Table of Contents
The Gentle Conqueror
The Five Tall Sons of Pandu
Nala the Gamester
The Pool of Enchantment
The Prince Wonderful
Sabala, the Sacred Cow
Sakuntala and Dushyanta
The Great Drought
THE GENTLE CONQUEROR
A Tale of a Princess whose Love was stronger
THE GENTLE CONQUEROR
LONG long ago there lived in the land of the Madras
a noble king who ruled his people wisely and well.
He had most of the things which make people happy
a stout heart, a liberal hand, great wealth and
peace within the borders of his realm; but because
he had neither son nor daughter his happiness was
So the king fasted and prayed and offered un-
ceasing sacrifice to the goddess Savitri, the Bringer
of Gifts, beseeching her to send sons and daughters to
gladden his royal palace and turn it from a dwelling-
place into a home. And because he was brave and
good and unselfish the goddess answered his prayers
and sent him a daughter.
The happy monarch made a splendid birth-feast
for the little princess, who was given the name of the
Bringer of Gifts Savitri.
The child grew in strength and grace and beauty,
and when she drew near to womanhood the fame of
her loveliness went out through all the land. So
pure and perfect did she seem, so full of maiden
grace and modesty, that not one of all the noble lords
about her father's court dared to ask her as his wife.
60 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
One day she came before her father bearing in her
arms fresh flowers, which she laid at his feet; and
then modestly folding her hands she stood with
bowed head before his throne.
"Daughter," he said, "the time is come for you
to wed, and seeing that no one comes to ask for you,
go forth and search for yourself according to our
custom. Choose a prince of noble mind, and if you.
love him, I will love him too."
The princess bowed to the ground before the
king, her father, and then left his presence. Mount-
ing a gaily-decorated car, she set out upon her
errand in the company of some of the king's wisest
subjects. They passed through many great forests
and came to many woodland towns; and the princess
watched earnestly, seeking a noble prince in whose
keeping her heart could rest.
One day the king sat in close counsel with his
chief minister and adviser, when, all unexpected,
Savitri entered the hall, accompanied by the wise
men. She bowed before the king, touching the
ground with her forehead.
"Tell me, my daughter," said the king, "what
honourable prince have you chosen?"
"Upon my journey," said Savitri, "I came to a
wood in which lived a blind old king who had been
deprived of his inheritance and who was living in
this place with his wife and son. My choice is made,
THE GENTLE CONQUEROR 61
and Prince Satyavan, the son of this blind and
banished king, shall be my lover and my husband."
"It is an evil choice," said the king's counsellor
hastily. "The prince is indeed noble, just, and true,
and a lover of horses, graceful in bearing, liberal of
hand, reverent to age, and guided by honour. But
he is fated to die within a year from this day"
The king started. "Choose again, my daughter,"
he said, but the princess replied without hesitation or
confusion, "I have chosen once, my father, and
whether my prince shall live one year or a thousand
years, my heart is fixed."
"Yes, her heart is fixed, King," said the
counsellor, "she must have her will."
So the king consented, and gave directions for the
wedding to be arranged; and when the appointed
day had dawned he set out with his daughter to find
the blind old king in the place of his exile.
He found the old man keeping simple state in
the forest, sustained by the dignity of undeserved
misfortune, and proud in his humility. The King of
the Madras alighted from his horse and approached
the old king as he sat under a canopy of woven
grasses. The two monarchs exchanged courteous
greetings, and then the exiled king asked his guest the
nature of his errand.
The King of the Madras looked towards Prince
Satyavan, who stood near his father, and then at his
own daughter. "This is my child, Savitri," he said.
"Take her to be the wife of thy son."
"How shall we do honour to so great a princess?"
62 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
asked the blind old king, "for we keep kingly state
"Thy simple state is royal," answered the other
courteously. "We are equals in rank. Let it be."
"It shall be as the princess desires," said the
blind old monarch; and in a very short space of
time the marriage ceremony was performed, and the
happy young prince was rejoicing in his unexpected
Before long the King of the Madras went his
way; and as soon as he was gone Savitri took off her
royal robes, dressed herself in a manner more fitting
for her new life, and set to work to be a helpmeet to
her husband and a solace to the wife of the blind old
king. So the life in the forest flowed peacefully
onward; but the words of the wise man, her father's
counsellor, were never long absent from the mind of
the princess, and when the fateful day drew near on
which the prince was to die, Savitri withdrew herself
from the rest for prayer and fasting.
In the early morning of that dreadful day she
came again to her father-in-law, who begged of her to
break her fast.
^ I am under a vow," she said, "and I cannot eat
this day until the sun has set."
Then the prince, her husband, came up to her
with his axe upon his shoulder, ready to go to work
in the forest.
"Let me come with you," she cried, "my
THE GENTLE CONQUEROR 63
dearest lord, I cannot leave you to yourself to-
"Nay, beloved," he said gently, "you are weak
with your fasting, and the way through the forest is
rough for tender feet."
"My heart is strong, my lord," she said?" let me
"It shall be as you will," said Satyavan, "but
first beg leave of my father and mother."
The old people were loth to let her go, but, seeing
that her heart was set upon it, the blind king gavje
her leave; and the two set out with shining faces,
rejoicing in each other's presence, though the heart
of Savitri was heavy with foreboding.
The way was rough, but the beauty of the forest
scenery drew the eyes of the princess, and for a few
moments she forgot her sorrow in the joys of youth
and dear companionship. But the grief returned and
cast its heavy shadow over the beauty of the morning.
Before long they came to a place where the wood-
land fruits were plentiful, and while the princess
gathered them, Satyavan set to work to cut fuel.
But in a few moments he came tottering to his wife
and said, "I cannot work, beloved, for a fever is in my
veins. Let me rest beside you."
Very tenderly she laid him down upon the ground,
and, sitting beside him, placed his head in her lap.
Then she gently fanned his face, and, happening to
64 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
raise her eyes for a moment, she saw standing near her
a tall dark dreadful figure clothed in scarlet and
holding a cord with a noose in his hand.
Savitri rose to her feet, after gently laying the
head of the prince upon the soft grass, and clasped
her hands in supplication.
"Who art thou?" she asked.
"Thou art worthy to know, Savitri. I am Yama,
the King of the Dead, and I am come to fetch thy
loved one to my kingdom,"
Then without pause or pity he touched the form
of the prince, who, in a moment, lay still and cold;
and, turning swiftly, the dread King made his way
towards the south with the soul of Satyavan in his
But the great love of the princess gave her
untold strength and courage, and she followed the
King as he passed quickly through the forest. Then
Yama turned and sternly, though with some gentle-
ness, bade her go back to the body of her lord.
"Nay, my lord is here," she said, "and where
he goes I must follow also. Permit me to go with
thee, and as we pass onward let me say a verse to
Then in a low sweet voice the princess repeated
a verse in praise of Duty. The heart of Yama was
touched by her gentleness. "Ask a boon of me/ 5 he
said?" ask anything but the soul of Satyavan."
"A boon, King," she said gladly?" let the blind
old king be blind no longer, and make him strong
with the strength of manhood."
THE GENTLE CONQUEROR 65
"Thy desire is granted," said Yama?" but now
turn back, for thou art worn and weary."
"I feel no weariness when I am near my lord,"
she said, "except, at times, the weariness which is
merely a longing for the comfort of his hand; and
indeed I know another verse which tells of this,"
Then in a low sweet voice the princess repeated
a verse in praise of Friendship. A second time the
heart of Yama was touched, and he said, "Ask any
boon of me except the life of Satyavan."
"Let my husband's father," said the princess,
"sit once more upon his throne and rule in
"It shall be so," said the dread King of the
Dead?" but now return, lest evil befall thee."
"I know yet another verse," she replied. Then
in tones still more gentle she recited some lines in
praise of Charity. The words fell sweetly upon the
ears of Yama, and again he promised the princess any
boon but the soul of Satyavan.
"My father hath no son, dear monarch," she
said?" grant him the blessing of heirs to his royal
"It shall be so," said Yama?" but now go back,
for already thou hast come too far."
"I am near my lord," she said simply, "and
while he is beside me no journey is too long, no way
too rough. I know yet another verse, great King."
Then she recited some lines in praise of Right-
eousness, and once more won the promise of any
boon but the life of her lord.
66 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
"I ask then," she said, "noble sons for myself,
strong and virtuous, like my own dear husband," And
she spoke as if Satyavan were still strong and well.
"Thou shalt be the mother of valiant princes,"
said Yama?" but now go back, for the path is too
hard for thee."
"I know still one more verse, 55 she said with
sweet persistence. Then she said a longer verse in
praise of Virtue, and as he listened the stern face of
the dread King relaxed.
"Ask any gift of me," he cried at length. "Ask
the greatest boon of all"
"Grant me my sweet lord's life," she cried,
"without which I am dead already. Give me
Satyavan, alive and well."
Then the eyes of the King of the Dead grew
tender, for her faithful love had conquered even his
stern heart. "See," he said, "thou queen among
women, for thy love the soul of Satyavan shall
return, led captive by thyself in sweetest slavery;
and all the boons which I have granted thee shall
still be thine."
Then Yama turned and went quickly to his own
place. But Savitri ran yet more quickly through
the forest to the place where lay the body of her
lord and master. Down she sank upon the earth
and laid his head upon her lap, and even as she
touched him the warm blood flowed once more
within his veins. His white lips moved, his eyes
THE GENTLE CONQUEROR 67
grew bright, and gazed with slowly dawning con-
sciousness upon the face of his beloved wife.
"I have slept long," he murmured gently. "Why
did you not rouse me ? And where is the gloomy
man who gazed at us so steadfastly?"
"Your sleep was long, my lord," she said, "and
deep likewise, for he who gazed at us was Yama,
King of the Dead. But see, the night falls fast.
Let us hasten home. The leaves rustle with the soft
footfall of the beasts of prey! Let us go."
"But we shall not see the pathway," said the
"There was a fire in the forest to-day," she said,
"and it still burns. I will fetch a burning branch,
and we will kindle a fire and spend the night here."
"My strength returns," said Satyavan, "and with
your help, beloved, I will venture; for those we love
will be uneasy at our absence."
Then he stood up and, laying his arm across the
shoulders of the princess, made his way, with pain at
first, but soon with gathering strength, through the
Just before dawn they reached the woodland
home of the king, blind and old no longer, but strong
and vigorous, with his sight restored.
All were filled with wonder, but soon Savitri
told her story; and as she finished messengers arrived
to say that the father of Satyavan was restored to his
kingdom. So in triumph he returned to his home,
taking with him as the richest of his treasures the wife
of his son Satyavan, whose love had conquered Death.
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU
A. Tale of Arjun and Karna, and of their Part
in the Great War
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU
PANDU was the monarch of the ancient kingdom of
the Kurus, which lay partly along the upper course
of the River Ganges and partly in the basin of the
Jumna; and he was the father of five tall sons.
The eldest son, Yudhishthir, was famous for his
wisdom and his unfailing observance of religious
rites; the second, Bhima, was a warrior known far
and wide for his valour; Arjun, the third, was also
distinguished for his bravery, and especially for his
skill with the bow; and the two youngest brothers,
Nakula and Sahadeva, were worthy of the kinship of
the others, whom they strove to imitate in all that
was manly and virtuous.
Now the time came when Pandu grew tired of
his royal duties, and spent a great deal of his time in
the forest like a hermit. The government, therefore,
passed into the hands of his brother Dhrita-rashtra,
who was blind, and who had no less than a hundred
sons, among whom Duryodhan was the eldest.
One day news came to the palace that Pandu had
met his death in the forest, and his brother became
king in fact; but the five tall sons of Pandu remained
72 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
under the guardianship of their uncle. Naturally,
the sons of the new king were jealous of the five
brothers; and Duryodhan, in particular, hated them
with_dl JikJlfiart. The five brothers, ""however,
were not concerned to hate any one. They lived con-
tentedly at their uncle's court, engaged in perfecting
themselves in all manly pursuits, as if they knew that
the time would come when all their valour, hardihood,
wisdom, and powers of endurance would be put to the
most severe tests; and for this time it was well that
they should assiduously prepare themselves.
There lived at the court of King Dhrita-rashtra
an old man named Drona^ who had trained many
princes in the art of war. One day this man went to
the king and begged him to call the princes together
to a great tournament, in order that they might
display their skill and prove which was the most
powerful and enduring. The blind old king eagerly
consented, instructed Drona to measure out the tour-
nament ground without delay, and gave orders for the
erection of stately white pavilions by the side of a
green meadow at the edge of the jungle. The
festival was proclaimed far and wide, and a great
crowd of nobles and common people gathered to
watch the feats of arms; for they knew that if the
archer Arjun and his brave brothers were to be
present at the tournament, the eyes of all would be
delighted, and the hearts of all would be deeply
stirred by the skill and bravery of the famous warrior
and his brothers. It will be noted that the five tall
sons of Pandu had won the favour of the Kurus by
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 73
their quiet acceptance of the second place in the
kingdom, and by their uncomplaining endeavour to
perfect themselves in all manly exercises instead of
grumbling about their lot. They appeared to live
for the future, and this gave them happiness in the
The morning of the festival dawned brightly, and
the blind old king, attended by a brilliant company
of princes and nobles, made his way to the place
prepared for the tournament. Queen Gandhari and
Pritha, the widow of Pandu, were among the com-
pany, surrounded by a band of the most beautiful
maidens who could be found in that land of lovely
The first part of the tournament consisted of
various trials of skill in archery, riding, and swords-
manship, in which the five taU sons of Pandu, and
especially the archer Arjun, distinguished themselves
above the rest. Then the trumpets sounded a shrill
call, a space was quickly cleared, and there began a
desperate contest between Bhima and his cousin
Duryodhan, both armed with maces. The passion of
the princes rose as the fight proceeded, the people
surrounding the lists took sides, and the combat
which began as a friendly trial of skill seemed likely
to become a battle to the death. But, seeing the
danger, Drona gave orders for the music to cease,
and brought forward the archer Arjun, who was
dressed in golden armour, to show his skill in the use
of the bow. The wonder and amazement created
by his performances calmed the angry passions of the
74 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
partizans. Towering high or bending to the bow,
the archer shot at targets great and small, piercing
them where he wished with never-failing skill. A
wild boar was set free in the arena and in a moment
it was laid low with five of Arjun's arrows glistening
in its jaws. A horn was hung by a silken thread and
allowed to sway freely in the breeze, but Arjun
pierced it with more than twenty arrows. The
Kurus took a special delight in these performances,
for in their judgment the skill of the archer was the
most valuable of all manly accomplishments,?''?'- 1
The tournament at last was ended, and the people
were preparing to disperse, somewhat disappointed,
as lovers of sport, to find that no man had been
found able to cope with Arjun in skill and valour;
for there is a double charm in the unexpected, and
they were ready enough to acclaim a new-comer
who should be able to vanquish the hero of the hour.
At that moment a thunderous sound shook the
air, and all eyes turned to the gate of the arena, where
a new and unknown champion was clamouring for
admission. Obedient to the command of Drona,
the new-comer was at once admitted to the lists,
where he won instant admiration for his lofty
stature, his gallant bearing, his golden armour,
and his ponderous bow. He surveyed the scene
with calmness and a haughty expression of power
and mastery, as though he knew himself to be
superior to all who were present. "Who is this?"
asked the people in faltering whispers, but there was
none to answer the question.
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 75
Then in a voice which matched his stature the
stranger said to Arjun, "All your feats of strength
and valour are as nothing unto mine." At once
Drona took up the challenge, the lists were cleared,
the spectators settled down in their places once more
and watched with bated breath while the new-comer
did all that Arjun had done- but no more.
Duryodhan was filled with fierce delight and came
eagerly forward to embrace and compliment the
unknown champion. But the stranger courteously
put him aside and turned to Arjun, who was biting
his lips in jealous rage. "It is with Arjun that I
wish to deal," he said, "and the victory over such a
warrior as yourself is the dearest wish of my heart."
Such an opportunity was not to be wasted by
the master of the tournament, and Drona without
delay arranged the preliminaries of the contest. In
a few moments the two champions stood facing each
other, ready for battle, and the herald advanced to
proclaim their names and lineage.
"This is Arjun," he cried, "son of Pandu, prince
of valour and warlike grace. By all the rules of war
he requires to know the name and lineage of his foe."
At these words the unknown warrior hung his head
as if in shame, and made no reply. Thereupon
Prince Duryodhan, eager to see the fight begin, and
more eager still to see Arjun humbled, cried out,
"He is a prince in bravery whatever his birth may
be, and to make him outwardly worthy of this con-
test he shall be crowned as king forthwith."
Then at the word of the prince a throne was
76 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
brought, and a company of Brahmans or priests were
summoned, who crowned and anointed the stranger as
king of Huga, the vacant throne of which Duryodhan
had the right to bestow upon whom he wished . c c What
return can I make for your royal gift?" asked the new
monarch, whose name of Kama had been announced
during the ceremony. "Your friendship is all I ask
in return/ 5 was the eager reply of the prince, whose
chief desire was to see Arjun humbled as soon as
possible, but who did not know that the new champion
was a half-brother of the hero whom he was so ready
to fight. Kama extended his arms in loving friend-
ship, Duryodhan embraced him warmly, and thus
was their friendship sealed.
Then a strange thing happened. Kama turned
from the glittering company of princes, held up his
hand, and a charioteer, dusty and weary, dragged his
feet across the arena. To this man the newly-
crowned king bent his head in lowly reverence, as a
dutiful son makes obeisance to his father.
"Is he the son of a base charioteer?" thought
Bhima, and in his scornful anger he forgot his
princely courtesy, and said aloud, "A cattle-driver's
goad would suit his hand better than the sword of a
monarch." Kama heard him but did not speak.
He sighed heavily and raised his face towards the
sun, and he seemed to those about him to be as one
who prayed in silence. But his new friend, Prince
Duryodhan, took up the challenge, upbraiding Bhima
for his unworthy taunts, in the eagerness of his
hatred speaking words of the truest and deepest
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 77
wisdom because, for the moment, they suited his
purpose. "That warrior is noble who does noble
deeds," he said. "Why, Drona, our teacher and
master was of humble birth. Such a prince as
Kama mark him in his pride was, I am sure," he
said, contradicting himself, "the offspring of noble
parents, for common people never bred so gallant a
By this time the contest between Kama and
Arjun had been forgotten in the bickering and wordy
warfare of the princes, and darkness fell before it
could be decided which of the two heroes was the
greater warrior. Duryodhan left the field with
Kama, and Arjun rejoined his brothers, who in
spite of their loyalty felt that in the new champion
their brother had at last met a really formidable foe.
Day by day the jealousy and rivalry of the princes
increased, and this feeling was not allayed when the
blind old king announced that he had chosen the wise
Yudhishthir to succeed him. The anger of Duryo-
dhan was naturally increased by this news, and he
joined his brothers in a plot against the lives of the
five tall sons of Pandu. The princes were courteously
invited to become the guests of Duryodhan in a house
which he had just built in a distant town, and the
brothers set out for this place with their mother,
little knowing that their cousin had taken care to
have the building constructed of the most inflam-
78 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
mable materials. But when the house suddenly took
fire in the middle of the night the five princes knew
that a plot was intended against them, and, having
escaped with their mother, not without difficulty,
they took to the forest, and dressing themselves as
hermits settled down to await events.
Now it was the custom among these people that
if a princess were not sought in marriage by a prince
of equal or higher rank than herself, she had the
right, without sacrificing her maidenly modesty, of
inviting to a festival all the neighbouring princes,
and of choosing a husband from among them. A
festival of this kind was known as the Swayamvara y
or "The Bride's Choice," and it was conducted with
great pomp and splendour. In their wanderings
through the forest the sons of Pandu heard that
the daughter of Draupad, King of Panchala, was
about to hold a Swayamvara, and they decided to go
to this monarch's royal city.
As they drew near to the place they found the
roads into the city thronged with the chariots and
attendants of numerous princes and nobles who had
come to the festival of the princess, whose name was
Draupadi, and who was reported to be of surpassing
beauty, with eyes like the lotus flower, and a figure
as graceful as that of a young fawn. The suitors
brought, according to custom, many gifts of cattle,
gold, and jewels, embroidered muslin, and fruits of
the rarest quality; and the king made a splendid
banquet in their honour. But the five tall sons of
Pandu trudged along the road, leaning upon their
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 79
rough staffs, choked with the dust, barefooted, and
appearing to any who chanced to look at them to
be only a group of very ordinary hermits. Their
mother walked with them, tenderly guarded, but
completely disguised like her sons. They found
a lodging in a humble cottage owned by a potter,
who little dreamt that he was sheltering a princess
and five princes of the highest lineage.
Now King Draupad greatly desired that his
daughter should be won by Prince Arjun, and in
order to bring this about he made it known that
the princess was to be given to the suitor who showed
the greatest skill in the use of a mighty bow which
he had made. He imposed tests of archery which
he knew that no prince in the land could satisfy
except Arjun himself; for the man who was to carry
off the princess was required to hit a target with
an arrow which had first pierced a whirling disc of
wood hung high in the air. The contest was to take
place on a wide and level green, round which stood
splendid pavilions of gleaming white crowned with
turrets covered with shining gold.
The morning of the festival dawned in sunlit
splendour, and before the heat of the day came on
the beautiful princess was led out by her brother,
wearing on her arm the golden bridal circlet which
was to be placed upon the head of the successful
suitor. The prince at once made known the nature
of the test imposed by the father of the bride, and
announced to his sister the name and rank of each
of the princes in turn. But no one noticed the five
8o THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
tall soils, of Pandu standing, disguised as hermits,
not far from the central group of the gay pageant.
One by one the suitors came forward and grasped
the ponderous bow; but it was so tough and strong
and unwieldy that in its rebound it flung each man
to the earth. Then Kama stepped forward, and all
felt instinctively that this was a warrior of no ordinary
kind. He strung the great bow and fixed the arrow,
but before the shaft was launched, to the great
surprise of all, the princess held up her hand, and
said gently, "I am the daughter of a king, and this
man I will not wed." Without a word of protest
Kama laid aside the bow, sighed heavily, and raised
his face towards the sun; and he seemed to those
about him to be as one who prayed in silence.
All the suitors had now made the attempt, and
all had failed. The princess hid her face in deep
distress, nor was her composure restored when a tall
man in the poor dress of a hermit stepped quietly
but confidently forward and took the great bow in
his hand. He had the air of one who was more
interested in archery than in beautiful princesses, and
he paid no heed to the murmuring of those around
him, who inquired in scorn and anger, "Shall a
hermit, however holy, stand the test when warlike
princes have utterly failed?"
The tall young prince raised his head with a
gesture of pride and defiance. Then with a silent
prayer to Vishnu he bent the bow with the greatest
ease and shot the arrow. In a moment it was
flying swiftly through the air; it passed hissing
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 81
through the whirling disc of wood, struck the target,
and brought it to the ground with the force of the
blow. Meanwhile the archer had sustained the
rebound of the weapon without flinching. Hermit
as he was, the strange suitor was at once proclaimed
the victor. Loud shouts of triumph rent the air,
the sweetest of music sounded, and the princess
left her pavilion, attended by her maidens, to go to
meet her strange bridegroom, who, whatever his rank,
had at least the form and bearing of a prince. She
flung the bridal robe over his hermit's dress; she
placed the bridal circlet upon his brow; and then
shyly taking her place by his side she moved across
the greensward towards the throne of her father,
who received the youthful pair with gracious favour.
But among the proud and haughty princes there
arose a murmur of complaint. "We owe much to
holy hermits," said one of them, "but this insult to
our rank is bad to bear. Shall a priest demea us
and tread us beneath his feet like the grass of the
jungle ? And see how this mean-spirited monarch
welcomes him! Shall we meekly endure such
humiliation?" These words roused the anger of
the disappointed and humbled suitors, and, acting
upon a sudden impulse, they turned upon the bridal
party with their bows bent and their swords bare in
Arjun was the first to notice the danger which
threatened. He stepped quickly before the king
and the trembling princess, and stood with uplifted
bow ready to ward off any danger. Bhima had no
82 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
weapon, but he tore up a young tree by the roots
and brandished it above his head like a club. But
Krishna the Peaceful, a prince whose gentleness had
won the love of all men, raised his hand as if to
command silence. The quiet movement had the
effect of instantly calming the angry passions of
the suitors, and, instead of attacking the bridal party,
they turned to Krishna and bowed before him in
deep respect. Then, without another word, the
princes turned and left the field, while Arjun led the
princess to the potter's hut, where he reported to
his mother that they had received a great gift that
day. "Then it belongs to your eldest brother,
Yudhishthir," was the quiet reply, and according to
custom and law the beautiful princess became the
wife of the wise Yudhishthir, while to Arjun re-
mained the pure honour of the victory.
It was indeed a victory which brought good
fortune to the whole family, for the alliance with
King Draupad reminded Duryodhan that it would
be well for him to come to terms with his five cousins.
It was arranged, therefore, that the kingdom in dis-
pute should be divided into two portions, Duryo-
dhan, in the name of his father Dhrita-rashtra,
kept the eastern and richer part, which was watered
by the sacred Ganges; while the five tall sons of
Pandu were given the western portion on the river
Jumna, which was then, for the most part, forest and
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 83
wilderness. The brothers, however, cleared the land
and built a new capital, in which the wise Yudhish-
thir reigned as king. Then he sent out heralds in
all directions to proclaim his supremacy over the
neighbouring kings, who were invited to a great
festival, at which sacrifices would be made to the gods
and homage paid to King Yudhishthir. A special
herald was sent to Dhrita-rashtra, namely Nakula, the
new monarch's younger brother, who was enjoined
to speak very courteously to the blind old king, and
to beg the favour of his presence at the forthcoming
banquet and sacrificial feast. Even Duryodhan was
included in the invitation, and consented to appear
among the guests.
The new king spared no trouble to do honour to
his royal and noble guests. He set up the gay
pavilions in which the people delighted, he gave
costly gifts to the priests, and distributed untold
wealth among the poor. The sacrificial ceremony
was conducted with due solemnity, and among the
holy men it was credibly reported that the gods had
regarded the offering with special favour, and that
"Bright Immortals, robed in sunlight, sailed across
the liquid sky,
And their gleaming cloud-borne chariots rested on
the turrets high."
Then followed the ceremony of anointment, a
rite of special sanctity to which only kings and
Brahmans were bidden. When this had been per-
84 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
formed, the newly-anointed monarch was told that,
according to custom, he was required to pay honour
to the man in the company of noble princes who
had proved himself foremost not only as a prince,
but as a counsellor, a priest, a friend to all men, and
as a student of the sacred books. "Who is noblest ?
Who is greatest?" asked Yudhishthir. "Who is
first in a company where all are noble and all are
great?" Then an old monarch, who in his youth
had been known as "the Terrible," but who was now
famous for his wise insight, supplied the answer,
"Among the great, Krishna is the greatest. Among
the princes he is as the sun among the planets."
Then the cup of honour was carried to Krishna, who
accepted it among the applauding shouts of all the
other princes except one!
This was Sisupala, the King of Chedi, who stepped
forward with his fist clenched and his eyes shining
with anger. "This highest honour," he said, "must
not be paid to a petty chieftain. Krishna is learned,
but there are others who know the sacred books
better than he. Krishna is a poet, but there are
others more highly inspired. Krishna is a priest and
counsellor, but there are others more sage than he."
The good prince turned towards his enemy and
answered him with calmness and kindness. "The
King of Chedi is my kinsman," he said, "and I have
always sought his highest good, but at all times he
has fought against the truth and sought to injure
both me and mine. For such a man, unrepentant,
death is the just and righteous portion." Then he
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 85
raised his right arm slowly and deliberately, while
his eyes grew severe and terrible, and the watchers
saw that he held in his right hand the terrible whirl-
ing disc which was his only weapon. In a moment
it sped quickly through the air and struck off the
head of the angry king, whose body fell in a heap
upon the ground. Yudhishthir gazed sadly upon the
fallen monarch, who had been known far and wide
for lion-like courage, but no word of complaint was
spoken, and the ceremonies of coronation and salu-
tation were interrupted while royal honours were
paid to the dead king.
The rites were now resumed, and the subject
kings paid due homage to Yudhishthir, hailing him
as their overlord and emperor, and calling down upon
him the richest blessings of heaven. The newly-
crowned monarch thanked them all, and preparations
were made for the dispersal of the company, each of
the subject monarchs being conducted to his own
kingdom by a courteous band of men-at-arms
appointed for this duty by their overlord. The last
to say farewell was Krishna, and to the wise King
Yudhishthir the parting was full of sorrow. The
high-souled prince sought out the mother of the
five brothers, and, reverently saluting her, wished
her joy in her noble sons. Then he mounted his
shining chariot, bade a last farewell to the brothers,
and set out. But the new king and his brothers
were still loth to see him go, and they followed
his car for some distance, until he turned again
to give his final counsel to Yudhishthir.
