Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha

by Krishna Kanta Handiqui | 1956 | 159,632 words

This page relates Damayanti’s Svayamvara, part 2 which is canto 11 of the English translation of the Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha, dealing with the famous story of Nala (king of Nishadha) and Damayanti (daughter of Bhima, king of Vidarbha), which also occurs in the Mahabharata. The Naishadhacharita is considered as one of the five major epic poems (mahakavya) in Sanskrit literature.

Canto 11 - Damayantī’s Svayaṃvara, part 2

1. Then Damayantī, in order to win the suitor cherished in her heart, came to that assembly of kings, which, like a goddess, had grace playing on the moonlike faces (composing it), and was in its eagerness beholding her with a steadfast gaze.

2. The youths (in that assembly) were immersed in the fair damsel, not merely with their eyes nor with their hearts only, but with their entire selves, in the guise of their figures reflected on the spotless surface of her limbs and the ornamental jewels.

3. On account of the aerial chariots belonging to those who came to witness the Svayaṃvara, the sky looked beautiful as that other heaven would have been, had Viśvāmitra built it between the (old) heaven and the earth.[1]

4. There the worship of the gods, going about in the sky to witness the scene, took place by means of the incense, that was transmitting its fragrance to the gust of wind from the moving Cāmara whisks of the kings.[2]

5. There a swarm of bees, going after the flowers falling (from the sky), wallowed in redolence, obstructing with its rows the current of air, that wafted the scent of the ornamental paint of sandal and camphor on the bodies of the assembled kings.

6. The rows of buildings, by means of their waving flags, displayed, I ween, before the people their skill in dancing, having demonstrated their excellent talents by the whole manner of their echoing the modulations of the rumbling sound of the auspicious drums.

7. In that assembly, standing on Damayantī’s right, the mighty Goddess of Speech (Sarasvatī), worthy of the salutation of the people of the fourteen worlds, spake thus, after offering in a befitting manner her greetings to her whose shoulders were bent with courtesy.

8. “A crore of gods have come here, whose individual description will outlast a century. Choose amid them, pondering with thy mind, any one whom thy heart[3] doth seek.

9. “Beautiful one, just as this gaze of their eyes, caused by their eagerness to look at thee, hath come to be joined to the natural winkless state of their eyes;[4] similarly let their drinking of the moon’s nectar be twofold by virtue of their drinking thy lips.[5]

10. “The tree that has all the jewels for fruit[6] is verily the hand of the mountain[7] of these gods, which in times of yore milked the earth in the form of the divine cow Surabhi. That tree, as if covered with the sprays of the ocean, shines forth, making pearls literally true to their name;[8] for it makes them grow like fruits.”[9]

11. The gods in their mercy allowed her then to go to another part (of the assembly). She was furtively looking round for fear of the offence (of having rejected them), placing on her head her folded hands, apt to be mistaken for two day lotus blossoms with their petals closing in contiguity with the moon of her face.[10]

12. The conveyance-bearers, who were underneath her palanquin, did not directly perceive in the least her growing indifference to this and that suitor; but they came to know it, by surmising Damayantī’s indifferent attitude, inferable from the melancholy faces of the heroes close by.

13. Seeing themselves without any protection among the (man-eating) Rākṣasa suitors, and noticing an inferiority in the Vidyādharas[11] in respect of Damayantī’s figure, the vehicle-bearers turned their backs. Not discovering even a suspicion of a voice like hers in the group of the Gandharvas (the singers of heaven), they averted their faces.

14. The Yakṣas who keep a fruitless watch over their wealth while there are those who are poor, showed not their face to Damayantī for sheer shame; for did they not know her to be a (wish-fulfilling) Kalpa creeper, descended on the earth, and devoted to an (all-giving) Tree of the gods?[12]

15. Like as the new rainclouds make the swans migrate to the lake of Mānasa from every other sheet of water, so, from the crowd of the gods to the presence of the lord of the serpents (Vāsuki), the bearers then carried her along, the beauty of whose feet and lips possessed the charm of a cloth dyed with madder.[13]

16. Ever bold in assemblies, Sarasvatī, of whose mighty self the entire range of speech is described by sages to be an evolution, once more said to the damsel, her brow superb as the crescent of the rising moon.

17. “This is the white-lustred Vāsuki, who, engaged in waiting on Śiva, occupies the position of his sacred thread, acquiring a crimson lustre from clasping (Pārvatī’s) silk ribbon, owing to the saffron paint of Pārvatī’s breasts being attached (to the ribbon) through its contact (with them)[14]

18. “On Śiva’s hand this serpent plays the part of a bracelet, highly beautiful with charming gems.[15] Devote thyself to him, expert in doing for Śiva the functions of a cord for binding his matted hair, a string for his bow, and a sheet of cloth for wear during meditations.[16]

19. “It is this ‘two-tongued’ serpent, if any, who, holding with one tongue the nectar of Śiva’s moon,[17] and with the other the quintessence of thy lips, would be able to find out the minute difference between the two, simultaneously tasting both.

20. “That this serpent ‘whose venom is in the jaw’ will give (amorous) bites to thy lips is not to be counted a peril; no power has he to do any harm to thy lips made of nectar’s cream.”[18]

21. The lord of the serpents, being ashamed, forbade his servants to dance, who were thinking of an emotional effect, on seeing her shudder and then her thrills caused by her terror at the sight of the serpent’s moving hood.[19]

22. The other serpents, who saw this and despaired of being chosen (by Damayantī), created with their sighs something unfavourable to themselves; for alas, alas, the horses drawing their chariots, though willing to depart, did not approach the serpents owing to the evil omen of that adverse wind.

