Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha

by Krishna Kanta Handiqui | 1956 | 159,632 words

This page relates Kali and the Gods; Heretic attacks on the Orthodox Religion which is canto 17 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 17 - Kali and the Gods; Heretic attacks on the Orthodox Religion

1. The gods, after they had gone through the labour of running to the earth almost in vain, then went away as they had come, bearing the semblance of the waves of the ocean.

2. They never grieved for having given Damayantī to that king, though she was long cherished in their hearts; just as one feels no regret for having bestowed on a pupil knowledge, long stored in one’s mind.

3. The radiant gods occupied brilliant aerial chariots, even as the reflections of the sun occupy the slopes of the Mount of Crystal.[1]

4. Their chariots, which forcibly dragged by force clouds behind them, with the gusts of air caused by their speed, seemed to declare their own speed to be greater than that of the wind.

5. The smallness of the forms of the gods, as they got farther and farther away, clearly looked, as if it were their power of becoming tiny, detached from the group of eight attributes[2] possessed by them.

6. At one point a streak of cloud, raked by the points of the chariot flags, provided their chariots with a yellow banner by a flash of lightning.

7. The rainbow across the ranks of clouds, which on the way returned again and again, became a decoration accompanying Indra’s chariot.

8. The connection of clouds with thunder grew up, I ween, from the reflections of Indra’s thunder, which then appeared in the waters of the clouds.

9. In one place, Yama’s mace, coming in contact with the sun made it look like the family umbrella of the kings of the dynasty of Manu.[3]

10. Varuṇa’s noose looked as if it were an ear of Heaven, without any ear-ornament, which slipped off while the Heaven shook its head, amazed at the love of Damayantī and Nala.

11. The fire-god, who, mounting the shoulders of the wind, appeared with his flames briskly dancing, made the gods think that he had won Damayantī as his bride.

12. On the way, Sarasvatī delighted the ears of the (four) gods, which suffered from the absence of Damayantī’s voice, with the notes of her lyre, an inferior substitute.

13. The gods then saw an approaching multitude dazzling as a sword, like ether incarnate, coming with a fond desire to bid welcome to them.

14. The gods saw Cupid coming in the front of the crowd, as if he were put to the fore by Kali in order to teach people sensory indiscipline.

15. Cupid’s companions are people who despise their lives for the sake of forbidden women. They disregard fear and shame. All their wealth is consumed by bawds.

16. Cupid assumes the role of the conqueror of the world, as if to rival Buddha.[4] He plays the role of the creator in the world, as if to equal Śiva, though he is devoid of any corporeal form.

17. Cupid has made woman his weapon, overwhelming Śiva’s creation, the entire universe; as if he recalled his enmity with Śiva.

18. Cupid caused a distaste to the eyes of Indra and others, which had absorbed Nala’s beauty, incurable even by the physicians of the gods.[5]

19. The gods then saw Wrath, flinging about anything and everything, trembling, springing up, and red, shouting abuse for miles.

20. Wrath was attended by people whose eyes seemed to learn their redness from the blood of their lips, cut by their own teeth.[6] They emitted gusts of breath which seemed to be hisses of snakes, their frowns.

21. Resorting to the invulnerable heart of the sage Durvāsas, impenetrable even to Cupid’s arrows, Wrath desires to consume the worlds including Indra himself.

22. Wrath, though he produces a deep redness (in the complexion), brings paleness (in the end).[7] Though he burns aflame, he begets a darkness which envelops all the senses.

23. When Wrath subjugated Śiva,[8] while the latter was enraged at his own inability to conquer Cupid, he[9] adopted the precept which says, the right moment to conquer an enemy is when he is attacked by others.

24. In that crowd the gods saw also Greed stretching out his hands to the wealthy. He was timid and faltering in speech, expressing his plaint with significant gestures.

25. His followers are poor and thievish; always sick from gluttony. They cast significant looks at people who are eating.

26. Greed is a drought, drying up the ceremonial water preliminary to a gift, poured by the rich on the palm of a worthy suppliant.[10] Lo, he sells his poor[11] kinsmen to the rich like slaves.

27. Greed cares not a straw for Wrath, nor Cupid, who cause respectively one and two of the five great sins, while Greed prompts to commit all the five.[12]

28. Greed, though he abides in all the senses, resorts chiefly to the tongue, there to tutor suppliants in the art of flattery.[13]

29. Lo, they saw also blind Delusion, who never follows the right path nor the counsel of friends. Once he has clung to the void, he leaves it not.

30. The worshippers of Delusion are fools, immersed in the mud of worldly cares. They remember not Śiva, though life may depart to-morrow.

31. Delusion, like collyrium paint, manifestly soils even the radiant hearts of those whose souls possess the inextinguishable lamp of knowledge.

32. On him depend Wrath, Greed and Cupid, all three; just as religious students, recluses and ascetics depend on the householder for their living.

33. Delusion is sleep to those who wake; blindness to those who see; foolishness in the presence of scriptural knowledge; and darkness where there is light.

34. Cupid was not ashamed to conquer the world, already killed by Delusion who cultivates the principle of darkness; just as Arjuna was not ashamed to vanquish the army of the Kurus, destroyed beforehand by Śiva.[14]

35. Some of the persons (in the crowd) were recognised by the gods owing to their previous acquaintance with them; others were not, being black up to the crown of their heads with a cloak of sin.

