here and there; And "alas! alas! my husband"—every-where her cry was heard. Her beyond all measure wailing—like the osprey screaming shrill, Miserably still deploring—still renewing her lament. Suddenly king Bhima's daughter—as she wandered near his lair, Seized a huge gigantic serpent—in his raging famine fierce. In the grasp of that fierce serpent—round about with terror girt, Not herself she pities only—pities she Nishadha's king. "O my guardian, thus unguarded—in this savage forest seized, Seized by this terrific serpent—wherefore art not thou at hand? How will't be, when thou rememberest—once again thy faithful wife, From this dreadful curse delivered—mind, and sense, and wealth returned? When thou'rt weary, when thou'rt hungry—when thou'rt fainting with fatigue, Who will soothe, O blameless Nala—all thy weariness, thy woe." Then a huntsman as he wandered—in the forest jungle thick, As he heard her thus bewailing—in his utmost haste drew near. In the grasp when he beheld her—of that long-eyed serpent fell, Instant did the nimble huntsman—rapidly as he came on, Pierce that unresisting serpent—with a sharp and mortal shaft: In her sight he slew that serpent—skill'd in slaughter of the chase. Her released he from her peril—washed he then with water pure, And with sylvan food refreshed her—and with soothing words address'd: "Who art thou that roam'st the forest—with the eyes of the gazelle; How to this extreme of misery—noble lady, hast thou fallen?" Damayanti, by the huntsman—thus in soothing tone addressed, All the story of her misery-told him, as it all befell; Her, scant-clothed in half a garment—with soft swelling limbs and breast, Form of youthful faultless beauty—and her fair and moonlike face, And her eyes with brows dark arching—and her softly-melting speech, Saw long time that wild beast hunter—kindled all his heart with love. Then with winning voice that huntsman—bland beginning his discourse, Fain with amorous speech would soothe her—she his dark intent perceived. Damayanti, chaste and faithful,—soon as she his meaning knew, In the transport of her anger—her indignant soul took fire. In his wicked thought the dastard—her yet powerless to subdue, On the unsubdued stood gazing—as like some bright flame she shone. Damayanti, in her sorrow—of her realm, her lord bereft, On the instant she found language—uttered loud her curse of wrath,[73]— "As my pure and constant spirit—swerves not from Nishadha's lord, Instant so may this base hunter—lifeless fall upon the earth." Scarce that single word was uttered—suddenly that hunter bold Down upon the earth fell lifeless—like a lightning blasted tree.


Slain that savage wild-beast hunter—onward went the lotus-eyed, Through the dread, and desert forest—ringing with the cricket's song; Full of lions, pards, and tigers—stags, and buffalos, and bears, Where all kinds of birds were flocking—and wild men and robbers dwelt. Trees of every form and stature[74]—every foliage, every name; Pregnant with rich mines of metal—many a mountain it enclosed, Many a shady resonant arbour—many a deep and wondrous glen; Many a lake, and pool, and river—birds and beasts of every shape. She, in forms terrific round her—serpents, elves, and giants saw:[75] Pools, and tanks of lucid water—and the shaggy tops of hills, Flowing streams and headlong torrents—saw, and wondered at the sight. And the princess of Vidarbha—gazed where in their countless herds, Buffalos and bears were feeding—boars, and serpents of the wood. Safe in virtue, bright in beauty—glorious and of high resolve, Now alone, Vidarbha's daughter—wandering, her lost Nala sought. Yet no fear king Bhima's daughter—for herself might deign to feel, Travelling the dreary forest—only for her lord distressed; Him she mourned, that noble princess—him in bitterest anguish wailed, Every limb with sorrow trembling—stood she on a beetling rock; "Monarch, with broad chest capacious—monarch with the sinewy arm, Me in this dread forest leaving—whither hast thou fled away? Thou the holy Aswamedha—thou each sacrificial rite, Hast performed, to me, me only—in thy holy faith thou'st failed. That which thou, O best of husbands—in mine hearing hast declared, Thy most solemn vow remember—call to mind thy plighted faith. Of the swift-winged swans the language—uttered, monarch, by thy side, That thyself, before my presence—didst renew, bethink thee well. Thou the Vedas, thou the Angas—with the Upangas oft hast read, Of each heaven-descended volume—one and simple is the truth. Therefore, of thy foes the slayer!—reverence thou the sacred truth Of thy solemn plighted promise—in my presence sworn so oft. Am not I the loved so dearly—purely, sinlessly beloved; In this dark and awful forest—wherefore dost thou not reply? Here with monstrous jaws wide yawning—with his fierce and horrid form, Gapes the forest king to slay me—and thou art not here to save. None but I, thou'st said, for ever—none but I to thee am dear! Make this oft-repeated language—make this oft-sworn promise true. To thy queen bereft of reason—to thy weeping wife beloved, Why repliest thou not—her only thou desir'st—she only thee. Meagre, miserable, pallid—tainted with the dust and mire, Scantly clad in half a garment—lone, with no protector near; Like a large-eyed hind that wanders—separate from the wonted herd, Thou regard'st me not, thus weeping—oh thou tamer of thy foes. Mighty king, a lonely wanderer—in this vast and trackless wood, Damayanti, I address thee—wherefore answerest not my voice? Nobly born, and nobly minded—beautiful in every limb, Do I not e'en now behold thee—in this mountain, first of men, In this lion-haunted forest—in this tiger-howling wood, Lying down or seated, standing—or in majesty and might Moving, do I not behold thee—the enhancer of my woe? Who shall I address, afflicted—wasted by my grief away; 'Hast thou haply seen my Nala—in the solitary wood?' Who this day will show the monarch—wandering in the forest depth, Beautiful and royal-minded—conqueror of an host of foes! 