86 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
"King of men/ 5 he said, "watch over your
people without ceasing. As a loving father guard
them with wise and tender compassion. Be to them
a source of strength, like the cooling rain after
drought, like the shadow of a lofty palm in desert
heat. Bend over them in love and pity like the
cloudless sky of the early day, and rule them always
with a single mind."
Then he turned away his face from the watching
and adoring brothers, and in a few moments he had
taken his final departure for his own city, far away
by the sounding sea.
Now Duryodhan had returned from the royal
festival filled with still greater jealousy towards
Yudhishthir, and determined to find some means of
bringing about his fall. He knew that, in spite of
all his wisdom and piety, Yudhishthir had one great
weakness an inordinate love of the dice-box, which
was one of the most common vices among the
princes and nobles of the time. Duryodhan made
up his mind to use this weakness in Yudhishthir's
nature to bring about his fall.
He had a friend and ally named Prince Sakuni,
who had spent a great part of his life in learning
how to load the dice and other wicked devices which
would give him undue advantage in the vicious
game of chance. This prince, at the instigation of
Duryodhan, challenged Yudhishthir to a game, and
the king held it a point of honour not to refuse such
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 87
an invitation; he even left his own capital, and came
with Queen Draupadi and his mother and brothers
to Duryodhan's own city in order to play the game
with Sakuni. The contest began, and Yudhishthir
lost game after game, but, with the recklessness and
fatal hope of the inveterate gambler, still went on
playing and steadily losing, first his wealth in gold,
silver, and jewels, then his lordly elephants and
shining chariots, then his slaves both male and
female, and in time his kingdom itself.
Mad with disappointed rage and still fired with that
fatal hope of regaining all by one lucky stroke, the
king staked his brothers, his own freedom, and, most
piteous loss of all, the queen whom Arjun had won
for him, and whom he had learnt to love with deep
devotion. Thus the proud king and newly-anointed
emperor, the honoured friend of Krishna, became
the bond-slave of Duryodhan. The sad news was
brought to the blind old king, from whose sightless
eyes the tears fell in heaviness of sorrow. "Yet, by
my royal throne," he said, "the five tall sons of
Pandu shall not serve Prince Duryodhan as slaves.
They shall at least be free to roam the forest, and it
may be that after a time of trial the gods will restore
them once more to power and happiness and deeper
wisdom than they have shown. They shall pass
twelve years in complete exile and one year in close
Meanwhile, Queen Draupadi was living happily
in the royal palace, all unaware of the foolish and
fatal game which was being played in another
88 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
apartment. Suddenly there came creeping into the
room, like a sneaking jackal, a servant from the
retinue of Duryodhan, who, with ill-concealed de-
light, told the beautiful queen that she was now the
property of his master, for that her lord the king had
gambled away his kingdom and wealth, as well as
the freedom of his mother, his brothers, and his
queen. Draupadi rose to her feet, while her eyes
flamed with anger. "Return to your master," she
said with all the scorn that she could command,
"and tell him that my lord was himself a bondsman
when he staked the liberty of himself and his queen.
A slave cannot wager wife or children, and Draupadi
is, still a queen." The servant slunk away, crushed
and humbled, to report his reception to his master,
who put him aside with angry scorn, and sent his
own brother to command the presence of Draupadi,
his slave. This prince was a man of violent temper,
and when the poor queen refused in scornful tones
to obey his rough command, he seized her by the
hair and dragged her into the council chamber, where
the wise counsellors of the kingdom were assembled
with the five tall sons of Pandu. She stood before
them all, and in piteous tones which smote the hearts
of the brothers she appealed for some champion to
arise and avenge the insults which had been paid
Her husband and his brothers were powerless to
help her, and the other princes, among whom was
Kama, the deadly foe of Arjun, only met her com-
plaints with mockery. Kama himself bluntly told her
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 89
to seek another husband who would think more of
her than to gamble away her freedom with the dice-
box. Yudhishthir bent his head in shame when he
heard these words, so mean-spirited and yet so
cruelly just, and Duryodhan did not lose this oppor-
tunity of heaping fresh insults on the head of his
fallen and dishonoured foe.
Then it was told to the blind old king what was
taking place in the council chamber, and he asked
to be led to Draupadi. He was conducted slowly
and gently to the humbled queen, and in a voice full
of tenderness he said, "Noble Empress, dearest
daughter, pardon the wrong and insult done to you
by my luckless, graceless son. Ask a boon of me,
for I am king in spite of my age and blindness. "
Then with many expressions of love and thankfulness
Draupadi begged leave to go into banishment with
her husband and his brothers. This permission was
freely granted by the old monarch, who wished that
the queen had begged a richer boon, but who loved
her all the more for the pride which chose to suffer
the ill-fortune brought upon her by the weakness of
her lord, and the hope which looked forward to a
happy restoration, to be won by his own repentance
and virtuous endeavour.
She knew that such a man as Yudhishthir would
profit by his weakness and his fall, and felt that the
future would bring happiness only if he won his way
back by his own efforts. As for herself, she was
content to suffer with him.
So the once proud emperor, with his wife, his
9 o THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
mother, and his faithful brothers went out into exile,
now as poor as the humblest hermits of the forest.
But as he turned to go Yudhishthir spoke for the
last time to the men assembled in that angry
council. He had no word of blame or anger even
for Duryodhan, for whom with his brothers, his
father, and his friends he wished all the good that
life could bring. For a while no one spoke a word
in reply, for the hearts of all were filled with shame
and pity. Then one of the old men rose to his feet
and in words of noble blessing bade farewell to the
"Go in peace," he said, "and envy not the
fortune of those who win by evil means. Virtue
attends you, Valour is your companion, Faithful
Love unites you. You shall one day win a glorious
empire, greater far than that which you have lost.
Your exile is a trial to be bravely borne, but it will
prove full of healing and refreshment. May the god
of battles strengthen your right hands; may you
learn the higher valour which aims at conquest of the
mind. Tend the sick, feed the hungry, comfort the
sorrowing, learn the lessons of exile, and return
at last in happiness and true contentment."
And even as he spoke the five tall sons of Pandu
raised their heads in proud humility, strengthened
and sustained by these noble words. Then they
made a deep obeisance to the company and left the
palace in silence.
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 91
For twelve long years the five tall sons of Pandu
lived in the wilderness and bore the hardships
which fell to their lot with patience which at times
was almost exhausted. The noble prince Krishna
knew of their exile, and, true to his character, sought
out the brothers from time to time to comfort and
encourage them in their adversity. There were
moments when the courage of Draupadi failed and
she urged Yudhishthir to plot against Duryodhan
and recover his kingdom. But the fallen king in
his loftier wisdom would not be deterred from his
appointed course, and instead of seeking to harm
Duryodhan went out of his way on one occasion to
render a real service to his enemy. For Duryodhan
came to the forest in royal state with the object of
humiliating still further his fallen foe, quarrelled
with some of its strange inhabitants, known as
gandharvas, who had the double nature of birds and
men, and was captured by them. Then the five
brothers sought out the captive and set him free,
with the result, quite natural to one of his weak
character, that he hated them more than ever.
Scarcely was this adventure ended, when another
prince, in an unguarded moment, carried off Drau-
padi, and the brothers were forced to set out to
rescue her, which they did with much difficulty.
There was one thing which relieved the tedium
and suffering of the exiles more than anything else.
Many wise and holy hermits came to visit them, and
92 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
entertained them with tales and legends of earlier
days. Perhaps it was on one of the days when poor
Draupadi was losing heart that a sage related the
wonderful story of Savitri, whose love was strong
enough to conquer death, or that other tale of devoted
love which recounted the misfortunes, trials, and
triumphs of Nala and Damayanti.
At last the twelve appointed years of exile came
to an end, and the little band disguised themselves
to pass a year in complete concealment, taking great
care to hide their identity from all, and especially
from Duryodhan, who was always on the watch to
do whatever harm he could to them. Yudhishthir
dressed himself as a Brahman and entered the court
of a certain king named Virata, where he was treated
with the honour always paid to a priest of his class.
Bhima entered the kitchen of the same king to serve
as a cook. Arjun found it difficult to conceal his
identity, but having braided his hair and put on
bangles and earrings became a teacher of music and
dancing, Nakula was made keeper of King Virata's
horses, while Sahadeva took charge of the monarch's
cattle. Draupadi disguised herself as a waiting-
woman and entered the household of a princess in
King Virata's court.
For a year the little company lived in conceal-
ment, but when this period was just ending they were
discovered in the following manner.
The cattle of King Virata, which were in the keep-
ing of Sahadeva, were the envy of all the neighbouring
kings, and at one time Duryodhan and a lawless prince
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU
who was his friend agreed to attack Virata's kingdom
from different points and carry off as many of his
fine cattle as they could obtain. Duryodhan marched
into the north of the country while his friend attacked
the southern portion. Virata marched southward
in defence of his possessions, and the north of his
kingdom was left at the mercy of Duryodhan.
But Arjun flung aside his disguise and came to the
rescue as we are now to learn. The army of Duryo-
dhan, under the great leaders Drona and Kama,
swept over the kingdom of Virata like a swarm of
locusts over a field of standing corn, and drove off
sixty thousand head of cattle, the pick of the king's
famous herds. Thereupon the chief of the cowherds
mounted his chariot and drove at great speed to
the gates of the royal palace to make his complaint
to Prince Uttara, whom he urged to instant action.
The prince replied that he was both willing and able
to revenge his father and bring back the stolen
cattle, and that if only he had a new chariot-driver,
his own charioteer having lately perished in battle,
he would so acquit himself that every one would
declare that the famous archer Arjun had come to
the help of King Virata!
Arjun himself overheard the prince's boastful
speech, and begged Draupadi to tell the young
warrior that he would gladly drive his chariot, and
that he was quite capable of doing so as he had in
past years been the charioteer of the great Arjun,
and had been trained by that hero to drive the battle-
car. Draupadi took the first opportunity to report
94 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
this to the prince, who replied very kindly to her, but
doubted whether a mere effeminate teacher of music
and dancing could drive a great warrior's chariot.
Draupadi hastened to assure him that he could
safely trust the dancing-master, saying that she had
in former years been in the court of the great monarch
Yudhishthir and had seen the same teacher of
dancing and music perform almost incredible feats
of horsemanship in the service of Arjun himself.
Upon this assurance the prince stifled his doubts and
fears, and without delay the hesitating leader was
swiftly driven from the palace gate in charge of the
new charioteer, who bent his course for a shady tree
not far from the city, where he reined in his horses.
"Prince," he said, "your bow and arrows are little
more than pretty toys. Look up into the deep
shadows of this tree and you will find splendid bows
and arrows fit for warriors of renown, banners,
swords, and coats of mail, as well as one particular
bow which the strongest archers cannot bend, a
weapon which is tall and slender like a palm tree,
made of wood of hardened fibre, and tipped at the
ends with shining gold."
The prince looked upward into the deep shadows
of the spreading tree. "I see many long bundles
hanging from the branches," he said in trembling
tones, "and they look like bodies of men. I dare
not touch them for my life."
"There are no dead men here," said Arjun, "but
these cases which rouse your princely fears are full of
the weapons of warriors, wrapped and hung in such
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 95
a manner that they will scare away the timorous.
Prince, I beg of you to dismount and bring to a
chief and a warrior his weapons and his armour."
The change in the tone of Arjun's voice to a note
of authority seemed to compel the prince to obedi-
ence, and, dismounting from the chariot, he climbed
up into the tree and cut the wrappings of the cases.
"Ah?" he cried in a voice of wonder, as the shining
bows appeared, "here is a tall and stately bow,
tipped with gold at either end; and another, stout and
heavy, worked by a cunning artist with figures of
elephants in burnished gold." Then after a short
pause he continued, "And here is a third bow fit for
a giant warrior; a fourth a and fifth still mightier and
more beautiful. There are quivers full of arrows of
most wondrous appearance, each a shaft of winged
death; a wondrous sabre marked with a toad and
encased in a golden scabbard, and another in a sheath
of tiger skin ornamented with silver bells; a keen-
edged scimitar in a sheath of cowhide wonderfully
worked; and swords which speak of death and
The voice of Arjun rang out clear and joyous,
and with the laugh of a hero he cried, "Mark that
bow embossed with gold which was forged and
beaten by the gods for the use of Arjun himself.
The other bows belonged to Yudhishthir, to Bhima,
to Nakula, and Sahadeva, and the sword engraved
96 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
with the toad is the blade which Arjun has wielded
in many a stern and victorious fight."
The prince descended slowly from the tree after
handing the wonderful weapons to his companion.
Then he looked earnestly at the charioteer and said,
"Your voice is changed, and your bearing is that of
one who knows. Tell me, for I know that the
knowledge is yours, where is the archer Arjun?
where is Yudhishthir, the wise monarch who is so
sorely missed? where is Bhima, the matchless fighter?
where are the younger brothers whose fame will
soon equal that of their elders ? where is Draupadi,
the purest and the best of womankind does she
wander lonely and sad in some dark forest in danger
of famine and the cruelty of fierce wild beasts?"
Arjun smiled in gentleness at the earnest words
of the youthful prince. "The wandering brothers, "
he said, "are not far away. The good Yudhishthir
lives disguised in your father's palace; Bhima has
for a long time cooked food for the royal table;
Nakula works in the stables of Virata; Sahadeva is a
faithful cowherd; and among your sister's waiting-
women Draupadi is known for her gentleness and
grace." Then with an impatient gesture Arjun
flung away his effeminate rings and bangles and
loosed the bands from his braided hair. "Away
with these," he said in a ringing voice, "Arjun
stands before you?"
The positions of the two princes were now
reversed. Arjun was the leader, and Uttara rejoiced
in his leadership. Without loss of time the famous
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 97
archer, clad in full armour and flying his own banner,
which bore a monkey emblem, was urging his chariot
at the head of a strong force in chase of the retreating
army of Duryodhan. In due time he overtook
them, forced them to stand and to fight, and with
boyish glee he entered into the battle, bending his
wonderful bow and rejoicing in the music which it
made. There was no further need for concealment,
and it was not long before Drona knew who was the
challenger who had checked the homeward course of
Duryodhan's army. "Well I know him," said the
old man in a ringing voice of pride, "and the sound
of his mighty bow would tell me above all the noise of
battle that Arjun was near. There is no need for the
monkey emblem to tell me that Arjun leads the foe."
Then Arjun told Uttara, who was now acting as
his charioteer, to rein in the horses at a spot well
removed from the foe. "My arrows can search^out
the mark from a distance," he said, "and my mark
is proud Duryodhan himself. If he falls, the battle
is ours and the army will retreat. I do not fight with
the rest, at least not on this occasion."
Arjun's keen eye swept the field for a few moments.
"Duryodhan is not among the princes," he said,
"he must be with the stolen cattle, and there I will
seek him." Then, under Arjun's direction, the
princely charioteer made a detour, leaving the main
army, and set out in the direction of the flying prince.
Before long Arjun overtook him, and in a short time
dispersed the guardians of the cattle, while Duryo-
dhan escaped to his friends. For the time Arjun had
9 8 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
attained his chief object, the rescue of the cattle, and,
calling up his men, he marshalled the terrified
animals in due order and drove them back to the
fields of Virata.
In the royal palace he was received with acclama-
tion, and there he found his brothers and Draupadi
dressed as suited their rank, and ready to confer
together as to the means to be adopted for regaining
The term of banishment and concealment being
now ended, it was agreed that Yudhishthir should
formally demand the restoration of his realm. The
blind old king and the oldest of his counsellors, who
were able to appraise at its true value the patience,
devotion, and valour of the princes, advised that
Yudhishthir should be reinstated in his royal
dignities; but, as we might expect, Duryodhan and
his friends would not consent to this course. Pre-
parations were therefore made on both sides for
putting the matter to the test of battle if necessary.
A council of war was forthwith called, and in the
palace of Virata the princes met together to agree
upon a plan of campaign. When all were assembled,
it was unanimously agreed to ask Krishna for his
counsel. But he did not advise directly. He calmly
put the whole matter before the princes and asked
for their opinions, thinking that in such a band of
wise and experienced rulers and warriors the truest
wisdom would spring from taking the general opinion.
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 99
Should the banished king lead an army at once
against his foes ? Or should he try the effect of
another messenger of peace ?
Then arose the elder brother of Krishna, and his
counsel was for peace. Let them send an envoy to
Duryodhan appealing to his sense of justice and
asking for a frank declaration of his intentions;
let him plead the cause of Yudhishthir, relying upon
the known sympathy of the blind old monarch and
of Drona, as well as the nobility of heart of the
warrior Kama. After all, Duryodhan was the prince
in possession, and Yudhishthir was a suppliant whose
cause was weakened by the fact that he had, in an
evil moment, yielded to the gambler's vice.
The last words of this speech roused the scorn
and anger of a certain monarch named Satyaki, and
he cried, "Shame upon the feeble counsel of the
would-be friend, who merely pleads the cause of
Duryodhan. Why cast further blame upon the wise
Yudhishthir, whose patience and fortitude have now
entirely expiated the momentary fault of thirteen
years ago? As a king he must boldly claim his
throne and kingdom, and my counsel is for open
war to be begun at once and stoutly carried to a
successful end. Duryodhan's falseness is his weak-
ness, and he will fall before us. Who can stand before
the shafts of the archer Arjun or the whirling disc
of Krishna ? Let us speed to our righteous duty, for
to beg a favour from such a foe as Duryodhan is
weakness beneath contempt."
The speaker ceased, and the eyes of all turned to
ioo THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
Draupad, the father of Yudhishthir's queen. "I fear,"
he said, slowly and deliberately, for he was an old man,
"that Duryodhan will not bow to the opinion of his
wiser counsellors, for Kama thirsts for battle, and
the sending of any peaceful envoy would be regarded
as an acknowledgment of weakness. My advice is to
send out heralds without delay to seek allies among
the neighbouring princes, and while we await their
return to appeal once more to Duryodhan, for we
must not forget those who will suffer from this war.
It is not only Duryodhan and Yudhishthir who will
be at variance, but the armies which they will lead
against each other, and which have no personal
quarrel with one another. Let not the hatred of the
chieftains bring down upon their faithful followers
unnecessary sufferings and death." This wise and
humane counsel seemed good to the princes, and
envoys were sent without delay to appeal to Duryo-
dhan, but without effect. The matter was not to be
settled without a war, which was likely to prove a
combat of the nations and to bring upon the land
such bloodshed and destruction as had never been
recounted in all the records of the past. The
prospect of such a calamity roused Krishna to a last
effort for peace, and he hastened to the capital of
the blind old king to make his appeal.
The counsellors of Dhrita-rashtra sat in silence,
while the voice of Krishna, impassioned, pleading,
rang through the council hall. "I come in love and
peace," he urged, appealing first to the blind old
monarch, "and by the power of wisdom and mercy
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 101
which adorn the aged, I beg of you, King, to inter-
pose between these armies ready for combat and
widespread slaughter. It is to your own advantage,
surely, that peace should dwell upon your borders.
Restore Yudhishthir to his throne, and in the five
tall sons of Pandu you shall find a bulwark of strength
to your own kingdom. If war should come and you
should be victorious, what would the death of the
brothers profit a monarch who loves them with a
The old man sighed heavily, and soon his feeble
frame was shaken by convulsive sobbing. Then his
brother appealed to Duryodhan to yield and save the
nations from the threatened calamity. Drona also
advised the submission, which involved no disgrace
but rather showed the truest wisdom for who could
stand against the might of Arjun, whom he himself
had trained in feats of warfare ?
At last the blind old king spoke, while anguish
shook him as the tempest tears the trees of the
forest. "Listen, my son," he said to Duryodhan.
"Grieve not the declining years of your father with
the black shadow of war. Follow the counsel of
Krishna, whose wisdom can win for you an empire
which this world of strife cannot bound. Seek the
friendship of Yudhishthir, which is one of the richest
gifts of heaven. Let all strife and hatred cease."
For a few moments Duryodhan sat silent, with
his brows contracted in anger. Then he spoke, while
the listening princes held their breath to hear.
"Shall my father and my closest friends turn upon
io2 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
me at a time when I most need their help ? Was it
any fault of mine that Yudhishthir played a foolish
game and lost both his freedom and his empire ?
Shall we bow to the sons of Pandu while we have such
warriors as Drona and Kama to lead our forces?
And if indeed we fail, we shall have no pain in death
when we die with the brave on the field of battle."
He paused for a moment while the disfiguring
scowl of anger and hatred gave place to a look of
decision and manly resolution. "Take my message,"
he said, "to the sons of Pandu. Tell them that they
seek in vain the restoration of their kingdom. Nay,
they shall not win back from me such a space of
territory that a needle's point would cover."
All efforts for a peaceful ending to the dispute
having failed, both sides made ready for a battle, in
which all the races of Northern India were to play
a part. The army of Duryodhan was more than a
hundred thousand strong, including both horse and
foot, as well as chariots and elephants in great array.
The opposing army numbered some seventy thousand,
and Krishna was among the leaders, having chosen
the post of charioteer to the archer Arjun. When
the two great forces met face to face, and Arjun saw
at the head of his enemies the blind old king and
Drona, the teacher and guide of his youth, he was
unwilling to fight in such an unnatural contest; but
Krishna took him aside and in earnest words of
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 103
highest wisdom told him that, in spite of all his
personal feelings. Duty must be obeyed. Many were
the arguments he used, and the words in which he
clothed them have come down to us through the
ages to prove again and again the help, comfort, and
inspiration of all who are faced with the great choice
of life, that between Inclination and Duty. At the
end of his discourse, Arjun bowed his head in consent
and took his place in the forefront of the battle which
was now impending.
Duryodhan had appointed as his commander-in-
chief the aged and experienced warrior Bhisma,
who was his father's brother, and in the first engage-
ment of the war he routed the Pandav forces with
great slaughter. All day long his mighty bow re-
sounded, for he was a leader who really led in the
battle, and when darkness fell the five tall sons of
Pandu went to their tents with their hearts filled with
sorrow and dismay.
Next morning, however, Arjun and Krishna
made a desperate effort to turn the tide of defeat.
During this second day the dauntless archer was able
to assert himself so manfully that a panic seized the
chiefs of the opposing army, so that none of them
dared to approach him. This roused the bitter
anger of Duryodhan, who charged the leaders of his
forces with secretly favouring the cause of the foe,
and threatened to replace Bhisma by Kama. The
aged general looked at the angry prince with a stern
glance in his eye. "Your cause is unjust, Duryo-
dhan," he said, "and the gods will not fight for you.
io 4 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
But I am still the leader of this army and I go now
to victory or to death," Then he urged his chariot
into the foremost rank of the fighting men, and
fought with such fury that even Arjun and Krishna
could not withstand his desperate onset. The forces
of the Pandavs wavered and broke, and Krishna,
seeing Arjun's indecision, bitterly reproached him
and stoutly declared that he at least would not be his
companion in inglorious flight. Then he flung the
reins to the archer, leapt from the chariot, and rushed
into the battle. But Arjun also descended from the
chariot, ran after his friend, took him up bodily and
placed him once more in the car. Then bending his
knee in reverent obeisance he asked for pardon for
his indecision and announced his intention of entering
the fight once more.
In a moment the horses leapt forward, and the
ranks of the warriors parted like waves before the
thundering car of Arjun. Duryodhan hurled his
lance at the face of the warrior, while another leader
flung his heavy mace at the flying chariot. But Arjun
put these weapons aside with disdain, and stand-
ing proudly aloft with his mighty bow in his hand,
strung it again and again with lightning speed and
with a noise of thunder. The enemy again re-
newed the attack, and until evening fell the fight
waged fast and furious. But on that day the honour
of the fight was divided, and the leaders went to their
tents weary and wounded, but resolved to continue
the combat on the following day with all the strength
at their command.
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 105
On the next day the Kurus arranged a strong
force of their best elephants with the determination
of breaking the line of the Pandav forces. But
Bhima, mounted in his chariot, broke their line
instead, and wounded Duryodhan, whose brothers
rushed to the rescue. Bhima smiled grimly as the
fourteen princes closed in a ring about their brother;
then his bow twanged with an ominous music, and
in a few moments six of the brothers lay dead upon
the plain. His success made Bhima careless, and he
penetrated alone into the ranks of the foe, to be
surrounded immediately by a hundred fighters whose
fierceness was their weakness, for the brave prince,
though sorely wounded and in great danger, held
his own until he was rescued by his friends. Again
night fell and the battle was undecided.
Morning dawned, and Arjun rushed into the field,
his chariot drawn by milk-white chargers carrying
all before it. But on this day the Pandavs received a
severe check throughout the whole line of battle.
Next day, however, the fight began by the slaughter
of Bhisma's charioteer, and the Pandavs took fresh
heart when they saw the great leader standing helpless
on the field. But the old warrior had still fresh
laurels to win, and, enraged by his momentary fall,
he put forth renewed energy, mustered his forces,
advanced steadily, and routed the Pandavs with
terrible slaughter. But his fall was near.
106 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
By this time the terrible slaughter of the long-
continued battle was filling the heart of Yudhishthir
with sorrow and dismay. It seemed so useless,
so unavailing to continue a struggle in which the two
sides were filled with such grim determination and
were, on the whole, so evenly matched. But on the
next day the battle began again, and the fighting was
fiercer than ever, while Yudhishthir performed deeds
of valour as glorious as the rest.
Now there was among the Pandav forces a brave
young warrior who, strange to say, had been born a
princess, but had been changed by the gods into a
prince, perhaps in order that the great leader Bhisma
should die in battle like a true warrior and yet
should not fall before his foes in an even contest.
Bhisma knew the young prince, whose name was
Sikhandin, and was aware of his strange story;
consequently, having sworn never to fight with "one
who was born a woman," when he met him in the
full tide of battle, he lowered his bow and stood
defenceless. In a moment he was overwhelmed
by a shower of arrows and spears and fell mortally
wounded in his chariot just as the sun was setting.
This great calamity united the leaders of the opposing
forces for a time. It was on a couch of Arjun's
arrows that they laid the dying warrior chieftain,
while the archer wept for him as a son mourns for a
beloved father. Yudhishthir stood near in silence
bitterly cursing the war, while Duryodhan was also
present to hear the dying words of the great leader.
"Listen to me, my prince," he said in a gentle tone.
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 107
"If your hard heart is capable of grief, end to-day
this useless and wicked warfare. Give to the good
and wise Yudhishthir the kingdom which rightly
calls him lord. Let the past be forgiven and live in
harmony with the five tall sons of Pandu."
But hatred in the heart of Duryodhan was fresher
than life itself, and he turned in anger from the bed
of the dying warrior, who was left lonely and sorrowful
until midnight. Then Kama, who had been jealous
of him in his hours of triumph, came to him and
spoke words of gentleness which fell upon the old
man's ears like water on the parched and thirsty
"Pride and envy have dwelt in our hearts," said
the old man, "but these angry passions leave us as
the power of life sinks low. But before I go I must
tell you, Kama, that Arjun is your brother. As a
child you were exposed in the forest and were found
by a good charioteer, who brought you up as a father.
Your birth is therefore equal to that of Arjun himself,
and it must be your steadfast aim to end this wicked
strife of kinsman against kinsman." But hatred in
the heart of Kama also was fresher than life and
stronger than the bonds of brotherhood, and he left
the old man to die in sorrow, ready to engage with
fresh ardour in the wicked strife.
When Bhisma had passed away the ancient
Drona was chosen as commander-in-chief of the
Kuru forces, and for five days he held his own against
the fresh and eager assaults of his foes. He took a
solemn vow to capture Yudhishthir and carry him to
io8 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
Duryodhan, although he knew how difficult such a
feat would be, for Arjun had decided that only the
imminent personal danger of Yudhishthir would
induce him to lift his bow against the new com-
mander, for whom he still felt, in spite of all that had
passed, the love and reverence of a son for a beloved
Now in spite of all the fierce onsets of Drona,
and the fact that Arjun was under a vow not to lift
his bow against him, except in defence of Yudhishthir,
the forces of Duryodhan were checked again and
again by the Pandavs. The angry prince, now more
moody and full of hatred than ever, complained to
Drona of the ill-success of those under his command.
His brothers were lost, the most famous of his
chieftains had fallen. Could it be that Drona's well-
known sympathy for the sons of Pandu weakened his
arm and checked the fury of his onset ? Might it not
be wiser to appoint Kama as commander-in-chief
and rely upon his burning hatred of Arjun, with
whom he had no kinship ?
Drona J s reply was short and angry. "You reap,
my prince," he said, "the harvest of your hate. Do
not take refuge in blaming the white hair of an
ancient warrior who, in spite of your faults, will be
true to you until death. The truth must be told to
you the archer Arjun has no equal in the wide
world; no warrior breathes who can face him. But
Drona knows his duty, and this day either he or Arjun
At that moment the sun rose in his splendour,
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 109
and all the warriors turned their faces towards its
light in lowly reverence. Then they mounted their
chargers, elephants, or chariots, and Drona led the
way to the wide battle-plain. Arjun turned aside
and would not engage with him, but the other
Pandav princes and their allies had no such scruples
and gathered round him, fierce as tigers, determined
upon revenge for many an ancient feud. On went
the fight and many a prince fell dead, among them
Draupad and Virata, friends and beloved allies of the
five tall sons of Pandu.