36. Then when the army of Kali drew near like an overflowing sea, the gods heard some one’s words jarring on their ears.

37. “Ye wiseacres, the truth of the scriptures propounding the results to be obtained from sacrifices, is like that concerning the floating of stones on water. What faith can be put in them? They have obstructed the path of desire.[15]

38. “A certain Bodhisatva[16] was born by virtue of his innate excellence to break up the mystery of the Vedas. For he said the world is transient.[17]

39. “Bṛhaspati says ‘Oblation in the fire, morning and evening, the system of rules built up by the three Vedas, the carrying of three sticks tied into one, and the bearing of browmarks of ashes are the means of livelihood of those who are devoid of wisdom and manhood.’

40. “Since purity of caste is possible only in the case of purity on each side of both families of the grand-parents, what caste is pure by the purity of limitless generations?

41. “Who has not contracted sin in contact with women? Alas, people fast under a delusion, and bathe at sacred places. The world’s religious vows have been destroyed by lust.

42. “Fie on those who boast of family dignity! They hold women in check out of jealousy; but do not likewise restrain men, though the blindness of passion is common to both.

43. “Abstention from the wives of others? This hypocrisy was disregarded by Indra himself, eager for amorous dalliance with Ahalyā, Gautama’s wife.

44. “Ye Brāhmaṇas, give up the notion that it is a sin to commit adultery with the wife of one’s teacher. Your master himself had a violent mania for the possession of his teacher’s wife.[18]

45. “The scriptures say, ‘A person, when dead, suffers on account of sṃ, and enjoys happiness for religious merit.’ But we ever see before us just the contrary. Tell us now which evidence is the stronger.[19]

46. “If sin is to be avoided inspite of the uncertainty of rebirth,[20] then O Brāhmaṇas learned in the Vedas, give up the long sacrificial sessions to avoid the risk of sin in killing animals in the sacrifice.

47. “Vyāsa himself, who deserves your homage, well-versed as you are in the three Vedas, said that it is commendable to accept a woman when she is under the influence of passion.

48. “Why do you esteem virtue, and not amorous dalliance? A man should do what tends to increase his happiness in the end.

49. “Commit sins by force. Will not your sins be deemed uncommitted? Manu declared all offences committed by force to be as if undone.[21]

50. “You who are in possession of traditional lore, doubt not this meaning of your own religious texts. Freely indulge in whatever pleasure you desire.

51. “Is there ever any unanimity among the learned in expounding the sense of the scriptures and the law books? Interpretation depends upon the force of intelligence. One that conduces to pleasure is not to be neglected.

52. “What have you to do with sin, once the body is burnt, about which body one has the idea that it is the self?[22] If there were a soul, the existence of which is testified to by a source of proof apart from the body, would not the results of one’s actions appear anywhere and everywhere (in the next life)?[23]

53. “Away with the story of the wicked that after death one remembers one’s past lives; that after death there are waves of consequences of one’s previous deeds; and that the dead are satisfied when others eat for them.

54. “Strange. The scriptures, most cunning, prompt them who know the body to be the soul, to renounce the body; saying, ‘Thou art not it’; and make them accept something else,

55. “Of two results in doubt, one is sure to be. When the desired one comes about, the swindlers[24] attribute it to their incantations and the like. When it is otherwise, they declare that these were incomplete in details.

56. “Coward, what burden will thy individual sin add to the One Soul, propounded by the Vedas, which is already sinking in eternal suffering on account of the sins of all?

57. “Of what use to thee are flowers removed from their stalks? It is on the stalks that they grow into fruits. Put them[25] on thy own head, if they are to be put on the head of a stone,[27] no way different from thy head.

58. “Spurn all censorious statements about women as not worth a straw. Why dost thou constantly cheat people when thou, too, art as bad as women?

59. “Ye fools, carry out Cupid’s command, obeyed even by Brahmā[27] and other gods. The Veda is the command of the gods. Which of the two commands is then worthy of greater respect?

60. “If you consider some portions of the Veda to be meaningless,[28] through what mischance do you not regard likewise the toilsome injunctions as meaningless?

61. “Ye whose intellects are fattened on the Mīmāṃsā philosophy, ye have faith in the scriptures. But misguided, you say yourselves, the scriptural injunction to give (to the priest) the cloth, wrapped round the sacrificial post is an interpolation.[29]

62. “How can people believe in the other world on the authority of the Veda, which says ‘Who knows what is in the other world?’

63. “Declaring that virtue cannot be acquired and vice cannot be avoided, Manu fraudulently seeks fines for the state. The learned have put faith in him in vain.

64. “Ye are experts in reasoning indeed. For ye put faith in Vyāsa[30] on his own word! Who will talk with you, fishes, fit to be advised by a fish?[31]

65. “Vyāsa was an intelligent poet, good at flattering the Pāṇḍavas. Did he not censure when they censured; and praise when they praised?

66. “Did not the same Vyāsa, out of lust, have relations with the wife of his brother? He was then attached to a slave girl. Did his mother enjoin him to do that as well?[32]

67. “Those who have for guide in worshipping gods and Brāhmaṇas the works composed by these very goḍs and Brāhmaṇas, have they not, bowing to a cow, clearly degraded themselves below the cow?

