Part 4 out of 10
That beauty which in old days shone so bright;
Marred with much grief it was, like sunlight dimmed
By fold on fold of wreathed and creeping mists.
But when Sudeva marked the great dark eyes--
Lustreless though they were, and she so worn,
So listless--"Lo, the Princess!" whispered he;--
"'Tis the King's daughter," quoth he to himself;
And thus mused on:--
"Yea! as I used to see,
'Tis she! no other woman hath such grace!
My task is done; I gaze on that one form,
Which is like Lakshmi's, whom all worlds adore.
I see the bosoms, rounded, dark, and smooth,
As they were sister-moons; the soft moon-face
Which with its queenly light makes all things bright
Where it doth gleam; the large deep lotus-eyes,
That, like to Rati's own, the Queen of Love,
Beam, each a lovelit star, filling the worlds
With longing. Ah, fair lotus-flower, plucked up
By Fate's hard grasp from far Vidarbha's pool,
How is thy cup muddied and slimed to-day!
Ah, moon, how is thy night like to the eclipse
When Rahu swallows up the silver round!
Ah, tearless eyes, reddened with weeping him,
How are ye like to gentle streams run dry!
Ah, lake of lilies, where grief's elephant
Hath swung his trunk, and turned the crystal black,
And scattered all the blue and crimson cups,
And frightened off the birds! Ah, lily-cup,
Tender, and delicately leaved, and reared
To blossom in a palace built of gems,
How dost thou wither here, wrenched by the root,
Sun-scorched and faded! Noblest, loveliest, best!--
Who bear'st no gems, yet so becomest them--
How like the new moon's silver horn thou art,
When envious black clouds blot it! Lost for thee
Are love, home, children, friends, and kinsmen; lost
All joy of that fair body thou dost wear
Only that it may last to find thy lord.
Truly a woman's ornament is this:--
The husband is her jewel; lacking him
She hath none, though she shines with priceless pearls;
Piteous must be her state! And, torn from her,
Doth Nala cling to life; or, day by day,
Waste with long yearning? Oh, as I behold
Those black locks, and those eyes--dark and long-shaped
As are the hundred-petalled lotus-leaves--
And watch her joyless who deserves all joy,
My heart is sore! When will she overpass
The river of this sorrow, and come safe
Unto its farther shore? When will she meet
Her lord, as moon and moon-star in the sky
Mingle? For, as I think, in winning her,
Nala would win his happy days again,
And--albeit banished now--have back his lands.
Alike in years and graces, and alike
In lordly race these were: no bride could seem
Worthy Nishadha, if it were not she;
Nor husband worthy of Vidarbha's Pride,
Save it were Nala. It is meet I bring
Comfort forthwith to yon despairing one,
The consort of the just and noble Prince,
For whom I see her heart-sick. I will go
And speak good tidings to this moon-faced Queen,
Who once knew nought of sorrows, but to-day
Stands yonder, plunged heart-deep in woful thought."
So, all those signs and marks considering
Which stamped her Bhima's child, Sudeva drew
Nearer, and said: "Vidarbhi, Nala's wife,
I am the Brahmana Sudeva, friend
Unto my lord, thy brother, and I come
By royal Bhima's mandate, seeking thee.
That Maharaja, thy father, dwells in health;
Thy mother and thy house are well; and well--
With promise of long years--thy little ones,
Sister and brother. Yet, for thy sake, Queen,
Thy kindred sit as men with spirit gone;
In search of thee a hundred twice-born rove
Over all lands."
But (O King Yudhisthir!)
Hardly one word she heard before she broke
With question after question on the man,
Asking of this dear friend and that and this;
All mingled with quick tears, and tender sighs,
And hungry gazing on her brother's friend,
Sudeva--best of Brahmanas--come there.
Which soon Sunanda marked, watching them speak
Apart, and Damayanti all in tears.
Then came she to her mother, saying: "See,
The handmaid thou didst give me talks below
With one who is a Brahman, all her words
Watered with weeping; if thou wilt, demand
What this man knows."
Therewith swept forth amazed
The mother of the Raja, and beheld
How Nala's wife spake with the Brahmana.
Whom straight she bade them summon; and, being brought,
In this wise questioned: "Knowest thou whose wife,
Whose daughter, this one is; and how she left
Her kin; and wherefore, being heavenly-eyed
And noble-mannered, she hath wandered here?
I am full fain to hear this; tell me all,
No whit withholding; answer faithfully--
Who is our slave-girl with the goddess gait?"
The Brahmana Sudeva, so addressed,
Seating himself at ease, unto the Queen
Told Damayanti's story, how all fell.
Sudeva said: "There reigns in majesty
King Bhima at Vidarbha; and of him
The Princess Damayanti here is child;
And Virasena's son, Nala, is Lord
Over Nishadha, praised-in-song and wise;
And of that Prince this lady is the wife.
In play his brother worsted Nala--stripped
Of lands and wealth the Prince; who fled his realm,
Wandering with Damayanti--where, none knew.
In quest of Damayanti we have roamed
The earth's face o'er, until I found her here
In thy son's house, the King's--the very same,
Since like to her for grace no woman lives
Of all fair women. Where her eyebrows meet
A pretty mole, born with her, should be seen
A little lotus-bud--not visible
By reason of the dust of toil which clouds
Her face and veils its moon-like beauty--that
The wondrous Maker on the rare work stamped
To be His Mark. But as the waxing moon
Goes thin and darkling for awhile, then rounds
The crescent's rims with splendors, so this Queen
Hath lost not queenliness. Being now obscured,
Soiled with the grime of chores, unbeautified,
She shows true gold. The fire which trieth gold
Denoteth less itself by instant heat
Than Damayanti by her goodlihood.
As first sight knew I her. She bears that mole."
Whilst yet Sudeva spake (O King of men!),
Sunanda from the slave's front washed away
The gathered dust, and forth that mark appeared
'Twixt Damayanti's brows, as when clouds break,
And in the sky the moon, the night-maker,
Glitters to view. Seeing the spot awhile,
Sunanda and the mother of the King
Gazed voiceless; then they clasped her neck and wept
Rejoicing, till the Queen, staying her tears,
Exclaimed: "My sister's daughter, dear! thou art,
By this same mark. Thy mother and myself
Were sisters by one father--he that rules
Dasarna, King Sudaman. She was given
To Bhima, and to Virabahu I.
Once at Dasarna, in my father's house,
I saw thee, newly born. Thy race and mine,
Princess, are one: henceforward, therefore, here
As I am, Damayanti, shalt thou be."
With gladdened heart did Damayanti bend
Before her mother's sister, answering thus:--
"Peaceful and thankful dwelled I here with thee,
Being unknown, my every need supplied,
My life and honor by thy succor safe,
Yet, Maharajni, even than this dear home
One would be dearer: 'tis so many days
Since we were parted. Suffer me to go
Where those my tender little ones were led;
So long--poor babes!--of me and of their sire
Bereft. If, lady, thou dost think to show
Kindness to me, this is my wish: to wend
Unto Vidarbha swiftly; wilt thou bid
They bear me thither?"
Was no sooner heard
That fond desire, than the queen-mother gave
Willing command; and soon an ample troop,
The King consenting, gathered for her guard.
So was she sent upon a palanquin,
With soldiers, pole-bearers, and meat and drink,
And garments as befitted--happier--home.
Thus to Vidarbha came its Pride again,
By no long road; and joyously her kin
Brought the sweet Princess in, and welcomed her.
In peace and safety all her house she found;
Her children well;--father and mother, friends.
The gods she worshipped, and to Brahmanas
Due reverence made, and whatso else was meet
That Damayanti did, regal in all.
To wise Sudeva fell the thousand cows
By Bhima granted, with the village-lands,
And goodly gifts beside.
But when there passed
One night of rest within the palace-walls,
The wistful Princess to her mother said:--
"If thou wouldst have me live, I tell thee true,
Dear mother, it must be by bringing back
My Nala, my own lord; and only so."
When this she spake, right sorrowful became
The Rani, weeping silently, nor gave
One word of answer; and the palace-girls,
Seeing this grief, sat round them, weeping too,
And crying: "Haha! where is gone her lord?"
And loud the lamentation was of all.
Afterwards to the Maharaja his Queen
Told what was said: "Lord! all uncomforted
Thy daughter Damayanti weeps and grieves,
Lacking her husband. Even to me she spake
Before our damsels, laying shame aside:--
'Find Nala; let the people of the court
Strive day and night to learn where Nala is.'"
Then Bhima, hearing, called his Brahmanas
Patient and wise, and issued hest to go
Into all regions, seeking for the Prince.
But first, by mandate of the Maharaja,
To Damayanti all those twice-born came,
Saying: "Now we depart!" Then Bhima's child
Gave ordinance: "To whatsoever lands
Ye wend, say this--wherever gather men,
Say this--in every place these verses speak:--
Whither art thou departed, cruel lover,
Who stole the half of thy beloved's cloth,
And left her to awaken, and discover
The wrong thou wroughtest to the love of both?
She, as thou didst command, a sad watch keepeth,
With woful heart wearing the rended dress.
Prince, hear her cry who thus forever weepeth;
Be mindful, hero; comfort her distress!
