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Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

Part 14 out of 19

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proves that long intercourse with such savages blunted his own
sensibilities, or what is more probable--that he himself never
understood the real nature of the higher emotions--those "tracts of
feeling" which Lewin found missing among the hill-tribes. We are
confirmed in this suspicion by noticing Dalton's ecstatic delight over
the immoral courtship customs of the Bhuiyas, which he found
"marvellously pretty and romantic" and describes as follows:

"In each village there is, as with the Oraons, an open
space for a dancing ground, called by the Bhuiyas the
Darbar; and near it the bachelors' hall.... here the
young men must all sleep at night, and here the drums
are kept. Some villages have a 'Dhangarin bassa,' or
house for maidens, which, strange to say, they are
allowed to occupy without anyone to look after them.
They appear to have very great liberty, and slips of
morality, as long as they are confined to the tribe,
are not much heeded. Whenever the young men of the
village go to the Darbar and beat the drums the young
girls join them there, and they spend their evenings
dancing and enjoying themselves without any
interference on the part of the elders.

"The more exciting and exhilarating occasions are when
the young men of one village proceed to visit the
maidens of another village, or when the maidens return
the call. The young men provide themselves with
presents for the girls, generally consisting of combs
for the hair and sweets, and going straight to the
Darbar of the village they visit, they proclaim their
arrival loudly by beating their drums and tambourines.
The girls of that village immediately join them. Their
male relations and neighbors must keep entirely out of
view, leaving the field clear for the guests. The
offerings of the visitors are now gallantly presented
and graciously accepted and the girls at once set to
work to prepare a dinner for their beaux, and after the
meal they dance and sing and flirt all night together,
and the morning dawns on more than one pair of pledged
lovers. Then the girls, if the young men have conducted
themselves to their satisfaction, make ready the
morning meal for themselves and their guests; after
which the latter rise to depart, and still dancing and
playing on the drums, move out of the village followed
by the girls, who escort them to the boundary. This is
generally a rock-broken stream with wooded banks; here
they halt, the girls on one side, the lads on the
other, and to the accompaniment of the babbling brook
sing to each other in true bucolic style. The song on
these occasions is to a certain extent improvised, and
is a pleasant mixture of raillery and love-making....

"The song ended, the girls go down on their knees, and
bowing to the ground respectfully salute the young men,
who gravely and formally return the compliment, and
they part.

"The visit is soon returned by the girls. They are
received by the young men in their Darbar and
entertained, and the girls of the receiving village
must not be seen....

"They have certainly more wit, more romance, and more
poetry in their composition than is usually found among
the country folk in India."


All this may indeed be "marvellously pretty and romantic," but I fail
to see the least indication of the "higher emotions." Nor can I find
them in some further interesting remarks regarding the Hos made by the
same author (192-93). Thirty years ago, he says, a girl of the better
class cost forty or fifty head of cattle. Result--a decrease in the
number of marriages and an increase of immoral intimacies. Sometimes a
girl runs away with her lover, but the objection to this is that
elopements are not considered respectable.

"It is certainly not from any yearning for celibacy
that the marriage of Singbhum maidens is so long
postponed. The girls will tell you frankly that they do
all they can to please the young men, and I have often
heard them pathetically bewailing their want of
success. They make themselves as attractive as they
can, flirt in the most demonstrative manner, and are
not too coy to receive in public attentions from those
they admire. They may be often seen in well-assorted
pairs returning from market with arms interlaced, and
looking at each other as lovingly as if they were so
many groups of Cupids and Psyches, but with all this
the 'men will not propose.' Tell a maiden you think her
nice-looking, she is sure to reply 'Oh, yes! I am, but
what is the use of it, the young men of my acquaintance
don't see it.'"

Here we note a frankly commercial view of marriage, without any
reference to "higher emotions." In this tribe, too, the girls are not
allowed the liberty of choice. Indeed, when we examine this point we
find that Westermarck is wrong, as usual, in assigning such a
privilege to the girls of most of these tribes. He himself is obliged
to admit (224) that

"in many of the uncivilized tribes of India parents are in
the habit of betrothing their sons.... The paternal
authority approaches the _patria potestas_ of the ancient
Aryan nations."

The Kisans, Mundas, Santals, Marias, Mishmis, Bhils, and Yoonthalin
Karens are tribes among whom fathers thus reserve the right of
selecting wives for their sons; and it is obvious that in all such
cases daughters have still less choice than sons. Colonel Macpherson
throws light on this point when he says of the Kandhs:

"The parents obtain the wives of their sons during
their boyhood, as very valuable _domestic servants,_
and _their selections are avowedly made with a view to
utility in this character."_[258]

Rowney reports (103) that the Khond boys are married at the age of ten
and twelve to girls of fifteen to sixteen; and among the Reddies it is
even customary to marry boys of five or six years to women of sixteen
to twenty. The "wife," however, lives with an uncle or relation, who
begets children for the boy-husband. When the boy grows up his "wife"
is perhaps too old for him, so he in turn takes possession of some
other boy's "wife".[259] The young folks are obviously in the habit of
obeying implicitly, for as Dalton says (132) of the Kisans, "There is
no instance on record of a youth or maiden objecting to the
arrangement made for them." With the Savaras, Boad Kandhs, Hos, and
Kaupuis, the prevalence of elopements shows that the girls are not
allowed their own choice. Lepcha marriages are often made on credit,
and are breakable if the payment bargained for is not made to the
parent within the specified time. (Rowney, 139.)[260]


While among the Nagas, as already stated, the women must do all the
hard work, they have one privilege: tribal custom allows them to
refuse a suitor until he has put in their hands a human skull or
scalp; and the gentle maidens make rigorous use of this privilege--so
much so that in consequence of the difficulty of securing these "gory
tokens of love" marriages are contracted late in life. The head need
not be that of an enemy: "A skull may be acquired by the blackest
treachery, but so long as the victim was not a member of the clan,"
says Dalton (39), "it is accepted as a chivalrous offering of a true
knight to his lady," Dalton gives another and less grewsome instance
of "chivalry" occurring among the Oraons (253).

"A young man shows his inclination for a girl thus: He
sticks flowers in the mass of her back-hair, and if she
subsequently return the compliment, it is concluded
that she desires a continuance of his attention. The
next step may be an offering to his lady-love of some
nicely grilled field-mice, which the Oraons declare to
be the most delicate of food. Tender looks and squeezes
whilst both are engaged in the dance are not much
thought of. They are regarded merely as the result of
emotions naturally arising from pleasant contiguity and
exciting strains; but when it comes to flowers and
field-mice, matters look serious."


Coyness as well as primitive gallantry has its amusing phases among
these wild tribes. The following description seems so much like an
extravaganza that the reader may suspect it to be an abstract of a
story by Frank Stockton or a libretto by Gilbert; but it is a serious
page from Dalton's _Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal_ (63-64). It
relates to the Garos, who are thus described:

"The women are on the whole the most unlovely of the
sex, but I was struck with the pretty, plump, nude
figures, the merry musical voices and good-humored
countenances of the Garos girls. Their sole garment is
a piece of cloth less than a foot in breadth that just
meets round the loins, and in order that it may not
restrain the limbs it is only fastened where it meets
under the hip at the upper corners."

But if they have not much to boast of in the way of dress, these girls
enjoy a privilege rare in India or elsewhere of making the first

"As there is no restriction on innocent intercourse,
the boys and girls freely mixing together in the labors
of the field and other pursuits, an amorous young lady
has ample opportunity of declaring her partiality, and
it is her privileged duty to speak first.... The maiden
coyly tells the youth to whom she is about to surrender
herself that she has prepared a spot in some quiet and
secluded valley to which she invites him.... In two or
three days they return to the village and their union
is then publicly proclaimed and solemnized. Any
infringement of the rule which declares that the
initiative shall in such cases rest with the girl is
summarily and severely punished."

For a man to make the advances would be an insult not only to the girl
but to the whole tribe, resulting in fines. But let us hear the rest
of the topsy-turvy story.

"The marriage ceremony chiefly consists of dancing,
singing, and feasting. The bride is taken down to the
nearest stream and bathed, and the party next proceeds
to the house of the bridegroom, who pretends to be
unwilling and runs away, but is caught and subjected to
a similar ablution, and then taken, in spite of the
resistance and the counterfeited grief and lamentation
of his parents, to the bride's house."

It is true that this inversion of the usual process of proposing and
acting a comedy of sham coyness occurs only in the case of the poor
girls, the wealthy ones being betrothed by their parents in infancy;
but it would be interesting to learn the origin of this quaint custom
from someone who has had a chance to study this tribe. Probably the
girl's poverty furnishes the key. The whole thing seems like a
practical joke raised to the dignity of an institution. The perversion
of all ordinary rules is consistently carried out in this, too, that
"if the old people refuse they can be beaten into compliance!" That
the loss of female coyness is not a gain to the cause of love or of
virtue is self-evident.


Thus, once more, we are baffled in our attempts to find genuine
romantic love. Of its fourteen ingredients the altruistic ones are
missing entirely. What Dalton writes (248) regarding the Oraons,

"Dhumkuria lads are no doubt great flirts, but each has
a special favorite among the young girls of his
acquaintance, and the girls well know to whose touch
and pressure in the dance each maiden's heart is
especially responsive," will not mislead any reader of
this book, who will know that it indicates merely
individual preference, which goes with all sorts of
love, and is moreover, characteristically shallow here;
for, as Dalton has told us, these village flirtations
"seldom end in marriage."

The other ingredients that primitive love shares with romantic
love--monopoly, jealousy, coyness, etc., are also, as we saw, weak
among the wild tribes of India. Westermarck (503) indeed fancied he
had discovered the occurrence among them of "the absorbing passion for
one." "Colonel Dalton," he says, "represents the Paharia lads and
lasses as forming very romantic attachments; 'if separated only for an
hour,' he says, 'they are miserable.'" In reality Dalton does not
"represent them" thus; he says "they are represented;" that is, he
gives his information at second-hand, without naming his authority,
who, to judge by some of his remarks, was apparently a facetious
globe-trotter. It is of course possible that these young folks are
much attached to each other. Even sheep are "miserable if separated
only for an hour;" they bleat pathetically and are disconsolate,
though there is no question of an "absorbing passion for one." What
kind of love unites these Paharia lads and lasses may be inferred from
the further information given in Dalton's book that "they work
together, go to market together, eat together, and sleep together;"
while indiscretions are atoned for by shedding the blood of an animal,
whereupon all is forgiven! In other words, where Westermarck found
"the absorbing passion for one," a critical student can see nothing
but a vulgar case of reprehensible free lust.

And yet, though we have found no indications of true love, I can see
reasons for Dalton's exclamation,

"It is singular that in matters of the affections the
feelings of these semi-savages should be more in unison
with the sentiments and customs of the highly organized
western nations than with the methodical and unromantic
heart-schooling of their Aryan fellow-countrymen."