68. “Well indeed have those otherworldly fellows, ready to perform sacrifices, renounced their passion. For even after death they long for heaven, the quintessence of which lies in its gazelle-eyed nymphs!

69. “Ye arrant fools, of what use is quietude? Try to gratify your mistresses. Will a creature, once he is reduced to ashes, ever return?

70. “Even the sage Pāṇini opined that both sexes should indulge in passion, when he said that salvation was for eunuchs.[33]

71. “People who plunge into sacred pools of water to go to heaven[34] look like sheep stepping back to charge forward to the fray.

72. “Meaningless is the threat that a man becomes an animal (in the next birth) as a result of such and such sin. Even the harmless Rājila snake is like a king, happy with his own sources of joy.

73. “If persons killed in battle sport in heaven, let the demons killed by Viṣṇu fight with him even in heaven. For, though they were killed, they are just as before.

74. “‘During earthly existence there is the individual self as well as the Absolute, but when salvation comes the Absolute alone exists’—in this declaration that salvation is the annihilation of the self lies the skill of the exponents of Vedic lore.[35]

75. “He who propounded a system of doctrines to prove that the salvation of sentient beings is a condition similar to that of stones is exactly as you know him to be, a perfect ox, when you have examined him.[36]

76. “The wives of Viṣṇu, Śiva and others are entirely devoted to them. Why have they not attained salvation? Why are they in Cupid’s prison?

77. “If there is an all-knowing kind-hearted deity with words that never fail, why does he not fulfil our desires, suppliants as we are, by a single word of his?

78. “Causing pain to worldly beings, even though it is caused by their own actions, God would be our enemy unreasonably; whereas others become enemies for some definite reason.

79. “Owing to the unstable character of all reasoning, is there any whose opinions, mutually opposed, being equal in force,[37] will not be baseless; like ‘a fallacious inference with a contradictory reason on the opposite side’?

80. “The hot-tempered ascetics teach others abstention from anger! Themselves poor, they teach alchemy for money.

81. “Why be charitable? It is the miser whom the goddess of wealth favours. The foolish Bali, giving away all his wealth, made himself a prisoner.

82. “Everyone squeezes the rich and envies them at heart. Few if any are abstemious, and renounce the turbulence of greed.

83. “Abstention from stealing means a long lease of life to poverty, while the taboo on certain kinds of food involves cheating the stomach. So take to indulgence, the one root of the plant[38] of joy.”

84. Hearing these evil words, Indra became angry. He said aloud, “Who, who is this cutting at the very vitals of religion?

85. “Who doth so speak, while I, Indra, with hands flashing with thunder’s might, govern the three worlds, which see with the Vedas for their eyes?

86. “Thou wretch, see as a proof or otherwise of class purity or caste continuity the failure of Brāhmaṇa-murderers and the like to satisfy trial by ordeal.[39]

87. “That a person committing adultery with a distinguished woman, as a Brāhmaṇa woman, does not win in an ordeal, shows that the entire generation of that caste is pure.

88. “It is a shame that the correct finding of the ordeals of water, fire and the others, which were revealed by the Vedas, doth not remove the heresy from thy mind.

89. “Ye heretics, doth not the activity of the results of previous deeds shown by the uncertainty of offspring, although there has been intercourse, and cases like that, rend your hearts?[40]

90. “Why dost thou not believe the stories, known to the people of various lands, of spirits begging for the performance of Gayāśrāddha for them, entering into some one’s body?[41]

91. “Why dost thou not believe the true stories of the other world, which people, taken away by the messengers of Yama owing to a confusion of names, relate on their return to the world?”

92. The god of fire blazed in anger, and said, rebuking the Cārvāka, “Ha, what sayst thou, what sayst thou so freely before us?

93. “Thou who faintest from the effect of a momentary fast! art thou not astonished to think of those who practice the mighty Parāka fast[42], and live by the sheer force of the revealed religion?

94. “Are not the sacrifices with visible results the suns of victory over those Mandeha[43] demons, your own doubts about religion—sacrifices for the birth of children, destruction of enemies, and coming of rain?”

95. Yama brandished his mace and covered the sky with sparks of fire; then uttered (fierce) gusts of words, as if stung by the Cārvāka’s utterance.[44]

96. “Stop thou, stop. Here will I wound thy throat and lips by force; thine, thou cheat, wickedly haranguing this assembly.

97. “Thou heretic! Who will renounce his belief in the other world on thy word alone? It is attested by the Vedas, and like the Vedas, by hundreds of doctrines following them?

98. “Why dost thou not follow the same path with regard to the other world as thou dost in this world: when thou art faced with a difference of opinion between two groups of travellers having an equal knowledge of the way to be followed; the one small, and the other large in number?[45]

99. “What man will not have a firm belief in the other world, having found a consensus of opinion among all, on the subject of marrying one’s daughter to some one else?[46]

100. “Those who reject all established opinions lose their ground, when even one of these opṃions happens to be true. In view of this, there might be (sometimes) a simple failure of a religious rite. But the miṣap preventing success is never due to religion.

101. “From the unanimity of all in some matters, and on account of the risk from non-compliance in others, all ought to remain true to the Vedic religion as well as to its supplement;[47] for the latter, too, was produced by the former.”