23. Like as the rays of the moon bring to the night lotus the lustre of laugh, removing it from the day lotus with its petals drooping low at dusk, so did the vehicle-bearers bring her to the concourse of the kings, removing her from the presence of the chief of serpents Vāsuki, whose hoods were shrinking with shame.

24. Then said the goddess, “Timid one, pay heed. Kings, behold the daughter of Bhīma. While you absorb her once more with your eyes, though once seen (by you), the desire to see her will not end even in tens of millions of years!

25. “Let Cupid who, with love’s emotion, removed the intense, inmost quietude even of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, create your joy, perturbing with his five arrows the five sense organs of the world.

26. “Thou with a slender[20] waist apt to arouse the emotion of love, look at these lords of the islands, whose power of self-possession Cupid hath verily consumed by force of Hum incantations,[21] uttered in meditation,[22] while showering his arrows.

27. “O thou with eyes able to put into the shade the lotus in bloom, let the joys of thy water-sports with king Savana prove charming in the sweet-watered ocean. Betake thyself to him, the lord of the Puṣkara isle.[23]

28. “Thou whose navel cavity is marvellous with its whirl, his land by itself is a mundane heaven. Wouldst thou not acquire his riches—a heavenly reign? Assume, then, the grace of a Śacī in his home.

29. “There doth the self-born god (Brāhmā) live on the snowcold floor of a banyan grove. Looking at thee, his own creation, like to none, let him boast of his (creating) hand amid all artists that be.[24]

30. “There look at the banyan tree, which, as if from obstructing from below heat and the like coming from the sky, is called Nyagrodha ‘that which obstructs (from) below.’ With its prop roots, it seems to support its own weight,[25] and is by virtue of the lustre of its mellow fruits and azure leaves a sunshade of peacock feathers to that isle.[26]

31. “Should not Fame, the beloved mistress of this ‘swan of a king’,[27] be white or go over all the worlds? But strange that this Fame, making all things white,[28] doth not separate milk and water, the one from the other.”[29]

32. But in that king, though valiant, and honoured first in the company of savants, though amiable with the play of the sentiment of love, and abode though he was of the arts, Damayantī found one defect: the soft name Nala was not his!

33. The clever maiden made the twist of her creepery eyebrows and then the writhing of her figure the index- of her non-acceptance of him, while in the case of the king, too, the smoke of his pervasive gloom became the symbol of the fire of his grief caused by his failure to win her.

34. Then the servants, simply by their knowledge of her heart, took the moon-faced bride before another king; when there are clever servants, whose activity doth not depend upon others, verily there is no room for the master’s words.

35. The mighty goddess said again; pointing to her another king, who surpassed the two Aśvins[30] by his perfect beauty, “O look at him endowed with lineage and character, raising the orb of thy face, bashfully drooping.

36. “In this atmosphere, laden[31] with the pomp of utterances of tireless panegyrists reciting before him, no room is there for my words; nor will they have any meaning, liable as they are to be called ‘repetitions in sense.’

37. “Hath not thy heart been imbued with love for this king, ruler of the Śāka island, and famous here under the name of Havya, even on hearing the words of the panegyrists singing the might of his arms; (words) acting as nectar among the wise?

38. “There a Śāka tree, bearing a garland of leaves green as parrot’s wings, will charm thy heart. The several directions do glimmer, famous in the worlds as ‘Green’, on account of the sweep of their embrace of its mass of leaves.[32]

39. “A breeze there coming from the leaves of that tree is said to create by its touch an inexpressible joy. Do thou, enjoying that wonder, once more put faith in a certain statement of Parāsara’s Purāṇa,[33]

40. “Long-eyed one, there let the ocean of milk[34] imitate the play of the beams of lustre issuing from thy glances, by means of the beauty and stir of its dapple waves kissing the reflection of the line of woods fringing its shore.[35]

41. “In that ocean, Viṣṇu resides on the King of Serpents (Ananta), who has his massive body coiled up for ever, and is nourished by the never-ceasing, life-giving flow of milk proceeding from the movement of the waves.

42. “Here let Lakṣmī, her fear roused at the sight of thy wealth of beauty, be ever careful to induce in her consort a train of slumbers,[36] caressing with her fingers his lotus feet.[37]

43. “There let the rocks of the Mountain of the East twice experience an artificial crimson, produced by the rays of the rising sun, and then by the red lac[38] of thy toe-nails, melting away from the toes of thy feet, covered with sweat caused by thy graceful steps.[39]

44. “O thou of a graceful gait, there as thou walkest on the crest of the mountain of the East, let thy beauteous face, charming with saffron paint, give to the delighted folk the idea of the rising moon.

45. “When he first experienced the fire of his grief caused by thy absence, he felt in full measure his name to be ‘possessed of Anvaya’;[40] if thou (now) choose him, he would surely make his own self, too, ‘endowed with Anvaya’ by means of thy sons and daughters.”[41]

46. But in that king, though the tree of his arm was the shelter of the creeper of prosperity, though his beauteous lotus face was the abode of the goddess of speech, she accounted one defect—the divine Indra had never come as a suppliant to him.[42]

47. Then, just as breezes carry fragrance elsewhere, extracting it from (the lotus), the chief among flowers, and the abode of the graceful presence of Lakṣmī; similarly the palanquin-bearers, removing her from that king, chief among the wise, and the abode of the play of prosperity, once more carried her elsewhere, renowned as she was on the earth for her merits.