Whether these wild tribes are really more like ourselves in their
amorous customs than the more or less civilized Hindoos to whom we now
turn our attention, the reader will be able to decide for himself
after finishing this chapter.


Twenty years ago there were in India five million more men than women,
and there has been no change in that respect. The chief cause of this
disparity is the habitual slaughter of girl babies. The unwelcome
babes are killed with opium pills or exposed to wild beasts. The
Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati, in her agonizing book, _The High Caste
Hindu Woman_, writes with bitter sarcasm, that

"even the wild animals are so intelligent and of such
refined taste that they mock at British law and almost
always steal _girls_ to satisfy their hunger." "The
census of 1870 revealed the curious fact that three
hundred children were stolen in one year by wolves from
within the city of Umritzar, _all the children being

Hindoo females who escape the opium pills and the wolves seldom have
occasion to congratulate themselves therefor. Usually a fate worse
than death awaits them. Long before they are old enough, physically or
mentally, to marry, they are either delivered bodily or betrothed to
men old enough to be their grandfathers. A great many girls are
married literally in the cradle, says the authoress just quoted (31).
"From five to eleven years is the usual period for this marriage among
the Brahmans all over India." Manu made twenty-four the minimum age
for men to marry, but "popular custom defies the law. Boys of ten and
twelve are now doomed to be married to girls of seven to eight years
of age." This early marriage system is "at least five hundred years
older than the Christian era." As superstitious custom compels poor
parents to marry off their daughters by a given age "it very
frequently happens that girls of eight or nine are given to men of
sixty or seventy, or to men utterly unworthy of the maidens."[261]


In an article on "Child Marriages in Bengal,"[262] D.N. Singha
explains the superstition to which so many millions of poor girls are
thus ruthlessly sacrificed. "It is," he says,

"a well-nigh universal conviction among Hindoos that
every man's soul goes to a hell called Poot, no matter
how good he may have been. Nothing but a son's fidelity
can release or deliver him from it, hence all Hindoos
are driven to seek marriage as early as possible to
make sure of a son." "A son, the fruit of marriage,
saves him from perdition, so that the one purpose of
marriage is to leave a son behind him."[263] A
daughter's son may take his son's place: hence the
eagerness to marry off the girls young. In other words,
in order to save themselves from a hell hereafter the
brutal fathers drive their poor little daughters to a
hell on earth. And what is worse, public opinion
compels them to act in this cruel manner; for, as the
same writer informs us, the man who suffers his
daughter to remain unmarried till she is thirteen or
fourteen years old is "subjected to endless annoyances,
beset with stinging remarks, unpleasant whisperings and
slanderous gossip. No orthodox Hindoo will allow his
son to accept the hand of such a grown-up girl."

How preventive of all possibility of free choice or love such a custom
is may be inferred from another brief extract from the same article:

"The superstitious notion of a Hindoo parent that it is
a sin not to give his daughter in marriage before she
ceases to to be a child impels him urgently to get her
a husband before she has passed her ninth or tenth
year. He sends out to match-makers and spares no pains
to discover a bridegroom in some family of rank equal
or superior to his own. Having found a boy ... he
endeavors to secure him by entreaty or by large offers
of money or jewels."

The Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati (22) gives some further grewsome details
which would seem like the inventions of a burlesque writer were they
not attested by such unbiassed authority. "Religions enjoin that every
girl must be given in marriage; the neglect of this duty means for the
father unpardonable sin, public ridicule, and caste excommunication."

But in the higher castes the cost of a marriage is at least $200,
wherefore if a man has several daughters his ruin is almost certain.
Female infanticide is often the result, but even if the girls are
allowed to grow up there is a way for the father to escape. There is a
special high class of Brahmans who make it their business to marry
these girls. They go up and down the land marrying ten, twenty,
sometimes as many as one hundred and fifty of them, receiving presents
from the bride's parents and immediately thereafter bidding good-by to
her, going home never to see their "wife" again. The parents have now
done their duty; they have escaped religious and social ostracism at
the expense, it is true, of their daughters, who remain at home to
make themselves useful. These poor girls can never marry again, and
whether or not they become moral outcasts, their life is ruined; but
that, to a Hindoo, is a trifling matter; girls, in his opinion, were
not created for their own sake, but for the pleasure, comfort, and
salvation of man.


In some parts of India the infant girls are merely subjected to an
"irrevocable betrothal" for the time being, while in others they fall
at once into the clutches of their degraded husbands.[264] In either
case they have absolutely no choice in the selection of a
life-partner. As Dubois remarks (I., 198):

"In negotiating marriage the inclinations of the future
spouses are never attended to. Indeed, it would be
ridiculous to consult girls of that age; and,
accordingly, the choice devolves entirely upon the
parents," "The ceremony of the 'bhanwar,' or circuit of
the pole or branch, is," says Dalton (148), "observed
in most Hindu marriages.... Its origin is curious.. As
a Hindu bridegroom of the upper classes has no
opportunity of trotting out his intended previous to
marriage, and she is equally in the dark regarding the
paces of her lord, the two are made to walk around the
post a certain number of times to prove that they are
sound in limb."

Even the _accidental_ coincidence of the choice of a husband with the
girl's own preference--should any such exist--is rendered impossible
by a superstitious custom which demands that a horoscope must in all
cases be taken to see if the signs are propitious, as Ramabai
Sarasvati informs us (35), adding that if the signs are not propitious
another girl is chosen. Sometimes a dozen are thus rejected, and the
number may rise to three hundred before superstition is satisfied and
a suitable match is found! The same writer gives the following
pathetic instance of the frivolous way in which the girls are disposed
of. A father is bathing in the river; a stranger comes in, the father
asks him to what caste he belongs, and finding that all right, offers
him his nine-year-old daughter. The stranger accepts, marries the
child the next day, and carries her to his home nine hundred miles
away. These poor child brides, she says, are often delighted to get
married, because they are promised a ride on an elephant!

But the most extraordinary revelation made by this doctor is contained
in the following paragraph which, I again beg the reader to remember,
was not written by a humorous globetrotter or by the librettist of
_Pinafore_, but by a native Hindoo woman who is bitterly in earnest, a
woman who left her country to study the condition of women in England
and America, and who then returned to devote her life to the attempt
to better the dreadful fate of her country-women:

"As it is absurd to assume that girls should be allowed
to choose their future husbands, in their infancy, this
is done for them by their parents or guardians. In the
northern part of this country the _family barber_ is
generally employed to select the boys and girls to be
married, it being considered _too humiliating and mean
an act_ on the part of the parents and guardians to go
out and seek their future daughters and sons-in-law."


A more complete disregard of the real object of marriage and of the
existence of love could hardly be found among clams and oysters. In
their sexual relations the civilized Hindoos are, indeed, far beneath
the lowest of animals. Young animals are never prevented by their
parents from mating according to their choice; they never unite till
they have reached maturity; they use their procreative instinct only
for the purpose for which it was designed, whereas the Hindoos--like
their wild neighbors--indulge in a perpetual carnival of lust; they
never kill their offspring, and they never maltreat their females as
the Hindoos do.[265] On this last point some more details must be

"The Hindu is supposed to be, of all creatures on
earth, the most generous, the most kind-hearted, the
most gentle, the most sympathetic, and the most
unselfish. After living for nearly seven years in
India, I must tell you that the reverse of this is
true.... It has been said that among the many languages
spoken by the people of Hindustan there is no such word
as home, in the sense in which we understand it; that
among the languages spoken there is no such word as
love, in the sense in which we know it. I cannot vouch
for the truth of this, as I am not acquainted with the
languages of India, but I do know that among all the
heathen people of that country there is no such place
as home, as we understand it; there is no such
sentiment as love, as we feel it."

The writer of the above is Dr. Salem Armstrong-Hopkins, who, during
her long connection with the Woman's Hospital of Hyderabad, Sindh, had
the best of opportunities for observing the natives of all classes,
both at the hospital and in their homes, to which she was often
summoned. In her book _Within the Purdah_ she throws light on the
popular delusion that Hindoos must be kind to each other since they
are kind to animals. In Bombay there is even a hospital for diseased
and aged animals: but that is a result of religious superstition, not
of real sympathy, for the same Brahman who is afraid to bring a curse
upon his soul by killing an animal "will beat his domestic animals
most cruelly, and starve and torture them in many ways, thus
exhibiting his lack of kindness." And the women fare infinitely worse
than the animals. The wealthiest are perpetually confined in rooms
without table or chairs, without a carpet on the mud floor or picture
on the mud walls--and this in a country where fabulous sums are spent
on fine architecture. All girl babies are neglected, or dosed with
opium if they cry; the mother's milk--which an animal would give to
them--being reserved for their brothers, though these brothers be
already several years old. Unless a girl is married before her twelfth
year she is considered a disgrace to the family, is stripped of all
her finery and compelled to do the drudgery of her fathers household,

"kicks and abuses from any and all its members, and
often upon the slightest provocation. Should she fall
ill, no physician is consulted and no effort is made to
restore her health or to prolong life." "The expression
of utter hopelessness, despair, and misery" on such a
girl's face "beggars description."

Nor are matters any better for those who get married. Not only are
they bestowed in infancy on any male--from an infant boy to an old man
with many wives--whom the father can secure[266]--but the
daughter-in-law becomes "a drudge and slave in her husband's home."
One of her tasks is to grind wheat between two great stones. "This is
very arduous labor, and the slight little women sometimes faint away
while engaged in the task", yet by a satanic refinement of cruelty
they are compelled to sing a grinding song while the work lasts and
never stop, on penalty of being beaten. And though they prepare all
the food for the family and serve the others, they get only what is
left--which often is nothing at all, and many literally starve to
death. No wonder these poor creatures--be they little girls or
women--all wear "the same look of hopeless despair and wretchedness,"
making an impression on the mind more pitiable than any disease. The
writer had among her patients some who tried by the most agonizing of
deaths--voluntary starvation--to escape their misery.


No one can read these revelations without agreeing with the writer
that "the Hindu is of all people the most cowardly and the most
cruel," and that he cannot know what real love of any kind is. The
Abbe Dubois, who lived many years among the Hindoos, wearing their
clothes and adopting their customs so far as they did not conflict
with his Christian conscience, wrote (I., 51) that

"the affection and attachment between brothers and
sisters, never very ardent, almost entirely disappears
as soon as they are married. After that event, they
scarcely ever meet, unless it be to quarrel."

Ramabai Sarasvati thinks that loving couples can be found in India,
but Dubois, applying the European standard, declared (I., 21,

"During the long period of my observation of them and
their habits, I am not sure that I have ever seen two
Hindu marriages that closely united the hearts by a
true and inviolable attachment."