'Him thou seek'st with eyes of lotus—Nala, sovereign of men— Lo, he's here!' whose voice of music—may I hear thus sweetly speak? Lo, with fourfold tusks before me—and with wide and gaping jaws, Stands the forest king, the tiger—I approach him without fear. Of the beasts art thou the monarch—all this forest thy domain, For the daughter of Vidarbha—Damayanti, know thou me, Consort of Nishadha's sovereign—Nala, slayer of his foes— Seeking here my exile husband—lonely, wretched, sorrow-driven, Thou, O king of beasts, console me—if my Nala thou hast seen; Or, O lord of all the forest—Nala if thou canst not show, Best of savage beasts, devour me—from my misery set me free. Hearing thus my lamentation-now does that fell king of beasts Go towards the crystal river—flowing downward to the sea.'— To this mountain then the holy—crowned with many a lofty peak, In its soul-exalting splendour—rising, many-hued, to heaven; Full within of precious metal—rich with many a glowing gem, Rising o'er the spreading forest—like a banner broad and high, Ranged by elephants and lions—tigers, bears, and boars, and stags; And of many birds the voices—sweetly sound o'er all its cliffs; All the trees of richest foliage[76]—all the trees of stateliest height, All the flowers and golden fruitage—on its crested summits wave, Down its peaks in many a streamlet—dip the water-birds their wings: This, the monarch of all mountains—ask I of the king of men; 'O, all-honoured Prince of Mountains, with thy heaven-ward soaring peaks, Refuge of the lost, most noble—thee, O Mountain, I salute; I salute thee, lowly bowing—I, the daughter of a king; Of a king the royal consort—of a king's son I the bride. Of Vidarbha the great sovereign—mighty hero is my sire. Named the lord of earth, king Bhima—of each caste the guardian he; Of the holy Aswamedha—of the regal sacrifice,[77] He the offerer, best of monarchs—known by his commanding eye, Pious, and of life unblemished—true in word, of generous speech, Affable, courageous, prosperous—skilled in every duty, pure. Of Vidarbha the protector—conqueror of a host of foes; Know me of that king the daughter—lowly thus approaching thee. In Nishadha, mighty Mountain! dwelt the father of my lord. High the name he won, the illustrious—Virasena was he called. Of this king the son, the hero—prosperous and truly brave, He who rules his father's kingdom—by hereditary right, Slayer of his foes, dark Nala—Punyasloka is he called; Holy, Veda read, and eloquent—soma quaffing, fire adoring,[78][79] Sacrificer, liberal giver—warrior, in all points a king,— Of this monarch, best of mountains—know, the wife before thee stands. Fallen from bliss, bereft of husband—unprotected, sorrow-doomed, Seeking every where her husband—him the best of noblest men. Best of mountains, heaven-upsoaring—with thy hundred stately peaks, Hast thou seen the kingly Nala—in this dark and awful wood: Like the elephant in courage—wise, impetuous, with long arms, Valiant, and of truth unquestioned—my heroic, glorious lord; Hast thou seen Nishadha's sovereign—mighty Nala hast thou seen? Why repliest thou not, oh Mountain—sorrowing, lonely, and distressed, With thy voice why not console me—as thine own afflicted child? Hero, mighty, strong in duty—true of promise, lord of earth, If thou art within the forest—show thee in thy proper form. When so eloquently deep-toned—like the sound of some dark cloud, Shall I hear thy voice, oh Nala!—sweet as the amrita draught,[80] Saying, 'daughter of Vidarbha!'—with distinct, with blessed sound, Musical as holy Veda—rich, and soothing all my pain; Thus console me, trembling, fainting—thou, oh virtue-loving king!" To the holiest of mountains—spake the daughter of the king. Damayanti then set forward—toward the region of the north. Three days long, three nights she wandered—then that noble woman saw, The unrivalled wood of hermits—like to a celestial grove. To the ancient famous hermits[81]—equal was that sacred crew; Self-denying, strict in diet[82]—temperate, and undefiled; Water-drinking, air inhaling—and the leaves their simple food; Mortified, for ever blessed—seeking the right way to heaven; Bark for vests and skins for raiment—wore those hermits, sense-subdued. She beheld the pleasant circle—of those hermits' lonely cells; Round them flocks of beasts were grazing—wantoned there the monkey tribes. When she saw those holy dwellings—all her courage was revived. Lovely browed, and lovely tressed—lovely bosom'd, lovely lipp'd,[83] In her brightness, in her glory—with her large dark beauteous eyes, Entered she those hermit dwellings—wife of Virasena's son; Pearl of women, ever blessed-Damayanti the devout, She those holy men saluting—stood with modest form half bent. "Hail, and welcome!" thus those hermits—instant with one voice exclaimed. And those sacred men no sooner—had the fitting homage paid, "Take thy seat," they said, "oh lady[84]—and command what we must do." Thus replied the slender waisted—"Blessed are ye, holy men. In your sacred fires, your worship[85]—blameless, with your beasts and birds.[86] Doth the grace of heaven attend you—in your duties, in your deeds?" Answered they, "The grace of heaven—ever blesses all our deeds. But say thou, of form so beauteous—who thou art, and what thou would'st? As thy noble form we gaze on—on thy brightness as we gaze, In amaze we stand and wonder—cheer thee up, and mourn no more. Of the wood art thou the goddess—or the mountain goddess thou; Or the goddess of the river?