48. Thereupon the goddess of universal speech again said to Damayantī, the lustre of whose body was comparable to gold, “Thou with teeth akin to rubies in lustre, think of this one who, with his arms, hath many a time repelled his foes.

49. “With the grace of a fickle glance, look at yonder lord of the Krauñca island—Dyutimat by name, in whose kingdom shines the white flood of the Ocean of Spiced Curds, circular in expanse.

50. “There is a mountain begging for the graceful pace of thy feet[43]—the Krauñca. Vibrate it will, as if it wished to narrate thy virtues with its voice, the echoes of the cries of swans coining through the holes made by Kārttika’s arrows.[44]

51. “Damayantī, in that land worship the moon-crested Śiva. By worshipping him even with a blade of Kuśa grass, a man doth never reappear in a mother’s womb.[45] That land is the birthplace of men that have him alone as their god.

52. “There build for Śiva, who hath the child moon as his crown, a range of beautiful buildings, mountains as it were, adorned with liquid gold and decorated with golden cupolas; resembling[46] the Mount of Sunrise with the sun kissing its summit.

53. “Youthful maid, there, entering by the window, like a thief, let the breeze from those Cāmara whisks, the agile waves of the expanse of the Ocean of Curds, tear away thy adornment of pearls, namely, the drops of sweat caused by thy love sports.[47]

54. “Verily the fame of this king, ever, ever new, assuming the form of swans, acquires practice by swimming and going farther and farther on pools of water, in order to swim across oceans; from thence to travel unwearied to the limits of the regions, all of them.”[48]

55. In that king, though full of countless merits, the slender maid found not her heart’s desire; when fate stands in the way, even efforts, stern with endeavour, assume not, alas, the character of causes!

56. Just as the servant gods brought the digit of the moon from the ocean to Śiva’s head,[49] similarly the men who bore portions of the palanquin as ornaments of their shoulders took her from him to another king.

57. As she thus, leaving one king and approaching another, was forsaking the latter, too,—each possessing marvellous virtues, and free from blemish—Sarasvatī, whose lotus-feet are worshipped by the world, spake to her who was like Lakṣmī separated from Viṣṇu’s bosom.

58. “O thou with hands like the lotus, if the lord of the island[50] marked with Kuśa grass be to thy liking, rejoice with him, Jyotiṣmat by name, on the forest-clad shores of the Ocean of Butter.

59. “There the clumps of Kuśa grass, their tops kissing the sky, will rouse thy wonder, wistfully looked at by thee, drenched as they are with water streaming from the expanse of clouds, pierced by their swordlike blades swaying with the undulation of waves of wind.

60. “Moon-faced girl, there with thy husband rejoice in graceful sports in the Mandara caves, whose rocks were sanctified by the touch of the lotus feet of Lakṣmī, emerging at the time of the churning of the ocean.

61. “Thou with a body akin to the golden Ketaka flower, there the mountain that served as the churning rod of the ocean seems to be ready for thy climbing—the mountain whose slope[51] appears to be adorned with a flight of stairs by reason of the series of furrows in its rocks caused by the friction of the hundred coils of Vāsuki.[52]

62. “Let that churnstaff mountain,[53] with white streams of fountain waters rushing into the furrows made[54] by the friction of Vāsuki’s coils, give to thy eyes the illusion of its body being entwined by the serpent Ananta with the rest of its body, when pressed on its head by the mountain’s weight.[55]

63. “Fair maid, let the Mount of Mandara be readily reminded of the temples of the Airāvata elephant by thy breasts, of the leaves of the divine tree by thy hands, and of the moon by thy face: all these had emerged during the churning of the ocean.”[56]

64. Just as the Mīmāṃsā philosophy[57] does not accept the exalted Śiva, the jewel of whose fame is composed by all the Vedas with their utterances, and whose eternal endeavour is spontaneous for the sake of others; similarly Damayantī did not accept that king, the jewel of whose fame was fashioned by all with words true as the Vedas, and who ever spontaneously strove for others.

65. Then just as a suppliant, withdrawing his prayer from a poor man, brings it to one who is known to be wealthy, the prayer which from its feminine nature moves on without any discernment;[58] similarly the servants, removing the slender damsel from that king, took her to another Kṣatriya prince, she having moved forward her feet, owing to her womanly nature (as a sign for them to go).[59]

66. Goddess Sarasvatī, who sanctifies (by her presence) the left side of Viṣṇu, said again to her, charming in her glory, “Favour, by marrying him, the many qualities of this king, who wields a sword merciless to his foes.

67. “Thou with a nose like a sesamum flower, he is the lord of the island known as Śālmala, encircled by the ocean that has wine for its waters. Dost thou not marvel at him, an ocean of virtues, Vapuṣmat by name? Art thou not fond of him?

68. “The ocean of wine was not afraid, when five other oceans were in terror, while the Brāhmaṇa Agastya was drinking up one of the oceans.[60] Do thou have sweet drinking bouts in it in company with him, and with thy maiden friends.

