The Harsha Charita of Bana/Chapter I
Translated by E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas.
London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1897, 4-34.
The description of the Vatsyayana race
THUS runs the tale:-- In former days the Holy One, the Most High, enthroned in his own sphere was reclining on his full-blown lotus couch surrounded by Indra and the other gods; and on a certain occasion he was holding a session, framing questions on the lore of Brahma and enjoying other blameless discussions. As he so sate, adored of the three worlds, the Prajapatis headed by Manu, Daksa, and Caksusa, and all the great sages with the seven Risis worshipped him. Some in chorus chanted the Rik hymns apt for psalmody; some recited the Yajus sentences of worship; some sang aloud the Saman strains of praise. Others rehearsed the Mantras that reveal the ritual of the sacrifice. And there, arising from the differences of their studies, quarrels one with another we heard among them.
Now there was a certain sage, a great ascetic, by nature excessively choleric, a son of Atri and brother of the moon, by name Durvasas, and he, while brawling with a second sage named Mandapala, being blinded by passion made a discord in singing a Saman. At this silence fell on all the other sages through fear of a curse, while Brahma in the sport of another conversation heeded not. But the divine Sarasvati, a maiden of tender years, now doffing her girlhood and arrayed in youthful beauty, was fanning the great Father with a fly-flap held by her arm's waving tendril. Those sprays, her feet, glowed with a natural red as though flushed by furious stripes, and her steps were musical with a pair of anklets keeping time with them like two disciples intoning the Veda word by word. Her legs produced the illusion of being the pillars of the portal to the city of Love. Her left hand, like a bud, was laid in sport on the chain of her girdle, which tinkled like the murmur of love-sick kala-hamsas. Her body was made pure by a Brahmanical thread, which, hanging from the shoulder, seemed like a coil of virtues that had clung to her through dwelling in the Manasa of the wise: while her necklace, studded with many a pearl and having a brilliant central gem, suggested the path of renunciation, leading midway the sun and lined by many liberated souls. Her quivering lips glowed red as with lac from the feet of all the sciences, which had entered her mouth. In her cheek was reflected an image of Brahma's black deer-skin, as if the moon's deer were come down to hearken to her honeyed song. One eyebrow like a creeper was raised in a disdainful curve, and a stream of tears flowing from the outer corner of her eye seemed to be washing one ear soiled by the discord; while the other ear, revelling in a white full-blown Sindhuvara flower, betokened as with a gleaming smile the intoxication of knowledge. In the flowers of her ear-ornament tribes of devoted bees attended upon her like repeated Oms accompanying the Sruti. Her form was clad in a silken robe fine and spotless as the fabric of thought. In this guise, shedding on all sides the moonlight of her teeth, pure as if of the substance of speech, the goddess Sarasvati, hearing the discord, smiled.
Seeing her so smiling, ‘Wretch !’ cried the sage, ‘vain in the conceit of a grain of ill-got knowledge, dost jeer at me?’ With these words, shaking his head so that his matted locks, streaming from the broken fillet, seemed by their outpouring yellowness to flood the heavens with an issuing fire of passion; gathering a frown that darkened the chess-board of his forehead, like the presence of the god of death, and recalled the crocodile embellishments upon the faces of Yama's wives; with a red eye offering, as it were, an oblation of his blood to the goddess of pitilessness; imprisoning the gleam of his teeth, as if it were his voice flying in terror at the merciless biting of his lip; altering the tie of the black antelope skin-a scroll of cursing as it were-which was slipping from his shoulder; clasped in every limb by gods, asuras, and sages, who, reflected in his drops of sweat, seemed to have come for refuge in their alarm at the curse; with a hand whose fingers shook with an angry tremor spurning his rosary as though it were a string of syllables clinging with supplications to him; thus, having first rinsed his mouth from his earthen pitcher, he took the water of cursing.
Meanwhile the great goddess Savitri was seated in corporeal shape near to the Self-existent, wearing a robe of the silken bark of the tree of paradise and white as a mass of ambrosia foam. A shawl of lotus filament was tied in a svastika knot between her swelling bosoms. Three sectarial lines of ashes, banners of triumph, as it were, over the three worlds vanquished by ascetic force, brightened the courtyard of her forehead. Her Vaikaksyaka scarf consisted of a hermit's wrap which hung from her shoulder, white as ambrosia foam, like a Ganges stream bent to a circle by ascetic power. Her left hand held a crystal water-vessel like the lotus calyx whence Brahma arose; and her right, encircled -with a rotary and studded with rugs of shells, was raised aloft, the finger of scorn being scornfully waved as she cried :- ‘Fie on thee, sinner, prey to anger, evil of heart, reft of reason, ignorant of self, false Brahman and pretended sage, outcast, excommunicate, how comes it that, bewildered by thine own offence, thou wouldst curse the divine Sarasvati, mother of the three worlds, fit adoration for throngs of gods, asuras, sages, and mortal men?'
So she spoke, and abandoning her ascetic's pillow arose, and with her the four incarnate Vedas left their cane seats in wrath, clad in bark garments and holding delicate chowries of Kuca fibres, bearing their hermit's staves, and grasping their round water-vessels like weapons. Under the guise of sweat soma juice, as it were, oozed from them: their foreheads gleamed with the pure ashes of the Agnihotra oblation: their voices echoed the sacred syllable : the quarters of the heavens were oppressed by the weight of their angrily agitated matted-locks: the daylight was darkened by the bulging of their black antelope skins flung round as they girt up their loins: and the world of Brahma vibrated with the coming and going of their passionate panting.
Whereat in vain besought to mercy by the gods, ‘O reverend sir, be merciful, she is no victim for a curse’; in vain implored by suppliant disciples, ‘Master, forgive one fault’: in vain restrained by Atri, ‘Balk not, my son, the fruit of throe asceticism’; the sage, beside himself with passion, let fall the water of that curse, crying:-‘Ill-mannered girl, I take away from thee this state of pride by knowledge won. Begone downward to the world of mortal men.’ But when Savitri would have answered , curse with curse, 'twas Sarasvati that hindered her, saying:-‘Dear friend, restrain thy wrath: even to Brahmans by birth merely, uninitiated in heart, respect is due.’
