Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha

by Krishna Kanta Handiqui | 1956 | 159,632 words

This page relates Damayanti’s Svayamvara, part 3 which is canto 12 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 12 - Damayantī’s Svayaṃvara, part 3

1. Then delaying for shame before their wives,[1] more and yet more kings, uneasy in mind, but full of graceful movement and rich in chariots, came from the farthest corners of the earth[2] to that assembly which adorned the city of Kuṇḍina.

2. Damayantī’s Svayaṃvara then continued in that gathering, surrounded by sighing kings who had arrived earlier,[3] and by new-comers who looked like sparkling oceans of joy, having noticed her indifference to the former.

3. In the midst of the royal crowd the bearers, moving along, set the damsel, whose motive had been made clear by the hint present in the pressure of her feet. Guilefully they said, “Aweary she is, even while being carried.”[4]

4. The eternal Sarasvatī spake the following words concerning the kings who adorned their seats—(words) that were thoroughly drenched through playing in pools of nectar, and thereafter upward rose.

5. “Choose thou Ṛtuparṇa, who, for his complexion’s sake, is esteemed more than the colour of the golden Ketakī bloom. Even of his own holy city, Ayodhyā, this king doth never think, absorbed as he is in thee!

6. “With the tongue of a Cakora bird, wilt thou not somehow drink the moonlight of his moonlike face?[5] Why dost thou not make the eyes of the Cakora bird, set in thy face,[6] drink for ever this light of the moon?[7]

7. “In thy water sports (with him), let the floating mass of bubbles on the water, produced by the Sarayū’s noisy waves, assume a pearlstring’s grace,[8] heavily breaking against the bank of thy firm, high and rounded breasts.

8. “In his dynasty was the ocean dug[9] and filled with the Gaṅgā[10]; (in his dynasty) forcibly will it be bound[11]; and, (now) it is traversed by his pervasive fame. Lo, the might of the good sets forward to encounter the great!

9. “The words of poets, plunging into the flood of the milk-ocean of his fame, fall into an unfathomable depth; and, the casting of figures to reckon his merits wears out the fame of his foes,[12] like chalks.

10. “A scion of the dynasty of the sun, how can this hero be described? In wars the three crores and a half hairs on his body serve as the sprouts of his valour.[13] The mystic formula, namely, the letters of his name, brought by panegyrists to the ears of hostile kings, paralyses in battle those serpents, the pillar-like arms of the kings.

11. “What mode of expression does the Sun of his valour not transcend,[14] obscuring the sky-pervading stars which are the fame of the multitude of hostile kings? I see the hand of this Sun in the creation of the day of Brahmā, so very long.[15] The submarine fire, I ween, is the reflection of this Sun in the bosom of the waters of the sea.

12. “On the battlefield, the Gaṅgā, namely, the vista of fame produced by his arms, came in contact with the Yamunā, the disgrace of his foes. There, diving deep, Kṣatriya warriors evinced an exuberance of desire for the gaieties of the garden of nandana, the home of the delight afforded by Rambhā’s embrace.”[16]

13. But Damayantī, having thus appreciated with her ears the eulogy of his virtues, rejected him, a descendant of the dynasty of Manu, with that very side-sweep of her head, which had been formerly caused by wonder at Sarasvatī’s words.

14. Then Sarasvatī, mistress of speech, surpassing the inebriated cuckoo bird with the nectar of her voice, spake to Damayantī, whose countenance was akin to the moon, about another youth, stretching her hand in his direction.

15. “Gazelle-eyed maid, wishest thou not, if only with one eye, to drink in this king, the ornament of the land of Pāṇḍya? Across the corner of an eye, do thou ripple the beams of thy eyes, to look at him whose face is bright as the moon.

16. “Lo, Fame the dancer, after traversing the earth, busily engaged in ceaseless effort,[17] in order to walk in the sky without any support, dances merrily, resorting to yonder high-born prince.[18]

17. “For fear of him, kings went from wood to wood, and regained after a long space of time each his own city, turned into a perfect wilderness; and, once again they occupied their palaces of pleasure.

18. “Who hath ever been greater than this hero, whose fame is an ornament, even like a paste of sandal applied to the circle of the earth through its entire range? The might of his bow is unceasingly sung by the people living on the seven sea-shores. The moons, his toe-nails, heartily rejoice in the diffusion of light by their star wives, the innumerable crown jewels of kings, simultaneously falling at his feet.[19]

19. “The fire of his might plays amid those groves of ebony trees, the rows of soldiers of hostile armies, full dark with the ink of disgrace from their defeat. Verily the (third) eye of Śiva, situate on his forehead, the sun and fire itself, and the thunder of Indra, are sparks that fly up from the fire of his might and flash out in the heart of the world.

