Part 5 out of 5
climate is then superior to that of any portion of the English
year. In Calcutta, this season continues for about three months;
in Upper India, for about five; and in the Panjab for about
seven. The rains in Bengal Proper are more violent and protracted
than in Hindustan and the Panjab. In the latter country they last
for hardly more than two months, and even then only fall at
intervals. Plays were acted on solemn and festive occasions, on
lunar holidays, and especially at the changes of the season.
6. _Of fragrant Patalas_.
The Patala or trumpet-flower; _Bignonia suaveolens_.
7. _With sweet [S']irisha flowers_.
The flowers of the _Acacia Sirisha_ were used by the Hindu women
8. _King Dushyanta_.
For the genealogy of King Dushyanta see Introduction, page
9. _That wields the trident_.
[S']iva is called Pinakin, that is, 'armed with a trident,' or
according to some, a bow named Pinaka. Siva not being invited to
Daksha's sacrifice, was so indignant, that, with his wife, he
suddenly presented himself, confounded the sacrifice, dispersed
the gods, and chasing Yajna, 'the lord of sacrifice,' who fled in
the form of a deer, overtook and decapitated him.
10. _Their waving plumes, that late
Fluttered above their brows, are motionless._
The Chamari, or chowrie, formed of the white bushy tail of the
Yak, or _Bos grunniens_, was placed as an ornament between the
ears of horses, like the plume of the war-horse of chivalry. The
velocity of the chariot caused it to lose its play, and appear
fixed in one direction, like a flag borne rapidly against the
11. _The steeds of Indra and the Sun._
That is, the speed of the chariot resembled that of the Wind and
the Sun. Indra was the god of the firmament or atmosphere--the
Jupiter Tonans of Hindu mythology--and presided over the
forty-nine Winds. He has a heaven of his own (Swarga), of which
he is the lord, and, although inferior to the three great deities
of the Hindu Triad (Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva), he is chief of the
secondary gods. The Hindus represent the Sun as seated in a
chariot, drawn by seven green horses, having before him a lovely
youth without legs, who acts as his charioteer, and who is Aruna,
or the Dawn personified.
12. _Puru's race_.
See Dushyanta's pedigree detailed at page xxxviii of the
13. _The great sage Kanwa_.
The sage Kanwa was a descendant of Kasyapa, whom the Hindus
consider to have been the father of the inferior gods, demons,
man, fish, reptiles, and all animals, by his twelve wives. Kanwa
was the chief of a number of devotees, or hermits, who had
constructed a hermitage on the banks of the river Malini, and
surrounded it with gardens and groves, where penitential rites
were performed, and animals were reared for sacrificial purposes,
or for the amusement of the inmates. There is nothing new in
asceticism. The craving after self-righteousness, and the desire
of acquiring merit by self-mortification, is an innate principle
of the human heart, and ineradicable even by Christianity.
Witness the monastic institutions of the Romish Church, of which
Indian penance-groves were the type. The Superior of a modern
Convent is but the antitype of Kanwa; and what is Romanism but
humanity developing itself in some of its most inveterate
14. _He has gone to Soma tirtha_.
A place of pilgrimage in the west of India, on the coast of
Gujarat, near the temple of Somanath, or Somnat, made notorious
by its gates, which were brought back from Ghazni by Lord
Ellenborough's orders in 1842, and are now to be seen in the
arsenal at Agra. These places of pilgrimage were generally fixed
on the bank of some sacred stream, or in the vicinity of some
holy spring. The word _tirtha_ is derived from a Sanskrit root,
_tri_, 'to cross,' implying that the river has to be passed
through, either for the washing away of sin, or extrication from
some adverse destiny. Thousands of devotees still flock to the
most celebrated Tirthas on the Ganges, at Benares, Haridwar, etc.
A tree, commonly called Ingua, or Jiyaputa, from the fruit of
which oil was extracted, which the devotees used for their lamps
and for ointment. One synonym for this tree is _tapasa-taru_,
'the anchorite's tree.'
16. _Bark-woven vests_.
Dresses made of bark, worn by ascetics, were washed in water, and
then suspended to dry on the branches of trees.
17. _By deep canals_.
It was customary to dig trenches round the roots of trees, to
collect the rain-water.
18. _My throbbing arm_.
A quivering sensation in the right arm was supposed by the Hindus
to prognosticate union with a beautiful woman. Throbbings of the
arm or eyelid, if felt on the right side, were omens of good
fortune in men; if on the left, bad omens. The reverse was true
of women. 19. _The hard acacia's stem_.
The Sami tree, a kind of acacia (_Acacia Suma_), the wood of
which is very hard, and supposed by the Hindus to contain fire.
20. _The lotus_.
This beautiful plant, the varieties of which, white, blue, and
red, are numerous, bears some resemblance to our water-lily. It
is as favourite a subject of allusion and comparison with Hindu
poets as the rose is with Persian.
21. _With the Saivala entwined_.
The [S']aivala (_Vallisneria_) is an aquatic plant, which spreads
itself over ponds, and interweaves itself with the lotus. The
interlacing of its stalks is compared in poetry to braided hair.
22. _Yon Ke[s']ara tree_.
The Ke[s']ara tree (_Mimusops elengi_) is the same as the Bakula,
frequent mention of which is made is some of the Puranas. It
bears a strong-smelling flower, which, according to Sir W. Jones,
is ranked among the flowers of the Hindu paradise. The tree Is
very ornamental in pleasure-grounds.
23. _Would that my union with her were permissible_.
A Brahman might marry a woman of the military or kingly class
next below him, and the female offspring of such a marriage would
belong to a mixed caste, and might be lawfully solicited in
marriage by a man of the military class. But if [S']akoontala were
a pure Brahmani woman, both on the mother's and father's side,
she would be ineligible as the wife of a Kshatriya king.
Dushyanta discovers afterwards that she was, in fact, the
daughter of the great Vi[s']wamitra (see note 27), who was of the
same caste as himself, though her mother was the nymph Menaka.