Thereupon, seeing Sarasvati thus cursed, the Lord Brahma uplifted his form, which wore the white sacrificial thread, as though his birth from the lotus had left a fibre clinging about him. With his right hand, which, as its signet ring sent up a spray of emerald rays, seemed to grasp a cluster of Kuca grass for staying a world-dissolution, he allayed the tumult of the curse; while his teeth shot out pure penetrating rays like plummet lines for the building of a coming aeon of bliss, and his voice echoed through the spheres like a drum heralding with honour the departure of Sarasvati, as in deep tones he spake:- ‘Brahman, the path thou hast followed is one not frequented by the good. Its final goal is death. The dust upraised by the steeds of passion in their unbridled onrush is wont to cloud the vision of such as be not masters of the senses. How limited indeed the scope of the eye! for ‘tis by the purified intellect that the perfected behold all things good and evil. Nature rejects this union of piety and wrath as of water and fire. How dost thou, leaving the light, sink in darkness! for the root of all asceticism is patience. Skilled in discerning the faults of others, thy angry mind, like an eye inflamed, perceives not the frailty of its own passion. How can censoriousness consort with commerce of great penances? Blind verily is that seeing man who is over-wrathful. Clouded with passion, the mind distinguishes not what should and what should not be done. First of all the wisdom of the angry man is darkened; then his frowning brow. The flush of passion assaults first the senses, last the eyes. In the beginning the store of merit dissolves away; then the oozing sweat. The flash of dishonour flickers; then comes the trembling of the lip. How ruinous to the world was the growth of thy matted locks and bark dress, shoots and bark as it were of the poison tree! Like a pearl necklace, this graceless impulse of thy mind is out of harmony, surely, with thy sage's dress. With a heart void of resignation idly like an actor dost thou wear the counterfeited semblance of an ascetic. Nought free from taint can I detect in thee. Even to this hour thy levity floats but on the surface of the sea of knowledge. None of these great sages are deaf and dumb, impotent and dull of wit. Why halt thou checked the sinless Sarasvati, when thine own heart, the haunt of angry sin, should rather have been checked? These are the follies born of their own heedless slips whereby the undiscerning fall into reproach.’
Then to Sarasvati he spake again:-‘Dear child, be not dejected. Savitri here shall accompany thee and solace the pain of severance from us. And the curse shall end when thou shah behold the lotus face of thy child.’
So much decreed, Brahma, having dismissed his court of gods, asuras, sages and mortal men, laid his hand upon the shoulder of Narada, who hastily approached, and arose for the performance of his daily rites. Sarasvati, too, a little discomfited at the curse, letting fall upon her bosom a mingled glance of light and dark like a streak in a black antelope skin, led on by thronging bees caught, like the incarnate letters of the curse, in the incense of her fragrant sighs, her hands nerveless with sorrow at the curse, went with Savitri to her mansion, her path to the world of men being pointed out as it were by the down-bent rays of her nails. And swarms of kalahamsa of the palace, convoked by the prattle of her anklets, followed after her like the hearts of the dwellers in Brahma's world.
Meanwhile, as though to bear the tidings of Sarasvati's descent, the light-coroneted sun went down to the middle world. Gradually waned the day, his pools all saddened by the calamity of the closing of all their lotus beds. Quickly, as though stung by the angrily bent side-glances of wine- flushed beauties, the world's sole eye, ruddy as a young monkey's mouth, lighted upon the peaks of the earth-propping hills. White were the environs of the heavenly hermitages with milky streams flowing from herds of cows with dripping udders; as though washed by the surge of the milky sea in uproar at the near rising of the moon. Let out for his evening ramble, the chowrie-crowned Airavata was dashing his tusks at will against the banks of the heavenly stream, while the sound went up of their crashing against its sides of gold. The sky displayed a rosy tint, as though smeared with lac from the feet of thousands of mistresses of the Vidyadharas gone forth to their trysts. Like the sweat of Sandhya in her delight at Siva's worship, the evening glow streamed forth of saffron hue, flushing the heavenly spaces and filled with the sunset offerings of the saints on their journey along the sky. Resplendent was the world of Brahma, where crowds of noble worshipping sages clasped a forest of hands in evening adoration; as though all the lotus beds were come to show honour to that lotus whence Brahma sprang. And loudly from the Brahmans uprose the chorus of the third libation hymn. In the temples of the seven sages the courts were all tressed with the flames of the lighted Vaitana fires; as though a camp lustration had commenced in an army devoted to Dharma. Light were the hermits from the removal of the poison taint of sin which the Aghamarsana hymn had stolen away. The sand isles of Mandakini's stream were purified by rows of ascetics seated at evening prayer, and the line of its waves was broken by the gleam of Brahma's floating hamsas. Fragrant with the scent of their own honey, the night-lotus beds, to the joy of the bees, commenced to open, like umbrellas of the water nymphs, seraglio mansions for the wives of the feathered tribes. Satisfied with their symposiums on the sweet honey of day-lotuses now languid at day's close, the flamingo swarms sank to sleep, arching their necks to be scratched by the soft fibres, and fanning the blue lotus beds with rows of flapping wings. The evening breeze, soft as the sigh of night, came making grey the river with the pollen of flowers on the bank and bearing perfume from the jasmine in the curls of the matrons of the City of Saints. Throngs of bees reclined in huts formed by the cavities of lotuses barred by the tips of filaments erect and stiff as they closed.