102. Then said Varuṇa, red with rage, in a merciless tone, “Thou wretched atheist, art thou not afraid of my terrible noose?

103. “Ye fools, how is it that the holy stone,[48] marked in its hollow with the figures of tortoises and the like, and impossible for men to make, does not make you believe in the traditional path?

104. “Ye heretics, how is it that the popular tradition about names such as Indra ‘the performer of a hundred sacrifices’, the Vaiśya caste ‘originating from the Creator’s thigh’, has not astonished you by its conformity with stories found in the Veda?

105. “Why do ye disbelieve the Vedas, when ye even see spirits craving for the performance of Gayāśrāddha and other rites, having entered into possession of diverse persons?

106. “Renounce not the Vedas, since you see souls, who are taken to Yama through a mistake of names, and then come back to their respective bodies, and tell stories of the other world.”

107. Some one then stepped forward from Kali’s army, which was paralysed at the angry outbursts of Indra and the other gods. He said thus to the gods, holding his folded hands on his head.

108. “Ye gods, I am not guilty; I am subject to others. I am a panegyrist of the Kali Age. My tongue[49] is fluent in flattering him.”

109. No sooner did he speak these words than the gods saw Kali, seated in a chariot, and another, Dvāpara, before them.

110. Surrounded by diverse Sins, Kali raised his neck like a sinner in hell, and looked at the gods who were astonished at the magnitude of his splendour.

111. He assumed first an attitude of utter contempt. But, overpowered by Indra’s radiance, he bowed his head like king Triśaṅku.[50]

112. Approaching with an air of disdain, Kali, in the intoxication of his pride, addressed the gods, who were unwilling to look at him; just as a drunken Caṇḍāla speaks to Brāhmaṇas who disdain even to look at him.

113. “Hail, Indra! Art thou at ease, Agni? Friend Yama, art thou happy? Varuṇa, art thou enjoying pleasure?

114. “We are speeding to choose Damayantī as our bride in the Svayaṃvara festival. Permit us to follow the path which goes there direct.”

115. The gods treated with contempt his baseless overweening pride. They spoke to him after a long while, smiling and looking at one another’s face.

116. “Never, never say that again. How wilt thou marry, whom the Creator created as a devout holy bachelor?

117. “Brahmā will consider thee to be a rebel, when he hears that thou hast broken thy vow. But, even thy servants can transgress the Creator’s command; why not thyself?

118. “We are coming from the Svayaṃvara. The event has passed, wounding the pride of the youths of three worlds.

119. “While serpents and gods in love looked on, Damayantī chose a great mortal king as her spouse.

120. “Damayantī considered the serpent kings to be mean; the other mortals to be apes; and the gods to be low-born. But she thought Nala radiant with virtues.”

121. Hearing this, Kali became utterly blind with rage. Looking like Śiva on the night of the universal destruction, he spoke to them thus.

122. “Brahmā may sport with any damsel, and you yourselves may toy with celestial maids. But Kali should observe the celibacy of a religious student, or even die, to the utter satisfaction of you all!

123. “What line of conduct do you follow, preaching virtue to others, but yourselves doing all that the ears dread to hear?.[51]

124. “Nala obtained in the Svayaṃvara the beauty of the earth and you the world’s shame. Your gain and Nala’s, indeed, appears to be the same![52]

125. “Seeing us from afar, rightly you turn your faces away; for you are ashamed to look us in the face.

126. “Ye fellows, why did ye stand by, looking at that happening? Improper it was. Why did ye not consume the foolish girl with your eyes burning with rage?

127. “Strange; how did she accept Nala, fickle though great, taking a fancy to him, and slighting the highborn gods?

128. “How did you tolerate that weakling, the disdainful Nala, while he took for himself the gazelle-eyed damsel, who was being sought for by the lords of the regions of the sky, as you are?

129. “Why did not the terrible god of fire, though bearing witness to their marriage, act like a false witness, resorting to fraud?

130. “Alas, just as (the shadow of) the earth has become the dark spot of the divine moon, so your forbearance, even though you are valiant, has led to this disgrace.

131. “Why are ye jealous of me, while ye spare him whom she chose? Tell me. This very day I will by fraud tear her asunder from that guilty wretch.[53]

132. “Endeavour to help me. Let us five[54] enjoy her, sharing her among us, as the five Pāṇḍavas did Draupaḍī.”

133. Unable to bear the stupidity of the loquacious Kali, Sarasvatī pierced him with her weighty and severe words as with arrows.

134. “It was to give fame and Damayantī and boons to Nala that the gods went to the Svayaṃvara. A superficial intellect doth not comprehend the cleverness of the wise.”

135. Tongue-tied, and unable to answer the eloquent goddess, Kali spoke to the gods alone, passing over Sarasvatī with a playful look.

136. “I too have now renounced all desire for Damayantī, But I have not even a trace of kindness for Nala.

137. “What can I do, now the act is over, since I was not there at the time? But, hear now my timely decision.

138. “Ye who are wise, know this to be my vow, mine, Kali’s, with regard to Nala. Deprive him I will of Damayantī, and his kingdom as well. Vanquish him I will.

139. “Lo, let the worlds celebrate my enmity with Nala, adorned as my valour is with a wild wrath, as they do the sun’s hostility to the night lotus blossom.”