Now Drona had a son who was as brave a warrior
as his father, and his name of Aswa-thaman had been
given to a certain sagacious elephant famous for its
steadiness and intelligence in battle. It happened
that an arrow from Bhima's bow killed this elephant,
and a shout went through the forces that Aswa-
thaman had been killed by Bhima. The words came
to the ears of Drona, who had at last found out
Yudhishthir and was desperately striving to redeem
his vow by capturing the prince. The old warrior
bent his head in sudden pain, ceased fighting, and in
a voice full of pity and anguish spoke to the prince
whom he was striving to capture.
"Yudhishthir," he said, "your lips have never
been soiled with falsehood. Tell me, has my gallant
boy fallen in the battle ? My hands are feeble, my
heart fails, my work is over if this be true."
Then Yudhishthir answered, "Tusker Aswa-
thaman is dead," but the old man in his piteous
agitation heard only the last three words, and his
i io THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
head drooped in sorrow. At that fateful moment
the son of King Draupad came up in his chariot and
saw his father lying dead near the car of Drona.
He bent his bow, and his arrow sped quickly to the
heart of the old commander, who fell dead in his
chariot. So ended the fatal day, but before the
chieftains retired to rest Kama was chosen to succeed
Drona, for the wicked war was still to be continued
when the next morning should dawn.
For a long time those who took delight in a
well-matched fight between warriors of high renown
had eagerly longed to see the meeting of Arjun and
Kama, for though the two champions had faced
each other several times something had always
happened to prevent them from engaging in an actual
fight. But now the rivals were fated to meet and to
try their skill against each other.
The succession of Kama roused the courage of
Duryodhan, who maintained his hatred with con-
sistency worthy of a better cause. With words of
praise he encouraged the new commander. "Bhisma
was a famous warrior," he said, "but his heart was
weakened by love for Yudhishthir. Drona also was
a leader of renown, but his hand was palsied by
affection for Arjun. Now we have a leader who is
neither kith nor kin to the five tall sons of Pandu,
and all must go well with the Kuru forces. "
Kama lost no time in arranging his men and
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU in
placing himself in the forefront of the battle, and
soon the warriors were falling in piteous heaps on
either side. Then, at last, Arjun and Kama came
face to face, each of them filled full with deathless
hatred. For a moment each stood calmly regarding
the other. Then a shower of arrows began which
seemed to darken the face of the sky. But each of
the chieftains appeared to bear a charmed life, for
among those countless shafts which fell on either
side not one found its deadly mark; and evening fell
Early next morning Kama sought out Duryodhan
and said to him, "Day dawns, my King, the day
on which Arjun shall be slain, or my own life shall be
spent. Our hearts are indeed, as you say, filled with
mutual hatred, but as yet something has in a
mysterious manner always intervened to prevent
our putting the matter to the test of battle. To-day,
however, will end our rivalry. Before the sun sets
the life of Arjun or of Karna shall be over. There is
no room in the wide world for the fame of both of us,
for our skill with the bow is equal. Yet I own that
Arjun has the advantage of me in his charioteer, for
who can match the resistless onset of Krishna the
divine? His sounding car skims along the plain
till it seems almost to fly, and this gives my enemy
an advantage which I must learn to turn to my own
profit. Give me Salya as my charioteer, however,
and I shall meet my foe on equal terms."
Permission was granted at once, and the famous
chariot-driver took Karna into the field early on
ii2 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
that fateful day. For a time the new commander
was unable to find Arjun, and he promised a hundred
cows of the best to the man who was able to point
hini out, as well as "rich gifts of qhariots and horses,
fertile fields and wide estates dotted with peaceful
villages smiling in the sun." The offer was tempting
enough to men wearied with the slaughter and the
sound of battle. But one of the princes near to
Kama laughed at the offer. "There is no need to
offer rich rewards to find out Arjun. Before many
moments have passed his white horses and gleaming
chariot will be seen and known of all men. Like the
tiger ranging the forest he will spring upon his prey,
as an angry bull he will gore to death the weakling
cattle that oppose his onset, and like the lordly lion he
will spring upon the shrinking timid deer of the
Kama frowned darkly at the words. Even among
his own friends the praise of Arjun was sounded, and
this roused his hatred to fever heat so that it con-
sumed part of the strength which he might wisely
have kept for the stern work of the day before him.
Onward went his splendid chariot, while he cast his
glance this way and that, longing with impetuous
ardour to meet the foeman who was so truly worthy
of his best endeavour. In a few moments he came
face to face with Yudhishthir, who, mild and gentle
as he was, had now been worked up to a heat of
passion at the resistance of Duryodhan to his just
demands and the consequent misery which had
fallen upon the land. "You have vowed the death
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 113
of Arjun," he cried in a voice so strong and full of
judgment that those about him quaked in abject
fear, "but your vow will not be fulfilled, for by my
hand you shall fall and through my power your soul,
worn with hatred, will come at last to its rest."
Then the wise king drew his bow and in a
moment an arrow was quivering in the side of Kama,
who fell fainting in the bottom of his chariot. But
in a few moments he raised himself again and strung
his bow with a manly dignity which went to the
hearts of those who watched him; for the fight
between two such combatants had made a ring of
silent watchers amid the noise and tumult of the
battle. His arrows flew like lightning and followed
each other so closely that they made an unbroken
line. So heavy was their impact that they tore the
armour from the body of Yudhishthir, and the wise
king stood defenceless while he plied his bow with
resistless might. For a long time the equal fight
went on, but at last the warriors drew apart, each
wearied with his efforts, Yudhishthir quiet and
confident that his foe would yet be beaten down,
Kama proud and full of mocking insults because the
dreadful promise of the wise king was unfulfilled.
Let Arjun come to him, he said, for he was a warrior
worthy of the best.
Without loss of time Yudhishthir sought out his
brother, and, wearied with the desperate conflict,
ii4 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
could not forbear to heap reproaches upon Arjun
for the plight in which he found himself. The archer
replied hotly to his brother's reproaches, and it
seemed for a moment as if the two princes would
make the miserable strife still more dreadful by
shedding each other's blood. But Krishna gently
intervened, bidding Arjun keep his strength for his
enemy and respect his brother, with whom he was
united by ties so tender and so strong. The tears
rose unbidden to the eyes of Arjun, tears of manly
and generous repentance, and fixing his gaze upon
his royal brother he begged him to pardon his rash
and bitter words. "My own words were hasty and
thoughtless," said the wise king, clasping his brother
to his heart. "They were indeed the fruit of my
disappointment and the ill result of my boasting.
But now mount your car, stronger than ever in the
goodwill of your brother, and meet this insulting foe
who is bearing all before him. It may be that my
words of judgment will be fulfilled in you, and after
all you and I are one, and your success is as dear to
my heart as any of my own could ever be."
Cheered by these words, Arjun set out again, and
in a few moments the two great warriors met face
to face at last. Soon the air grew dark with their
flying arrows, and in a short time there was a loud
report which told the practised ear that a strong bow
It was the famous bow of Arjun!
"Hold?" cried the warrior. "According to all
the rules of war, a warrior must forbear to strike a
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 115
foeman whose weapon has failed him by the very
might of his valour. Hold, until my bow is mended.
Then will Arjun crave for mercy neither from god
nor mortal foe."
The appeal fell upon deaf ears, for Kama's sense
of justice was clouded by his hatred, which, more even
than Arjun's valour, was to prove the real cause of
his fall that day. His arrows still fell like hail about
the defenceless form of Arjun, but in spite of this
Arjun calmly mended his bow, unhurt by the flying
shafts, as if the god of justice had put them aside with
his unerring hand. Then he arose, stronger than
before, as a man must ever be who has suffered
unjustly without murmuring, and the arrows from
his bow fell so thickly that the charioteer of Kama
lost his control, and the horses, rearing and plunging,
dragged the car into a place where the ground was
soft and yielding. The best efforts of the driver did
not succeed in moving it as Kama appealed to Arjun
for a moment's breathing space. Arjun turned to
Krishna to abide by his decision, and was sternly
told that Kama had forfeited all right to the con-
sideration due to those who obeyed the rules of war
with a willing heart. By this time, however, Kama
had somewhat recovered himself, and making the
best of his position renewed the fight with vigour,
sending an arrow which struck Arjun on the breast,
causing him to reel and almost to fall.
But he summoned his strength, and with a last
mighty effort sent the fatal shaft from the bow, which,
like its master, would always bear the marks of that
ii6 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
desperate fight. The arrow clove the air like the
forked flash of the lightning, and sped hissing to its
mark. In a moment Kama lay dead upon the field
of battle, and the victor raised his head, while his eyes
shone brightly with the light of a conquest undimmed
by personal hatred or mean advantage. Then the
shadows fell, night closed quickly in, and Arjun went
away to his tent.
Next morning the news of his loss was brought to
Duryodhan. Surely now he would give orders that
Yudhishthir's righteous demands were to be satisfied
so that all the useless and cruel slaughter might
cease. But his hatred was unquenchable, and, de-
ceiving himself, he took credit for valour which was
not his own. He would fight to the death. Let
Salya, the charioteer of the fallen Karna, take com-
mand of the shattered forces. His orders were
at once obeyed. Salya fought with the skill and
might of a hero, but an arrow from Yudhishthir's
bow laid him dead upon the field, and Duryodhan,
seeing that hope was gone, fled in abject terror from
Far away from the field of battle the fugitive
prince took refuge in a humble shelter of leaves and
branches which he set up with his own hands by the
side of a lake in the peaceful heart of a forest. But
the five tall sons of Pandu, who knew how to find
their way through the trackless forest, traced him
THE FIVE TALL SONS OF PANDU 117
with the watchful care of the practised hunter and
found him standing like a beast at bay near the
entrance of his forest home. His hatred of the
brothers was still unquenched and shone with a
fierce light from eyes which had become so accus-
tomed to bloodshed and slaughter that they seemed
like those of a wild beast, "Let the gods be witness,"
he cried when he saw the brothers before him,
"that from boyhood to manhood I have hated all of
you with unchanging scorn. Now we meet for the
last time and I will fight you all."
"Nay," said Bhima, "it is right and wise that
you should die, but you shall die like a prince in just
and fair battle with one of us. I alone will fight you,
though my task is unwelcome to me and partakes
more of the nature of judgment than of the manly
battle dear to a true warrior's heart." In a moment
the two closed in conflict, each wielding a ponderous
mace. For a long time the strife continued, for the
two princes were well matched, but at last by a heavy
stroke Bhima brought the angry Duryodhan down
to earth. There he lay in a swoon of death while
the brothers left him quickly, for a messenger had
arrived to say that Aswa-thaman, the son of Drona,
had treacherously slain many of the Pandav princes
as they slept peacefully in their tents. As soon as
they were gone Duryodhan recovered consciousness
to find Aswa-thaman standing near him with the
light of evil conquest in his eye. In a few low words
he told his dying master how he had served the Pandav
chieftains. The eyes of Duryodhan gleamed with
n8 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
fierce pleasure, and with a mocking cursing cry of
hatred upon his lips he passed away.
So ended the great war of the nations, in the
destruction of all that was best and bravest and most
full of youthful hope and promise among the followers
of Duryodhan; in victory, dearly bought, for the
five tall sons of Pandu. For a long time the land
was filled with the sounds and signs of mourning-
women weeping for husbands or lovers, sons lament-
ing fathers, brothers, or kinsmen; and the most
pitiful of all the lamentations was that of the five
brothers over the body of Kama; for when the
funeral rites were being performed the aged Pritha
told her sons that Kama was their brother and the
elder of Yudhishthir; that on his birth he had
been cast out to the wild beasts and rescued by the
charioteer who was thereafter supposed to be his
father. Then Yudhishthir himself rendered a
generous tribute to the valour and virtue of their
fallen foe, lamenting the cruelty of a fate which had
prevented the brothers from rejoicing openly in his
strength- and skill. So the story ends in reunion of
heart if not of life; in pity for the conquered rather
than in boastful triumph over their fall; in solemn
rites of consecration; and in bestowal of rich gifts
upon the Brahmans whose teachings had kept the
five tall sons of Pandu in the ways of virtue and
strengthened their hands in the day of battle.
NALA THE GAMESTER
The Tale of the "Bull and the Cows
NALA THE GAMESTER
THERE was once a prince named Nala who was
strong and stately, brave and virtuous, pure in heart
and wise in counsel; but he loved the rattle of the
dice as he loved the roll of drums.
Now the fame of his valour and virtue came to
the ears of King Bhima, who had three brave sons as
well as a very beautiful daughter named Damayanti;
and the princess thought much on these things,
wondering whether she would know this peerless
prince when they should meet. Nala heard too of
the beauty and grace of Damayanti, and he heard
about her so often that he began to feel a great desire
to see the princess with his own eyes.
One day he was wandering through the grounds
of his palace when he saw some swans near a lake,
and with the instinct of the hunter strong within him
he crept softly forward and seized one of them by
To his great wonder the bird spoke to him.
"Kill me not, Prince," it said, "and I will sing
your praises in the ear of Damayanti."
The prince set the bird free, and without delay it
122 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
flew to the garden of the princess, where she was
amusing herself with a group of merry companions.
It flew down to her, and in a playful mood she gave
chase to it. When it had drawn her away from her
maiden friends it flew down to her and said, "Nala
is the pearl of princes as thou art the loveliest of
princesses. It is fitting that you should one day call
"Go, dear bird," said the princess, "and whisper
a like message in the ear of Nala." And the bird
flew away on its errand.
From that day onward there was no peace of
mind for Damayanti; and when her father saw how
changed she was, he proclaimed a festival for his
daughter, that she might, according to the princely
custom of the time and country, choose a husband
from among the princes who presented themselves
at her father's court. The messengers of the king
went far and wide, and soon the roads to Bhima's
royal city were thronged with countless fighting
men, with stately steeds and lordly elephants bearing
princes and rulers from afar. Among the brilliant
company came Nala, splendid in his strength and
youthful beauty, confident in heart and fearing
nothing, for he did not know that among his rivals
were four of the mightiest of the gods themselves.
As he pressed onward he saw these Shining Ones
coming down to earth in golden chariots. He bowed
before them, asked their will, and to his pain was
bidden to go to Damayanti and ask her to which of
the four she would choose to be given as a bride.
NALA THE GAMESTER 123
In a moment he found himself transported by
their power to the palace of the princess, who sat
among her maidens preparing for the coming festival.
"Fairest Prince/ 5 said Damayanti, rising to her
feet, while her knees trembled and her voice faltered
sorely, "my heart is filled with joy to see you.
But tell me, how did you enter the palace, which is so
"Beauteous Princess," said the prince, "I am
Nala and the messenger of the mightiest of the
Shining Ones. Choose from the four the god to
whom you shall be given."
Now as he named the four the princess bowed
her head in reverence. Then raising her blushing
face she said, "I am yours, Prince. Pledge
yourself to me."
"With the Shining Ones as your suitors," said
the prince sadly but eagerly, "how can a man dare
to speak of himself ? Lift up your heart and stretch
forth your hand to take the high honour which is
offered to you."
"The Shining Ones have my reverence," said the
princess, "but Prince Nala has my heart."
"How can the messenger plead his own cause?"
asked Nala, though a little doubtfully. Then all at
once the face of Damayanti brightened, and clasping
her hands she said:
"I see a way. Let the Shining Ones follow the
custom, come with yourself to my festival, and there
will I make free choice, according to my right. And
my free choice shall fall on you, my prince,"
124 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
With this message in his ears and joy in his heart
Nala returned to the waiting gods and told his story.
Then the five moved onward to obey the summons of
King Bhima to the festival.
The monarch had prepared a great court with
gilded pillars and with seats arranged in accordance
with the rank of the several suitors. When all were
seated in due order the princess entered and a hush
fell upon the great assembly. She moved gracefully
to her place, and while the titles and dignities of the
suitors were proclaimed in due order she looked
eagerly among the glittering throng for the face and
form of her beloved Nala.
To her surprise she saw among the company
five princes, each of whom she knew to be Nala him-
self. Her perplexity grew as she looked from one to
the other, and she whispered to herself, "How shall
I tell him whom my soul desireth?" Then she
looked again and yet again, but still her amazement
and distress increased, until at last she clasped her
hands together and silently but fervently prayed the
Shining Ones to make known to her the prince of her
choice. She knew only too well that four of the five
had only the appearance of Nala and that they were
the gods themselves.
Then the Shining Ones took pity upon her dis-
tress and made themselves known by signs which
They stood without a shadow; their eyelids did
NALA THE GAMESTER 125
not move, however brightly the sun shone; their
faces, in spite of the heat, showed no sign of sweat;
when they moved, they glided over the ground
without touching it; the flowers upon their brows
bore no dust. But Nala cast his shadow; his robes
were stained with dust; the flowers of his garland
were beginning to fade; the sweat stood in great
beads upon his forehead; his feet trod the solid
earth, and in the strong light of the sun his eyelids
fell and rose.
In a moment the princess knew her mortal lover,
and with a cry of joy she said, "I know thee, Nala,
and I claim thee as my chosen lord and husband."
When Damayanti had made known her choice,
the other suitors were generous enough to wish
Prince Nala joy, and even the Shining Ones cried out;
"Well done?" Then the happy prince pledged his
word to be true and loyal to Damayanti while the
breath endured within his body; and the Shining
Ones gave him many wondrous marriage gifts.
He was to have the power to see with his own
eyes the god to whom he offered sacrifice. Help was
to be sent to him whenever he should call for it in
prayer. He was to have skill in cooking, and when-
ever he spoke in times of heat the breeze was to
spring up and ripple all the waters. These and other
gifts having been bestowed at the wedding feast, the
Shining Ones departed and Nala took his bride to her
126 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
For some years the prince and princess lived in
great happiness, while Savitri, the Bringer of Gifts,
sent to them first a son and then, a greater boon
still, a daughter who promised in time to become a
second Damayanti. But now their happiness was
destined to be overcast, for Kali, the brooding god of
evil and malice, envied Nala the brightness of his life,
and vowed to bring upon him and upon his faithful
wife a doom both swift and terrible.
"I will bring his kingdom down to the dust,"
said Kali. "I will break the bond of love between
him and his wife, and I will do all this by means of
the love of the dice, which only slumbers in Prince
Nala's heart. "Then he wrought in such a manner
upon the mind of Nala that the fever of chance and
hazard entered into the blood of the prince and
prepared him for his fall.
At that moment Nala was in the company of his
brother Pushkara, to whom Kali, unseen, suggested
that he should challenge the prince to a game of
chance with the object of taking from him all he
possessed. Then Pushkara took the dice-box con-
taining the ivory cubes, a large one named the
"Bull" and smaller ones known as the "Cows,"
and, seating himself near his brother, said, "Play
with me, brother, at the game of th?'Bull and
Cows.?" At first the noble prince refused, but
being urged again consented roughly, and the game
began in earnest.
NALA THE GAMESTER 127
But Nala did not know that Kali was hidden
within the "Bull "!
Such a game could have but one ending! Nala
lost his jewels and his personal ornaments; next the
rich and ponderous vessels of gold which adorned
his royal palace; then his chariots and the horses
that he loved with all the strength of his warrior
heart; and at last his robes of royalty, rich with cloth
of gold and gems of shining light.
And still the fever of chance and hazard was
unsubdued; nay it increased with each successive loss,
for at each throw of the dice he hoped to win again
what he had lost.
For Nala did not know that Kali was hidden
within the "Bull "!
News of the game was brought to the people of
the city, and they came in crowds to the palace gate
to show their sorrow for what they called the sickness
of the well-loved master. Then word was brought
to the princess of their presence, and she went herself
to her husband to tell him that the chief men of
his city desired to speak with him.
But the fever of chance and hazard burnt so
fiercely in the blood of Nala that he would not
speak a word to his trembling wife; and when
this was told to the counsellors at the gate they
hung their heads in sorrow and said to one another,
"Our master is himself no longer." Then they
went away, sad at heart, while the foolish game
went on and the brother of the prince won and
THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
For even yet Nala did not know that Kali was
hidden within the "Bull "!
Damayanti sat in her chamber brooding over her
sorrow, angry at the fault and weakness of her lord,
but loving him even better than before. Then,
suddenly, a bright thought came to her, and, calling
her nurse, she told her to summon the ministers of
state to a council in the king's name. At once they
came to the palace, but Nala would not come to them,
and they sat in the council hall filled with dismay.
Then Damayanti called the prince's charioteer
and begged him, with the consent of the counsellors,
to take her two children to her father's house. This
was done while the foolish game went on and on
until nothing was left to Nala but Damayanti herself.
"Shall we play for the princess?" mocked Push-
kara, but Nala rose, threw aside his royal robe, and
went out from the palace in the single garment of a
beggar. And at his side walked Damayanti, meanly
clad and filled with sorrow. So they passed through
the gates of the city into the forest, and Pushkara, the
new monai^h, sent out a herald to proclaim that any
who should offer help to Nala would meet with
-The people of Nala's royal city were obedient to
Pushkara's command and gave no help to the out-
casts, who wandered from place to place, cold and
wei^fy, footsore and hungry. Then Nala urged his
NALA THE GAMESTER 129
wife to leave him, and eagerly explained how she
would be able to find her way through the forest to
the home of Bhima, her royal father.
For the first time Damayanti showed signs of
weakness and distress. The loss of wealth, power,
happiness, even of her children, had not broken her
spirit; but that Nala whom she loved so well should
think her willing to leave him in his sore need bowed
her head to the earth, and the first tears that she had
shed during this unhappy time fell into the dust
upon which her lord lay prone in his weakness.
"Nay," she said gently, "in all sickness of heart
there is no better medicine than love.
"Yet," she added, "if you think it well that I
should go to my own people, I will do as you desire,
but only hand in hand with you, my lord and master."
But Nala answered, "Never shall I return as an
outcast to the court of your father, where I carried off
my bride in the face of gods and men,"
So they wandered onward, always hand in hand,
until they came to a deserted hut and crept within its
shelter to rest. There they lay down and slept.
But the sleep of Nala was troubled and distressed,
and after a while he woke to face the thoughts that
haunted him. If the princess would not leave
him for her good, he must leave her for the same
Thus he debated within himself, while Damayanti
slept serenely, for her mind was untroubled by any
doubt as to what she ought to do; and she felt at rest
in the assurance that Nala in his grief still loved her
130 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
better than his own soul. So she could sleep like a
child while he kept anxious watch.
At last he rose and left the hut, but he came back
to gaze once more upon the sleeping princess. Thrice
he went away and thrice returned for one last look.
Then, with his lips compressed and his eyes tightly
closed in agony, he broke away and ran at great speed
through the forest.
The princess awoke from her profound and dream-
less sleep refreshed and happy; but when she found
that she was alone a sudden terror seized her.
"Nala," she cried, "my lord and master, why
hast thou left me?" Then she laughed gently,
assuring herself that it was all a jest, and she called out
playfully to her husband thinking that he was hiding
not far away. But there was no answer to her call.
She rose to her feet, staggered out of the hut, and
ran back and forward crying out as if she had been
driven mad by her grief. But in a short time this fury
spent itself and she began to blame her selfishness.
Surely Nala was in danger somewhere and in need of
her help while she, the faithless one, spent precious
time in useless wailing; and with this thought in her
heart she plunged into the depths of the forest.
But as she ran blindly on with stumbling feet
through the tangled undergrowth a great snake
seized her and wrapped its hideous coils about her
body. "Nala," she cried, "Nala, help me! For if I
die what will my lord do who has such sore need of me ?
And when he comes again to health and wealth how
will he enjoy these good things without me?"
NALA THE GAMESTER 131
At that moment a hunter passing through the
forest heard her cries of distress and with an
arrow from his bow killed the snake and set the
princess free. With graceful words and queenly
gesture Damayanti thanked him and quickly went on
her way again pursuing her desperate search. The
hunter warned her of wild beasts, and the warning filled
her heart with terror lest her lord should have already
become the prey of some of them. For herself she
had little fear, and indeed it seemed as if her unselfish
love was a greater protection to her than a legion of
armed men; for she stepped out with such confidence
and bore herself with such a queenly grace that the
fiercest beasts of that dark forest dared not venture
near her. And ever as she went onward she called
upon her lost one in the hope that he might hear and
come to her once again. But there was no sound
in reply, and only the growls and cries of hungry wild
beasts broke the silence of the forest.
All at once Damayanti came face to face with a
prowling tiger. "I'll speak with him," she said to
herself, "and ask him whether he has seen my prince.
And if he has not seen him, perhaps he will put an
end to my misery." So she spoke in gentle accents
to the fierce beast, which turned as if stricken with
awe and wonder, and made his way through the tall
grasses to the river, which shone in the sunlight
through the reeds.
Then the princess sank upon her knees and
132 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
prayed to the gods for guidance. She spoke most of
Nala, and as she described his gentleness and manli-
ness, his kingly power and wisdom, his love for
herself and his constant care of her, fresh courage
seemed to rise within her fainting heart and she felt
strong once more and able to pursue her search
again. On she went to the northward, travelling for
three nights and days in fruitless search, until she
came at last to a cool grove in the forest, a paradise
of restfulness and peace, where a number of holy
men had made their home.
The hermits were filled with amazement when
she came among them, but seemed to know in-
stinctively that she was a queen among women; and
they bowed reverently before her while they spoke
words of welcome and encouragement, asking her in
all simplicity whether she were a goddess of the
wood or of the stream.
"I am no goddess," said Damayanti, "but a
woman, the daughter of King Bhima and the wife of
the mighty Nala." For now the princess had quite
forgotten the weakness of her husband and re-
membered only his royal state and the kingly nobility
of his heart and soul; and once more she found
strength and encouragement as she described him to
these holy men and sang his praises with shining
eyes and blushing cheeks.
"Fear not, princess," said the most reverend of
that hermit band. "Before long you shall see Nala,
and see him restored to health and wealth and
happiness, and Nala shall have you once again as
NALA THE GAMESTER 133
the sharer of his joy and his helpmeet in the
government of his kingdom."
Now as the old man spoke he and his company
vanished from the sight of the princess and instead
of the pleasant hermitage she saw before her only the
dark gloomy glades of the forest. For a long time
the princess gazed around her in bewilderment and
then went on her way again till she came to a beauti-
ful tree which bears a name meaning "the end of
sorrow." The name reminded her of her need, and
she spoke softly to the tree, for she felt impelled to
pretend that the inhuman things of the forest were
her companions to save her wearied brain from the
madness of .lonely despair. Passing onward once
again she came upon a company of merchants with
horses, elephants, and waggons making their way
across a stream. She came suddenly among these
men, and they gazed at her in great amazement.
Some thought that she was a goddess of the woods,
and falling on their knees before her begged her
favour upon their enterprise. Others were afraid of
her and ran away in their fear, while others again
mocked at her and roughly told her to make known
her name and her purpose.
The princess spoke gently to the leader of the
caravan and asked the question which was now the
whole of her life.
"Hast thou seen Nala, my king ? Quick, tell me,
and if thou canst, bring me comfort."
"We saw many evil beasts in the forest," said the
captain, "but we neither saw nor heard of him you
i 3 4 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
seek. We are passing onward, and for your protec-
tion, princess, you are welcome to go with us."
And weary with her loneliness Damayanti joined the
band of merchants. But one night while the com-
pany was resting a herd of wild elephants set upon
them and trampled many of them to death. Others
escaped into the forest, though some fell dead with
fear, and the whole company was dispersed and
scattered. Then some blamed the princess for this
misfortune and began to search for her to put her
to death, if indeed the elephants had not already
killed her in their mad stampede. But Damayanti,
hidden beneath a fallen tent, heard what they said,
and effecting her escape she wandered on once more
into the forest, until she came to a great clearing
where stood a royal city shining gloriously in the
Weary and footsore, clad in a single ragged
garment, the princess passed through the streets of
the city followed by a crowd of wondering and
mocking children, until she came to the gateway of
the king's palace. Now at that moment the king's
mother was walking upon the roof with her attend-
ants, and when she saw Damayanti with a jostling
crowd around her, and knew from her gait that she
was of noble birth, she sent a messenger to her
begging her to come within the palace; and there
the wandering princess told part of her sad story,
concluding, as she always did, with loving praise of
Nala. For whenever she spoke of him to a third
person she forgot all his weakness, and in piteous
NALA THE GAMESTER 135
tones told only of his love and loyalty, his manliness
and steadfast purpose, his kingly power and wisdom.
This alone sustained her in her time of trouble, this
alone was to her thirsting and sorely-tried spirit a
source of never-failing refreshment and consolation.
The royal mother begged her to stay with her for
a time while she sent messengers in every direction
to search for the lost prince. Damayanti consented,
and was conducted at once to the king's daughter, who
was of her own age; and this princess led her
gently to her own apartments, where she was given
the duties of one of the ladies-in-waiting.