20. “At the edge of the battlefield, king Pṛthu, present amidst the line of gods come to witness his fierce battles, sees the entire earth enveloped by this king’s troops of elephants causing one to mistake them for clusters of moving hills, and thinks of uprooting the mountains again.”[20]

21. Then a maidservant who knew Damayantī’s feelings said to her,[21] “Mistress, here, see something funny, the eagerness of a crow to set its foot on the moving fringe of the banner dancing at the top of yonder palace.”[22]

22. The assembly was then whitened[23] by the laugh of the members of the assemblage caused by these irrelevant words; and, so the gloom of the king was clearly visible. Black amidst white would, indeed, be perceptible with ease.

23. Then at that moment the inscrutable goddess, the sole object of the world’s veneration, whose true nature consists of the highest knowledge, spake to the damsel[24] about the lord of the land of Mahendra, pointing her forefinger directly at him.

24. “O choose thou the lord of the Mahendra mountain, who hath come to this festive ceremony of marriage-by-choice; and, there, listen to the quarrel between the temples of the elephants of the land of Kaliṅga and the beauteous form of thy breasts.[25]

25. “In vain did his enemies fly to the woods in fear, at the voice of the citizens crying, ‘Here he comes’; even in the woods were they scared by their own ravings in sleep consisting of these very words, being heard and repeated by parrots.[26]

26. “Mistresses left behind by kings running away, afraid of him, were seen by women of the woods; and, when asked to tell of some wonder of their native land, they spoke of the cool nature of the light of the moon.

27. “Urvaśī of the mundane sphere as thou art, utterly dominating him by merit alone, dost thou not prove even a greater hero than he, who subjugates (other) kings, with bows, bowstring and arrows?

28. “Wives of enemies, afraid of him, and passing their days in mountain caves, bitterly wept, coming out of them, while they were repeatedly asked for the rising moon by their children obstinately clinging to the illusion of the moon being their playing swan. But the women found solace and at the same time heaved sighs at the laugh of their children, who were delighted at the presence close by of the reflection of the swanlike moon present in their mothers’ tears.

29. “When he sets about on the conquest of the world, the earth, wife of some hostile prince, goes through an emotional tremor, hoping intently, ‘May he be my lord.’[27] The enemy kings, about to start on their upward travel, having fallen, confronting him in battle, see their way (heavenward) in the form of an opening in the sun.[28]

30. “If some warrior, eminent in the world for his renown, angrily comes back (to fight), after the entire terrified host of this king’s enemies have fled from the battlefield, he, too, despite his coming to the fore, shows his back, with his head quickly cut off and detached with a thud owing to the rush of the king’s knife.”

31. Putting her lotus-stalk finger on her lotus mouth,[29] as if in wonder at the merits of the king, Damayantī, whose gesture was full of art, said to Sarasvatī, ‘Grant silence.’

32. Then, Sarasvatī spake to her about another king, great waves of her glances playing in his direction, (a king) who dominated the earth with his fierce might, and compared with whom Cupid was not worth even a straw.

33. “Why dost thou not do what the king of Kāñcī desires, expressed by the mouth of his messenger? It will not matter—pray, let him forcibly tear away the girdle of thy robe.

34. “Holding his bow and shooting his arrows, he seemed to teach his enemies this precept well: ‘Only by submission to me can stability be won; by obstinacy, all (fugitive) routes must be traversed’.[30]

35. “Those serried[31] swans, his fame, play in the fountain of tears shed by the wives of his enemies, taking away (for food) those lotus-stalks, the broken conch bracelets of the young wives of the heroes fronting his campaigns.[32]

36. “If the suns of the warlike valour of all the Kṣatriyas go down when his elephants, reaching unto the bosom of the sky, rush on eager for the commencement of battle, (elephants) whose heads are beautiful with the gleam of vermilion, and who bear a dark tint[33] up to their shoulders—it is because those suns, we know, are then reminded of the evening twilight mingling with the darkness of the gloaming.[34]

37. “To-day the goddess of prosperity (Lakṣmī) reposes on his bosom.[35] She hath forsaken her home, the bosom of Viṣṇu; and, so the Kaustubha gem looks like a cobweb made by spiders settling there, evidently on account of the open void.[36] She hath deserted also her lotus home, (now) clearly enveloped by cobweb threads.[37]

38. “He hath created a miracle, the pool of his fame, sacred, and vaster than the ocean, (the pool) where the (three) worlds come to bathe. What poets are not silent about it? The moon possesses the beauty of a drop only of this pool.[38] Plunging into its waters, and becoming invisible, the Kailāsa mountaṃ, ‘the abode of crystal’, takes the place of the water deity Yāgeśvara.[39]

39. “We know not how Ananta, the lord of serpents, manifests joy while listening to his fame; for with tears of inward joy he doth not cover his eyes, being about to hear with them;[40] being hairless, he exhibits no joy-rooted series of thrills on his limbs; nor does he wave his head, fearing the (possible) destruction of the earth.[41]

40. “Vigorous in conquest as he is, in the thick of the fight he plunged his firm spear-shafts, up to the very tip of their feathers, into the temples of the crowds of elephants of hostile kings. That was his great service to thee. Why dost thou not therefore show thy favour to him, despite his having inflicted this furious punishment on the temples (of the elephants) that were eager to vie with thy breasts?”