—Blessed Spirit, speak the truth. Nor the sylvan goddess am I,"—to the Wise she thus replied; "Neither of the mountain, Brahmins—nor the river nymph am I. Know me but a mortal being—O, ye rich in holiness! All my tale at length, I'll tell ye—if meet audience ye will give. In Vidarbha, mighty guardian—Bhima, dwells the lord of earth; Of that noble king the daughter—twice-born Sages, know ye me.[87] And the monarch of Nishadha—Nala named, the great in fame; Brave in battle, conqueror, prudent—is my lord, the peasants' king; To the gods devout in worship—friendly to the Brahmin race, Of Nishadha's race the guardian—great in glory, great in might, True in word, and skilled in duty—and the slayer of his foes. Pious, heaven-devoted, prosperous—conqueror of hostile towns; Nala named, the best of sovereigns—splendid as the king of gods. Know that large-eyed chief, my husband—like the full-orbed moon his face, Giver he of costly offerings—deep in th' holy volumes read; Slayer of his foes in battle—glorious as the sun and moon. He to some most evil minded—unrespected, wicked men, After many a challenge, studious—he of virtue and of truth, To these skilful gamesters, fraudful—lost his kingdom and his wealth. Know ye me the hapless consort—of that noble king of kings, Damayanti, so they name me—yearning for my husband's sight. I through forests, over mountains—stagnant marsh and river broad, Lake with wide pellucid surface—through the long and trackless wood, Ever seeking for my husband—Nala, skilful in the fight. Mighty in the use of weapons—wander desolate and sad. Tell me, to this pleasant sojourn—sacred to these holy men, Hath he come, the royal Nala?—hath Nishadha's monarch come? For whose sake through ways all trackless—terrible, have I set forth, In this drear, appalling forest—where the lynx and tiger range, If I see not noble Nala—ere few days, few nights are o'er, I to happiness will join me—from this mortal frame set free. Reft of him, my princely husband—what have I to do with life— How endure existence longer—for my husband thus distressed." To the lady thus complaining—lonely in the savage wood, Answered thus those holy hermits—spake the gifted seers the truth:— "There will be a time hereafter—beautiful, the time will come, Through devotion now we see him[88]—and thou too wilt see him soon; That good monarch of Nishadha—Nala, slayer of his foes; That dispenser of strict justice—Bhima's daughter! free from grief, From all sin released, thou'lt see him—glittering in his royal gems, Governing that noble city—o'er his enemies supreme. To his foemen causing terror—to his friends allaying grief, Thou, oh noble, shalt thy husband—see, that king of noble race." To the much-loved wife of Nala—to the princess speaking thus, Vanished then those holy hermits—with their sacred fires, their cells. As she gazed upon the wonder—wrapt in mute amaze she stood; Damayanti, fair-limbed princess—wife of Virasena's son; "Have I only seen a vision—what hath been this wondrous chance? Where are all those holy hermits—where the circle of their cells? Where that pure and pleasant river—haunted by the dipping birds? Where those trees with grateful umbrage—with their pendant fruits and flowers?" Long within her heart she pondered—Damayanti with sweet smile, For her lord, to grief abandoned—miserable, pale of hue; To another region passed she—there with voice by weeping choked, Mourns she, till with eyes o'erflowing—an Asoca tree she saw. Best of trees, the Asoca blooming[89]—in the forest she approached, Gemmed all o'er with glowing fruitage—vocal with the songs of birds. "Ah, behold amid the forest—flourishes this happy tree, With its leafy garlands radiant—as the joyous mountain king. O thou tree with pleasant aspect—from my sorrow set me free. Vitasoca, hast thou seen him—hast the fearless raja seen, Nala, of his foes the slayer—Damayanti's lord beloved? Hast thou seen Nishadha's monarch—hast thou seen mine only love, Clad in half a single garment—with his soft and delicate skin; Hast thou seen th' afflicted hero—wandering in the forest lone. That I may depart ungrieving—fair Asoca, answer me. Truly be thou named Asoca[90]—as the extinguisher of grief." Thus in her o'erpowering anguish—moved she round the Asoca tree. Then she went her way in sadness—to another region dread. Many a tree she stood and gazed on—many a river passed she o'er; Passed she many a pleasant mountain—many a wild deer, many a bird; Many a hill and many a cavern—many a bright and wondrous stream, Saw king Bhima's wandering daughter—as she sought her husband lost. Long she roamed her weary journey—Damayanti with sweet smile, Lo, a caravan of merchants—elephants, and steeds, and cars, And beyond, a pleasant river—with its waters cool and clear. 'Twas a quiet stream, and waveless—girt about with spreading canes; There the cuckoo, there the osprey—there the red-geese clamouring stood; Swarmed the turtles, fish and serpents—there rose many a stately isle. When she saw that numerous concourse—Nala's once all-glorious wife, Entered she, the slender-waisted—in the midst of all the host; Maniac-like in form and feature—and in half a garment clad, Thin and pallid, travel-tainted—matted all her locks with dust. As they all beheld her standing—some in terror fled away; Some stood still in speechless wonder—others raised their voice and cried; Mocked her some with cruel tauntings—others spake reproachful words; Others looked on her with pity—and enquired her state, her name. "Who art thou? whose daughter. Lady—in the forest seek'st thou aught? At thy sight we stand confounded—art thou of our mortal race? Of this wood art thou the goddess?