LXIV Vrihadaswa continued, Having destroyed that hunter Damayanti of eyes like lotus leaves, went onwards through that fearful and solitary forest ringing with the chirp of crickets.
And it abounded with lions, and leopards, and Rurus and tigers, and buffaloes, and bears and deer. And it swarmed with birds of various species, and was infested by thieves and mlechchha tribes. And it contained Salas, and bamboos and Dhavas, and Aswatthas, and Tindukas and Ingudas, and Kinsukas, and Arjunas, and Nimvas, and Tinisas and Salmalas, and Jamvus, and mango trees, and Lodhras, and the catechu, and the cane, and Padmakas, and Amalahas, and Plakshas, and Kadamvas, and Udumvaras and Vadaris, and Vilwas, and banians, and Piyalas, and palms, and date-trees, and Haritakas and Vibhitakas. And the princess of Vidarbha saw many mountains containing ores of various kinds, and groves resounding with the notes of winged choirs, and many glens of wondrous sight, and many rivers and lakes and tanks and various kinds of birds and beasts. And she saw numberless snakes and goblins and Rakshasas of grim visage, and pools and tanks and hillocks, and brooks and fountains of wonderful appearance. And the princess of Vidarbha saw there herds of buffaloes. And boars, and bears as well as serpents of the wilderness. And safe in virtue and glory and good fortune and patience, Damayanti wandered through those woods alone, in search of Nala. And the royal daughter of Bhima, distressed only at her separation from her lord, was not terrified at aught in that fearful forest. And, O king, seating herself down upon a stone and filled with grief, and every limb of hers trembling with sorrow on account of her husband, she began to lament thus: O king of the Nishadhas, O thou of broad chest and mighty arms, whither hast thou gone, O king, leaving me in this lone forest?
O hero, having performed the Aswamedha and other sacrifices, with gifts in profusion unto the Brahmanas, why hast thou, O tiger among men, played false with me alone? O best of men, O thou of great splendour, it behoveth thee. O auspicious one, to remember what thou didst declare before me, O bull among kings! And, O monarch, it behoveth thee also to call to mind what the sky-ranging swans spake in thy presence and in mine. O tiger among men, the four Vedas in all their extent, with the Angas and the Upangas, well-studied, on one side, and one single truth on the other, are equal. Therefore, O slayer of foes, it behoveth thee, O lord of men, to make good what thou didst formerly declare before me. Alas, O hero! warrior! O Nala! O sinless one being thine, I am about to perish in this dreadful forest.
Oh! wherefore dost thou not answer me? This terrible lord of the forest, of grim visage and gaping jaws, and famishing with hunger, filleth me with fright. Doth it not behove thee to deliver me? Thou wert wont to say always, Save thee there existeth not one dear unto me' O blessed one, O king, do thou now make good thy words so spoken before. And, O king, why dost thou not return an answer to thy beloved wife bewailing and bereft of sense, although thou lovest her, being loved in return? O king of the earth, O respected one, O represser of foes, O thou of large eyes, why dost thou not regard me, emaciated, and distressed and pale, and discoloured, and clad in a half piece of cloth, and alone, and weeping, and lamenting like one forlorn, and like unto a solitary doe separated from the herd? O illustrious sovereign, it is, I, Damayanti, devoted to thee, who, alone in this great forest, address thee. Wherefore, then, dost thou not reply unto me?
Oh, I do not behold thee today on this mountain, O chief of men, O thou of noble birth and character with every limb possesed of grace! In this terrible forest, haunted by lions and tigers, O king of the Nishadhas, O foremost of men, O enhancer of my sorrows, Wishing to know whether thou art lying down, or sitting, or standing, or gone, whom shall I ask, distressed and woe-stricken on thy account, saying, Hast thou seen in this woods the royal Nala' Of whom shall I in this forest enquire alter the departed Nala, handsome and of high soul, and the destroyer of hostile arrays? From whom shall I today hear the sweet words, viz, That royal Nala, of eyes like lotus-leaves, whom thou seekest, is even here' Yonder cometh the forest-king, that tiger of graceful mien, furnished with four teeth and prominent cheeks. Even him will I accost fearlessly: Thou art the lord of all animals, and of this forest the king. Know me for Damayanti, the daughter of the king of the Vidarbhas, and the wife of Nala, destroyer of foes, and the king of the Nishadhas. Distressed and woe-stricken, I am seeking my husband alone in these woods. Do thou, O king of beasts, comfort me with news of Nala if thou hast seen him. Or, O lord of the forest, if thou cannot speak of Nala, do thou, then, O best of beasts, devour me, and free me from this misery.