The husband thinks his wife "entitled to no attentions, and never pays
her any, even in familiar intercourse." He looks on her "merely as his
servant, and never as his companion." "We have said enough of women in
a country where they are considered as scarcely forming a part of the
human species." And Ramabai herself confesses (44) that at home "men
and women have almost nothing in common." "The women's court is
situated at the back of the houses, where darkness reigns
perpetually." Even after the second ceremony the young couple seldom
meet and talk.

"Being cut off from the chief means of forming attachment, the young
couple are almost strangers, and in many cases ... a feeling kindred
to hatred takes root between them." There is "no such thing as the
family having pleasant times together."

Dr. Ryder thinks that for "one kind husband there are one hundred
thousand cruel ones," and she gives the following illustration among

"A rich husband (merchant caste) brought his wife to me
for treatment. He said she was sixteen, and they had
been married eight years. 'She was good wife, do
everything he want, wait on him and eight brothers,
carry water up three flights of stairs on her head;
now, what will you cure her for? She suffer much. I not
pay too much money. When it cost too much I let her
die. I don't care. I got plenty wives. When you cure
her for ten shilling I get her done, but I not pay
more.' I explained to him that her medicines would cost
more than that amount, and he left, saying, 'I don't
care. Let her die. I can have plenty wives. I like
better a new wife.'"[267]

Though the lawgiver Manu wrote "where women are honored there the gods
are pleased," he was one of the hundreds of Sanscrit writers, who, as
Ramabai Sarasvati relates, "have done their best to make woman a
hateful being in the world's eye." Manu speaks of their "natural
heartlessness," their "impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and
bad conduct." Though mothers are more honored than other women, yet
even they are declared to be "as impure as falsehood itself."

"I have never read any sacred book in Sanscrit literature
without meeting this kind of hateful sentiment about
women.... Profane literature is by no means less severe or
more respectful toward women."

The wife is the husband's property and classed by Manu with "cows,
mares, female camels, slave girls, buffalo cows, she goats, and ewes."
A man may abandon his wife if he finds her blemished or diseased,
while she must not even show disrespect to a husband who is diseased,
addicted to evil passions, or a drunkard. If she does she shall be
deserted for three months and deprived of her ornaments and
furniture.[268] Even British rule has not been able to improve the
condition of woman, for the British Government is bound by treaties
not to interfere with social and religious customs; hence many
pathetic cases are witnessed in the courts of unwilling girls handed
over, in accordance with national custom, to the loathed husbands
selected for them. "The gods and justice always favor the men." "Many
women put an end to their earthly sufferings by committing suicide."


If anything can cast a ray of comfort into the wretched life of a
Hindoo maiden or wife it is the thought that, after all, she is much
better off than if she were a widow--though, to be sure, she runs
every risk of becoming one ere she is old enough to be considered
marriageable in any country where women are regarded as human beings.
In considering the treatment of Hindoo widows we reach the climax of
inhuman cruelty--a cruelty far exceeding that practised by American
Indians toward female prisoners, because more prolonged and involving
mental as well as physical agonies.

In 1881 there were in British India alone 20,930,000 widows, 669,000
of whom were under nineteen, and 78,976 _under nine_ years of
age.[269] Now a widow's life is naturally apt to be one of hardship
because she has lost her protector and bread-winner; but in India the
tragedy of her fate is deepened a thousandfold by the diabolical
ill-treatment of which she is made the innocent victim. A widow who
has borne sons or who is aged is somewhat less despised than the child
widow; on her falls the worst abuse and hatred of the community,
though she be as innocent of any crime as an angel. In the eyes of a
Hindoo the mere fact of being a widow is a crime--the crime of
surviving her husband, though he may have been seventy and the wife

All women love their soft glossy hair; and a Hindoo woman, says
Ramabai Sarasvati (82), "thinks it worse than death to lose her hair";
yet "among the Brahmans of Deccan the heads of all widows must be
shaved regularly every fortnight." "Shaved head" is a term of derision
everywhere applied to the widows. All their ornaments are taken from
them and they are excluded from every ceremony of joy. The name "rand"
given to a widow "is the same that is borne by a Nautch girl or a
harlot." One poor woman wrote to a missionary:

"O great Lord, our name is written with drunkards, with
lunatics, with imbeciles, with the very animals; as
they are not responsible, we are not. Criminals
confined in jails for life are happier than we."

Another of these widows wrote:[270] "While our husbands live we are
their slaves, when they die we are still worse off." The husband's
funeral, she says, may last all day in a broiling sun, and while the
others are refreshed, she alone is denied food and water. After
returning she is reviled by her own relatives. Her mother says:
"Unhappy creature! I can't bear the thought of anyone so vile. I wish
she had never been born." Her mother-in-law says: "The horned viper!
She has bitten my son and killed him, and now he is dead, and she,
useless creature, is left behind." It is impossible for her to escape
this fate by marrying again. The bare mention of remarriage by a
widow, though she be only eight or nine years old, would be regarded,
says Dubois (I., 191), "as the greatest of insults." Should she marry
again "she would be hunted out of society, and no decent person would
venture at any time to have the slightest intercourse with her."

Attempts have been made in recent times by liberal-minded men to marry
widows; but they were subjected to so much odium and persecution
therefor that they were driven to suicide.

When a widow dies her corpse is disposed of with hardly any ceremony.
Should a widow try to escape her fate the only alternatives are
suicide or a life of shame. To a Hindoo widow, says Ramabai Sarasvati,
death is "a thousand times more welcome than her miserable existence."
It is for this reason that the suttee or "voluntary" burning of widows
on the husband's funeral pyre--the climax of inhuman atrocity--lost
some of its horrors to the victims until the moment of agony arrived.
I have already (p. 317) refuted the absurd whim that this voluntary
death of Hindoo widows was a proof of their conjugal devotion. It was
proof, on the contrary, of the unutterably cruel selfishness of the
male Hindoos, who actually forged a text to make the suttee seem a
religious duty--a forgery which during two thousand years caused the
death of countless innocent women. Best was told that the real cause
of widow-burning was a desire on the part of the men to put an end to
the frequent murders of husbands by their cruelly treated wives
(Reich, _212_). However that may be, the suttee in all probability was
due to the shrewd calculation that the fear of being burned alive, or
being more despised and abused than the lowest outcasts, would make
women more eager to follow obediently the code which makes of them
abject slaves of their husbands, living only for them and never having
a thought or a care for themselves.


Since, as Ward attests (116), the young widows "without exception,
become abandoned women," it is obvious that one reason why the priests
were so anxious to prevent them from marrying again was to insure an
abundant supply of victims for their immoral purposes. The
hypocritical Brahmans were not only themselves notorious libertines,
but they shrewdly calculated that the simplest way to win the favor
and secure control of the Indian populace was by pandering to their
sensual appetites and supplying abundant opportunities and excuses for
their gratification--making these opportunities, in fact, part and
parcel of their religious ceremonies. Their temples and their sacred
carts which traversed the streets were decorated with obscene pictures
of a peculiarly disgusting kind,[271] which were freely exposed to the
gaze of old and young of both sexes; their temples were little more
than nurseries for the rearing of bayaderes, a special class of
"sacred prostitutes;" while scenes of promiscuous debauchery sometimes
formed part of the religious ceremony, usually under some hypocritical

It would be unjust, however, to make the Brahman priests entirely
responsible for Hindoo depravity. It has indeed been maintained that
there was a time when the Hindoos were free from all the vices which
now afflict them; but that is one of the silly myths of ignorant
dreamers, on a level with the notion that savages were corrupted by
whites. One of the oldest Hindoo documents, the _Mahabharata_, gives
us the native traditions concerning these "good old times" in two

"Though in their youthful innocence the women abandoned
their husbands, they were guilty of no offence; for
such was the rule in early times." "Just as cattle are
situated, so are human beings, too, within their
respective castes"

which suggests a state of promiscuity as decided as that which
prevailed in Australia. Civilization did not teach the Hindoos
love--for that comes last--but merely the refinements of lust, such as
even the Greeks and Romans hardly knew. Ovid's _Ars Amandi_ is a model
of purity compared with the Hindoo "Art of Love," the
_K[=a]mas[=u]tram_ (or _Kama Soutra_) of V[=a]tsy[=a]yana, which is
nothing less than a handbook for libertines, of which it would be
impossible even to print the table of contents. Whereas the translator
of Ovid into a modern language need not omit more than a page of the
text, the German translator of the _K[=a]mas[=u]tram_, Dr. Richard
Schmidt, who did his work in behalf of the Kgl. Akademie der
Wissenschaften zu Berlin, felt it incumbent on him to turn more than
fifty pages out of four hundred and seventy into Latin. Yet the author
of this book, who lived about two thousand years ago, recommends that
every one, including young girls, should study it. In India, as his
French translator, Lamairesse, writes, "everything is done to awaken
carnal desires even in young children of both sexes." The natural
result is that, as the same writer remarks (186):

"Les categories des femmes faciles sont si nombreuses
qu'elles doivent comprendre presque toutes les personnes du
sexe. Aussi un ministre protestant ecrivait-il au milieu de
notre siecle qu'il n'existait presque point de femmes
vertueuses dans l'Inde."

The Rev. William Ward wrote (162) in 1824:

"It is a fact which greatly perplexes many of the
well-informed Hindus, that notwithstanding the wives of
Europeans are seen in so many mixed companies, they
remain chaste; while their wives, though continually
secluded, watched, and veiled, are so notoriously
corrupt. I recollect the observation of a gentleman who
had lived nearly twenty years in Bengal, whose opinions
on such a subject demanded the highest regard, that the
infidelity of the Hindu women was so great that he
scarcely thought there was a single instance of a wife
who had been always faithful to her husband."[272]


The Brahman priests, who certainly knew their people well, had so
little faith in their virtue that they would not accept a girl to be
brought up for temple service if she was over five years old. She had
to be not only pure but physically flawless and sound in health. Yet
her purity was not valued as a virtue, but as an article of commerce.
The Brahmans utilized the charms of these girls for the purpose of
supporting the temples with their sinful lives, their gains being
taken from them as "offerings to the gods." As soon as a girl was old
enough she was put up at auction and sold to the highest bidder. If
she was specially attractive the bids would sometimes reach fabulous
sums, it being a point of honor and eager rivalry among Rajahs and
other wealthy men, young and old, to become the possessors of bayadere
debutantes. Temporarily only, of course, for these girls were never
allowed to marry. While they were connected with the temple they could
give themselves to anyone they chose, the only condition being that
they must never refuse a Brahman (Jacolliot, 169-76). The bayaderes,
says Dubois, call themselves Deva-dasi, servants or slaves of the
gods, "but they are known to the public by the coarser name of
strumpets." They are, next to the sacrificers, the most important
persons about the temples. While the poor widows who had been
respectably married are deprived of all ornaments and joys of life,
these wantons are decked with fine clothes, flowers, and jewelry; and
gold is showered upon them. The bayaderes Vasantasena is described by
the poet Cudraka as always wearing a hundred gold ornaments, living in
her own palace, which has eight luxurious courts, and on one occasion
refusing an unwelcome suitor though he sent 100,000 gold pieces.