41. With the grace of a smile lurking round the corners of her lips, and given out as if from delight at the merits of the king, Damayantī was really laughing at him. His greatness was after all capable of being sung; but Nala’s might was beyond the range of words.

42. Sarasvatī then spake to Damayantī, the beauty of whose eyes surpassed the beauty of the eyes of young fawns,[42] about another king, honoured by the assembly, directly indicating him with eyebrows gracefully inclining towards him.[43]

43. “Alas, alas! thou hast no pity on any of these kings, who look at the earth with drooping heads. Let the comers of thy eyes be bees drinking in the king of Nepāla, worthy of one’s gaze.[44]

44. “His long numerous arrows are bold. The utterly deadly activity of them consists of direct hitting, noiseless course, and the reaching of the border of the archer’s ears.[45] It is meant to do harm to enemies alone.

45. “Though his vow is to please all men, his vow was not broken, even when he met his foes; for, highly vexed though they were, he thickly painted them with blood, putting them to the sword in battle.[46]

46. “If haply the sun should fall into the fire of his valour, completely would it suffer the fate of a moth. Perhaps the Creator, unable to create his fame, somehow made the ocean of milk to take its place.[47]

47. “The fame of this king spreads as far as the Bridge of the South[48] and the Mountain of Snow, which serve respectively as a line of hairs and a scarf to the two regions, inhabited by the scions of Pulastya’s family.[49] It spreads as far as the mountains[50] that look like pillars marking the commencement of the two cities of Indra and Varuṇa, lords respectively of the east and the west; (mountains) whose peaks are endowed with a crimson beauty by[51] the lustre of the morning and evening twilights, acting as banners.

48. “By force he made the heads of his enemies roll along the ground, heads of those who fell fighting, loosing showers of arrows, in the forefront of the battle, or who fell forward at his feet, surrendering their arrows, upon realising the measure of difference between themselves and him;[52] heads cut asunder and lying low, or drooping under the weight of terror.

49. “The eyes of man do not see his arrows, while they are pulled out of the quiver, nor when they are joined to the bowstring, nor while being drawn up to the ear-tip.[53] They are nowhere seen in the sky, nor earth nor target. But, their presence is inferred from the gashes in the breasts of enemies fallen in battle.”

50. A witty serving maid, who knew Damayantī’s heart, then said to the goddess, “How much wilt thou speak of him? Say rather, while the wide world is there, merits merely suffer from congestion in him.”

51. The people restrained the followers of the king, who were angrily shouting, “Ho, this is a fine assembly! Here a slave girl says anything, proper or not, and (now) this one, baser than the other, proves insolent in the extreme.”[54]

52. Then the kind goddess of speech spake to Damayantī about another king who, like Purūravas, surpassed Cupid in beauty, her face confronting his direction.

53. “Discarding shame, under some pretext look at the radiant king of the Malaya mountain, with the white streaks of moonlike radiance playing in thy eye-comers, (streaks) redolent with the fragrance of thy lotus eyes.

54. “In vain does an arrogant foe running away from battle seek his own home, leaving this king hostile to him. Little does he know that even an inaccessible mountain tract[55] cannot protect him from the king.

55. “The ‘distant’ mountain of Vidūra, deprived of suppliants[56] by this king, and so mellow with jewels that grow at the rumbling of clouds, will be so near as to become thy pleasure hill.[57]

56. “Fawn-eyed one, the row of this king’s toe-nails looks like the moon on account of the presence of a beelike hue, the gloom of the lotus faces of hostile kings bowing (at his feet),[58] He carries two warlike serpents, his arms, well-nourished by the profuse drinking of waves of nectar juice, namely, the life-breath of insolent foes.[59]

57. “The expanse of his fame, in what world does it not exist? It is the substance that completes the incomplete digit of the moon on Śiva’s head. It forms an assemblage of corporeal forms matching with the numerous hoods of the serpent Ananta.[60] It is a plurality of forms assumed by the ocean of milk, a device to do away with the fear of being drunk up by the sage Agastya from the hollow of his palm.[61]

58. “What can a hundred kings do to him that wields the Hundred-killing weapon? What can a hundred thousand do to one who is unerring in his aim?[62] Billions can do nothing to one that surpasses the ‘Billion flower’[63] by a mere glance. Nor can a hundred thousand millions of millions do anything to one who destroys the entire race (of his enemies). Alas, his enemies have no other course than to get beyond the range of number itself.”[64]

59. Then a girl friend, acquainted with Damayantī’s feelings, said to Sarasvatī with a smile, “Look also at the other suitors impatient to be described by thee.”[65]

60. A frown from their master restrained the king’s attendants who were saying, “The goddess is here authorised to speak. Slave girl, who art thou, slut, to give a reply?”