Like clustering Kutaja buds in the forest of Siva's hair when it tosses in the dance, the star-swarms filled the sky with their clusters. About the earth the new-born darkness closed, coppery-hued from the after-effects of the twilight, coloured like the skin of a ripe date, and thick as the cloud of doomsday. Sharply piercing the mass of soft dusk, the scattered lamps peeped forth like clusters of Campak buds about the ear of the goddess of night. Paling with the lovely effulgence of the crescent moon's rays, the eastern quarter began to narrow the dusk, like a young sandbank by Yamuna's banks when the dark water retreats as it dries. Perturbed, like the spirit of a proud beauty, by the moon's fingers clutching its tresses, the darkness, in hue like a jay's wing, a very cluster of curls belonging to the Gipsy of night, dissolved and abandoned the sky, and cast its gloom upon the pools of blossoming blue lotuses. The form of the Lord of White Splendour, now uprisen, assumed the glow of the Udaya mountain, resembling the lip of the nymph of night : and his redness was as though he were covered with blood oozing from his own deer, now slain by a stroke froze the rending paws of the lion that dwells in the caves of the valleys of Udaya's peaks. The. gloom had waned, as if washed by the flow of the moonstone's ooze from the Eastern hill. Like a great ivory crocodile-mouthed conduit bearing a stream of milk trickling from the world of cows, the moon's circle had commenced to fill the ocean.
At that clear evening time Savitri thus addressed Sarasvati, who, vacant in heart as it were, was lost in tearful thought:- ‘Friend, my tongue is ashamed to prate to thee, whose wisdom may instruct the three worlds. Thou knowest already what are the ill-mannered ways of fate, unstable, heedless, like a lowborn person, even of the worthy, inconstant, not to be evaded, in no wise pleasurable. A mere grain of undeserved humiliation, corning from an inferior, makes turbid the spirit even of the wise. Even an atom of misfortune, when watered with ceaseless tears, like a leafless tree, puts forth a thousand shoots. An over-delicate soul, like a Malaii blossom, is withered by the particles of fiery pain. Like the elephant's goad, even a slight prick of trouble, assailing the great, suffices to torment. Moreover our native home, linked to us like a kinsman by the knotted tees of natural affection, is hard to abandon. Separation from approved friends, dreadful as the stroke of the wood cleaving saw, leaves a fissure in the heart. But thee it befits not to be thus afflicted. Thou surely art not the soil in which should spring up the shoots of the poison plant of pain. Also, seeing that before and behind us life a ruler stand our past deeds, potent whether good or evil in producing their fruit, what occasion have the wise for sorrowing? Why, pray, do these inauspicious tears defile a face which is the single lotus of auspiciousness for the three worlds? Enough now of this: say what part of the world thou wouldst adorn. On what blest spot is thy heart fain to alight ? What holy bathing-places lost thou desire to grace? In what fortunate forest seclusions wouldst thou live the ascetic's life? Here am I ready to descend to earth, a loving friend, well-skilled to serve thee, tried in friendly offices when we played together in the dust. Cast thyself henceforth in heart, voice and deed, seeking no other refuge, upon the author of all knowledge, the bestower of paradise, the dust of whose feet makes pure both gods and asuras, whose earring is formed of the moon's digits, even on Siva, god of gods, preceptor of the three worlds. In but a little time he will give thee release from the woe of the curse.’
To these words Sarasvati, letting fall a pearly white teardrop, replied:- ‘ Dear friend, if I go with thee, neither severance from Brahma’s world nor grief at the curse will cause me any distress : 'tis only that the happiness of serving the lotus-throned fills my heart with soft regret. Furthermore 'tis thou who knowest the abodes where. Dharma can be followed upon earth, the means of mystic meditation, and how to practise the postures of ascetic rapture.’ So much said she ceased to speak: and that night she spent with unclosed eyes; sleepless through agitation.
Next day as heralded by the dawn rosy as an old cock's comb, the adorable sun, the world's diadem, Mount Udaya's crest jewel, arose with a form red as with blood scattered from the mouths of his own steeds cut by the tossing clanking bit, the keeper of the goose tribes that draw Brahma's chariot sang aloud in Aparavaktra metre as he strolled along not far away:-
- 'Wherefore trembles thine anxious glance,
- 'O nursling of pellucid Manasa as thy home?
- 'Descend, O kalahamsa,to the pond;
- 'Again shalt thou return to the abode of lotuses.'
Hearing this Sarasvati thought: ‘'Tis I, methinks, to whom he appeals. So be it! I must respect the sage's sentence.’ So she arose resolved to descend to the earth, and having left her attendants prostrate at the separation, parted from her kindred, and then, like one cut off from the herd, passed thrice round the four-faced god. At last, courteously turning back crowds of pursuing devotees, she set, forth accompanied by Savitri from Brahma's world.
Straight she came to the steady-flowing loud-roaring river Mandakini with milky udders downward streaming like the cow of Dharma, a very Malati wreath for the head of Siva. Thick covered were its banks with close-clinking Balakhilyas. The bark of its trees had been washed by Arundhati. The clear stars were tremulous as they crossed its high-leaping waves. Its sand-isles were bristling beds of floating sesamum seeds and water offered by ascetics. All white, where its banks with offerings to the manes let fall by Brahma when purified by bathing. Kuca-grass beds of tile seven Risis, who had slept hard by, gave token of the birth-fast for the sun's delivery from eclipse. Dappled was it with abundant flowers from the service, let fall by Saci's lord when purified by rinsing his mouth. It had garlands of Mandara, blossoms, dropped as the remains of the sacrifice from Siva's city. Scornfully had it cleft the rocks of Mandara's caves. Rippled was its surface with the cup-like bosoms of unnumbered beauties of Indra’s court. Its waters were resonant with its tumbling over myriad stones and crocodiles. Masses of the moon's ambrosial dew bestarred its banks, flowing down from the sun's Susumna ray. Grey were its sands with smoke from the fire of Dhisana. Vidyadharas, were flying in terror at its leaping over the sand lingus erected by the saints. Such was the river, the cast slough, as it were, of the sky serpent, the sportive forehead ornament of the jester of Indra's world, the bazaar street of the wares of Dharma, the shot bolt of the gate of Hell's city, the silken turban wrap of Sumeru's king, the cloth banner of Kailasa's elephant, the track of liberation, the wheel-rim of the aeon of goodness, the bride of the lord of the seven oceans.