24. _I trust all is well with your devotional rites_.
This was the regular formula of salutation addressed to persons
engaged in religions exercises.
25. _This water that we have brought with us will serve to bathe
our guest's feet_.
Water for the feet is one of the first things invariably provided
for a guest in all Eastern countries. Compare Genesis xxiv. 32;
Luke vii. 44. If the guest were a Brahman, or a man of rank, a
respectful offering (_argha_) of rice, fruit, and flowers was
next presented. In fact, the rites of hospitality in India were
enforced by very stringent regulations. The observance of them
ranked as one of the five great sacred rites, and no punishment
was thought too severe for one who violated them. If a guest
departed unhonoured from a house, his sins were to be transferred
to the householder, and all the merits of the householder were to
be transferred to him.
26. _Sapta-parna tree_.
A tree having seven leaves on a stalk (_Echites scholaris_).
27. _Vis']wamitra, whose family name is Kausika_.
In the Ramayana, the great sage Vi[s']wamitra (both king and saint),
who raised himself by his austerities from the regal to the
Brahmanical caste, is said to be the son of Gadhi, King of Kanuj,
grandson of Kusanatha, and great-grandson of Kusika or Kusa. On
his accession to the throne, in the room of his father Gadhi, in
the course of a tour through his dominions, he visited the
hermitage of the sage Vasishtha, where the Cow of Plenty, a cow
granting all desires, excited his cupidity. He offered the sage
untold treasures for the cow; but being refused, prepared to take
it by force. A long war ensued between the king and the sage
(symbolical of the struggles between the military and Brahmanical
classes), which ended in the defeat of Vi[s']wamitra, whose vexation
was such, that he devoted himself to austerities, in the hope of
attaining the condition of a Brahman. The Ramayana recounts how,
by gradually increasing the rigour of his penance through
thousands of years, he successively earned the title of Royal
Sage, Sage, Great Sage, and Brahman Sage. It was not till he had
gained this last title that Vasishtha consented to acknowledge
his equality with himself, and ratify his admission into the
Brahmanical state. It was at the time of Vi[s']wamitra's advancement
to the rank of a Sage, and whilst he was still a Kshatriya, that
Indra, jealous of his increasing power, sent the nymph Menaka to
seduce him from his life of mortification and continence. The Ramayana
records his surrender to this temptation, and relates that the nymph
was his companion in the hermitage for ten years, but does not allude
to the birth of [S']akoontala during that period.
28. _The inferior gods, I am aware, are jealous_.
According to the Hindu system, Indra and the other inferior
deities were not the possessors of Swarga, or heaven, by
indefeasible right. They accordingly viewed with jealousy, and
even alarm, any extraordinary persistency by a human being in
acts of penance, as it raised him to a level with themselves;
and, if carried beyond a certain point, enabled him to dispossess
them of Paradise. Indra was therefore the enemy of excessive
self-mortification, and had in his service numerous nymphs who
were called his 'weapons,' and whose business it was to impede by
their seductions the devotion of holy men.
The name of the matron or Superior of the female part of the
society of hermits. Every association of religious devotees seems
to have included a certain number of women, presided over by an
elderly and venerable matron, whose authority resembled that of
an abbess in a convent of nuns.
This grass was held sacred by the Hindus, and was abundantly
used in all their religions ceremonies. Its leaves are very long,
and taper to a sharp needle-like point, of which the extreme
acuteness was proverbial; whence the epithet applied to a clever
man, 'sharp as the point of Ku[s']a-grass.' Its botanical name is
A species of Jhinti or Barleria, with purple flowers, and covered
with sharp prickles.
32. _The Jester_.
See an account of this character in the Introduction, p. xxxiv.
33. _We have nothing to eat but roast game_.
Indian game is often very dry and flavourless.
34. _Attended by the Yavana women_.
Who these women were has not been accurately ascertained. Yavana
is properly Arabia, but is also a name applied to Greece. The
Yavana women were therefore either natives of Arabia, or Greece,
and their business was to attend upon the king, and take charge
of his weapons, especially his bow and arrows. Professor H. H.
Wilson, in his translation of the Vikramorva[s']i, where the same
word occurs (Act V. p. 261), remarks that Tartarian or Bactrian
women may be intended.
35. _In the disc of crystal_.
That is, the sun-gem (_Surya-kanta_, 'beloved by the sun'), a
shining stone resembling crystal. Professor Wilson calls it a
fabulous stone with fabulous properties, and mentions another
stone, the moon-gem (_chandra-kanta_). It may be gathered from
this passage that the sun-stone was a kind of glass lens, and
that the Hindus were not ignorant of the properties of this
instrument at the time when '[S']akoontala' was written.
36. _Some fallen blossoms of the jasmine_.
The jasmine here intended was a kind of double jasmine with a
very delicious perfume, sometimes called 'Arabian jasmine'
(_Jasminum zambac_). It was a delicate plant, and, as a creeper,
would depend on some other tree for support. The Arka, or
sun-tree (Gigantic Asclepias: _Calotropis gigantea_), on the
other hand, was a large and vigorous shrub. Hence the former is
compared to [S']akoontala, the latter to the sage Kanwa.
_The mellowed fruit
Of virtuous actions in some former birth_.
The doctrine of the transmigration of the soul from one body to
another is an essential dogma of the Hindu religion, and
connected with it is the belief in the power which every human
being possesses of laying up for himself a store of merit by good
deeds performed in the present and former births. Indeed the
condition of every person is supposed to derive its character of
happiness or misery, elevation or degradation, from the virtues
or vices of previous states of being. The consequences of actions
in a former birth are called _vipaka_; they may be either good
or bad, but are rarely unmixed with evil taint.
In the present comparison, however, they are described as pure
and unalloyed. With reference to the first four lines of this
stanza, compare Catullus, Carmen Nuptiale, verse 39.