We must now return to Nala. When he ran
into the depths of the forest, he saw a flaming fire,
from the heart of which came a voice which said,
"Come hither, Prince, and fear not." Then without
hesitation he sprang through the flames and found
a great serpent lying on the ground.
"I am the snake Karkolaka," it said, "doomed to
lie here until Nala shall come by. I promise to help
you if you will help me. Grasp me without fear
and carry me hence. "
Nala laid his hand upon the great reptile, which
at once shrank to a finger's length. He lifted it up,
and as he did so the fire went out. "Do not lay me
down," said the snake, "but take ten steps forward."
Nala obeyed, and at the tenth step the serpent stung
136 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
Nala flung it down and it rose from the earth
not a reptile but a man. "You have now within your
veins, Prince," he said, "a venom that will torture
the evil spirit which possesses you until he leaves you
free. Fear not; seek the city of the Raja Rituparna
and take service with him as a charioteer thy name
for the time to be Vahuka. Ask him to teach you
his skill in numbers in return for your knowledge of
horsemanship. Thus shall you learn the wisdom
which can cope even with Kali, and in due time you
shall be restored to your children, your wife, and
Then the strange magician gave to Nala a magic
robe and disappeared from sight. The prince set
out with a light step and a lighter heart, and in the
space of ten days came to the city of Rituparna,
where he took service as a charioteer under the
name of Vahuka.
"Make my horses like the wind for speed," said
the Raja, "and great wealth and comfort shall be
And Nala put forth all his skill, in return for
which Rituparna gave him wealth as he had promised
and such bodily comfort as can be given by one
man to another. But comfort of heart he could not
give, for Nala's longing for Damayanti was at times
almost more than he could bear.
One day his kindly companion Jivala overheard
him giving expression to his longing and questioned
him upon the cause of his evident trouble. Then
Nala told him a story of a man who had a noble
NALA THE GAMESTER 137
wife and lost her through his own cowardly weak-
ness, and as he drew near to the end of the
tale, he suddenly confessed that he himself was the
subject of the story; and his friend was full of
sympathy and did his best to comfort him, but to
Meanwhile the Raja Bhima, the father of Dama-
yanti, had never ceased to search for the lost prince
and princess, promising rich rewards to any who
should bring him news of them. Messengers were
sent far and wide, but for a long time the steadfast
search was unavailing, until one day one of these
envoys came to the city where Damayanti had
taken refuge and chanced to see her in the company
of the Raja's daughter. She looked worn and weary
with fruitless longing, and of her surpassing beauty
only the brightness of her eyes and her grace of
movement now remained.
"It is indeed the princess herself," said the
messenger. "No man can mistake that nameless
grace in spite of woe and weariness. Ah, noblest,
loveliest, best! You wear no royal robe but that of
constancy, no jewel but that of undying love.
"I will speak to her," he went on, and reverently
approaching the princess he said:
"wife of Nala, I am Sudeva, your brother's
friend and your royal father's messenger, sent to
bring you home."
The eyes of the princess brightened, and eager
138 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
questions broke from her lips. "Is there news of
Nala ? Are my children well, my father, my brother?"
Then it was told to the mother of the Raja that
Damayanti was engaged in eager conversation with a
stranger and she summoned the man to her presence.
There he was bidden to tell all he knew of the
strange lady for Damayanti had only told part of
her story to her new friends in the palace and,
seating himself before the royal mother, he told the
story of the prince and princess so far as it was
known to himself. As the piteous tale was un-
folded the eyes of the listener glistened with unshed
tears of love and sympathy; and when it was ended
she consoled the sorrowing princess with womanly
tenderness and gave orders that she should be at
once conveyed with fitting dignity to Bhima's royal
So Damayanti was brought amid quiet rejoicing
back to her father's house, where she found her
children, father, mother, brothers, and kinsfolk all
well and eager to ease her sorrowing heart. She
greeted them tenderly and graciously, but when the
first glow of happiness was past Damayanti knew
only too well that except she could find Nala life
had no further joy or solace for her.
So the Raja Bhima redoubled his efforts to obtain
news of the missing prince; and he sent messengers
of proved wisdom and valour to question all men as
to his whereabouts, giving them a sentence which they
were to speak without variation when making any
inquiry, so that the words might become well known
NALA THE GAMESTER 139
throughout the land and be repeated so often that
they might haply some day hit the mark and bring
the wanderer home. And the words were:
"By every husband nourished and protected
Should every wife be. Think upon the wood?"
The messengers passed through forests and wood-
lands, towns, cities, and villages, visiting the most
remote haunts of hermits and lonely huts of shep-
herds, ever asking for news of Nala.
After a long time a messenger returned to Dama-
yanti. "One day I came,?' he said, "to the city
of Rituparna, where I spoke the sentence which was
given me. Now in the train of the Raja was a
charioteer whose name was Vahuka, who had great
skill in horsemanship, and he having heard my story
spoke these words to me:
"Although her lord forsook her, she'll not yield
To wrath, even against that vile offender."
The eyes of the listening princess grew suddenly
tender, and graciously thanking the messenger she
sought out Sudeva who had found her in her loneli-
ness and said to him:
"Go to the city of Rituparna and say that with-
out delay a second Swayamvara will be held in
Bhima's royal city, and a second time Damayanti
will choose a husband, since no one knows whether
Nala is alive or dead."
Sudeva set out at once for the city of Rituparna,
and, hearing the news, the Raja bade his charioteer
140 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
prepare to make the journey on the next day. Then
the heart of Vahuka was filled with anguish and
dismay, which was soon succeeded by indignation at
the princess for what he considered her disloyalty.
But, obedient to his master, he prepared the chariot
for the journey, and he drove so swiftly to the festival
that Rituparna was filled with amazement and said
to himself, "Surely no charioteer ever drove so well
since Nala himself held the reins."
He watched the man as he drove with admiration
not unmixed with envy at his skill; and, eager to
show that he too was a master of a difficult art, he
said to Vahuka as he drove swiftly onward:
"How many leaves and fruits have fallen from
"I know not," was the answer.
"Of leaves, one hundred and one," said the
Raja, "and of nuts five score."
"That is indeed wonderful," said the charioteer,
"and I will stop to test the truth of your saying."
Then without heeding his master's anger at the
delay he checked the horses, counted the leaves and
nuts and found the number exact. He climbed
again into the chariot, and said, "Prince, I have
skill with horses and you with numbers. Let us
make exchange of gifts."
The Raja, filled with admiration at the manly
strength and skill of his charioteer, at once consented
to make the exchange and imparted to Vahuka by
a kind of magic power his knowledge of numbers.
Now as soon as Nala felt that he had mastered the
NALA THE GAMESTER 141
art a wonderful change took place; for the evil
spirit Kali who had ruled his life and poisoned all
his thoughts forsook him and stood in visible shape
trembling before him.
"Have mercy, great King," said the god of
chance and hazard. "Spare me in the righteousness
of your wrath, and it shall be that in future years the
mention of your name will be the salvation of all
those who fall into the hands of Kali."
Then the evil spirit, who had only been seen by
Nala, disappeared from sight, and the prince, mount-
ing the chariot once again, urged the horses onward,
swifter than before. His heart was light and his
head was held aloft. But, piteous to tell, he had no
longer the glorious figure of manly strength which
had in the old days won the heart of the beautiful
princess; for his body was gnarled and twisted from
exposure and privation so that it was certain that he
would not be known in the great festival of Dama-
But as Nala entered the city the trampling of his
horses and the rattle of his chariot-wheels recalled
to the mind of many the exploits of horsemanship
for which he had been famous of old; and even
the princess in her bower was reminded by the
sound of her lost lord and master.
"I shall see him to-day," she said, as she
clasped her hands to her bosom, "and, if not, I
shall surely die."
142 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
Now Damayanti had not told her father that she
had sent any message to the city of Rituparna, and
when the Raja went to greet the monarch Bhima the
latter was greatly surprised to see him and to learn
at what a desperate speed he had performed the
journey to the city. But he did not question his
guest as to the reason for his visit, and Rituparna was
conducted to his retiring chamber with the courtesy
and honour due to his rank. Meanwhile Vahuka
took his chariot to the stables, unharnessed and
groomed the horses, and then sat down, alone and
forgotten, upon the driving seat.
The princess had watched the chariot as it drew
near to the window of her bower, and was much
surprised to see that it was driven by a misshapen
charioteer. So when the Raja had himself retired
to rest she sent a maid for the man, intending to
question him. For, strange to say, in spite of his
withered arm and stooping form she felt that he
was in some way connected with the story of her loss.
But she was so disturbed and full of trembling
apprehension, of fear mixed with unreasoning joy
that as the maid turned to do her bidding she called
her back again and told her to question the man
In a few moments the handmaiden returned and
told what she had heard that the man was the
charioteer of Rituparna but that he seemed to know
more than others knew of the story of Nala and
NALA THE GAMESTER 143
Damayanti. Then the princess told her handmaiden
to keep a close watch upon Vahuka and to see that
on no account was he given fire or water. The girl
followed the commands of her mistress very closely
and soon returned with widely-opened eyes of
"What had she seen?" "The man was surely
more than mortal. When he came to a low doorway
he did not stoop, but the lintel raised itself of its own
accord; when he wanted water, if he looked at the
pots, they filled at once to the brim; and when he
wished to cook he obtained fire instantly by holding
out a knot of withered grass in the rays of the sun.
And, strangest of all, he had taken up some withered
flowers and as he idly played with them they became
as fresh as the blossoms of the springtime."
By this time the princess was convinced that the
man was Nala himself, and she sent her handmaid to
bring her from the kitchen some of the meat which
the strange charioteer had cooked. The girl did so,
unknown to the man, and when Damayanti had seen
and tasted the food she broke out into laughing
and weeping, declaring in piteous tones that the
man must be Nala himself.
Next she sent to him by a nurse his own two
children, whom he clasped within his arms and
embraced with tears of love and yearning. Then,
seeing the eyes of Damayanti's handmaid upon him,
he excused himself for his show of feeling by say-
ing that the little ones were wondrously like his
144 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
When this was told to the princess she was
still further convinced, though the altered form of
Nala caused her to entertain a doubt. She now
begged permission of her father to speak to the
charioteer, and in a few moments Nala stood before
her with beating heart and eyes filled with tears,
For a while Damayanti could not speak, but
when she had conquered her emotion she said:
"Did you ever know a man, Vahuka, who left
his wife alone in the woods?" Then she stopped,
while the ready tears coursed down her cheeks and
fell upon her folded hands.
"Not I, but Kali who possessed me," said the
prince, no longer seeking to conceal his identity.
"But now the evil spirit is gone," he went on, "and
the end of all our unhappiness is in sight. Yet tell
me first how you could bear to send out messengers
for a second festival of choosing?"
A tender and somewhat mischievous smile broke
on the face of Damayanti. "My lord," she said, in
pleading tones, happy in his jealousy, "it was only
my woman's wit which prompted the plan. Did I
not know that you would bring the chariot of Ritu-
parna first within these walls?"
Then, wonder of wonders, Nala, having called to
memory the great snake which he had delivered
from the fire, was suddenly changed into his proper
form and stood before his princess strong and
vigorous, kingly and handsome. In a moment
husband and wife were clasped in each other's
NALA THE GAMESTER 145
For a long time they sat without speaking, and
then they began the story of their wanderings, which
lasted for many hours. When it was ended the face
and form of Damayanti were changed and seemed to
take an added beauty from remembrance of the love
and loyalty of her lord.
After a month of rest and peace Nala prepared to
set out for his own city, driving a splendid car which
Bhima had given to him, and accompanied by a
train of sixteen elephants, fifty horsemen, and six
hundred foot soldiers. As soon as he came to his
palace he sought out Pushkara, who, knowing that the
prince had now all knowledge of numbers and
divine power over chance and hazard won for himself
by his sufferings, gave up the inheritance which he
had won by no valour of his own.
So Nala was restored to wealth and happiness,
freed from the gamester's restless craving, and
blessed once more with the loving companionship
of Damayanti and her children.
THE POOL OF ENCHANTMENT
A Tale of the Triumph of Wisdom over Death
THE POOL OF ENCHANTMENT
ONE day King Yudhisthir and his four brothers were
wandering in a forest and were greatly distressed
for want of water. Far and wide they searched,
but without success, and at last they all sat down,
exhausted, beneath the shade of a spreading tree.
Then the king turned to Nakula. "Climb up a
tree," he said, "and look around to north, south, east,
and west; then tell us whether you can see any pool of
water or any plants which will not grow except by the
cooling stream. For if we do not quickly quench
our thirst, we shall surely die."
Without hesitation Nakula obeyed the command
of his eldest brother, and in a few moments called
out in a^ cheerful voice, "I see some plants which
will not grow except by the cooling stream, and I
hear the sound of cranes."
"Go, then," said the king, "and fill your quiver
from the water which gives life to those things."
Nakula at once set out, and in a few moments
found a clear pool filled to the brim and the red-
crested cranes stalking solemnly about near its
margin. He threw himself down to drink of the
150 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
water, but as he did so he heard a solemn Voice
"Drink not, Prince, before you have answered
my question." But Nakula was too much exhausted
with thirst to pay any attention to the warning Voice
and drank eagerly of the cool, refreshing water; and in
a few moments he lay dead among the tall reeds by
the margin of the stream.
For a while the four brothers waited in patience
for the return of Nakula. Then the king said,
"Our brother lingers. Go, Sahadeva, and bring him
back with you, and bring your quiver also full of the
Staggering with weakness, Sahadeva made his
way through the forest and in a few moments he
saw Nakula lying dead among the reeds; but so
great was his thirst that upon seeing the water he
could not wait a moment and flung himself down by
the brink of the pool.
Again the grave, remorseless Voice was heard
breaking the silence of the forest. "Drink not,
Prince, before you have answered my question."
But before the words were spoken the prince had
drunk of the water, and in a few moments he too
lay lifeless among the reeds.
Once again the great king waited with what
patience he could command, and once again he
spoke, this time to his brother Arjun, the mighty
bowman. "Go, Arjun," he said, "and bring back
your brothers, and bring your quiver also full of the
THE POOL OF ENCHANTMENT 151
Arjun lifted up his bow and arrows, and with his
sword in his right hand made for the pool. When he
saw his brothers lying dead among the reeds, he
stood for a moment as if in a trance. Then, like
the warrior that he was, he fitted an arrow to his bow
while his keen eyes pierced the darkness of the
forest in search of the enemy. But when he saw no
sign of man or beast, he too stooped to drink and,
stooping, heard the grave, unpitying Voice which
said, "Drink not, Prince, before you have
answered my question." "?""
Prince Arjun raised his head and spoke in anger.
"Come out," he cried, "and fight with me." Then
he sent arrow after arrow in all directions in the hope
of slaying the unseen foe; but a laugh mocked him
and the remorseless Voice repeated the command,
which the Prince disregarded; he stooped, and drank,
For a while the great king waited, and then turn-
ing to the last of his band of brothers he said, "Bhima,
our brethren do not return. Seek them out, bring
them back, and bring your quiver also full of the
In silence Bhima obeyed the command, and
found his brothers dead among the reeds. "Some
Rakshasa has brought them to their death," he
said, but his thirst was so sore that he could not
resist throwing himself down by the side of the pool,
and, heedless of the grave Voice, he also bent his
head, and drank, and died.
Last of all came the king himself with his dark
THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
brow knitted in perplexity. He saw the welcome
pool shining like a silver mirror in the sunlight, with
its ring of golden cups of the lotus, its margin set
with lilies, reeds, and sweet rose-laurel. Then he
saw his four brothers lying lifeless by the margin,
and in spite of his thirst and weakness he named
each in turn and spoke of the great deeds which had
lifted him above the crowd, bitterly lamenting their
death in such a manner unfitted for warriors of their
strength and skill.
"It is the work of some evil spirit," he said at
last, "for their bodies bear no mark of violence, nor
is the ground around them marked with human
footprints. The water, too, is clear and fresh, no
poison stain cad>be seen upon their faces, and
my great thirst consumes me. I will stoop to
Now as he did so the Spirit took the shape of a
grey red-crested crane, and spoke to him. "I sent
your brothers to their death," he said, "and unless
you can answer my questions, you too, great King,
shall follow where they have gone."
"Who art thou?" asked Yudhisthir boldly.
"Make thyself known and what is required of
"I am no bird," was the reply, "but a Rakshasa ";
and even as he spoke the dreadful Being took shape,
towering above the lofty palm-trees, shining in
splendour brighter than the sun, glowing a ruddy
colour like the evening cloud, and moving to and
fro so as to dazzle the eyes of the beholder.
THE POOL OF ENCHANTMENT 153
"Question me," said the wise king, "for so, it
seems, stands the law; and I will use what wisdom
has been granted to me in mating answer."
The Spirit questions: What is it which helps a
man to keep the soul free from the body, pure and
holy, wise and lofty, rising above the thought of evil
as the crane?'er-tops the reeds ?
The King replies: It is worship, so the holy 1
books inform us, and in the end the purified soul is
freed from the body which encumbers it.
The Spirit questions: How can a man come to
the knowledge of God ?
The King replies: By constant study of the
The Spirit questions: How can a man enjoy
peace, do well the work entrusted to him, avoid sin,
and keep his spirit meek ?
The King replies: By reading the holy books
and by meditating upon their meaning, by avoiding
slander and cruelty, which sears the soul.
The Spirit questions: Who is it that, having all
the appearance of life, does not live at all ?
The King replies: The man who is blessed with
goods and keeps all for himself, caring not for gods,
or guests, or kindred, or friends.
The Spirit questions: What is that which is
heavier than the world ? What mounts higher than
the clouds ? What flies quicker than the winds ?
What grows quicker than grass ?
The King replies: The love of a mother is more
weighty than the earth. A father's fondness reaches
154 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
higher than the heavens. Thought can outstrip the
winds, and sorrow grows quicker than grass.
The Spirit questions: Who sleeps with open
eyes ? What is born alive but does not move ?
What moves without having life within it ? What
grows as it goes ?
The King replies: A fish sleeps with open eye.
An egg is born alive but remains at rest. Stones roll
but have no life. Rivers increase as they move to
The Spirit questions: What is the best help to
goodness ? How can a man win fame ? What is
the best path to heaven ? How shall a man win
The King replies: Strength of will attains to
goodness. Fame can be won with gifts of self.
Truth is the -best path to heaven. A gracious spirit
comes to happiness.
The Spirit questions: What are the second souls
of men ? Who are the best friends ? What is the
greatest of all joys ? How may poor men win
The King replies: A man's sons are his second
souls. His wife is his best friend. Health is the
greatest of joys. A contented spirit is wealth untold.
The Spirit questions: What is the chief of
virtues ? Which is the most fruitful ? What best
can ease deep grief ?
The King replies: Charity is the best of virtues.
Reverence is th?'most fruitful. Conquest of self
THE POOL OF ENCHANTMENT 155
The Spirit questions: What enemy is hardest
to conquer ? \\QiaLJisease Jtasts as
Who is the most upright man?"
The King replies: Anger is man's worst foe.,
The pain_oLgreed never^jforsakes the heart which
hoWsjt He who jgvesjbest is^holie^
is most wicked of all.?'
The Spirit questions: Is a man holy by birth-
right ? Does he make himself holy by reading of the
sacred books or by living a true life ?
The King replies: No man wins holiness except
by his conduct. If a man of an evil nature knew the
holy^books right through, he would still he evil
"Most pious and learned Prince," said the
Rakshasa, "you have replied to my questions with
wisdom and truthfulness. But yet, tell me who
lives although he is dead, and who is greatest and
richest of all men?"
"Though a man's body die, his virtue and good-
ness may survive. He is greatest and richest who
has nothing, needs nothing, and so possesses all."
"Drink of this fair water, King?" said the
Spirit, "and choose which of your four brothers
shall join you again in the joy of life."
"Let Nakula live," said the king, "my beloved
with the eyes of fire and the form of gracefulness."
"Why not Bhima or Arjun?" asked the Spirit.
"I am name?' the Just/ "said the king, "and c the
Jus?' I will remain. Nakula is my half—brother,
while the others are as my own soul. Shall my own
THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
mother see her sons returning in joy while the mothe
of Nakula weeps her loss ? Let Nakula live."
Then the Voice spoke sweetly as the Fora
receded. "Noblest of princes and wisest of men
for thy love and justice all thy brothers here retun
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL
The Tale of a Prince who taught the Law by which all
Men must live
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL
UNDER the southern slopes of the snowy Himalaya
lived a happy race of people who were ruled in
justice and mercy by King Suddhodana and the good
Queen Maya; and when a son was born to the
royal pair there was great rejoicing in the palace,
for the soothsayers had promised the new-born
prince all the seven gifts of perfect kingship.
The king gave orders that his royal city should
keep high festival in honour of the birth of the prince,
who was to bear the name of Siddartha. The streets
were therefore diligently swept and sprinkled with
rose-water, the trees were hung with lamps and flags,
and a whole army of entertainers was hired by the
royal host to amuse the people. There came also
into the city a numerous company of merchantmen,
bringing rich gifts for the prince in trays of gold as
a mark of gratitude for the king's good government,
which made possible their peaceful and profitable
Among the . strangers who came to the festival
was a grey-haired holy man, who, by his long and
austere life, had acquired heavenly wisdom far beyond
i6o THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
that of any saint known in his day. The king and
queen greeted him with special reverence, and made
haste to lay the new-born prince at his feet. When
he saw the boy he bowed before him, touching the
dust eight times with his forehead as he would do in
worship before the gods; and he murmured holy
greetings which filled those who stood near him with
wonder and with awe. "Thou shalt preach the
Law," he said, "and save all men who learn the
Law, though I shall never hear; for I shall die too
soon, though of late I have longed to pass away."
Now when Prince Siddartha was seven days old
his mother died, and the care of the child passed into
the hands of the king, who lavished every kind of
tenderness upon the motherless child, and tended
him in person until the time came when he thought
it wise to seek a tutor for the boy. He called a
council of his wisest men and asked them who was
to have charge of the young prince's education.
They at once named a sage who had a reputation
throughout the world for his intimate knowledge of
the holy books, who was, moreover, learned in the
subjects which enlist the interest, uplift the mind,
and satisfy the soul of mortal men, and who knew also
how to teach the prince the use of his hands.
The next day the sage came to the palace, and the
prince was at once sent to receive his instructions.
His father had given the boy a slate of ox-red sandal-
wood, set all round the frame with precious stones,
and sprinkled smooth with emery dust, upon which
the little pupil was to trace his letters or figures as
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 161
required. The first lesson was what we call dicta-
tion, and it lasted a very short time, for whatever
verses from the holy books the sage recited were
at once set down in writing by this wonderful pupil.
"It is enough," said the astonished teacher at last.
"Let us proceed to a lesson in counting. Repeat
your numbers in due order one, two, three, four, to
ten, and then by tens to hundreds, and to thousands."
The pupil began and exceeded his instructions, for he
went on to the numbers which are used to enumerate
the grains in heaps of finest dust, then to those which
are used to note the stars at night, and finally those
which are only necessary in counting the drops of
the ocean. "I could go further," softly murmured
the child, "and give you those numbers which tell of
all the drops that in ten thousand years would fall
on all the world in daily rain."
"It is enough," said the sage, falling upon his
face in reverence before his pupil. "You are the
teacher of your teachers, and I worship you, sweet
Prince. You come to my school to show that you
possess all knowledge without the need of books,
and that you know what is still better worth knowing
how to reverence those older than yourself."
The teacher went his way, and Prince Siddartha
was given into the charge of skilful men, whose know-
ledge was not of books but of the chase and of all
forms of manly exercise. And no bolder horseman
in the band of youthful pupils ever rode forth to
hunt; no more skilful driver of the chariot ever
drove his car in triumph and boyish enjoyment
162 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
round the palace courts. But in the hunt the boy
would often pause when the chase was hottest to
let the deer pass free; or he would stop just when
he seemed likely to win a chariot-race because
the gallant horses appeared to be straining them-
selves too much; and then he would stand looking
straight before him with wistful gentle eyes as in a
One beautiful day in the spring-time he stood in
the royal garden, and happening to look upwards
saw a flock of wild swans heading northwards to
their nesting-places on the side of the snowy Hima-
laya, and as they flew onward he heard the love-notes
pass down the winged line. Then his cousin, Deva-
detta, drew his bow and carelessly shot an arrow, which
struck the wide wing of the leader, and the bird fell
into the garden near the two princes. It was not
killed, but its beautiful plumage was stained with
drops of scarlet blood. Prince Siddartha took up
the bird with tender care, and sitting down with
ankles crossed his favourite attitude tried to soothe
with tender words and gentle caresses the wild
thing's fright. The bird, after a few nervous flutter-
ings, settled down under his left hand, while with
his right the prince drew the cruel arrow from the
wound, which he dressed with cool, green leaves,
anointed with honey. The boy, up to this moment,
had known nothing of pain, but as he lifted up the
arrow it happened to scratch his wrist, and he winced
as he felt the sting. Then, understanding in some
degree what the innocent creature had suffered, he
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 163
fondled and soothed it once more with renewed
A messenger then came from his cousin, who had
gone away in disgust at what he considered Prince
Siddartha's weakness, to ask that the swan which
he had shot should be sent to him. But the prince
refused on the ground that the bird was not dead.
"My cousin," he said sadly, "has merely destroyed
the glorious speed with which the bird winged its
way through the air."
Then Devadetta came to plead his own cause.
"The bird belonged to no one in the clouds," he
reasoned, "but being now on the ground it is the
property of him who brought it down." Then
Siddartha laid his smooth cheek against the swan's
downy neck. "No," he said gently, "the bird is
mine by right of mercy and the lordliness of love;
but if the matter is to be in dispute let us submit it
to the wise men." This was done at once, and one
sage said this, the other that, until an unknown man
arose who said, "He who saves a life owns it, not he
who seeks to destroy it. Give Prince Siddartha the
bird, for it is his own." This was done, and the king
turned to reward the unknown counsellor, but no one
could see him; but as they looked round the council
hall they saw a snake glide silently over the threshold
and quickly lose itself among the thick bushes of the
palace garden; and all remembered that the gods
sometimes take this form. Next day the prince set
free the bird, which was now quite healed of its
wound, and watched with pleasure, keener even than
164 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
that of a victorious hunter, how it mounted quickly
through the air and joined its companions, which had
hovered about the neighbourhood as if in search of
their lost leader.
A little later the prince rode out with his father,
who wished to show him the scenes of happy country
life which gladden the hearts of the best when the
winter has passed away and spring appears once
more. The prince noted the country folk at their
work, the mating birds in the forest, the villagers
following their varied occupations, and under the
spring sun all seemed beautiful, bright, and happy.
But the boy saw into the heart of things more deeply
even than his wise father. He saw how the sower
and the ploughman were forced to work far beyond
their strength in the effort to gain a scanty livelihood,
how the animals and birds and fishes fought and
preyed upon each other, and these things filled his
heart with pity and sorrow. So he reined in his
horse, sat down with ankles crossed, and fell into
deep meditation on these weighty matters. He sat
there thinking until long past noon, and, wonderful
to relate, the shadow of the tree under which he sat
did not move that day, and one who passed by and
noticed this strange thing heard a voice, which
whispered, "Let the prince alone, for till the shadow
leaves his heart my shadow will not move."
When Prince Siddartha came to the age of eighteen
years the king gave orders for the building of three
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 165
houses one of wooden beams and cosily lined with
cedar wood, to provide a protection against the cold
of winter; one of marble, cool and pleasant, to form
a summer retreat; and one of brick, ornamented
with tiles, to afford a pleasant place from which the
varied scenes of the opening year could be observed.
These houses were set in the midst of a large and
pleasant garden with shady walks, fair lawns, and
cooling streams, and the estate was given to Prince
Siddartha for his own use and enjoyment. He
found much pleasure in the king's gift, and showed
true appreciation of it; but though life seemed to
have showered upon the young prince every possible
advantage, he was often very pensive and sad.
The king noticed this sadness, as indeed he could
scarcely help doing, and calling together his ministers,
he asked their advice upon the matter. He hoped to
make his son a king of kings, a ruler of the rulers of the
earth. Was this to be his destiny, or did his quietness
and sadness foretell that his rule would be rather over
the hearts and souls of men ?
"Seek a wife for him," said one of the sages,
rather abruptly?"he will forget his sadness in the
joy of her beauty and grace. Command a festival
and summon to it the fairest maidens in the land.
Let them contend in graceful exercises, and let the
prince award and present the prizes. Then as the
maidens pass before his seat it will be strange indeed
if some one among them does not please him."
This advice seemed good to all the council, and
the festival of maidens was proclaimed without
166 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
delay. They came in troops in answer to the call,
with dark hair smoothly braided and dressed in
shawls and robes of gayest hue, their slender toes and
finger-tips fresh stained with crimson dye. The prince
sat on his throne looking at them pleasantly but coldly,
like one who stood aloof from all the world; and
when a beautiful maiden came up to him, and the
people around proclaimed her as more lovely than
all the rest and more worthy of the richest prize,
the prince gazed upon her with such an expression
of lofty dignity mingled with gentle courtesy that
the girl, after giving him one shy glance, fled back to
the company of her mates with evident relief.