Passing along its banks Sarasvati descended to the world of mortals: and just as she stood on the edge of the sky she spied a great river brimming with water pure, cool and sweet, a daughter of Brahma by name the Stream of Gold, but by men called Cona, the pearl necklace, as it were, of Varuna, the ambrosia cataract of the moon mountain, the ooze of the Vindhya's moon-gem, a flood of camphor sap from the Dandaka forest, the streaming loveliness of the world, the crystal couch of the sky's beauty. At the sight her heart was taken captive by its beauty, and there upon its bank she resolved to dwell; so she said to Savitri :-‘Pleasant to me, friend, is the neighbourhood of this great, river, which makes dull the lustre of Mandakini. Here are honeyed voices of peacocks, trees having stocks besanded with heaps of pollen, the entrancing hum of lute-like clusters of scent-intoxicated bees. My heart prompts me to abide even here.’ So as Savitri welcomed her words, saying, ‘Thus let it be.’ She alighted with her friend upon the western bank: and for a dwelling she fixed her mind upon a certain fair creeper arbour by the shore containing a slab of stone. Then after resting she soon arose, and having with Savitri gathered flowers for worship, bathed: next, having in Siva's honour erected sand lingas on the sand-isles, she with deep devotion performed in full the ritual of clasping of fingers together with the Dhruva hymn and preceded by the Pancabrahma prayer; lastly after long meditation on the eight incarnate forms, earth, wind, water, sky, fire, sun moon, sacrificer, she presented the eightfold offering of flowers, and refreshed her body with easily gathered roots and fruits and Cona water, cool and of a sweetness surpassing even ambrosia. That day passed, she made a conch of flowers and slept on the stone floor of the creeper arbour. On the morrow she spent night and day in the same routine.
Now as the days in this wise sped on and time passed, one morning, when the sun was risen only one watch, she heard in the northern quarter the deep clear sound of horses' neighs filling the thickets of the woods with echoes. Her curiosity aroused she came forth, and looking abroad from the bower beheld no great distance and speeding towards her a cloud of dust grey as the leaf which contains the blossoming Ketaki flower. In due course, as proximity gave birth to distinctness, she saw a troop of horse floating in that huge mass of dust grey as Caphara's belly, like a school of crocodiles in water. Before it ran an army of foot about a thousand strong, mostly young men, with clusters of crisp hanging hair upon their foreheads, and cheeks laughing with the bright gleam of their ear-ornaments; girt with scented jerkins spotted with a powder of black aloe wood paste; their upper garments formed into turbans: sparkling golden bracelets on their left forearms daggers fastened in strong knots in their sashes of doubled cloth, tirelessly with bodies thin and hard from incessant exercise leaping like the deer of the winds and spurning smooth and rough ground, holes, and clumps of bushes; clubs at their sides, swords in their hands; laden with various wild flowers, fruits, roots, and leaves for worship: and making a ceaseless hubbub with cries of ‘On, on, make speed, make speed, away, away, make way in front.’ In the midst she discerned a youth in age about eighteen years, shaded by a sky-reaching umbrella, which with its half-moon, its girdling heaps of pearls, its inlay of pieces of various precious stones, and its whiteness as of shells, milk and foam, resembled the milky ocean voluntarily come to present Lakshmi. All about him was the sparkling light of his ornaments, as if the horizon of the heavens were keeping close out of passion for the sight of him. Down to his loins from his topknot hung a wreath of Malati flowers, like a pennon of beauty won by a world conquest. The red rays uprising from the ruby in his crest seemed delicate sprays carried by an invisible goddess to cleanse his travel-soiled form. His hair, wreathed in clusters of crisp curls and charmingly adorned with a coiled coronet of white Vakula buds, appeared to be swallowing up the day's contracted blaze. His forehead, all yellow as with arsenic paste, cast the glow of its beauty upon the heavens, and being clasped by its natural loveliness, seemed composed of a second portion of the moon which forms the coronet of Siva's matted locks. His wide eyes, whose glances bold in the confidence of fresh youth's commencement made nought of the whole world, appeared to create an autumn, clothing the heavens in myriad pools of opening white, blue and red lotuses. His long nose was like a river of beauty's water, flowing from beneath the moonstone of his forehead, and bridged across the stream of his long eyes. His mouth, breathing a fragrance of mangos, camphor, Kakkola-fruits, cloves, and coral trees, and resounding with a hubbub of intoxicated bee-swarms, seemed to emit a very spring together with a Nandana forest. His innocent smiles, bathing the heavens with the light of his teeth as he uplifted his face to catch the jests of his friends around him, created incessantly a kind of moonlight roaming about the sky. A dangling three-pointed ear-ornament--an emerald set between a pair of pearls big as Kadamba buds--emitted a sheen which suggested a pendant of green jasmine leaves with their flowers. His arms, decorated with painted lines of scented civet powder, resembled a pair of Kama's pennon poles with rampant crocodiles girdling their tops. His body was divided by a white Brahmanical thread, like Mandara encircled by the stream of Ganges indignant at the churning of the ocean. His breast, a broad sandbank with two shapely swelling bosoms for ruddy-geese, and with a coating of camphor powder in handfuls for dust, seemed a horizon spread out before him and kept within bounds by the length of his stout arms. His slim waist was marked off by a tight drawn lower garment of Harita green, of which one corner was gracefully set in front a little below the navel and the hem hung over the girdle behind, and which on both sides was so girt up as to display a third of his thigh. His stout thighs, glistening with a thick smearing of bright sandal, seemed to scoff at the length of Airavata's trunk, being very stone pillars for supporting the granite platform of his great chest; while his knees issued from huge 'crocodile mouths' with hard flesh accumulated by incessant exercise. His shanks were somewhat slim, as if from the fatigue of supporting the weight of his vast thighs. His feet, which hung on either side, were red as two young shoots of the tree of paradise, and the waving light of their nails formed as it were a row of chowrie ornaments for his horse.