140. With applause, Dvāpara inflamed Kali’s perturbed mind. Indra then said, putting his hand on his ear.[55]

141. “Thou hast a mind to wonder at! Thou dost rightly discern shame in us. But the fact that one gives little to one who is great does put one to shame.

142. “Nala’s pious devotion, a hundredth part of which gives the highest good, to wit, virtue, wealth, desire and salvation, became fruitless, being placed in us.

143. “Kali, unworthy is thy resolve towards the pure-hearted Nala. The moon of the land of Niṣadha is as great as the divine lords of the regions of the sky.

144. “For thee, Kali, we see no means by which thou canst get within the king’s defence: he hath accumulated all religious virtues. Nor do we see any luck for Dvāpara’s intent.

145. “Ah, the perfectly virtuous Damayantī cannot be oppressed by fellows like you, addicted to futile mischief; even as well-disciplined right knowledge cannot be disturbed by errors, grasping meaningless unrealities.

146. “The Golden Age is worthy of vying with Nala, and the Silver Age with Damayantī, who as well as Nala doth possess a unique, shining religious virtue; but not ye two, Kali and Dvāpara.[56]

147. “Thou dost say ‘I will surely do it.’ But thou art wrong even though thou art purposing to do it. The seen and unseen causes of an effect are not under thy control.

148. “He who under a delusion would do wrong to Nala, would soon, by reason of the injustice, undergo the suffering resulting from that very crime.

149. “Kali, this thy grudge against him is not fitting. This enmity of thine with Nala will not be to thy good.

150. “At this very moment renounce the unholy idea, ‘There will I go,’ lest thou shouldst appear ridiculous in the royal court, when thou readiest there.

151. “Thou canst not enter into possession of Nala and Damayantī all at once, simply by going there; just as the letter ‘ḍa’ cannot at once get into the group of letters ṣaṇṇām, when it is read disjunct.[57]

152. The other lords of the cardinal points approved these words of Indra. But the two Ages, Kali and Dvāpara, refused to accept them.

153. Then the gods, aiming at Kali, and Kali, aiming at the gods, alternately began thus a quarrel, accompanied by raillery, in identical language.

154. (Indra to Kali): “As she has chosen Nala, it is proper thou shouldst not go (to Nala’s capital). Of what use is this disquiet or this swift aerial car?”

(Kali to Indra): “As she has chosen Nala, it is but proper thou shouldst be coming back. Of what use is this hidden worry lacking in dignity?”

155. (Agni to Kali): “As she whom thou art going to choose as thy bride has already chosen some one else, this thy conduct is ridiculous and disgraceful.”

(Kali to Agni): “As she whom thou went[58] to choose as thy bride chose some one else in thy presence, this has become ridiculous and shameful for thee.”

156. (Yama to Kali): “She, for whom thou art journeying, having chosen somebody else as her consort; let there be a check to thy wrath, thou, unrelenting and falsely irate.”

(Kali to Yama): “She, for whom thou hadst journeyed, having chosen another as her consort; who else has sunken lower than thou, impotent and falsely irate as thou art?”

157. (Varuṇa to Kali): “Conquering Cupid by thy beauty, thou art traversing miles and miles on a mighty charger. But thou art a fool. Lowborn wretch, art thou not ashamed that she has chosen some one else?”

(Kali to Varuṇa): “Shameless god, as she has chosen some one else, art thou not ashamed, thou who hadst gone, mounted on a mighty charger, delighting people with thy lustre?”

158. The gods resolved to return to heaven, when they saw the two Ages, the third and the fourth,[59] persisting in their rancour against Nala.

159. With Dvāpara as his sole companion, the stubborn Kali, senseless with jealousy, set out on his journey, which was destined to inflict suffering on Nala.

160. A cloud arose as an obstacle, hindering Kali from going to the land of Niṣadha, utterly inaccessible to him by reason of the plenitude of Nala’s religious merit accruing from sacrifices and the charitable provision of wells, tanks and gardens.

161. The sinful Kali reached the holy kingdom of Nala to tarnish it by his possession of it; even as the sinful Rāhu reaches the spotless orb of the moon to overcloud it by an eclipse.

162. Then after a short space of time the dark, conceited Kali reached king Nala’s capital.

163. Hearing there ‘the detached text’[60] in the mouths of people reciting the Vedas, dark Kali could not advance a single step further.[61]

164. He came to a standstill, when he heard in the city that order of reading known as Krama[62] on the lips of people reading the Vedas.

165. He kept up a swaggering pace so long as he did not hear the connected text of the Vedas while being recited by the readers of the Vedas.

166. His nose seemed to be destroyed by the smell of sacrificial butter. Hurt by the smoke from sacrifices, he could not open his eyes.

167. There the knave lost his balance on the courtyards of householders, which were extremely slippery to him on account of the ceremonial water offered to guests for washing their feet.

168. In contact with the powerful heat of the sacrificial fires, he felt himself to be heated, as if in wrappings plastered with mud. Every limb of his seemed to be cut asunder by gusts of wind from the fanlike ripples of tanks and pools dug for charity.

169. He was terrified to see there black sesamum grains, which seemed to be Death to him, while they were scattered by the four castes in every household in the course of their rites in honour of the Manes.