The presentation of prizes was drawing to a close,
and to the despair of the king's counsellors Prince
Siddartha had not yet shown any special favour to
one of the maidens; but the last maiden of the band
drew near, whose name was Yasodhara, and those
about the prince saw him give a sudden start. She
was indeed a girl of the rarest beauty, who, unlike
the others, looked steadily in the face of the young
prince, and, folding her arms across her bosom, asked
in a low sweet voice, "Is there a gift for me?"
"They have all been bestowed," said the princely
youth, "but take from me this gift of my own to
make amends." Thereupon he unfastened an emerald
necklet which he wore about his throat and clasped
it round her waist; and as he looked at her he knew
that she was the bride for him.
Then the ministers, who had carefully noted all
that had passed, went off in great haste to tell the
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 167
king, who was delighted at the success of the plan,
and at once sent messengers to the father of Yaso-
dhara to ask the hand of his daughter in marriage.
"It is the custom," said the father of the girl,
"that when a maiden of such a noble -house as mine
is asked in marriage, the suitor shall first prove his
skill in the arts of war, and this good custom cannot
be broken even for a king so powerful as the father
of Prince Siddartha. Let the youth show his strength
in the bending of the bow. Let him wield the sword
and manage a horse better than the crowd of suitors
who already seek my child in marriage. He must be
best among the best or he is not fit for the best of all
maidens; and how he can prove his manliness after
a life of contemplation more fitting for a hermit than
a prince I, for one, fail to see."
When this message was reported to the king he
was very sad, for he knew that the foremost warriors
of the day had come to ask the hand of Yasodhara,
and he had little confidence in the manly powers of
his son. But the prince himself laughed low when
he heard what message had been brought by his
father's envoys, and he said to those about him, "I
have learned these arts also, and I do not think I
shall lose my love for all the warriors of greatest
renown." Then it was announced that seven days
later the Prince Siddartha would be prepared to
meet all comers to match his skill against theirs
for the prize of prizes, the beautiful Yasodhara.
On the appointed day the suitors came together,
and the maiden was taken to the place of meeting
i68 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
dressed as a bride and surrounded by her kinsfolk.
The prince came too, riding his white horse Kantaka,
and as he passed along his eyes lingered longest upon
the common people , who had come in great crowds
to see the contest; nor could he help thinking that,
after all, these people, like kings and nobles, had their
joys and sorrows which also filled their lives but
which were of little consequence in the eyes of the
world. Then his eyes fell upon Yasodhara, and
smiling gently he leapt to the ground and said aloud,
"He is not worthy of this pearl of pearls who is not
worthiest; let my rivals prove if I have dared too
much in seeking her."
Then three of the suitors came up to the line
for the arrow test and shot so far and so true to the
mark that the princess dropped her golden .veil over
her eyes as if she could not bear to see the arrow of
her lover fail But Prince Siddartha gave orders for
his target to be set up at such a distance that it
seemed like a mere cowrie shell to those who stood
near the mark. Then he took up the strong bow
provided for him and strung it with such strength
that it snapped in two. "This bow is for play and
not for love," he said. "Is there no bow here which
is fit for a warrior to wield?"
"There is a bow in the temple," he was told,
"which no one yet known can string, nor draw when
it is strung." "Fetch me," said the prince, "that
weapon of a man." Then they brought the ancient
bow, which was made of steel as black as ebony, and
the prince challenged his rivals to the use of it.
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 169
But they failed in the task, and, with a happy smile of
boyish triumph upon his face, Siddartha raised it,
fitted an arrow, and sent it through the air like a
lightning flash. It struck his far-off target, pierced
it through, and skimmed along the plain for a great
distance before it finally came to rest.
The three suitors, still undaunted, came now to
the sword contest, and showed marvellous strength
and skill in cleaving with one blow the trunk of a
tree, the wood of which was particularly tough and
unyielding. Then Siddartha selected two of these
trees which grew close together and clove them both
at one blow with perfect ease. So smooth was the
cut that the upper part of the trees did not fall from
their erect position, and the princess began to think
that the edge of her prince's sword had failed. But
as they watched, a gentle breeze sprang up, and the
trees swayed for a moment and then fell, amid the
loud shouts of all the beholders.
Then the rivals mounted their horses and a race
began, in which Kantaka easily outstripped the others.
"These steeds are tame," said one of the suitors;
"fetch an unbroken charger and put the matter to a
man's test." So they brought a fierce-eyed horse
which no man yet had ridden and which was with
difficulty restrained by three chains of ponderous
weight. With manly courage the three rivals of
Siddartha tried to ride the furious beast, but all were
thrown, and one who showed most endurance,
strength, and skill was only saved from being
trampled to death by the help of the sturdy grooms.
iyo THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
Then Prince Siddartha stepped up to the in-
furiated animal and, taking it by the forelock, spoke
a gentle word in its quivering ear and laid his right
palm across its eyes. Next he drew his hand softly
down its face and along its neck and sides. In a few
moments the animal stood calm and subdued, and
did not stir even when the prince mounted upon its
back. Then, obedient to the touch of his knee, it
moved quietly across the plain.
A great shout now arose for the victor Siddartha,
and it was suggested to the suitors that further contest
would be useless. They agreed to waive their
claims, reluctantly enough, and the father of the
princess commended the victor, adding the remark
that how a prince reared in a garden and spending his
youth among bowers of roses could have learnt such
mastery of the manly arts> passed all comprehension
of mortal men.
Then at a given signal from her father, Yasodhara
rose in her place and, taking a crown of flowers in her
hand, stepped down and advanced slowly and grace-
fully to meet her lover, who stood at the side of the
black horse which he had just tamed by his gentle-
ness. She bowed before the prince with unveiled
face and flung the garland of fragrant flowers about
his neck. Then for a moment only she laid her
head upon his breast, and, stooping, touched his feet
as she murmured gently, "Dear Prince, behold me,
who am all thine own." At once the prince took the
maiden by the hand, and when she had once more
covered her face with her veil of black and gold the
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 171
happy pair passed slowly through the thronging crowd,
who rejoiced loudly in the issue of that day. In due
time the wedding feast was celebrated with all the
customary rites, and the father of Yasodhara finally
gave the maiden into the keeping of the young
prince. "She that was ours," he said, "henceforth
is only thine. Be good to her for her life is wrapped
up in thee." Then Siddartha took his bride to a
beautiful pavilion which the king had erected as a
pleasure palace at the foot of the snowy Hima-
Every effort was made to surround the prince with
all that was pleasant and agreeable, and the king
gave strict orders that among the young men and
maidens who formed the household of the princely
pair no mention should be made of death or age,
sorrow, or pain, or sickness. If one of the attendants
fell sick, he or she must leave that happy place at
once. It was counted treason if a silver hair appeared
among the tresses of a dancing girl, and she was at
once removed. Each morning the dying roses were
plucked from the trees and the dead leaves were
carefully hidden. For the king was determined
that no sign of decay or sadness should cause the
prince to assume that wistfulness which had cast a
shadow upon his youth before his happy union with
Yasodhara. "So shall I see him grow fit to become
the king of kings and glory of his time," said the
monarch to himself, using words of which he little
knew the meaning. And as a last precaution he
built around the pavilion and its gardens a massive
172 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
wall, and in the wall a gate with folding doors of
brass, so heavy that it took fifty men to move it.
Within this gate he built a second and within that
again a third, and the stern order issued to the three
bands of warders was, "Let no man pass this triple
gate, even if the prince himself should sue you for
permission to go through."
The days passed in gentle quietness undisturbed
by the troubles and chances of the outside world;
but occasionally when the prince rested from the
noonday heat Yasodhara would hear him murmur
gently, "My world! I hear! I know! I come?"
Then the bride's eyes would open wide in fear, and
she would ask, "What ails my lord?" for his look
was so lofty and remote that for the moment he
seemed more than mortal. But, gently soothing her,
he would call for music, and the young pair took
almost childish delight in setting up on the window-
ledge a gourd with strings through which the gentle
breezes played the sweetest melodies. To the young
bride the sounds were sweet enough, but to the
bridegroom the airs played by the breezes seemed to
come direct from heaven itself, not with soothing
sweetness, but as a call to action.
"We are the voices of the wandering wind:
Wander thou too, Prince, thy rest to find;
Leave love for love of lovers, for woe's sake
Quit state for sorrow, and deliverance make."
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 173
The words of the song seemed to haunt the ears of
the prince, and one morning he gave orders for his
chariot to be prepared in order that he might go
forth and see the world. News was brought to the
king of his son's intention, and he made the best of
the situation by giving consent to the prince's excur-
sion, and sent his servants into the streets of his
royal city to make the following proclamation:
"Hear, ye citizens. It is the king's command that
during this day there shall be seen in the city no
blind, maimed, sick, or aged person, no leper or
funeral ceremony. Let the streets be swept,
watered, and perfumed, and red powder sprinkled on
the steps of your houses. Let the trees be decked
with flags and the idols freshly gilded."
The royal commands were instantly obeyed, and
when the prince drove forth in his painted car drawn
by two white humped oxen, the people greeted him
with shouts of joy and welcome. "The world is
beautiful after all," said the prince to those about
him. "I pray you, take up that pretty boy who
threw flowers to us and let him ride in my car."
This was done at once, the child showing quiet
pleasure at the novelty of his situation, and the little
procession passed onward amid shouts of apprecia-
tion at the gracious condescension of the prince.
But in a moment the happy throng was checked by
an old man clad in dirty evil-smelling rags, who
crept from a hovel by the roadside and made his way
with pain and labouring effort to the edge of the crowd
around the car of the prince. In piteous tones he
i 7 4 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
begged for alms, and as he spoke a racking cough
almost choked him. "Get to thy den," muttered
those nearest to the old man, "before the prince
shall see thy misery." But before he could be hustled
out of sight the prince did indeed see him, and began
to question the driver of his car about him. "He is
old and worn,' 5 said the man, making light of his
misery, "and he has had his day. Why should the
Prince trouble himself about him?" "Then shall
all who now are young and happy come at last to
this?" asked the prince. "Even so," said the man,
"Shall it be thus with me, and with Yasodhara, and
with this happy child here in my car?" he went on.
"It shall be so indeed," was the reply. "Then turn
and drive me home again," said the prince, with a
wistful look in his eyes and a cloud across his brow.
The man obeyed, and in spite of all the efforts of
the attendants in the high-walled palace of pleasure
there was no happiness for the prince that day/
As evening drew on Yasodhara sank at his feet and
cried, "Hath not my lord comfort in me?" "We
shall grow old, my bride," said Siddartha, with a
frown upon his brow, "old and ugly and all my
thoughts are how to cheat Time of his victory." And
through all the night he sat with ankles crossed,
sleepless and refusing to be comforted. News was
brought to the king of his son's sadness, but all that
he could think of was to double the guard at the
triple gateway in the ponderous wall of the palace of
A few days later the prince sent a message to the
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 175
king, begging for leave to see the city in its usual
state. "I ought to know my people and their
simple ordinary ways and learn the nature of the
lives of those who are neither kings nor princes,"
The king wisely gave his consent, but consoled him-
self with the thought that familiarity with scenes of
unhappiness and misery would perhaps prevent the
prince from thinking too deeply upon them. So on
the next day the prince, disguised as a merchant,
went out with a companion named Channa who
was dressed as a clerk, and the two took their way
on foot into the town, where they mingled with the
crowds in the busy streets.
They saw the traders sitting cross-legged among
their wares, and the buyers driving their hard
bargains. They heard the hoarse shouts to clear
the road when some lordly person was driven by
on an elephant, or a closed litter was borne quickly
past to the tune of the bearers' song. Here was a
housewife bearing water from the well with her black-
eyed children balanced on her hips. There was a
weaver busy at his loom, there a woman grinding
corn between the millstones, and in a quiet side-street
a barber attending to the toilet of a customer. They
peeped into a school and saw the children seated in
a half-moon round their teacher while they chanted
their verses in a childish sing-song.
These and many other sights of daily life they
saw, and they noted all with the keen interest of
travellers from a far-off land. Now as they passed
along they heard a mournful voice which cried,
176 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
"Help, masters! lift me to my feet; oh, help! or
I shall die before I reach my home?"
They looked down and saw a poor plague-
stricken wretch writhing in the dust at their feet, the
sweat standing in great beads upon his brow, while
his mouth twitched with the agony of his sufferings.
The prince ran forward at once, and tenderly raising
the man, laid his head upon his knee and gently
tried to soothe him, but in his ignorance of disease
and pain he was not able to be of any real help to the
sufferer. "What is it, Channa?" he asked in anxious
tones. "What makes him writhe and moan?"
"He is stricken with some foul disease, 55 was the
reply, "and it must work its way with him before
death brings him sweet relief. But, my Prince, it is
not good that you should hold him so, for the disease
may pass from him to you. 55
"Are there others like him ? 55 asked the prince,
paying no heed to his companion^ warning, "and
shall I come to a like condition?" "Sickness
comes to all men," said his companion, "and it
comes like the sly snake at times, to strike when
one is least prepared. 35 "And what comes at the
end of all?" asked the prince. "Death, 5—5 was the
The eyes of the prince suddenly filled with tears,
and he turned his face upwards to the sky as if he
saw some vision. "At last," he said, "my eyes are
opened. I am as other men, prone to sickness,
liable to death. Yet there must be help for all, for if
I were one of the gods I would not let one cry who
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 177
needed help. Channa, lead me home again. I have
So they took their way back to the palace of
pleasure, and when the king heard what had passed
he set a still stronger guard upon the triple gate.
Through many hours of contemplation it was
borne in upon the heart of Prince Siddartha that his
life within the palace of pleasure, guarded by the
lofty wall and shut in by the triple gate, was utterly
unworthy of him. He was at heart by no means
weary of his lovely home, its smiling gardens, its
palaces enriched with all that the greatest artists
could conceive and execute, its laughing, joyous
attendants and the tender love of his youthful bride.
These things filled him with joy for which there is no
expression, but the sorrows of the outer world called
him insistently, urged him to leave all that was
pleasant and ennervating, and to take a part in righting
wrongs and relieving the burden of the world. The
great decision was reached one night when all but
the prince were sunk in peaceful slumber. The
midnight sky sparkled with countless stars, and the
cool air fanned the flushed cheeks and brow of the
prince as he took his solemn vow of renunciation,
while Yasodhara slept.
"summoning stars, I come! mournful earth!
For thee and thine I lay aside my youth,
My throne, my joys, my golden days, my nights,
178 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
My happy palace and thine arms, sweet Queen!
Harder to put aside than all the rest!
Yet thee, too, I shall save, saving this earth;
Now am I fixed, and now I will depart,
Never to come again, till what I seek
Be found if fervent search and strife avail."
Then bending down he touched the feet of Yaso-
dhara with his brow, and fondly gazed upon her as
she slept in peace. Three times he tried to leave her
but thrice came back. Then with one last lingering
look he passed out of the house into the quiet garden,
where, looking upward, he seemed to see the stars
still beckoning to him, while the gentle wind fluttered
the fringe of his robe. A soft and soothing sound as
of gentle music from the skies seemed to whisper in
his ears, and the blossoms of the garden unfolded
their petals to send forth odours of heavenly fragrance.
For a short time he stood as if to gather strength
and inspiration for his mission. Then, rousing him-
self, he walked rapidly towards the place where
Channa slept and in a sharp tone of command bade
him awake and bring out his charger Kantaka.
The charioteer rose slowly from his couch.
"Why does my lord desire to ride when all the
world is asleep?" he asked in wondering drowsi-
"Speak low," said the prince, "and bring my
horse, for the hour is come when I must leave this
golden prison to go in search of the Truth."
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 179
"Will you let the world slip from your grasp,"
asked Channa, "to hold a beggar's bowl?"
"The kingdom that I seek," was the answer, "is
greater than all the realms of earth. Bring me forth
"Thy father," said Channa timidly, "what of
"I go to save him also," was the quiet reply.
"Bring me forth Kantaka."
The man made no reply, but, entering the stable,
saddled and bridled the snowy charger and led him
quietly to the place where the prince awaited him.
When the noble horse saw his master he neighed
joyously, and then all had been discovered if the
celestial messengers who hovered unseen over that
quiet place during all this fateful night had not laid
their downy wings upon the ears of the sleepers and
kept the secret sure.
"I go, Kantaka," said the prince, softly caressing
his charger, "the farthest journey ever rider rode.
Be fierce and bold and stay not though a thousand
swords should bar the path. Outstrip the whirl-
wind's flight, be fire and tempest! Help me to
help mankind nay, more than mankind all living
Then the prince sprang lightly to the saddle,
and though Kantaka's hoofs rang loudly on the stones
none heard him, for the celestial messengers plucked
flowers of blood-red hue and sprinkled them before
him; and when he reached the triple gate the doors
rolled noiselessly back, and a slumberous breeze
i8o THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
sprang up which wrapped the guards in heavy
sleep. So the prince passed out from the palace of
pleasure with Channa close at his charger's heels,
rode some distance from the gateway, and then dis-
mounting as the morning dawned, kissed Kantaka
between the eyes. "Lead back my horse, Channa,"
he said, "and take with you these royal robes, for
which I have no further use, my sword belt and the
sword with which I sever here the long locks from
my brow. Give them all to the king, and tell him
that I will return when by service I have won the
right and power to rule, when I am ready to save the
world by casting away all that I call my own."
In the side of a mountain, away from the dwellings
of men, but within sight and sound of the green
town ruled by King Bimbisara, there was a cave
whose entrance was gently guarded by the drooping
boughs of a wild fig-tree; and here Prince Siddartha
made his home, dressed in the yellow robe of a
mendicant, living on what he could beg from the
charitable, sunk in silent meditation, and during
the heat of the day sitting, with ankles crossed, so
still that the shy squirrel would often leap upon his
knee, the timid quail would lead her young between
his feet, and the gentle doves peck at the rice grains
in the wooden bowl beneath his hand.
He was known as a Rishi in the town beneath
his retreat, and whenever he came into the streets
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 181
holding his begging-bowl before him, the people
made haste to fill it, for they loved the mild expression
of his countenance, and as he passed the mothers
would command their little ones to stoop and kiss
his feet, or to lift with reverence the hem of his robe
to their smooth foreheads, or to do him some little
kindly service, such as filling his jar or fetching
him milk and cakes; and the gentle maidens, gazing
at his manly form, his uplifted head and princely
carriage, would silently pray that the love of their
hearts should be fixed upon one so noble and so
good. So, unconsciously, without a word of speech
but with all gentle quietness, he raised the hearts
of men and women, and enriched their souls with
heaven's own radiance. Then he would leave the
town and go back to his cave, where, after a time, he
was visited by holy men with whom he would discuss
matters of life and death and judgment.
Half-way between his retreat and the town there
was a colony of those men who use every art to
torture their bodies in the hope of saving their
souls. One day the prince visited one of these men
and said to him, "My brother, why do you add
to the pains of life which is in itself so painful ?
Tell me, for I am one who seeks the Truth."
"It is only by the torture of the flesh," was the
reply, "that the soul gains power to live."
"It is a strange belief," said the prince, "to
spoil the fair house in order to save its inmate."
Then the ascetics cried out upon him, "This is our
road of life, and we will tread it to the end though
182 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
all its stones were glowing coals. Tell us of a more
excellent path if indeed you know of one. If not,
leave us in such peace as we can win."
The prince passed sadly onward, but as he looked
upon the flowers of the field holding up their bright
faces to the sun, the waving palm-trees whispering
of happy peace, and the mating birds nesting in
their shade, he seemed to see a world of better
things than self-inflicted torments. And as he stood
in silent musing he saw slowly approaching him a
number of goats and sheep coming down with the
herdsmen as if to pasture on the plains. There
was a ewe with twin lambs among the woolly flock,
and the prince noticed that one little lamb had been
hurt and limped bleeding behind its mother, which
bleated piteously as if asking some kind heart for
help. Then the prince raised the lamb in his arms
and put it across his shoulders. "Peace, silly
mother," he said in soothing tones, "I will bear
your burden. Surely it is as good to ease one heart
of grief as to sit in yonder caverns watching and
thinking without seeking in some degree, however
slight, to soften the sorrows of the world."
^ As he walked along with the little lamb across
his shoulders, the prince asked the herdsmen why
they were taking their flocks down into the valley
before evening, which was the time for leading them
to the folds. "We have been bidden, Master,"
they said, "to provide for the king a sacrifice of a
hundred sheep and as many goats."
"I will go down with you to this ceremony,"
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 183
said the prince, and they were quite content, for they
felt somehow that whatever this man should do at
any time would be right and wise; and whenever
they spoke to him they addressed him as Master,
a name which his dignity and air of authority,
along with his gentle courtesy, had earned for
him among all men and women with whom he
Now when they came down to the bank of the
river there met them a young woman whom the
Master had seen some days before; for she had
come to his cave with her little boy, who had been
stung by a serpent, asking him to tell her of some-
thing which would cure the child; and he had told
her to go and get black mustard-seed, but not to
take it from any house in which there had been a
This woman now came forward asking the Master
whether he remembered what had happened, and he
at once smiled gently but sadly in recognition, asking
her whether she had found the seed.
"I went from house to house and from hut to
hut," she answered, "asking for the black mustard-
seed, and there were many willing "enough to give
it, but when I asked whether Death had visited the
house I found that his visits had been only too
frequent not a home but had been saddened by
his call. So, again and again, while my boy grew
colder and colder at my bosom, I gave back the
seed, for I could not find a single house where none
had died. So I left my child by the side of the
184 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
stream and came to you to ask where I might find
the seed and yet find no death,"
"Sister," said the Master gently, as one speaks
in a house of death, "when you brought the child
to me yesterday I knew him to be dead and beyond
the recall even of thy great love; and I took this
means of showing you how the whole world weeps
with you. Learn that the grief which all hearts
share grows less for one,"
Then the Master went on his way with the herds-
men until at last they came to the gates of the city,
where the guards stood aside when they saw the
prince with the lamb across his shoulders; and as
they passed through the crowded streets the people
paused in their occupations to watch so strange a
sight. "Who is this gracious lord," they asked,
"with eyes so sweet and tender?" And others
said that it was the holy man who lived in the cave
upon the hill-side. But the Master walked onward,
paying no heed to any of them. "Alas?" he said
to himself, "for those sheep of mine who have no
shepherd, wandering in the night with none to
Meanwhile a messenger had gone on in advance
to tell the king that a holy man was coming to the
sacrifice bearing a lamb upon his shoulders. In a
short time the Master reached the place where the
priests were offering the sacrifice, while the blood
of the innocent victims ran down from the smoking
altar in a scarlet stream. The priest was just about
to kill a goat when the Master stepped forward
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 185
and, with a quiet gesture of command, stopped him.
He seemed so great and so full of divine authority
that no one questioned his right to give commands,
and when all looked at him in amazement and
reverence he spoke to them of life which all can
take so readily but which none have the power to
bestow as a gift. Every creature, he said, loved
its life and strove to keep it, even the meanest and
poorest of the earth, and it was a foolish idea to
think that any man could set right the wrong which
his sins had worked by spilling the blood of innocent
trustful animals such as the lamb which he had
carried on his shoulders from the mountains. He
spoke so gently and in such pleading tones that
the priests found themselves unconsciously drawing
their robes over their blood-stained hands, and the
king came forward to the Master with a look of
reverence to hear more clearly, and without missing
a word, the wonderful discourse in which he pleaded
for peace and goodwill henceforward between men
and the living creatures which they could make
to bow to their will. At last the priests in a frenzy
of sorrow and repentance scattered the flaming
embers from the altars and flung away the sacrificial
knives; and next day the king made a decree that
the sacrifice should be no longer known among
them, and that men should dwell in peace and
amity with all the rest of living creatures.
The king now took pains to make the further
acquaintance of the Master, and was astonished to
learn that a man of royal birth should become a
186 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
hermit and live a life of such stern self-denial.
"Your hands," he said, "were never meant to
grow thin and transparent under the rigour of the
fast, but to wield the sceptre of a world-wide empire.
I have no son to follow me. Stay with me, teach
my people wisdom, and when I die rale them in
"I had all these powers in my hands," said Prince
Siddartha, "and renounced them to seek the Truth,
which indeed I am still seeking, and will seek
though the door of Heaven should open and celestial
beings beckon me within. My mission is to form
and rule no earthly monarchy however great and
wide, but the Kingdom of the Law. There is yet
light to reach and truth to win, and I go hence to
seek it. If I find it, however, I will surely return
to you and repay you for your love and kindness."
So the Master passed onward, having found after
six years' stay in that place only brief glimpses of
the Truth and of the working of that Law by which
all men must live.
To the north-west of the Ganges valley lies a
thorny waste broken with sandhills, and on the edge
of it a fresh green wood through which flows a quiet
stream dappled with blossoms of the lotus flower
and full of glancing fish and tortoises. Near this
river stood the village of Senani, a small place of
humble huts roofed with grass, inhabited by peaceful
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 187
tillers of the soil who knew nothing of the ways of
Here Prince Siddartha made his home, living
once more as a hermit, and so wrapped in medita-
tion that he took no thought for the needs of the
body; and after a long course of self-denial and self-
forgetfulness he fell one day into a deep swoon of
exhaustion. He was found in this state by a shepherd
boy, who made a bower of branches from a wild
apple-tree to shade his face and head from the
burning rays of the sun, and poured drops of warm
milk upon his lips. Now as the boy performed
these acts of charity he was astonished to see the
simple shelter which he had woven become a lovely
bower of living branches which burst forth into
glowing blossoms closely interlaced. Revived by
the, shade and the refreshment, the Master awoke
and graciously thanked the youth for his timely
help . Then he asked for more milk, but the shepherd
was unwilling to come nearer to the holy man who
seemed so princely, and so far removed from him
in rank and dignity. But the Master reassured
him, saying that kindness such as he had shown
was the great leveller and that he would be proud
to drink from his shepherd's bottle.
On the next day a band of dancing girls passed by
the retreat of the prince, the silver bells at their
ankles chiming soft peals as they leapt lightly from
ledge to ledge of the rocky pathway which led
downward to the village. They were accompanied
by a man who carried a stringed instrument known
i88 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
as a sitar, and as they came he played a merry air to
which one of the girls was singing. The song was
one of pleasure, and one of the verses ran:
"The string?'erstretched breaks, and the music
The string?'erslack is dumb, and music dies;
Tune us the sitar neither low nor high."
The words reached the ears of the holy man, who
in his humility was ready to learn a lesson even from
this careless band. "The foolish at times can teach
the wise," he said to himself?" it may be that I
strain my string of life too much, and that in trying
to save all men I shall only succeed in losing my-
Now the village of Senani was owned by a rich
and kindly landowner, after whom the place had been
named, and who with his beautiful wife was well
known for his charity and condescension. He lived
a life of quiet happiness clouded only by the fact
that he had no son. For a long time his wife prayed
to the gods for this inestimable gift, and at last, be-
cause she was so kind and gracious to the poor, and so
well fitted to rear and instruct a boy and to lead him
on from virtuous youth to vigorous manhood, a son
was sent to her, and the joy of herself and her lord
was almost beyond all bounds. She took the first
opportunity of going to the woods to offer, accord-
ing to the custom in which she had been reared, a
thank-gift to the gods, which she carried in a dainty
bowl upon her head, while her right arm encircled
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 189
the baby boy who nestled cosily to his mother's side,
wrapped round by her delicate veil.
She sent a servant before her to sweep a path
for her feet and to tie scarlet threads about the tree
which stood near the shrine of the woodland god;
and as she drew near to the place she saw, to her
surprise, the figure of Prince Siddartha sitting
wrapt in contemplation with his ankles crossed
and his hands upon his knees. She thought, of
course, that this was surely the wood-god himself,
and drawing near to the Master she bent and kissed
the ground before him, asking him in humble tones
to accept her gift of snow-white curds freshly made
with milk as white as new-carved ivory.
The prince spoke not a single word, and when the
mother had anointed his hands with attar of roses
from a golden flask, he ate the refreshing curds and
felt new life run through his veins.
"Hath my gift found favour?" asked the mother
in a trembling voice of touching sweetness, and when
the prince smiled gently upon her she ventured to
come nearer to him and half-shyly, but very proudly,
held the child towards his hands. The prince gently
moved the delicate veil from the little one, and,
laying his hands upon its head, said very quietly
but very solemnly, "I am no god, but thy brother,
mother of a man. May his happiness and yours
be long, and may the load of life press gently on him.
For six years I have sought the light which lightens
all men's darkness, and it dawned upon me, glorious
and helpful, when your gracious gift brought back
190 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
the throbbing life into my veins. You shall teach
me wisdom. Tell me, does life and love such as you
possess prove sufficient for all your needs ? Let me
learn the lesson from the lips of a loving mother
with her babe upon her breast."