69. “There the mountain Droṇa, which looks like the lamp of that island from the lustre of its medicinal herbs, and is worth seeing with the sootlike clouds resting on its summit, will give thee a magic gift of herbs, affording luck, and obtainable by luck.[61]

70. “O thou, tender as the fresh cup of the lotus, there at the time of thy pleasure walks, fitting will be thy footsteps on the surface of the earth, soft with masses of cotton-wool—fine-scattered by the wind—from that huge silk-cotton tree, the emblem of the isle.”

71. The palanquin-bearers, taking her from that king to another, did what was in conformity with her feelings, indicated by the shrinking of the fringe of her eyes, yawning as she was while listening to the merits of the king.

72. Sarasvatī spake to her again, “Damayantī, set thy heart on yonder king, who hath in the guise of the saffron paint (of his body) the love as it were of his subjects attached to him,[62] and whose arms are shining with the fame of his world-conquest visible in the shape of the sandal paste smeared on them.[63]

73. “Thou who art slow-paced as a lordly elephant, this king, Medhātithi, rules over the island that is fig-tree-marked;[64] so, on his bosom do thou shine, causing his joy, even as Lakṣmī herself shines on Viṣṇu’s bosom.

74. “There thou, too, wouldst surely take a fancy to play, when thou seest the mighty fig tree, like a sunshade of the earth—the tree that is loved by the people, whose limbs all move to and fro in swings hanging from its branches.

75. “Thou with eyes tremulous as a scared Cakora bird, drinking the nectar of thy lips, yonder moon of the earth[65] will have no liking for the taste of the waters of the Ocean of Sugarcane juice, which assume the form of a halo round the isle.

76. “There the people know no god but the moon, and take no food without looking at the moon, just as the worshippers of the sun do not without looking at the sun. Worshippers of the moon, they will not have their religious vow broken, even when they eat on the Amāvāsyā night, as a result of looking at thy face.[66]

77. “Ah, let the row of fresh lotus blossoms growing on the river Vipāṭ of that isle—the river that overflows not—adore thy eyes, whirling like lights round them![67] On this radiant king set thy heart at once.

78. “All waters being turned into milk by the fame of this king, let the swans turn stupid in the matter of distinguishing milk and water, the one from the other;[68] let also the dual sense of the words Kṣīra and Payas, treated in the homonymous lexicons, become a falsehood to-day![69]

79. “What else shall I say of him who is perfectly willing to challenge even Nala? (Once) Nala and he simultaneously sent each his own Fame to perform the feat of ascending the coastal mountain on the other shore of the expanse of the ocean serving as a boundary between their respective isles.”[70]

80. But youthful though he was, and though he had conquered the three worlds by his beauty, the fair-browed maid of Vidarbha, lovely as the inner sheath of a lotus, looked at that king in a manner stem with indifference, as did the eyes of Śiva at the ‘flower-bowed’ Cupid.

81. Just as the upgrowth of the religious merit of the anxious night-lotus bed extracts from the sun the emerging digit of the moon,[71] similarly the bearers who had on their shoulders the equal poles of the palanquin, drew her along from the presence of that king, too, the unique light of the world.

82. Then the gazelle-eyed maid, who did not pay the slightest heed to those kings, was addressed again by the wondering Sarasvatī, the rich quality of whose voice[72] set at nought the sound of the lyre in her hand.

83. “Here is the Jambūdvīpa; of it thou appearest the crown-jewel; it is radiant with these youths assembled for thy sake, as if the world of Cupid dropped below, torn forth from the sky by excessive swinging, trembling for fear of Śiva.

84. “Princess, surrounded on all sides by retinue islands, it[73] doth shine as their king; in the Golden Mountain[74] it possesses a great parasol with a shaft of gold, and has as its (royal) emblem a ring of Cāmara whisks, formed by the mass of rays emitted by the (white) Mount of Kailāsa.

85. “Youthful maid, a great rose-apple tree shines as its emblematic tree. Discerning its fruits resembling huge slabs of stone, the wives of the demigods Siddhas say to their husbands, ‘By what path did these elephant hordes climb this tree?’

86. “Thou with a neck like a conch, born of the juice of those rose apples, the Jambū river with nectarlike waters flows on the border of this island; the river, all the magnificent silt of which has come to be famous in the world as gold, surpassed in splendour by the lustre of thy body.[75]

87. “Thou with thighs like the banana plant, here do thrive a thousand kings; among them, whose enemies with their wives are drenched with tears of blood, I will with pleasure cite a few, whose beauty will captivate thy heart. Gracefully look at them.

88. “Damayantī, likest thou this one—Avanti’s king, the resting place of trains of virtues, the sun of whose valour steals away[76] that emerging mass of darkness, the Tamāla wreaths forming the ornaments of the young wives of his foes?[77]

89. “There, during thy water sports, embracing thee with wavy hands, the river Śiprā will be thy friend, its lotus face charming with a continuity of laugh.[78] In the woods on its banks ascetics and Brāhmaṇas dwell.

90. “Gazelle-eyed one, by long worshipping Pārvatī, crown wreath of beautiful maids, who is ever awake, inhabiting the city of Ujjayinī belonging to this king, thou, too, wilt become her disciple to unite with thy husband half thy self.[79]

91. “We do not know what Lord Śiva says there about the use of his havṃg burnt Cupid’s body, when he sees him fearlessly sparinging forth in the hearts of fair-eyed women, by virtue of the shower of nectar of the rays of his moon.[80]

92. “The mistresses of this king with their passion aflame say not a rough word to him, even if he commits a hundred offences; for (from that city) never departs the one digit of the moon resting there on Śiva’s head, the emblem of the lunar day that is the cause of the cessation of studies.”[81]

93. But the daughter of the lord of Kuṇḍina did not look at that king, deeply attached to her; or perhaps, for aught I know, it is better not to look at a person at all than to look at him with disgust due to one’s attachment to some one else.