And, furthermore," the Princess said, "since fire
Leaps into flame when the wind fans the spark,
Be this too spoken, that his heart may burn:--
By every husband nourished and protected
Should every wife be. Think upon the wood!
Why these thy duties hast thou so neglected,
Prince, that was called noble and true and good?
Art then become compassionate no longer,
Shunning, perchance, my fortune's broken way?
Ah, husband, love is most! let love be stronger;
_Ahimsa paro dharma_, thou didst say.
These verses while ye speak," quoth the Princess,
"Should any man make answer, note him well
In any place; and who he is, and where
He dwells. And if one listens to these words
Intently, and shall so reply to them,
Good Brahmans, hold ye fast his speech, and bring,
Breath by breath, all of it unto me here;
But so that he shall know not whence ye speak,
If ye go back. Do this unweariedly;
And if one answer--be he high or low,
Wealthy or poor--learn all he was and is,
And what he would."
Hereby enjoined, they went,
Those twice-born, into all the lands to seek
Prince Nala in his loneliness. Through towns,
Cities and villages, hamlets and camps,
By shepherds' huts and hermits' caves, they passed,
Searching for Nala; yet they found him not;
Albeit in every region (O my king!)
The words of Damayanti, as she taught,
Spake they again in hearing of all men.
Suddenly--after many days--there came
A Brahman back, Parnada he was called,
Who unto Bhima's child in this wise spake:--
"O Damayanti, seeking Nala still,
Ayodhya's streets I entered, where I saw
The Maharaja; he--noble-minded one!--
Heard me thy verses say, as thou hadst said;
Great Rituparna heard those very words,
Excellent Princess; but he answered nought;
And no man answered, out of all the throng
Ofttimes addressed. But when I had my leave
And was withdrawn, a man accosted me
Privately--one of Rituparna's train,
Vahuka named, the Raja's charioteer
(Something misshapen, with a shrunken arm,
But skilled in driving, very dexterous
In cookery and sweetmeats). He--with groans,
And tears which rolled and rolled--asked of my health,
And then these verses spake full wistfully:--
'Even when their loss is largest, noble ladies
Keep the true treasure of their hearts unspent,
Attaining heaven through faith, which undismayed is
By wrong, unaltered by abandonment;
Such an one guards with virtue's golden shield
Her name from harm; pious and pure and tender;
And, though her lord forsook her, will not yield
To wrath, even against that vile offender--
Even against the ruined, rash, ungrateful,
Faithless, fond Prince from whom the birds did steal
His only cloth, whom now a penance fateful
Dooms to sad days, that dark-eyed will not feel
Anger; for if she saw him she should see
A man consumed with grief and loss and shame;
Ill or well lodged, ever in misery,
Her unthroned lord, a slave without a name.'
Such words I heard him speak," Parnada said,
"And, hastening thence, I tell them to thee, here;
Thou knowest; thou wilt judge; make the King know."
But Damayanti listened, with great eyes
Welling quick tears, while thus Parnada spake,
And afterwards crept secretly and said
Unto her mother: "Breathe no word hereof,
Dear mother, to the King, but let me speak
With wise Sudeva in thy presence here;
Nothing should Bhima know of what I plan,
But, if thou lovest me, by thee and me
This shall be wrought. As I was safely led
By good Sudeva home, so let him go--
With not less happy fortune--to bring back,
Ere many days, my Nala; let him seek
Ayodhya, mother dear, and fetch my Prince!"
But first Parnada, resting from his road--
That best of twice-borns--did the Princess thank
With honorable words and gifts: "If home
My Nala cometh, Brahman!" so she spake,
"Great guerdon will I give. Thou hast well done
For me herein--- better than any man;
Helping me find again my wandered lord."
To which fair words made soft reply, and prayers
For "peace and fortune," that high-minded one,
And so passed home, his service being wrought.
Next to Sudeva spake the sad Princess
This (O my King!), her mother standing by:--
"Good Brahman, to Ayodhya's city go.
Say in the ears of Raja Rituparna,
As though thou cam'st a simple traveller,
'The daughter of King Bhima once again
Maketh to hold her high Swayamvara.
The kings and princes from all lands repair
Thither; the time draws nigh; to-morrow's dawn
Shall bring the day. If thou wouldst be of it,
Speed quickly, conquering King! at sunsetting
Another lord she chooseth for herself;
Since whether Nala liveth or is dead,
These the words which he should say;
And, learning them, he sped, and thither came--
That Brahmana Sudeva--and he spake
To Maharaja Rituparna so.
Now when the Raja Rituparna heard
Sudeva's words, quoth he to Vahuka
Full pleasantly: "Much mind I have to go
Where Damayanti holds Swayamvara,
If to Vidarbha, in a single day,
Thou deemest we might drive, my charioteer!"
Of Nala, by his Raja thus addressed,
Torn was the heart with anguish; for he thought:--
"Can Damayanti purpose this? Could grief
So change her? Is it not some fine device
For my sake schemed? Or doth my Princess seek,
All holy as she was, this guilty joy,
Being so wronged of me, her rash weak lord?
Frail is a woman's heart, and my fault great!
Thus might she do it, being far from home,
Bereft of friends, desolate with long woes
Of love for me--my slender-waisted one!
Yet no, no, no! she would not--she that is
My children's mother! Be it false or true,
Best shall I know in going; therefore now
The will of Rituparna must I serve."
Thus pondering in his mind, the troubled Prince
With joined palms meekly to his master said:--
"I shall thy hest accomplish! I can drive
In one day, Raja, to Vidarbha's gates."
Then in the royal stables--steed by steed,
Stallions and mares, Vahuka scanned them all,
By Rituparna prayed quickly to choose.
Slowly he picked four coursers, under-fleshed,
But big of bone and sinew; fetlocked well
For journeying; high-bred, heavy-framed; of blood
To match the best, yet gentle; blemish-free;
Broad in the jaw, with scarlet nostrils spread;
Bearing the _Avarthas_, the ten true marks--
Reared on the banks of Indus, swift as wind.
Which, when the Raja looked upon, he cried,
Half-wrathful: "What thing thinkest thou to do?
Wilt thou betray me? How should sorry beasts,
Lean-ribbed and ragged, take us all that way,
The long road we must swiftly travel hence?"
Vahuka answered: "See on all these four
The ten sure marks: one curl upon each crest,
Two on the cheeks, two upon either flank,
Two on the breast, and on each crupper one.
These to Vidarbha--doubt it not--will go;
Yet, Raja, if thou wilt have others, speak;
And I shall yoke them."
"I know thou hast deep skill in stable-craft;
Yoke therefore such four coursers as thou wilt,
Thus those horses, two by two,
High-mettled, spare, and strong, Prince Nala put
Under the bars; and when the car was hitched,
And eagerly the Raja made to mount,
At sign the coursers bent their knees, and lay
Along the earth. Then Nala (O my King!),
With kindly voice cheering the gaunt bright steeds,
Loosed them, and grasped the reins, and bade ascend
Varshneya: so he started, headlong, forth.
At cry of Vahuka the four steeds sprung
Into the air, as they would fly with him;
And when the Raja felt them, fleet as wind,
Whirling along, mute sat he and amazed;
And much Varshneya mused to hear and see
The thundering of those wheels; the fiery four
So lightly held; Vahuka's matchless art.
"Is Matali, who driveth Indra's car,
Our charioteer? for all the marks of him
Are here! or Salihotra can this be,
The god of horses, knowing all their ways,
Who here in mortal form his greatness hides?
Or is it--can it be--Nala the Prince,
Nala the steed-tamer?" Thus pondered he:--
"Whatever Nala knew this one doth know.
Alike the mastery seems of both; alike
I judge their years. If this man be not he,
Two Nalas are there in the world for skill.
They say there wander mighty powers on earth
In strange disguises, who, divinely sprung,
Veil themselves from us under human mould;
Bewilderment it brings me, this his shape
Misshappen--from conclusion that alone
Withholds me; yet I wist not what to think,
In age and manner like--and so unlike
In form! Else Vahuka I must have deemed
Nala, with Nala's gifts."
So in his heart,
Varshneya, watching, wondered--being himself
The second charioteer. But Rituparna
Sat joyous with the speed, delightedly
Marking the driving of the Prince: the eyes
Attent; the hand so firm upon the reins;
The skill so quiet, wise, and masterful;
Great joy the Maharaja had to see.
By stream and mountain, woodland-path and pool,
Swiftly, like birds that skim in air, they sped;
Till, as the chariot plunged, the Raja saw
His shoulder-mantle falling to the ground;
And--loath to lose the robe--albeit so pressed,
To Nala cried he, "Let me take it up;
Check the swift horses, wondrous charioteer;
And bid Varshneya light, and fetch my cloth,"
But Nala answered: "Far it lies behind;
A yojana already we have passed;
We cannot turn again to pick it up."
A little onward Riturparna saw
Within the wood a tall Myrobolan
Heavy with fruit; hereat, eager he cried:--
"Now, Vahuka, my skill thou mayest behold
In the Arithmic. All arts no man knows;
Each hath his wisdom, but in one man's wit
Is perfect gift of one thing, and not more.
From yonder tree how many leaves and fruits,
Think'st thou, lie fall'n there upon the earth?
Just one above a thousand of the leaves,
And one above a hundred of the fruits;
And on those two limbs hang, of dancing leaves,
Five crores exact; and shouldst thou pluck yon boughs
Together with their shoots, on those twain boughs
Swing twice a thousand nuts and ninety-five!"