—of this mountain? of that plain? Who art thou, O noble Lady—thee, our refuge, we adore. Art thou sylvan nymph or genius—or celestial nymph divine? Every-way regard our welfare—and protect us, undespised: So our caravan in safety—may pursue its onward way, So ordain it, O illustrious!—that good fortune wait on all." Thus addressed by that assemblage—Damayanti, kingly-born, Answered thus with gentle language—grieving for her husband lost. Of that caravan the leader—and the whole assembled host, Youths and boys, and grey-haired elders—and the guides, thus answered she: "Know me, like yourselves, a mortal—daughter of a king of men, Of another king the consort—seeking for my royal lord; Know, Vidarbha's king, my father—and Nishadha's king, my lord, Nala, is his name, the glorious—him, th' unconquered do I seek; Know ye aught of that good monarch—tell me, quick, of my beloved, Of the tiger hero, Nala—slayer of a host of foes." Of the caravan the captain—thus the lovely-limbed addressed, Suchi was his name, the merchant—"Hear, illustrious queen, my speech; Of this caravan the captain—I, O Lady with sweet smile, Him that bears the name of Nala—nowhere have these eyes beheld. Elephants, and pards, and tigers—lynxes, buffaloes, and bears, See I in this trackless forest—uninhabited by men; Save thyself, of human feature—nought, or human form, I've seen. So may he, the king of Yakshas—Manibhadra, guard us well."[91] To the merchants then she answered—to the leader of the host, "Tell me whither do ye travel!—whither bound your caravan?"

The CAPTAIN of the caravan spake.

"To the realm of Chedi's sovereign[92]—truth-discerning Subahu, Soon this caravan will enter—travelling in search of gain."


[93]This, the lovely princess hearing—from the captain of the band, With the caravan set forward—seeking still her royal lord. Long their journey through the forest—through the dark and awful glens; Then a lake of loveliest beauty—fragrant with the lotus flowers, Saw those merchants, wide and pleasant—with fresh grass and shady trees; Flowers and fruits bedecked its borders—where the birds melodious sang: In its clear delicious waters—soul-enchanting, icy cool, With their horses all o'erwearied—thought they then to plunge and bathe; At the signal of the captain—entered all that pleasant grove. At the close of day arriving—there encamped they for the night. When the midnight came, all noiseless—came in silence deep and still, Weary slept the band of merchants—lo, a herd of elephants,[94] Oozing moisture from their temples—came to drink the troubled stream. When that caravan they gazed on—with their slumbering beasts at rest, The tame elephants they scented—those wild forest elephants; Forward rush they fleet and furious—mad to slay, and wild with heat; Irresistible the onset—of the rushing ponderous beasts, As the peaks from some high mountain—down the valley thundering roll; Strewn was all the way before them—with the boughs, the trunks of trees; On they crash'd to where the travellers—slumbered by the lotus lake. Trampled down without a struggle—helpless on the earth they lay, "Woe, oh, woe!" shrieked out the merchants—wildly some began to fly, In the forest thickets' plunging;—some stood gasping, blind with sleep; And the elephants down beat them—with their tusks, their trunks, their feet. Many saw their camels dying—mingled with the men on foot, And in frantic tumult rushing—wildly struck each other down; Many miserably shrieking—cast them down upon the earth, Many climbed the trees in terror—on the rough ground stumbled some. Thus in various wise and fatal—by the elephants assailed, Lay that caravan so wealthy—scattered all abroad or slain. Such, so fearful was the tumult—the three worlds seemed all appalled,[95] "'Tis a fire amid th' encampment—save ye, fly ye, for your lives. Lo, your precious pearls ye trample—take them up, why fly so fast? Save them, 'tis a common venture—fear ye not that I deceive." Thus t' each other shrieked the merchants—as in fear they scattered round. "Yet again I call upon you—cowards! think ye what ye do." All around this frantic carnage—raging through the prostrate host, Damayanti, soon awakened—with her heart all full of dread; There she saw a hideous slaughter—the whole world might well appal. To such sights all unfamiliar—gazed the queen with lotus eyes, Pressing in her breath with terror—slowly rose she on her feet. And the few that scaped the carnage—few that scaped without a wound, All at once exclaimed together—"Of whose deeds is this the doom? Hath not mighty Manibhadra—adoration meet received. And Vaisravana the holy[96]—of the Yakshas lord and king, Have not all that might impede us—ere we journied, been addressed? Was it doomed, that all good omens—by this chance should be belied! Were no planets haply adverse?