94. Though the persons below who were carrying the palanquin knew in no wise Damayantī’s feelings directly, yet did they come to know them from the reflections[82] in the gems of the ornaments of the kings near by in front.

95. Just as the light of the dynasty of Raghu[83] brought to the earth the Gaṅgā, the two jars of whose breasts were suckled by Bhīṣma,[84] and who was adorned by her association with the crest of Śiva’s head,[85] similarly the bearers brought Damayantī to another king; the two jars of her breasts were yellow as gold, and she was adorned by the presence upon her of a pearlstring and a diadem.

96. Then the mistress of the spoken word[86] spake to her whose eyebrows were illumined by the lustre of Cupid’s slightly drawn bow,[87] “Shame-benumbed girl, give some sign if thou hast in thy heart any longing for joys with this one—the Indra of Gauḍa.

97. “Verily his fame has turned into grass the spotless masses of the rays of the moon;[88] so it is proper that an antelope lives in the moon, a nectar-watered sea, wishing to feed on that bed of young shoots of grass.[89]

98. “Embraced by thee, let this dark-complexioned king with lotus figures in his hands,[90] enrobed as he will be with the lustre of thy body resembling a Campaka wreath adorning Cupid’s hair, shine like a dark, new-risen raincloud, accompanied by watery hailstones, and embraced by the peak of the (golden) Mount of Sumeru.

99. “Let loose by him with strokes of his sword, the pearls inside the temples of the elephants, coming forward (in battle), looked as if they were drops of perspiration shed by Prosperity pertaining to hostile kings, she utterly unable to bear the heat of his arms.

100. “It is a wonder—the might of this king, originating from his arms which reach up to the knees, has reached the farthest limits of the regions; and the sheet of his fame, emanating from ‘seven-threaded’ sacrifices performed with a pure heart, hath extended over fourteen worlds.”[91]

101. Then, perceiving that the vacant look[92] adopted by Damayantī’s eyes, owing to their consciousness of her indifferent attitude, was falling on this king, on their own initiative, the servants took her to the presence of another king: the mere suggestion of one’s feelings serves the purpose of words.

102. Again did Sarasvatī speak to the young and clever maiden, “Lotus-faced one, ardently practise on this king sprightly embraces of thy eyes, which bear the semblance of the lotus in bloom.[93]

103. “Here is the lord of Mathurā, Pṛthu by name, a churning mountain, churning the ocean of hostile kings.[94] The moon, whose body is stained with its dark spot, resembles not his beardless lotus face.

104. “O young maid, who hast surpassed diverse corals with thy lips, on his hand look at that gem—a magic charm for the conquest of the world—acting like a comet on the throng of enemy kings; for it is tinged with the scar produced by the strokes of his bowstring.[95]

105. “Verily the scar produced (on his hand) by the string of his bow is a streak of smoke, the emblem of the fire of his valour emerging from his flint-like arms[96]—a streak of smoke which, meant for the mosquitoes that are his enemies, served to bring tears to the lotus eyes of the wives of his foes.

106. “There in the centre thou wilt see the Yamunā, like a line of hair on the surface of the earth. The river is darkened, as if by the musk-paint of the women of Mathurā washed away in its water, and looks as if it had a navel in the shape of the great lake (at its bottom) belonging to the serpent Kāliya.

107. “In company with this king, do thou without fear enjoy the pleasures of sylvan sport in Vṛndāvana, dense with fragrant flowers. All serpents are banished therefrom by the strutting of flocks of peacocks[97] on the Govardhana hill.

108. “Though thy hand hath nails for sprouts and buds, easily perceptible will it be among the leaves of the Vṛndāvana creepers; for it will be marked with an ivory bracelet, looking as if it were the moon, the best portion of which had been taken away from within it by thy face.[98]

109. “The breeze of it—a thirsty traveller—moving about and limping on the expanse of thy breasts, profusely thrilled with the joy of the end of love’s dalliance, would without any scruple drink even thy musk-soiled[99] sweat.

110. “The hands of learned men—hands that are busy with the worship of the gods, and endowed with a lustre pure as the lotus, that have palms white as the clear seed-pod of a lotus, daily look beautiful with the gold bestowed by him.

111. “The one hero of the earth, he is not content in the least: no more battles to fight against the prosperity of his foes. Winning thee (now), let him be content, as if from drinking the honey dripping from the oncoming (flowery) arrows of Cupid.”

112. But Damayantī, removing her eyes from that king, looked at the way by which the kings were going to and fro, one after the other, while the bearers carrying her palanquin manifested by their action[100] their skill in knowing her feelings.

113. Once again Sarasvatī spake about (yet) another king to Damayantī, fickle-eyed as a timid Camūru deer. “Thou with eyes beautiful like Khanjana birds, do thou delight thy eyes, looking at the splendour of this one, the king of Kāśī.

114. “Kāśī is this king’s dynastic capital, Śiva’s boat of piety for traversing the span of worldly existence. Even those whose hearts are full of sin become pure on coining here, casting off their ever-recurring sin.