He was mounted on a great steed, swift as thought, in colour like a dark Sindhuvara flower, and with a coat as black as a golangula ape's cheeks. As it advanced its high prancing hoofs seemed to rest awhile in the air when it coiled its legs, and falling to tear lip the earth. Every moment the hard bit clanked when released by the teeth. Upon its forehead dangled rings of fine gold and the end of the bit rested against its long nose. It was adorned with tinkling trappings of gold. Close on either side with their hands grasping the saddle cloth, two attendants shook white chowries. In front chanted a bard, whose eloquence caused the hairs on the young man's cheeks to bristle with delight, as though tiny stamen filaments from his ear-wreath had become attached to them. He seemed to reveal a descent of a Kama's aeon, to produce a cosmos of moonlight, to beget an animate creation of the substance of smiles, to pave his path with devotion, to frame a day all of love, to inaugurate a kingdom of affection. He was to the eye, as it were, a collyrium of allurement, to the heart an attracting spell, to the senses a powder able to affect the healthiest; for desire a never-cloying delight, for bliss a never-failing charm; the resurrection day of Love, the elixir of youth, the unshared rule of loveliness, the triumphal pillar of shapeliness, the capital sum of grace, the fructuation of the world's good deeds, the first bud of beauty's creeper, the fruit of Prajapati's studies in creation, the glory of graciousness, the high-tide of sparkling wit.
By the young man's side, on a horse not close to any other, was a person wearing a white jerkin and a white silken turban round his head. Tall, in aspect like a pillar of molten gold, with a frame hardened in spite of advanced years by exercise, with short nails beard and hair, bald as a shell, somewhat stout, hairy-bosomed, dressed handsomely but with little display, he seemed one to teach even old age to be decorous, to add weight even to great qualities, to convert magnanimity itself to a disciple, to provide deportment itself with a monitor.
When the young man heard of that pair of divinely shaped maidens - for the footmen in the van took it all in at a glance and in astonishment made their report-his curiosity was aroused, and putting his horse to a gallop, he rode up to the bower, eager to see them. While still at a distance, he alighted from his horse, and staying his suite, approached respectfully on foot attended only by the second noble personage. Greetings made, Savitri and Sarasvati duly received them with the usual hospitality of forest life, beginning with the offer of a seat of twigs and ending with presents of fruit with flowers. They being seated, Savitri sate down, and after a not over-prolonged silence addressed herself to the second of the two, the man of advanced years:- ‘Sir, to make the first address ill becomes women, whose innate modesty is their all, more especially noble girls, innocent as woodland fawns. Yet hearing, greedy to learn the news and emulous of the eye which has been gratified with seeing, moves me thereto. And indeed even at first sight the good proffer confidence like a gift. Like wine, the feeling inspired by the courtesy shown by a superior makes even the timid talkative. In the very meek confidence easily reaches its highest point, like a string passing to the very end of a plaint bow. Moreover, even in the profoundly wise the previously unknown masterpieces of creation visible in the world occasion astonishment; for the beauty of this high-souled youth is beyond anything in the universe. It is not the levity natural to young women that compels me to speak, but the exceeding grace, handmaid of high birth, that appears in this darling of heaven. Therefore relate what hapless region has through your coming been desolated by the spreading plague of separation. What is your destination? Whose son is this young man, a second Kama humbling the pride of Siva's roar? How named the sire, rich in austerities, whose heart this youth gladdens, as the Kaustubha jewel gladdens the heart of Vishnu, with an ambrosial shower? Who was his mother, worthy of the worship of the three worlds, the parent like the morning twilight, of a great splendour? What fortunate syllables make up his name? To inquire concerning your honour also is the next proceeding of a heart compliant to curiosity.’
She having so spoken, the other courteously replied:- ‘Lady, kindly speech is a hereditary art among the noble. Not merely your face, your heart also is moonlike, bestowing delight by words cooling like ambrosia dew. Women like you come into the world as the native soil of nobility, nay, a greater glory, as the fine arts for forming noble characters. Not to mention conversation, even interchange of glances with the noble is a great exaltation. Listen then: This young man, Dadhica by name, the pride of the Bhrigu race, is the externalized life of the sainted Cyavana, - that forehead mark of the triad Bhu Bhuvas and Svar, whose invincible might paralyzed the pillar-like arm of Indra, whose lotus feet tread rudely on the couch for need by the jewelled crowns of gods and demons, and who blasted Puloman by the outpouring of his splendour. His mother was a princess, Sukanya named, a gem among the maidens of the universe, daughter of the world-conquering Caryata, whose train is of unnumbered monarchs. Observing her to be with child, her father took her in the birth-month from her husband's side to his own dwelling, there to bear her child. The son borne by the princess was this young man-long life be his. And in the king's house he in good time grew up, lotus-eyed, the delight of his kindred, like the young lord of stars. Even when his daughter returned to her husband's house, the grandfather parted not from this cheery-faced grandson of his, a solace to the heart. There accordingly he was trained in all the sciences and the circle of the arts.
In time, observing him to have attained to youth, his grandfather, reflecting that his father too should have the delight of gazing on his lotus face, has now prevailed upon himself to send his away to his father's presence. But me let your highness understand to be one named Vikuksi, the least of servants, minister of the will of my auspiciously-named lord Caryata. My master appointed me his attendant on the way to his father's feet. Our royal house follows the rule of heredity, and length of service produces in the great a certain kindly feeling even towards a dependant. Unfailing indeed is the store of good feeling in the great.
‘Some two leagues hence across the Shona is the abode of the sainted Cyavana, a forest rivalling Caitraratha and by him entitled Cyavana, an appellation derived from his own name. That is our journey's goal. If now this is a time for an act of grace, and your heart is void of contempt towards us, if such as we are fit recipients of favours and worthy to hear, let not this our first solicitation of curiosity meet with a repulse. We also are fain to hear your highnesses’ story. Your aspect in no way falls short of divinity: but our hearts are eager to hear your lineage and names. Say therefore what stock was made enviable by your birth. Who is this lady near your highness, a coinherence as it were of mutually exclusive qualities? Thus: - with the darkness of her locks close by, she has a radiance as of the sun; with the face of a lotus the eye of a fawn; wearing the brilliance of the young day, she has yet the smile of a night-lotus; the voice of a lovesick kalahamsa, yet swelling bosoms: hands soft as day-lotuses, yet hips broad as the rocks of the mountain of snow; thighs like a young elephant's trunk, yet a languid gait; she has not passed the season of girlhood, yet she has the swimming eyes of love.’
