Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha

by Krishna Kanta Handiqui | 1956 | 159,632 words

This page relates The marriage rites and the wedding feast which is canto 16 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 16 - The marriage rites and the wedding feast

1. Surrounded by chariots, the charioteer king.[1] then started for the home of the king of Vidarbha, taking auspicious objects[2] with him, and in two ways putting the priest Gautama, a perfect knower of the self, to the fore.[3]

2. The mighty king was attended by moon-coloured Cāmara whisks, waved by gazelle-eyed maids, as if they were his own resplendent virtues, mirrored on his shining ornaments.

3. While Nala was proceeding, accompanied by forerunners who wore magnificent attire and ornaments, Indra, if he bore the name Sunāsīra,[4] did so by convention only.

4. That night the marriage procession, enveloped in darkness mingled with the dust raised by the army, shone forth, making lights superfluous, because of the jewels in the diadems of the kings forming Nala’s vanguard.

5. The king of Vidarbha,[5] hastening on account of the close approach of the auspicious moment,[6] sent kings as heralds every moment, one after another, whose throng added to the immensity of Nala’s army on the way.

6. The flags of the speedy-horsed army, billowed by the wind blowing in,[7] and looking like cloth-made lions, elephants and tigers, turned the sky into a woodland, animated by many-coloured China silk creepers.

7. The king then saw the entrance ground of king Bhīma’s palace beckoning with the garland of flowers on the gate, which waved with the gusts of wind from the (flapping) ears of a row of elephants, as if it[8] were Damayantī’s girl messenger calling him with her eyebrows.

8. Resonant with trumpets,[9] made to act as welcoming questions flashing across Damayantī’s mind, the entrance ground shone forth with the moving leaves of two posts of banana stems,[10] like a girl friend of his beloved, adorned with a flowing scarf.

9. In front of the royal palace the two royal armies, subdued with fear for their two disciplinarian masters, met each other without indulging in mutual slaughter, and uttered a swelling sound.[11]

10. The king of Vidarbha looked with joy at Nala, who politely came on foot from as far as the gate. Dama[12] welcomed him, going half the distance, and saying to him, ‘This way’, having indicated his kinsmen.

11. Rising and stretching out his arms in joy, king Bhīma then received Nala, now come, the worthy suitor of his daughter; just as the ocean, carrying a two-sided rush of waves, receives the flood of waters coming from the Gaṅgā.

12. Bhīma, the overlord of kings, master of vast armies, then fittingly gave his benign daughter, of perfect splendour, to the allknowing benign Nala, the best of men.[13]

13. While Nala tasted the preparation of honey, curds and butter, offered to him, he gave rise to a surmise in the minds of the people, who were thinking of the future. “As he is going to drink honey, Damayantī’s lips, he hath now made under that pretext an auspicious prelude.”[14]

14. The bridegroom’s hand had taken delight in slaying others.[15] The hand of the bride was a thief stealing the beauty of the lotus. Was it for this that their hands were tied with rough Kuśa blades, in the well-governed[16] kingdom of Vidarbha.[17]

15. [18]

16. Nala’s father-in-law gave him the wish-fulfilling wreath of Cintāmaṇi gems, worthy of the gods; which Śiva had given to king Bhīma, being his friend by virtue of the name ‘Bhīma’.[19] The wreath was obtained by Śiva himself through his friendship with Kubera.

17. The wreath of Cintāmaṇi gems brightly shone, carrying within itself[20] all that is begged for by suppliants and due to them, in the guise of the reflections on it of the rare and huge mass of things, heaped up in order to present them to the bridegroom.

18. King Bhīma gave to the bridegroom Durgā’s shining sword, which destroyed the Mahiṣa demon. Absorbed in dalliance with Śiva, the goddess had given it to Bhīma, who bore the same name as her consort.[21]

19. The bride’s father[22] gave to Nala the sword which was formerly carried by Durgā, the enemy of the Mahiṣa demon. The sword, which rent asunder the foeman’s limbs, was discarded by her right half, merged in the (left) half of her consort.[23]

20. The sword had a vow to become a mountain, where arose the sun of its valour. It had a woodland, the extremely dense pictorial designs on it. It had a brook, its blade made bright by whetting. It bore the morning twilight, the blood of wounded foes.