'Ut flos in septis secretus nascitur hortis,
Ignotus pecori, nullo contusus aratro,
Quem mulcent aurae, firmat sol, educat imber:
Multi illuum pueri, multae optavere puellae:
Idem quum tenui carptus defloruit ungui,
Nulli illum pueri, nallae optavere puellae:
Sic virgo, dum intacta manet,' etc.
38. _The sixth part of their grain_.
According to Manu, a king might take a sixth part of liquids,
flowers, roots, fruit, grass, etc.; but, even though dying with
want, he was not to receive any tax from a Brahman learned in the
39. _A title only one degree removed from that of a Sage_.
Dushyanta was a Rajarshi; that is, a man of the military class
who had attained the rank of Royal Sage or Saint by the practice
of religious austerities. The title of Royal or Imperial Sage was
only one degree inferior to that of Sage. Compare note 27.
40. _Chanted by inspired bards_.
Or celestial minstrels, called Gandharvas. These beings were the
musicians of Indra's heaven, and their business was to amuse the
inhabitants of Swarga by singing the praises of gods, saints, or
heroes. Compare note 11.
41. _In their fierce warfare with the powers of hell_.
Indra and the other inferior gods (compare note 11) were for ever
engaged in hostilities with their half-brothers, the demons
called Daityas, who were the giants or Titans of Hindu mythology.
On such occasions the gods seem to have depended very much upon
the assistance they received from mortal heroes.
42. _Evil demons are disturbing our sacrificial rites_.
The religious rites and sacrifices of holy men were often
disturbed by certain evil spirits or goblins called Rakshasas,
who were the determined enemies of piety and devotion. No great
sacrifice or religious ceremony was ever carried on without an
attempt on the part of these demons to impede its celebration;
and the most renowned saints found it necessary on such occasions
to acknowledge their dependence on the strong arm of the military
class, by seeking the aid of warriors and heroes. The inability
of holy men, who had attained the utmost limit of spiritual
power, to cope with the spirits of evil, and the superiority of
physical force in this respect, is very remarkable.
Vishnu, the Preserver, was one of the three gods of the Hindu
Triad. He became incarnate in various forms for the good of
mortals, and is the great enemy of the demons.
14 _Like king Tri[s']anku_.
The story of this monarch is told in the Ramayana. He is there
described as a just and pious prince of the solar race, who
aspired to celebrate a great sacrifice, hoping thereby to ascend
to heaven in his mortal body. After various failures he had
recourse to Vi[s']wamitra, who undertook to conduct the sacrifice,
and invited all the gods to be present. They, however, refused to
attend; upon which the enraged Vi[s']wamitra, by his own power,
transported Tri[s']anku to the skies, whither he had no sooner
arrived than he was hurled down again by Indra and the gods; but
being arrested in his downward course by the sage, he remained
suspended between heaven and earth, forming a constellation in
the southern hemisphere.
45. _Ointment of Usira-root_.
The root of a fragrant grass (_Andropogon muricatum_), from
which a cooling ointment was made.
46. _The very breath of his nostrils_.
Compare Lam. iv. 20. 'The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of
the Lord, was taken.'
47. _God of the flowery shafts_.
The Hindu Cupid, or god of love (Kama), is armed with a bow made
of sugar-cane, the string of which consists of bees. He has five
arrows, each tipped with the blossom of a flower, which pierce
the heart through the five senses; and his favourite arrow is
pointed with the _chita_, or mango-flower.
48. _E'en now in thy unbodied essence lurks The fire of [S']iva's
The story is thus told in the Ramayana. Kama (Cupid) once
approached [S']iva that he might influence him with love for his
wife, Parvati. [S']iva happened then to be practising austerities,
and intent on a vow of chastity. He therefore cursed the god of
love in a terrible voice, and at the same time a flash from his
eye caused the god's body to shrivel into ashes. Thus Kama was
made incorporeal, and from that time was called 'the bodiless
_Like the flame,
That ever hidden in the secret depths
Of ocean, smoulders there unseen_.
This submarine fire was called Aurva,
from the following fable. The Rishi Aurva, who had gained great
power by his austerities, was pressed by the gods and others to
perpetuate his race. He consented, but warned them that his
offspring would consume the world. Accordingly, he created from
his thigh a devouring fire, which, as soon as it was produced,
demanded nourishment, and would have destroyed the whole earth,
had not Brahma appeared and assigned the ocean as its habitation,
and the waves as its food. The spot where it entered the sea was
called 'the mare's mouth.' Doubtless the story was invented to
suit the phenomenon of some marine volcano, which may have
exhaled through the water bituminous inflammable gas, and which,
perhaps in the form of a horse's mouth, was at times visible
above the sea.
50 _Who on his 'scutcheon bears the monster-fish_.
The Hindu Cupid is said to have subdued a marine monster, which
was, therefore, painted on his banner.
51 _The graceful undulation of her gait_.
_Hansa-gamini_, 'walking like a swan,' was an epithet for a
graceful woman. The Indian lawgiver, Manu, recommends that a
Brahman should choose for his wife a young maiden, whose gait was
like that of a phoenicopter, or flamingo, or even like that of a
young elephant. The idea in the original is, that the weight of
her hips had caused the peculiar appearance observable in the
print of her feet. Largeness of the hips was considered a great
beauty in Hindu women, and would give an undulatory motion to
their walk. 52 _The Madhavi_.
A large and beautiful creeper (_Gaertnera racemosa_), bearing
white, fragrant flowers, to which constant allusion is made in
53 _Pines to be united with the Moon_.
A complete revolution of the moon, with respect to the stars, being
made in twenty-seven days, odd hours, the Hindus divide the heavens
into twenty-seven constellations (asterisms) or lunar stations, one
of which receives the moon for one day in each of his monthly journeys.
