Nala once ruled kingdom of Nishada,
With Maha Virldapuram as Capital.
Damayanti was princess and daughter
Of Vima, king of Vidarpa kingdom.
Nala and Damayanti story stands
For its love component between the pair
And for its doctrine of Krama that hit
The couple hard from their past misdeeds.1
Nala saw a swan floating on the lake
Close to the bank and got it out of love.
The swan, pleased with the king's favour, told him
Of a fair princess named Damayanti.
‘Silk-sheathed shafts of slim bamboo was her
Slender arms fully fit to match with thine.'
Even ere the swan's speech has smote Nala,
God of love's arrow smote his breast inside.2
The swan described her virtues and beauty:
'The Virtues four her armed troops,
Her senses five her Earls-in-chief,
Her anklets sounding a martial strain,
Her eyes for lance and sword, beneath
The crescent banner of her brow
She rules her Kingdom chaste and good,
The Estate of Womanhood.' 3
The swan continued telling her structure:
'Her swelling breasts twin vernal hills
Where youth his freshest grace bestowed;
Her slender waist doth seem to be
A shaft too frail to bear that load;
And heeding this in sympathy
Her tinkling anklets as in pain
Clash out a mournful strain.'4
'Her speech is ruddy nectar sweet,
And beneath her coiling ringlets black
Her brow shines like the crescent moon
That swan-like form whose graceful gait
Disgraces every swan that vies,
The monarch meditating swoons
With love, and languorously cries'
Nala fell in love at hearing about her.5
‘And where my raging spirit calm?
Her breasts shall yield me fragrant mead,
Her honeyed words shall be my balm
Her rose-wreathed tress shall shade my head,
Her scalloped navel leaves me cool
In its pellucid pool', he longed.
To plead his cause with the princess.
The swan flew away to Damayanti.6
'A Prince I saw whose martial mien
Might any maiden's mind aspires;
Nor earth nor heaven knows his peer
And boundless is his sceptred sway'
'Nala, the flower of chivalry
And crown of magnanimity,
A spouse most meet for thee. ‘
Narrated the swan to Damayanti.7
'Oh, how describe his eye benign,
Or how declare his soul sincere?
And for his valiant victor arms
In this wide world where find the peer?
If Vishnu vies not, the Violet-eyed,
Of mortal monarchs who would dare
With Nala to compare? '. At hearing these,
Damayanti fell in love with Nala in turn.8
Her golden lustre gently faded,
Her cheek forgot his ruddy gleam.
Her maiden musing all enthralled
By that so passionate narration
Foretastes her lover's fond embrace
In exquisite anticipation;
And, gazing on her heaving breasts,
Her eyes were in innocent collusion.9
Back to her chamber, she returned,
Flung down in vain, worn weariness
The heaving breasts, the burning brow;
Disordered lay the braided tress
That o'er the snowy coverlet spread
Like a lone palm-tree's sable shadow
That now she had no strength to rise
And lift the curtain of the dawn? 10
Damayanti's lovesickness was known to maids,
And then to parents, which resulted in
Conducting swayamvara- the princess
Choosing her mate from the invited kings.
Demi gods - Indira, Yama, Agni and Varuna
Took interests in getting the princess.
Indra bid Nala to act as their man
To press their suit with sweet Damayanti.11
Nala got entry into the chamber
Of the princes by Indra's magic spell.
He spoke Indra's suit and concealed his,
Disclosing his identity.
Damiayanti guessed the truth and promised
Her betrothal garland to Nala.
Nala returned to Indra and told
Of Damayanti's choice, deadly.12
Royal suitors entered the Hall
Of the Swayamvaram that day.
Damayanti entered the Hall.
She moved a gentle doe-fawn queening
In rose-apparelled elegance,
As Damayanti passed down the line
Of suitors, one of her maids-in-waiting
Described each prince in turn.13
But lastly when she came to tell
Of Nala and of Nishada land,
By Nala's side in Nala's shape
The four great gods descending stood;
The princess' mind in wonder whirled;
Damayanti prayed to Brahma for help
To distinguish the true Nala;
Her prayer was answered in time.14
She was able to remember
Four Attributes of Divinity:
The feet that never touch the ground,
The sleepless eyes that never wink,
The ethereal forms that cast no shade,
The flowers that never fade.
Damayanti distinguished Nala
And garlanded him in relief.15
Nala and Damayanti passed hand in hand
Through the disappointed suitors.
The gods retrieving to heaven met
The demon, Kali, who arrived late.
‘That pair shall surely rue.' vowed
Kali out of jealousy, losing
The chance to claim Damayanti.