—how hath fate, like this, befall'n!" Others answered in their misery—reft of kindred and of wealth, "Who is that ill-omened woman—that with maniac-staring eyes, Joined our host, misshaped in aspect—and with scarcely human form? Surely all this wicked witchcraft—by her evil power is wrought; Witch or sorceress she, or daemon—fatal cause of all our fears, Hers is all the guilt, the misery—who such damning proof may doubt? Could we but behold that false one—murtheress, bane of all our host, With the clods, the dust, the bamboos—with our staves, or with our hands, We would slay her on the instant—of our caravan the fate." But no sooner Damayanti—their appalling words had heard, In her shame and in her terror—to the forest shade she fled. And that guilt imputed dreading—thus her fate began to wail: "Woe is me, still o'er me hovers—the terrific wrath of fate; No good fortune e'er attends me—of what guilt is this the doom? Not a sin can I remember—not the least to living man. Or in deed, or thought, or language—of what guilt is this the doom? In some former life committed[97]—expiate I now the sin. To this infinite misfortune—hence by penal justice doomed? Lost my husband, lost my kingdom—from my kindred separate; Separate from noble Nala—from my children far away, Widowed of my rightful guardian—in the serpent-haunted wood." Of that caravan at morning—then the sad surviving few, Setting forth from that dread region—o'er that hideous carnage grieve; Each a brother mourns, or father—or a son, or dearest friend, Still Vidarbha's princess uttered—"What the sin that I have done? Scarcely in this desert forest—had I met this host of men, By the elephants they perish—this is through my luckless fate; A still lengthening life of sorrow—I henceforth must sadly lead. Ere his destined day none dieth—this of aged seers the lore; Therefore am not I too trampled—by this herd of furious beasts. Every deed of living mortal—by over-ruling fate is done. Yet no sin have I committed—in my blameless infancy, To deserve this dire disaster—or in word, or deed, or thought. For the choosing of my husband—are the guardians of the world, Angry are the gods, rejected—for the noble Nala's sake? From my lord this long divorcement—through their power do I endure." Thus the noblest of all women—to bewail her fate began, The deserted Damayanti—with these sad and bitter words; With some Veda-reading Brahmins—that survived that scattered host, Then she went her way in sadness—like the young moon's sickle pale, And ere long a mighty city—that afflicted queen drew near: 'Twas the king of Chedi's city—truth-discerning Subahu. Scantly clad in half a garment—entered she that stately town; Her disturbed, emaciate, wretched—with dishevelled hair, unwashed, Like a maniac, onward-moving—saw that city's wondering throng; Gazing on her as she entered—to the monarch's royal seat; All the boys her footsteps followed—in their curious gamesome play;[98] Circled round by these she wandered—near the royal palace gate. From that palace lofty terrace—her the mother of the king Saw, and thus her nurse addressed she—"Go, and lead that wanderer in! Sad she roves, without a refuge—troubled by those gazing men; Yet in form so bright, irradiate—is our palace where she moves. Though so maniac-like, half-clothed—like Heaven's long-eyed queen she seems." She those crowding men dispersing—quickly to the palace top Made her mount—and in amazement—her the mother-queen addressed: "Thus though bowed and worn with sorrow—such a shining form thou wear'st, As through murky clouds the lightning—tell me who thou art and whence: For thy form is more than human—of all ornament despoiled: Men thou fear'st not, unattended—in celestial beauty safe." Hearing thus her gentle language—Bhima's daughter made reply, "Know me like thyself a mortal—a distressed, devoted wife; Of illustrious race an handmaid—making where I will mine home; On the roots and wild-fruits feeding—lonely, at the fall of eve. Gifted with unnumber'd virtues—is my true, my faithful lord, And I still the hero followed—like his shadow on the way. 'Twas his fate, with desp'rate fondness—to pursue the love of play, And in play subdued and ruined—entered he yon lonely wood; Him, arrayed in but one garment,—like a madman wandering wild, To console my noble husband—I too entered the deep wood; He within that dreary forest—for some cause, to me unknown, Wild with hunger, reft of reason—that one single robe he lost. I with but one robe, him naked[99]—frantic, and with mind diseased, Following through the boundless forest—many a night I had not slept; Then, when I had sunk to slumber—me the blameless leaving there, Half my garment having severed—he his sinless consort fled; Seeking him, my outcast husband—night and day am I consumed: Him I see not, ever shining—like the lotus cup, beloved; Find him not, most like th' immortals—lord of all, my life, my soul." Even as thus, with eyes o'erflowing—uttered she her sad lament, Sad herself, sad Bhima's daughter—did the mother queen address: "Dwell with me, then, noble Lady—deep the joy in thee I feel, And the servants of my household—shall thy royal husband seek; Haply hither he may wander—as he roams about the world: Dwelling here in peace and honour—thou thy husband wilt rejoin." To the king of Chedi's mother—Damayanti made reply; "On these terms, O nurse of heroes!—I with thee may make abode: That I eat not broken victuals[100]—wash not feet with menial hand:[101] Nor with stranger men have converse—in my chaste, secluded state; If that any man demand me—be he punished; if again, Be he put to death on th' instant—this the vow that I have sworn. Only, if they seek my husband—holy Brahmins will I see. Be my terms by thee accepted—gladly will I sojourn here, But on other terms no sojourn—will this heart resolved admit." Then to her with joyful spirit—spake the mother of the king: "As thou wilt shall all be ordered—be thou blest, since such thy vow." Speaking thus to Bhima's daughter—did the royal mother then, In these words address her daughter—young Sunanda was her name: "See this handmaid, my Sunanda—gifted with a form divine; She in age thy lovely compeer—be she to thee as a friend; Joined with her in sweet communion—take thy pleasure without fear." Young Sunanda, all rejoicing—to her own abode went back, Taking with her Damayanti—circled with her virgin peers.