170. There he thought his heart was rent by the forehead-marks of religious bathers, as if they entered his heart, assuming the form of swords.

171. Kali was glad to see there a man telling a lie, but grew sad, when he saw him telling it to his wife (in jest).

172. He felt that the city which was covered with sacrificial posts bristled with spears. He thought the city which was full of religious people was occupied by ferocious beasts.

173. The wretch could not even get near persons observing the twelve-day religious fast known as Parāka. He repeatedly stumbled while crossing the shadow of persons observing fasts lasting a month.

174. There he saw goddess Gāyatrī, as she drew near from the orb of the sun, being invoked by Brāhmaṇas. Seen by her, he vanished in terror.

175. Nowhere did he find a rest for his foot; neither in houses full of householders, nor in woods full of anchorites, nor in any habitation of ascetics, nor in any temple.

176. Nowhere did he see any slaughter, dear to him, though he looked for it. Even in the mouths of fools he never found there his friend, dispute.

177. He rushed forward, rejoiced to see a cow meant for slaughter in sacrifice. But, devoted to the Religious Virtue inherent in the Soma sacrifice,[63] the cow repelled him, an ass, even from a distance.

178. He deemed the silence of people observing religious vows to be a rebuke aimed at him. He felt his head to be spurned by those who were bowing to men worthy of homage.

179. Seeing in the hands of sages seats of Kuśa grass, he thought ‘They are going to kill me with iron clubs.’ Seeing in their hands water while they were washing their face, he thought ‘They are going to curse me with the water.’

180. ‘They are coming to bind me with ropes and strike me with sticks”. Thus he feared the Brahmacārins who wore girdles of Muñja grass and carried sticks of Palāśa wood.

181. There he became gloomy with terror at the sight of sacrificial cakes before him. He shed tears, imagining the sacrificial ladles to be snakes.

182. He was rejoiced to see handling of wine by a Brāhmaṇa, but was sad to see him perform the Sautrāmaṇī sacrifice.[64]

183. As many palmfuls of blood shot up from his heart as he saw hands folded in religious devotion by those who were versed in the Vedas.

184. He knew that those who had gone through the ceremonial bath marking the end of Vedic studies were his executioners. He knew, those whose passions were subdued were like Death to him. He was fearful at the very sight of a devotee who observed the vow of silence, as if the latter were the god of death.

185. Like a man looking for water but meeting with fire, the sinful wretch turned away in pain when he, looking for heretics, came across men learned in the Vedas.

186. He was rejoiced to see a man killing a Brāhmaṇa, but despaired[65] to find that he was performing the ‘all-sacrificing’ Sarvamedha sacrifice.

187. He seemed to be threatened by the bamboo sticks in the hands of ascetics. The various modes of reading the Vedas employed by householders distressed the malevolent creature.

188. He wished to leave the very kingdom, when he saw persons sleeping on the bare ground in course of religious austerities. He experienced thunder-terror at the sight of sacrificial Kuśa blades.

189. Looking for a Jaina, he saw deerskins used by religious students. Looking for a Buddhist mendicant, he saw the discipline of persons initiated into Vedic sacrifices.

190. At the sight of persons engaged in religious meditation, telling the beads in their rosaries, he turned his eyes in the opposite direction and felt the pangs of the wrenching forth of the soul by death.

191. He would rather uproot his own eyes than see there Brāhmaṇas recite the ‘Sin-destroying’ verses of the Veda at morn, noon and eve.

192. Going about with the object of inquiring about the existence of even the slightest trace of falsehood in Nala and Damayantī, Kali nowhere saw anything that was akin to himself.

193. Kali who is hostile to ascetics without rhyme or reason, was mortified to see in the city the prosperity of things averse to him, namely, religious meditation, study of the Vedas, and Vedic sacrifices.

194. There he was glad to see a man having amorous relations with all women that came to him. But he became dejected, when he knew the man to be a worshipper of the Sāma revealed to Vāmadeva.[66]

195. Purity, an enemy to him, allowed him no passage on the earth; while the sound of the Vedas permitted him no refuge in the sky.

196. He was pained to see the New Moon and the Agniṣṭoma sacrifice. He staggered as he viewed the full moon sacrifice, and considered the Soma sacrifice to be Death himself.

197. He saw men who killed heroes (in battle), but none who “killed” the sacred fire (by allowing it to expire). He saw none who slept while the sun was setting,[67] but saw those who had attained salvation while living.

198. He was glad to see Brāhmaṇas eating in contact with one another, but became sad when he saw them taking Soma juice that had remained after oblations in the fire.[68]

199. He obtained satisfaction, hearing of a person who was smeared with dust; but felt distressed when he saw him exposing himself to the dust raised by cows and scattered by the wind.[69]

200. Joyfully he ran to where he saw a cow being killed. But the fool slowly turned back on learning that it was for guests.[70]

201. He was glad to see a Brāhmaṇa who was forsaking his daily and occasional religious duties. But he fled far away with a dejected look, when he concluded him to be a man engaged in performing a Vedic sacrifice.[71]

202. He was rejoiced to see in the city a man committing suicide, but was then pained to find that he was performing the Sarvasvāra sacrifice.[72]

203. Seeing in the Mahāvrata sacrifice[73] the dalliance of a religious student and a courtesan, the fool concluded sacrificial rites to be a haphazard wild dance of hypocrites.