115. “In times of yore, seeing the future miseries of the world to be created by Brahmā, Śiva wept from pity. It was a mere pretext when he said, (‘I am weeping) because I want a name’; for it was he who created this city—a boat for conveying (travellers) across the world.[101]

116. “Kāśī doth not exist on the earth; to live there is to live in the world of the gods. That is why salvation comes to those who breathe their last at its sacred sites; in what other way could a dignity superior to that of heaven come into being for the joy of men?[102]

117. “Damayantī, just as the root as becomes the same as the root bhū on reaching the Aorist, capable of denoting the past, similarly the creatures of the ocean of this world, on coming to this city, become one with Pārvatā’s consort, Śiva.

118. “A man and his wife living in Kāśī, after they have enjoyed worldly pleasures without a break, and indulged in mutual gaieties as they would, obtain at death absolute unity (with Śiva)—something more than the union of Śiva with Pārvatī,[103] something blended with waves of bliss.

119. “If thou believe me not, let me keep silence. Thy own inmost feeling should say whether the heaven whose king is Indra ‘with the cloud-adorning bow’[104] is not far inferior to Kāśī.

120. “Blessed one, thou dost excel in knowledge; in Kāśī thou shouldst do pious deeds. No need to say more. Here is an asylum of immortality, granting to mortals eternal security even against death; and there is another[105] which flows on, an unfailing source of water, never turning suppliants away.

121. “Be unto this king a Rati incarnate; let him, too, be unto thee an incarnate Cupid. Let both of you shine as Cupid and Rati, as if they had descended to that city speedily to appease Śiva who was offended in bygone days.[106]

122. “Let this king, well-versed in a hundred treatises on the art of love, adore thy breasts with secret nail-marks rivalling the digit of Śiva’s moon, tinged with the saffron-paint of Pārvatī’s feet, when she is in ire.[107]

123. “Holding thee in his embrace, let him remove the heat of Cupid that is in thee. His bow is beautiful with those Cāmara whisks, the mass of his fame.[108] His might emanates from ‘razor-tipped’ arrows,[109] which cut off the rod-like necks of his enemies who meet him in battle.

124. “His bosom, falling on which his enemy’s weapons turn blunt, acts like thunder; not rent even by the fierce grief caused by thy absence. The fire of the valour of his arms, owing to their being fresh sprouts growing from the root of his bosom (of thunder), is not extinguished even by the tears of the mistresses of his foes.[110]

125. “Are there not a hundred thousand trees in the world, bringing with their fruits enjoyment unto cuckoos and crows alike? But admirable is the Kalpa tree, giving its fruits[111] to the gods who live on nectar alone.

126. “Should not other kings pay him tribute, since his own sword became a surety for it? Whenever they perchance fail to render their due, there rises his grim impulse[112] to grasp his sword.

127. “The pride of Indra’s horse hath been destroyed by the chargers of his army, which owing to their love of speed do not complete even the momentary contact of their hoofs with the earth.[113] The continuity of their gallop, (as if) only through the air, is worthy to be observed with care.”

128. (But) Damayantī rejected that king, busy as she was in looking at the elegance of the people who had arrived at the time when he was being described. Neglected in the assembly of kings by her who knew how to appreciate merit, the proud king darkened, as if from disgrace.

129. Having (thus) met all those valiant gods and kings—countless they were and lucky, hopeful in heart and unequalled in merit—but forsaking them all at the same time, the beautiful Damayantī, of hidden feelings, aiming only at one man, Nala—an ocean of knowledge, a man whose beauty was beyond the range of speech and joy unbounded—resembled, in being wholly devoted to him, the doctrine of the Upaniṣads. (This, too, is sound[114] and contains hidden thoughts, and by forsaking, simultaneously, universal air and earthly objects accompanied by watery objects and light, together with the sky, including time, and including the directions together with the mind—all things possessing diverse qualities—devotes itself to the One Being, whose form is beyond the range of speech, who is an ocean of consciousness, and an infinite joy).[115]

130. Epilogue.

....... In his epic, the beautiful Story of Nala, the moon of the nectar of the sentiment of Eros, the eleventh canto, brilliant by nature, is at an end.

Footnotes and references:


See 2. 102.


i.e., the fragrance of the incense burnt on the floor of the assembly was wafted to the sky by the volume of air let loose by the moving ‘chowries.’


Lit. mental function.


The gods by nature do not wink.


i.e., the gods usually drink the nectar supposed to be in the moon; let them now drink another kind of nectar provided by Damayantī’s lips.


i.e. the all-giving Kalpa tree.


The mountain Meru.


i.e., making the designation of pearls as “pearl-fruits” (muktāphala) true to its literal meaning.


The reference is to the story of the mountain Meru, who, advised by king Pṛthu, milked out of the earth which took the form of a cow jewels and valuable medicinal plants. Here, the bejewelled Kalpa tree is fancied as the hand with which Meru had milked the earth.


Damayantī’s face is compared to the moon, and her folded hands to two lotus blossoms with their petals folded up in contact with the light of the moon.


Horse-faced with a human body.


i.e. the Kalpa tree which here refers to Nala. The verse contrasts the miserly Yakṣas with the generous Damayantī devoted to the equally generous Nala.


The rosy feet and lips of Damayantī are indirectly compared to the red feet and beak of a swan.


i.e., the white coil of the serpent Vāsuki, always in attendance on Śiva, looked as if it were his sacred thread. The crimson hue adhering to the serpent’s body owing to its frequent contact with Pārvatī’s silk ribbon, smeared with saffron is compared to the scarlet colour of a sacred thread dyed with madder, as in the case of the Kṣatriyas. As Nārāyaṇa points out, Śiva is regarded in the Purāṇas as a Kṣatriya, and as such he may be supposed to have a sacred thread dyed with madder (māñjiṣṭha) which is here provided by the coil of Vāsuki, red in contact with Pārvatī’s silk ribbon Smeared with saffron.