61. Sarasvatī then spake to Damayantī about a king, full noble and worthy among kings by virtue of birth and character, who was brought to notice by the figure of the goddess slightly moving towards him.

62. “Why hast thou thus resolved not to look at the suitors that are come? Let thy vision be slack after at least drinking in Mithilā’s lord.

63. “The heads of his enemies lie on the battlefield, biting the lips with their teeth in anger, saying, ‘Lips, because you did not say to him, save, save, this hath happened to us.’

64. “In a great fight, though his right arm retreats (from the bow frame), taking with it the bowstring along with the arrow, the bow seems to be eager to embrace the advancing left arm in an ecstasy of joy.

65. “The fame of this king is ready for a joint sovereignly with the full moon, (a fame) that banishes the pride of the all-bright Kailāsa mountain in its white radiance. Is it the reflection of a conch, a continuous mass of beautiful[66] rows of autumnal clouds, a complete replica of the milk of the ocean of Milk?

66. “What men have not noticed his hand, which scatters around the mass of pearls found in the hollow region of the bony frame of the temples of the foeman’s elephants, pierced by his sword? His hand seems to sow the seeds of the tree of Fame on the earth, cleft by the hoofs of galloping horses, in campaigns[67] undertaken with armies composed of men, elephants, chariots and chargers.

67. “Let the (all-giving) Kalpa tree manage somehow to live, bending under the pretext of the weight of fruits accumulating owing to the lack of suppliants, since this king is there, profuse in his charities. But, how will the Jewel Mountain,[68] high-crested with the uprise of its unspent wealth of jewels, manage to live, utterly disgraced by the scandal of its desertion by suppliants?”

68. The bride’s aversion for the king was noticed, when she turned aside[69] to smile, a girl friend of hers having asked her with signs, ‘Shall I interrupt the eulogy of the king?’

69. Then the sweet-voiced goddess of speech pointed to another king with her eye, with a view to describing him, and flooded Damayantī’s ears with words that were nectar streams of the moon, her mouth.

70. “Here is the lord of Kāmarūpa, superior to Cupid in beauty. He is not, alas, even looked at by thee. Thou art his beloved, worthiest of all. A woman[70] possessing a lustre rivalling thine is very rarely found.

71. “Lo, without any armour, his enemies, pierced by unbarbed arrows, crossed the ocean of existence, sinking low in battle, and piercing their way through the entire solar orb.[71]

72. “As the heat of this king’s arms creates a veritable summer in the habitation of his enemies, should not likewise the poor wives of the foemen create there reservoirs of water with the tears of their lotus eyes?

73. “On battle fields, who, looking at the unequalled martial commotion of his expeditions, leading to universal conquest, did not mistake the volume of dust raised by the hoofs of the horses in his vanguard to be the profuse smoke of the burning fire of the uncurbed might of his arms, that is fed by raw bamboo fuel, to wit, his enemies with blood gushing from the sword cuts given by him?[72]

74. “What are the worlds whose inhabitants, taking two pitchers, their own thirsty ears, immersed in the nectar stream of the poetry celebrating his fame,[73] did not inaugurate the coronation of his Fame, which built a throne, to be occupied by itself, on the Ocean of milk, after the gods, churning the ‘waters’ of the Ocean of milk, had made them solid?[74]

75. “The panegyric of his fame seems to be engraved on the stony hearts[75] of a hundred thousand gazelle-eyed mistresses of hostile kings, which were not quickly rent at the news of the death of their husbands in battle; (engraved) with such chisels as the sharp finger-nails of the women piercing[76] their own bosoms while they beat their breasts.”

76. Then a maid, the bearer of the betel casket, who understood Damayantī’s feelings, taking a betel-roll in the fold of her hand, said to Sarasvatī, “Do thou lighten the fatigue of thy mouth with this.”[77]

77. Sarasvatī stretched her hand towards another Cupid-like king. Then to the bride, who was so pleasing to the people in the assembly, and had eyes resembling those of a young, timid fawn, she said.

78. “Thou pool of beauty’s nectar! Here is he whom the land of Utkala loves for the multitude of his virtues. His eyes are fondly anxious to look at thy face. Verily, let the undulations of the radiant ripples of thy glances stretch out to him.[78]

79. “The Wish-cow and the Kalpa tree, whose suppliants have been attracted away by him who makes all suppliants content, satisfy their passion for charity; the cow offering pourings of milk to the tree, and the tree morsels of leaves to the cow.

80. “Clearly visible is that rosy hue of his hands and feet, caused perhaps by the rays of the rubies on the crowns of kings, who fell at his feet, and whom he raised with his hands.

81. “It is but proper that the sun doth not remain steady in any direction, and the forest-fire resorts to dense woods as its sole refuge; since they are vanquished by the valour of his arms. But, fie on the submarine fire that hath for fear entered into the waters, its enemy.