204. [74]

205. Kali then came to see Nala, whom the evil-eyed could not look at with ease, while he was in the company of Damayantī; just as the Sun, who cannot be looked at by those who have defective eyes, is accompanied by the Light of the sun.

206. At the sight of the depth of their love he felt as if he were pierced by a lance. He felt as if his vitals were torn away at the sight of the waves of their mutual joy.

207. Unable even to glance at them, Kali departed from the place because of his own jealousy and vices, and the perfection of their radiance.

208. Looking for a place of refuge, Kali, hostile to Nala, went with a sigh to the beautiful house garden of Nala, whose splendour equalled that of Rāma.

209. There was no hindrance to his entering the garden, though it was surrounded by a hundred thousand guards; for no ascetics were there. The proud Kali felt that the atmosphere in the garden was partly sympathetic to him.

210. But he could not there climb the trees, which had been planted by Nala with the object of worshipping gods and Brāhmaṇas with their leaves, flowers and fruits.

211. Then he saw a single Bibhītaka tree, which, though useless for religious purposes, was planted (by Nala) merely to render complete the presence of all species of plants in the garden.

212. Kali highly valued the tree as his shelter in the woodland. Close to Nala’s palace, it served as a banner of the palace garden.

213. The Bibhītaka tree, because it there gave shelter to the helpless Kali, became not only ‘Kali’s tree’[74] but proved a Kalpa tree[76] to him.

214. Methinks, because Kali had made Virtue stand on one leg,[77] this tree was now his only place of refuge.

215. There, taking up his abode in that tree, he dreaded the Kṣatriya king, who maintained the sacred fire, and was initiated into sacred ritual; just as one who lives in a house of straw fears the dove, the bird with fire.[78]

216. Thus staying, having occupied the Bibhītaka tree, Kali could not overcome the holy king who was Damayantī’s beloved.

217. When Kali obtained that place of refuge, he lived there many a year, looking for some sin in Damayantī and in Nala.

218. In that wood, there was the phenomenon of the Kali Age, sleepless in his eagerness to beguile Nala; just as there were creepers with sleepless buds of flowers.

219. Wishing to know of any offence committed by Nala, Dvāpara roamed over the earth, thinking “No one is free from blemish in the opinion of the crowd.” But his hope was futile.

220. Taking up his abode in the garden, which ever rivalled the moon with its flowers blossoming on account of the constant application of fertilising processes, Kali looked like the emblematic deer in the moon by reason of his possessing a lustre glossy as the gleam of the (dark) wings of Kādamba geese.

221. In Nala’s city, which was so vast, long was the sojourn of Kali in the garden. But he met with a serious obstacle on account of the religious merits of the people. Meanwhile, with a boundless joy in his heart, Cupid made the tip of his bow touch the top of his ear[79] to wait upon Damayantī and Nala.

222. Epilogue. Śrīhīra etc.

In the epic, The Story of Nala, composed by him, very similar to the sister work, The Panegyric of (king) Chinda, the seventeenth canto, brilliant by nature, is at an end.

Footnotes and references:


The Kailāsa mountain.


See 21. 160.


These kings claimed descent from the sun. The mace with the sun above looked like an umbrella.


One of the epithets of Buddha was Lokajit “conqueror of the world.” He was besides Cupid’s adversary, having foiled him in his attempts at temptation.


The two Aśvins. They, too, were famous for their beauty.


Lit. the blood of the cuts on their lips caused by their teeth.


vairāgya”: (lit. lack of colour) is contrasted with “rañjana”. It means usually “indifference”; here “repentance”.


Lit. on account of his victory over Śiva.



i.e., Wrath.


Lit. Greed acts as a drought in respect of the pouring of the..... water by the rich, etc.


The reading “niḥsvān” has been adopted.


The five great sins are (1) killing a Brāhmaṇa, (2) theft of gold, (3) drinking wine, (4) adultery with the wife of one’s teacher, (5) complicity in these. Of these wrath causes only the first, while Cupid causes adultery and the murder of the husband of the guilty woman.


Lit. in skill.


It is said that Kuru soldiers were pierced by Śiva with his trident before Arjuna hit them with his arrows.


The speaker is a Cārvāka or a heretic.


Buddha in a former birth.


i.e., everything being momentary, heaven and other results aimed at by Vedic sacrifices could not exist. The Cārvāka often cites Buddhist doctrines in his support.


The moon, called the king of the Brāhmaṇas, had amorous relations with Tārā, the wife of Bṛhaspati.


i.e., the direct perception of things actually happening in life is more conclusive than a dictum of the scriptures about events to follow after death.


According to those who believe in rebirth, sin is to be avoided, because the kind of birth in the next life depends upon the quality of deeds performed in this life.


The Cārvāka misinterprets Manu who meant offences committed under the force of circumstances.


i.e., if one holds the view that there is no soul apart from the body, the question of rebirth and suffering the consequences of one’s evil deeds does not arise, owing to the destruction of the body at death.


i.e., the souls being released from their respective bodies at death would lose their identity; and there being nothing to distinguish one soul from another, the consequences of the actions of one man would be suffered by anyone and everyone else.


i.e., the priests.