Alas! hearing my plaintive appeal in the wilderness, this king of mountains, this high and sacred hill, crested with innumerable -JBH rolleth towards the sea. Let me, then, for tidings of the king, ask this king of mountains, this high and sacred hill, crested with innumerable heaven-kissing and many-hued and beauteous peaks, and abounding in various ores, and decked with gems of diverse kings, and rising like a banner over this broad forest, and ranged by lions and tigers and elephants and boars and bears and stags, and echoing all around with the notes of winged creatures of various species, and adorned with kinsukas and Asokas and Vakulas and Punnagas, with blossoming Karnikaras, and Dhavas and Plakshas, and with streams haunted by waterfowls of every kind, and abounding in crested summits, O sacred one! O best of mountains! O thou of wondrous sight! O celebrated hill!
O refuge of the distressed! O highly auspicious one! I bow to thee, O pillar of the earth! Approaching, I bow to thee. Know me for a king's daughter, and a king's daughter-in-law, and king's consort, Damayanti by name that lord of earth who ruleth the Vidarbhas, that mighty warrior-king Bhima by name, who protecteth the four orders, is my sire. That best of kings celebrated the Rajasuya and Aswamedha sacrifices, with profuse gifts to the Brahmanas. Possessed of beautiful and large eyes, distinguished for devotion to the Vedas, of unblemished character, truth-telling, devoid of guile, gentle, endued with prowess, lord of immense wealth, versed in morality, and pure, he having vanquished all his foes, effectually protecteth the inhabitants of Vidarbha. Know me, O holy one, for his daughter, thus come to thee. That best of men, the celebrated ruler of the Nishadha, known by the name of Virasena of high fame, was my father-in-law. The son of that king, heroic and handsome and possessed of energy incapable of being baffled, who ruleth well the kingdom which hath descended to him from his father, is named Nala.
Know, O mountain, that of that slayer of foes, called also Punyasloka, possessed of the complexion of gold, and devoted to the Brahmanas, and versed in the Vedas, and gifted with eloquence, of that righteous and Soma-quaffing and fire-adoring king, who celebrateth sacrifices and is liberal and warlike and who adequately chastiseth criminals, I am the innocent spouse, the chief of his queens, standing before thee. Despoiled of prosperity and deprived of the company of my husband without a protector, and afflicted with calamity, hither have I come, O best of mountains, seeking my husband. Hast thou, O foremost of mountains, with thy hundreds of peaks towering into the sky seen king Nala in this frightful forest? Hast thou seen my husband, that ruler of the Nishadhas, the illustrious Nala, with the tread of a mighty elephant, endued with intelligence, long-armed, and of fiery energy, possessed of prowess and patience and courage and high fame? Seeing me bewailing alone, overwhelmed with sorrow, wherefore, O best of mountains, dost thou not today soothe me with thy voice, as thy own daughter in distress? O hero, O warrior of prowess, O thou versed in every duty, O thou adhering to truth, O lord of the earth, if thou art in this forest, then, O king, reveal thyself unto me. Oh, when shall I again hear the voice of Nala, gentle and deep as that of the clouds, that voice, sweet as Amrita, of the illustrious king, calling me Vidharva's daughter, with accents distinct, and holy, and musical as the chanting of the Vedas and rich, and soothing all my sorrows. O king, I am frightened. Do thou, O virtuous one, comfort me' Having addressed that foremost of mountain thus, Damayanti then went in a northerly direction.