Bayaderes are supposed to be originally descendants of the apsaras, or
dancing girls of the god Indra, the Hindoo Jupiter. In reality they
are recruited from various castes, some parents making it a point to
offer their third daughter to the Brahmans. Bands of the bayaderes are
engaged by the best families to provide dancing and music, especially
at weddings. To have dealings with bayaderes is not only in good form,
but is a meritorious thing, since it helps to support the temples. And
yet, when one of these girls dies she is not cremated in the same
place as other women, and her ashes are scattered to the winds. In
some provinces of Bengal, Jacolliot says, she is only half burnt, and
the body then thrown to the jackals and vultures.

The temple of Sunnat had as many as five hundred of these priestesses
of Venus, and a Rajah has been known to entertain as many as two
thousand of them. Bayaderes, or Nautch girls, as they are often called
in a general way, are of many grades. The lowest go about the country
in bands, while the highest may rise to the rank and dignity of an
Aspasia. To the former class belong those referred to by Lowrie
(148)--a band of twenty girls, all unveiled and dressed in their
richest finery, who wanted to dance for his party and were greatly
disappointed when refused. "Most of them were very young--about ten or
eleven years old." Their course is brief; they soon lose their charms,
are discarded, and end their lives as beggars.


A famous representative of the superior class of bayaderes is the
heroine of King Cudraka's drama just referred to--Vasantasena. She has
amassed immense wealth--the description of her palace takes up several
pages--and is one of the best known personages in town, yet that does
not prevent her from being spoken of repeatedly as "a noble woman, the
jewel of the city."[273] She is, indeed, represented as differing in
her love from other bayaderes, and, as she herself remarks, "a
bayaderes is not reprehensible in the eyes of the world if she gives
her heart to a poor man." She sees the Brahman Tscharudatta in the
temple garden of Kama, the god of love, and forthwith falls in love
with him, as he does with her, though he is married. One afternoon she
is accosted in the street by a relative of the king, who annoys her
with his unwelcome attentions. She takes refuge in her lover's house
and, on the pretext that she has been pursued on account of her
ornaments, leaves her jewelry in his charge. The jewels are stolen
during the night, and this mishap leads to a series of others which
finally culminate in Tscharudatta being led out to execution for the
alleged murder of Vasantasena. At the last moment Vasantasena, who had
been strangled by the king's relative, but has been revived, appears
on the scene, and her lover's life is saved, as well as his honor.

The royal author of this drama, who has been called the Shakspere of
India, probably lived in one of the first centuries of the Christian
era. His play may in a certain sense be regarded as a predecessor of
_Manon Lescaut_ and _Camille_, inasmuch as an attempt is made in it to
ascribe to the heroine a delicacy of feeling to which women of her
class are naturally strangers. She hesitates to make advances to
Tscharudatta, and at first wonders whether it would be proper to
remain in his house. See informs her pursuer that "love is won by
noble character, not by importunate advances." Tscharudatta says of
her: "There is a proverb that 'money makes love--the treasurer has the
treasure,' But no! she certainly cannot be won with treasures." She is
in fact represented throughout as being different from the typical
bayaderes, who are thus described by one of the characters:

"For money they laugh or weep; they win a man's
confidence but do not give him theirs. Therefore a
respectable man ought to keep bayaderes like flowers of
a cemetery, three steps away from him. It is also said:
changeable like waves of the sea, like clouds in a
sunset, glowing only a moment--so are women. As soon as
they have plundered a man they throw him away like a
dye-rag that has been squeezed dry. This saying, too,
is pertinent: just as no lotos grows on a mountain top,
no mule draws a horse's loud, no scattered barley grows
up as rice; so no wanton ever becomes a respectable

Vasantasena, however, does become a respectable woman. In the last
scene the king confers on her a veil, whereby the stain on her birth
and life is wiped away and she becomes Tscharudatta's legitimate
second wife.

But how about the first wife? Her actions show how widely in India
conjugal love may differ from what we know as such, by the absence of
monopoly and jealousy. When she first hears of the theft of
Vasantasena's jewels in her husband's house she is greatly distressed
at the impending loss of his good name, but is not in the least
disturbed by the discovery that she has a rival. On the contrary, she
takes a string of pearls that remains from her dowry, and sends it to
her husband to be given to Vasantasena as an equivalent for her lost
jewels. Vasantasena, on her part, is equally free from jealousy.
Without knowing whence they came, she afterward sends the pearls to
her lover's wife with these words addressed to her servants:

"Take these pearls and give them to my sister,
Tscharudatta's wife, the honorable woman, and say to
her: 'Conquered by Tscharudatta's excellence, I have
become also your slave. Therefore use this string of
pearls as a necklace.'"

The wife returned the pearls with the message:

"My master and husband has made you a present of these
pearls. It would therefore be improper for me to accept
them: my master and husband is my special jewel. This I
beg you to consider."

And, in the final scenes, the wife shows her great love for her
husband by hastening to get ready for the funeral pyre to be burnt
alive with his corpse. And when, after expressing her joy at his
rescue and kissing him, she turns and sees Vasantasena, she exclaims:
"O this happiness! How do you do, my sister?" Vasantasena replies:
"Now I am happy," and the two embrace!

The translator of Cudraka's play notes in the preface that there is a
curious lack of ardor in the expression of Tscharudatta's love for
Vasantasena, and he naively--though quite in the Hindoo
spirit--explains this as showing that this superior person (who is a
model of altruistic self-sacrifice in every respect), "remains
untouched by coarse outbursts of sensual passion." The only time he
warms up is when he hears that the bayaderes prefers him to her
wealthy persecutor; he then exclaims, "Oh, how this girl deserves to
be worshipped like a goddess." Vasantasena is much the more ardent of
the two. It is she who goes forth to seek him, repeatedly, dressed in
purple and pearls, as custom prescribes to a girl who goes to meet her
lover. It is she who exclaims: "The clouds may rain, thunder, or send
forth lightning: women who go to meet their lovers heed neither heat
nor cold." And again: "may the clouds tower on high, may night come
on, may the rain fall in torrents, I heed them not. Alas, my heart
looks only toward the lover." It is she who is so absent-minded,
thinking of him, that her maid suspects her passion; she who, when a
royal suitor is suggested to her, exclaims, "'Tis love I crave to
bestow, not homage."


This portrayal of the girl as the chief lover is quite the custom in
Hindoo literature, and doubtless mirrors life as it was and is. Like a
dog that fawns on an indifferent or cruel master, these women of India
were sometimes attached to their selfish lovers and husbands. They had
been trained from their childhood to be sympathetic, altruistic,
devoted, self-sacrificing, and were thus much better prepared than the
men for the germs of amorous sentiment, which can grow only in such a
soil of self-denial. Hence it is that Hindoo love-poems are usually of
the feminine gender. This is notably the case with the _Saptacatakam_
of Hala, an anthology of seven hundred Prakrit verses made from a
countless number of love-poems that are intended to be sung--"songs,"
says Albrecht Weber, "such as the girls of India, especially perhaps
the bayaderes or temple girls may have been in the habit of
singing."[274] Some of these indicate a strong individual preference
and monopoly of attachment:

No. 40: "Her heart is dear to her as being your abode,
her eyes because she saw you with them, her body
because it has become thin owing to your absence."

No. 43: "The burning (grief) of separation is (said to
be) made more endurable by hope. But, mother, if my
beloved is away from me even in the same village, it is
worse than death to me."

No. 57: "Heedless of the other youths, she roams about,
transgressing the rules of propriety, casting her
glances in (all) directions of the world for your sake,
O child."

No. 92: "That momentary glimpse of him whom, oh, my
aunt, I constantly long to see, has (touched) quenched
my thirst (as little) as a drink taken in a dream."

No. 185: "She has not sent me. You have no relations
with her. What concern of ours is it therefore? Well,
she dies in her separation from you."

No. 202: "No matter how often I repeat to my mistress
the message you confided to me, she replies 'I did not
hear' (what you said), and thus makes me repeat it a
hundred times."

No. 203: "As she looked at you, filled with the might
of her self-betraying love, so she then, in order to
conceal it, looked also at the other persons."

No. 234: "Although all (my) possessions were consumed
in the village fire, yet is (my) heart rejoiced, (when
it was put out) he took the bucket as it passed from
hand to hand (from my hand)."

No. 299: "She stares, without having an object, gives
vent to long sighs, laughs into vacant space, mutters
unintelligible words--surely she must bear something in
her heart."

No. 302: "'Do give her to the one she carries in her
heart. Do you not see, aunt, that she is pining away?'
'No one rests in my heart' [literally; whence could
come in my heart resting?]--thus speaking, the girl
fell into a swoon."

No. 345: "If it is not your beloved, my friend, how is it
that at the mention of his name your face glows like a lotos
bud opened by the sun's rays?"

No. 368: "Like illness without a doctor--like living
with relatives if one is poor, like the sight of an
enemy's prosperity--so difficult is it to endure
separation from you."

No. 378: "Whatever you do, whatever you say, and
wherever you turn your eyes, the day is not long enough
for her efforts to imitate you."

No. 440: "...She, whose every limb was bathed in
perspiration, at the mere mention of his name."

No. 453: "My friend! tell me honestly, I ask you: do
the bracelets of all women become larger when the lover
is far away?"

No. 531: "In whichever direction I look I see you
before me, as if painted there. The whole firmament
brings before me as it were a series of pictures of

No. 650: "From him proceed all discourses, all are
about him, end with him. Is there then, my aunt, but
one young man in all this village?"

While these poems may have been sung mostly by bayaderes, there are
others which obviously give expression to the legitimate feelings of
married women. This is especially true of the large number which voice
the sorrows of women at the absence of their husbands after the rains
have set in. The rainy season is in India looked on as the season of
love, and separation from the lover at this time is particularly
bewailed, all the more as the rains soon make the roads impassable.

No. 29: "To-day, when, alone, I recalled the joys we
had formerly shared, the thunder of the new clouds
sounded to me like the death-drum (that accompanies
culprits to the place of execution)."

No. 47: "The young wife of the man who has got ready
for his journey roams, after his departure, from house
to house, trying to get the secret for preserving life
from wives who have learned how to endure separation
from their beloved."

No. 227: "In putting down the lamp the wife of the
wanderer turns her face aside, fearing that the stream
of tears that falls at the thought of the beloved might
drop on it."