Damayanti when deserting—royal Nala fled, ere long Blazing in the forest jungle—he a mighty fire beheld; Thence as of a living being—from the midst a voice he heard: "Hasten, Nala!" oft and loudly—"Punyasloka, haste," it cried. "Fear thou not," king Nala answered—plunging in the ruddy flame; There he saw the king of serpents—lying, coiled into a ring. There with folded hands the serpent—trembling, thus to Nala spake: "Me, Karkotaka, the Serpent—know, thou sovereign of men; Narada, the famous hermit[102]—I deceived, the holy sage; He in righteous indignation—smote me with this awful curse: Stay thou there as one unmoving—till king Nala passing by, Lead thee hence; save only Nala—none can free thee from this curse. Through this potent execration—I no step have power to move; I the way to bliss will show thee—if thou sav'st me from this fate. I will show thee noble friendship—serpent none is like to me; Lightly shall I weigh, uplift me—in thy hand, with speed, O king." Thus when spake the king of serpents—to a finger's size he shrank; Him when Nala lightly lifted—to the unburning space he passed. To the air all cool and temperate—brought him, by the flame unreached. As he fain on th' earth would place him—thus Karkotaka began. "Move thou now, O king, and slowly—as thou movest, count thy steps. Then the best of all good fortune—will I give thee, mighty armed!" Ere the tenth step he had counted[103]—him the sudden serpent bit: As he bit him, on the instant—all his kingly form was changed. There he stood, and gazed in wonder—Nala, on his altered form. In his proper shape the serpent—saw the sovereign of men. Then Karkotaka the serpent—thus to Nala comfort spake: "Through my power thy form is altered—lest thou should'st be known of men. He through whom thou'rt thus afflicted—Nala, with intensest grief, Through my poison, shall in anguish—ever dwell within thy soul. All his body steeped in poison—till he free thee from thy woe, Shall he dwell within thee prison'd—in the ecstacy of pain. So from him, by whom, thou blameless!—sufferest such unworthy wrong, By the curse I lay upon him—my deliverance shall be wrought. Fear not thou the tusked wild boar—foeman fear not thou, O king, Neither Brahmin fear, nor Sages[104]—safe through my prevailing power. King, this salutary poison—gives to thee nor grief nor pain; In the battle, chief of Rajas—victory is ever thine. Go thou forth, thyself thus naming—Vahuca, the charioteer, To the royal Rituparna—in the dice all-skilful he; To Ayodhya's pleasant city—sovereign of Nishadha! go; He his skill in dice will give thee—for thy skill in taming steeds: Of Ikshwaku's noble lineage—he will be thy best of friends. Thou the skill in dice possessing—soon wilt rise again to bliss; With thy consort reunited—yield not up thy soul to grief. Thou thy kingdom, thou thy children—wilt regain, the truth I speak. When again thou would'st behold thee—in thy proper form, O king, Summon me to thy remembrance—and this garment put thou on: In this garment clad resum'st thou—instantly thy proper form." Saying thus, of vests celestial—gave he to the king a pair.[105] And king Nala, thus instructed—gifted with these magic robes, Instantly the king of serpents—vanished from his sight away.


Vanished thus the King of Serpents—set Nishadha's raja forth, Rituparna's royal city—on the tenth day entered he. Straight before the royal presence—"Vahuca am I," he said, "In the skill of taming horses—on the earth is not my peer; Use me, where the difficult counsel—where thou want'st the dexterous hand; In the art of dressing viands[106]—I am skilful above all. Whatsoe'er the art, whatever—be most difficult to do, I will strive to execute it—take me to thy service, king."


"Vahuca, I bid thee welcome—all this service shalt thou do, On my horses' rapid motion—deeply is my mind engaged. Take thou then on thee the office—that my steeds be fleet of foot, Of my horse be thou the master—hundred hundreds is thy pay:[107] Ever shalt thou have for comrades—Varshneya and Jivala: With these two pursue thy pleasure—Vahuca, abide with me." Thus addressed, did Nala, honoured—by king Rituparna long, With Varshneya in that city—and with Jivala abide: There abode he, sadly thinking—of Vidarbha's daughter still. In the evening, every evening—uttered he this single verse; "Where is she, by thirst and hunger—worn, and weary, pious still, Thinking of her unwise husband—in whose presence is she now!" Thus the raja, ever speaking—Jivala one night addressed; "Who is she, for whom thou grievest?—Vahuca, I fain would hear." [108]Answered thus the royal Nala—"To a man of sense bereft, Once belonged a peerless lady—most infirm of word was he; From some cause from her dissevered—went that frantic man away, In his foolish soul thus parted—wanders he, by sorrow racked; Night and day, and still for ever—by his parching grief consumed: Nightly brooding o'er his sorrows—sings he this sad single verse. O'er the whole wide earth a wanderer—chance-alighting in some place, Dwells that woful man, unworthy,—ever wakeful with his grief. Him that noble lady following—in the forest lone and dread, Lives, of that bad man forsaken—hard it is to say, she lives! Lone, and young, the ways unknowing—undeserving of such fate, Pines she there with thirst and hunger—hard it is to say, she lives. In that vast and awful forest—haunted by fierce beasts of prey, By her lord she roams forsaken—hapless, by that luckless lord." Thus remembering Damayanti—did Nishadha's king unknown, Long within that dwelling sojourn—in the palace of the king.