82. “The sprays of water from the trunks of the advancing war elephants of this king having brought about, I ween, the season of mist, should not the soldiers of hostile kings shudder in their hearts? Should not the lotus faces of their wives fade away? Should it not be a gloomy day for them all?

83. “It was highly befitting this king who hath accumulated all virtues in him that he whose arrows are efficient in war, leaving all other limbs of his enemies, cut to pieces the vital parts of their hearts and shoulders; (hearts) that were arrogant over and again, (shoulders) that did not bend.

84. “The Fame of his arms having gone afar like a champion warrior,[79] conquering all objects proud of their own whiteness, the timid night lotus sleeps not at night; the wreath of Mallikā blossoms on the braid of thy hair crouches in fear; the terrified moon perspires, shedding[80] its nectar.

85. “A noble elephant of his, lying immersed up to its neck in water in thirst, calms the ocean’s grief caused by its separation from the Airāvata elephant, showering on the ocean[81] sprays of water from its trunk. The animal is whitened by flakes of foam rivalling in brilliance the fame of its victorious contests with fellow elephants[82]. It looks like having four tusks owing to the reflection of its pair of tusks on the water.”[83]

86. Damayantī then closed her eyes, as if to ponder in her heart on the marvellous description of the king. But she repeated in silence Nala’s name, with the wreath of Madhūka flowers in her hand, while Nala flashed before her mind’s eye, growing clear.

87. Just as before, Sarasvatī, the goddess of the evening twilight, unfolded those utterances of hers in order to praise a king, who brightened the two sides of the assembly, and surpassed Buddha with his beauty.

88. “Fair maid, so ordain that the anxious king of Magadha receives now the long wished for showers of thy glances, given to sportive dancing[84] in the corner of an eye.

89. “Has the dark, inky night, frightened by his fame pervading the worlds, gone to the dark spot of the moon that is jealous of his fame? Has it fled to the foeman’s face?

90. “In vain did the sage[85] hold the Vindhya mountain in check. The Rohana mountain, deserted by suppliants begging of this king, will in a few days cover the sky, growing up with its sprouts of gems[86].

91. “With what words shall we praise the fame of this king, earned hy degrees by dint of his valour, and rivalling in whiteness the tusks of a mighty elephant ? The golden Meru mountain, though turned into false silver by the mercury of the fame of other kings bedaubing it, hath again been turned into gold by the fire of his valour.

92. “Verily the region of the earth, against whose ruler this king leads an expedition, is made dusty, as if by the ashes of a conflagration of the quarters showered by Indra.

A form of the eight-formed Śiva, the earth begins at once to dance, taking the rain of blood (on the battlefield) for the evening twilight; and thinks, ‘Ah, let not Śiva’s customary rule of dancing in the eve be transgressed.’[87]

93. “The entire store of light at the disposal of the creator, which did not run short even during the boundless creation of the world in primordial times, was exhausted, when he had created the body of this king up to the moonlike face. Was then the hair that remained to be created[88] made with masses of pitchy darkness, easily available on account of the decay of the entire sphere of light ?

94. “With the dust raised by the hoofs of his spirited horses during his expeditions subjugating this and that land[89], this king creates a darkness, which seems to be caused by the extinguished fire of the might of his foes. The monster Rāhu, as if challenged to a fight by moons, expanses of his fame, disguised itself in fear as the shadow of the earth, perceptible to astronomers only[90].

95. “His fame, owing to the vastness of its magnitude, cannot be contained in the three worlds occupying the cavity of Vishnu’s belly. So it seems his ivorylike fame filled up the three worlds, and went out through Viṣṇu’s navel, in the guise of a white lotus blossom.

96. “His sword, of a flashing black colour, is a serpent drawn from its lair, the sheath of it. It moves in a circle, clearly visible, while it is brandished.[91] In battles it is a cause of terror to those of the kings who do not act as snake-charmers, putting in their mouth the joint of an unfailing medicinal creeper consisting of their own finger in token of submission.[92]

97. “This king is clearly famous as being the foremost among archers, though he handles the bowstring of an (apparently) faulty bow, which in battle shows its back to the ranks of hostile soldiers, becomes crooked towards himself, and being cruel, utters a ferocious yell.[93]

98. “The enemies as well as the arrows of this king make no hissing sound, nor do they tremble, when they come to the fore and fall in battle. Proper it is that, once let loose, they have no return. But the wonder is, the enemies pierce ‘friends’, and the arrows pierce foes.[94]

99. “This king hath engaged the world in the adoration of Virtue. The horse[95] he rides blinds the sky with dust, deafens the directions with the sound of its hoofs, makes the wind appear lame with the rush of its speed in war, and benumbs panegyrists with its merits. The horse disdains to touch the earth with its feet, rushing with continuous forward bounds.

100. “Lo, though the battlefield was crowded with onlookers,[96] none could see the amazing dance of those dancers, the able enemy soldiers with their throats severed by this king; because, there was a darkness caused by the battle-front’s blinding streams of dust rising from the surface of the earth, quickly cleft by the movements of the hoofs of horses rushing at a headlong speed.