"My heart is small," said the mother, "and its
needs are few. A little rain which will fill the cup
of the lily will scarce suffice to moisten the field. It
is enough for me to feel secure in the love of my lord
and to watch the smile of my child. My days are
uneventful, as the busy world counts events, filled
with the cares of my household, the reverent worship
in the temple, the talk with friends, and all the quiet
ways of virtue and of peace. As for my belief, I know
that hatred breeds hate, friendliness makes faithful
friends, and patience brings peace to the soul. As for
our after-life, i?' No?' is so good, shall not c The?'
be good also, or even better ? I know full well that
life has sorrows to be borne, and, for myself, if my
sweet child should die, I think my heart would break
indeed I hope it would, for then I might still clasp
him to my bosom and await my Lord in whatever
world receives faithful wives and tender mothers.
As for Senani, if Death should call him, I would
gladly mount the funeral pile and lay his head for
the last time upon my lap. My life is glad, my
Master, though I am no guide to others; and yet I
do not forget others whose lot is not cast in pleasant
places, and I do what I can and so also does my
lord to relieve their woes and soften their afflic-
tions by tender kindliness,"
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 191
"You teach those who would teach, "said the
prince, "and are wiser than wisdom in your sim-
plicity. You who have offered worship to me, un-
worthy as I am, are more deserving of my reverence.
Peace go with you and comfort all your days. May I
reach at length to the pure wisdom of the happy
mother with her child upon her breast."
"May it be so," said the woman with heartfelt
earnestness, as her eyes rested once more upon the
child at her bosom, who, as if he knew his friend,
without any instruction stretched out his hands to
the prince, who stroked them gently as he rose to his
feet. Then he took his way alone to a great and
spreading tree, which was destined never to know the
touch of decay in memory of the Law of Truth which
the Master had learnt in its vicinity, and which was
to be known in all after ages as the Tree of Wisdom.
As he passed under its ample shade, the flowers
sprang into life beneath his feet and the boughs bent
down to weave a grateful shade above his head.
From the river not far away came cool and gentle
breezes laden with sweetest scents, and the beasts
which had come down to drink by its margin-
panthers, boars, and deer raised their wondering
eyes to look at the Master who had been led to the
threshhold of the highest wisdom by the aid of a
mother and her child.
Meanwhile King Suddhodana sorrowed greatly
for the loss of his son, that prince upon whom all his
THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
earthly hopes had been set; and more sorrowful still
"r as Yasodhara, who waylaid all travellers who visited
'the --king's palace, eagerly questioning them as to
'whether in their wanderings they had met with
One day in the spring-time she sat idly by the
stream which flowed through her lovely garden.
Her eyes were wet with tears, her cheeks were
wasted with sorrow, and her lips were drawn with
grief. Her beautiful tresses were hidden in the
fashion of those women who mourn for the death of
their husbands, and her dress was entirely lacking in
those ornaments with which princesses deck them-
selves; but in her listless fingers she held a girdle
set thick with pearls which she had found on the
floor of the prince's chamber on the morning after
his flight. Near her played her little son Rahula, now
seven years old, whose face and gestures gave her
mingled joy and sorrow, for they continually reminded
her of her absent lord. The boy was laughing light-
heartedly, and throwing rice to feed the blue and
purple fish which darted through the stream.
Now as the mother sat there, taking no pleasure
in the beauty of the morning, some of the maidens
of the court came to tell her that a company of
merchants had just arrived at the south gate of the
town, having travelled from the coast, where they had
obtained rich merchandise of many kinds. "But
they bring more than these things," said the maidens,
their voices trembling with excitement, "for they say
that they have seen Prince Siddartha face to face,
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 193
that he has become a great Teacher known through-
out the world for his wisdom, and that he is on his
way here on his way here at last?"
Yasodhara rose to her feet. "Call those men to
me," she said, "and let them tell me all they know,
and say that if their tale is true, I will fill their bosoms
with such treasure as kings might envy." Without
loss of time the men were brought into the palace
garden and conducted to the princess, who eagerly
"We have indeed seen the Master, Princess,"
said one of them, "and we have bowed before his
feet, for he has learnt all Wisdom. He is well in
health, as all are well who live the life of virtue
which he preaches, and from town to town he goes
with his message of Truth. And before the first
rain falls he will be here."
The princess thanked the merchants gracefully
and gave them such gifts as their richest merchandise
could not equal. "But by what road does my lord
come?" she asked, and the men were able to tell her
so exactly that mounted messengers were sent out
by the king to meet the prince and assure him of the
eager welcome which awaited him. "Tell him,"
said the anxious monarch, whose sole idea of a happy
succession had never left him, "to come and claim
his rightful place as the future sovereign of this
realm." But the message of the princess ran, "Tell
him that the mother of his boy Rahula longs to see
his face and craves to share those treasures which
he has found in his absence, that whether he
i 9 4 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
returns as prince or beggar she desires himself
Now when the messengers came to the Master
he was talking in earnest tones to a company of
people who seemed to be entranced with the wonder
of his words and the divine beauty of his face as he
spoke; and in the strange joy of listening to that
voice they forgot for a while the messages with
which they had been entrusted. They gazed, as if
spell-bound, upon the Master and hung upon his
words, and while he spoke they had no thought of
interrupting him. The king grew impatient at the
delay, which seemed longer than it really was, and
when one came to tell him that his envoys had not
yet delivered their messages because of their reluct-
ance to interrupt the Master, he sent his chief
counsellor as his ambassador; and this wise man
plucked tufts of tree-wool as he went and stopped
his ears with them so that he might not be charmed
from his duty by the wonder of the Master's teaching.
In this way he was able to deliver, though with all
courtesy and reverence, the messages sent by the
king and the Princess Yasodhara.
"I will go/ 3 said the prince. "It is not only my
duty but also my desire. Let the king and the
princess know that I come without delay." This
message was at once carried to the eager watchers,
and hasty preparations were made to greet the prince
in a manner worthy of his royal rank. But Yaso-
dhara, eager to be the first to meet him, went in her
litter to the gate of the city, from which she could see
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 195
far along the road which led to the southward; and
she saw a man approaching slowly, a yellow cloth cast
over his shoulder in the fashion of the hermits. In
his hand he carried an earthen bowl shaped like a
melon, and as he came to each lowly hut by the
roadside he asked and gratefully received the alms
which are never refused by those who look for
blessings, and who value the lessons of Truth and
Virtue taught by the wandering teachers. But in
spite of his mendicant's dress and habit, this man
was of such a noble and lordly appearance, and
moved with such an air of dignity and command,
that those who gave him alms gazed upon his face
and form as if he were divine, and some, when they
had given their offering, felt a sudden shame creep
over them at the smallness of their gifts, and hurried
home to bring presents of greater value. Slowly the
Master drew near to the place where the princess was
waiting. Then the curtains of her litter were with-
drawn, and with unveiled face she stepped down,
her hands tightly clasped upon her breast, and fell
sobbing upon his feet.
But when the king heard how the prince had
come, dressed like a mendicant and carrying the
beggar's bowl in which he collected alms, his anger
drove from his heart all love for his son. He rose
from his seat, plucked angrily at his beard, and,
entering the courtyard, mounted his war-horse with
a frown upon his brow. Then, putting spurs to his
196 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
horse's flanks, he rode so swiftly through the streets
of the town that the people wondered greatly, and
had scarcely time to cry to each other, "It is the
king, bow down before him?" In a few moments
the angry monarch reached the place where the prince
already sat with a crowd of attentive pupils around
him. The Master rose to his feet and approaching
the king sank down on one knee before him with a
gesture at once both proud and humble.
The king's eyes softened as he looked at Siddartha,
but in a short time his anger again rose uppermost,
and he said, "Is this the end, then, of all our waiting
and the result of our proffered welcome to a prince,
that he steals into his kingdom dressed in the garments
of a beggar, shorn and sandalled, begging alms of
low-born people he whose life in the palace of
pleasure was like that of the gods in their celestial
seats ? You ought to have come dressed in accord-
ance with your rank, surrounded by shining spears
and riding amid the tramp of horse and foot. See, my
soldiers camped in thousands on the road, and all my
people waited with an eager welcome upon their lips
to greet you at the city gates. Where have you
lived through all these barren years while your
father mourned for you as one worse than dead,
and the princess lived as a widow, setting aside all
the joy of life in her sorrow ? Son! tell me, why
"My father," was the quiet answer, "it is the
custom of my race."
"Thy race," said the king, "is royal, but in all its
THE PRINCE WONDERFUL 197
glorious history there is no record of a deed like
"I speak not of mortal race," replied the prince,
"but of invisible descent and spiritual kinship.
For I am of the race of those who teach the ways of
Truth and Virtue and to whom the glories of this
earth are vain and empty. Through love for men
they attain to power over the hearts of mortals,
beside which the dominion of an earthly
"What treasure?" asked the king in great
Then the Master took him by the hand and led
him through the lanes of wondering people, with
Yasodhara walking with them step by step. And
as they paced slowly along he told the monarch of
the wonderful lessons he had learnt in his journeying,
of what things make for peace and purity, of the
noble Truths which hold all heavenly Wisdom as the
shore encloses the sea. So they came at last into the
porch of the palace, the king with a peaceful smile
upon his face, his brow smoothed of its angry frown,
his ears drinking in the gracious manly words of the
Master, and his royal hand grasping the beggar's bowl.
So they entered together the Way of Peace; and
when the Master's discourse at length was finished
the king rose from his throne and, putting off his
THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
sandals, bowed low before his son, kissing the hem of
his poor robe. "Take me, son," he said, "to be
the least and lowliest of all your disciples." And
Yasodhara, with a heart overflowing with happiness,
cried out as she held her boy before her, "Give to
Rahula the Treasure of the Kingdom of thy Word
as the richest inheritance that any prince could win."
SABALA, THE SACRED COW
A Tale of the Pearl of Ruminant Creatures
SABALA, THE SACRED COW
THE Elephant among Kings was, without a doubt,
the monarch Visvamitra. He was of great height
and haughtiness, and descended from the gods them-
selves. The neighbouring princes were all at heart
afraid of him, and this secured peace for his kingdom
and happiness for his people; but not for the king
himself, who felt that the unbroken calm and
prosperity of his reign somewhat resembled a
continuous feast of sandesa, which, as you know,
is made of curds and sugar, and is only suitable
in its proper time and season. In a few words, the
king longed for the excitement of war, and he began
to wonder how he could obtain this stimulant.
Two things were necessary an army to fight
with, and another one to fight. As a rule the latter
is more readily found than the former, but Vis-
vamitra was very favourably situated with regard to
the number of his followers, who were eagerly
longing for a few battles. It was much more difficult
to find an enemy, for the king was so prosperous
and generous that every one professed the greatest
friendship for him. When, therefore, all men
202 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
flocked to his banner, and no one set up an oppos-
ing standard, the disconsolate would-be victor was
forced to set out on the march and look for an
Over hill and dale went the splendid army of
horse and foot, archers and elephants, through the
depths of dark and trackless forests, and by the walls
of mighty cities, always on the look-out for adventures
and the opportunity of making conquests which would
render the name of their leader famous through-
out the world. But no monsters or mortal foes
presented themselves to be beaten, and adventures
seemed purposely to avoid the warriors who sought
for them with such assiduity.
In due time the king and his army came to the
hermitage of the eminent saint named Vasishtha.
It was a beautiful place in the heart of a forest,
surrounded by kingly trees crowned with golden
blossoms which spread out their topmost branches
to make a delicious shade without darkness or
obscurity, and to protect the place from tempestuous
winds. Hermits flocked to this pleasant spot from
all parts of India to listen to the wise words of
Vasishtha and to sing the praises of his fascinating
cow, Sabala, the white-skinned Pearl among Ruminant
The hermit greeted the king with reverent
courtesy, and paid him the great compliment of
inviting him to be seated on the sacred grass. Then
he brought him sweet roots and berries, as well as
a vessel of water to wash the dust from his tired
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 203
feet. Having performed these hospitable ceremonies
he proceeded to make respectful inquiries after the
king's health and fortunes. The king, not to be
outdone in courtesy, made inquiries after the matters
which were of interest to the sage, asking whether
his followers, his sacred fires, and his groves gave
him entire satisfaction. The hermit assured his
royal visitor that all was well with him, and begged
him to become his guest for a season, promising to
prepare for him and his fighting men such a banquet
as would be worthy of the best of them.
Now the monarch, like many other visitors,
found it easy enough to be polite and pleasant for
a short time, but did not contemplate with ardour
the prospect of a prolonged stay in the sacred grove,
and an unvarying diet of sweet roots and berries.
So he begged to be excused, saying, "Bull among
Anchorites, the sight of your exalted countenance is
a feast of good things in itself, and the wise words
which fall from your lips are as rain in the desert, or
the shadow of a palm-tree in the noonday heat.
But really, I must be going."
The sage, however, pressed Visvamitra to remain,
and, unwilling to acquire a reputation for discourtesy,
the king at last consented to stay, not without some
qualms as to the nature of the food which would
be set before him and his men.
"I shall be fed upon roots and berries, berries
and roots," he said to himself in a doleful undertone,
"and neither my men nor myself are accustomed to
such a diet. We must, however, make the best of it,
20 4 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
and pretend to enjoy the simple fare which is set
before us." The king then sent messengers through-
out his army bidding the men refrain from any rude
comment upon the nature of the entertainment
which might be offered to them.
Meanwhile the eminent sage was engaged in a
most important conversation with the Pearl among
Ruminant Creatures, which had a great liking for
being approached in a worthy manner and for
those gems of speech which purchase favour. "My
beauteous Sabala," said the sage, "my gentle, loving,
and well-loved friend and benefactor, you are well
aware how much we owe to the favour of great kings,
and how by killing each other their fighting men
make peaceful, shady, and cool groves for you and
me. Now this monarch who deigns to visit us is
filled with the cravings of hunger. Shall it be told
of us hereafter that he left this hospitable hermitage
with those cravings unsatisfied ? Light of my
Eyes! will you not provide a feast, excellent in
quality and overflowing in quantity, which will
satisfy the appetites of this king and his fighting
men, who, if report speaks truly, can eat at one
meal sufficient to last myself or you for a year or
Charmed with the soothing and flattering words,
Sabala lovingly rubbed her cold nose against her
master's cheek, and the sage knew that his request
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 205
was to be granted in rich abundance. Nor was he
disappointed, for his eyes were soon satisfied with the
sight of a profusion of honey, sugar-canes, mudki, and
sandesa, as well as mountains of boiled rice, sweet
pastry, cakes, jams, and all kinds of sweetmeats, to say
nothing of delicious drinks distilled from the sweetest
flowers, and whole rivers of curdled milk.
The soldiers of Visvamitra were delighted to
behold so many good things, having expected nothing
more than extra rations of roots and berries, and they
feasted and rejoiced to their hearts' content. But,
strange to say, the feast had the opposite effect upon
the king, who began to think that things were not
quite right when this poor recluse could com-
mand such a feast without any exertion on his
own part, while a mighty king like himself would
be obliged to put himself to a great deal of trouble
and expense before he could obtain half as many
good things. He began, indeed, to think that
the holy man was, in a very real sense, guilty of
So completely did this gloomy thought take
possession of the king, that he refused to partake of
any of the dainties, and upon being pressed to do so
by the sage, he said:
"Hear me, holy man! Your Sabala is, without
question, a very Pearl among Ruminant Creatures,
but I am not sure that she is really yours. As you
know, being learned in the law, kings have a right to
the jewels discovered in their realms, and on this
account the wonderful cow is my own. I will not,
ao6 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
however, press this lawful claim of mine. Let me
offer you, in all friendliness and sincerity, a hundred
thousand cows in exchange for your immaculate
"I will not exchange her for one hundred million
cows," said the sage, without a moment's hesitation.
"You may as reasonably expect to conclude a sordid
bargain with the gods for the radiance of the sun, or
to find a sage who would accept a worldly price for
The king's face grew dark with anger. "It is
strange to me," said he, "how a sage who has
acquired a world-wide reputation for plain living, and
for doing without the things in which ordinary
men take pleasure, should keep in his grove a
creature which is able to provide so much food of
the richest kind. The animal's power to do this
must be at times a temptation to your saintliness,
and it would be well if I could remove this snare
from your path; in fact I should really become your
"It is not needful," said the sage very wisely,
"there is no credit in virtue which is not assaulted
Foiled in his arguments, the angry king began to
pace to and fro. "I will give you, then," he said,
after a few moments, "fourteen thousand elephants,
richly caparisoned, eight hundred chariots of ivory,
each with four nimble coursers, and ten million cows
with speckled coats as soft as silk. I advise you to
accept my offer, for it is a custom among kings
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 207
to take by force what cannot be purchased for
"Woe is me?" said the peaceful sage, now con-
siderably disturbed by the anger of the king. "This
Pearl among Ruminant Creatures is all my life.
From her I obtain the offerings which I make to the
gods, the pure butter which feeds the sacred fire,
and the grain which I scatter on the ground, so that
the fowls of the air shall know that in my grove lives
one who, like Rama, is the Friend of Living Creatures.
I cannot sell this great treasure of mine, powerful
The monarch rudely turned his back upon the
sage, and in a loud voice commanded his young
warriors to go in a body and make a captive of the
Pearl among Ruminant Creatures. "Henceforth,"
he said, "she shall minister to our royal wants."
His followers obeyed him with alacrity. "We shall
feast each day," they said, "without the trouble of
seeking or preparing a banquet. By all means let
us capture the immaculate Sabala." This feat was
performed without the necessity for exercising a
great amount of warlike valour. But when the cow
perceived that she was being dragged away from the
hermitage she began to struggle and plunge, and to
lash her tail with great violence from side to side.
"How have I lost the favour of my master?"
she said to herself. "Have I not always taken
delight in his company, and supplied him with the
food which the length of his prayers prevented him
from obtaining for himself ? Have I ever murmured
208 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
commands or criticised the wisdom of his wise
Words ? Why, then, does he abandon my meek
geptjteness to these ruffians?"
Maddened by the thought of leaving her peaceful
home, she broke from the hands of the young warriors,
and, with a bellow worthy of a bull, she ran wildly
through the ranks of the army. The soldiers, of
necessity, made a path for her, and came to the wise
conclusion that it was rather unfair to rob the holy
hermit of the animal which had provided them with
such a succulent feast.
The immaculate cow ran to her master, and lying
down at his feet she looked up into his face with
beseeching eyes. "Have you abandoned me, my
dear master?" she asked, while the tears trickled
down her nose.
The unhappy sage wept in company with her,
flinging his arms round her neck and embracing
her like a sister. "You have always been a peace-
ful and attentive companion, never venturing to
criticise the words of wisdom which fell from my
mouth. I have no fault to find with you. But this
king wishes to carry you off with him, and as his
army is very large, I do not see how I can prevent
him. Farewell, then, Light of my Eyes! I cannot
hold out against an armed monarch."
At these words the cow rose to her feet
proudly tossed her head. "Have I ministerea to
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 209
your wants for so long," she said, "that you have
ceased to understand that I have more than mortal
power ? Has the daily miracle, like the rising of the
sun, made you so familiar with the wonderful that
its wonder is completely lost ? Why, I can furnish
you, after milking time, with an army twice as large
as that of this ungrateful monarch?"
And sure enough the warriors duly appeared, and
never had been seen in any kingdom an army so large,
fierce, threatening, and impulsive. A fight took place
at once, and in this contest the army of Visvamitra had
no chance of victory; for as often as a man fell in
Sabala's army another warrior rose up in his place,
as fierce and well-equipped as the soldier who had
fallen. After the unequal battle, however, when the
warriors of the king had been almost entirely swept
away, the new army disappeared as rapidly as it had
sprung into existence.
The king was now in great grief, and his sons,
of whom he had no less than one hundred, were
filled with anger at the holy sage whose miracle-
working cow had been the cause of their father's
discomfiture. "We will punish him forthwith,"
they said, and with one accord they rushed upon
The sage awaited them with perfect composure,
and when they were within a short distance blew at
them with all his might. In a moment they were
converted into ashes, which fell in a heap at his feet.
The Pearl among Ruminant Creatures tossed her
head in the air and bellowed with all her might.
210 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
But the king who had thought himself so mighty
was puzzled at this evidence of a power which was
so much greater than his own, and he sat for a time,
looking straight before him, in an attitude of the
deepest dejection. But he was a man of iron will,
and it was not long before he had formed a plan,
which he proceeded to act upon without loss of
He went home to his capital and placed the
government in the hands of the only son who had
survived the exercise of the miraculous powers of
Sabala and her master, and then betook himself to
the forest, where he lived the life of a hermit, and
endeavoured by fasting and hardship to win from
the gods the favour which he had seen bestowed
upon the famous sage Vasishtha. When he had
endured these severities for a sufficient length of
time the great god Siva came in all his dazzling
splendour to visit him, and asked him what gift he
wished to have bestowed upon him. "Give me,"
said the king, "all the weapons in use among the
divinities." At once his very comprehensive request
was granted, and conscious of his power the happy
monarch went off at full speed to the hermitage of
Vasishtha. "I may find it wise to extirpate the
stubborn hermit," he said to himself on the way,
"but I will pardon the excellent Sabala, for this
estimable creature must pass into my possession."
As he drew near to the hermitage, the king could
not resist the temptation to test his new powers, and
shot off one of his new arrows. It went hissing
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 211
through the forest with marvellous effect. The trees
shook with fear, the birds of the air shrieked loudly,
the deer crouched low in the brushwood, and all the
holy hermits rushed for safety to the caves, crying,
"This arrow is a prelude to a fight among the gods,
and it behoves poor mortals like ourselves to seek
cover." But Vasishtha displayed no uneasiness. He
stood at the mouth of the cave with a smile of scorn
upon his face, which angered the king more than
armed resistance. "I will teach you, miserable
hermit," he said, "to respect the Divine Right of
Thereupon he hurled at the sage a complete
collection of the most potent and venemous darts
which he had won from the armoury of the gods,
such a shower of gleaming shafts as had never been
launched at an enemy in the memory of man. But
the sage, calmly holding his stick above his head,
kept off the darts with perfect ease, his face still
wearing the smile of quiet contempt, which he knew
io be a more potent weapon than any dart in the
king's wonderful assortment.
There remained, however, one powerful weapon
in the hand of the surprised and angry king the
javelin of Brahma and as a last resort he hurled it
at his annoying opponent. As it was launched, the
wind sank into silence, and all the hermits cried with
one voice, "Farewell, Vasishtha, our master and our
guide." But the excellent sage was even yet un-
disturbed, and his smile of contempt was only broken
by the necessity for altering the shape of his mouth,
2i2 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
so that he could swallow the dart which he did
forthwith, making a wonderful meal of the wrath of
the god. The immediate effect was terrible. His
eyes grew as red as blood, scorching flames came from
his mouth, and his wand glowed like a red-hot bar
fresh from the furnace of the smith. Then all
creatures, great and small, bowed down before the
hermit, begging for mercy in voices of abject terror,
and imploring the sage to lose no time in digesting
the fire which possessed him.
The appeal was not without its effect The sage
took on his usual expression of quiet and somewhat
contemptuous serenity, and the king paused to
consider his position. "Evidently," he reasoned
with himself, "the power of this sage excels all
others. I will not rest until I have obtained it for
Then without loss of time he flung away the
weapons which he had acquired with such difficulty,
and, betaking himself once more to the forest, began
a life of the most rigorous mortification. After a
long time Brahma himself deigned to visit him, and
informed him that he had won for himself the title of
Rishi among Kings. Even this did not satisfy the
monarch that he would be in a position to conquer
the sage, so he went on with his fasting and mortifi-
cation, sparing no endeavour to inflict pain and
suffering upon his body with the hope of strengthen-
ing his mental and spiritual power.
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 213
Now there was living at this time a king whose
name was Trisanku, and who was famous for his love
of truth and justice as well as his wisdom in govern-
ment. He had, however, an overweening love for
his personal appearance, and the chief fear that
haunted him was that it would be necessary some
day for his handsome form to become old, to die
and to decay. The very thought was unbearable to
him, and he often spent hours in mourning his
prospective loss. "These fine limbs," he would
say, "these powerful hands, these eyes of fire, this
manly bosom must all come to dust! Alas and
alack! Have I not striven by assiduous exercise to
make myself a perfect paragon of bodily beauty!
Shall all this effort, too, come to nothing?"
In time this grief so took possession of the soul
of the monarch that he set out to visit the sage
Vasishtha and tell him of his great trouble. "Obtain
for me, excellent Brahman," he begged, "the
power to take my beautiful body away with me when
I depart from this world to take up my existence
"Foolish man," said the sage, "such a thing
is neither possible nor desirable. Why, you ought
rather to rejoice that you will one day be able to get
rid of your very troublesome body which you have
trained and perfected with such great effort."
The poor afflicted king was, however, inconsol-
able, and went off to ask counsel and help of other
214 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
hermits. But they only laughed at him, and, worse
than that, they mocked at his handsome appearance,
telling him that he, the handsome Trisanku, was,
after all, no better than a handful of dust. Filled
with haughty anger he turned away with mocking
words, thinking that he was now well rid of them all.
But his parting mockery had angered them, and
they punished him by changing him into a Chandala,
a person of the lowest caste. His glorious body
became bent and twisted; his eyes were now of the
colour of copper, and his teeth green with decay;
his royal robes disappeared, and he found himself
clothed in a single garment, the skin of a bear.
The unhappy king looked down at his new body.
"In this guise," he said dolefully, "my own courtiers
and my beloved queen will certainly not know me,
and I may as well stay in the forest. I will pay a
visit to King Visvamitra, who has won such fame by
his mastery over his body."
He lost no time in doing so, and when the hermit
monarch learnt who stood before him, he was full
of sympathy and indignation. "The hermits who
worked this ill upon you," he said, "are the sons of
Vasishtha, and really the enormities of that family
and their ill-natured cow are past all bearing. I will
proclaim a sacrifice, and by the power of my fasting
and penance will obtain from the gods the right to
revenge myself upon this wretched crew."
This was done, and Visvamitra hurled his curse
at the sons of Vasishtha with such dire effect that
they were transported at once to the kingdom of
SAB ALA, THE SACRED COW 215
Yama, who rules the Dead. But when he made his
sacrifice the gods took no notice, and would not
deliver Trisanku from the body which he loathed.
Thereupon Visvamitra resolved to do so himself, and
in a loud voice commanded his friend to mount up
to heaven with the body for which he had so great
At once Trisanku began ta rise through the air,
but when his head reached the sky the king of the
gods hurled him down again, and he fell headlong.
As he hung in mid-air, Visvamitra cried out, "Stop?"
and he stopped, unable to rise or fall, and naturally
filled full of the most complete terror. His royal
friend was now so much puffed up with his own
power that he began to mock at the gods, but his
anger did not bring punishment upon him because
he had won such respect by his hard life in the
forest; and it was amicably arranged that the least
troublesome plan would be to leave Trisanku among
the stars, half-way between heaven and earth, where
he soon came to be regarded as a constellation.
Again Visvamitra went on with his hard life,
making himself suffer so cruelly that even the gods
grew sorry for him and met together to consult how
they could best persuade him to relax his severities
and take some pleasure in life. "Let me try," said a
beautiful goddess named Menaka, with a laugh like a
refreshing shower in summer; and it was agreed that
216 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
she should go down to the retreat of Visvamitra and
persuade him, if she could, to give up his hard mode
So she went down, and the hermit-king took such
pleasure in her beauty and grace and her merry
laughter that he gave up the fasting and penance
which had won fame for him all over the world.
But he found after a time that laughter which never
ceases can become as wearisome as woe, and he
longed once more for the hard open-air life of the
forest which had taught him so many of the secrets
of nature, of the trees and birds, the animals, the
stars of heaven, and the ways of the wind when it
whispered or roared like ten thousand bulls. So he
left the goddess to laugh alone and went back to the
solitude of the mountains.
Here he lived more severely than ever, exposing
his body to the most violent storms and tempests,
fasting and praying, and learning more and more of
the secrets of the earth and the heavens. So learned
and powerful he became that the gods grew jealous
and afraid of him, and appealed to Brahma to stop
his progress to such stupendous power and know-
ledge as promised in time to rival or excel their own
a state of things which could not be endured for a
moment, to say nothing of for ever. Then Brahma
appeared in a vision to Visvamitra. "Cease your
austerities," said he, "and I will give you the title
of Prince among Rishis." The persistent king
clasped his hands devoutly and said with all due
reverence, "The title I desire is that of Saint
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 217
among Brahmans." "That name cannot be yours,"
said the god, "until you have acquired serenity
and the peace of mind which covets the goods of
"Have you cast out anger from your bosom ?
Do you bear a grudge against any one ? Do you
covet anything?" These words caused Visvamitra
to hang his head in shame, and with good reason,
for well he knew that his determined pursuit of
power was merely followed in order that he might
revenge himself upon Vasishtha, become his equal
in all things, and finally gain possession of the
Pearl among Ruminant Creatures. But, being a
man of indomitable will, he determined to go on
with his austerities and win all that could be won by
their means, even if this meant that he would cheat his
baser self of the prize which he had been so deter-
mined to obtain: which shows that he was a man of
character and really worthy of the rich reward which
he finally obtained.