Nala thus bereft of kingdom—with his wife to slavery sunk, Forth king Bhima sent the Brahmins—Nala through the world to seek. Thus the royal Bhima charged them—with abundant wealth supplied:— "Go ye now and seek king Nala—Damayanti seek, my child: And, achieved this weighty business—found Nishadha's royal lord, Whosoe'er shall hither bring them—shall a thousand kine receive; And a royal grant for maintenance[109]—of a village like a town. If nor hither Damayanti—nor king Nala may be brought, Know we where they are, rich guerdon—still we give, ten hundred kine." Thus addressed, the joyful Brahmins—went to every clime of earth, Through the cities, through the kingdoms—seeking Nala and his queen: Nala, or king Bhima's daughter—in no place might they behold. Then a Brahmin, named Sudeva—came to pleasant Chedi-pur; There within the kingly palace—he Vidarbha's daughter saw, Standing with the fair Sunanda—on a royal holiday.[110] With her beauty once so peerless—worthy now of little praise, Like the sun-light feebly shining—through the dimness of a cloud. Gazing on the large-eyed princess—dull in look, and wasted still, Lo, he thought, king Bhima's daughter—pondering thus within his mind.—

SUDEVA spake.

"Even as once I wont to see her—such is yonder woman's form, I my work have done, beholding—like the goddess world-adored, Like the full moon, darkly beauteous—with her fair and swelling breasts, Her, the queen, that with her brightness—makes each clime devoid of gloom, With her lotus eyes expanding—like Manmatha's queen divine;[111] Like the moonlight in its fulness—the desire of all the world. From Vidarbha's pleasant waters—her by cruel fate plucked up, [112]Like a lotus flower uprooted—with the mire and dirt around: Like the pallid night, when Rahu[113]—swallows up the darkened moon: For her husband wan with sorrow—like a gentle stream dried up; Like a pool, where droops the lotus—whence the affrighted birds have fled, By the elephant's proboscis—in its quiet depths disturbed. Tender, soft-limbed, in a palace—fit, of precious stones, to dwell. Like the lotus stem, uprooted—parched and withered by the sun. Fair in form, in soul as generous—worthy of all bliss, unbless'd, Like the young moon's slender crescent—in the heavens by dark clouds veiled. Widowed now of all love's pleasures—of her noble kin despoiled, Wretched, bearing life, her husband—in her hope again to see. To the unadorned, a husband[114]—is the chiefest ornament; Of her husband if forsaken—she in splendour is not bright. Difficult must be the trial—does king Nala, reft of her, Still retain his wretched body—nor with sorrow pine away? Her with her dark flowing tresses—with her long and lotus eyes, Worthy of all joy, thus joyless—as I see, my soul is wrung. To the furthest shore of sorrow—when will pass this beauteous queen? To her husband reunited—as the moon's bride[115] to the moon? Her recovering shall king Nala—to his happiness return, King, albeit despoiled of kingdom—he his realm shall reassume; In their age and virtues equal—equal in their noble race, He alone of her is worthy—worthy she alone of him. Me beseems it of that peerless—of that brave and prudent king, To console the loyal consort—pining for her husband's sight. Her will I address with comfort—with her moonlike glowing face. Her with woe once unacquainted—woful now and lost in thought." Thus when he had gazed and noted—all her marks, her features well, To the daughter of king Bhima—thus the sage Sudeva spake: "I am named Sudeva, lady—I, thy brother's chosen friend, By king Bhima's royal mandate—hither come in search of thee. Well thy sire, thy royal mother—well thy noble brethren fare, And well fare those little infants—well and happy are they both. For thy sake thy countless kindred—sit as though of sense bereft: Seeking thee a hundred Brahmins—now are wandering o'er the earth." She no sooner knew Sudeva—Damayanti, of her kin, Many a question asked in order—and of every friend beloved. And the daughter of Vidarbha—freely wept, so sudden thus On Sudeva, best of Brahmins—gazing, on her brother's friend. Her beheld the young Sunanda—weeping, wasted with distress, As she thus her secret converse—with the wise Sudeva held. Thus she spake unto her mother—"Lo, how fast our handmaid weeps, Since her meeting with the Brahmin—who she is, thou now may'st know." Forth the king of Chedi's mother—from the inner chamber went, And she passed where with the Brahmin—that mysterious woman stood. Them the mother queen Sudeva—bade before her presence stand; And she asked, "Whose wife, whose daughter—may this noble stranger be? From her kindred how dissevered—from her husband, the soft-eyed? Is she known to thee, O Brahmin—canst thou tell from whence she came? This I fain would hear, and clearly—all her strange and wonderous tale. Tell me all that hath befallen—to this heaven-formed, plainly tell." Best of Brahmins, thus Sudeva—by the mother queen addressed, All the truth of Damayanti—sitting at his ease, declared.