The reading followed is “nyasya te”.


e.g., the sacred Śālagrāma stone or a stone phallus of Śiva.


See 1.47.


Certain statements in the Śruti literature, taken separately, appear to be meaningless; but these, too, are defended as forming Arthavādas with an eulogistic or commendatory design.


The Vedic text enjoining this gift is regarded as an interpolation made by the officiating priest for his benefit. The Cārvāka opines that it is absurd for those who have implicit faith in the Veda to treat some of its injunctions as interpolations.


This is a reference to the low origin of Vyāsa, the reputed author of the Purāṇas.


The reference is to the Matsya or Fish Purāṇa, revealed to Manu by Viṣṇu incarnate as a fish.


The Cārvāka misinterprets the Mahābhārata, according to which Vyāsa, at the request of his mother Satyavatī, begot sons on the widows of his half-brother Vicitravīrya who had died without any issue. One of the widows, however, sent a slave girl as a substitute, disguised as herself.


Lit. the third sex. The Cārvāka misinterprets Pāṇini’s rule “tṛtīyā”, which says that the third case-ending is used to indicate the completion of an action (apavarga). But as “apavarga” means also ‘salvation’ and ‘the third (sex)’ refers to eunuchs, the Cārvāka interprets the rule as above.


This is sarcastic. Lit. people who “sink” in order to go up.


This is an attack on the Māyā theory of the Advaita Vedānta. The latter, however, does not propound the reality of the individual self, the annihilation of which is therefore a fiction.


The reference is to Gotama, the founder of the Nyāya philosophy. There is a pun on his name “go-tama”, lit. a perfect ox. The Cārvāka ridicules his doctrine that the destruction of all particular attributes (pleasure, pain, etc.) is salvation; and compares this colourless condition to that of a stone.


Lit. owing to the equality of each other.


Lit. sprout.


Or: take the failure of..... murderers and the like to satisfy ordeals as a proof in the matter of class purity or caste continuity or otherwise, i.e., if class purity did not exist, the murderer of a high caste man would not be detected as such in ordeals.


This is a reply to the Cārvāka’s assertion that the results of one’s deeds do not subsist after death.


This is a reply to Verse 53.


See Vocab. under


The Mandeha demons are said to attack the sun who has to conquer them before he can rise.


Lit. Yama, covering the sky with brandishings of his mace, gave rise to waves of words, as if pierced in the vitals.


i.e., in religoius matters it is safer to follow the opinion of the majority than sectarian doctrines like those of the Cārvākas.


i.e., one should acquiesce in the general opinion about the existence of the other world, just as one follows the general custom of giving one’s daughter in marriage to some one outside one’s own family.


i.e., the Smārta religion.


i.e., the Śālagrāma stone.


Lit. mouth.


The king whom Viśvāmitra tried to send to heaven, but who was ousted by Indra.


e.g., Brahmā’s passion for his daughter, Indra’s adultery with Ahalyā, etc.


This is a play on the similarity in sound between “śrī” (beauty) and “hrī” (shame).


Lit. abode of guilt.


Kali and the four gods.


This indicates astonishment and horror.


The Golden Age or The Age of Truth and the Tretā Age (fem.) are distinguished by religious virtue, the remaining two, Dvāpara and Kali following on a descending scale. The first line means also: The two Aśvins may vie with Nala (in beauty), and the three sacrificial fires with Damayantī (in purity). See Vocab. under “nāsatya” and “tretā”.


i.e., with base and suffix detached. In the genitive plural of “ṣaṣ” (six), the “ṣ” is first changed into “ḍ” which again becomes nasal, giving the form “ṣaṇṇām”.


“tried”, if we construe “purā yāsi” as “purā ayāsi (tvayā)”.


Dvāpara and Kali.


Verses 163-204 describe Kali’s despair at the sight of the observances of piety and religion in Nala’s capital.


In Kramapāṭha the words are repeated in succession, e.g., “oṣadhayaḥ saṃ | saṃ vadaṃte | vadaṃte somena | somena saha | saha rājñā | rājheti rājñā ||” Ṛgveda 10.97.22


Also: attached to a gentle ox (saumyavṛṣāsaktā).


The use of wine was permitted in this sacrifice. See Vocabulary.


Lit. felt feverish.


It was permissible to associate with women promiscuously during the adoration of this Sāma.


Regarded as a sin.


Promiscuous eating was not regarded as a violation of caste rules on this occasion.


One of the recognised methods of bathing, known as ‘wind-bath’.


In ancient times cow-killing for the entertainment of guests was not regarded as a sin.


A sacrificer is under special rules and temporarily exempted from his ordinary religious duties.


It was permitted to commit suicide in the Sarvasvāra sacrifice owing to some incurable disease and the like.


See Vocabulary.


The poet here refers to an indecent episode of the horse-sacrifice. Kali called the author of the Vedas a hypocrite on the strength of this episode.


The Bibhītaka tree which supplies the wood for making dices is also called ‘Kali’s tree’ (kalidruma).


The all-giving divine tree of that name.


Virtue is believed to have only one foot in the Kali age. Kali had made him stand on one leg (pada), but now he himself had only one “pada”, which means in this case ‘footing’, ‘place of refuge’.


A dove perching on the roof of a house is regarded as an evil omen involving risk of fire.


i.e., drew it full length.

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