101. “He dug a tank where waves are loud with gusts of wind from the wings of bevies of birds playing in the lap of its waters, which are rich in fragrance on account of the unfolding of the petals of the graceful blue lotus blossoms. The tank is pleasing to the eyes of travellers whose fatigue is removed by its banks occupied by rows of trees full of fresh, green leaves in the cluster of their branches.

102. “That pool of water is an old fellow with a body wrinkled with ripples, and white with grey hair, the rows of swans on it. It is supported by a stick, the pole in the middle; it bears the burden of so many years.[97] It has a bald, gravely[98] moving head, to wit, its water worthily flashing in contact with brilliant moonshine.[99] Properly is it ever honoured by the salutation of pious men bathing in it.

103. “Young maid, in this tank, during the hours of water-sports, do thou play with this youth. There let the lotus-stalk be the only means of distinguishing the reflection of thy eyes from the blue lotus blossoms. Let the reflection of thy figure take the place of the water-deities of the tank. Let thy face be installed in the sovereignty of its blossoming lotus realm.

104. “All black things of the world have flown to fables for refuge, banished from the universe cleansed by the phenomenon of this king’s fame. Lo, Disgrace had a terror of the far-famed king, for, dark as it was, it never appeared even in any mention of him.”

105. At the sight of Damayantī’s attitude towards this king, a girl friend of hers said, “If others do not want him to be subject to disgrace, I too certainly do not. I shall only make that disgrace a Tamāla spray decorating the ears of the assembly.[100]

106. “The spots of this king’s disgrace, numbering millions and millions, and resembling the darkness seen by those who are born blind, are sung by a crowd of dumb fellows born of barren women, on the eighth note of the gamut, by the shore of the ocean of the milk of tortoise dams.”[101]

107. With playful movements of her eyes, Damayantī surveyed the assembly composed of smiling faces astonished at these words. She looked also at the king to see whether he laughed or not.

108. It was the dark pupil of Damayantī’s eye that was guilty of looking at some one other than Nala. But the corner of her eye turned towards Nala near by, showed a devotion worthy of its white and rosy hue.[102]

109. Then did Cupid, having no limbs of his own, oppress that bride, turning himself into an archer with another’s limbs, to wit, Nala’s glancing eyes serving as arrows.[103] He took up also a bent bow, the circular mark of fortune on Nala’s hands.

110. The extremely fair Damayantī, a golden Ketakī flower, was full of thrills as the flower is full of thorns. She had flashing, bright leafy designs painted on her body, just as the flower has graceful radiant petals. She had a fragrance, like the flower, and cherished a great love, just as the flower has pollen in plenty. As if on account of Śiva’s wrath, she sought refuge with Nala, taking him for Cupid, Śiva’s enemy.[104]

111. Plunging into an ocean of joy, Damayantī went far down, and caused one to take her for a girl of the nether world, because she adorned the bottom of that ocean. With her mind fixed on the real Nala, she could not even glance at the four (false) Nalas who were before her, in spite of their likeness to him.

112. The king, too, presented her, the treasure of his heart, to his eyes as a loving present, and received her undulating glance, a welcome guest hard even for the gods to obtain. But, pierced anon by Cupid with an arrow composed of the surge of a stream of nectar, he rendered futile with a certain blindness of joy other significant showers of her glances.

113. Epilogue.

Śrīhīra, etc. In the epic, The Story of Nala, composed by him whose head is a bee attending the lotus feet of his mother, the twelfth canto, brilliant by nature, is at an end.

Footnotes and references:


i.e., the shame of seeking another wife.


Lit. from as far as the ocean.


These were the rejected suitors.


Lit...... while going in a conveyance. This was a pretext. The bearers understood Damayantī’s hint that they should set her down to let her have a look around.


The Cakora bird is said to feed on moonshine. Damayantī is to drink in the beauty of king Ṛtuparṇa, just as the tongue of a Cakora bird drinks in the light of the moon.


Lit. touching thy face.


Damayantī’s eyes are fancied as the Cakora bird’s eyes attached to her face; they are to feast on the king’s beauty, just as the eyes of the Cakora bird delight in the lustre of the moon. On the beauty of the Cakora bird’s eyes see 7.35.


Also: produce the illusion of a pearl-string.


The reference is to the well-known story of the sons of king Sagara digging up the earth in the course of their search for the sacrificial horse stolen by Indra.


i.e., by Bhagīratha.


i.e., by Rāma in the Tretā age. It will be noted that the events are taking place in the Satya Yuga. Cf. 1. 7.


i.e., an enumeration of his merits serves only to obscure the fame of his adversaries, just as a lengthy calculation wears out a piece of chalk.


The thrills coming over the body during a fight are fancied as sprouts of the tree of heroism.


i.e., it is beyond the range of expression. Lit. Of what words does the sun of his valour not reach the (other) shore?