Once again he began his self-discipline. With
his arms held above his head, and standing on one
foot, with no food except bitter roots, surrounded by
five fierce furnaces in summer, and in winter exposed
to torrents of rain, he stood patiently hoping to
expel from his bosom the burning fire of hatred,
jealousy, malice, and covetousness. The gods
watched him uneasily, fearing for the power that
such determination would surely win.
Then a radiant goddess, remembering how
Menaka had succeeded for a time in shaking the
218 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
determination of the hermit-king, went down to earth
in all her beauty and begged the man of inflexible
will to give up his penance and self -punishment.
But he grew very angry, and with burning words of
hatred and scorn bade the lovely goddess begone.
Then the wicked passion of anger caused him to
grow suddenly weak, and he remembered with
sorrow that even yet he was far from the serenity
which Vasishtha showed. With a mournful heart
he went away to a still more lonely place, where he
sat down and for an interminable time remained as
motionless as a rock.
Once more the gods were disturbed and called a
council. "If this indefatigable man," they said,
"is not given what he seeks, he will in time come
among us as our master."
Then it was agreed that Brahma should once
more visit the king, and suddenly he appeared before
him in a blaze of light. "Your desire is granted,"
said the father of the gods; "henceforth you shall be
known as a Saint among Brahmans."
Visvamitra bowed his head. "Then give to me
in full measure," he said, "complete knowledge of
all the holy writings, the knowledge of all Truth with
the power to use it, the faithfulness which never
swerves in the pursuit of Goodness, the Mercy and
Tolerance which will lead me to see the best even in
the worst, the Gratitude and Thankfulness which
make twin streams in the Desert of Life, and the
Serenity which is undisturbed except by fear of my
own fall from grace."
SABALA, THE SACRED COW 219
All these things were granted to the victorious
king who had found in his own Evil Passions an
enemy worthy of his valour, and who now of course
discovered that he had no longer any desire to possess
the Pearl among Ruminant Creatures!
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA
Tale of an Emperor, a Princess, and a Fatal Ring
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA
ONE day the Emperor Dushyanta went out in his
chariot to hunt the antelope, armed with his bow
and a golden quiver full of arrows made by his most
skilful artificer, whose work was the pride of his
heart and the admiration of all men. In due time
the king's charioteer sighted a black antelope speed-
ing through the forest and looking back from time
to time at the car which followed him. On he went,
springing and bounding lightly over the ground, and
occasionally leaping high into the air as if to cheat
the arrow which would soon be speeding from the
bow of the king. The hunter waited until his
chariot was wheeling along a level tract of ground
and then deliberately fixed an arrow to his bowstring.
At that moment the charioteer loosened the reins in
order to give his master opportunity for aiming truly,
but just as the arrow was ready to be launched, two
hermits stepped out from a side path and advanced
boldly towards the royal marksman, who at once
ordered the charioteer to stop the car.
The two men came forward, one of them, who was
plainly an elderly man, holding up his hands, "Hold,
224 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
my lord, "he said, "and forbear to slay a poor fawn
which has found in this grove a place of refuge for
its timidity. Replace your arrow in the golden
quiver, which ought to contain only those shafts
that are forged for the punishment of the oppressor
and the protection of the weak."
The king reverently saluted the hermits and in
accordance with their request promptly replaced the
arrow in his golden quiver. "Such an act of mercy,"
said the elder hermit, "is well worthy of you, most
illustrious Prince. May you have the greatest of all
blessings, a son distinguished for virtue and valour,
fit to rule the world in peace. The younger hermit
joined with his companion in praising the monarch's
clemency, and Dushyanta bowed his acknowledg-
ments in the gracious manner for which he was
"Great King," said the hermit, "I have come here
with my favourite pupil to collect wood for a solemn
sacrifice; and this forest on the banks of the Rahini
is a place of refuge for the wild animals who are
protected by Sakuntala. If you care to honour us
with a visit, enter our grove, where you will be
received with all honourable rites of hospitality, and
will be able to observe the happiness of those whose
sole wealth is their piety."
"Is your preceptor and leader, the renowned
Canna, at home?" asked the king.
"Our master is at present on a visit to a distant
place with the object of averting some calamity which
threatens the life of Sakuntala; but he has directed
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 225
her, in his absence, to receive all guests with due
"I will go at once," said Dushyanta, "to pay my
respects to her."
"Be it so," said the hermit, bowing low in
reverence before the young monarch, "and we will
attend to our immediate business."
"Drive on the car," said the king, and the
charioteer promptly obeyed his command.
"It is clear," said Dushyanta, "that we are now
drawing near the dwelling-place of holy hermits.
See how the grain lies scattered beneath those trees
where the mother parrots have been feeding their
young in the nests which hang from the branches.
Look at the young fawns which, having learnt to
trust man's kindness, and having become accustomed
to the sound of his voice, frisk and gambol fearlessly
without changing their course. The water of the
river is here made ruddy with the consecrated bark
which floats upon its surface. Mark also how the
roots of the trees are bathed with the waters of holy
pools which quiver as the breeze plays upon them;
and the bright green of the tender foliage is obscured
for a moment by the smoke which rises from offerings
to the gods of clarified butter. See, too, how the
young roes graze, without fear of our approach, on
the smooth lawn before the garden of the sage, where
the tops of the long grasses, cut off for some holy
rite, lie sprinkled around. The perfect peace and
sanctity of the place must not be disturbed or
violated. Rein in your horses, for their martial
226 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
sound is not becoming to this holy grove, and I will
The charioteer at once stopped the car, and
Dushyanta stepped quickly to the ground. Then he
suddenly remembered that he was dressed in a
fashion too splendid for a visitor to such an abode of
meekness; so he took off his ornaments of gold and
handed them to the charioteer. "Now," he said, "I
can enter the hermits 5 grove, which must be a truly
sacred place for my right arm throbs in an un-
mistakable manner." At that moment the king
heard a gentle voice call out, "Come hither, my
beloved companions," and turning to the right he
saw through the trees a number of beautiful girls
carrying water-pots of various sizes, from which
they were evidently going to water the plants in the
grove. As he looked, three girls of greater beauty
than the others detached themselves from the rest
and came quite near to Dushyanta, although they
could not see him. From their greetings the monarch
soon learnt that one of these maidens was Sakuntala,
the daughter of Canna. "The venerable sage," he
said to himself, "has little appreciation of his
daughter's beauty when he dresses her in a mantle
of woven bark and gives her the menial task of
pouring water into the channels which surround the
roots of the plants."
For a time the king stood in rapt admiration of
the beauty of Sakuntala, who, as she went about her
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 227
work, was greatly pestered by a large bee which
hovered round her head and would not be driven
away. "This impudent insect will not rest," she
said at last. "I will move away to another place.
Away! away! Please drive it from me," she begged
of her companions; but they laughed and said in
sport that King Dushyanta was the only person
who could deliver her, as he was the appointed
protector of their sacred groves. Hearing his own
name, and unwilling to play the eavesdropper any
longer, the king was about to step forward and dis-
close himself in his true character, but after a moment's
consideration determined to appear as a simple
stranger and claim the duties of hospitality. So he
advanced towards Sakuntala with the customary
courteous greeting, "Damsel, may this devotion
prosper." The girl modestly cast her eyes upon the
ground without speaking, but one of her companions
roused her to a sense of her duty. "Go, Sakuntala,"
she said, "and bring from the cottage a basket of fruit
and flowers, while from the river I will draw water
to wash the feet of our guest."
"Sit down for a while on this bank of earth,"
said the third maiden, "and rest in the shade of this
"I am obliged to you for the hospitable attentions
which must have wearied you," said Dushyanta.
"Will you not sit near me in the shade of the same
The three girls responded to this courteous and
respectful invitation, but after a while Sakuntala with-
228 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
drew herself and gave the king an opportunity of
asking a few questions about her. He learnt from
her companions that she was not the daughter of the
hermit Canna, but that the famous prince Causica
was her father, from whom the hermit took her when
she was an infant. This information greatly pleased
the king, for he was so charmed with the beauty,
grace, and modesty of the maiden that he was
already thinking of making her his queen. He
continued to ask more questions concerning the life
and future of Sakuntala, who, overhearing him at this
moment, became suddenly offended, or seemed to be
offended, by the talk about herself. The king there-
fore ceased his questioning and begged the two
companions of the princess for a princess of high
lineage Sakuntala really was to allow him to dis-
charge his debt to them by giving them a ring which
he wore on his finger. The two ladies expressed
surprise to find the name of King Dushyanta en-
graved upon the ring, but the stranger explained that
it had been presented to him by that monarch.
Just as he was about to take his leave the peace
of the hermits' grove was rudely disturbed by the
voices of a party of hunters bidding all who were
within hearing to beware of the infuriated elephant
which was laying the forest waste and was at that
moment bearing down upon them. The three
maidens gathered together like frightened fawns, and
with trembling voices declared their intention of
taking refuge in the hermits' cottage. So the king
bade them a respectful farewell and went off to
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 229
rejoin the hunters, who were, as he knew, of his own
Before long he reached an open plain on the
border of the forest, where the royal payilions had
been set up for the convenience of the hunting-party,
and where he found the court jester pacing to and
fro in real or pretended disgust at the nature of
the sport which claimed the attention of his royal
"Ah! my friend," said Dushyanta, "you have not
been privileged, as I have been, to see the brightest
ornament of these woods."
"I presume you mean," said the jester, who,
according to custom, was allowed freedom of speech
which was not permitted to the rest of the king's
servants, "the lovely antelope which you set out to
"I do not," said the king, "but a creature still
more beautiful, namely the incomparable Sakuntala.
I have seen her once, and I wish to see her again.
Now, I command you to exercise your wit in order
to find an excuse for me to visit her once more."
At that moment the court chamberlain entered
and said that two young hermits were without,
asking the favour of an audience. This was granted
at once, and two Brahmans entered, who saluted
Dushyanta with great reverence. "May I know the
cause of this visit?" asked the king, and the two
strangers then told him that certain monsters of the
forest had dared to disturb their retreat, begged him
to come at once in his chariot, and, during the absence
230 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
of Canna, to act as the ruler and protector of the
The king eagerly too eagerly to please the mock-
ing jester consented to come to the hermits' retreat,
and ordered his chariot to be prepared without delay.
Then he set out with a light heart, to find that Sakun-
tala had spent the intervening period mourning for
his absence, and that she had found out the real
name and rank of the visitor to the hermits' grove.
In a very short time the king and princess declared
their love for each other and were united in marriage
in accordance with the forest rites; but before they
had been permitted to spend much time in the grove,
the king was called away to his capital to perform
the duties of his high office, and the people of the
hermitage heard no more of him. This strange and
cruel silence began to prey upon the mind of Sakun-
tala, and when Canna, her foster-father, returned to
the grove, he determined to send her to the palace of
King Dushyanta. The other women were soon
pleasantly excited over the preparation of Sakuntala
for the journey, but when they contemplated her
poor dress of bark they began to weep without
restraint. Such a simple thing, however, as the
provision of a fitting wardrobe was not likely to
trouble a magician like Canna, and when the ladies
were weeping one of his pupils approached them
with a profusion of rich apparel.
"Here is a complete dress for the queen," he
said?" may she find good fortune in it, and may her
life be long."
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 231
The young man was eagerly questioned by the
women as to the manner in which he had obtained
clothing so rich and beautiful "Oh/ 5 said he, "my
master simply gave the order?' Bring fresh flowers
for Sakuntala/ and suddenly the woodland fairies
appeared, raising their delicate hands, which looked
like the fresh leaves of early summer when the sun
shines through them. And as they held their hands
aloft, a delicate fabric, bright as moonshine, was
woven as if by magic, and here it is. Other fairies
brought ornaments I cannot tell from whence
while others again provided the juice of l&csha to
stain her feet exquisitely red." In a few moments
the women were all chattering merrily as they dressed
and decked Sakuntala in a manner worthy of her
royal husband. Fresh exclamations of admiration
broke from their lips as they examined one after
another of the beautiful garments, and when their
work was completed they stood away to admire from
a fitting distance the lovely person of the new queen
The sage now appointed guides for his foster-
child, and the ceremony of farewell was begun.
Standing in the centre of the grove, Canna spoke to
the sacred trees?" Hear, all ye trees of this hal-
lowed forest, in which the woodland goddesses have
their dwelling hear and proclaim that Sakuntala
is going to the palace of her wedded lord; she who
drank not, however thirsty, before you were watered;
she who pulled not one of your tender leaves for
fear of desecration; she whose chief delight was in
232 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
your time of blossom." As he finished a chorus of
woodland fairies broke out into a pretty song. "May
her way be compassed about with prosperity. May
favouring breezes sprinkle for her delight the dust
of rich blossoms. May pools of crystal water, green
with the leaves of the lotus, refresh her as she walks;
and may shady branches be her protection from the
scorching sunbeams." Sakuntala turned to leave
the grove, but a gentle power detained her, impeding
her footsteps by hanging on to the skirts of her robe.
She looked down to find a tiny fawn which she had
fed and tended since the death of its mother, and
which seemed unwilling to leave the protection of
the gentle princess. The sight of the pretty little
creature brought tears to the eyes of Sakuntala,
and she turned back to fondle it, as if uncertain
whether she should leave the grove at all. But the
sage rebuked her gently for her weakness, exhorted
her to be firm and resolute in the course she had
planned for herself; advised her to show due
reverence to her husband when she should reach his
palace; and turning away went slowly back to ths
hermits' grove. Sakuntala, with one last lingering
look, passed away on her journey, attended by the
guardians to whom Canna had entrusted her.
In the garden of King Dushyanta preparations
were being made for a sacrifice, when the royal
chamberlain approached the monarch and informed
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 233
him that a company of women under the guidance of
two religious men had arrived at the palace from
their hermitage in the Snowy Mountains, bringing
a message from the world-famous sage, Canna.
The king's interest was at once aroused, and, giving
orders for the reverent reception of the party, he
passed out to the sacrificial ceremony. But as he
took his part in the rite he found his mind dwelling
upon the probable purpose of the embassy from
Canna, though, strange to say, no thought of Sakun-
tala seemed to enter into his mind. He appeared,
indeed, not so much to have forgotten her as to be
entirely oblivious of her existence either in the past
or the present. "What message can the sage have
sent to me?" he asked himself. "Has the devotion
of his pupils been impeded by evil spirits ? Has
disaster descended upon the tender herds which
graze in the hallowed forests?" But still no question
arose in his mind as to the fortunes of Sakuntala.
It was as if the memory of his marriage in the sacred
grove had been erased from his mind by the waving
of an enchanter's wand.
As soon as the ceremony was ended Dushyanta
seated himself on his throne in the audience chamber,
and the little company was ushered in, Sakuntala
being supported by an elderly woman named Gau-
tami, to whom she whispered, as she advanced
towards the throne of the king, "I feel my right
eye throb what does this signify?" "May
heaven avert the omen, my child," said the matron
hastily, as she drew Sakuntala nearer to the king's
234 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
footstool and stood there with her in respectful
"Ah," said Dushyanta, looking at Sakuntala
with appreciation of her beauty but without any
light of recognition in his eyes. "Who is this beauti-
ful damsel who appears among the hermits like a
fresh green bud among faded and yellow leaves?"
"May Your Majesty prosper," said the priest of
the royal palace. "These visitors have a message
to deliver from their spiritual guide. Let the King
deign to hear it."
"I am all attention," said Dushyanta, and Sakun-
tala's guide delivered his master's message.
"The contract of marriage," he said, "made
between thee and my daughter Sakuntala, I confirm
with all willingness and tender regard, for the gods
have in this case united a bride and bridegroom with
qualities equally transcendant. Receive her, there-
fore, in thy palace with all due honour as thy queen."
The king heard the message and smiled pleasantly,
but seemed like a man in a dream. The women gazed
at him in wonder, and Gautami ventured to remind
him of the sacred grove and his visit to the place
when engaged in the hunt. "How strange an adven-
ture?" he murmured gently and pleasantly, as if
the matter concerned some one else, and then added,
"Am I indeed this lady's husband?"
Gautami now tried the effect of unveiling Sakun-
tala, but the king, though obviously impressed by her
beauty, still made no sign of recognition. The
guide of the party then ventured to ask him directly
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 235
what was the meaning of his strange silence, and
"Holy man, I have been searching my memory,
but, to tell the truth, I have no recollection of my
marriage with this lady. How then can I admit her
to my palace as my queen?"
Then Sakuntala, moving forward with a piteous
gesture which went to the heart of all who saw her,
took up her own case. "If thou sayest this, my
husband," she said, "merely from want of recollec-
tion, I will restore thy memory by producing thy
own ring with thy name engraved upon it."
Then she looked down upon her finger and
behold the ring was not there!
"It must have dropped, my child," said Gautami,
"when you lifted the water to pour on your head at
the pool by the wayside on our journey hither."
Dushyanta's polite surprise changed to gentle
scorn. "Women are skilful," he said, "at finding
Poor Sakuntala was now almost overcome. "I
will mention yet one more circumstance," she said.
"One day in our grove you took water in your hand
from the vase of lotus leaves."
"What then?" asked Dushyanta.
"At that instant a little fawn which I had reared
as my own child approached you, and you said
gently, * Drink thou first, gentle fawn.' He would
not drink from the hand of a stranger, but received
water eagerly from mine, and you said, c Thus every
creature loves its own/ "
236 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
"By such honeyed falsehoods are snared the
hearts and souls of weaklings," said the king with
contempt. Gautami ventured to remonstrate with
him, but to no purpose, and Sakuntala, wounded to the
soul, turned away in sorrow which was not appeased
by the attempts of her friends to console her. The
king remained firm in his refusal to admit that he
was the husband of Sakuntala, but the royal priest,
taking pity upon her distress, said that he would be
glad to provide her, for a time, with a home in his
own house where she might wait in the rather vain
hope that the memory of the king would some day
be restored to him. The king agreed to this, for he
had no desire to appear unnecessarily unkind, and
Sakuntala was led away, weeping bitterly, and
calling upon the earth goddess to receive her and
give her a place within her restful bosom in other
words, she wished with all her heart and soul that
death would overtake her.
As she left the audience chamber Dushyanta
stood in wonder and amazement. The beauty and
distress of Sakuntala appealed strongly to him, but
he was too honest to confess to a remembrance which
he did not really feel. The little band of strangers
had not been gone for a few moments when the
royal priest re-entered the hall of audience in a state
of great excitement. "Hear, King," he said, "and
wonder at my tale! t When Canna's messengers
had departed, Sakuntala, bewailing her ill-fortune,
stretched out her arms and wept; when "
"What then?" asked the king with great eagerness.
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 237
"A being of celestial radiance," said the priest,
"descended from heaven, caught Sakuntala hastily
in her bosom, and disappeared with her."
"It is, then, all a matter of sorcery, as I sus-
pected," said Dushyanta. "The affair is over. It is
needless to reason further about it. Let no more
be said." Then he took his way to his inner apart-
ment, but as he went he said to himself: "With the
best will in the world, I cannot recollect any marriage
with the daughter of the hermit. Yet so agitated is
my heart that I am almost induced to believe her
Down the city street came three of the king's
officers leading a man with his hands bound. "Take
that," said one of them to the prisoner, striking him
a blow of great severity, "and tell us where you got
this ring on which the name of the king is engraved."
"Spare me," cried the trembling wretch; "I
entreat your honours to spare me. I am not guilty
of such a crime as you suspect."
"I suppose," said one of the officers in great
scorn, "that the king gave you the ring as a reward
for some distinguished service?"
"Hear me," cried the man; "I am a poor fisher-
man, supporting his family by catching fish."
"I should expect a fisherman to catch fish," said
the officer, with a scornful laugh.
"Blame me not, master," said the poor fellow.
"A man must follow the occupation of his fore-
238 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
fathers, and he who kills animals for sale may yet
have a tender heart.?'
"Go on with greater speed," said the officer.
"One day, then," pursued the fisherman, "hav-
ing caught a large fish, I cut it open and saw this
bright ring in its stomach; but when I came to this
city to offer it for sale I was apprehended by your
honourable worships. Only in this way am I guilty
of taking this ring. Will you now continue beating
and bruising me to death?"
The officer smelt the ring and made a wry face.
"It is certain," he said to his companions, "that
this ring has been in the body of a fish. The case
deserves consideration, and I will tell the story in the
"Go at once," said his two companions, "while
we hold this cut-purse safely."
In a very short time the officer was seen approach-
ing, and the other two tried to frighten their wretched
prisoner by telling him what dreadful torments were
undoubtedly in store for him.
"Let the prisoner "cried the officer, as he
"Oh, I am a dead man," said the trembling
"be discharged," continued the officer. "Set
him free at once. The king says he knows he is
innocent, and that his story is true."
"Lucky for him," said the other two, as they
unbound the cords which held the fisherman captive.
"He was just now travelling at a quick rate to the
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 239
kingdom of Yama," he said, while the liberated man
bowed humbly before the first officer, saying, "My
lord, I owe my life to your kindness."
The man's mocking tone had now left him.
"Rise, friend/ 5 he said with real respect, "and hear
with delight that the king sends you a sum of money
equal to the full value of the ring. It is a fortune to
a man in your rank in life."
"I am overwhelmed," said the poor fisherman,
with tears of joy in his eyes.
"This vagabond," said one of the other officers,
"seems to have climbed to the back of a state
"I suppose the king has a great affection for this
gem," said the third.
"Not for its money value," said the first, "but I
guessed the cause of his delight when he saw it."
"What was that?" queried the others.
"Oh, it was clear that it recalled to his mind
some person who has a place in his heart; for he
seemed to be agitated beyond measure at the sight of
"You have given His Majesty great pleasure,"
said the second officer.
"Yes," broke in the third with a look of disgust,
"and actually by means of this fish-catcherpah?"
"Do not be angry," said the fisherman. "You
shall have half of my money to buy wine."
"Oh, now thou art our best-beloved friend," said
the first officer. "Let us go together to the vintner's."
2 4 o THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
Meanwhile the beautiful garden of the royal
palace was lying bathed in sunshine, when suddenly
a beautiful fairy maiden appeared in the air and
looked down upon it. "Now I must visit this king,"
she said to herself, "seeing that I have attended to
the safety of Sakuntala. Ah, now I behold him, but
on this day which looks so brimful of happiness the
king appears to be oppressed with some deep sorrow
of heart. I will alight, conceal myself among these
plants, and note what goes on without rendering
Without further delay she floated lightly down to
earth and took up her station on the spot which she
had chosen. At that moment two pretty fairy
maidens like herself, but lacking her air of authority,
entered the garden, and noting a tree full of lovely
blossoms lightly climbed up into its branches and
began to gather the flowers, throwing some of them
down upon the earth. As they were engaged in this
pleasant task the royal chamberlain entered the
garden and saw what the girls were doing. "Stop?"
he cried, "do not gather flowers. There are to be
no festivals this year, by the king's orders."
"Pardon us," said the maidens prettily, "we
did not know of the king's desire."
"Foolish girls," said the old man, "and con-
cerned only in your own folly. Why, even the trees
which spring was decking and the birds which perch
on them are full of sympathy for our mournful
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 241
monarch. See how the buds neglect to shed their
dust; how the flowers remain veiled in their closed
cups; how the voices of the birds are silent and their
wings seem weary with their own weight."
"Ah," said the watchful fairy, "that sounds well
This king, at least, is not quite so forgetful as he
thinks himself to be."
"A few days ago," said one of the girls to the old
chamberlain, "a guest arrived to do homage to the
king, and we came from Fairyland to deck his groves
and gardens with emblems of delight. This is how
we did not hear of his orders."
"Beware, then," said the chamberlain, "now that
his commands are known to you."
"Certainly," replied the other girl, "but if it be
permitted to us, tell us, we pray you, what has
induced our sovereign to forbid the festivals of the
"That is a good question," said the watching fairy
to herself?" it must be something weighty which
prevents a king from holding a pleasing festival."
"Have you not heard," said the chamberlain, "of
the disappearance of Sakuntala?"
"We know her story," said the first girl, "up to
the point when the fatal ring was miraculously
"There is little to add to that," said the chamber-
lain. "Undoubtedly the king's memory was restored
by the sight of the gem, for when it was brought to
him he said, c Yes, indeed, Sakuntala is my wife, and
when I cast her off I must have, for the moment, lost
242 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
my reason/ He showed strong marks of affliction
and repentance, and from that moment he has ab-
horred the pleasures of life. No longer does he
spend his days in making plans for the good of his
people. His nights are sleepless, and when he rises
from his restless couch he speaks like a man in a
vision; and whenever his eyes fall upon the form
of a woman he names her Sakuntala."
"This news is very pleasing to me," said the
watching fairy, still to herself.
"Consequently," went on the chamberlain, "by
reason of the king's affliction, the spring festival,
usually so full of gaiety, has been prohibited for this
year at least. But here comes our king himself.
Damsels, conceal yourselves."
The two pretty maidens at once hid themselves in
the tree while Dushyanta, dressed as a penitent and
attended only by a single guard and the royal jester,
walked slowly along the garden path.
"Ah," said the chamberlain, "even in his depth
of grief the king does not forego his majesty. Our
king is worn and weary; his golden bracelet falls
loosened even down to his wrist; his eyes are
dilated by sorrow and sleeplessness yet I am
dazzled by the light of virtue which proceeds from
his noble countenance."
"I," said the fairy, "am very favourably im-
pressed with the appearaiKe of this young monarch."
The jester regarded his royal master with a
sidelong look. "This is a case which passes all my
wit," he murmured disconsolately.
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 243
"The fatal ring restored my memory," said the
king, half to himself and half to the jester. "What
shall I do to obtain comfort?"
"The maiden skilled in painting is coming,"
said the jester, "bringing with her the portrait of
The king and his attendants walked slowly into a
leafy bower behind which the fairy had hidden
herself. "This is well," said she; "now I too shall
behold the portrait of my beloved Sakuntala."
Dushyanta seated himself and looked steadily at
the fatal ring. "Tell me," said the jester, "how the
ring obtained a place on the finger of Sakuntala."
Then the king roused himself. "I gave it to her,"
he said, "when I left the consecrated grove for my
capital, and I said to her?' Repeat each day one of the
three syllables engraved on this gem, and before
you have spelt the name Dushyanta, one of my
highest officers will attend you and lead you to my
palace.' Yet, in spite of this promise, I deserted
her in my forgetfulness."
"Now tell me," said the jester, anxious to divert
the mind of the king from its sorrow, "how this ring
came to enter the mouth of a carp like a hook?"
"When my queen was lifting water to her mouth
in one of the streams on the way hither, the ring must
have dropped from her hands unseen."
"It is very probable," said the jester, trying not
to yawn, for the sorrow of the king, which seemed to
lead to nothing, was beginning to weary him. But
the strain of the situation was at that moment relieved
244 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
by the appearance of a girl with a picture, which, after a
lowly reverence, she held before the eyes of the king.
He gazed upon the portrait with eyes blinded by
unshed tears without speaking a word, while the
hidden fairy said to herself, "In faith?'tis an ex-
cellent piece of painting which seems to bring my
lovely friend before my eyes."
"It is beautiful," said the young king, "but not
so beautiful as the face and form which inspired it.
Besides, a tear appears to trickle down the cheek of
my queen, which does not seem to be fitting to her."
Then the king gave directions to the painting-girl to
bring her paints and sketch in a background which
he described to her, showing the beautiful grove in
which he had first seen Sakuntala.
After a while the picture was placed in the care of
the jester, who took his way to the palace; but he had
not been long gone when cries of distress reached the
ears of the king. Then the old chamberlain came
running in to report that an evil monster had suddenly
descended upon the jester and had carried him off,
picture and all. His piteous cries rent the air, and
the king, throwing off his languor with a manly
gesture, called aloud for his bow in a glad resounding
voice of authority. In a moment a warder came up
to him with a bow and quiver, and Dushyanta,
taking them in his hands, made his way to the terrace
of the palace, while the cries of distress seemed to be
"Stand firm, my friend," cried the king as he
drew his bowstring?" this arrow will distinguish thee
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 245
from the foe in spite of the magic which surrounds
thee." At that moment, however, to the king's
supreme astonishment, the jester himself came smil-
ing towards him along the terrace. He was accom-
panied by a man in the dress of a charioteer, whose
feet seemed to glide along the floor of the terrace
without any apparent effort at walking. The stranger
was instantly recognised by the king as the chariot-
driver of Indra, the father of the gods and king of
men, and he gave him respectful welcome.
"King," said the charioteer, "live long and
conquer. I am sent to you by the ruler of the gods
to give you a commission worthy of your youth and
manhood. The gigantic race of the Daravas has for
long assailed the gods with impunity, but it is
written that, with your help, they will be prevented
from doing so any longer. Mount the car of Indra
with your bow and quiver and advance against them
without further delay."
"I am greatly honoured by the gracious com-
mand," said the king, "but tell me, was it you who
snatched up my friend here into the air and caused
him to send forth such piteous cries."