Savitri answered: - You shall hear, my lord, in good time. Our hearts are fain to stay here many days: and the distance is slight. Intimacy will make all clear. Let my lord not forget people seen only by chance.’ After which reply she became silent. But Dadhica, with a voice which, resembling the deep mutter of clouds laden with new rain, set the peacocks dancing in the creeper arbours, gravely said:-‘My lord, her highness being conciliated will be gracious to us; now let us visit my father. Rise, let us proceed.’ Then, the other assenting, he slowly arose, and with a bow moved away. As he mounted his horse and departed, Sarasvati gazed for a long time after him with an eye with straight rigid lashes and pupil motionless as in a picture. Crossing the Shona, Dadhica quickly reached the site of his father's seclusion. But when he disappeared Sarasvati stood for a long time gazing in that direction, and could hardly cease looking.
Then, when she had remained quiet one short moment recalling that perfection of form, her heart was filled more and more with astonishment. Her eye longed to see him again; and something involuntarily drew her glance in the same direction as before. All uncommissioned her heart went away with him. Like a new spray upon a young wood-creeper, love somehow sprang up in her heart. She passed the day as it were languid, empty, and heavy with sleep. But when with westward inclining circle the sun's radiant form, lover of the lotus beds, sprung from the three Vedas, was nearing the west, with colour golden as a cluster of langalikas, and brilliance red as an old crane's head, while the gathering dusk shy-enveloping was befouling the firmament with a blackness like the bark of a young Tamala and slowly slowly the moon was creeping up the heavens like a swan of Mandakini, in pursuit of the tinkling anklets of the roaming mistresses of the saints,-at that hour, the very outset of night, Sarasvati, her twilight worship done, fell with languid limbs on her couch of young shoots and there remained. Savitri also, having performed the evening ritual, in due course took to her couch of leaves at the usual hour of rest, and, drowsiness approaching, slept.
But the other, though she closed her eyes, enjoyed no sleep; her couch of leaves was deranged by repeated tossings of her limbs, and this was her thought: - ‘Surely the world of mortals is above all worlds, since therein are born such gems, the three-worlds’ pride, laden with the company of all fine qualities. Thus:-the moon is but a trickling drop of his face's flood of beauty: his glances are beds of expanding lotuses, white, blue, and red: the sparklings of his gem-like lips are forest avenues of open Bandhukas. To that body only the disembodied Kama can add a charm. Happy the eyes, hearts, and young beauty of those women within whose vision he comes. In displaying him to me only for a moment my ill-deeds in former births have wrought their fruit. What resource is open to me now?' Amid such thoughts as these drowsiness coming over her, she at length lay still awhile, and falling asleep beheld (in a vision) that very youth with the long eyes. Through that second dream-meeting the lord of the crocodile banner, drawing his bow to the ear, dealt her a pitiless stroke. When she awoke thus smit by Kama's bolt, then came unrest as if to learn her condition. Thus was it with her:- from that hour, even though unsmitten by the pollen-whitened wood-creepers, she felt a smart. Though her eyes might not be hurt by flower-dust wafted by gentle breezes, yet she would let fall a tear. Though not bedewed by Shona spray scattered by myriad fanning hamas’ wings, yet a moisture came upon her. Though not borne by pairs of rocking Kadambas, yet was she agitated by the tossing waves of the sylvan lotus pools. Though untouched by the smoke of parting sighs let fall by severed pairs of ruddy-geese, yet she wove a pallid hue. Though unstung by the honey-making tribes, all grey with flower-dust, yet she would feverishly start.
After the lapse of some nights Vikuksi returning by the same route arrived at that place, and, having checked his attendants as before, approached with his umbrella-holder. Sarasvati, who had observed his approach from afar, sprang joyfully up, and, gazing with straining neck like a woodland fawn, seemed to bathe the way-worn traveller with a glance that whitened the ten regions of space. When he had accepted a seat, Savitri asked him affectionately 'My lord, is the young prince well?' He answered, 'Quite well, your highness, and he bears you both in remembrance: during the past days, however, he is somewhat thin in figure, and experiences as it were an inexplicable and causeless void. Also there will arrive later a lady named Malati, commissioned from him to inquire of you: She is a sigh of the prince.' Hearing this, Savitri once more spoke:- 'A magnanimous prince indeed to honour with his acquaintance people scarcely known to him and seen only for an instant. His mind was, I suppose, accidentally caught by us for a moment as he passed, like a shawl by a wayside creeper. In your lord's son true nobility is not devoid of high birth. A listless world, truly, that it does not at any price purchase the hearts of the great so easily won to friendship. This is a pinnacle, of nobility in the great, unattainable by others, whereby they win the whole world to their service.’ Having spent some time in general conversation Vikuksi went away in the direction of his choice.
On the morrow as the adorable jewel of day arose with his thousand rays, illimitable, in splendour, invading the starlight, veiling the darkness, eager to expand the red lotuses, Malati was seen to have crossed the Cona and to be approaching with a small retinue of attendants. While still far away, she was looted as it were by Sarasvati's wishes in her love for Dadhica, hurried on by her eagerness, met by her longings, embraced by her yearning, welcomed into her heart, bathed in her tears of joy, anointed by her smile, fanned by her sighs, arrayed in the light of her eyes, worshipped with (the flower offering of) her lotus face, made a friend by her hopes. So she drew near, and, alighting from her steed, saluted from a distance with bowed head: then having been embraced by the pair she modestly sate down. Being courteously addressed by them, she congratulated herself, and with hands humbly laid upon her head announced the respectful greeting where with Dadhica had charged her; and in the course of various polite conversation she won the hearts of Savitri and Sarasvati by her urbanity of demeanour and courteous address.