The marriage was consummated.16
For peerless prince a peerless bride;
Two hearts, two bodies throbbed as one
Blended in nuptial unison;
The broad field of his bosom bathed
In rippling tresses sable-shining,
While from her sandal-fragrant sweetness
In torrent-streams of living fire
Flowed rivers of desire from the pair.17
Nala and Damayanti lived happily
In Vindapuram for twelve long years.
A boy and a girl were born to them.
Kali all these years was watching Nala
To catch him on a fault that he did
When he did daily ablution, leaving
A peck of dirt unwashed at his ankle.
Then Kali took possession of his soul.18
Kali incited Nala's brother Pushkara
to challenge Nala to play at dice.
Under Kali's spell Nala consented,
And by Kali's will, Pushkara won from him
his kingdom, his treasure and all possessions.
Nala refused to stake Damayanti
As a final wager, and they set off
In a journey knowing not where to go.19
The children were sent to parents' home
Through a passing Brahman as they went weary.
Nala declined to seek hospitality
As a poor elation in his father-in-law's house
And Damayanti declined to go without him.
They sheltered for a night in a ruined cell.
They composed themselves to rest on the hard earth,
Wrapped in the one robe they now possessed.20
His noble frame upon the sand
With her head upon his hand;
To see upon his love descend
This night of terrors and despair!
To see those limbs condemned to rest
Upon the hard earth's bosom bare!
‘Should not these eyeballs turn to dust,
This soul leave of his lodging take? ' 21
Kali incited Nala to abandon her.
They had nothing but her sari to cover them,
Since Kali in the guise of a bird had flown off
With Nala's cloak; Nala divided the saree
With a knife, and, wrapping one half around him,
Stole out into the night to go away.
Damayanti woke and found him missing.
She went tracking his footprint in the sand.22
She stumbled over a python, and rescued
From its hold by a hunter with lustful eyes.
She burnt him to ashes with a glance of her eyes.
An honest merchant took her in his chariot
And conveyed her to the town of Chedi.
There she wandered disconsolate in the streets
And got the mercy of the Chedi queen
Who helped her through her father's envoy reach home.23
Nala on the way rescued a serpent
From a forest-fire, and it from its bite
Changed him as an ugly dwarf and gave him
Three robes to restore his shape when in time.
At the serpent's bidding, Nala journeyed
To Oudh and became King Rutuparna's
Cook and charioteer under the name of Vahuvan.
Damayanti sent a brahmin to find Nala.24
Brahman met Nala, who heard his riddle;
‘Will e'er the perfect prince forsake
His lady leal in loathsome dark? '
Hearing what brahmin said of him
Nala came forward and justified thus;
‘All fates that in this life befall
Are but the fruit in woe or bliss
Of other lives than this, the Karma.'25
Confirming Nala's existence
In disguise, Damayanti pretended
For her a second swayamvara.
Rutuparna got the invitation
Nala was at first dumbfounded
By Damayanti's seeming disloyalty.
Could it be from the chaste woman
That such like announcement had come? 26
Nala was to be Rutuparna's
Charioteer to reach Damayannti.
That time he behaved as Indra's
Envoy for her, who was his love,
To seek her consent for Indra.
This time he took Rutuparna
To Damayanti, who was his wife,
To attend her swayamvara.27
But Nala's unrelenting whip
Had sped the chariot, ere the words
Could Rutuparna's will convey,
Full four score leagues away.
On the way, Rutuparna taught Nala
About mathematics and he in turn
Taught him about the charioteer.
They reached and retired from journey.28
Kali's ill is broken and Nala is freed.
Damayanti recognized Nala in disguise.
'The hands that was wont to thrill my breasts
And my dishevelled locks to tire,
The hands that decked my throat with gems,
Are grimed and blackened in the fire.'
She sighed, and dreamed of other days
Of all the joy his beauty wrought.29
Nala put on the robe and regained form.
Damayanti and children found their king.
Nala now possessed skills and knowledge
To beat Putkara at dice to get back
His kingdom, possessions and the glory.
They reunited and returned
To claim his rule of Nishada.
The gods blessed the reunited pair.30
‘I won't catch whoever listened your story'
Demon Kali resolved to Nala
Puhalendi Pulavar of 13th century wrote Nala story in Tamil,
based on the materials found in the Mahabharata in Sanskrit by Vyasa, who lived during 3rd millennium BC. M. C Langton translated the tamil version of it into English in 1948, which is based for coining this poem. This story was told to Yudhister in the Mahabharata, who lost his kingdom, brothers and wife to his cousin in dice, so to appease and assuage him.
Topic(s) of this poem: legend
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.