In the case of the serpent, the gems believed to be on its hood.


i.e., he is variously used by Śiva as a cord, a bowstring and even as a strip of cloth.


i.e., the moon on Śiva’s head. Vāsuki, being Śiva’s attendant, would be able to taste the nectar composing the body of the moon.


i.e., the nectar would counteract the effect of snakebite.


The servants, noticing Damayantī’s confusion, began to dance, thinking it was her emotion before their master, with whom she was apparently in love; but Vāsuki himself knew that she was really terrified at his presence.


Lit. two-atomed.


Mystic mantras like Hum, Phaṭ etc., are prescribed in the Tantras for the attainment of supernatural powers.


The reading “japta” has been adopted.


Situated in the ‘sweet-watered ocean’, i.e., the ocean of milk.


A more literal rendering would be: Seeing thee, his own creation...., let the self-born god, who himself lives there on the snow-cold floor etc., boast of his hand etc.


These roots grow from the branches vertically downwards, and on reaching the soil become thick and woody, giving support to the branches.


The spreading branches with their green leaves and ripe fruits are compared to a huge sunshade made of peacock’s feathers with their green and golden spots.


Ordinarily “rājahaṃsa” is to be translated as “a great king”, but here the imagery is that of a male and a female swan.


Lit. bringing about the non-duality of whiteness. See Footnote on 5. 135.


Usually a swan, in the presence of water and milk mixed together, separates the milk from the water. The swan in the shape of the king’s fame of course does not do so.


These were famous for their beauty.


Lit. completely lacking in room.


harit” means both “green” and “a direction”. It is here fancied that the directions got this name by coming in contact with the green leaves of the Śāka tree.


i.e., the Viṣṇupurāṇa which refers to this pleasant breeze.


This ocean touches the Śākadvīpa on one side.


i.e., the white waves in contact with the reflection of the green trees on the shore would have a mixed hue resembling the glimmer of Damayantī’s eyes.


Lit. a continuity of sleep.


i.e., Lakṣmī, fearing lest her husband Viṣṇu should take a fancy to Damayantī, would try to put him to bed to prevent his seeing the latter.


Ref. to the Alakta paint applied to the feet.


Lit. walking about.


“Havya” means a ‘sacrificial offering made in the fire’; so, when king Havya was being consumed by the fire of his love for Damayantī, he felt that his name was true to its literal meaning.


There is a pun on the word “anvaya”. The king has already felt that his name was “possessed of anvaya”, i.e., true to its literal meaning; now, if Damayantī marries him, he himself will be “possessed of anvaya”, which means in this case “endowed with a family”, i.e., he will have many children by Damayantī.


i.e., as he did to Nala, as described in Canto V.


i.e., invites her to walk on its slopes.


Kārttika is for this reason called the Piercer of the Krauñca. The quacking of the swans is fancied as the voice of the mountain, while the holes made in it by Kārttika’s arrows are fancied as its mouths, with which it will sing Damayantī’s praise.


i.e., obtains freedom from rebirth.


Lit. stealing the character of...............


The sea breeze coming through the window is to remove the drops of perspiration as a thief does pearls.


A variation of the idea of 8.35.


i.e., during the churning of the ocean.


Ref. to the Kuśadvīpa.


Lit. body.


The Mandara mountain served as the rod with which the ocean was churned, and Vāsuki as the rope coiled round the mountain. The grooves caused by the friction of the rope are fancied as a flight of stairs.


The Mandara mountain.


See Verse 61.


A serpent, when its head is trampled upon, coils round its oppressor with the rest of its body; and. the serpent Ananta. too, which bears on its head the weight of the earth, may be supposed to have done the same, when heavily crushed on its head by the Mandara mountain during the churning of the ocean. Sarasvatī means that, when Damayantī saw the furrows in the slopes of the Mandara mountain with streams of water surging through them, it would seem to her as if the mountain were encircled not by streams, but by the white coils of Ananta.


The Mandara mountain while acting as a churn-staff had of course seen these objects as they rose from the ocean.


See Appendix I.


The word “yācñā” is feminine. Being a woman, “yācñā” i.e., the prayer of a suppliant, directs herself to a man without considering whether he is rich or poor. Nārāyaṇa’s explanation is different. See Notes.


i.e., being too shy to say, ‘Move on’.


Agastya was drinking the salty ocean in order to expose to the gods the demons concealed there. The Oceans of Milk, Curds etc. were in terror but that of wine was at rest; for a Brāhmaṇa does not take wine.


The Droṇa mountain containing many life-giving magic herbs was brought over by Hanūmat to Laṅkā for the cure of Lakṣmaṇa.


rāga” meaning both ‘love’ and ‘redness’, the former is often described as red.


Fame being ‘white’, the sandal paste is fancied as the symbol of the king’s fame.


Ref. to the Plakṣa island, marked by a Plakṣa tree.


i.e., king Medhātithi.


i.e., looking at Damayantī’s moonlike face would be equivalent to looking at the moon, and at the sight of this moon the people would be entitled to eat even on the moonless Amāvāsyā night without infringing the rule that requires the moon to be seen before eating.