When noon had passed in due course, and Savitri was gone down to the Shona to bathe, Malati sent away her attendants, and approaching Sarasvati, who was lying on a couch of flowers, said meaningly to her: - 'Lady, I have something to communicate in private: so I wish you to bestow on me the favour of a moment's attention.' Sarasvati, suspecting a message from Dadhica, wondered what she was about to say. So concealing with a portion of her shawl of woven bark a heart which, as if the buds of curiosity were bursting forth, bristled with the rays from the nails of her left hand laid against her bosom, clinging to a neighbouring creeper (her hope of life, it seemed) which swayed with her incessant sighs, while her dangling ear-wreath suggested that her ear was running forth to listen; her blooming moonlike face flooding the world with an outpouring of beauty like a stream of passion; buoyed up by swarms of dusky bees attracted by the fragrance of her flowery couch, like embodied yearnings issuing forth blackened by the fire of Kama's flame; slowly, slowly in the fever of love's dart she arose from her couch of flowers, and drawing nigh to her ear the Malati reflected in her cheek, as if out of shame she would say ‘Whisper it to me,’ with honeyed voice she gravely said: - 'Why do you speak thus to me, friend Malati? Who am I to grant attention as a favour? Even without asking, the charming and lovely are masters of our bodies, our lives, our all. There is nothing that you are not to me, sister, friend, loved one, second self. Ordain what task, small or great, this poor body may perform. This compliant heart has no secrets from you. Deal as you please with your slave. Reveal, lovely lady, your meaning.'
'Lady,' the other replied, 'you do not need to be told the delightfulness of mundane things, the importunity of the army of the senses, the intoxication of youthfulness, the restlessness of the mind. The resistless power of Kama is notorious. Therefore meet me not, I pray, with censure. My chatter is not due to folly, giddiness, or love of gossip. There is nothing which great devotion to a master does not make people attempt. From the very moment, princess, when the prince beheld you, love has been his spiritual guide, the moon his lord of life, the southern breeze his familiar, anguish has been in his secret counsels, pain the friend of his bosom, wakefulness his kinsman, yearnings his emissaries, sighs his vanguard, death his squire, disquiet his courier, fancies his aged advisers. How am I to speak? Should I say 'he is a match for your highness,' your heart will tell you that; 'of noble character,' that is beside the mark; 'a man of sense,' that is at variance with his state of mind; 'blessed by fortune,' that depends on you; 'constant in affection,' that implies experience; 'versed in rendering homage,' that is inappropriate to his princely rank; 'he is fain to be your slave till death,' a knave's plea; 'you shall be the mistress of his house,' a seductive tale; 'happy she who owns such a lord,' a partisan's story; 'you are his death,' an unkind saying; 'you know not worth,' a reproach; 'you have often shown him favours in dreams,' unsupported by testimony: 'he pleads for his life,' a coward's act; 'go and visit him,' a command; 'though forbidden, he is coming perforce,' mere overbearingness. Therefore, when I have said that you are beyond the reach of words, the decision rests with you.'
So much said, she became silent. But Sarasvati with eyes wide-open with love replied: - ‘I am unable to say many words. Here am I, lady of smiling speech, at your orders. Take charge of my life.’ ‘Your commands are the highest of favours,’ replied Malati, beside herself with joy, and bowing passed on her galloping steed across the Cona, and proceeded to Cyavana's hermitage to bring Dadhica. But the other out of love for her friend made Savitri also acquainted with the news. Her mind panting under its load of longing, she could scarcely pass the rest of the day which seemed an aeon. But when the adorable sun had sunk with all his radiance in the west, when the dusk was stilly descending, and the moon was issuing, like a lion from his cave, from the eastern quarter now gleaming as with a smile, then Sarasvati sate herself down on the Shona sands, white, delicate as China silk, rolling in waves, like a silken soft bed. On her brow was a jewel, the imaged moonlight, as it were, of Dadhica's toe-nails as in her dreams she fell in supplication at his feet. Reflected in the mirror of her cheek, the moon thus near to her ear seemed to be communicating Kama's charge, `Fair smiling one, here have I brought thy heart's darling.' As her hand fanned her moist cheek, its nails scattered a horizon of rays, like a bundle of moon-digits converted into a yak-tail fan. Above her heart, sighing against her bosom, she had just strength to bear a young lotus stalk, like a rod let fall in sport by Kama across its portal to say 'Here none but Dadhica may enter.' Thus did she expect him, and this was the thought in her heart, ‘Since I, even I, Sarasvati, have been enslaved, like a low-caste woman, by this heart's son Kama, what is to be expected of other poor excitable maidens?'
With Malati Dadhica came bringing sweet perfumes like the month of honey, bearing like hamsa cooling lotus fibers, his face uplifted in deep joy like a peacock at a cloud, causing like the Malaya breeze a tremour upon a creeper-like form all white with moist sandal: drawn on, as it seemed, by the lord of planets with finger-like rays grasping his locks; wafted by the southern breeze potent in kindling love; borne on the billowy current of desire. A throng of bees crowding towards his fragrance arrayed his willowy form as with a dark garment: the moon's image, gleaming within like the ear-shelf of love's raging elephant, whitened the convex of his cheek as with the coy aimless smile of a first union. Having arrived and greeted her with a voice which, broken like a hamsa's, seemed interrupted by a tinkle of anklets from the loved one taken to his heart, he spent that fair night in the fashion enjoined by Kama, taught by youth, dictated by passion, and revealed by insight. Taking confidence, Sarasvati made herself known to him, and with her he spent a full year brief as a single day.
Then by ordinance of destiny Sarasvati conceived, and bare in good time a son graced by all auspicious signs. Upon him at the very hour of his birth she laid this blessing, `By my favour all the Vedas with the mystic portions, all authoritative books, and all arts shall be fully and spontaneously manifested in him.' Then bearing Dadhica in her heart as though to display him with the vaunt of an ideal spouse, she ascended by the Great Father's will with Savitri to Brahma's world. She having departed, Dadhica also, pierced to the heart as by a lightning flash, went away sick with his loss to the woods to live as an ascetic: having appointed as his son's foster-mother a hermit's daughter named Aksamala, wife to Bhratri, a Brahman of the Bhrigu race. She had borne a son at the very hour when Sarasvati gave birth to hers. So the two children gradually grew up together, fed without favour at the same breast. The one was named Sarasvata simply, the other's name was Vatsa. And between the two there existed an enviable affection like that of brothers.