As the Moon, Chandra, is considered to be a masculine deity, the Hindus
fable these twenty-seven constellations as his wives, and personify
them as the daughters of Daksha. Of these twenty-seven wives, twelve
of whom give names to the twelve months, Chandra is supposed to show
the greatest affection for the fourth, Rohini; but each of the others,
and amongst them Vi[s']akha, is represented as jealous of this
partiality, and eager to secure the Moon's favour for herself,
Dushyanta probably means to compare himself to the Moon (he being of
the Lunar race) and [S']akoontala to Vi[s']akha.
54. _Checks its fall_.
Owing to emaciation and disuse of the bow, the callosities on the
forearm, usually caused by the bow-string, were not sufficiently
prominent to prevent the bracelet from slipping down from the
wrist to the elbow, when the arm was raised to support the head.
This is a favourite idea with Kalidasa to express the attenuation
caused by love.
55. _No nuptial rites prevail_.
A marriage without the usual ceremonies is called Gandharva. It
was supposed to be the form of marriage prevalent among the
nymphs of India's heaven. In the 3rd Book of Manu (v. 22), it is
included among the various marriage rites, and is said to be a
union proceeding entirely from love, or mutual inclination, and
concluded without any religious services, and without consulting
relatives. It was recognized as a legal marriage by Manu and
other lawgivers, though it is difficult to say in what respect it
differed from unlawful cohabitation.
56. _The loving birds doomed by fate to nightly separation_.
That is, the male and female of the Chakravaka, commonly called Chakwa
and Chakwi, or Brahmani duck (_Anas casarca_). These birds associate
together during the day, and are, like turtle-doves, patterns of
connubial affection; but the legend is, that they are doomed to pass
the night apart, in consequence of a curse pronounced upon them by a
saint whom they had offended. As soon as night commences, they take
up their station on the opposite banks of a river, and call to each
other in piteous cries. The Bengalis consider their flesh to be a good
medicine for fever.
57. _The great sage Durvasas_.
A Saint or Muni, represented by the Hindu poets as excessively
choleric and inexorably severe. The Puranas and other poems
contain frequent accounts of the terrible effects of his
imprecations on various occasions, the slightest offence being in
his eyes deserving of the most fearful punishment. On one
occasion he cursed Indra, merely because his elephant let fall a
garland he had given to this god; and in consequence of this
imprecation all plants withered, men ceased to sacrifice, and the
gods were overcome in their wars with the demons.
58. _Propitiatory offering_.
Compare note 25.
59. _His blushing charioteer_.
Compare note 11.
60. _Night-loving lotus_.
Some species of the lotus, especially the white esculent kind,
open their petals during the night, and close them during the
day, whence the moon is often called the 'lover, or lord of the
61. _The very centre of the sacred fire_.
Fire was an important object of veneration with the Hindus, as
with the ancient Persians. Perhaps the chief worship recognized
in the Vedas is that of Fire and the Sun. The holy fire was
deposited in a hallowed part of the house, or in a sacred
building, and kept perpetually burning. Every morning and
evening, oblations were offered to it by dropping clarified
butter and other substances into the flame, accompanied with
prayers and invocations.
62. _As in the sacred tree the mystic fire_.
Literally, 'as the [S']ami-tree is pregnant with fire.' The legend
is, that the goddess Parvati, being one day under the influence
of love, reposed on a trunk of this tree, whereby a sympathetic
warmth was generated in the pith or interior of the wood, which
ever after broke into a sacred flame on the slightest attrition.
The ancient Delhi, situated on the Ganges, and the capital of
Dushyanta. Its site is about fifty miles from the modern Delhi,
which is on the Jumna,
64 _E'en as Yayati [S']armishtha adored_,
[S']armishtha was the daughter of Vrishaparvan, king of the
demons, and wife of Yayati, son of Nahusha, one of the princes of
the Lunar dynasty, and ancestor of Dushyanta. Puru was the son of
Yayati, by [S']armishtha.
65 _And for whose encircling bed, Sacred Kusa-grass is spread_.
At a sacrifice, sacred fires were lighted at the four cardinal
points, and Ku[s']a-grass was scattered around each fire, 66
The Koil, or Kokil, is the Indian cuckoo. It is sometimes called
Para-bhrita ('nourished by another'). because the female is known
to leave her eggs in the nest of the crow to be hatched. The bird
is as great a favourite with Indian poets as the nightingale with
European. One of its names is 'Messenger of Spring.' Its note is
a constant subject of allusion, and is described as beautifully
sweet, and, if heard on a journey, indicative of good fortune.
Everything, however, is beautiful by comparison. The song of the
Koil is not only very dissimilar, but very inferior to that of
67 _The peacock on the lawn Ceases its dance_,
The Indian peacock is very restless, especially at the approach
of rain, in which it is thought to take delight. Its circular
movements are a frequent subject of allusion with Hindu poets,
and are often by them compared to dancing.
68. _The moonlight of the grove_.
The name of [S']akoontala's favourite jasmine, spoken of in the 1st
Act. See page 15 of this volume.
Not the Banyan-tree (_Ficus Indica_), nor the Pippala (_Ficus
religiosa_), but the Glomerous Fig-tree (_Ficus glomerata_),
which yields a resinous milky juice from its bark, and is large
enough to afford abundant shade.
70. _The poor female Chakravaka_.
Compare note 56.
71. _Like a young tendril of the sandal-tree torn from its home
in the western mountains_.
The sandal is a kind of large myrtle with pointed leaves (_Sirium
myrtifolium_). The wood affords many highly esteemed perfumes,
unguents, etc., and is celebrated for its delicious scent. It is
chiefly found on the slopes of the Malaya mountain or Western
Ghauts on the Malabar coast. The roots of the tree are said to be
infested with snakes. Indeed it seems to pay dearly for the
fragrance of its wood: 'The root is infested by serpents, the
blossoms by bees, the branches by monkeys, the summit by bears.
In short there is not a part of the sandal-tree that is not
occupied by the vilest impurities.' Hitopade[s']a, verse 162.
72. _The calm seclusion of thy former home_.