"Yes, indeed," said the charioteer with a smile.
"I was desirous of rousing your spirits by making
you thoroughly angry."
"My friend," said Dushyanta to the jester, "tell
my chief minister on what errand I have gone."
246 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
"I obey," said the jester with a smile, adding
somewhat ruefully, "but I wish the affairs of great
mortals could be settled without ruffling the feelings
of lesser people who never did any harm to their
lords and masters. "
We have not space to tell in detail of the glorious
warfare which the brave king waged on behalf of
Indra against the foes who had so long troubled
his peace. His success against the giants gained for
him the highest possible honours. Indra made the
victorious monarch sit on half of his throne; he
perfumed his bosom with essence of sandal-wood;
and he threw over his neck a garland of flowers which
had bloomed in the gardens of Paradise. Then the
father of the gods and king of men gave instructions
to a host of damsels to collect among the trees of life
a large quantity of those crimson and azure dyes
with which they used to tinge their lovely feet; and
using these as inks they wrote on the fleece of the
clouds high-sounding verses in praise of the great
deeds of Dushyanta. These wonderful inscriptions
were seen by the king himself as he was driven
through the clouds in the car of the god by the
divine charioteer towards his own kingdom.
"I see once more the habitation of men," he
said, as he looked downward, "but it is yet so
distant from us that the lowlands appear to be con-
founded with the highest mountains; the lofty trees
rear themselves aloft but seem to be mere leaflets;
the rivers look like bright lines but their waters
cannot be distinguished; at this moment, the great
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 247
earth sphere seems to be thrown upward towards us
by some stupendous power."
The charioteer of Indra looked down with pleasure
upon the fruitful garden of the world. "How de-
lightful is the abode of men?" he cried in admiration.
"Tell me, Matali," said Dushyanta, "what
mountain is that which, like an evening cloud,
pours forth streams of refreshment and forms a
zone of gold between the eastern and the western
"That is the mount of Hemacuta," said the
charioteer, "where the god Casyapa dwells with his
consort in holy retirement."
"I ought not to miss this opportunity of paying
homage to them," said the king.
"The idea is excellent," rejoined the charioteer,
as he brought the car to a stop without sound or
jerk. "A little beyond that grove you see a pious
Yogi, motionless as a pollarded tree, holding his
bushy hair while he fixes his eyes steadily upon the
sun. His body is half-concealed with the clay of
an ant-heap; he is girded with the skin of a snake;
his neck is wrapped round with twisted fibres;
and his shoulders are almost concealed with birds'
The two companions now approached the grove,
which unfolded before their wondering eyes all the
delights of the gardens of Paradise. The balmy air
was full of fragrance from the trees of life; the water
of the streams was dyed yellow with the golden dust
of the lotus; the pebbles on the floors of the caves
248 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
of retirement were gems of purest ray; and the
attendant maidens were more beautiful than pen can
The charioteer turned to his companion. "Rest
.here, King," he said, "under the shade of this tree,
while I announce your arrival to the ruler of this
sacred grove," The king bowed assent, and as soon
as his companion had left him felt his right arm
throb with violence. "That would be an omen of
coming joy," he said, "but joy has forsaken my life
since Sakuntala passed out of it."
At that moment he heard a voice which seemed
to be speaking in a scolding manner as if to a naughty
child. "Rest yourself," it said?" why do you give
way so readily to violent temper?"
The king cast his eyes around and saw at a
distance a little boy with two female attendants.
The child was forcibly pulling towards him a lion's
cub and trying to prise open its mouth in order, as
he said, "to count its teeth." The fearless action
of such a mere infant roused the interest and admira-
tion of Dushyanta, who found himself wishing that
he had such a son of his own. How he would rejoice
in his fearlessness!
"The lioness will get you," said one of the
women, "if you do not let her little one go?"
"Oh, I am afraid of her," said the boy with a
mischievous smile. "Let me hide; let me hide."
Then he ran, laughing roguishly, behind the skirts of
one of his nurses. But he did not release the lion's
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 249
"Let the little prince of wild beasts go free,"
said the woman, "and I will give you a prettier
"Give it to me first," said the child, stretching
out his little hand, which Dushyanta regarded with
great curiosity. "Why the very palm of his hand,"
he said, "bears the marks of empire."
"Words will not please him," said the second
attendant to the first. "Go to my cottage, where
you will find a plaything made for the hermit's
child an earthenware peacock richly painted."
The first woman went away at once as the boy
said quietly, "In the meantime I will play with the
lion's little son."
"I feel great affection for this wonderful child,"
said Dushyanta, as he stood apart in the shadow of
the tree. "How delighted must an affectionate
father be when he soils his bosom with the dust from
the clothing of the little one whom he clasps in manly
affection?" At that moment the second attendant
saw Dushyanta, and coming towards him begged him
to release the lion's cub. The king approached the
child with a smile, and without touching him said:
"How can you break the rule of this sacred grove ?
Whichever of the hermits calls you son has surely
taught you that all animals are sacred to kindness."
Without a word of protest and with a wondering
look at the stranger the boy at once set the cub free.
250 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
"I thank you," said his nurse to Dushyanta, "for
your help; but the boy is not really the son of a
The king took the boy by the hand, and, as he did
so, felt a sudden glow of tender affection pass through
his frame. "Ah?" he said to himself, "what must
a father feel at the touch of his child, when the hand
of a stranger fills me with such a feeling?"
Meanwhile the nurse was gazing at the man and
the boy with a look of the most profound wonder
and surprise. "Why do you look at me in that
manner?" said the king. "Who can disregard the
wonderful resemblance between the child and your-
self?" said the woman, "and whence comes it that
the boy, usually so naughty, obeys your voice without
The king raised the child in his arms as he said
to the woman, "If he is not the son of a hermit, what,
then, is the name of his family?"
"His mother is a princess of highest rank, and
not unconnected with the gods themselves."
"I am overjoyed," said Dushyanta, "and not in
the least surprised, for the child has the mien and
motions of a royal prince. May I ask who was the
father of the child?"
"It is not permitted to me," said the attendant
with sudden reserve, "to name a king who cruelly
deserted his own queen."
"It is enough?" said Dushyanta, whose face
broke into a smile of understanding.
At that moment the first attendant reappeared
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 251
with the toy in her hand. "See, little one," she
said, "how beautiful is this?"
"Where is my mother?" said the boy, taking no
notice of the plaything.
"How tenderly he loves Sakuntala?" said one of
the women to the other.
"Sakuntala?" said Dushyanta to himself. "Then
my queen is indeed his mother, and he is my own
"I shall love the peacock if it can run and fly,
but not else," said the boy.
"See," said one of the women, "the child's
amulet is not on his wrist."
"It dropped while he was playing with the cub,"
said Dushyanta. "I see it and will restore it to
"Do not touch it," said both the women hastily.
"Here it is," said the king, "but why would you
have restrained me from touching this bright gem?"
"Sir," said the second attendant, "this amulet
has a wonderful power, and when it was bestowed on
the child at his birth, it was said that if it fell to the
ground at any time, none but the father or mother of
the boy could touch it unhurt."
"What if a stranger had picked it up?" asked
"It would have become a serpent, and wounded
him," said the attendant.
"Has this really happened to another?"
"Yes, indeed," said the women, both at once.
Dushyanta raised the boy in his arms and em-
252 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
braced him with great tenderness. "Good-bye,"
said the child prettily, as he frankly returned the
king's caress. "I must return to my mother."
"My darling son," said the king, "let us make
her happy by going to her together."
"King Dushyanta is my father," said the boy,
"and you are not Dushyanta."
"His very denial of me delights me," said the
At that moment Sakuntala appeared, dressed in
mourning apparel, with her long black hair twisted in
a single braid and hanging down her back. As she
moved slowly forward she said to herself in a quiet
voice, "The amulet, they tell me, has proved its
"Ah," said Dushyanta, as he watched her approach.
"How worn is her face, once so smooth and placid!
How sad her demeanour, which was once so joyous
and so free?"
Sakuntala raised her eyes, seeing and yet doubting.
"Is that indeed my lord, grown pale with penitence
"Mother," said the boy, running hastily to the
princess, "here is a stranger who calls me his son."
"My best beloved," said the king to his queen,
as the lovely boy clung to the skirts of her robe, "I
have treated you with great cruelty. I implore your
remembrance and forgiveness."
SAKUNTALA AND DUSHYANTA 253
"I shall be overjoyed," said the queen modestly,
"when the king's anger against his servant shall have
"The memory of our meeting," said Dushyanta,
"was obscured by the gloom of some wicked en-
chantment. But now that gloom has entirely passed
away never to return."
"May the king be ," was the reply, but the
tender lips of the overwrought princess could not
frame the word "victorious," which always concluded
the royal greeting, and she burst into tears of joy.
"My darling," said the king, "though the word
of conquest trembles upon your lips, victory of the
highest is mine indeed, for now I know that not even
unkindness and forgetfulness has cast out your
affection for me."
"What man is this, mother?" said the boy,
tugging at the skirts of the princess; but before she
could answer him the king fell humbly at her feet
imploring her again for forgiveness. To see the
mighty monarch in such an attitude was too much
for the weeping queen, and she begged him to rise.
As he did so Sakuntala saw the fatal ring upon his
finger. "Ah," she said, "there is the cause of our
misfortune." "Take it, my beloved," said the king,
"Nay," was the gentle but firm reply, "I cannot
trust it. Let it be worn by my lord henceforward."
At that moment the charioteer of Indra entered
the grove with a smile upon his face, as if he knew
without information of the happy meeting of king
and queen and prince. "Was this fortunate event
254 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
previously known to the gods?" asked Dushyanta.
"What is unknown to the immortals?" was the
The charioteer now conducted them to the grove of
Casyapa, who bestowed upon them the richest bless-
ings, and sent them on their way with determination
to rule their subjects with a single aim for their
THE GREAT DROUGHT
A Tale of a Thirsting Land and a Thirsting Life
THE GREAT DROUGHT
ONCE upon a time the land of the Angas was sorely
afflicted by drought. The earth-goddess suffered
greatly, and her anguish was shared by all living
creatures; the soil was too feeble to bring forth
fruit or grass, so that the animals died, and men grew
pale from hunger. The king of the Angas prayed
earnestly for relief, and when no answer came to his
prayers he flung himself in despair upon the ground,
and cried to the god Vishnu, whose presence penetrates
all things?" Life is too sorrowful; let me die.
My heart is so full of pity for my people, whose
sunken eyes gaze upon me as upon the face of their
father. How can I endure this agony of vain suppli-
cation and live ? All their sufferings seem to gather
within my own breast. The weight of their misery-
bows me to the earth. If there be no help for me,
call me back to the bosom of the gods whence I
Having made this most earnest supplication, the
king rose from his knees and summoned his ministers
and courtiers to meet all the Brahmans and holy men
of the kingdom in a solemn council. When they
258 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
came together he said to them?" Can none of you
suggest how this curse may be removed from the
land ? If I cannot be of use to my people, I am
determined to bring my life to an end, and that
without further delay."
Then a holy Brahman stepped out from among
the rest and stood before the king. He was famous
for the purity and tranquillity of his life, and for his
deep knowledge of the ways of Wisdom and Virtue.
"Hear me, King," he said quietly. "In the
depths of the forest lives a hermit whose name is
Vibhandaka. Long, long ago he left this city with
his heart filled with hatred against all mankind,
because he had found in his dealings with them
nothing but foolishness and wickedness. He had a
deep scorn for all which goes by the name of pleasure,
and beauty in all its forms and manifestations he
utterly despised. He took with him into his forest
retreat his infant son Rishyasringa, and, choosing a
cave in the most desolate part of the forest, he settled
down to bring up the boy in such a manner that he
would never be disillusioned by experience.
"c I give you, my child/ he said to the infant?' the
beasts of the forest to be your playfellows: from
them you will learn less of cruelty and wickedness
than from human beings. You will hear the shriek
of the parrot, the howl of the jackal, the mewl of the
lynx, and the screech of the hyena, but you will be
spared the unnatural sound of the quarrelsome
voices of men and women. Among the most re-
pulsive reptiles and venomous insects you will live
THE GREAT DROUGHT 259
in ignorance of the vile jealousies and angry passions
of men. Exposed to the weather with its violent
changes, attended at every step by a thousand
dangers, living a life of hardship, affliction, and peril,
you will live more peacefully and more securely
than amon the people of a busy city/
"The father carried out his plan for training the
boy as a recluse, and from childhood to youth Rishyas-
ringa had heard no human voice, and looked upon no
human face, except that of his father. The hermit is
known far and near for his anger and for his rage
against all the race of men and women; consequently,
the:;hunter takes care to avoid his cave, and the other
dwellers in the forest go a long way out of their path
to keep away from it: even the prowling beasts of
prey do not go near to the place, for the gods,
approving of the severity of the hermit's life, have
given him the evil and awful POWER TO CURSE.
"And now Rishyasringa has become a man: and
in his life there is a drought as great as that which
afflicts this unhappy land over which you rule,
King; for lacking the cheering presence of his
fellow-men all kinds of generous and good qualities
inherent in his noble nature droop, and are like to
die, just as the kindly fruits of the soil in this stricken
country cannot refresh the bodies of men, because the
refreshing rain refuses to fall from the heavens.
Yet this young man is destined by the gods to per-
form great deeds, and be the ancestor of a gallant
race; and it has been granted to you, King of men,
to rescue the youth from the power of this angry
260 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
recluse. You shall fling open the doors of his heart,
that his fellow-men may make it their home. You
shall teach him how noble a thing it is to be a noble
husband, by giving him the hand of the Princess
Kanta, your daughter. To you shall be granted the
honour of bringing forth this hero to the light of the
world of men. And in return for this great service
which you shall thereby render to mankind, the
clouds will pour their treasures of rain over your
kingdom, and your afflicted people will once more
raise their heads."
As soon as the holy man had finished his speech
the king rose from his throne and said, "Which of
you will set out at once in search of the young
There was a stir among the counsellors and
ministers. "This is an honourable mission," they
said one to another, "and it is fitting that so illustrious
a person as yourself should carry it out." But no
man came forward on his own account to say, "Send
At length, however, a kinsman of the king, and
one of the most valiant men among the Angas,
stepped forward and said, "Tell me, holy Brah-
man, has this recluse really received the power to
"Yes," said the old man, "the gods undertook
to grant him whatever he might ask, and he begged
for this terrible gift."
The counsellors and ministers looked at one
another in dismay, and silence fell upon the company.
THE GREAT DROUGHT 261
The king looked round upon them with appealing
eyes. "Is there none/ 5 he asked, "brave enough
to come to the rescue of my fainting people?" No
one answered, and the council was broken up.
A few days later, however, the king once more
summoned his ministers and advisers to a council.
"I have thought of a plan, 53 he said, "by which we
may bring the young hermit here, and yet avoid the
terrible curse of his father.?' The courtiers were,
by this time, somewhat ashamed of their cowardice
and said, "We are your servants, King, and at
your command we are prepared, if necessary, to risk
our lives, or even to incur the terrible curse of
Vibhandaka." These words, however, were merely
the words of empty courtesy, and they muttered
under their breath, "Plague take him; is he going to
ask us to set out upon this foolish mission again ?
How can the coming of this young hermit cause the
rain to fall?"
"Listen to me/ 5 said the king. "This young man
has spent all his life in the woods: he has seen only
the animals, birds, and reptiles. As for mankind he
is familiar with the face and form of his father alone,
whom hatred and malice have transformed into a
"How shall it be with Rishyasringa if he sees the
face of a beautiful woman ?
"Fit me out, without delay, a spacious vessel.
Plant it with trees and shrubs, mosses, flowers, and
ferns, so that it may seem like a lovely island, and
let the most beautiful maidens in my kingdom go on
262 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
board this vessel disguised as hermits. Then let the
wind and the flowing stream convey these messengers
to the place where the angry recluse holds the young
hermit as a prisoner, and in the absence of the
father let the maidens lure the young man on board
the vessel. If I am not greatly mistaken, the ship
will return to us with a willing captive. See that
my commands are obeyed without delay, that the
clouds may once again pour down their generous
rains to rejoice the hearts of all my subjects."
When the ministers and counsellors heard the
plan of the king they were delighted beyond all
measure, and lost no time in following out his
directions. Now that the task of fetching the young
hermit had fallen upon other shoulders, they assured
the king that it was of the highest importance that the
directions of the aged Brahman should be followed
to the letter.
So the lovely maidens embarked on a ship which
had been fitted out in accordance with the king's
instructions, and the wind and the floating river
swiftly conveyed them, disguised as hermits, to the
place of retreat of the recluse, who had received from
the gods the terrible power to curse.
Now it happened that for some time before this
the recluse had avoided, as much as possible, the
society of his son. In his heart of hearts he knew
that he was no fit companion for the young man, for
THE GREAT DROUGHT 263
his temper was so dreadful, and the awful power
which he had coveted and obtained was so ready to
manifest itself that he frequently poured forth curses
almost against his will so that he had, in truth,
become afraid of his own evil passions. To avoid
making any mistake, which no power in heaven or
earth could correct, he kept out of his son's way.
It was his habit at early dawn to take his hermit's
staff in his hand and go out alone into the woods:
and he would wander about until the fever of anger
was worn away, and his mind was more calm and
tranquil. The young hermit was, therefore, often
left alone for days together, and he felt very desolate
indeed, for youth craves companionship as the thirsty
soil longs for the refreshing rain.
One evening, when the young man was feeling
sad beyond expression, he strolled out into the
woodland paths in search of sweet roots and berries.
It was that wonderful hour which marks the close of
the Indian day, when the Spirit of Enchantment
seems to hover over the earth, when colour is rarefied
without being obscured, and the shapes of things
are rendered ethereal without distortion or efface-
The dreamy youth wandered onward beneath
the stately plantain and the sweetly perfumed mango.
Overhead he heard the twittering of the birds as they
prepared to settle down side by side for the night
under their tender canopy of leaves. On either side
of the narrow path, which his father had made by
angrily tearing away the undergrowth, he saw the
264 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
long grass and the feathery ferns transformed into
fairy jungles by the tender golden light, and here and
there the prickly cactus with its flaming blossoms
intermingled with the snowy flowers of the jessamine.
And as he walked onward, in spite of, or perhaps
because of, all the beauty, he felt very sad indeed.
All at once a shower of dates that fell upon him from
a neighbouring palm-tree roused him from his sad
reflections. Looking upward he saw, perched on the
topmost bough, a squirrel which, when it caught his
eye, wrapped its face in its bushy tail, while at the
same time it peeped through the fringe of it with shy
but curious, black, and beady eyes.
"Dear me," it said, in the tone of one who is very
penitent indeed, "I am really very sorry; but the
branch from which I sprang shook itself, and conse-
quently the fruit fell. I can assure you that it really
fell of itself. Do not visit upon me, for pity's sake,
any of your noble and reverend father's curses."
"Foolish little creature," said the youth, with a
smile of infinite sweetness and sadness. "I would
rather bless you than curse you, if, indeed, I had the
power to do so."
The youth went onward, and a little farther away
came upon a lovely gazelle, which stood in the shade
of a fir-tree, while its large appealing eyes brimmed
over with unshed tears. "Woe is me," it said, "for
my poor, harmless mate. Just because it crossed the
path of the cruel hermit he slew it with a curse!
And I am left all alone?"
The heart of the youth was filled with pity, and,
THE GREAT DROUGHT 265
going up to the graceful creature, he said, "I, too, am
sad at heart. Let us weep together,"
But as soon as the gazelle saw him approach, it
started away in great alarm. "Do not be afraid of
me," said the young man, "I would not harm you
for worlds/?" You are the son of the man who has
the power to curse," was the answer. "Nay/ 5 said
Rishyasringa, "you and I have one Father to whom
we both owe the gift of life. We are brothers. Do
not be afraid of me, I beseech you."
But with the words, "You are the son of the man
who has the power to curse," the timid animal made
a hasty escape into the depths of the darkening
forest. Then with his eyes flowing with tears the
unhappy young man flung up his arms in piteous
petition to the powers of heaven.
"Why have I been sent into the world," he cried
in bitter anguish, "and given feeling and a sense of
right and wrong ? The whole plan of Creation
would be perfect but for my unhappy self. I see
the marvellous power that binds all living creatures
in sympathy and interchange of service, while I, and
I alone, stand outside of its kindly influence.
"I have the power of song, but there is none to
listen to my singing. I am strong with the strength
of perfect health, but there is naught for me to
conquer. I have skill of hand and power of brain,
but there is no necessity for me to use these heaven-
sent gifts. Thoughts which have wings flock to my
mind like homing birds to the mother's nest, but
there are none to share them. A love of the stars and
266 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
flowers and trees fills my heart with rapture, but
what is love which begins and ends with self-? I
have desires unknown and unnamed, but they find
nothing upon which they can be exercised. I
starve for companionship and the love of my fellow-
Now even as he prayed with uplifted arms there
came floating down to him upon the fragrant air a
breath which grew into a whisper, a whisper that
swelled into a song, a song that roused the drowsy
birds in their nest filling them full of jealousy at its
sweetness, and that woke the echoes from their sleep
to give a sweet reply. Then to the wondering eyes of
the young recluse there came tripping down the forest
path a company of anchorites, such as he had never
seen before, whose faces shone like the sun at noon-
day, and whose forms, even in their uncouth disguise,
seemed to be those of celestial beings.
Nearer and nearer they tripped and danced
towards him, gems of the richest lustre shining from
beneath their homely garments, silver anklets tink-
ling like the forest streams as they moved. The air
seemed to surround them with sweetest fragrance,
the trees showered delicate blossoms upon their
heads, the flowers kissed their dancing feet, while the
evening breezes played gently with the folds of their
Rishyasringa looked with startled eyes at the
THE GREAT DROUGHT 267
beautiful band; then he sighed and trembled
Right over against the young hermit the dancers
paused. Their song ceased suddenly, and, forming a
ring about the astonished youth, they looked stead-
fastly but smilingly into his face with their large,
Rishyasringa found himself smiling, almost against
his will: but still he trembled.
"Who are you?" they asked, and their voices
were like bells of silver. "Do you live alone in this
desolate place ? Tell us your name, beautiful
youth, and why you live here, so far away from all
the delights of dear companionship?"
The youth with difficulty found his voice. "I
am Rishyasringa," he said, "and this forest is the
whole world to me. Rightly do you call it desolate
and yet in spite of that hateful description it is not
really so dreadful at least if you will stay with me,
I will show you many things within its bounds
which are full of loveliness. My home is near at
hand. It is a cave in the hillside, but its walls are
glistening with unmined silver, and tender creepers
hang a delicate screen before its entrance. No ugly
and venomous reptiles or beasts of prey dare to
approach it. Not far away grow sweet roots and
berries and luscious fruits, which I will gladly gather
for your enjoyment. If you love the flowers they
are to be had in the greatest profusion, and of the
sweetest fragrance. The birds, too, are delightful for
colour and shape and song. Oh, believe me, it is not
268 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
so desolate a place after all at least, not if you stay
with me to share my enjoyment in its delights."
At his eager, breathless words the girls laughed
merrily, and their laughter was like the purling of a
brook over the pebbles in the leafy month of June.
The young hermit laughed also, but he could not
have told you why if you had asked him.
"Show us your home in a cave, gentle youth,"
they said eagerly; and they gathered closely round
him. Then he led them to the cavern in the rocky
hillside and regaled them with sweet roots and
berries and luscious fruits. But merry as they were,
these lovely maidens were not without uneasiness.
"If the recluse should return," they said, "he would
wither our youth and beauty with his powerful curse,
and make us ugly?" So after a short time for
rest they all sprang to their feet and said, "Farewell,
Rishyasringa, and thank you for your hospitality."
"Farewell?" cried the youth, "surely you will
not leave me. lovely strangers, I beseech you to
stay with me."
"And the old hermit what of him?" they
asked with fear in their voices. "Ah," thought the
young man, "my father would undoubtedly do them
"You are right," he said aloud. "It is better
for you that you should go. Farewell?" and in deep
sorrow he bowed his head upon his hands. "When
they are gone, I shall die," he murmured to himself.
"Nay, gentle youth," said they, "surely we
shall see you again. Will you not come and visit
THE GREAT DROUGHT 269
us in our hermitage ? Do you love our com-
panionship so little that you do not even ask where
we are to be found ? You know little of the rites
The youth raised his head slowly and looked at
the maidens, half in wonder and half in hope.
"I have seen," he said, "the bright stars rain
down from heaven. For one brief moment there was
light afterwards the darkness was all the more
intense and deep and blinding. It would be madness
to seek to trace such stars."
"Nay, indeed," they said with merry smiles,
"not if the stars lay gleaming at your feet. Our
home is so near to yours that if you seek for ever so
short a time you cannot fail to find it."
Thereupon they turned, and waving their hands
to the young man in token of farewell, they passed
out of the cavern.
Now when the old recluse returned to the
hermitage his son did not come forward to greet
him: nor did he bring him water for his feet as he
had been accustomed to do.
"What is this?" asked the hermit. "Of what are
you thinking, Rishyasringa ? Why do you sit there
with folded hands and eyes of wistfulness ? A
youth brought up as you have been cannot surely be
troubled with the feeling that mortals call love ?
"I had a dream," said the young man, slowly.
"I dreamt that, being in the woods, I met a company
270 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
of young anchorites; they were surely holy folk of
most distinguished virtue, for their faces were as
radiant as the noonday sun, and their forms seemed
of more than mortal beauty. They entered this dark
abode, and straightway it was filled with light. At
their lightest touch the blood throbbed so quickly
in my veins that I could have wept for pain, but
when I looked into their faces the pain became a
delight. At length they rose, and, waving their
delicate hands to me, they said, "Farewell, Rishyas-
ringa." They passed away, and all grew dark.
As he listened to the young man's story, the
hermit's lip curled in bitter scorn. "Hear me," he
said, in a harsh voice, "there are things which take
the form of beauty, but are really manifestations of
disease. There are forms of gracefulness which
wear the garb of sunshine, but are inwardly as black
as blackest night. These anchorites of yours were
Thereupon the surly old hermit stretched himself
upon the couch of leaves, and fell fast asleep.
But his son could not rest. "They were certainly
not demons," he said to himself over and over again;
and early the next day, as soon as the recluse had
left the cave, he started out to seek for the graceful
The birds were singing in the trees; the flowers
were sparkling with dew-drops; the air was full of
fragrance; the tender green of the leaves tempered
the glowing radiance of the sun and yet he could not
find those whom he had come to seek. He flung
THE GREAT DROUGHT 271
himself down upon the grass. "They have forsaken
me," he cried in bitter grief, "and nothing remains
for me now but to die,"
But this catastrophe was not destined to happen.
He heard a rustling among the bushes, and all
around him the air seemed to quiver with merriment;
the roses shook as if with inward laughter, and their
scented petals fell in tender showers upon the ground;
the blades of grass seemed to tremble with pleasure;
the tiny beetles, peeping out from their hiding-places'
chuckled with delight, and from a bower of greenery
sprang the young anchorites with dancing feet and
smiling faces, singing as they came.
"Did you think we had forsaken you, Rishyas-
ringa?" they cried in merry tones. "Yes, indeed, 55
he replied, and then for some unknown reason began
to laugh gently. The maidens joined in his happy
laughter, and the echoes of the forest continued the
sound until the air seemed to be full of joy. "Come
with us," they cried. "Let us show you our hermit-
age;" and then, while some of them held his hands,
and others sang and danced around him, they led
him to the lovely vessel which was moored by the
And as he stepped on board, far away, over the
land of the Angas, a fleecy cloud extended its downy,
swan-like wings and the rain began to fall in refresh-
ing showers upon the thirsty soil.
When the surly old hermit returned home that
evening he found his cave deserted. "Rishyas-
272 THE INDIAN STORY BOOK
ringa," he cried with impatience, but there was no
answer to his call, and he ran out into the forest,
repeating the cry again and again. But only the
echoes gave an answer to his piteous cries.
Soon he met a man driving before him a herd of
dappled cows of most unusual beauty. "Who is the
owner of these wonderful animals?" he asked,
surprised out of his anger by his admiration.
"They belong to Rishyasringa," was the herds-
man's answer. The hermit made no reply, but went
on his way with knitted brows, although at a slower
After a while he met a troop of splendid elephants
bearing ornaments of gold and ivory. "Who is the
owner of these wonderful animals?" he asked, and
this time he was not in the least surprised to receive
the answer, "They belong to Rishyasringa."
The hermit put his hand to his head and stood
in the middle of the road in a state of utter bewilder-
ment. As he stood wondering a chariot, all inlaid
with* gems and drawn by four swift horses, came
swiftly along the highway. "Who is the owner of
this noble chariot?" he asked, and he was less
surprised than ever to receive the answer, "It
belongs to Rishyasringa. To-day the young man
weds the beautiful Kanta, the daughter of the King
Thereupon the charioteer drove swiftly away and
left the hermit standing there alone, and thinking
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