21. King Bhīma gave also a knife to Nala, which was beautiful with its sheath, and worthy of being grasped with the hand, as if it were Yama’s tongue, sent by the eagerly suppliant god, to ask Bhīma for the hand of his daughter.[24]

22. The ornamental designs on the upper and lower portions of the blade of the knife[25] flashed, as if they were collyrium paint applied to the eyes of women, and decorative designs painted on their bosoms. It seemed as if those who were initiated into the vow of sleeping on the battlefield, as on the bare ground of a place of worship, presented these designs, which belonged to their own wives, as religious gifts to the knife.[26]

23. The chariot, which Agni had sent before to king Bhīma, professing friendship with him[27], being in love with his daughter, was now given to Nala by the king. It could traverse with ease mountains, oceans and impassable paths.

24. As the fact of this great chariot having an excellent charioteer was patent from Nala’s connection with its poles,[28] so its excellence as great as that of Kubera’s Puṣpaka chariot could be inferred from Kubera’s own example.[29]

25. King Bhīma gave to Nala that jewel of a horse, which Varuṇa had formerly offered to him[30] to establish friendship with him; (the horse) who was originally, given by the ocean to its master (Varuṇa) by deceiving Indra with the Uccaiḥśravas horse.[31]

26. The horse, who used to bring near by his speed the farthest limit of vision, making people impatient with an eager desire to look at him,[32] did not bring joy to their eyes so much as a great thirst,[33] through that same desire[34] to see him again.

27. King Bhīma gave to Nala a spitoon, which was very high and entirely made of rubies. Viśvakarman had cordially presented it to king Bhīma, perceiving Indra’s esteem for him.

28. On account of its halo of rays, beautiful as the rising, high ascending sun, the people long thought, ‘Is it full of the remains of chewed betel, thrown out by Nala, who is fond of betel’?[35]

29. The huge dish of emerald which the demon Maya, a worshipper of Lord Śiva, worshipfully offered to king Bhīma, who had the same name as his master Śiva,[36] was now given by king Bhīma to Nala.

30. The venom of serpents has no effect on peacocks, because they ever bear on their feathers the colour of this dish. Had Lord Śiva taken the Kālakūṭa poison on this dish, his neck would not have turned blue.[37]

31. That elephant whom king Bhīma gave to Nala, and who constantly poured rain, his ichor, as if he were the elephant of the sky,[38] was it the elephant of Indra, who fell from heaven, having offended the sage Durvāsas, rejecting the wreath of flowers offered by him?

32. With his flapping ears,[39] the elephant seemed to tell his fellows inhabiting the regions of the sky, even without any words, “Face me in the pride of your strength, or go afar off in terror, even beyond the border of the horizon, and live.”

33. Verily the elephant bore his tusks as the root cause of his fame and his drops of ichor as that of the disgrace of his foes. With the toil of his ears,[40] he waited upon the Beauty of his head for her pleasure; (the Beauty) that had breasts, the temples of the elephant’s head, and perspiration, the flow of his ichor.

34. No one, however skilled, could count the horses given away by king Bhīma as ceremonial marriage gifts, nor the objects of gold, nor the spirited elephants, nor the heaps of jewels.

35. The Fire god, who had opposed the marriage of Damayantī and Nala, was afterwards appeased[41] and made agreeable by Damayantī. Then Nala, facing the fire god, went round him, keeping to the right.

36. Did the ceremonial utterance, “Be thou firm as a rock”, after it had blessed Damayantī, quickly die away in shame?[42] A stone would move, even at a push given by mortals. But she was not moved from womanly dignity by Indra himself.

37. The priest (Gautama) then tied with a knot Damayantī’s skirt to her beloved’s scarf. All-knowing, he seemed to declare the future faithlessness of Nala, who would go away, cutting asunder the cloth (worn by them both).

38. Damayantī’s consort, his eyebrows inclining towards her, pointed out the evening star and told her to look at it. Was not the tiny star[43] visible to her? Still the prestige of an act prescribed by the scriptures was maintained.[44]

39. The bridegroom indicated the Arundhatī star[45] to the bride, “Look at yonder Arundhatī, the devoted wife, diminished to an atom in the presence of one who hath spurned Indra for the sake of the king[46] cherished in her heart.”

40. The grains of parched rice, let fall by her (on the fire), looked like flowers, while they were in her leaflike hands. Passing through the ether, on their way (to the fire), they acquired the beauty of stars. They flashed like a row of teeth in the fire, the mouth of the gods.[47]

41. The wreath of smoke from the burnt offerings, which she took up (with her hands),[48] acquired the beauty of musk paint on her cheeks. It looked like collyrium paint on her eyes. On her ears it assumed the grace of a Tamāla spray. On her brow it looked like curls of hair.