'When the father of a family perceives his own wrinkles and grey
hair, committing the care of his wife to his sons, or accompanied
by her, let him repair to the woods and become a hermit.'--Manu,
vi. 2. It was usual for kings, at a certain time of life, to
abdicate the throne in favour of the heir-apparent, and pass the
remainder of their days in seclusion.
73. _A frequent offering to our household gods_.
This was an offering (_bali_) in honour of those spiritual
beings called 'household deities,' which were supposed to hover
round and protect houses. It was made by throwing up into the air
in some part of the house (generally at the door) the remains of
the morning and evening meal of rice or grain, uttering at the
same time a _mantra_, or prayer.
74. _In other states of being_.
Dim recollections of occurrences in former states of existence
are supposed occasionally to cross the mind. Compare note 37.
75. _The Chamberlain_.
The attendant on the women's apartment. He is generally a
Brahman, and usually appears in the plays as a tottering and
decrepit old man, leaning on his staff of office. 76. _The king
of serpents on his thousand heads_.
A mythological serpent, the personification of eternity, and king
of the Nagas, or snakes, who inhabit Patala, the lowermost of the
seven regions below the earth. His body formed the couch of
Vishnu, reposing on the waters of Chaos, whilst his thousand
heads were the god's canopy. He is also said to uphold the world
on one of his heads.
77. _The chamber of the consecrated fire_.
Compare note 61.
78. _Two heralds_.
These heralds were introduced into Hindu plays something in the
same manner as a Chorus; and, although their especial duty was to
announce, in measured verse, the periods of the day, and
particularly the fixed divisions into which the king's day was
divided, yet the strain which they poured forth frequently
contained allusions to incidental circumstances. The royal office
was no sinecure. From the Da[s']a-kumara, it appears that the day
and night were each divided into eight portions of one hour and a
half, reckoned from sunrise; and were thus distributed: Day--l.
The king, being dressed, is to audit accounts; 2. He is to
pronounce judgment in appeals; 3. He is to breakfast; 4. He is to
receive and make presents; 5. He is to discuss political
questions with his ministers; 6. He is to amuse himself; 7. He is
to review his troops; 8. He is to hold a military council.
Night--l. He is to receive the reports of his spies and envoys;
2. He is to sup or dine; 3. He is to retire to rest after the
perusal of some sacred work; 4 and 5. He is to sleep; 6. He is to
rise and purify himself; 7. He is to hold a private consultation
with his ministers, and instruct his officers; 8. He is to attend
upon the _Purohita_ or family priest, for the performance of
religious ceremonies. See Wilson's Hindu Theatre, vol. i. p. 209.
79. _Feeling a quivering sensation in her right eyelid_.
Compare note 18.
80. _The protector of the four classes of the people, the
guardian of the four conditions of the priesthood_.
A remarkable feature in the ancient Hindu social system, as
depicted in the plays, was the division of the people into four
classes or castes:--1st. The sacerdotal, consisting of the
Brahmans.--2nd. The military, consisting of fighting men, and
including the king himself and the royal family. This class
enjoyed great privileges, and must have been practically the most
powerful.--3rd. The commercial, including merchants and
husbandmen.--4th. The servile, consisting of servants and slaves.
Of these four divisions the first alone has been preserved in its
purity to the present day, although the Rajputs claim to be the
representatives of the second class. The others have been lost in
a multitude of mixed castes formed by intermarriage, and bound
together by similarity of trade or occupation. With regard to the
sacerdotal class, the Brahmans, who formed it, were held to be
the chief of all human beings; they were superior to the king,
and their lives and property were protected by the most stringent
laws. They were to divide their lives into four quarters, during
which they passed through four states or conditions, viz. as
religious students, as householders, as anchorites, and as
81. _That he is pleased with ill-assorted unions_.
The god Brahma seems to have enjoyed a very unenviable notoriety
as taking pleasure in ill-assorted marriages, and encouraging
them by his own example in the case of his own daughter.
82. _[S']achi's sacred pool near Sakravatara_.
[S']akra is a name of the god Indra, and Sakravatara is a sacred
place of pilgrimage where he descended upon earth. [S']achi is his
wife, to whom a _Urtha_, or holy bathing-place, was probably
consecrated at the place where [S']akoontala had performed her
ablutions. Compare note 14.
83. _The wily Koil_.
Compare note 66.
84. _With the discus or mark of empire in the lines of his
When the lines of the right hand formed themselves into a circle,
it was thought to be the mark of a future hero or emperor.
85. _A most refined occupation, certainly!_
Spoken ironically. The occupation of a fisherman, and, indeed, any
occupation which involved the sin of slaughtering animals, was
considered despicable. Fishermen, butchers, and leather-sellers were
equally objects of scorn. In Lower Bengal the castes of Jaliyas and
Bagdis, who live by fishing, etc., are amongst the lowest, and eke
out a precarious livelihood by thieving and dacoity.
86. _And he should not forsake it_.
The great Hindu lawgiver is very peremptory in restricting
special occupations (such as fishing, slaughtering animals,
basket-making) to the mixed and lowest castes. 'A man of the
lowest caste, who, through covetousness, lives by the acts of the
highest, let the king strip of all his wealth and banish. His own
business, though badly performed, is preferable to that of
another, though well performed.'--Manu, x. 96. In the later Hindu
system the sacrifice of animals is practised by the priests of
the goddess Kali only.
That is, the Rohita, or Rohi (red) fish (_Cyprinus rohita_), a
kind of carp found in lakes and ponds in the neighbourhood of the
Ganges. It grows to the length of three feet, is very voracious,
and its flesh, though it often has a muddy taste, is edible. Its
back is olive-coloured, its belly of a golden hue, its fins and
eyes red. This fish is often caught in tanks in Lower Bengal of
the weight of twenty-five or thirty pounds.
88. _I long to begin binding the flowers round his head_.
It is evident from the Malati-Madhava, and other plays, that a
victim, about to be offered as a sacrifice, had a wreath of
flowers bound round the head.