Vahuka checked the chariot wonderingly,
And answered: "Imperceptible to me
Is what thou boastest, slayer of thy foes!
But I to proof will put it, hewing down
The tree, and, having counted, I shall know.
Before thine eyes the branches twain I'll lop:
How prove thee, Maharaja, otherwise,
Whether this be or be not? I will count
One by one--fruits and leaves--before thee, King;
Varshneya, for a space, can rein the steeds."
To him replied the Raja: "Time is none
Now to delay."
Vahuka answered quick
(His own set purpose serving): "Stay this space,
Or by thyself drive on! The road is good,
The son of Vrishni will be charioteer!"
On that the Raja answered soothingly:--
"There is not in the earth another man
That hath thy skill; and by thy skill I look
To reach Vidarbha, O thou steed-tamer!
Thou art my trust; make thou not hindrance now!
Yet would I suffer, too, what thou dost ask,
If thou couldst surely reach Vidarbha's gate
Before yon sun hath sunk."
"When I have counted those vibhitak boughs,
Vidarbha I will reach; now keep thy word."
Ill pleased, the Raja said: "Halt then, and count!
Take one bough from the branch which I shall show,
And tell its fruits, and satisfy thy soul."
So leaping from the car--eager he shore
The boughs, and counted; and all wonder-struck
To Rituparna spake: "Lo, as thou saidst
So many fruits there be upon this bough!
Exceeding marvellous is this thy gift,
I burn to know such learning, how it comes."
Answered the Raja, for his journey fain:--
"My mind is quick with numbers, skilled to count;
I have the science."
"Give it me, dear Lord!"
Vahuka cried: "teach me, I pray, this lore,
And take from me my skill in horse-taming."
Quoth Rituparna--impatient to proceed--
Yet of such skill desirous: "Be it so!
As thou hast prayed, receive my secret art,
Exchanging with me here thy mastery
Thereupon did he impart
His rules of numbers, taking Nala's too.
But wonderful! So soon as Nala knew
That hidden gift, the accursed Kali leapt
Forth from his breast, the evil spirit's mouth
Spewing the poison of Karkotaka
Even as he issued. From the afflicted Prince
That bitter plague of Kali passed away;
And for a space Prince Nala lost himself,
Rent by the agony. But when he saw
The evil one take visible shape again--
Free from the serpent's poison--Nishadha's Lord
Had thought to curse him then; but Kali stood
With clasped palms trembling, and besought the Prince,
Saying: "Thy wrath restrain, Sovereign of men!
I will repay thee well. Thy virtuous wife,
Indrasen's angered mother, laid her ban
Upon me when thou didst forsake her; since
Within thee have I dwelled in anguish sore,
Tortured and tossed and burning, night and day,
With venom from the great snake's fang, which passed
Into me by thy blood. Be pitiful!
I take my refuge in thy mercy! Hear
My promise, Prince! Wherever men henceforth
Shall name thee before people, praising thee,
This shall protect them from the dread of me;
Nala shall guard from Kali, if so now
Thou spare to curse me, seeking grace of thee."
Thus supplicated, Nala stayed his wrath,
Acceding; and the direful Kali fled
Into the wounded tree, possessing it.
But of no eyes, save Nala's, was he seen,
Nor heard of any other; and the Prince,
His sorrows shaking off, when Kali passed,
After that numbering of the leaves, in joy
Unspeakable, and glowing with new hope,
Mounted the car again, and urged his steeds.
But from that hour the tall Myrobolan,
Possessed by Kali, stood there, sear and dead.
Then onward, onward, speeding like the birds,
Those coursers flew; and fast and faster still
The glad Prince cheered them forward, all elate:
And proudly rode the Raja towards the walls
Of high Vidarbha. Thus did journey down
Exultant Nala, free of trouble now,
Quit of the evil spell, but bearing still
His form misshapen, and the shrunken limb.
At sunset in Vidarbha (O great King!)
The watchers on the walls proclaimed, "There comes
The Raja Rituparna!" Bhima bade
Open the gates; and thus they entered in,
Making all quarters of the city shake
With rattling of the chariot-wheels. But when
The horses of Prince Nala heard that sound,
For joy they neighed, as when of old their lord
Drew nigh. And Damayanti, in her bower,
Far off that rattling of the chariot heard,
As when at time of rains is heard the voice
Of clouds low thundering; and her bosom thrilled
At echo of that ringing sound. It came
Loud and more loud, like Nala's, when of old,
Gripping the reins, he cheered his mares along.
It seemed like Nala to the Princess then--
That clatter of the trampling of the hoofs;
It seemed like Nala to the stabled steeds:
Upon the palace-roof the peacocks heard
And screamed; the elephants within their stalls
Heard it and trumpeted; the coursers, tied,
Snorted for joy to hear that leaping car;
Peacocks and elephants and cattle stalled
All called and clamored with uplifted heads,
As wild things do at noise of coming rain.
Then to herself the Princess spake: "This car,
The rolling of it, echoing all around,
Gladdens my heart. It must be Nala comes,
My King of men! If I see not, this day,
My Prince that hath the bright and moon-like face,
My hero of unnumbered gifts, my lord,
Ah, I shall die! If this day fall I not
Into his opening arms--at last, at last--
And feel his close embrace, oh, beyond doubt,
I cannot live! If--ending all--to-day
Nishadha cometh not, with this deep sound
Like far-off thunder, then to-night I'll leap
Into the golden, flickering, fiery flames!
If now, now, now, my lion draws not nigh,
My warrior-love, like the wild elephant,
My Prince of princes--I shall surely die!
Nought call I now to mind he said or did
That was not rightly said and justly done.
No idle word he spake, even in free speech;
Patient and lordly; generous to bestow
Beyond all givers; scorning to be base,
Yea, even in secret--such Nishadha was.
Alas! when, day and night, I think of him,
How is my heart consumed, reft of its joy!"
So meditating, like one torn by thoughts,
She mounted to the palace-roof to see;
And thence, in the mid-court, the car beheld
Arriving. Rituparna and Vahuka
She saw, with Vrishni's son, descend and loose
The panting horses, wheeling back the car.
Then Rituparna, alighting, sought the King,
Bhima the Maharaja, far-renowned--
Whom Bhima with fair courtesies received;
Since well he deemed such breathless visit made
With deep cause, knowing not the women's plots.
"_Swagatam!"_ cried he; "what hath brought thee, Prince?"
For nothing wist he that the Raja came
Suitor of Damayanti. Questioned so,
This Raja Rituparna, wise and brave,
Seeing no kings nor princes in the court,
Nor noise of the Swayamvara, nor crowd
Of Brahmans gathering--weighing all those things,
Answered in this wise: "I am come, great Lord,
To make thee salutations!" But the King
Laughed in his beard at Rituparna's word--
That this of many weary yojanas
Should be the mark. "_Ahoswid_! Hath he passed
Through twenty towns," thought he, "and hither flown
To bid good-morrow? Nay, it is not that.
Good! I shall know it when he bids me know."
Thereat, with friendly speech his noble guest
The King to rest dismissed. "Repose thyself,"
He said; "the road was long; weary thou art."
And Rituparna, with sentences of grace
Replying to this graciousness, was led
By slaves to the allotted sleeping-room;
And after Rituparna, Varshneya went.
Vahuka, left alone, the chariot ran
Into its shed, and from the foamy steeds
Unbuckled all the harness, thong by thong,
Speaking soft words to them; then sat him down,
Alone, forgotten, on the driving-seat.
But Damayanti, seeing Rituparna,
And Vrishni's son, and him called Vahuka,
Spake sorrowful: "Whose was the thunder, then,
Of that fleet car? It seemed like Nala's own;
Yet here I see no Nala! Hath yon man
My lord's art learned, or th'other one, that thus
Their car should thunder as when Nala comes?
Could Rituparna drive as Nala doth,
So that those chariot-wheels should sound like his?"
And, after having pondered (O my King!),
The beauteous Princess sent her handmaiden
To Vahuka, that she might question him.
"Go, Keshini," the Princess said; "inquire
Who is that man upon the driving-seat,
Misshapen, with the shrunken arm. Approach
Composedly, question him winningly
With greetings kind, and bid him answer thee
According to the truth. I feel at heart
A doubt--a hope--that this, perchance, may be
My Lord and Prince; there is some new-born joy
Fluttering within my breast. Accost him, girl;
And, ere thou partest, what Parnada said,
Say thou, and hear him answer, blameless one,
And bring it on thy lips!"
Then went the maid
Demurely, and accosted Vahuka,
While Damayanti watched them from the roof.
"_Kushalam te bravimi_--health and peace
I wish thee!" said she. "Wilt thou answer true
What Damayanti asks? She sends to ask
Whence set ye forth, and wherefore are ye come
Hither? Vidarbha's Princess fain would know."
"'Twas told my Raja," Vahuka replied,
"That Damayanti for the second turn
Holds her Swayamvara: the Brahman's word
Was, "This shall be to-morrow." So he sped,
Hearing that news, with steeds which in one day
Fly fifty yojanas, swift as the winds,
Exceeding fleet. His charioteer am I."
"Who, then," Keshini asked, "is he that rode
The third? whence cometh he, and what his race?
