by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Story of Harimitra which is the fifteenth part of chapter III of the English translation of the Neminatha-caritra, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Neminatha in jainism is the twenty-second Tirthankara (Jina) and one of the 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.
One day the lord of Vidarbha heard that Nala had lost the glory of his kingdom in gambling and had been exiled by his younger brother, Kūbara: that lie had taken Davadantī and entered the great forest and no one knew where he had gone and whether he was dead or alive. Puṣpadantī wept very loud on hearing that from the king. For in misfortune tears are never far away from women.
Then a young Brahman at court, Harimitra by name, clever in his master’s orders, was deputed by the king to search for them. The boy, searching everywhere for Nala and Davadantī, went to Acalapura and entered the king’s assembly. Candrayaśas asked him as he was seated before the king, ‘How do Puṣpadantī and her people fare?' He replied, ‘Always good fortune of Puṣpadantī is reported. The prosperity of Nala and Davadantī is questionable, mistress.’ The boy, asked ‘What do you say?’ told the queen the story of Nala and Bhaimī, beginning with the gambling, very painful to hear. Then as Candrayaśas was weeping, all the court wept, refraining from any happy conversation.
Seeing everyone miserable from grief, the boy, hungry, went to the alms-house with the intention of eating. For the alms-house is the wishing-gem for food. As he is seated there to eat, he recognizes Davadantī, the daughter of his mistress, superintending the dispensary. His hair erect from joy. pain from hunger forgotten, wide-eyed from delight, he worshipped Davadantī’s feel and said: ‘Queen, what is this condition of yours, like a plant in hot weather? Thank Heaven, you have been seen alive. Now there is happiness for all.’
He got up quickly and delighted Queen Candrayaśas, saying, ‘Davadantī is in your alms-house.’ Hearing that, Candrayaśas went swiftly to the alms-house and embraced Davadantī, like a marālī a lotus-plant. She said: ‘Child, shame, shame, on me, that I did not recognize you, though you arc distinguished by unique marks on your body! Why did you deceive me, hiding yourself, blameless girl? If there is such a misfortune by fate, what shame is there in your mother’s own family? Oh! My dear, has Nala been deserted by you or have you been deserted by him? Surely you have been deserted by him. You, a devoted wife, would not desert him. If your husband fallen into misfortune were deserted by you, then surely the sun would rise in the west. Nala, why did you abandon her? Why did you not leave her at my side? To abandon a virtuous wife, is this suitable for your family? My dear, I shall take over your trouble. Do you put it down. Forgive my sin that I did not recognize you. But where is your tilaka, child, that was on your forehead from birth, a garuḍa for the snake of darkness, a sun for a black night?’
With these words, she rubbed Bhaimī’s forehead with moisture from her own lotus-mouth, smelling her head again and again. Then Vaidarbhī’s forehead-tilaka shone very brilliantly, like a piece of gold that had come out of a lire, like the sun burst from clouds. Then Queen Candrayaśas bathed Nala’s wife with perfumed water, like a god’s statue, with her own hands. Then Bhaimī put on garments sent by Queen Candrayaśas. which were white, fine, as if made of the essence of moonlight. Then Queen Candrayaśas, delighted, took Bhīma’s daughter by the hand and, a pool of the water of delight, sat down near the king.
Then the sun set and the whole sky was filled with darkness that could not be separated by a needle, like a dish filled with collyrium. At that time pitch darkness did not enter the king’s palace. It was halted by the brilliance of Bhaimī’s tilaka, like a door-keeper. The king said to the queen, I The sun has set, surely. There is no lamp nor fire here. Why is there a light like daytime?’ The queen showed the king Vaidarbhī’s tilaka, present from birth, like a large pond with light for water. From curiosity the king covered the tilaka with his hand and his house at once became as dark as a mountain-cave. The king took away his hand again and, taking the place of a father, with great interest asked Bhaimī for her story, beginning with the loss of the kingdom. Her face downcast, weeping, Davadanlī told the whole story, beginning with the gambling of Nala and Kūbara. The king wiped Bhaimī’s eyes with his upper garment and said, ‘Daughter, do not grieve. No one is stronger than fate.’
Just then a god descended from heaven to the council and, his hands joined respectfully, said to Bhīma’s daughter: ‘Davadantī, I, the thief Piṅgalaka, took initiation at your order and went to Tāpasapura then in my wandering. I, resolute, stood in pratimā in a cemetery and a big fire started not far away, kindled by the fire of the funeral-pyres. Though burned by it, I did not fall from pious meditation but, after making ārādhanā, reciting the namaskāra, I fell on the ground there and my body became fuel.
After death I became a god. named Piṅgala. Then I knew by clairvoyance that I had been saved from execution by you and had been made to take mendicancy. By its power I became a god. If you had ignored me. a great criminal, at that time, fair lady, dying without dharma being acquired, I would have gone to hell. By your favor, Vaidarbhī, I attained the glory of being a god. For this reason I came to sec you. Hail! noble lady.’
After this speech, the god rained seven crores of gold and departed, flying up in the air. like a mass of lightning. King Ṛtuparṇa, best of the wise, adopted the Arhats’ dharma whose fruit had been made apparent by the god in this way.
Then Harimitra. when an opportunity arose, said to the king: ‘Majesty, give an order. After a long time let Davadanlī go to her father’s house.’ Told the same by Candrayaśas, the king said, ‘Very well,’ and sent Vaidarbhī with an escort to the Vidarbhas. When King Bhima heard that Davadantī was coming, he went to meet her, drawn by a very strong affection like a horse hard to control. As soon as she had seen her father, Vaidarbhī, going on loot, her lotus-face blooming, ran and feil at his lotus-feel. The ground became very muddy from tears falling from father and daughter who had met longingly after a long time. Learning that Puṣpadantī had come along, her daughter embraced her closely, like Yamunā embracing Jāhnavī. Clinging to her neck, Nala’s wife cried at the top of her voice. New pain of people, as it were, takes place at the sight of a loved one.
After a moment, having washed their lotus-faces with water (of tears), they talked together and recited their troubles. Puṣpadantī took Vaidarbhī on her lap and said: ‘By good fortune you have been seen alive. Certainly good fortune watches over us. Passing the time comfortably in our house, after a long time you will sec your husband. For a living person sees fair things.’
The king delighted, gave Harimitra five hundred villages and said, ‘I shall give you half the kingdom when Nala comes.’ The king went to the city and held a festival because of Davadantī’s arrival and for seven days worshipped gods and gurus especially. On the eighth day the king of Vidarbha, said to Vaidarbhī, ‘It will be arranged so that you will soon join Nala.’
Footnotes and references:
A sign of affection.