No. 501: "When the voyager, on taking leave, saw his
wife turn pale, he was overcome by grief and unable to

No. 623: "The wanderer's wife does indeed protect her
little son by interposing her head to catch the rain
water dripping from the eaves, but fails to notice (in
her grief over her absent one) that he is wetted by her

These twenty-one poems are the best samples of everything contained in
Hala's anthology illustrating the serious side of love among the
bayaderes and married women of India. Careful perusal of them must
convince the reader that there is nothing in them revealing the
altruistic phases of love. There is much ardent longing for the
selfish gratification which the presence of a lover would give; deep
grief at his absence; indications that a certain man could afford her
much more pleasure by his presence than others--and that is all. When
a girl wails that she is dying because her lover is absent she is
really thinking of her own pleasure rather than his. None of these
poems expresses the sentiment, "Oh, that I could do something to make
_him_ happy!" These women are indeed taught and _forced_ to sacrifice
themselves for their husbands, but when it comes to _spontaneous_
utterances, like these songs, we look in vain for evidence of pure,
devoted, high-minded, romantic love. The more frivolous side of
Oriental love is, on the other hand, abundantly illustrated in Hala's
poems, as the following samples show:

No. 40: "O you pitiless man! You who are afraid of your
wife and difficult to catch sight of! You who resemble
(in bitterness) a nimba worm--and yet who are the
delight of the village women! For does not the (whole)
village grow thin (longing) for you?"

No. 44: "The sweetheart will not fail to come back into
his heart even though he caress another girl, whether
he see in her the same charms or not."

No. 83: "This young farmer, O beautiful girl, though he
already has a beautiful wife, has nevertheless become
so reduced that his own jealous wife has consented to
deliver this message to you."

The last two poems hint at the ease with which feminine jealousy is
suppressed in India, of which we have had some instances before and
shall have others presently. Coyness seems to be not much more
developed, at least among those who need it most:

No. 465: "By being kind to him again at first sight you
deprived yourself, you foolish girl, of many
pleasures--his prostration at your feet and his eager
robbing of a kiss."

No. 45: "Since youth (rolls on) like the rapids of a
river, the days speed away and the nights cannot be
checked--my daughter! what means this accursed, proud

No. 139: "On the pretext that the descent to the Goda
(river) is difficult, she threw herself in his arms.
And he clasped her tightly without thereby incurring
any reproach." (See also No. 108.)

No. 121: "Though disconsolate at the death of her
relatives, the captive girl looked lovingly upon the
young kidnapper, because he appeared to her to be a
perfect (hero). Who can remain sulky in the face of

Such love as these women felt is fickle and transient:

No. 240: "Through being out of sight, my child, in
course of time the love dwindles away even of those who
were firmly joined in tender union, as water runs from
the hollow of the hand."

No. 106: "O heart that, like a long piece of wood which
is being carried down the rapids of a small stream is
caught at every place, your fate is nevertheless to be
burnt by some one!"

No. 80: "By being out of sight love goes away; by
seeing too often it goes away; also by the gossip of
malicious persons it goes away; yes, it also goes away
by itself."

"If the bee, eager to sip, always seeks the juices of new growths,
this is the fault of the sapless flowers, not of the bee."

Where love is merely sensual and shallow lovers' quarrels do not fan
the flame, but put it out:

"Love which, once dissolved, is united again, after
unpleasant things have been revealed, tastes flat, like
water that has been boiled."

The commercial element is conspicuous in this kind of love; it cannot
persist without a succession of presents:

No. 67: "When the festival is over nothing gives
pleasure. So also with the full moon late in the
morning--and of love, which at last becomes
insipid--and with gratification, that does not manifest
itself in the form of presents."

The illicit, impure aspect of Oriental love is hinted at in many of
the poems collected by Hala. There are frequent allusions to
rendezvous in temples, which are so quiet that the pigeons are scared
by the footsteps of the lovers; or in the high grain of the harvest
fields; or on the river banks, so deserted that the monkeys there fill
their paunches with mustard leaves undisturbed.

No. 19: "When he comes what shall I do? What shall I
say and what will come of this? Her heart beats as,
with these thoughts, the girl goes out on her first
rendezvous." (_Cf._ also Nos. 223 and 491.)

No. 628: "O summer time! you who give good
opportunities for rendezvous by drying the small
ditches and covering the trees with a dense abundance
of leaves! you test-plate of the gold of
love-happiness, you must not fade away yet for a long

No. 553: "Aunt, why don't you remove the parrot from
this bed-chamber? He betrays all the caressing words to

Hindoo poets have the faculty, which they share with the Japanese, of
bringing a whole scene or episode vividly before the eyes with a
sentence or two, as all the foregoing selections show. Sometimes a
whole story is thus condensed, as in the following:

"'Master! He came to implore our protection. Save him!'
thus speaking, she very slyly hastened to turn over her
paramour to her suddenly entering husband." (See also
No. 305 and _Hitopadesa_, p. 88.)


Since Hindoo women, in spite of their altruistic training, are
prevented by their lack of culture or virtue (the domestic virtuous
women have no culture and the cultured bayaderes have no virtue) from
rising to the heights of sentimental love, it would be hopeless to
expect the amazingly selfish, unsympathetic and cruel men to do so,
despite their intellectual culture. Among all the seven hundred poems
culled by Hala there are only two or three which even hint at the
higher phases of love in masculine bosoms. Inasmuch as No. 383 tells
us that even "the male elephant, though tormented by great hunger,
thinking of his beloved wife, allows the juicy lotos-stalk to wither
in his trunk," one could hardly expect of man less than the sentiment
expressed in No. 576: "He who has a faithful love considers himself
contented even in misfortune, whereas without his love he is unhappy
though he possess the earth." Another poem indicating that Hindoo men
may share with women a strong feeling of amorous monopolism is No.

"He regards only her countenance, and she, too, is
quite intoxicated at sight of him. Both of them,
satisfied with one another, act as if in the whole
world there were no other women or men."

But as a rule the men are depicted as being fickle, even more so than
the women. A frequent complaint of the girls is that the men forget
whom they happen to be caressing and call them by another girl's name.
More frequent still are the complaints of neglect or desertion. One of
these, No. 46, suggests the praises of night sung in the mediaeval
legend of Tristan and Isolde:

"To-morrow morning, my beloved, the hard-hearted goes
away--so people say. O sacred night! do lengthen so
that there will be no morning for him."

At first sight the most surprising and important of Hala's seven
hundred poems seems to be No. 567:

"Only over me, the iron-hearted, thunder, O cloud, and
with all your might; be sure that you do not kill my
poor one with the hanging locks."

Here, for once, we have the idea of self-sacrifice--only the idea, it
is true, and not the act; but it indicates a very exceptional and
exalted state for a Hindoo even to think of such a thing. The
self-reproach of "iron-hearted" tells us, however, that the man has
been behaving selfishly and cruelly toward his sweetheart or wife, and
is feeling sorry for a moment. In such moments a Hindoo not
infrequently becomes human, especially if he expects new favors of the
maltreated woman, which she is only too willing to grant:

No. 85: "While with the breath of his mouth he cooled
one of my hands, swollen from the effect of his blow, I
put the other one laughingly around his neck."

No. 191: "By untangling the hair of her prostrate lover
from the notches of her spangles in which it had been
caught, she shows him that her heart has ceased to be

References to such prostrations to secure forgiveness for inconstancy
or cruelty are frequent in Hindoo poems and dramas, and it is needless
to say that they are a very different thing from the disinterested
prostrations and homage of modern gallantry. True gallantry being one
of the altruistic ingredients of love, it would be useless to seek for
it among the Hindoos. Not so with hyperbole, which being simply a
magnifying of one's own sensations and an expression of extravagant
feeling of any kind, forms, as we know, a phase of sensual as well as
of sentimental love. The eager desire for a girl's favor makes her
breath and all her attributes seem delicious not only to man but to
inanimate things. The following, with the finishing touches applied by
the German translator, approaches modern poetic sentiment more closely
than any other of Hala's songs:

No. 13: "O you who are skilled in cooking! Do not be
angry (that the fire fails to burn). The fire does not
burn, smokes only, in order to drink in (long) the
breath of (your) mouth, perfumed like red patela

In the use of hyperbole it is very difficult to avoid the step from
the sublime to the ridiculous. The author of No. 153 had a happy
thought when he sang that his beloved was so perfect a beauty that no
one had ever been able to see her whole body because the eye refused
to leave whatever part it first alighted on. This pretty notion is
turned into unconscious burlesque by the author of No. 274, who

"How can I describe her from whose limbs the eyes that
see them cannot tear themselves away, like a weak cow
from the mud she is sticking in."

Hardly less grotesque to our Western taste is the favorite boast (No.
211 _et passim_) that the moon is making vain efforts to shine as
brightly as the beloved's face. It is easier for us to sympathize with
the Hindoo poets when they express their raptures over the eyes or
locks of their beloved:

No. 470: "Other beauties too have in their faces
beautiful wide black eyes, with long lashes, but they
cannot cast such glances as you do."

No. 77: "I think of her countenance with her locks
floating loosely about it as she shook her head when I
seized her lip--like unto a lotos flower surrounded by
a swarm of (black) bees attracted by its fragrance."

Yet even these two references to personal beauty are not purely
esthetic, and in all the others the sensual aspect is more emphasized:

No. 556: "The brown girl's hair, which had succeeded in
touching her hips, weeps drops of water, as it were,
now that she comes out of the bath, as if from fear of
now being tied up again."

No. 128: "As by a miracle, as by a treasure, as in
heaven, as a kingdom, as a drink of ambrosia, was I
affected when I (first) saw her without any clothing."

No. 473: "For the sake of the dark-eyed girls whose
hips and thighs are visible through their wet dresses
when they bathe in the afternoon, does Kama [the god of
love] wield his bow."

Again and again the poets express their raptures over exaggerated
busts and hips, often in disgustingly coarse comparisons--lines which
cannot be quoted here.[275]


In his _History of Indian Literature_ (209), Weber says that

"the erotic lyric commences for us with certain of the poems
attributed to Kalidasa." "The later Kavyas are to be ranked
with the erotic poems rather than with the epic. In general
this love-poetry is of the most unbridled and extravagantly
sensual description; yet examples of deep and truly romantic
tenderness are not wanting."

Inasmuch as he attributes the same qualities to some of the Hala poems
in which we have been unable to find them, it is obvious that his
conception of "deep and truly romantic tenderness" is different from
ours, and it is useless to quarrel about words. Hala's collection,
being an anthology of the best love-songs of many poets, is much more
representative and valuable than if the verses were all by the same
poet. If Hindoo bards and bayaderes had a capacity for true altruistic
love-sentiment, these seven hundred songs could hardly have failed to
reveal it. But to make doubly sure that we are not misrepresenting a
phase of the history of civilization, let us examine the Hindoo dramas
most noted as love-stories, especially those of Kalidasa, whose
_Sakuntala_ in particular was triumphantly held up by some of my
critics as a refutation of my theory that none of the ancient
civilized nations knew romantic love. I shall first briefly summarize
the love-stories told in these dramas, and then point out what they
reveal in regard to the Hindoo conception of love as based,
presumably, on their experiences.