And thou thyself whence sprung? and tell me why
Thou servest thus?"
Then Vahuka replied:--
"Varshneya is the third who rode with us,
The famous charioteer of Nala he:
When thy Prince fled, he went to Koshala
And took our service. I in horse-taming
And dressing meat have skill; so am I made
King Rituparna's driver and his cook."
"Knoweth Varshneya, then, where Nala fled?"
Inquired the maid; "and did he tell thee this,
Or what spake he?"
"Of that unhappy Prince
He brought the children hither, and then went
Even where he would, of Nala wotting nought;
Nor wotteth any man, fair damsel! more.
Hidden from mortal eyes Nishadha lives,
Wandering the world, his very body changed.
Of Nala only Nala's own heart knows,
And by no sign doth he bewray himself."
Keshini said: "That Brahman who did wend
First to Ayodhya bore a verse to say
Over and over, everywhere--strange words,
Wove by a woman's wit. Listen to these:--
'Whither art thou departed, cruel lover,
Who stole the half of thy beloved's cloth,
And left her to awaken and discover
The wrong thou wroughtest to the love of both?
She, as thou didst command, a sad watch keepeth,
With woful heart wearing the rended dress.
Prince, hear her cry who thus forever weepeth;
Be mindful, hero; comfort her distress!'
What was it thou didst utter, hearing this?
Some gentle speech! Say it again--the Queen,
My peerless mistress, fain would know from me.
Nay, on thy faith, when thou didst hear that man,
What was it thou replied? She would know."
(Descendant of the Kurus!) Nala's heart,
While so the maid spoke, well-nigh burst with grief,
And from his eyes fast flowed the rolling tears;
But, mastering his anguish, holding down
The passion of his pain, with voice which strove
To speak through sobs, the Prince repeated this:--
"Even against the ruined, rash, ungrateful,
Faithless, fond Prince, from whom the birds did steal
His only cloth, whom now a penance fateful
Dooms to sad days, that dark-eyed will not feel
Anger; for if she saw him she should see
A man consumed with grief and loss and shame;
Ill or well lodged, ever in misery,
Her unthroned lord, a slave without a name."
Speaking these verses, woful Nala moaned,
And, overcome by thought, restrained no more
His trickling tears; fast broke they forth (O King!).
But Keshini, returning, told his words
To Damayanti, and the grief of him.
When Damayanti heard, sore-troubled still,
Yet in her heart supposing him her Prince,
Again she spake: "Go, Kashini, and watch
Whatever this man doeth; near him stand,
Holding thy peace, and mark the ways of him
And all his acts, going and coming; note
If aught there be of strange in any deed.
Let them not give him fire, my girl--not though
This hindereth sore; nor water, though he ask
Even with beseeching. Afterwards observe,
And bring me what befalls, and every sign
Of earthly or unearthly power he shows;
And whatsoever else Vahuka doth,
See it, and say."
Thereon Keshini sped,
Obeying Damayanti and--at hand--
Whatever by that horse-tamer was wrought,
The damsel watched, and all his ways; and came
Back to the Princess, unto whom she told
Each thing Vahuka did, as it befell,
And what the signs were, and the wondrous works
Of earthly and unearthly gifts in him.
"_Subhe_!" quoth she, "the man is magical,
But high and holy mannered; never yet
Saw I another such, nor heard of him.
Passing the low door of the inner court,
Where one must stoop, he did not bow his head,
But as he came the lintel lifted up
And gave him space. Bhima the King had sent
Many and diverse meats for Rituparna,
Of beast and bird and fish--great store of food--
The which to cleanse some chatties stood hard by,
All empty; yet he did but look on them,
Wishful, and lo! the water brimmed the pots.
Then, having washed the meats, he hastened forth
In quest of fire, and, holding towards the sun
A knot of withered grass, the bright flame blazed
Instant amidst it. Wonderstruck was I
This miracle to see, and hither ran
With other strangest marvels to impart:--
For, Princess, when he touched the blazing grass
He was not burned, and water flows for him
At will, or ceases flowing; and this, too,
The strangest thing of all, did I behold--
He took some faded leaves and flowers up,
And idly handled them; but while his hands
Toyed with them, lo! they blossomed forth again
With lovelier life than ever, and fresh scent,
Straight on their stalks. These marvels have I seen,
And fly back now to tell thee, mistress dear!"
But when she knew such wonders of the man,
More certainly she deemed those acts and gifts
Betokened Nala; and so-minded, full
Of trust to find her lord in Vahuka,
With happier tears and softening voice she said
To Keshini: "Speed yet again, my girl;
And, while he wots not, from the kitchen take
Meat he hath dressed, and bring it here to me."
So went the maid, and, waiting secretly,
Broke from the mess a morsel, hot and spiced,
And, bearing it with faithful swiftness, gave
To Damayanti. She (O Kuru King!)--
That knew so well the dishes dressed by him--
Touched, tasted it, and, laughing--weeping--cried,
Beside herself with joy: "Yes, yes; 'tis he!
That charioteer is Nala!" then, a-pant,
Even while she washed her mouth, she bade the maid
Go with the children twain to Vahuka;
Who, when he saw his little Indrasen
And Indrasena, started up, and ran,
And caught, and folded them upon his breast;
Holding them there, his darlings, each as fair
As children of the gods. Then, quite undone
With love and yearning, loudly sobbed the Prince.
Until, perceiving Keshini, who watched,
Shamed to be known, he set his children down,
And said: "In sooth, good friend, this lovely pair
So like mine own are, that at seeing them
I am surprised into these foolish tears.
Thou comest here too often; men will think
Thee light, or me; remember, we are here,
Strangers and guests, girl! Go thy ways in peace!"
But seeing that great trouble of his soul,
Lightly came Keshini, and pictured all
To Damayanti. She, burning to know
If truly this were Nala, bade the girl
Seek the Queen's presence, saying thus for her:--
"Mother! long watching Vahuka, I deem
The charioteer is Nala. One doubt lives--
His altered form. I must myself have speech
With Vahuka; thou, therefore, bid him come,
Or suffer me to seek him. Be this done
Forthwith, good mother!--whether known or not
Unto the Maharaja."
When she heard,
The Queen told Bhima what the Princess prayed,
Who gave consent; and having this good leave
From father and from mother (O my King!),
Command was sent that Vahuka be brought
Where the court ladies lodged.
So met those twain;
And when Prince Nala's gaze fell on his wife,
He stood with beating heart and tearful eyes.
And when sweet Damayanti looked on him,
She could not speak for anguish of keen joy
To have him close; but sat there, mute and wan,
Wearing a sad-hued cloth, her lustrous hair
Falling unbanded, and the mourning-mark
Stamped in gray ashes on her lovely brow.
And, when she found a voice, these were the words
That came from her: "Didst ever, Vahuka--
If Vahuka thy name be, as thou say'st--
Know one of noble nature, honorable,
Who in the wild woods left his wife asleep--
His innocent, fond wife--weary and worn?
Know'st thou the man. I'll say his name to thee;
'Twas Nala, Raja Nala! Ah, and when
In any thoughtless hour had I once wrought
The smallest wrong, that he should leave me so,
There in the wood, by slumber overcome?
Before the gods I chose him for my lord,
The gods themselves rejecting; tell me how
This Prince could so abandon, in her need,
His true, his loving wife, she who did bear
His babes--abandon her to whom he swore--
My hand clasped, in the sight of all the gods,
And Agni's self--'Thy true lord I will be!'
Thou saidst it!--where is now that promise, fled?"
While thus she spake (O Victor of thy foes!),
Fast from her eyes the woe-sprung waters ran.
And Nala, seeing those night-black, loving eyes
Reddened with weeping, seeing her falling tears;
Broke forth: "Ah! that I lost my throne and realm
In dicing, was not done by fault of mine;
'T was Kali wrought it; Kali, O my wife,
Drove me to leave thee. Therefore, long ago
That evil one was stricken by the curse
Which thou didst utter, wandering in the wood,
Desolate, night and day, grieving for me.
Possessing me he dwelt; but, cursed by thee,
Tortured he dwelt, consuming with thy words
In fierce and fiercer pain, as when is piled
Brand upon burning brand. But he is gone;
Patience and penance have o'ermastered him.
Princess, the end is reached of our long woes.
That evil one being fled, freeing my will,
See, I am here; and wherefore would I come,
Fairest, except for thee? Yet, answer this:--
How should a wife, right-minded to her lord--
Her own and lawful lord--compass to choose
Another love, as thou, that tremblest, didst?
Thy messengers over all regions ran,
By the King's name proclaiming: 'Bhima's child
A second husband chooseth for herself,
Whomso she will--as pleaseth--being free,'
Those shameless tidings brought the Raja here
At headlong speed--and me!"
Damayanti through her tears, with quivering lips,
And joined palms, answering her aggrieved Prince:--
"Judgest thou me guilty of such a sin?
When for thy sake I put the gods aside--
Thee did I choose, Nishadha, my one lord.
In quest of thee did all those Brahmans range
In all ten regions, telling all one tale
Taught them by me; and so Parnada came
To Koshala, where Rituparna dwells,
And found thee in his house, and spake to thee
Those words, and had thy gentle answer back.
Mine the device was, Prince, to bring thee quick;
For well I wist no man in all this world
Could in one day the fleetest coursers urge
So many yojanas, save thou, dear Prince!