42. The profuse perspiration on the hands of Damayantī and Nala, shy both of them, was lost to view, as it over and again mingled with the ceremonial water accompanying the gifts made by them. The streaming tears of emotion in their eyes were thought to be due to[49] the dense whiffs of smoke (from the marriage fire).

43. The beauty of their burgeoning thrills was lost amid[50] the thrills of the people, who saw then king Bhīma’s liberality, as he gave away vast riches, as religious gifts.

44. The haste involved in the continuous performance of Vedic rites could not overcome the inertia that fell upon them; nor could the fire kept burning with sacrificial fuel, though it was in front of them, remove the vehemence of their tremors.

45. The priest (Gautama) brought the rites concerning Nala to a most successful issue, while he was married to Damayantī, even as the great sage Bṛhaspati did those relating to Indra, when he married Śacī.

46. Nala then went to the chamber of pleasure, which seemed to be turned into a thousand holes by women, in order to peep through them. Verily that chamber, occupied by the conquering hero, looked like the armour of the thousand-eyed Indra.[51]

47. The bride and the bridegroom did not eat with appetite from shame; nor did the one fully look at what the other did. For three days, as prescribed by the law, they slept with desire, but without enjoyment.

48. In one place, Dama, the young scion of the dynasty of Bhoja, made his subjects jest freely with the bridegroom’s party, using a significant glance. In another place, he had the people coming with the bridegroom’s procession served with food by maids who were nymphs of the earth.

49. To a certain guest he said, “Well, let some maids bring here some curry to suit thy taste. Let some give thee water, for thou art thirsty, and rice as well, just as thou wilt.”[52]

50. [53]

51. A member of the bridegroom’s party was saying (to two maids), “You two are my favourite mistresses.” One of them, being told thus, put her pearlstring round his neck, saying, “Speaking like that, dost thou not look like a goat?”[54] Thereupon the other maid tugged at the pearlstring.

52. A girl, waving a feather fan over Nala, was laughed at by the people, as she cast off her skirt for fear of a lizard, which was secretly put on her feet by a maid of Dama, and which quickly went up the whole length of her leg.[55]

53. A mischievous maid spread out a seat of animal skin, meant for Brāhmaṇas, with the tail to the fore; and a simple Brāhmaṇa of the bridegroom’s party seated himself on it. But, making him rise, pleading her ignorance, she laughed, adjusting the seat with the tail turned back.

54. A certain fellow had a mirror secretly put from behind by some one else between the legs of a beautiful girl of the bridegroom’s party, whom he himself kept rapt in attention by his talk. Then smiling, he looked at the mirror.

55. Created by Cupid, those maids whose beautiful eyes were eager to entertain, and who banished the strength of one’s patience with their graceful movements, frequently made the onlookers laugh, as they disturbed into emotion the members of the bridegroom’s party.[56]

56. A youth smiled; and a maiden, who smiled, too, with the lotus-stalk neck of her lotus face sidewise moving, verily pierced a target without being in front of it, driving the smile into his heart.

57. Leaving what she should have done, a maid did something else. She restrained her eye, which was eager to see. That very fact, full of meaning, declared to her lover the entire message of her heart.

58. A rash, venturesome fellow kissed the face of a girl while she in a bending posture gave him water. Applying a slow hand to his feet, while she poured water on them,[57] he waited for another opportunity to deceive the eyes of the crowd.

59. Looking at a youth, a clever maiden formed round her maiden friend, a moon as it were, a halo with her lotus-stalk arms. Lo, though it was loose, it assumed in his eyes the character of a fast embrace.[58]

60. Grievously hurt by Cupid’s arrows, with tremors and thrills clearly visible, one fellow took shelter at the feet of a maid with smooth eyebrows while she gave him water, being mirrored[59] on the transparent nails of her feet.

61. A fair maiden smiled, inclining her face. Bashfully she remained with face downcast. She spoke in a soft faltering voice. This a youth took as a surety of winning her.

62. Looking at a maid who was waving a fan, a youth whelmed with emotion heavily perspired. He raised his neck, pretending to feel hot, and looked at her face, overcoming shame.

63. Made restless by the breeze of her fan looking like an agile leaf of her creeper arm, which softly touched her bosom, the youth resembled a bird, confined in a cage made of diverse reeds.

