The Harsha-carita of Bana, Chapter III
Raining affection on their country, thronged by many devoted people,
Even as fine seasons are kings born through the merits of their subjects.
To serve the good, to behold the goddess of glory, to tread the heavens,
Whose heart is not eager? - aye and to hear the fortunes of heroes.
ON a certain occasion Bana left the king's presence and went to that Brahman settlement to revisit his kin. It was the beginning of autumn, when the clouds are thinned, when the cataka is distressed, when the kadamba duck gives voice, - the season deadly to frogs, robbing the peacock of its pride. Then the caravans of hamsas are welcomed back, the sky is like a whetted sword, the sun brilliant, the moon at her clearest, tender the array of stars. The rainbow of Indra fades, the girdling lightning is at rest, Vishnu's sleep is invaded; the waters run hued like lapis lazuli, the clouds rolling light as mists leave Indra unemployed. Then closes the Nipa, the Kutaja has no flower; budless is the plantain, soft the red lotus, the blue lotus exudes honey; the water-lily is a joy, the nights are cool with the Cephalika, the jasmine becomes fragrant, the ten regions are all ablaze with opening night lotuses, grey are the winds with Saptacchada pollen, lovely clustering Bandhukas form an unexpected evening glow. The horses have undergone lustration, the elephants are wild, the herds of oxen intoxicated with ferocity. The range of mud diminishes, young sand isles bud forth by the river banks. The wild rice is parched to ripeness, the pollen is formed in the Priyangu blossoms, the cucumber's skin is hardened, and the reed grass smiles with flowers.
Gratified beyond measure at the news of Bana's favour with the king, his kinsmen came forth to meet him with congratulations. In due course he experienced the great joy of finding himself among his numerous relatives, greeting some, greeted by others, kissed by some, kissing others, embraced by some, embracing others, welcomed with a blessing by some, blessing others. The elders being seated, he took a seat brought by his excited attendants. At the receipt of the flower offering and other hospitable attentions his delight was still further increased, and it was with a joyous heart that he made his inquiries: - "Have you been happy all this time ? Does the sacrifice proceed without hindrance, gratifying the Brahman groups by its faultless performance ? Do the fires devour ablations with ritual duly and without flaw performed ? Do the boys pursue their studies at the proper time ? Is there the same unbroken daily application to the Veda ? The old earnestness in the practice of the art of sacrifice ? Are there the same classes in grammar exposition, showing respect by days not idly spent in a series of emulous discussions ? Is there the old logic society, regardless of all other occupations ? The same excessive delight in the Mimamsa, dulling all pleasure in other authoritative books ? Are there the same poetic addresses, raining down an ambrosia of ever-new phrases?"
They replied: - "Son, the affairs of us people devoted to contentment, whose intellectual pastimes are always at command, and whose only companion is the sacrificial fire, are of little importance, so long as the earth is happily protected by our monarch's arm, swaying the whole world and long as the body of the king of serpents. We are in any case happy, but especially now that you, having cast aside indolence, occupy a cane seat beside our sovereign lord. All the ceremonies proper to Brahmans are fully carried out as far as our powers and means permit and in due season."
Mid such conversations as these, court news, remembrances of past boyish sports, and stories of the men of old he amused himself with them for some time: at length rising at noon, he complied with the usual observances. After dinner his kinsmen gathered round him. Soon the reader Sudristi was observed approaching, wearing a pair of silken Paundra cloths pale as the outer corner of the peacock's eye: his sectarial lines were painted in gorocana and clay from a sacred pool blessed at the end of his bath; his hair was made sleek with oil and myrobolan, a thick bunch of flowers, kissing his short topknot, added a touch of spruceness, the glow of his lips had been heightened by several applications of betel, and a brilliance imparted to his eyes by the vise of a stick of collyrium: he had just dined and his dress was decorous and respectable. He seated himself on a chair not far away, and, after waiting a moment, set down in front of him a desk made of reed stalks, and laid upon it a manuscript from which he had removed the tie, but which still seemed encircled by the rays of his nails like soft lotus fibres. Next he assigned a place to a bee and a dove, which he set down close behind him. Finally, having turned over the intervening leaves marked by the end of the morning chapter, he took a small light block of a few leaves, and read with a chant the Purana uttered by Vayu, the rays of his teeth seeming to cleanse the ink-stained syllables, and to worship the volume with showers of white flowers, and his honeyed intonations, like the anklets of a Sarasvati brought near his mouth, charming the hearts of his hearers.