I touch thy feet, and tell thee this in truth;
And true it is that never any wrong
Against thee, even in fancy, have I dreamed.
Witness for me, as I am loyal and pure,
The ever-shifting, all-beholding Air,
Who wanders o'er the earth; let him withdraw
My breath and slay me, if I sinned in aught!
Witness for me, yon golden Sun who goes
With bright eye over us; let him withhold
Warm life and kill me, if I sinned in aught!
Witness for me the white Moon, whose pale spell
Lies on all flesh and spirit; let that orb
Deny me peace and end me, if I sinned!
These be the watchers and the testifiers,
The three chief gods that rule the three wide worlds;
I cry unto them; let them speak for me;
And thou shalt hear them answer for my faith,
Or once again, this day, abandon me."
Then Vayu showed--the all-enfolding Air--
And spake: "Not one wrong hath she wrought thee, Prince,
I tell thee sooth. The treasure of her truth
Faultless and undefiled she hath kept
By us regarded, and sustained by us,
These many days. Her tender plot it was,
Planned for thy sake, which brought thee; since who else
Could in one day drive threescore yojanas?
Nala, thou hast thy noble wife again;
Thou, Damayanti, hast thy Nala back.
Away with doubting; take her to thy breast,
Thrice happy Prince!"
And while God Vayu spake,
Look! there showered flowers down out of the sky
Upon them; and the drums of heaven beat
Beautiful music, and a gentle wind,
Fragrant, propitious, floated, kissing them.
But Nala, when he saw these things befall--
Wonderful, gracious--when he heard that voice
Called the great snake to memory:--whereupon
His proper self returned. Bhima's fair child
Divinely sounding (Lord of Bharat's line!)--
Yielded all doubt of his delightful Love.
Then cast he round about his neck the cloth--
Unstained by earth, enchanted--and (O King!)
Saw her dear lord his beauteous form resume.
"Ah, Nala! Nala!" cried she, while her arms
Clasped him and clung; and Nala to his heart
Pressed that bright lady, glowing, as of old,
With princely majesty. Their children twain
Next he caressed; while she--at happy peace--
Her beautiful glad face laid on his breast,
Sighing with too much joy. And Nala stood
A great space silent, gazing on her face,
Sorrow-stamped yet, her long, deep-lidded eyes,
Her melting smile--himself 'twixt joy and woe.
Afterwards, all that story of the Prince,
And all of Damayanti, Bhima's Queen
Told to the Maharaja joyously.
And Bhima said: "To-morrow will I see--
When Nala hath his needful offerings made--
Our daughter and this wandering lord well knit."
But all that night they sat, hand clasped in hand,
Rejoicing, and relating what befell
In the wild wood, and of the woful times.
That night being spent, Prince Nala in his state
Led forth Vidarbha's Pride before the court.
And Bhima--in an hour found fortunate--
Re-wed those married lovers. Dutifully
Nala paid homage to the Maharaja,
And reverently did Damayanti bow
Before her father. He the Prince received
With grace and gladness, as a son restored,
Making fair welcome, and with words of praise
Exalting Damayanti, tried and true;
Which in all dignity Prince Nala took,
Returning, as was meet, words honorable.
Therewith unto the city spread the noise
Of that rejoicing. All the townspeople,
Learning of Nala joyously returned,
Made all their quarters gay with float of flags,
Flutter of cloths, and garlands; sprinkled free
The King's-ways with fresh water, and the cups
Of fragrant flowers; and hung long wreaths of flowers.
From door to door the white street-fronts before;
And decked each temple-porch, and went about
And afterwards, in Bhima's royal house
Serenely dwelled the Princess and the Prince,
Each making for the other peaceful joy.
So in the fourth year Nala was rejoined
To Damayanti, comforted and free,
Restful, attained, tasting delights again.
Also the glad Princess, gaining her lord,
Laid sorrows by, and blossomed forth anew,
As doth the laughing earth when the rain falls,
And brings her unseen, waiting wonders forth
Of blade and flower and fruit. The ache was gone,
The loneliness and load. Heart-full of ease,
Lovelier she grew and brighter, like the moon
Mounting at midnight in the cloudless blue.
When Rituparna heard
How Vahuka is Nala in disguise,
And of the meeting, right rejoiced at heart
That Raja grew. And, being softly prayed
By Nala favorable thought, the King
Made royal and gentle answer, with like grace
By Nala met. To whom spake Rituparna:--
"Joy go with thee and her, happily joined.
But say, Nishadha, wrought I any jot
Wrongful to thee, whilst sojourning unknown
Within my walls? If any word or deed,
Purposed or purposeless, hath vexed thee, friend,
For one and all thy pardon grant to me!"
And Nala answered: "Never act or word,
The smallest, Raja, lingers to excuse!
If this were otherwise, thy slave was I,
And might not question, but must pardon thee.
Yet good to me thou wert, princely and just,
And kind thou art; and friendly from this time
Deign thou to be. Happily was I lodged,
Well-tended, well-befriended in thy house;
In mine own palace never better stead.
The skill in steeds which pleased thee, that is mine,
And, Raja, I will give it all to thee,
If thou art minded."
So Nishadha gave
All his great gift in horses to the King,
Who learned each rule approved, and ordinance;
And, having all this knowledge, gave in turn
His deepest lore of numbers and the dice
To Nala, afterwards departing home
To his own place, another charioteer
Driving his steeds; and, Rituparna gone,
Not long did Nala dwell in Bhima's town.
When one moon he had tarried, taking leave,
Nishadha to his city started forth
With chosen train. A shining car he drove;
And elephants sixteen, and fifty horse,
And footmen thirty-score came in the rear.
Swiftly did Nala journey, making earth
Quake 'neath his flying car; and wrathfully
With quick steps entered he his palace doors.
The son of Virasena, Nala, stood
Once more before that gamester Pushkara!
Spake he: "Play yet again; much wealth is mine,
And that, and all I have--yea, my Princess--
Set I for stakes: set thou this realm, and throw!
My mind is fixed a second chance to try,
Where, Pushkara, we will play for all or none.
Who wins his throne and treasures from a prince,
Must stand the hazard of the counter-cast--
This is the accepted law. If thou dost blench,
The next game we will play is 'life or death,'
In chariot-fight; when, or of thee or me
One shall lie satisfied: 'Descended realms,
By whatsoever means, are to be sought,'
The sages say, 'by whatsoever won.'
Choose, therefore, Pushkara, which way of these
Shall please thee; either meet me with the dice,
Or with thy bow confront me in the field."
When Pushkara this heard, lightly he smiled,
Concluding victory sure; and to the Prince
Answered, exulting: "_Dishtya_! hast thou gained
Stakes for a counter-game, Nishadha, now?
_Dishtya_! shall I have my hard-won prize,
Sweet Damayanti? _Dishtya_! didst thou come
In kissing-reach again of thy fair wife?
Soon, in thy new gold splendid, she shall shine
Before all men beside me, as in heaven
On Sakra waits the loveliest Apsara.
See, now, I thought on thee, I looked for thee,
Ever and ever, Prince. There is no joy
Like casting in the game with such as thee.
And when to-day I win thy blameless one--
The smooth-limbed Damayanti--then shall be
What was to be: and I can rest content,
For always in my heart her beauty burns."
Listening the idle talk that babbler poured,
Angry Prince Nala fain had lopped away
His head with vengeful _khudga;_ but, unmoved,
Albeit the wrath blazed in his bloodshot eyes,
He made reply: "Play! mock me not with jests;
Thou wilt not jest when I have cast with thee!"
So was the game set, and the Princes threw
Nala and Pushkara, and--the numbers named--
By Nala was the hazard gained: he swept
His brother's stake, gems, treasure, kingdom, off;
At one stroke all that mighty venture won.
Then quoth the conquering Prince to Pushkara,
Scornfully smiling: "Mine is now once more
Nishadha's throne; mine is the realm again,
Its curse plucked forth; Vidarbha's glory thou,
Outcast, shalt ne'er so much as look upon!
Fool! who to-day becom'st her bond and slave.
Not by thy gifts that evil stroke was wrought
Wherefrom I fled before; 'twas Kali's spell--
Albeit thou knew'st nought, fool--overmastered me;
Yet will I visit not in wrathful wise
My wrong on thee; live as thou wilt; I grant
Wherewith to live, and set apart henceforth
Thy proper goods and substance, and fit food.
Nay, doubt not I shall show thee favor, too,
And be in friendship with thee, if thou wilt,
Who art my brother. Peace abide with thee!"
Thus all-victorious Nala comforted
His brother, and embraced him, sending him
In honor to his town; and Pushkara--
Gently entreated--to Nishadha spake,
With folded palms and humbled face, these words:--
"Unending be thy glory. May thy bliss
Last and increase for twice five thousand years,
Who grantest me wherewith to live, just Lord!
And where to dwell." Thereafter, well bested,
Pushkara sojourned with the Prince one moon;
So to his town departed--heart-content--
With slaves and foot-soldiers and followers,
Gay as a rising sun (O Bharat's glory!).
Thus sent he Pushkara, rich and safe, away.