Once upon a time there lived on the banks of the Gautami River a
hermit named Kaucika. He was of royal blood and had made so much
progress with his saintly exercises of penitence that he was on the
point of being able to defy the laws of Nature, and the gods
themselves began to fear his power. To deprive him of it they sent
down a beautiful _apsara_ (celestial bayaderes) to tempt him. He could
not resist her charms, and broke his vows. A daughter was born who
received the name of Sakuntala, and was given in charge of another
saint, named Kanva, who brought her up lovingly as if she had been his
own daughter. She has grown up to be a maiden of more than human
beauty, when one day she is seen by the king, who, while hunting, has
strayed within the sacred precincts while the saint is away on a holy
errand. He is at once fascinated by her beauty--a beauty, as he says
to himself, such as is seldom found in royal chambers--a wild vine
more lovely than any garden-plant--and she, too, confesses to her
companions that since she has seen him she is overcome by a feeling
which seems out of place in this abode of penitence.

The king cannot bear the idea of returning to his palace, but encamps
near the grove of the penitents. He fears that he may not be able to
win the girl's love, and she is tortured by the same doubt regarding
him. "Did Brahma first paint her and then infuse life into her, or did
he in his spirit fashion her out of a number of spirits?" he exclaims.
He wonders what excuse he can have for lingering in the grove. His
companion suggests gathering the tithe, but the king retorts: "What I
get for protecting her is to be esteemed higher than piles of jewels."
He now feels an aversion to hunting. "I would not be able to shoot
this arrow at the gazelles who have lived with her, and who taught the
beloved to gaze so innocently." He grows thin from loss of sleep.
Unable to keep his feelings locked up in his bosom, he reveals them to
his companion, the jester, but afterward, fearing he might tell his
wives about this love-affair, he says to him:

"Of course there is no truth in the notion that I
coveted this girl Sakuntala. Just think! how could we
suit one another, a girl who knows nothing of love and
has grown up perfectly wild with the young gazelles?
No, my friend, you must not take a joke seriously."

But all the time he grows thinner from longing--so thin that his
bracelet, whose jewels have lost all their lustre from his tears,
falls constantly from his arm and has to be replaced.

In the meantime Sakuntala, without lacking the reserve and timidity
proper to the girls of penitents, has done several things that
encouraged the king to hope. While she avoided looking straight at him
(as etiquette prescribed), there was a loving expression on her face,
and once, when about to go away with her companions, she pretended
that her foot had been cut by a blade of kusagrass--but it was merely
an excuse for turning her face. Thus, while her love is not frankly
discovered, it is not covered either. She doubts whether the king
loves her, and her agony throws her into a feverish state which her
companions try in vain to allay by fanning her with lotos leaves. The
king is convinced that the sun's heat alone could not have affected
her thus. He sees that she has grown emaciated and seems ill. "Her
cheeks," he says,

"have grown thin, her bosom has lost its firm tension,
her body has grown attenuated, her shoulders stoop, and
pale is her face. Tortured by love, the girl presents
an aspect as pitiable as it is lovable; she resembles
the vine Madhavi when it is blighted by the hot breath
of a leaf-desiccating wind."

He is watching her, unseen himself, as she reclines in an arbor with
her friends, who are fanning her. He hears her say: "Since the hour
when he came before my eyes ... the royal sage, ah, since that hour I
have become as you see me--from longing for him;" and he wonders, "how
could she fear to have any difficulty in winning her lover?" "The
little hairs on her cheek reveal her passion by becoming erect," he
adds as he sees her writing something with her nails on a lotos leaf.
She reads to her companions what she has written: "_Your_ heart I know
not; me love burns day and night, you cruel one, because I think of
you alone."[276] Encouraged by this confession, the king steps from
his place of concealment and exclaims: "Slender girl, the glowing heat
of love only burns you, but me it consumes, and incessant is the great
torture." Sakuntala tries to rise, but is too weak, and the king bids
her dispense with ceremony. While he expresses his happiness at having
found his love reciprocated, one of the companions mutters something
about "Kings having many loves," and Sakuntala herself exclaims: "Why
do you detain the royal sage? He is quite unhappy because he is
separated from his wives at court." But the king protests that though
he has many women at court, his heart belongs to no other but her.
Left alone with Sakuntala, he exclaims:

"Be not alarmed! For am not I, who brings you adoring
homage, at your side? Shall I fan you with the cooling
petals of these water-lilies? Or shall I place your
lotos feet on my lap and fondle them to my heart's
content, you round-hipped maiden?"

"God forbid that I should be so indiscreet with a man that commands
respect," replies Sakuntala. She tries to escape, and when the king
holds her, she says: "Son of Puru! Observe the laws of propriety and
custom! I am, indeed, inflamed by love, but I cannot dispose of
myself." The king urges her not to fear her foster father. Many girls,
he says, have freely given themselves to kings without incurring
parental disapproval; and he tries to kiss her. A voice warns them
that night approaches, and, hearing her friends returning, Sakuntala
urges the king to conceal himself in the bushes.

Sakuntala now belongs to the king; they are united according to one of
the eight forms of Hindoo marriage known as that of free choice. After
remaining with her a short time the king returns to his other wives at
court. Before leaving he puts a seal ring on her finger and tells her
how she can count the days till a messenger shall arrive to bring her
to his palace. But month after month passes and no messenger arrives.
"The king has acted abominably toward Sakuntala," says one of her
friends; "he has deceived an inexperienced girl who put faith in him.
He has not even written her a letter, and she will soon be a mother."
She feels convinced, however, that the king's neglect is due to the
action of a saint who had cursed Sakuntala because she had not waited
on him promptly. "Like a drunkard, her lover shall forget what has
happened," was his curse. Relenting somewhat, he added afterward that
the force of the curse could be broken by bringing to the king some
ornament that he might have left as a souvenir. Sakuntala has her
ring, and relying on that she departs with a retinue for the royal
abode. On the way, in crossing a river, she loses the ring, and when
she confronts the king he fails to remember her and dismisses her
ignominiously. A fisherman afterward finds the ring in the stomach of
a fish, and it gets into the hands of the king, who, at sight of it,
remembers Sakuntala and is heartbroken at his cruel conduct toward
her. But he cannot at once make amends, as he has chased her away, and
it is not till some years later, and with supernatural aid, that they
are reunited.


The saint Narayana had spent so many years in solitude, addicted to
prayers and ascetic practices, that the gods dreaded his growing
power, which was making him like unto them, and to break it they sent
down to him some of the seductive apsaras. But the saint held a
flower-stalk to his loins, and Urvasi was born, a girl more beautiful
than the celestial bayaderes who had been sent to tempt him. He gave
this girl to the apsaras to take as a present to the god Indra, whose
entertainers they were. She soon became the special ornament of heaven
and Indra used her to bring the saints to fall.

One day King Pururavas, while out driving, hears female voices calling
for help. Five apsaras appear and implore him, if he can drive through
the air, to come to the assistance of their companion Urvasi, who has
been seized and carried away, northward, by a demon. The king
forthwith orders his charioteer to steer in that direction, and
erelong he returns victorious, with the captured maiden on his
chariot. She is still overcome with terror, her eyes are closed, and
as the king gazes at her he doubts that she can be the daughter of a
cold and learned hermit; the moon must have created her, or the god of
love himself. As the chariot descends, Urvasi, frightened, leans
against the king's shoulder, and the little hairs on his body stand up
straight, so much is he pleased thereat. He brings her back to the
other apsaras, who are on a mountain-top awaiting their return.
Urvasi, too much overcome to thank him for her rescue, begs one of her
friends to do it for her, whereupon the apsaras, bidding him good-by,
rise into the air. Urvasi lingers a moment on the pretence that her
pearl necklace has got entangled in a vine, but in reality to get
another peep at the king, who addresses fervent words of thanks to the
bush for having thus given him another chance to look on her face.
"Rising into the air," he exclaims, "this girl tears my heart from my
body and carries it away with her."

The queen soon notices that his heart has gone away with another. She
complains of this estrangement to her maid, to whom she sets the task
of discovering the secret of it. The maid goes at it slyly. Addressing
the king's viduschaka (confidential adviser), she informs him that the
queen is very unhappy because the king addressed her by the name of
the girl he longs for. "What?" retorts the viduschaka--"the king
himself has revealed the secret? He called her Urvasi?" "And who, your
honor, is Urvasi?" says the maid. "She is one of the apsaras," he
says. "The sight of her has infatuated the king's senses so that he
tortures not only the queen but me, the Brahman, too, for he no longer
thinks of eating." But he expresses his conviction that the folly will
not last long, and the maid departs.

Urvasi, tortured, like the king, by love and doubt, suppresses her
bashfulness and asks one of her friends to go with her to get her
pearl necklace which she had left entangled in the vine. "Then you are
hurrying down, surely, to see Pururavas, the king?" says the friend;
"and whom have you sent in advance?" "My heart," replied Urvasi. So
they fly down to the earth, invisible to mortals, and when they see
the king, Urvasi declares that he seems to her even more beautiful
than at their first meeting. They listen to the conversation between
him and the viduschaka. The latter advises his master to seek
consolation by dreaming of a union with his love, or by painting her
picture, but the king answers that dreams cannot come to a man who is
unable to sleep, nor would a picture be able to stop his flood of
tears. "The god of love has pierced my heart and now he tortures me by
denying my wish." Encouraged by these words, but unwilling to make
herself visible, Urvasi takes a piece of birch-bark, writes on it a
message, and throws it down. The king sees it fall, picks it up and

"I love you, O master; you did not know, nor I, that
you burn with love for me. No longer do I find rest on
my coral couch, and the air of the celestial grove
burns me like fire."

"What will he say to that?" wonders Urvasi, and her friend replies,
"Is there not an answer in his limbs, which have become like withered
lotos stalks?" The king declares to his friend that the message on the
leaf has made him as happy as if he had seen his beloved's face.
Fearing that the perspiration on his hand (the sign of violent love)
might wash away the message, he gives the birch-bark to the
viduschaka. Urvasi's friend now makes herself visible to the king, who
welcomes her, but adds that the sight of her delights him not as it
did when Urvasi was with her. "Urvasi bows before you," the apsara
answers, "and sends this message: 'You were my protector, O master,
when a demon offered me violence. Since I saw you, god Kama has
tortured me violently; therefore you must sometime take pity on me,
great king!'" And the king retorts: "The ardor of love is here equally
great on either side. It is proper that hot iron be welded with hot
iron." After this Urvasi makes herself visible, too, but the king has
hardly had time to greet her, when a celestial messenger arrives to
summon her hastily back to heaven, to her own great distress and the

Left alone, the king wants to seek consolation in the message written
on the birch-bark. But to their consternation, they cannot find it. It
had dropped from the viduschaka's hand and the wind had carried it
off. "O wind of Malaya," laments the king,

"you are welcome to all the fragrance breathing from
the flowers, but of what use to you is the love-letter
you have stolen from me? Know you not that a hundred
such consolers may save the life of a love-sick man who
cannot hope soon to attain the goal of his desires?"