And having proceeded three days and nights, that best of women came to an incomparable penance grove of ascetics, resembling in beauty a celestial grove. And the charming asylum she beheld was inhabited and adorned by ascetics like Vasishtha and Bhrigu and Atri, self-denying and strict in diet, with minds under control, endued with holiness, some living on water, some on air, and some on fallen leaves, with passions in check, eminently blessed, seeking the way to heaven, clad in barks of trees and deer-skins, and with senses subdued. And beholding that hermitage inhabited by ascetics, and abounding in herds of deer and monkeys, Damayanti was cheered. And that best of women, the innocent and blessed Damayanti, with graceful eye-brows, and long tresses, with lovely hips and deep bosom, and face graced with fine teeth and with fine black and large eyes, in her brightness and glory entered that asylum. And saluting those ascetics grown old in practising austerities, she stood in an attitude of humility. And the ascetics living in that forest, said, Welcome' And those men of ascetic wealth, paying her due homage, said, Sit ye down, and tell us what we may do for thee' That best of women replied unto them, saying, Ye sinless and eminently blessed ascetics, is it well with your austerities, and sacrificial fire, and religious observances, and the duties of your own order? And is it well with the beasts and birds of this asylum? And they answered, O beauteous and illustrious lady, prosperity attendeth us in every respect.
But, O thou of faultless limbs, tell us who thou art, and what thou seekest. Beholding thy beauteous form and thy bright splendour, we have been amazed. Cheer up and mourn not. Tell us, O blameless and blessed one, art thou the presiding deity of this forest, or of this mountain, or of this river' Damayanti replied unto those ascetics, saying, O Brahmanas, I am not the goddess of this forest, or of this mountain, or of this stream. O Rishis of ascetic wealth, know that I am a human being. I will relate my history in detail. Do ye listen to me. There is a king, the mighty ruler of the Vidarbhas, Bhima by name. O foremost of regenerate ones, know me to be his daughter.
The wise ruler of the Nishadhas, Nala by name, of great celebrity, heroic, and ever victorious in battle, and learned, is my husband. Engaged in the worship of the gods, devoted to the twice-born ones, the guardian of the line of the Nishadhas, of mighty energy, possessed of great strength, truthful, conversant with all duties, wise, unwavering in promise, the crusher of foes, devout, serving the gods, graceful, the conqueror of hostile towns, that foremost of kings, Nala by name, equal in splendour unto the lord of celestials, the slayer of foes, possessed of large eyes, and a hue resembling the full moon, is my husband. The celebrator of great sacrifices, versed in the Vedas and their branches, the destroyer of enemies in battle, and like unto the sun and the moon in splendour, is he. That king devoted to truth and religion was summoned to dice by certain deceitful persons of mean mind and uncultured soul and of crooked ways, and skilful in gambling, and was deprived of wealth and kingdom. Know that I am the wife of that bull among kings, known to all by the name of Damayanti, anxious to find out my missing lord. In sadness of heart am I wandering among woods, and mountains, and lakes, and rivers, and tanks and forests, in search of that husband of mine, Nala, skilled in battle, high-souled, and well-versed in the use of weapons, O hath king Nala, the lord of the Nishadhas, come to this delightful asylum of your holy selves? It is for him, O Brahmanas, that I have come to this dreary forest full of terrors and haunted by tigers and other beasts. If I do not see king Nala within a few days and nights, I shall seek my good by renouncing this body. Of what use is my life without that bull among men? How shall I live afflicted with grief on account of my husband'
Unto Bhima's daughter, Damayanti, lamenting forlorn in that forest, the truth-telling ascetics replied, saying, O blessed and beauteous one, we see by ascetic power that the future will bring happiness to thee, and that thou wilt soon behold Naishadha. O daughter of Bhima, thou wilt behold Nala, the lord of the Nishadhas, the slayer of foes, and the foremost of the virtuous freed from distress. And O blessed lady, thou wilt behold the king, thy lord, freed from all sins and decked with all kinds of gems, and ruling the selfsame city, and chasting his enemies, and striking terror into the hearts of foes, and gladdening the hearts of friends, and crowned with every blessing' Having spoken unto that princess, the beloved queen of Nala, the ascetics with their sacred fires and asylum vanished from sight. And beholding that mighty wonder, the daughter-in-law of king Virasena, Damayanti of faultless limbs, was struck with amazement. And she asked herself, Was it a dream that I saw? What an occurrence hath taken place! Where are all those ascetics? And where is that asylum? Where, further, is that delightful river of sacred waters, the resort of diverse kinds of fowls?