64. There was such a sweep of glances and such a manner of speaking that, in the mutual entreaties of the youthful couple, not even the slightest work was left for a messenger to do.

65. One fellow, in an ecstasy of joy, failed for a moment to drink the palmful of water applied to his lips.[60] Instead he kissed, on the water, the reflection of the face of a girl, who was beaming before him, with eyebrows like to Cupid’s bow.

66. The members of the bridegroom’s party got anṇry, when an emerald dish was put before them. But they were told, “It is not offered to you, full of raw vegetables. It looks like that because of its green colour.”

67. A youth, who truly was polite, asked a woman something while she stood before him, smiling as he spoke, without looking at her face. His eyes were fixed on the middle of the space between her legs on the crystal floor.

68. The people eagerly ate rice, which was unbroken and entire, with the grains distinct, and vapour playing over it, and retained its softness. It was excellent in taste, white, fine and fragrant.

69. While a fair youth cast repeated sidelong glances at a maiden, whose breasts were slightly budding with youth, a heavy-bosomed woman, deeply ashamed, took up the scarf of her own bosom, which was of itself slipping off her body.

70. The maids, serving milk-rice to the guests, made it look like an expanse of sand alongside streams of clarified butter, which was surely fragrant,[61] because in its origin the first cause of it was the divine cow Surabhi (Fragrant).

71. Butter may be inferred to be sweeter than nectar, though nectar hath never been drunk by mortals. For the gods, who feed on nectar, long for butter, even though its fragrance is destroyed by the sacrificial fire.

72. “She failed to understand my hint, hidden from her by her own bashfulness. Perhaps she knew it, but paid no heed.” A girl, going a few steps, and turning back, destroyed this notion of a youth with the arrow of a wistful glance.

73-4. Who did not take there, with a hissing mouth, a preparation of black mustard containing curds, shaking the head, and scratching at an unsuitable time the head and the palate, owing to the sharp pungent taste?

The preparation was white, first mild, and then burning, as if it were a portion brought from the cold-rayed moon, whose beams become sharp, in order to consume separated lovers. It was like an insincere man, friend first, and then foe.

75. A couple, in their first youth, concealing their feelings, cast glances on each other’s face over and again, after these had wandered over sundry objects at random.

76. Eagerly eating the mild curry, cooked with deer flesh, the guests seriously thought, ‘Was it cooked with the nectar-juiced flesh of the deer in the moon?’

77. The closing of the eyes for a while by a youthful couple, whose mutual hints did a messenger’s task,[62] made the people conclude that the hour of worshipping the god of love had arrived.

78. A gallant asked a maid whether the day or the night was suitable for love-play, putting his hand on the hot and the cold dishes by turns. The clever maid, bashfully rejecting both day and night, put her finger on her nether lip, sweet as the evening glow.[63]

79. [64]

80. A guest leaving some rice (on the dish), and drawing some towards him, asked a maid with this coming and going of the hand, “Shall I come, or wilt thou come?” At this she bent her face in shame.

81. As the guests mistook a preparation of meat for one without meat, and had the delusion that a preparation without meat was one of meat, the clever cooks, laughing at them, treated them to wonderful dishes, prepared with diverse ingredients.

82. Giving, with a fingernail, the shape of a lip to a tender piece of seasoned flesh under some pretext, a youth bit it with his teeth, and praised its taste; while he laughed looking at the waitress’s lips.

83. The people ate many a seasoned dish, wondering at the things produced out of season, such and such being made by combining numerous ingredients, and such and such produced by cutting and pounding.

84. A guest, who had quenched his thirst, said to a maid, ‘I am thirsty’, looking at her face. She wished to take the water jug again in her hand, but abruptly turned back owing to the laughter of her friends.[65]

85. A youth, wishing to take up some clarified butter which was in a bowl, saw there the image of a gazelle-eyed maid. When he put his hand on the (reflected) knot of her skirt, the reflection of her figure showed distinct thrills.

86. A guest, pretending to take the broth, kissed the reflection of a maid[66] on the oil in the broth, repeatedly touching it[67] with the tips of his fingers, which on that account seemed to turn red, being put in his mouth.[68]

87. Far from being able to eat, the people could not even count the mild, savoury and flavoured curries, which were prepared with fish and the flesh of deer, goats and birds.

88. A certain fellow had been rejected before by a maid, slightly knitting her eyebrows, though he had made entreaties with flattering words and gestures. But she took pity on him, assuming again a gracious look, when he put his fingers into his mouth[69] by way of eating.