In the meantime the queen and her maid have appeared in the
background. They come across the birch-bark, see the message on it,
and the maid reads it aloud. "With this gift of the celestial girl let
us now meet her lover," says the queen, and stepping forward, she
confronts the king with the words: "Here is the bark, my husband. You
need not search for it longer." Denial is useless; the king prostrates
himself at her feet, confessing his guilt and begging her not to be
angry at her slave. But she turns her back and leaves him. "I cannot
blame her," says the king; "homage to a woman leaves her cold unless
it is inspired by love, as an artificial jewel leaves an expert who
knows the fire of genuine stones." "Though Urvasi has my heart," he
adds, "yet I highly esteem the queen. Of course, I shall meet her with
firmness, since she has disdained my prostration at her feet."

The reason why Urvasi had been summoned back to heaven so suddenly was
that Indra wanted to hear a play which the celestial manager had
rehearsed with the apsaras. Urvasi takes her part, but her thoughts
are so incessantly with the king that she blunders repeatedly. She
puts passion into lines which do not call for it, and once, when she
is called on to answer the question, "To whom does her heart incline?"
she utters the name of her own lover instead of the one of similar
sound called for in the play. For these mistakes her teacher curses
her and forbids her remaining in heaven any longer. Then Indra says to
the abashed maiden: "I must do a favor to the king whom you love and
who aids me in battle. Go and remain with him at your will, until you
have borne him a son."

Ignorant of the happiness in store for him, the king meanwhile
continues to give utterance to his longings and laments. "The day has
not passed so very sadly; there was something to do, no time for
longing. But how shall I spend the long night, for which there is no
pastime?" The viduschaka counsels hope, and the king grants that even
the tortures of love have their advantage; for, as the force of the
torrent is increased a hundredfold if a rock is interposed, so is the
power of love if obstacles retard the blissful union. The twitching of
his right arm (a favorable sign) augments his hope. At the moment when
he remarks: "The anguish of love increases at night," Urvasi and her
friend came down from the air and hover about him. "Nothing can cool
the flame of my love," he continues,

"neither a bed of fresh flowers, nor moonlight, nor
strings of pearls, nor sandal ointment applied to the
whole body. The only part of my body that has attained
its goal is this shoulder, which touched her in the

At these words Urvasi boldly steps before the king, but he pays no
attention to her. "The great king," she complains to her friend,
"remains cold though I stand before him." "Impetuous girl," is the
answer, "you are still wearing your magic veil; he cannot see you."

At this moment voices are heard and the queen appears with her
retinue. She had already sent a message to the king to inform him that
she was no longer angry and had made a vow to fast and wear no finery
until the moon had entered the constellation of Rohini, in order to
express her penitence and conciliate her husband. The king, greeting
her, expresses sorrow that she should weaken her body, delicate as
lotos root, by thus fasting. "What?" he adds, "you yourself conciliate
the slave who ardently longs to be with you and who is anxious to win
your indulgence!" "What great esteem he shows her!" exclaims Urvasi,
with a confused smile; but her companion retorts: "You foolish girl, a
man of the world is most polite when he loves another woman." "The
power of my vow," says the queen, "is revealed in his solicitude for
me." Then she folds her hands, and, bowing reverently, says:

"I call to witness these two gods, the Moon and his
Rohini, that I beg my husband's pardon. Henceforth may
he, unhindered, associate with the woman whom he loves
and who is glad to be his companion."

"Is he indifferent to you?" asks the viduschaka. "Fool!" she replies;
"I desire only my husband's happiness, and give up my own for that.
Judge for yourself whether I love him."

When the queen has left, the king once more abandons himself to his
yearning for his beloved. "Would that she came from behind and put her
lotos hands over my eyes." Urvasi hears the words and fulfils his
wish. He knows who it is, for every little hair on his body stands up
straight. "Do not consider me forward if now I embrace his body," says
Urvasi to her friend; "for the queen has given him to me." "You take
my body as the queen's present," says the king; "but who, you thief,
allowed you before that to steal my heart?" "It shall always be yours
and I your slave alone," he continues. "When I took possession of the
throne I did not feel so near my goal as now when I begin my service
at your feet." "The moon's rays which formerly tortured me now refresh
my body, and welcome are Kama's arrows which used to wound me." "Did
my delaying do you harm?" asks Urvasi, and he replies: "Oh, no! Joy is
sweeter when it follows distress. He who has been exposed to the sun
is cooled by the tree's shade more than others;" and he ends the same
with the words: "A night seemed to consist of a hundred nights ere my
wish was fulfilled; may it be the same now that I am with you, O
beauty! how glad I should be!"

Absorbed by his happy love, the king hands over the reins of
government to his ministers and retires with Urvasi to a forest. One
day he looks for a moment thoughtfully at another girl, whereat Urvasi
gets so jealous that she refuses to accept his apology, and in her
anger forgets that no woman must walk into the forest of the war-god.
Hardly has she entered when she is changed into a vine. The king goes
out of his mind from grief; he roams all over the forest, alternately
fainting and raving, calling upon peacock and cuckoo, bee, swan, and
elephant, antelope, mountain, and river to give him tidings of his
beloved, her with the antelope eyes and the big breasts, and the hips
so broad that she can only walk slowly. At last he sees in a cleft a
large red jewel and picks it up. It is the stone of union which
enables lovers to find one another. An impulse leads him to embrace
the vine before him and it changes to Urvasi. A son is afterward born
to her, but she sends him away before the king knows about it, and has
him brought up secretly lest she be compelled to return at once to
heaven. But Indra sends a messenger to bring her permission to remain
with the king as long as he lives.


Queen Dharini, the head wife of King Agnimitra, has received from her
brother a young girl named Malavika, whom he has rescued from robbers.
The queen is just having a large painting made of herself and her
retinue, and Malavika finds a place on it at her side. The king sees
the picture and eagerly inquires: "Who is that beautiful maiden?" The
suspicious queen does not answer his question, but takes measures to
have the girl carefully concealed from him and kept busy with dancing
lessons. But the king accidentally hears Malavika's name and makes up
his mind that he must have her. "Arrange some stratagem," he says to
his viduschaka, "so I may see her bodily whose picture I beheld
accidentally." The viduschaka promptly stirs up a dispute between the
two dancing-masters, which is to be settled by an exhibition of their
pupils before the king. The queen sees through the trick too late to
prevent its execution and the king's desire is gratified. He sees
Malavika, and finds her more beautiful even than her picture--her face
like the harvest moon, her bosom firm and swelling, her waist small
enough to span with the hand, her hips big, her toes beautifully
curved. She has never seen the king, yet loves him passionately. Her
left eye twitches--a favorable sign--and she sings: "I must obey the
will of others, but my heart desires you; I cannot conceal it." "She
uses her song as a means of offering herself to you," says the
viduschaka to the king, who replies: "In the presence of the queen her
love saw no other way." "The Creator made her the poisoned arrow of
the god of love," he continues to his friend after the performance is
over and they are alone. "Apply your mind and think out other plans
for meeting her." "You remind me," says the viduschaka, "of a vulture
that hovers over a butcher's shop, filled with greed for meat but also
with fear. I believe the eagerness to have your will has made you
ill." "How were it possible to remain well?" the king retorts. "My
heart no longer desires intimacies with any woman in all my harem. To
her with the beautiful eyes, alone shall my love be devoted

In the royal gardens stands an asoka tree whose bloom is retarded. To
hasten it, the tree must be touched by the decorated foot of a
beautiful woman. The queen was to have done this, but an accident has
injured her foot and she has asked Malavika to take her place. While
the king and his adviser are walking in the garden they see Malavika
all alone. Her love has made her wither like a jasmine wreath blighted
by frost. "How long," she laments, "will the god of love make me
endure this anguish, from which there is no relief?" One of the
queen's maids presently arrives with the paints and rings for
decorating Malavika's feet. The king watches the proceeding, and after
the maiden has touched the tree with her left foot he steps forward,
to the confusion of the two women. He tells Malavika that he, like the
tree, has long had no occasion to bloom, and begs her to make him
also, who loves only her, happy with the nectar of her touch.
Unluckily this whole scene has also been secretly witnessed by
Iravati, the second of the king's wives, who steps forward at this
moment and sarcastically tells Malavika to do his bidding. The
viduschaka tries to help out his confused master by pretending that
the meeting was accidental, and the king humbly calls himself her
loving husband, her slave, asks her pardon, and prostrates himself;
but she exclaims: "These are not the feet of Malavika whose touch you
desire to still your longing," and departs. The king feels quite hurt
by her action. "How unjust," he exclaims,

"is love! My heart belongs to the dear girl, therefore
Iravati did me a service by not accepting my
prostration. And yet it was love that led her to do
that! Therefore I must not overlook her anger, but try
to conciliate her."

Iravati goes straight to the first queen to report on their common
husband's new escapade. When the king hears of this he is astonished
at "such persistent anger," and dismayed on learning further that
Malavika is now confined in a dungeon, under lock and key, which
cannot be opened unless a messenger arrives with the queen's own seal
ring. But once more the viduschaka devises a ruse which puts him in
possession of the seal ring. The maiden is liberated and brought to
the water-house, whither the king hastens to meet her with the
viduschaka, who soon finds an excuse for going outside with the girl's
companion, leaving the lovers alone. "Why do you still hesitate, O
beauty, to unite yourself with one who has so long longed for your
love?" exclaims the king; and Malavika answers: "What I should like to
do I dare not; I fear the queen." "You need not fear her." "Did I not
see the master himself seized with fear when he saw the queen?" "Oh,
that," replies the king, "was only a matter of good breeding, as
becomes princes. But you, with the long eyes, I love so much that my
life depends on the hope that you love me too. Take me, take me, who
long have loved you." With these words he embraces her, while she
tries to resist. "How charming is the coyness of young girls!" he

"Trembling, she tries to restrain my hand, which is
busy with her girdle; while I embrace her ardently she
puts up her own hands to protect her bosom; her
countenance with the beautiful eyelashes she turns
aside when I try to raise it for a kiss; by thus
struggling she affords me the same delight as if I had
attained what I desire."