The sun makes the day, but the day of Brahmā is so long that the ordinary sun could not possibly make it. It is, therefore, fancied that it is made by another sun, viz., the sun of king Ṛtuparṇa’s valour.


The limpid waters of the Gaṅgā mix with the dark waters of the Yamuna at Prayāga, to which is compared the battle-field where the pure fame of the king comes in contact with the dark disgrace of his defeated enemies. The warriors going to paradise to sport with the nymphs by virtue of their heroic death on the battle-field are indirectly likened to those who bathe on prescribed occasions in the confluence of those two rivers, and go to heaven as a result of the ensuing religious merit.


Lit. devoted to a continuity of practice.


mahāvaṃśa”: “highborn” means also “a tall bamboo”, which brings into relief the idea of dancing on the top of a bamboo pole, a feat practised even to-day in India.


The nails of the feet are fancied as moons (cf. 7. 106), while the crown-jewels of the kings bowing at his feet are imagined to be stars coming to meet the moons. The expression “karaparicaraṇa” means also “serving with the hands”, which makes vivid the idea of the star wives waiting upon their husbands, the moons.


King Pṛthu had uprooted the mountains, which could formerly move about, in order to make the earth fit for cultivation. He now comes to witness the battles of the king of Pāṇḍya in company with the gods.


Lit. A maidservant, acquainted with feelings, said to Damayantī.


This was meant both as a diversion and a sarcasm.


In Sanskrit poetry a laugh is always white.


i.e., Damayantī.


It will be remembered that the breasts of a woman are often likened to the temples of an elephant.


Lit. even in the woods were they scared by parrots repeating their ravings in sleep consisting of those letters and heard (by the parrots).


A king being the ‘husband’ of the earth, the latter quivers with emotion at the prospect of having a new lover. The earth quaking owing to the commotion of the king’s battles is fancied as trembling with emotion.


This is the traditional reward for being killed in battle.


It was a sign to Sarasvatī to discontinue her speech.


Lit. The direction alone is traversed.


Lit. The row of swans.


The tears shed by the widows of the enemies killed by him in battle are fancied as a pool of water where the swans of his fame live, while the conch bracelets cast off by the widows are imagined to be the lotus-stalks, on which the swans feed.


i.e., collyrium paint.


The collyrium paint applied to the huge bodies of the elephants is likened to darkness, and the vermilion paint of their heads to the glow of sunset.


Lit. between his arms.


Lit...... Viṣṇu’s bosom, of which the Kaustubha gem is becoming a cobweb made by spiders, clearly settling owing to its defect of being a void.


The lotus fibres are fancied as cobweb threads, the flower being deserted by the goddess.


Fame being “white”, the moon is described as a mere drop of the king’s fame.


i.e., the white ocean of his fame is so profound that the white Kailāsa mountain can lie submerged in it, as if it were the crystal phallus of Śiva, known as “Yāgeśvara” See Vocabulary.


Serpents are believed to hear with their eyes.


It will be remembered that Ananta bears the earth on his head.


Lit...... laughed at young fawns.


Lit. already indicating him with eyebrows, the seat of the grace of moving in his direction.


Lit. worth drinking in.


i.e., while being drawn by the archer.


There is a pun on the word “rañjana” which means both “pleasing” and “colouring.” His vow being to “colour” or “paint” all men, he painted his enemies with blood.


Lit...... its substitute.


The bridge built by Rāma to cross over to Laṅkā is fancied as a line of hair on the body of the south, while the Himalayas are imagined to be a scarf worn by the north. “The scions of Pulastya’s family” are Rāvaṇa and Kubera. The former’s home is in the south, while the latter is the regent of the north.


The mountains of sunrise and sunset.


Lit. the crimson beauty of whose peaks is made by......


Lit. the other.


See Verse 44.


See Verse 21.


Means also: “even the goddess Durgā, the daughter of the (Himālaya) mountain,” Durgā being a form of Pārvatī.


Lit. “rendered unlucky in the matter of suppliants,” who are attracted away by the king. The Vidūra mountain, also called Rohaṇa, produces jewels which are taken away by suppliants.


i.e., the mountain believed to be in the south is so overgrown with its unwanted jewels that it will extend some day as far as the king’s dominions, also in the south, and be at the disposal of Damayantī.


The outline of the king’s toe-nails is compared to the moon, while the gloomy appearance of the defeated kings as they fall at his feet is likened to the spot in the moon. Lit. he is one, the row of whose toe-nails looks like the moon owing to the insertion of a bee-born hue etc.


Serpents are supposed to feed on air.


i.e., the pure ‘white’ fame of the king could easily provide a thousand bodies to match with the thousand white hoods of Ananta.


i.e., his fame looks like several oceans of milk put together, so that the ocean of milk need not be afraid of Agastya, who is reputed to have drunk up one ocean only.