"In Vidarbha the just monarch—Bhima, in his glory dwells. Of that king is she the daughter—Damayanti is her name; And the raja of Nishadha—Nala, Virasena's son, Of that king is she the consort—Punyasloka named, the Wise. Him in play his brother worsted—spoiled of realm the king of earth: He set forth with Damayanti—whither is unknown of men. For the sake of Damayanti—wander we about the earth; Till I found yon noble woman—in the palace of your son. Like to her of mortal women—is there none, her beauty's peer; In the midst, between her eyebrows—from her birth a lovely mole, Dark was seen, and like a lotus—that hath vanished from my sight, Covered over with defilement—like the moon behind a cloud. This soft mark of perfect beauty—fashioned thus by Brahma's self, As at change the moon's thin crescent—only dim and faintly gleams. Yet her beauty is not faded—clouded o'er with toil and mire Though she be, it shines apparent, like the native unwrought gold. With that beauteous form yon woman—gifted with that lovely mole, Instant knew I for the Princess—as the heat betrays the fire."


To Sudeva as she listened—uttering thus his strange discourse: All the dust that mole concealing—young Sunanda washed away. By the obscuring dust unclouded—shining out that mole appeared; On the brow of Damayanti—like the unclouded moon in heaven. Gazing on that mole, Sunanda—and the mother of the king, Wept as fondly they embraced her—and an instant silent stood. Then her tears awhile suppressing—thus the royal mother spake: "Thou art mine own sister's daughter—by that beauteous mole made known; I, Oh beauteous, and thy mother—of that lofty-minded king, Are the daughters, king Sudaman—he that in Dasarna[116] reigns; She was wedded to king Bhima—and to Viravahu I. In my fathers home, Dasarna—once I saw thee, newly born. As to me thy father's lineage—is akin, so mine to thee; Whatsoe'er my power commandeth—Damayanti, all is thine." To the queen did Damayanti—in the gladness of her heart, Having bowed in courteous homage—to her mother's sister, speak: "While unknown I might continue—gladly dwelt I here with thee; Every want supplied on th' instant—guarded by thy gentle care. Yet than even this pleasant dwelling—a more pleasant may there be; Long a banished woman, mother!—give me leave from hence to part, Thither where my infant children—dwell my tender little ones, Orphaned of their sire, in sorrow—orphaned, ah, how long of me! If thou yet wilt grant a favour—o'er all other favours dear, To Vidarbha would I journey—quick the palanquin command." "Be it so," her mother's sister—joyful, instant made reply. Guarded by a mighty army—with th' approval of her son, Sent the queen, that happy lady—in a palanquin, by men Borne aloft, and well provided—with all raiment, drink, and food. Thus the princess to Vidarbha—after brief delay returned. Her her whole assembled kindred—welcomed home with pride and joy, All in health she found her kinsmen-and that lovely infant pair, With her mother, with her father—and her sister troop of friends. To the gods she paid her worship—to the Brahmins in her joy; So the queenly Damayanti—all in noblest guise performed. And her royal sire Sudeva—with the thousand kine made glad, Joyous to behold his daughter,—with a village and much wealth. There, when in her father's palace—she the quiet night had passed, In these words the noble lady—to her mother gan to speak: "If in life thou would'st preserve me—mother, hear the truth I speak; Home to bring the hero Nala—be it now thy chiefest toil." Thus addressed by Damayanti—very sorrowful the queen Clouded all her face with weeping—not a word in answer spake. But the princess, thus afflicted—when the female train beheld, "Woe! oh woe!" they shrieked together—all in pitying sadness wept. To the mighty raja Bhima—did the queen that speech relate. "'Damayanti, Lo thy daughter—for her husband sits and mourns.' Breaking through all bashful silence—thus, oh king, to me she spake: 'Be it now thy servants' business—to find out the king of men.'" Urged by her the king his Brahmins—to his will obedient all, Sent around to every region—"Be your care the king to find." Then those Brahmins at the mandate—of Vidarbha's royal lord, First drew near to Damayanti—"Lo, now set we forth," they said. Then to them spake Bhima's daughter—"In all realms be this your speech, Wheresoever men assemble—this repeat again, again: Whither went'st thou then, oh gamester!—half my garment severing off, Leaving me within the forest—all forsaken, thy beloved. Even as thou commandedst, sits she—sadly waiting thy return. Parched with sorrow sits that woman—in her scant half garment glad. Oh to her thus ever weeping—in the extreme of her distress, Grant thy pity, noble hero—answer to her earnest prayer. Be this also said, to move him—to compassionate my state, (By the wind within the forest—fanned, intensely burns the fire).[117] Ever by her consort cherished—and sustained the wife should be. Why hast thou forgot that maxim—thou in every duty skilled. Thou wert ever called the generous—thou the gentle and the wise. Art thou now estranged from pity—through my sad injurious fate. Prince of men, O grant thy pity—grant it, lord of men, to me; 'Mercy is the chief of duties,'—oft from thine own lips I've heard. Thus as ye are ever speaking—should there any one reply, Mark him well, lest he be Nala—who he is, and where he dwells. He who to this speech hath listened—and hath thus his answer made, Be his words, O best of Brahmins—treasured and brought home to me, Lest he haply should discover—that by my command ye speak, That again ye may approach him—do ye this without delay. Whether he be of the wealthy—whether of the poor he be; Be he covetous of riches—learn ye all he would desire." Thus addressed, went forth the Brahmins—to the realms on every side, Seeking out the royal Nala—in his dark concealed distress. They through royal cities, hamlets—pastoral dwellings, hermits' cells, Nala every-where went seeking—yet those Brahmins found him not. All in every part went speaking—in the language they were taught; In the words of Damayanti—spake they in the ears of men.

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