And where, again, are those charming trees decked with fruits and flowers' And after thinking so for some time, Bhima's daughter, Damayanti of sweet smiles melancholy and afflicted with grief on account of her lord, lost the colour of her face again. And going to another part of the wood, she saw an Asoka tree. And approaching that first of trees in the forest, so charming with blossoms and its load of foliage, and resounding with the notes of birds, Damayanti, with tears in her eyes and accents choked in grief, began to lament, saying, Oh, this graceful tree in the heart of the forest, decked in flowers, looketh beautiful, like a charming king of hills. O beauteous Asoka, do thou speedily free me from grief. Hast thou seen king Nala, the slayer of foes and the beloved husband of Damayanti, freed from fear and grief and obstacles? Hast thou seen my beloved husband, the ruler of the Nishadhas, clad in half a piece of cloth, with delicate skin, that hero afflicted with woe and who hath come into this wilderness? O Asoka tree, do thou free me from grief! O Asoka, vindicate thy name, for Asoka meaneth destroyer of grief. And going round that tree thrice, with an afflicted heart, that best of women, Bhima's daughter, entered a more terrible part of the forest.
And wandering in quest of her lord, Bhima's daughter beheld many trees and streams and delightful mountains, and many beasts and birds, and caves, and precipices, and many rivers of wonderful appearance. And as she proceeded she came upon a broad way where she saw with wonder a body of merchants, with their horses and elephants, landing on the banks of a river, full of clear and cool water, and lovely and charming to behold, and broad, and covered with bushes of canes, and echoing with the cries of cranes and ospreys and Chakravakas, and abounding in tortoises and alligators and fishes, and studded with innumerable islets. And as soon as as she saw that caravan, the beauteous and celebrated wife of Nala, wild like a maniac, oppressed with grief, clad in half a garment, lean and pale and smutted, and with hair covered with dust, drew near and entered into its midst. And beholding her, some fled in fear, and some became extremely anxious, and some cried aloud, and some laughed at her, and some hated her. And some, O Bharata, felt pity for, and even addressed, her, saying, O blessed one, who art thou, and whose? What seekest thou in woods? Seeing thee here we have been terrified. Art thou human? Tell us truly, O blessed one if thou art the goddess of this wood or of this mountain or of the points of the heaven. We seek thy protection.
Art thou a female Yaksha, or a female Rakshasa, or a celestial damsel? O thou of faultless features, do thou bless us wholly and protect us. And, O blessed one, do thou so act that his caravan may soon go hence in prosperity and that the welfare of all of us may be secured' Thus addressed by that caravan, the princess Damayanti, devoted to her husband and oppressed by the calamity that had befallen her, answered, saying, O leader of the caravan, ye merchants, ye youths, old men, and children, and ye that compose this caravan, know me for a human being. I am the daughter of a king, and the daughter in-law of a king, and the consort also of a king, eager for the sight of my lord. The ruler of the Vidarbhas is my father, and my husband is the lord of the Nishadhas, named Nala. Even now I am seeking that unvanquished and blessed one. If ye have chanced to see my beloved one, king Nala, that tiger among men, that destroyer of hostile hosts, O tell me quick' Thereupon the leader of that great caravan, named Suchi, replied unto Damayanti of faultless limbs, saying, O blessed one, listen to my words. O thou of sweet smiles, I am a merchant and the leader of this caravan.
O illustrious lady, I have not seen any man of the name of Nala. In this extensive forest uninhabited by men, there are only elephants and leopards and buffaloes, and tigers and bears and other animals. Except thee, I have not met with any man or woman here, so help us now Manibhadra, the king of Yakshas' Thus addressed by them she asked those merchants as well as the leader of the host saying, It behoveth you to tell me whither this caravan is bound' The leader of the band said, O daughter of a great king, for the purpose of profit this caravan is bound direct for the city of Suvahu, the truth-telling ruler of the Chedis