Then, with flags and drums and jewels, robed and royally arrayed,
Nala into fair Nishadha entry high and dazzling made;
At the gates the Raja, halting, spake his people words of love;
Gathered were they from the city, gathered from the field and grove;
From the mountain and the maidan, all a-thrill with joy to see
Nala come to guard his children. "Happy now our days will be,"
Said the townsfolk, said the elders, said the villagers, "O King!"
Standing all with palms upfolded: "Peace and fortune thou wilt bring
To thy city, to thy country! Boundless welcome do we give,
As the gods in heaven to Indra, when with them he comes to live."
After, when the show was ended, and the city, calm and glad,
Rest from tumult of rejoicing and rich flood of feasting had,
Girt with shining squadrons, Nala fetched his pearl of women home.
Like a queen did Damayanti back unto her palace come,
By the Maharaja Bhima, by that mighty monarch sent
Royally, with countless blessings, to her kingdom, in content.
There, beside his peerless Princess, and his children, bore he sway,
Godlike, even as Indra ruling 'mid the bliss of Nandana.
Bore he sway--my noble Nala--princeliest of all lords--who reign
In the lands of Jambudwipa; winning power and fame again;
Ruling well his realm reconquered, like a just and perfect king,
All the appointed gifts bestowing, all the rites remembering.
 Jhillikas are the large wood-crickets
 A caravan.
 This is a secretion which flows by a small orifice from the
elephant's temples at certain seasons. It is sweet-smelling, and
constantly alluded to in Hindoo poetry.
 "Gentleness is chief of virtues."
 These "curls" are the "Arvathas," or marks of good blood and
 "O Beautiful One!"
 This raining down of heavenly flowers on auspicious occasions is a
frequent incident in ancient Indian poetry.
 A short; broad-bladed sword.
 Nandana is the Paradise of Indra.
 Ancient name of India: "The Land of the Rose-apple Tree."
SELECTIONS FROM THE RAMAYANA
[_Metrical translation by R.T.H. Griffiths_]
The ideas of the human family are few, as is apparent from the study of
the literature of widely different nations. Thus the "Ramayana" ranks in
Hindoo with the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" in Greek literature. The
character of Rama corresponds with that of Menelaus, for both the
European and the Asiatic heroes have had their wives carried off from
them--although Sita, the bride of Rama, is chaste as an icicle from
Diana's temple, while Helen is the infamous type of wanton wives,
ancient and modern. The Hindoo Lanka is Troy, and Ayodhya is Sparta. The
material civilization of the cities in the Hindoo epic is more luxurious
and gorgeous than that which Homer attributes to Greece in the heroic
age. Such splendor and refinement as invests social life at Lanka and
Ayodhya never appear amid the severe simplicity of Argos or Troy. The
moral tone seems perhaps higher in India than in Greece during the
periods described in their several epics--at least as far as mutual love
and forbearance go--and the ideas of marriage and conjugal fidelity are
As to the literary quality of the Hindoo epic in comparison with Homer's
work, we are at once impressed with the immense superiority of the Greek
poem in artistic proportion, point, and precision. The Hindoo poet
flounders along, amid a maze of prolix description and wearisome simile.
Trifles are amplified and repeated, and the whole poem resembles a wild
forest abounding in rich tropical vegetation, palms and flowers, but
without paths, roads, or limits. Or rather, we are reminded of one of
the highly painted and richly decorated idols of India, with their many
heads and many hands: but when we turn to the Greek epic we stand before
a statue of pure outline, flawless proportions, and more than human
It is difficult to fix the date of the "Ramayana." Scholars generally
agree that it belongs to the third century before Christ, in its
original form, but that some recent portions were added even during the
Christian era. It is reckoned as one of the sacred books, and the study
of it is supposed to bring forgiveness of sin, and prosperity. Its
author is thought to have been the famous poet Valmiki, but the work has
evidently been rehandled several times, and there are three versions of
the poems still extant. The poem consists of twenty-four thousand
verses, and the story of it--now overlaid as it is with extravagant and
fabulous accretions--is evidently founded on fact. The scene of the poem
is laid in the city of Ayodhya, the modern Oudh, which is described in
glowing colors as a place of health, beauty, and prosperity--
"In by-gone ages built and planned
By sainted Manu's princely hand."
In the splendid palace of the Rajah, at Oudh, lives Dasaratha, mourning
in childlessness. He is one of the princes descended from the sun, and
his line now threatens to become extinct. He determines to appeal to the
Gods by the Asva-medha, the great sacrifice in which a horse is the
victim. The rites accordingly are performed with unparalleled
magnificence, and, at the close of the ceremony, the high priest
declares to the king--
"Four sons, O Monarch, shall be thine,
Upholders of the royal line."
Among the offspring duly granted to Dasaratha is Rama, who is a typical
Hindoo of the heroic type. His fair wife, Sita, is carried off by the
demon Ravana, who had assumed the form of a humble priest, or ascetic,
in order to gain access to her. He carries her in his chariot to Lanka,
the fair city built on an island of the sea. By the assistance of a
large army of monkeys, Rama marches against Lanka, and when they stand
helpless--for the water separates them from Ceylon--he then invokes the
goddess of the sea, as Achilles did Thetis, and she comes in radiant
beauty, telling them how to bridge the waves. The monkeys bring timber
and stones, the bridge is built, Lanka reached, and the battle begins.
Indra sends his own chariot down from heaven to Rama, who mounts it, and
vanquishes Ravana in single combat, upon which Sita is restored to her
Praise to Valmiki, bird of charming song,
Who mounts on Poesy's sublimest spray,
And sweetly sings with accent clear and strong
Rama, aye Rama, in his deathless lay.
Where breathes the man can listen to the strain
That flows in music from Valmiki's tongue,
Nor feel his feet the path of bliss attain
When Rama's glory by the saint is sung?
The stream Ramayan leaves its sacred fount
The whole wide world from sin and stain to free.
The Prince of Hermits is the parent mount,
The lordly Rama is the darling sea.
Glory to him whose fame is ever bright!
Glory to him, Prachet's holy son!
Whose pure lips quaff with ever-new delight
The nectar-sea of deeds by Rama done.
Hail, arch-ascetic, pious, good, and kind!
Hail, Saint Valmiki, lord of every lore!
Hail, holy Hermit, calm and pure of mind!
Hail, First of Bards, Valmiki, hail once more!
To sainted Narad, prince of those
Whose lore in words of wisdom flows,
Whose constant care and chief delight
Were Scripture and ascetic rite,
The good Valmiki, first and best
Of hermit saints, these words addressed:--
"In all this world, I pray thee, who
Is virtuous, heroic, true?
Firm in his vows, of grateful mind,
To every creature good and kind?
Bounteous, and holy, just, and wise,
Alone most fair to all men's eyes?
Devoid of envy, firm, and sage,
Whose tranquil soul ne'er yields to rage?
Whom, when his warrior wrath is high,
Do Gods embattled fear and fly?
Whose noble might and gentle skill
The triple world can guard from ill?
Who is the best of princes, he
Who loves his people's good to see?
The store of bliss, the living mine
Where brightest joys and virtues shine?
Queen Fortune's best and dearest friend,
Whose steps her choicest gifts attend?
Who may with Sun and Moon compare,
With Indra, Vishnu, Fire, and Air?
Grant, Saint divine, the boon I ask,
For thee, I ween, an easy task,
To whom the power is given to know
If such a man breathe here below."
Then Narad, clear before whose eye
The present, past, and future lie,
Made ready answer: "Hermit, where
Are graces found so high and rare?
Yet listen, and my tongue shall tell
In whom alone these virtues dwell.
From old Ikshvaku's line he came,
Known to the world by Rama's name:--
With soul subdued, a chief of might,
In Scripture versed, in glory bright.
His steps in virtue's paths are bent,
Obedient, pure, and eloquent.
In each emprise he wins success,
And dying foes his power confess.
Tall and broad-shouldered, strong of limb,
Fortune has set her mark on him.
Graced with a conch-shell's triple line,
His throat displays the auspicious sign.
High destiny is clear impressed
On massive jaw and ample chest.
His mighty shafts he truly aims,
And foemen in the battle tames.
Deep in the muscle, scarcely shown,
Embedded lies his collar-bone.
His lordly steps are firm and free,
His strong arms reach below his knee;
All fairest graces join to deck
His head, his brow, his stately neck,
And limbs in fair proportion set:--
The manliest form e'er fashioned yet.
Graced with each high imperial mark,
His skin is soft and lustrous dark.
Large are his eyes that sweetly shine
With majesty almost divine.
His plighted word he ne'er forgets;
On erring sense a watch he sets.
By nature wise, his teacher's skill
Has trained him to subdue his will.
Good, resolute and pure, and strong,
He guards mankind from scathe and wrong,
And lends his aid, and ne'er in vain,
The cause of justice to maintain.
Well has he studied o'er and o'er
The Vedas and their kindred lore.
Well skilled is he the bow to draw,
Well trained in arts and versed in law;
High-souled and meet for happy fate,
Most tender and compassionate;
The noblest of all lordly givers,
Whom good men follow, as the rivers
Follow the King of Floods, the sea:--
So liberal, so just is he.
The joy of Queen Kausalya's heart,
In every virtue he has part;
Firm as Himalaya's snowy steep,
Unfathomed like the mighty deep;
The peer of Vishnu's power and might,
And lovely as the Lord of Night;
Patient as Earth, but, roused to ire,
Fierce as the world-destroying fire;
In bounty like the Lord of Gold,
And Justice' self in human mould.