89. _The great vernal festival_.
In celebration of the return of Spring, and said to be in honour
of Krishna, and of his son Kama-deva, the god of love. It is
identified with the Holi or Dola-yatra, the Saturnalia, or
rather, Carnival of the Hindus, when people of all conditions
take liberties with each other, especially by scattering red
powder and coloured water on the clothes of persons passing in
the street, as described in the play called Ratnavali, where the
crowd are represented as using syringes and waterpipes. Flowers,
and especially the opening blossoms of the mango, would naturally
be much employed for decoration at this festival, as an offering
to the god of love. It was formerly held on the full moon of the
month Chaitra, or about the beginning of April, but it is now
celebrated on the full moon of Phalguna, or about the beginning
of March. The other great Hindu festival, held in the autumn,
about October, is called Durga-puja, being in honour of the
goddess Durga. The Holi festival is now so disfigured by unseemly
practices and coarse jests that it is reprobated by the
respectable natives, and will probably, in the course of time,
either die out or be prohibited by legal enactment.
90. _Am not I named after the Koil?_
Compare note 66.
91. _Thy fire unerring shafts_.
Compare note 47.
92. _The amaranth_
That is, the Kuruvaka, either the crimson amaranth, or a purple
species of _Barleria_.
93. _My finger burning with the glow of love_.
However offensive to our notions of good taste, it is certain
that, in Hindu erotic poetry, a hot hand is considered to be one
of the signs of passionate love. Compare Othello, Act III. Scene
4. 'Give me your hand: this hand is moist, my lady--hot, hot,
94. _The airy vapours of the desert_.
A kind of mirage floating over waste places, and appearing at a
distance like water. Travellers and some animals, especially
deer, are supposed to be attracted and deceived by it.
The name of this celebrated range of mountains is derived from
two Sanskrit words, _hima_, 'ice' or 'snow' (Lat. _hiems_), and
_alaya_, 'abode.' The pronunciation Himalaya is incorrect.
96. _As [S']iva did the poison at the Deluge_.
At the churning of the ocean, after the Deluge, by the gods and
demons, for the recovery or production of fourteen sacred things,
a deadly poison called Kala-kuta, or Hala-hala, was generated, so
virulent that it would have destroyed the world, had not the god
[S']iva swallowed it. Its only effect was to leave a dark blue mark
on his throat, whence his name Nila-kantha. This name is also
given to a beautiful bird, not wholly unlike our jay, common in
97. _Palace of clouds_.
The palace of King Dushyanta, so called because it was lofty as
98. _The foreman of a guild belonging to Ayodhya_.
The chief of a guild or corporation of artisans practising the
same trade. Ayodhya, or the Invincible City, was the ancient
capital of Ramachandra, founded by Ikshwaku, the first of the
Solar dynasty. It was situated on the river Sarayu in the north
of India, and is now called Oude.
99. _My ancestors Must drink these glistening tears, the last
Oblations to the spirits of the deceased are offered by the
nearest surviving relatives soon after the funeral ceremonies;
and are repeated once in every year. They are supposed to be
necessary to secure the well-being of the souls of the dead in
the world appropriated to them. The oblation-ceremony is called
[S']raddha, and generally consisted in offering balls made of rice
and milk, or in pouring out water, or water and sesamum-seed
mixed. These ceremonies are still regarded as essential to the
welfare of deceased persons, and their celebration is marked by
magnificent feasts, to which relations and a host of Brahmans are
invited. A native who had grown rich in the time of Warren
Hastings spent nine lakhs of rupees on his mother's [S']raddha; and
large sums are still spent on similar occasions by wealthy Hindus
(see my 'Brahmanism and Hinduism,' p. 306).
100. _The mother of the great Indra_.
That is, Aditi, the wife of Ka[s']yapa, with whom, in their sacred
retreat, [S']akoontala was enjoying an asylum.
101. _Distinguishes the milk from worthless water_.
The Hindus imagine that the flamingo (a kind of goose) is the
vehicle on which the god Brahma is borne through the air; and
that this bird, being fond of the pulpy fibres of the water-lily,
has been gifted by him with the power of separating the milky
from the watery portion of the juice contained in the stalk of
The charioteer of Indra. In the pictures which represent this god
mounted on his usual vehicle--an elephant called Airavata--Matali
is seen seated before him on the withers of the animal, acting as
its driver. In the plays, however, Indra is generally represented
borne in a chariot drawn by two horses, guided by Matali.
A Daitya or demon, with a hundred arms and as many heads.
A celebrated divine sage, usually reckoned among the ten
patriarchs first created by Brahma. He acted as a messenger of
105. _Tinged with celestial sandal from the breast_.
The breast of Indra was dyed yellow with a fragrant kind of
sandal-wood (_hari-chandana_); and the garland by rubbing
against it, became tinged with the same color. Wreaths and
garlands of flowers are much used by the Hindus as marks of
honorary distinction, as well as for ornament or festive
occasions. They are suspended round the neck.
106. _The ever-blooming tree of Nandana_.
That is, Mandara, one of the five ever-blooming trees of Nandana,
or Swarga, Indra's heaven. The two most celebrated of these trees
were the Parijata and the Kalpa-druma, or tree granting all
desires. Each of the superior Hindu gods has a heaven, paradise,
or elysium of his own. That of Brahma is called Brahma-loka,
situate on the summit of mount Meru; that of Vishnu is Vaikuntha,
on the Himalayas; that of [S']iva and Kuvera is Kailasa, also on
the Himalayas; that of Indra is Swarga or Nandana. The latter,
though properly on the summit of mount Meru, below Brahma's
paradise, is sometimes identified with the sphere of the sky or
heaven in general. It is the only heaven of orthodox Brahmanism.
The son of Indra by his favourite wife Paulomi or [S']achi.
108. _The Lion-man's terrific claws_.