The lotus blossoms are fancied as lights which it is customary to wave before an object of worship during the ceremony of “norājanā” (see Vocab.); it is imagined that the flowers would move round and worship the eyes.


The “white” fame would make all waters white, i.e., turn them into milk, so that the swans would no longer be able to separate milk from water as they usually do. Cf. Verse 31.


“kṣīra” means both ‘milk’ and ‘water’, and so does “payas”; but, as henceforth there would only be milk and no water in existence, the two words would no longer signify both ‘milk’ and ‘water’, but ‘milk’ only.


The Jambū and Plakṣa islands. It will be remembered that these so-called islands stand for divisions of the earth.


It is believed that the moon enters the sun on the Amāvāsyā night and comes out by degrees in the “white” fortnight that follows. Here, the night lotus which blooms at moonrise is fancied as extracting the moon from the sun by dint of its religious merit.


lit. the uprise of the merit of whose voice etc.


i.e., the Jambūdvīpa.


i.e., Meru.


Gold forms the mud of the Jambū river; so it is called Jāmbūnada “belonging to the Jambūnadī.”


Lit. is the thief of..................


i.e., being made widows by the king, they no longer wear any ornamental wreath.


The waves are fancied as the hands of the river; the blossoming lotus-bed as its laughing face.


It will be remembered that Pārvatī, represented with half her body joined to her husband Śiva, is the deity of conjugal love.


The constant growth of Cupid in the hearts of the women, though he was once burnt by Śiva, is fancied as being due to the balmy effect of the moon resting on the head of Śiva, ever present in Ujjayinī in the temple dedicated to him.


Literally, the mistresses do not “read one rough letter” to the king in spite of his giving them cause for jealousy, the reason being the presence in the city of the new moon on Śiva’s head; for it is forbidden to read anything on the night of Pratipad, when the new moon appears. Thus, there being, so to say, a continual Pratipad in Ujjayinī, the women cannot “read” any rough word to their lover. In other words, the constant presence of the moon being an incentive to love, the women forgive all offences of their lover.


i.e., the reflections of the various signs of her disgust.


Ref. to Bhagīratha.


Ref. to the Gaṅgā, the mother of Bhīṣma.


The celestial Gaṅgā is supposed to live in Śiva’s matted hair.


i.e., Sarasvatī.


i.e., the eyebrows were beautiful like............... Beautiful eye-brows are compared to Cupid’s flowery bow.


i.e., has surpassed the moon in purity.


Cf. footnote under 22. 137.


A sign of luck.


An apparent wonder is implied by saying that something issuing from a mere couple of arms has pervaded the earth, and that a cloth made only of “seven threads” has covered the fourteen worlds. “Seven-threaded” (saptatantu) signifies a sacrifice. See Vocabulary.


Lit. imprint, impression.


Lit. eyes expert in cultivating friendship with the lotus etc.


The king is compared to the Mandara mountain with which the ocean was churned.


The gem worn by the king on his wrist is compared to the bright nucleus of a comet, while the scar on his hand caused by the friction of the bowstring is compared to the “dusky” tail of a comet which is called in Sanskritdhūmaketu”: “smoke-marked.” The gem together with the scar is fancied as a comet bringing disaster to his enemies.


Lit. fire-sticks (araṇi), viz., his arms.


These are described as feeding on serpents.


The ivory bracelet is compared to the orb of the moon, the middle of which is imagined to be empty owing to its essential portion being taken


Lit. sweat muddy with the musk-paint (applied to the breasts). The idea is that of the cool breeze removing her perspiration.


i.e., by taking her to another king.


It is said that Śiva, as soon as he was born of Brahmā’s forehead, began to weep. On being asked why he was weeping, he said ‘I want a name’, and Brahmā accordingly named him Rudra ‘one who weeps.’ It is, however, fancied here that he was really weeping at the vision of the future miseries of the world, his sympathy with the world being later proved by his founding of the sacred city of Kāśī that grants salvation to all comers.


i.e., death in Kāśī gives direct salvation, which is something higher than heaven. Cf. 6.100.


Śiva and Pārvatī form each one half of the other’s body, but he who dies in Kāśī attains absolute unity with Śiva, the Supreme Being.


i.e., the rainbow.


Ref. to the Gaṅgā.


i.e., by Cupid.


It is fancied that Śiva, in order to appease the offended Pārvatī, falls at her feet, and while he does so the saffron-paint of her feet is attached to the digit of the moon on his head, making it rosy. The nail-marks given by the king, made rosy by the presence of saffron on Damayantī’s bosom, would thus resemble this rosy digit of the moon. Nail-marks have already been compared to the half-moon. Cf. 6. 25, 66.


i.e., his bow is adorned with his military fame.


See Vocab. under “kṣurapra”.


The arms being the offshoots of the thunder-like bosom, the fire of their valour, like lightning, is not extinguished by water, which in this case is provided by the tears of the widows of his enemies.


Lit. which makes the gods' the recipient of its fruits. See Vocab. under “saṃpradāna


Lit. his lack of compassion. (“asya kṛpā = idaṃkṛpā, na idaṃkṛpā=nedaṃkṛpā”).


i.e., the hoofs just touch the earth. Lit. the momentary character of the duration of the contact etc.


Lit. fair-limbed. See Notes.


Damayantī’s devotion to Nala is compared to the devotion of the Upaniṣads to the Absolute. The epithets within brackets are conveyed by means of word-play.

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