89. There the water, contained in a golden jar, was made cool as ice with draughts of air, and fumigated with fuel of aloe wood. Drinking it, the guests thus described it again and again—

90. “Creator, it was well that thou didst create water as ‘nectar’ and made it ‘life’.[70] But in vain didst thou give it an all-confronting face; for those who drink it should also have been likewise formed.”[71]

91. “Friend, give him rice”; “Give it to him yourself”—wrangling in this way, two maids served no rice to a guest who, shaping his hand like the cup of a lotus,[72] repeatedly asked for it, though there was sufficient (on his dish).

92. A guest looked at the covered bosom of a maid, who was giving him water, and thought ‘How large are her charming breasts?’. To him her beautiful hands seemed to give a reply, upholding the golden jar.[73]

93. In king Bhīma’s mansion, the guests, to their heart’s content, ate sugar that seemed to be blended with a stream of snow, and curds prepared from the milk of buffaloes with fullgrown calves, as if it were the ooze extracted from a lake of nectar.

94. Resorting to magic, the Creator, his tongue moving with greed at the sight of curds, patently stole portions of them here and there, dotting the curds with holes through and through.[74]

95. “Thou dost not give what I like. Of what use is sugar that has no ‘colour’?”[75] To a guest, who spoke thus, a maid with Bimba lips gave a piece of meat, shaped like a Bimba fruit, and it proved appetising to him.

96. A man with insight, who simultaneously made gestures to two maids, both friends, gave up the one who responded to his gestures, and took a fancy to the other who, being clever, made no sign, and even deterred her fellow from so doing.

97. A maid, perceiving the gestures of a youth, said to her companion, “He does not tolerate thy desire to serve the dishes one after another. Why not give him, an eager suppliant, the preferred dainties in the opposite order?”[76]

98. The feast,[77] adorned with cream-balls, shone forth with the reddish hue of the balls produced in cooking; as if it were the surface of a writing leaf, covered with circles, signifying that those who partook of the meal were coming to an end of their eating.[78]

99. Not only did a gallant kiss the features of a maid, an Urvaśī of the earth, mirrored in the cup before him. But he also repeatedly produced the sucking sound of kissing, pretending to drink the wine.[79]

100. The waiters, who were clouds, as it were, carrying rainbows, by virtue of the lustre of the ornamental jewels of their moving hands, showered before the guests sweetmeat balls with the scent of camphor, like hailstones with the gleam of the sun and the moon.[80]

101. The guests in satiety said again and again, “How many of these seasoned dishes are to be given to us?”, whereupon the waiters skilfully gave them those balls of sweets, like numerous pieces of chalk, with which to reckon the dishes.

102. A gallant composed a commentary on his own heart with hundreds of appropriate gestures in an attempt to solve[81] the riddle of a clever maiden’s skill in concealing her feelings.

103. A youth placed two balls of sweets on the bosom of the gleaming figure of a woman, reflected before him on a bowl overflowing with clarified butter. Then he scratched the balls with his finger nails, and crushed them without pity.

104. A girl bashfully turned her face away, when a fervent lover looked at her with a smile. But her friend brought from somewhere a doll of sugar, and smilingly put it in his hands.

105. The guests, unable to eat more, having eaten much, left heaps and heaps of seasoned dishes. It seemed they did not eat at all, content to have looked at the beautiful waitresses.

106. A youth who had expressed his feelings with diverse gestures, was saddened by a maid, who remained indifferent to him. Despairing of her, he looked towards another. But, ah, when the first became angry at this, it was she who delighted him.

107. The banquet looked like a beloved woman, pleasing to the guests. The milk was its smile; the pastries its decorative scarf. The mass of lentil balls was its moonlike face. The plump sweetmeat balls were its breasts; the shining rice its pearlstring.

108. A youth, who besought a maid for a long while with hundreds of significant gestures, had long been rejected by her, making angry signs. But, when he folded his hands by way of washing them, she splashed him, slightly jolting the stream of water (which she poured out to him).[82]

109. During the banquet, the six varieties of relish did not bring to the gallants as much pleasure as the seventh one, which emerged freely, born of the graceful movements of the multitude of youthful maids, and moulded of a boundless sentiment of love.

110. The followers of Nala, after putting the betel in their mouth, threw away the betel leaf when they saw a scorpion made of spices, placed inside the betel-roll by Dama. Struck with terror, they made every one laugh at their mistake.