Again the second queen and her maid appear unexpectedly and disturb
the king's bliss. Her object is to go to the king's picture in the
water-house and beg its pardon for having been disrespectful, this
being better, in her opinion, than appearing before the king himself,
since he has given his heart to another, while in that picture he has
eyes for her alone (as Malavika, too, had noticed when she entered the
water-house). The viduschaka has proved an unreliable sentinel; he has
fallen asleep at the door of the house. The queen's maid perceives
this and, to tease him, touches him with a crooked staff. He awakes
crying that a snake has bitten him. The king runs out and is
confronted again by Iravati. "Well, well!" she exclaims, "this couple
meet in broad daylight and without hindrance to gratify their wishes!"
"An unheard-of greeting is this, my dear," said the king. "You are
mistaken; I see no cause for anger. I merely liberated the two girls
because this is a holiday, on which servants must not be confined, and
they came here to thank me." But he is glad to escape when a messenger
arrives opportunely to announce that a yellow ape has frightened the

"My heart trembles when I think of the queen," says Malavika, left
alone with her companion. "What will become of me now?" But the queen
knows her duty, according to Hindoo custom. She makes her maids array
Malavika in marriage dress, and then sends a message to the king
saying that she awaits him with Malavika and her attendants. The girl
does not know why she has been so richly attired, and when the king
beholds her he says to himself: "We are so near and yet apart. I seem
to myself like the bird Tschakravaka;[277] and the name of the night
which does not allow me to be united with my love is Dharini." At that
moment two captive girls are brought before the assemblage, and to
everyone's surprise they greet Malavika as "Princess." A princess she
proves to be, on inquiry, and the queen now carries out the plan she
had had in her mind, with the consent also of the second queen, who
sends her apologies at the same time. "Take her," says Dharini to the
king, and at a hint of the viduschaka she takes a veil and by putting
it on the new bride makes her a queen and spouse of equal rank with
herself. And the king answers:

"I am not surprised at your magnanimity. If women are
faithful and kind to their husbands, they even bring,
by way of serving him, new wives to him, like unto the
rivers which provide that the water of other streams
also is carried to the ocean. I have now but one more
wish; be hereafter always, irascible queen, prepared to
do me homage. I wish this for the sake of the other


King Asvapati, though an honest, virtuous, pious man, was not blessed
with offspring, and this made him unhappy.[278] He curbed all his
appetites and for eighteen years lived a life of devotion to his
religious duties. At the expiration of these years Savitri, the
daughter of the sun-god, appeared to him and offered to reward him by
granting a favor. "Sons I crave, many sons, O goddess, sons to
preserve my family," he answered. But Savitri promised him a daughter;
and she was born to him by his oldest wife and was named after the
goddess Savitri. She grew up to be so beautiful, so broad-hipped, like
a golden statue, that she seemed of divine origin, and, abashed, none
of the men came to choose her as his wife. This saddened her father
and he said:

"Daughter, it is time for you to marry, but no one comes to
ask me for you. Go and seek your own husband, a man your
equal in worth. And when you have chosen, you must let me
know. Then I will consider him, and betroth you. For,
according to the laws, a father who does not give his
daughter in marriage is blameworthy."

And Savitri went on a golden chariot with a royal retinue, and she
visited all the groves of the saints and at last found a man after her
heart, whose name was Satyavant. Then she returned to her father--who
was just conversing with the divine sage Narada--and told him of her
choice. But Narada exclaimed: "Woe and alas, you have chosen one who
is, indeed, endowed with all the virtues, but who is doomed to die a
year from this day." Thereupon the king begged Savitri to choose
another for her husband, but she replied: "May his life be long or
short, may he have merits or no merits, I have selected him as my
husband, and a second I shall not choose." Then the king and Narada
agreed not to oppose her, and she went with her father to the grove
where she had seen Satyavant, the man of her choice. The king spoke to
this man's father and said: "Here, O royal saint, is my lovely
daughter, Savitri; take her as your daughter-in-law in accordance with
your duty as friend." And the saint replied: "Long have I desired such
a bond of relationship; but I have lost my royal dignity, and how
could your daughter endure the hardships of life in the forest?" But
the king replied that they heeded not such things and their mind was
made up. So all the Brahmans were called together and the king gave
his daughter to Satyavant, who was pleased to win a wife endowed with
so many virtues.

When her father had departed, Savitri put away all her ornaments and
assumed the plain garb of the saints. She was modest, self-contained,
and strove to make herself useful and to fulfil the wishes of all. But
she counted the days, and the time came when she had to say to
herself, "In three days he must die." And she made a vow and stood in
one place three days and nights; on the following day he was to die.
In the afternoon her husband took his axe on his shoulder and went
into the primeval forest to get some wood and fruits. For the first
time she asked to go with him. "The way is too difficult for you,"
said he, but she persisted; and her heart was consumed by the flames
of sadness. He called her attention, as they walked on, to the limpid
rivers and noble trees decked with flowers of many colors, but she had
eyes only for him, following his every movement; for she looked on him
as a dead man from that hour. He was filling his basket with fruits
when suddenly he was seized with violent headache and longing for
sleep. She took his head on her lap and awaited his last moment.

All at once she saw a man, in red attire, of fearful aspect, with a
rope in his hand. And she said: "Who are you?" "You," he replied, "are
a woman faithful to your husband and of good deeds, therefore will I
answer you. I am Yama, and I have come to take away your husband,
whose life has reached its goal." And with a mighty jerk he drew from
the husband's body his spirit, the size of a thumb, and forthwith the
breath of life departed from the body. Having carefully tied the soul,
Yama departed toward the south. Savitri, tortured by anguish, followed
him. "Turn back, Savitri," he said; "you owe your husband nothing
further, and you have gone as far as you can go." "Wherever my husband
goes or is taken, there I must go; that is an eternal duty." Thereupon
Yama offered to grant any favor she might ask--except the life of her
husband. "Restore the sight of the blind king, my father-in-law," she
said; and he answered: "It is done already." He offered a second favor
and she said: "Restore his kingdom to my father-in-law;" and it was
granted, as was also the third wish: "Grant one hundred sons to my
father, who has none." Her fourth wish, too, he agreed to: that she
herself might have a hundred sons; and as he made the fifth and last
wish unconditional, she said:

"Let Satyavant return to life; for, bereft of him, I
desire not happiness; bereft of him I desire not
heaven; I desire not to live bereft of him. A hundred
sons you have promised me, yet you take away my
husband? I desire this as a favor; let Satyavant live!"

"So be it!" answered the god of death as he untied the string.

"Your husband is released to you, blessed one, pride of
your race. Sound and well you shall take him home, live
with him four hundred years, beget one hundred sons,
and all of them shall be mighty kings."

With these words he went his way. Life returned to the body of
Satyavant, and his first feeling was distress lest his parents grieve
over his absence. Thinking him too weak to walk, Savitri wanted to
sleep in the forest, surrounded by a fire to keep off wild beasts, but
he replied:

"My father and mother are distressed even in the
daytime when I am away. Without them I could not live.
As long as they live I live only for them. Rather than
let anything happen to them, I give up my own life, you
woman with the beautiful hips; truly I shall kill
myself sooner."

So she helped him to rise, and they returned that very night, to the
great joy of their parents and friends; and all the promises of Yama
were fulfilled.


Once upon a time there was a king by the name of Nala, a man handsome
as the god of love, endowed with all the virtues, a favorite of men
and women. There was also another king, named Bhima, the Terrible. He
was renowned as a warrior and endowed with many virtues; yet he was
discontented, for he had no offspring. But it happened that he was
visited by a saint, whom he entertained so hospitably that the Brahman
granted him in return a favor: a daughter and three sons were born to
him. The daughter, who received the name of Damayanti, soon became
famed for her beauty, her dignity, and her gracious manners. She
seemed, amid her companions, like lightning born in a rain-cloud. Her
beauty was so much vaunted in the hearing of King Nala, and his merits
were so much extolled in her presence, that the two conceived an
ardent passion for one another, though they had never met. Nala could
hardly endure his yearnings of love; near the apartments of the women
there was a forest; into that he retired, living in solitude. One day
he came across some gold-decked geese. He caught one of them and she
said to him: "Spare my life and I promise to praise you in Damayanti's
presence in such a way that she shall never think of any other man."
He did so, and the goose flew to Damayanti and said: "There is a man
named Nala; he is like the celestial knights; no human being equals
him. Yes, if you could become _his_ wife, it would be worth while that
you were born and became so beautiful. You are the pearl among women,
but Nala, too, is the best of men." Damayanti begged the goose to go
and speak to Nala similarly about her, and the goose said "Yes" and
flew away.

From that moment Damayanti was always in spirit with Kala. Sunk in
reverie, sad, with pale face, she visibly wasted away, and sighing was
her only, her favorite, occupation. If anyone saw her gazing upward,
absorbed in her thoughts, he might have almost fancied her
intoxicated. Often of a sudden her whole face turned pale; in short,
it was plain that love-longing held her senses captive. Lying in bed,
sitting, eating, everything is distasteful to her; neither at night
nor by day does sleep come to her. Ah and alas! thus her wails
resound, and over and over again she begins to weep.

Her companions noted these symptoms and they said to the king:
"Damayanti is not at all well." The king reflected, "Why is my
daughter no longer well?" and it occurred to him that she had reached
the marriageable age, and it became clear to him that he must without
delay give her a chance to choose a husband. So he invited all the
kings to assemble at his court for that purpose on a certain day. Soon
the roads were filled with kings, princes, elephants, horses, wagons,
and warriors, for she, the pearl of the world, was desired of men
above all other women. King Nala also had received the message and set
out on his journey hopefully. Like the god of love incarnate he
looked. Even the ruling gods heard of the great event and went to join
the worldly rulers. As they approached the earth's surface they beheld
King Nala. Pleased with his looks, they accosted him and said: "We are
immortals journeying on account of Darnayanti. As for you, go you and
bring Damayanti this message: 'The four gods, Indra, Agni, Yama,
Varuna, desire to have you for a wife. Choose one of these four gods
as your wedded husband.'"

Folding his hands humbly, Nala replied:

"The very same affair has induced me to make this
journey: therefore you must not send me on this errand.
For how could a man who himself feels the longing of
love woo the same woman for another?"

But the gods ordered him to go at once, because he had promised to
serve them before he knew what they wanted. They endowed him with
power to enter the carefully guarded apartments of the princess, and
presently he found himself in her presence. Her lovely face, her
charmingly moulded limbs, her slender body, her beautiful eyes,
diffused a splendor that mocked the light of the moon and increased
his pangs of love; but he resolved to keep his promise. When the young
maidens beheld him they could not utter a word; they were dazed by the
splendor of his appearance, and abashed, the beautiful virgins. At
last the astonished Damayanti began to speak and said with a sweet

"Who are you, you with the faultless form, who increase
the yearnings of my love? Like an immortal you came

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