Vishnu, in the monstrous shape of a creature half man, half lion
(his fourth Avatar or incarnation), delivered the three worlds,
that is to say, Earth, Heaven, and the lower regions, from the
tyranny of an insolent demon called Hiranya-ka[S']ipu.
109. _We journey in the path of Parivaha_.
The Hindus divide the heavens into seven Margas, paths or
orbits, assigning a particular wind to each. The sixth of these
paths is that of the Great Bear, and its peculiar wind is called
Parivaha. This wind is supposed to bear along the seven stars of
Ursa Major, and to propel the heavenly Ganges.
110. _The triple Ganges_.
The Ganges was supposed to take its rise in the toe of Vishnu
(whence one of its names, Vishnu-padi); thence it flowed through
the heavenly sphere, being borne along by the wind Parivaha, and
identified with the Mandakini, or Milky Way. Its second course is
through the earth; but the weight of its descent was borne by
[S']iva's head, whence, after wandering among the tresses of his
hair, it descended through a chasm in the Himalayas. Its third
course is through Patala, or the lower regions, the residence of
the Daityas and Nagas, and not to be confounded with Naraka,
'hell,' 'the place of punishment.'
111. _He spanned the heavens in his second stride_.
The story of Vishnu's second stride was this:--An Asura or
Daitya, named Bali, had, by his devotions, gained the dominion of
Heaven, Earth, and Patala. Vishnu undertook to trick him out of
his power, and assuming the form of a Vamana, or dwarf (his fifth
Avatar), he appeared before the giant and begged as a boon as
much land as he could pace in three steps. This was granted; and
the god immediately expanded himself till he filled the world;
deprived Bali, at the first step, of Earth; at the second, of
Heaven; but, in consideration of some merit, left Patala still
under his rule.
112. _I see the moisture-loving Chatakas_.
The Chataka is a kind of Cuckoo (_Cuculus Melanoleucus_). The
Hindus suppose that it drinks only the water of the clouds, and
their poets usually introduce allusions to this bird in connexion
with cloudy or rainy weather.
A sacred range of mountains lying among the Himalaya chain, and
apparently identical with, or immediately adjacent to, Kailasa,
the paradise of Kuvera, the god of wealth. It is here described
as the mountain of the Kimpurashas, or servants of Kuvera. They
are a dwarfish kind of monster, with the body of a man and the
head of a horse, and are otherwise called Kinnara.
Ka[s']yapa was the son of Brahma's son, Marichi, and was one of
those Patriarchs (created by Brahma to supply the universe with
inhabitants) who, after fulfilling their mission, retired from
the world to practise penance. He was a progenitor on a
magnificent scale, as he is considered to have been the father of
the gods, demons, man, fish, reptiles, and all animals, by the
thirteen daughters of Daksha. The eldest of the thirteen, his
favourite wife, was Aditi, from whom were born Indra and all the
inferior gods, and particularly the twelve Adityas, or forms of
the sun, which represent him in the several months of the year.
From Diti, Danu, and others of the remaining twelve, came the
Daityas, Danavas, and other demons.
115. _No sacred cord is twined_.
The serpent's skin was used by the ascetic in place of the
regular Brahmanical cord. This thread or cord, sometimes called
the sacrificial cord, might be made of various substances, such
as cotton, hempen or woollen thread, according to the class of
the wearer; and was worn over the left shoulder and under the
right. The rite of investiture with this thread, which conferred
the title of 'twice-born,' and corresponded in some respects with
the Christian rite of baptism, was performed on youths of the
first three classes (compare note 80), at ages varying from eight
to sixteen, from eleven to twenty-two, and from twelve to
twenty-four, respectively. At present the Brahmans alone, and
those who claim to be Kshatriyas, have a right to wear this
thread. Not long since, a Kayath (or man of the writer caste) in
Bengal, who attempted to claim it, was excommunicated.
116. _And birds construct their nests within its folds_.
Such was the immovable impassiveness of this ascetic, that the
ants had thrown up their mound as high as his waist without being
disturbed, and birds had built their nests in his hair.
117. _And need no other nourishment_.
The Hindus imagine that living upon air is a proof of the highest
degree of spirituality to which a man can attain.
The A[s']oka (_Jonesia Asoka_) is one of the most beautiful of
Indian trees. Sir W. Jones observes that 'the vegetable world
scarce exhibits a richer sight than an A[s']oka-tree in full bloom'.
It is about as high as an ordinary cherry-tree. The flowers are
very large, and beautifully diversified with tints of
orange-scarlet, of pale yellow, and of bright orange, which form
a variety of shades according to the age of the blossom.
119. _And with his artless smiles Gladdens their hearts_.
Chezy is enraptured with this verse: ' ... strophe incomparable,
que tout pere, ou plutot toute mere, ne pourra lire sans sentir
battre son coeur, tant le poete a su y rendre, avec les nuances
les plus delicates, l'expression vivante de l'amour maternel.'
Compare Statius, Theb., book v. line 613.
'Heu ubi siderei vultus? ubi verba ligatis
Imperfecta sonis? risusque et murmura soli
120. _It is against propriety to make too minute inquiries
about the wife of another man_.
The Hindus were very careful to screen their wives from the curiosity
of strangers; and their great lawgiver, Manu, enjoined that married
women should be cautiously guarded by their husbands in the inner
apartments (_antahpura_) appropriated to women (called by the
Muhammadans, Haram, and in common parlance, in India _andar-mahall_).
The chief duty of a married woman's life seems to have been to keep as
quiet as possible, to know as little as possible, to hear, see, and
inquire about nothing; and above all, to avoid being herself the
subject of conversation or inquiry; in short, the sole end and object
of her existence was to act as a good head-servant, yielding to her
husband a servile obedience, regulating the affairs of his family,
preparing his daily food, and superintending his household. (Manu, ix.
11, 16.) But notwithstanding the social restrictions to which women
were subjected, even in the earlier periods of Indian history, it
seems probable that they were not rigidly excluded from general
society until after the introduction of Muhammadan customs into India.