111. Showing two heaps of jewels, real and false, the one beautiful, but the other charming,[83] king Bhīma said to the guests, ‘Take one of these.’ When they wanted to take the latter heap, he laughed and gave them both.

112. Thus they passed a few days in joy, feasting on pure and delicious preparations, twice in the day; while at night they were gratified by the caresses of courtesans sixteen years old.

113. Nala stayed five or six nights in the house of the king of Vidarbha, after he had married the slender maiden. He then set out for the land of Niṣadha with her in a chariot, driven by Vārṣṇeya.[84]

114. ‘None other has the right to touch her. My beloved is a child, and the chariot is high.’ Saying thus, Nala himself made Damayantī mount the chariot. None could say that he embraced her in the presence of the people.[85]

115. ‘Smooth and soft, she will slip from the embrace of her beloved. He fears to hold her tight with his arms’.[86] So thinking, the ready-witted Cupid made Nala and his bride rough with an exuberance of thrills.

116. Were Damayantī’s parents aggrieved, after they had sent away their daughter nourished in their bosom since her birth, in the same way as they were, after they had bidden farewell to their son-in-law, whose merits were increased a million-fold by his modesty?

117. Like as the ripples of a tank return from the shore, with the waters moving, after they have followed a (shoreward) wind, so did the king of Vidarbha, following Nala, come back from the boundary of his kingdom, with his face downcast, after he had a pleasant talk[87] at the time of return.

118. With tears in his eyes, he bade farewell to his daughter, saying, “Now is thy own religious merit thy father; forbearance thy remedy against peril; contentment thy wealth; and Nala thy all. From now, child, I am no one to thee.”

119. Doing only what pleased her, her beloved long solaced her in her grief, as she remembered her father. But the inner[88] fire of her grief, caused by her separation from her mother, subsisted even in the great ocean of her beloved’s love.

120. Just as a mountain, adorned with numerous minerals, acquires a certain beauty from its valley, where antelopes gaze and elephants roam, and which runs along[89] bordering hills; so the king, adorned with many an[90] ornament, acquired a certain splendour in the company of Damayantī, who waited upon him at his feet, and had an antelope’s eyes and a sedateness of gait.[91]

121. The goddess of prosperity, married by Nala long before, gratified Damayantī by all manner of fulfilling all her desires, renouncing a co-wife’s spirit of rivalry, as if she wished to retain the affection of the king, now solely devoted to Damayantī.

122. Nala came in sight of his city. It had gates with rows of sapphire wreaths, as if it were his beloved consort, with the curls of her hair hanging in neglect, owing to his absence. Standing on tiptoe, the city seemed to look at him with its lofty houses.

123. The glance which Damayantī furtively cast at her beloved, thinking his attention was slighty diverted by looking at the city, met midway Nala’s suddenly returning eyes.

124. Like as the spring accompanied by the beauty of flowers, meets the eagerly curious bees that come one by one; so did Nala, charming with his bride, meet his ministers on the way, jewels of the city, and eager with curiosity.

125. He told them, who were restless with eagerness to hear, something of the events that befell him; and hearing from them something of the events that occurred in his own land, he entered the city.

126. In every street, the unmarried daughters of the citizens, tender as lotus-stalks growing on waters full of nectar, then bowed to the king, saying ‘Victory to thee’; while they adored him with grains of parched rice, which seemed to be[92] buds of flowers put forth by their creeperlike arms.

127. For a moment, the ‘moon-chambers’, on the top floors of the edifices of the whole city, proved true to their name,[93] being in contact with the moonlike faces of the women of the city, eager to look at the newly wed Damayantī’s radiance.

128. Yonder blue lotus blossoms, the eyes of the wives of all the citizens,[94] dusty dry with an unusual eagerness, drank in the nectar of the beauty of Nala’s moonlike face; nectar that came through lotus-stalks, namely, beams (of their eyes) shooting through the window lattices of the buildings.[95]

129. Nala entered the palace, newly built for Damayantī, accepting the scented grains of parched rice which fell from the leafy hands of the crowds of women on the high buildings, like showers of flowers from the gods above.

130. The great gods, after they had cheerfully witnessed from the sky the wedding of Nala and Damayantī, their journey in the same car, and their mutual glances, slightly timid, seemed at last to make up their minds to go to heaven, full of joy.

131. Epilogue.

Śrīhīra etc. In the epic, The Story of Nala, composed by him, and honoured by the people of Kāśmīra, who are conversant with the fourteen-fold science,[96] the sixteenth canto is at an end.