Now Sarasvata, who through his mother's power was at the very outset of youth gifted with the full treasure of the sciences, conveyed it undiminished in the form of words to his dear confidant and loving twin-brother Vatsa. When Vatsa took a wife, he made for him in that same neighbourhood a mansion endearingly named The Pinnacle of Delights: he himself, assuming the hermit's staff, black antelope skin, bark dress, rosary, girdle, and matted locks, went to join his father, the ascetic.
From Vatsa there proceeded a prolific stock like Ganges purifying, noised abroad through the growing fame of the school established by its founders, upheld on the Almighty's head, deep in the lore of all arts, honoured of great saints, potent to shake its foes, stretching far over the earth's surface, stumbling not in its going. Wherefrom were born home-dwelling sages named Vatsyayanas, devoted to Shrauta lore yet assuming not the false muttering of cranes, vowed to the 'Cock' rules of fasting yet free from the ways of cats, averse to worldly pretence, bare of all wily, deceitful, guileful or boastful intent, discarding hypocrisy, trampling on dishonesty, tranquil in nature, free from sudden change, reluctant in heart to reprove others, cleansed from darkness by detachment from the three colours, shaken clear of desire by deep thought, wavering not in soul, devoted to their followers, at rest from all the doubts of different schools, openers of all knotty points in the sense of books, poets, eloquent, without envy, fond of charming speech, skilled in clever wit, versed in urbane ways, connoisseurs of dance, song and music, never surfeited with tradition, compassionate, pure through truth, honoured of the good, with hearts melting with a dew of tenderness to all beings; likewise endowed with all qualities yet unconquered by the quality of passion, possessed of patience, cheering their dependents, not cruel, girt with knowledge, not dull, masters of arts, free from faults, helpful, no inflaming others yet suns of brilliance, without heat yet sacrificers, without crooked ways, happy, no rigid Stoics, yet abodes of good deeds rewarded, unfailing in the performance of sacrifice, dexterous, guileless, superior to desire, preeminent among the twice born.
Now as this stock persisted mid the flux of things, the passing of aeons, the descent of the Kali age, the going of the years, the march of the days, and the lapse of time, there was in due time born in the expansive Vatsyayana clan, pressing on in unbroken succession, a certain twice-born man, Kuvera by name, devoted as the son of Vinata to his guru. He begat four sons Acyuta, Icana, Hara, and Pacupata, propagating their race, like the four aeons, through the power of Vedic knowledge, like Narayana's columnar arms gladdening the circles of the good. Among them Pacupata begat a single high-souled son, by name Arthapati, crest jewel of all the Brahman schools, profound as the four oceans, and like a mountain keeping steadfast the law of his race. From him were born eleven pure sons, like the Rudras, with faces coated with a dew of the moon's ambrosia; and their names were Bhrigu, Hamsa, Cuci, Kavi, Mahidatta, Dharma, Jatavedas, Citrabhanu, Tryaksa, Ahidatta, and Vicvarupa.
Birth of Bana
Of whom Citrabhanu was blessed with a son Bana by a Brahmani woman. named Rajadevi. The boy, while still a child, was deprived of his mother, who was taken away through the will of sovereign destiny. His father, however, conceiving a deep love for him acted a mother's part, and under his care the boy grew with ever increasing vigour in his own home.
But when, being now about fourteen years of age, he had passed through initiation and the associated rites, and had returned from his teacher's house, his father also, having performed in full the sacred duties proper to the twice-born as enjoined in Sruti and Smriti, departed tere he reached the allotted span to his rest. After his father's decease Bana in the anguish of a great sorrow, his heart all aflame by day and night, passed some days, he knew not how, in his own house. When his sorrow gradually became less absorbing, he through indulgence in sundry youthful follies, due either to misconduct arising from independence, to the impetuosity prevalent in youth, or to the aversion of young manhood to steadiness, came into reproach.
He had friends and companions of his own years, and among them two brothers of low birth, Candrasena and Matrisena, a dear friend the vernacular poet Icana, adherents Rudra and Narayana, preceptors Varavana and Vasavana, a descriptive poet Venibharata, a Prakrit poet the young noble Vayuvikara, two panegyrists Anangavana and Sricivana, an ascetic widow, Cakravakika, a snake-doctor Mayuraka, a betel-bearer Candaka, a young physician Mandaraka, a reader Sudristi, a goldsmith Camikara, a supervisor Sindhusena, a scribe Govindaka, a painter Viravarman, a modeller Kumaradatta, a drummer Jimuta, two singers Somila and Grahaditya, a maid Kurangika, two pipers Madhukara and Paravata, a music-teacher Darduraka, a shampooer Keralika, a dancer Tandavika, a dicer Ākhandala, a gamester Bhimaka, a young actor Cikhandaka, a dancing girl Harinika, a Paracara mendicant Sumati, a Jain monk Viradeva, a story-teller Jayasena, a Saiva devotee Vakraghona, a magician Karala, a treasure-seeker Lohitaksa, an assayer Vihangama, a potter Damodara, a juggler Cakoraksa, a Brahman mendicant Tamracuda. With these and others for his companions, pliant from youthfulness, smit with a passion for seeing other lands, despite the wealth sufficient for a Brahman amassed by his father and grandfather, despite his hitherto uninterrupted pursuit of knowledge, he went forth from his home; and, being free from all restraint and seeming bewitched by early youth. through a headstrong will, he brought himself into the derision of the great.
But gradually thereafter by observation of great courts charming the mind with their noble routine, by paying his respects to the schools of the wise brilliant with blameless knowledge, by attendance at the risen assemblies of able men deep in priceless discussions, by plunging into the circles of clever men dowered with profound natural wisdom, he regained the sage attitude of mind customary among his race. After long years he returned once more to his own native soil, resort of Brahmans, shelter of the Vatsyayana line. There, welcomed, like a feast-day, by kinsmen respectfully announcing their relationship and renewing after long absence their kindly affection, he found himself in the midst of the friends of his youth enjoying almost the bliss of liberation.
End of chapter I
Here ends the first chapter, termed 'the description of the Vatsyayana race,'
Go to Chapter II
Back to The Harsha Charita of Bana