It appears from the plays that they were allowed to go into public on
certain occasions; they took part in bridal processions, and were
permitted to enter the temples of the gods, [S']akoontala appears in
the court of King Dushyanta and pleads her own cause; and Vasavadatta,
in the Ratnavali, holds a conversation with her father's envoy. Even
in later times, the presence of men, other than husbands or sons, in
the inner apartments, was far from being prohibited. See Wilson's
Hindu Theatre, p. xliii.
121. _Her long hair Twined in a single braid_.
Hindu women collect their hair into a single long braid as a sign
of mourning, when their husbands are dead or absent for a long
122. _Shines forth from dim eclipse_.
The following is the Hindu notion of an eclipse:--A certain
demon, which had the tail of a dragon, was decapitated by Vishnu
at the churning of the ocean; but, as he had previously tasted of
the Amrit or nectar reproduced at that time, he was thereby
rendered immortal, and his head and tail, retaining their
separate existence, were transferred to the stellar sphere. The
head was called Rahu, and became the cause of eclipses, by
endeavouring at various times to swallow the sun and moon. So in
the Hitopade[s']a, line 192, the moon is said to be eaten by Rahu.
With regard to the love of the Moon for Rohini, the fourth lunar
constellation, see note 53.
123. _All unadorned_.
That is, from the absence of colouring or paint.
124. _The power of darkness_.
According to Hindu philosophy there are three qualities or
properties which together make up or dominate humanity: 1.
_Sattwa_, 'excellence' or 'goodness' (quiescence), whence
proceed truth, knowledge, purity, etc. 2. _Rajas_, 'passion'
(activity), which produces lust, pride, falsehood, etc., and is
the cause of pain. 3. _Tamas_, 'darkness' (inertia), whence
proceed ignorance, infatuation, delusion, mental blindness, etc.
125. _Children of Brahma's sons_.
Ka[s']yapa and Aditi were the children of Marichi and Daksha
respectively, and these last were the sons of Brahma.
126. _The ruler of the triple world_.
That is, Indra, lord of heaven, earth, and the lower regions.
Compare notes 110, 113.
127. _Whom Vishnu, greater than the Self-existent_.
Vishnu, as Narayana, or the Supreme Spirit, moved over the waters
before the creation of the world, and from his navel came the lotus
from which Brahma, the World's Creator, here called the Self-existent,
sprang. As Vishnu, the Preserver, he became incarnate in various
forms; and chose Ka[s']yapa and Aditi, from whom all human beings
were descended, as his medium of incarnation, especially in the Avatar
in which he was called Upendra, 'Indra's younger brother.' Hence it
appears that the worshippers of Vishnu exalt him above the Creator.
128. _The earth's seven sea-girt isles_.
According to the mythical geography of the Hindus, the earth
consisted of seven islands, or rather insular continents,
surrounded by seven seas. That inhabited by men was called
Jambudwipa, and was in the centre, having in the middle of it the
sacred mountain Meru or Sumeru, a kind of Mount Olympus inhabited
by the gods. About Jambu flowed the sea of salt-water which
extends to the second Dwipa, called Plaksha, which is in its turn
surrounded by a sea of sugar-cane juice. And so with the five
other Dwipas, viz. Salmali, Ku[S']a, Krauncha, [S']aka, and Pushkara,
which are severally surrounded by the seas of wine, clarified
butter, curds, milk, and fresh water.
The name Bharata is derived from the root bhri (fero),'to
support.' Many Indian princes were so named, but the most
celebrated was this son of Dushyanta and [S']akoontala, who so
extended his empire that from him the whole of India was called
Bharata-varsha or Bharata-varsha; and whose descendants, the sons
of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, by their quarrels, formed the subject
of the great epic poem called Maha-bharata. The Hindus at the
present day continue to call India by the name Bharata-varsha.
180. _The Sage Bharata_.
The Bharata here intended must not be confounded with the young
prince. He was a holy sage, the director or manager of the gods'
dramas, and inventor of theatrical representations in general. He
wrote a work containing precepts and rules relating to every
branch of dramatic writing, which appears to have been lost, but
is constantly quoted by the commentators. (See p. xxix.)
She is the goddess of speech and eloquence, patroness of the arts
and sciences, and inventress of the Sanskrit language. There is a
festival still held in her honour for two days, about February in
every year, when no Hindu will touch a pen or write a letter. The
courts are all closed accordingly.
132. _The purple self-existent god_.
[S']iva is usually represented as borne on a bull; his colour, as
well as that of the animal he rides, being white, to denote the
purity of Justice, over which he presides. In his destroying
capacity, he is characterized by the quality 'darkness,' and
named Rudra, Kala, etc., when his colour is said to be purple or
black. Some refer the epithet 'purple' to the colour of his
throat; compare note 96. Self-existent, although properly a name
of the Supreme Being (Brahma), is applied both to Vishnu and
[S']iva by their votaries.
134. _Whose vital Energy_.
That is, [S']iva's wife, Parvati, who was supposed to personify his
energy or active power. Exemption from further transmigration,
and absorption into the divine soul, was the _summum bonum_ of
Hindu philosophy. Compare note 37.
135. _By my divine faculty of meditation_.
Celestial beings were endowed with a mental faculty (called
dhyana, pranidhana, etc.), which enabled them to arrive at the
knowledge of present and future events.
136. _A roseate dye wherewith to stain The lady's feet_.
That is, the soles of her feet. It was customary for Hindu ladies
to stain the soles of their feet of a red colour with the dye
made from lac--a minute insect bearing some resemblance to the
cochineal--which punctures the bark of the Indian fig-tree, and
surrounds itself with the milky resinous juice of that tree.
This custom is a alluded to in one of Paterson's Hindu odes--
'The rose that humbly bowed to meet,
With glowing lips, her hallowed feet,
And lent them all its bloom.'
See Megha-duta (Edit. Johnson), p. 32.