Footnotes and references:




Curds, rice, pitchers full of water etc.


“puraskṛtya”: meaning both “putting in the front” and “paying homage to.”


i.e., Sunāsīra (one who has a good vanguard), an epithet of Indra, now befitted Nala more than Indra.


Damayantī’s father.


The moment astrologically favourable for the marriage ceremony.


Lit. the blowing in of the wind.


“It” refers to the entrance ground.


Lit. Possessing the sound of trumpets which was made to act etc.


It is usual even now, in some parts of India (e.g. Assam), to decorate the entrance ground of the bride’s place with banana plants.


Lit. On the doorway took place the encounter of the two...... armies, (an encounter) which had no mutual slaughter, and in which there was the uprise of a widespread noise.


Damayantī’s brother.


By means of puns, king Bhīma is indirectly compared to the ocean, “the lord of many a river,” who gave Lakṣmī to Puruṣottama (i.e., Viṣṇu), and to the Himālaya, “the lord of the mountains,” who gave Śivā (i.e. Pārvatī) in marriage to Śiva. It will be noted that “vāhinā” means “river” in the case of the ocean, and “army” in the case of king Bhīma; while “mahībhṛtāṃ patiḥ”: “the lord of kings” means also “the lord of the mountains.”


i.e., Nala’s tasting of the sweet ‘madhuparka’ is to be regarded as a ceremonial rite preliminary to his tasting of Damayantī’s lips. See Vocab. under “puṣyāhavidhi”.


i.e., enemies. “pura” means both “other” and “enemy”.


Lit. that which has a good king.


The binding of the hands with Kuśa blades is a part of the marriage ceremony.




‘Bhīma’ (terrible) is also an epithet of Śiva.


Lit. containing all that is begged for etc........ located within itself.


See Verse 16.


Lit. the giver of the bride (i.e., king Bhīma).


The reference is to the Ardhanārīśvara form of Śiva, half himself and half Pārvatī or Durgā.


Yama, it will be remembered, was one of Damayantī’s suitors.


Lit The upper and lower portions of the blade of the knife (with ornamental designs on them).


The ornamental designs on the blade of the knife are fancied as the paint and pictorial marks no longer used by women, their husbands being killed by the knife in battle. As, however, the knife, by killing them in battle, sent them to heaven, the ornamental designs are imagined to be gifts made to the knife by the victims themselves, who are likened to persons engaged in religious rites.


See 5. 56.


Nala was famous as a charioteer.


There is a pun on “puṣpakaprakṛṣṭatā”. It means both “an excellence like that of the Puṣpaka chariot” and “an excellence by virtue of (the possession of) the Puṣpaka chariot.” It is fancied that the chariot given to Nala had the same qualities as Kubera, the god of wealth. Just as Kubera was (excellent on account of his famous Puṣpaka chariot), similarly this chariot also may be inferred to be “puṣpakaprakṛṣṭa” which, however, means in this case “excellent like the Puṣpaka chariot.” Throughout the verse an artificial comparison between Kubera and the chariot presented to Nala is sought to be established by means of puns. That is the force of “kuberadṛṣṭāntabalena”. The chariot was “mahāratha” (a great chariot); Kubera, too, was a hero known a “mahāratha” (one who fights single-handed against ten thousand warriors). In the case of the chariot, there was “Nala’s connection with its poles” (nala+kūbara pole+nalakūbara); Kubera, too, had a paternal “relationship with his son named nalakūbara”. One of the attributes of the chariot was “the quality of having a good charioteer” (pra+sūta+vattā); Kubera, too, had “the attribute of having begot a child” (pra[pta/sa?]vattā=janayitṛtā). Having thus compared the chariot to Kubera, the poet goes on to compare it to Kubera’s Puṣpaka chariot. It may be added that, applied to Kubera, “puṣpakaprakṛṣṭatā” means also “puṣpakavimānena prakṛṣṭatā tenohyamānatā”.


See 5.56.


i.e., the ocean gave the Uccaiḥśravas horse to Indra, reserving a better one for Varuṇa.


Lit. making people slave to the eagerness of a desire to see.


“tatpāṃsulakaṇṭhanālatā” means literally “the dusty-neckedness of them” i.e. the “thirst” of the eyes, the eagerness to see the horse again and again.


“tayaiva (didṛkṣādaradāsatayā)”


The ruby spitoon, though empty, seemed to be full of the scarlet remains of betel.


See Verse 16.