With him, his best and eldest son,
By all his princely virtues won
King Dasaratha willed to share
His kingdom as the Regent Heir.
But when Kaikeyi, youngest queen,
With eyes of envious hate had seen
The solemn pomp and regal state
Prepared the prince to consecrate,
She bade the hapless king bestow
Two gifts he promised long ago,
That Rama to the woods should flee,
And that her child the heir should be.
By chains of duty firmly tied,
The wretched King perforce complied.
Rama, to please Kaikeyi went
Obedient forth, to banishment.
Then Lakshman's truth was nobly shown,
Then were his love and courage known,
When for his brother's sake he dared
All perils, and his exile shared.
And Sita, Rama's darling wife,
Loved even as he loved his life,
Whom happy marks combined to bless,
A miracle of loveliness,
Of Janak's royal lineage sprung,
Most excellent of women, clung
To her dear lord, like Rohini
Rejoicing with the Moon to be.
The King and people, sad of mood,
The hero's car awhile pursued.
But when Prince Rama lighted down
At Sringavera's pleasant town,
Where Ganga's holy waters flow,
He bade his driver turn and go.
Guha, Nishadas' King, he met,
And on the farther bank was set.
Then on from wood to wood they strayed,
O'er many a stream, through constant shade,
As Bharadvaja bade them, till
They came to Chitrakuta's hill.
And Rama there, with Lakshman's aid,
A pleasant little cottage made,
And spent his days with Sita, dressed
In coat of bark and deerskin vest.
And Chitrakuta grew to be
As bright with those illustrious three
As Meru's sacred peaks that shine
With glory, when the Gods recline
Beneath them: Siva's self between
The Lord of Gold and Beauty's Queen.
The aged King for Rama pined,
And for the skies the earth resigned.
Bharat, his son, refused to reign,
Though urged by all the twice-born train.
Forth to the woods he fared to meet
His brother, fell before his feet,
And cried "Thy claim all men allow:--
O come, our lord and King be thou."
But Rama nobly chose to be
Observant of his sire's decree.
He placed his sandals in his hand,
A pledge that he would rule the land:--
And bade his brother turn again.
Then Bharat, finding prayer was vain,
The sandals took and went away;
Nor in Ayodhya would he stay,
But turned to Nandigrama, where
He ruled the realm with watchful care,
Still longing eagerly to learn
Tidings of Rama's safe return.
Then lest the people should repeat
Their visit to his calm retreat,
Away from Chitrakuta's hill
Fared Rama, ever onward till
Beneath the shady trees he stood
Of Dandaka's primeval wood.
Viradha, giant fiend, he slew,
And then Agastya's friendship knew.
Counselled by him he gained the sword
And bow of Indra, heavenly lord:--
A pair of quivers too, that bore
Of arrows an exhaustless store.
While there he dwelt in greenwood shade,
The trembling hermits sought his aid,
And bade him with his sword and bow
Destroy the fiends who worked them woe:--
To come like Indra strong and brave,
A guardian God to help and save.
And Rama's falchion left its trace
Deep cut on Surpanakha's face:--
A hideous giantess who came
Burning for him with lawless flame.
Their sister's cries the giants heard,
And vengeance in each bosom stirred;
The monster of the triple head,
And Dushan to the contest sped.
But they and myriad fiends beside
Beneath the might of Rama died.
When Ravan, dreaded warrior, knew
The slaughter of his giant crew--
Ravan, the King, whose name of fear
Earth, hell, and heaven all shook to hear--
He bade the fiend Maricha aid
The vengeful plot his fury laid.
In vain the wise Maricha tried
To turn him from his course aside:--
Not Ravan's self, he said, might hope
With Rama and his strength to cope.
Impelled by fate and blind with rage
He came to Rama's hermitage.
There, by Maricha's magic art,
He wiled the princely youths apart,
The vulture slew, and bore away
The wife of Rama as his prey.
The son of Raghu came and found
Jatayu slain upon the ground.
He rushed within his leafy cot;
He sought his wife, but found her not.
Then, then the hero's senses failed;
In mad despair he wept and wailed.
Upon the pile that bird he laid,
And still in quest of Sita strayed.
A hideous giant then he saw,
Kabandha named, a shape of awe.
The monstrous fiend he smote and slew,
And in the flame the body threw;
When straight from out the funeral flame
In lovely form Kabandha came,
And bade him seek in his distress
A wise and holy hermitess.
By counsel of this saintly dame
To Pampa's pleasant flood he came,
And there the steadfast friendship won
Of Hanuman the Wind-God's son.
Counselled by him he told his grief
To great Sugriva, Vanar chief,
Who, knowing all the tale, before
The sacred flame alliance swore.
Sugriva to his new-found friend
Told his own story to the end:--
His hate of Bali for the wrong
And insult he had borne so long.
And Rama lent a willing ear
And promised to allay his fear.
Sugriva warned him of the might
Of Bali, matchless in the fight,
And, credence for his tale to gain,
Showed the huge fiend by Bali slain.
The prostrate corse of mountain size
Seemed nothing in the hero's eyes;
He lightly kicked it, as it lay,
And cast it twenty leagues away.
To prove his might his arrows through
Seven palms in line, uninjured, flew.
He cleft a mighty hill apart,
And down to hell he hurled his dart.
Then high Sugriva's spirit rose,
Assured of conquest o'er his foes.
With his new champion by his side
To vast Kishkindha's cave he hied.
Then, summoned by his awful shout,
King Bali came in fury out,
First comforted his trembling wife,
Then sought Sugriva in the strife.
One shaft from Rama's deadly bow
The monarch in the dust laid low.
Then Rama bade Sugriva reign
In place of royal Bali slain.
Then speedy envoys hurried forth
Eastward and westward, south and north,
Commanded by the grateful King
Tidings of Rama's spouse to bring.
Then by Sampati's counsel led,
Brave Hanuman, who mocked at dread,
Sprang at one wild tremendous leap
Two hundred leagues, across the deep.
To Lanka's town he urged his way,
Where Ravan held his royal sway.
There pensive 'neath Asoka boughs
He found poor Sita, Rama's spouse.
He gave the hapless girl a ring,
A token from her lord and King.
A pledge from her fair hand he bore;
Then battered down the garden door.
Five captains of the host he slew,
Seven sons of councillors o'erthrew;
Crushed youthful Aksha on the field,
Then to his captors chose to yield.
Soon from their bonds his limbs were free,
But honoring the high decree
Which Brahma had pronounced of yore,
He calmly all their insults bore.
The town he burnt with hostile flame,
And spoke again with Rama's dame,
Then swiftly back to Rama flew
With tidings of the interview.
Then with Sugriva for his guide,
Came Rama to the ocean side.
He smote the sea with shafts as bright
As sunbeams in their summer height,
And quick appeared the River's King
Obedient to the summoning.
A bridge was thrown by Nala o'er
The narrow sea from shore to shore.
They crossed to Lanka's golden town,
Where Rama's hand smote Ravan down.
Vibhishan there was left to reign
Over his brother's wide domain.
To meet her husband Sita came;
But Rama, stung with ire and shame,
With bitter words his wife addressed
Before the crowd that round her pressed.
But Sita, touched with noble ire,
Gave her fair body to the fire.
Then straight the God of Wind appeared,
And words from heaven her honor cleared.
And Rama clasped his wife again,
Uninjured, pure from spot and stain,
Obedient to the Lord of Fire
And the high mandate of his sire.
Led by the Lord who rules the sky,
The Gods and heavenly saints drew nigh,
And honored him with worthy meed,
Rejoicing in each glorious deed.
His task achieved, his foe removed,
He triumphed, by the Gods approved.
By grace of Heaven he raised to life
The chieftains slain in mortal strife;
Then in the magic chariot through
The clouds to Nandigrama flew.
Met by his faithful brothers there,
He loosed his votive coil of hair;
Thence fair Ayodhya's town he gained,
And o'er his father's kingdom reigned.
Disease or famine ne'er oppressed
His happy people, richly blest
With all the joys of ample wealth,
Of sweet content and perfect health.
No widow mourned her well-loved mate,
No sire his son's untimely fate.
They feared not storm or robber's hand,
No fire or flood laid waste the land:
The Golden Age seemed come again
To bless the days of Rama's reign.
From him the great and glorious King,
Shall many a princely scion spring.
And he shall rule, beloved by men,
Ten thousand years and hundreds ten,
And when his life on earth is past
To Brahma's world shall go at last.
Whoe'er this noble poem reads
That tells the tale of Rama's deeds,
Good as the Scriptures, he shall be
From every sin and blemish free.
Whoever reads the saving strain,
With all his kin the heavens shall gain.
Brahmans who read shall gather hence
The highest praise for eloquence.
The warrior, o'er the land shall reign,
The merchant, luck in trade obtain;
And Sudras, listening, ne'er shall fail
To reap advantage from the tale.
[_Cantos II., III., IV., and V. are omitted_.]
There reigned a King of name revered,
To country and to town endeared,
Great Dasaratha, good and sage,
Well read in Scripture's holy page:
Upon his kingdom's weal intent,
Mighty and brave and provident;
The pride of old Ikshvaku's seed
For lofty thought and righteous deed.