There is a pun on “lakṣa”. A lakṣa (hundred thousand) can do nothing to ‘one who pierces his lakṣa (aim).’


padma” means both lotus’ and the numeral of that name. The apparent meaning is: “(Enemies) numbering ‘padmas’ can do nothing to one who conquers ‘padmas’ (lotus blossoms) with his eyes.”


The last line means also: “his enemies have no other course than to flee from the battle.” See Vocabulary under “saṃkhya”.


lit. Look also at the haste of suitors other than this one for being described through thy mouth.


Lit...... the beauty of rows...


Lit. in battles of four-limbed armies. The pearls are fancied as the seeds of the tree of fame.


See Vocabulary under “ratnācala”. See also Verse 55.


Lit. curved her face.


Lit. Another.


i.e., went to the highest heaven as a reward for being killed in battle. See Verse 29. For the puns see Notes. The imagery is that of shipwrecked persons coming ashore without any helmsman or favourable winds or oars. It is also implied that the king does not use barbed arrows, being averse to cruelty, while his brave enemies do not put on any armour.


The imagery is that of smoke produced by fire kindled with raw bamboo.


Lit...... nectar streams of its poetic character.


Lit...... the gods having created the designation of curds. The fame of the ruler of Kāmarūpa is fancied as a king, who, being pure and white, establishes his throne on the ocean of milk. The poet then describes the coronation of king Fame performed by the inhabitants of the three worlds. As the pouring of water with pitchers on the head of the prince to be installed is an essential feature of a coronation, the people are fancied as doing so, using their own ears as pitchers, which are accustomed to listen to the poetry occasioned by king Fame.


Lit. heart-stones.


Lit...... thrust (vyasta) during the beating of breasts.


This was a hint to Sarasvatī to discontinue her speech.


Lit...... touch him.


The pure white fame of the king is fancied as conquering all other white objects.



Lit: under the pretext of shedding......


Lit: in the guise of showering.


Lit: with the elephants of its region.


The Airāvata elephant had four tusks.


Lit: addicted to dancing on the stage (or dancing ground) of the eve-corner.


Once the Vindhya mountain grew higher and higher till it impeded the progress of the sun. The sage Agastya asked the mountain to bend to enable him to pass over, and made it promise to remain so till his return, which never took place.


See Footnote under Verse 55.


Śiva dances in the evening. As the Earth is a form of Śiva, she herself leads the customary dance in place of Śiva, thinking it is evening, at the sight of the darkness caused by the showers of blood in the king's battles. The earth trembling under the footsteps of the fighting armies is fancied as dancing, while the dust is likened to the ashes, with which Śiva’s body is smeared.


Lit: this hairy residue.


Lit: direction.


In mythology, Rāhu is a monster who swallows up the moon during an eclipse. According to astronomy, it is the shadow of the earth falling on the moon. It is here fancied that Rāhu was frightened at the appearance of a large number of moons in the shape of the “white” fame of the king, and assumed a form, the existence of which is known only to the limited circle of astronomers.


Lit. (the sword) which has a crooked motion coming into view on account of its waving. The circular movement of the sword, brandished full length, is likened to the writhing of a serpent.


Ref. to a custom signifying submission.


“guṇagrāhin”: “one who takes hold of the bowstring”, i.e., an archer, means also “one who appreciates merit”. It is implied by pun that the king is foremost among those who appreciate merit, appreciating the merit (gṛhṇan guṇam) even of those who have otherwise grave defects, namely, cowardice, insincerity and savage manners.


This is an apparent contradiction based on a pun on the word “mitra” meaning both “the sun” and “a friend”. The real meaning is, the enemies “pierce the sun”, i.e., being killed in battle, go to the highest heaven through the solar orb. Cf. Verse 29.


lit. The horse occupied by this king who has engaged etc.


Lit. people looking at the battle.


Also: it has so great a multitude of birds.


Lit. suitably.


“ka” means both “head” and “water”. “vikacā candrikā” means both “brilliant moonshine” and “a hairless (vi+kacā) lustre” i.e., baldness.


i.e., make the assembly listen to his disgrace. Tamāla leaves are dark in colour.


The verse is a conglomeration of things that do not exist. It is intended to make Sarasvatī’s solemn description seriocomic.


It is implied that she looked at the Magadha king “with the pupil of her eye”, i.e., straight in the face, just out of curiosity. But her sidelong glances, expressive of love (6.22), were meant for Nala. This verse contradicts the next canto, in which Damayantī is described as being perplexed in the presence of the four gods disguised as Nala, unable to distinguish the real Nala from them.


“śruticumbinā”: ‘ear-kissing’ is to be applied also to ‘arrow’ i.e., an arrow which touches the ear of the archer as he draws the bowstring.


Damayantī is imagined to be a Ketakī flower, and as such she is bated by Śiva, the flower being excluded from the worship of Śiva. She, therefore, seeks refuge with Cupid, Śiva’s well-known enemy; but, mistaking Nala for Cupid, she really betakes herself to Nala. For the allusion to the Ketakī flower see Notes on 1.78.

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