Lit. he would not have borne the attribute of being blue-necked.


i.e., the Airāvata elephant.


Lit. by means of the comings and goings of his ears.


i.e., with his flapping ears.


Lit. was afterwards made favourable by propitiating.


The bridegroom asks the bride to stand on a stone, and be firm as a rock.


Lit. the smallness of the star.


Lit. proved true.


‘The morning star personified as the wife of Vasiṣṭha’—Apte.


Nala himself.


Fire is so called, because offerings to the gods are made in the sacrificial fire.


This is a marriage custom.


Lit. were explained away by.........


Lit. was merged in the people who were thrilled to see etc.


Indra’s armour had of course a thousand apertures corresponding to his thousand eyes.


Means also: “Let these maids here bewitch thy heart in a manner worthy of the beauty of their limbs. Desirous of kissing as thou art, let some offer thee their face, delightful in every way to the god of love.” In this case, “temanopahāra...... (nemana+upahāra)” is to be construed as “te mano'pahāra......”; “aṅga ruceḥ” should be combined into “aṅgaruceḥ (yathocitam)”; “savatomukham”: “water” should be separated into “sarvataḥ mukham”; while “kāmam” (adv.) “odanam” should be combined into “kāma-modanam”.




The man had said “yuvāmime me”. This, however, sounded like the bleating of a goat.


Lit. which had a speed traversing the length of her leg.


Lit. they from whom took place the emotional disturbance of the members etc.


Lit. the feet on which water was falling.


Lit. The halo formed by a clever maiden with her......... arms round that moon, her friend etc.


Lit. in the guise of his reflection on the......... nails of her feet.


Lit. mouth.


Lit. made it an expanse of sand on the bank of the stream of the mass of that butter which was fragrant etc.


Lit. the task of whose messenger took place from their mutual hints.


This indicated the evening twilight as the right time.


A variant of 78.


The guest really wanted a kiss.


Lit. a maid reflected on the oil etc.


i.e., the reflection.


rakta” means both “red” and “fond”.


This is regarded as a mark of humility. Cf. 12. 96.


amṛta” (nectar) and “jīvana” (life) are synonyms of water.


“water” means literally “that which has its face on all sides.” The guests wish to have more than one mouth to enjoy the taste of the water better.


The breasts of young women are often compared to lotus buds.


This is one of the objects to which a woman’s breasts are compared.


It is fancied that the Creator while creating curds could not resist the temptation of stealing portions of them, and so left behind the holes visible in a solid mass of curds.


rāga”: “colour” means also “passion.”


i.e., all at once. The meaning implied by puns is obscene. See Nārāyaṇa’s commentary.


This has been supplied. The subject (vyañjanam or bhojanam) is understood.


Lit. occupied by a circular terminal script in respect of the eating of those who were eating. The cream-balls served at the end of the meal are compared to the circular marks resembling the Nāgari “cha”, which are put by scribes at the end of a manuscript.


Lit. beverage. The reference to wine is not clear. See also Notes.


“śrita-cāndra-saurabhā” is to be construed also as “śrita-cāndra-saura-bhā”. See Vocab. under “cāndra”.


The girl’s uncertain attitude was the riddle which he tried to solve by appropriate gestures, i.e., he expressed his own feelings clearly to elicit a response from her.


i.e., in token of consent.


Lit. extremely beautiful.


Lit. the reins of which were taken up by............


i.e., in reality he embraced her while helping her to get into the chariot. Nārāyaṇa says “kileti vyāje | tattvatastu janasamakṣamāliliṅgaiva”.


Lit. her beloved, whose arms are afraid of pressing (her).


This is the meaning of “caddhalāpatāṃ gataḥ”, applied to the king of Vidarbha. Applied to “kallola”, means “caṭulā āpo yasya tadbhāvaṃ gataḥ”.


Lit. submarine fire.


Lit. serves.


Lit. adorned in many ways (bahudhā tu maṇḍitaḥ).


Lit. the abode of an antelope’s eyes and an elephant’s gait.


Lit. grains of...... rice resembling.........


See Vocab. under “candraśālā”.


Lit. blue lotus eyes............ with pollen flying up on account of their dustiness (i.e. dryness) caused by......... thirst.


On the beams of the eyes see Appendix I (8. 3). The imagery is that of drawing in water with the mouth through porous lotus-stalks during water-sports. It is possible also to take the rays as referring to sun-beams coming through the window lattices, against which the eyes of the women were set.


See Vocab. under “vidyā”.

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