Peer of the saints, for virtues famed,
For foes subdued and passions tamed;
A rival in his wealth untold
Of Indra and the Lord of Gold.
Like Manu first of kings, he reigned,
And worthily his state maintained.
For firm and just and ever true
Love, duty, gain, he kept in view,
And ruled his city rich and free,
Like Indra's Amaravati.
And worthy of so fair a place
There dwelt a just and happy race
With troops of children blest.
Each man contented sought no more,
Nor longed with envy for the store
By richer friends possessed.
For poverty was there unknown,
And each man counted as his own
Kine, steeds, and gold, and grain.
All dressed in raiment bright and clean,
And every townsman might be seen
With ear-rings, wreath or chain.
None deigned to feed on broken fare,
And none was false or stingy there.
A piece of gold, the smallest pay,
Was earned by labor for a day.
On every arm were bracelets worn,
And none was faithless or forsworn,
A braggart or unkind.
None lived upon another's wealth,
None pined with dread or broken health,
Or dark disease of mind.
High-souled were all. The slanderous word,
The boastful lie, were never heard.
Each man was constant to his vows,
And lived devoted to his spouse.
No other love his fancy knew,
And she was tender, kind, and true.
Her dames were fair of form and face,
With charm of wit and gentle grace,
With modest raiment simply neat,
And winning manners soft and sweet.
The twice-born sages, whose delight
Was Scripture's page and holy rite,
Their calm and settled course pursued,
Nor sought the menial multitude.
In many a Scripture each was versed,
And each the flame of worship nursed,
And gave with lavish hand.
Each paid to Heaven the offerings due,
And none was godless or untrue
In all that holy band.
To Brahmans, as the laws ordain,
The Warrior caste were ever fain
The reverence due to pay;
And these the Vaisyas' peaceful crowd,
Who trade and toil for gain, were proud
To honor and obey;
And all were by the Sudras served,
Who never from their duty swerved.
Their proper worship all addressed
To Brahman, spirits, God, and guest.
Pure and unmixt their rites remained,
Their race's honor ne'er was stained.
Cheered by his grandsons, sons, and wife,
Each passed a long and happy life.
Thus was that famous city held
By one who all his race excelled,
Blest in his gentle reign,
As the whole land aforetime swayed
By Manu, prince of men, obeyed
Her king from main to main.
And heroes kept her, strong and brave,
As lions guard their mountain cave;
Fierce as devouring flame they burned,
And fought till death, but never turned.
Horses had she of noblest breed,
Like Indra's for their form and speed,
From Vahli's hills and Sindhu's sand,
Vanayu and Kamboja's land.
Her noble elephants had strayed
Through Vindhyan and Himalayan shade,
Gigantic in their bulk and height,
Yet gentle in their matchless might.
They rivalled well the world-spread fame
Of the great stock from which they came,
Of Vaman, vast of size,
Of Mahapadma's glorious line,
Thine, Anjan, and, Airavat, thine,
Upholders of the skies.
With those, enrolled in fourfold class,
Who all their mighty kin surpass,
Whom men Matangas name,
And Mrigas spotted black and white,
And Bhadras of unwearied might,
And Mandras hard to tame.
Thus, worthy of the name she bore,
Ayodhya for a league or more
Cast a bright glory round,
Where Dasaratha wise and great
Governed his fair ancestral state,
With every virtue crowned.
Like Indra in the skies he reigned
In that good town whose wall contained
High domes and turrets proud,
With gates and arcs of triumph decked,
And sturdy barriers to protect
Her gay and countless crowd.
Two sages, holy saints, had he,
His ministers and priests to be:--
Vasishtha, faithful to advise,
And Vamadeva, Scripture-wise.
Eight other lords around him stood,
All skilled to counsel, wise and good:--
Jayanta, Vijay, Dhrishti bold
In fight, affairs of war controlled;
Siddharth and Arthasadhak true
Watched o'er expense and revenue,
And Dharmapal and wise Asok
Of right and law and justice spoke.
With these the sage Sumantra, skilled
To urge the car, high station filled.
All these in knowledge duly trained
Each passion and each sense restrained:--
With modest manners, nobly bred,
Each plan and nod and look they read,
Upon their neighbors' good intent,
Most active and benevolent;
As sits the Vasus round their King,
They sate around him counselling.
They ne'er in virtue's loftier pride
Another's lowly gifts decried.
In fair and seemly garb arrayed,
No weak uncertain plans they made.
Well skilled in business, fair and just,
They gained the people's love and trust,
And thus without oppression stored
The swelling treasury of their lord.
Bound in sweet friendship each to each,
They spoke kind thoughts in gentle speech.
They looked alike with equal eye
On every caste, on low and high.
Devoted to their King, they sought,
Ere his tongue spoke, to learn his thought,
And knew, as each occasion rose,
To hide their counsel or disclose.
In foreign lands or in their own
Whatever passed, to them was known.
By secret spies they timely knew
What men were doing or would do.
Skilled in the grounds of war and peace
They saw the monarch's state increase,
Watching his weal with conquering eye
That never let occasion by,
While nature lent her aid to bless
Their labors with unbought success.
Never for anger, lust, or gain,
Would they their lips with falsehood stain.
Inclined to mercy they could scan
The weakness and the strength of man.
They fairly judged both high and low,
And ne'er would wrong a guiltless foe;
Yet if a fault were proved, each one
Would punish e'en his own dear son.
But there and in the kingdom's bound
No thief or man impure was found:--
None of loose life or evil fame,
No tempter of another's dame.
Contented with their lot each caste
Calm days in blissful quiet passed;
And, all in fitting tasks employed,
Country and town deep rest enjoyed.
With these wise lords around his throne
The monarch justly reigned,
And making every heart his own
The love of all men gained.
With trusty agents, as beseems,
Each distant realm he scanned,
As the sun visits with his beams
Each corner of the land.
Ne'er would he on a mightier foe
With hostile troops advance,
Nor at an equal strike a blow
In war's delusive chance.
These lords in council bore their part
With ready brain and faithful heart,
With skill and knowledge, sense and tact,
Good to advise and bold to act.
And high and endless fame he won
With these to guide his schemes--
As, risen in his might, the sun
Wins glory with his beams.
But splendid, just, and great of mind,
The childless King for offspring pined.
No son had he his name to grace,
Transmitter of his royal race.
Long had his anxious bosom wrought,
And as he pondered rose the thought:--
"A votive steed 'twere good to slay,
So might a son the gift repay."
Before his lords his plans he laid,
And bade them with their wisdom aid;
Then with these words Sumantra, best
Of royal counsellors, addressed:--
"Hither, Vasishtha at their head,
Let all my priestly guides be led."
To him Sumantra made reply:--
"Hear, sire, a tale of days gone by.
To many a sage in time of old,
Sanatkumar, the saint, foretold
How from thine ancient line, O King,
A son, when years came round, should spring
'Here dwells,' 'twas thus the seer began,
'Of Kasyap's race, a holy man,
Vibhandak named: to him shall spring
A son, the famous Rishyasring.
Bred with the deer that round him roam,
The wood shall be that hermit's home.
To him no mortal shall be known
Except his holy sire alone.
Still by those laws shall he abide
Which lives of youthful Brahmans guide,
Obedient to the strictest rule
That forms the young ascetic's school:
And all the wondering world shall hear
Of his stern life and penance drear;
His care to nurse the holy fire
And do the bidding of his sire.
Then, seated on the Angas' throne,
Shall Lomapad to fame be known.
But folly wrought by that great King
A plague upon the land shall bring;
No rain for many a year shall fall
And grievous drought shall ruin all.
The troubled King with many a prayer
Shall bid the priests some cure declare:--
"The lore of Heaven 'tis yours to know,
Nor are ye blind to things below:--
Declare, O holy men, the way
This plague to expiate and stay."
Those best of Brahmans shall reply:--
"By every art, O Monarch, try,
Hither to bring Vibhandak's child,
Persuaded, captured, or beguiled.
And when the boy is hither led
To him thy daughter duly wed."
But how to bring that wondrous boy
His troubled thoughts will long employ,
And hopeless to achieve the task
He counsel of his lords will ask,
And bid his priests and servants bring
With honor saintly Rishyasring.
But when they hear the monarch's speech,
All these their master will beseech,
With trembling hearts and looks of woe,
To spare them, for they fear to go.
And many a plan will they declare
And crafty plots will frame,
And promise fair to show him there,
Unforced, with none to blame.
On every word his lords shall say,
The King will meditate,
And on the third returning day
Recall them to debate.
Then this shall be the plan agreed,
That damsels shall be sent
Attired in holy hermits' weed,
And skilled in blandishment,
That they the hermit may beguile
With every art and amorous wile
Whose use they know so well,
And by their witcheries seduce
The unsuspecting young recluse
To leave his father's cell.
Then when the boy with willing feet
Shall wander from his calm retreat
And in that city stand,
The troubles of the King shall end,
And streams of blessed rain descend
Upon the thirsty land.
Thus shall the holy Rishyasring
To Lomapad, the mighty King,
By wedlock be allied;
For Santa, fairest of the fair,
In mind and grace beyond compare,
Shall be his royal bride.
He, at the Offering of the Steed,
The flames with holy oil shall feed,
And for King Dasaratha gain