While Sudristi was thus reading with a chant delightful to the ear, the minstrel Sucivana, who was not far from him accompanied the modulation of the chant by reciting in a voice loud and sweet this arya couplet: -
'Itself sung by sages, itself widespread, embracing the world, cleansing from sin,
'Methinks this Purana differs not from the achievements of Harsa!
'Following the law of heredity, free from discord, noised abroad by its deeds, including all India under its sway,
'Issuing from a Shrikantha, this chant resembles the sovereignty of Harsa!'
Hearing this Bana's cousins, who had previously arranged together, looked meaningly at each other, while a smile's ambrosia whitened the convex of their cheeks. There were four of them brothers, Ganapati, Adhipati, Tarapati, and Shamala, and their aspect was, like Brahma's four faces, made pure by the study of the Veda, their looks, like the four methods, endearing from the employment of conciliation; men of mild manners, and culture, holding the status of preceptors, expounders of Nyaya, deep in the study of able works, receiving only good words both in the world and in grammar, versed in the acts of all monarchs and sages of old, inspired in mind by the Maha-Bharata, acquainted with all legends, great in wisdom and poetry, full of eagerness to know stories of heroes, thirsting for no elixir but that of listening to well-turned phrases, foremost in years, speech, distinction, asceticism, the conference, the festival, in person, and in sacrifice.
At a signal from the others the youngest of them with eyes long as lotus petals, Shimala by name, much loved by Bana and disposer almost of his soul, respectfully spoke, bathing the heavens with the light of his teeth: - "Friend Bana, the king of the twiceborn ravished his preceptor's wife. Puraravas was severed from his beloved Ayus through greed for a Brahman's gold. Nahusa, lusting after another's wife, became a great snake. Yayati took upon himself to win a Brahmani woman's hand and fell. Sudyumna actually became a woman. Somaka's cruelty in murdering Jantu is notorious. Through infatuation for the bow Mandhatri went with his sons and grandsons to hell. Even while an ascetic, Purukutsa wrought a deed of shame upon the daughter of Mekala. Kuvalayashva, through resorting to the world of snakes, avoided not the Naga-girl Ashvatara. Prithu, that fine first of men, did violence to Prithivi. In Nriga's becoming a chameleon a confusion of castes was seen. By Saudasa the earth was not protected, but confounded. Nala, unable to control his passion for dicing, was overcome by Kali. Samvarana had a weakness for Mitra's daughter. Dasharatha came by his death through overfondness for his beloved Rama. Kartavirya was slain for persecuting cows and Brahmans. Marutta, though he performed the Bahusuvarna sacrifice, involving vast expenditure, was not highly honoured by gods and Brahmans. Shantanu, separated through infatuation from his (loved) river, wept all alone in the forest. Padu in the midst of the woods lost his life, like a fish, in the heat of passion. Yudhisthira, downcast through fear of his guru, diverged from truth in the battle-front. Thus no reign has been stainless except that of this Harsa, king of kings, sovereign of all continents. Concerning him indeed many marvels are reported: - In him we see how a 'Subduer of Hosts' has set at rest the moving partisan kings. In him a 'Lord of People' has displayed forbearance towards all other rulers. In him a 'Best of Men' has won fame by pounding a king of Sindh. In him a 'Man of Might' has loosened a king from a circling trunk and abandoned an elephant. In him a 'Lord' has anointed a young prince. In him a 'Master' has signalized his power by laying low his enemy at one stroke. In him a 'Man-lion' has manifested his might by cutting down his enemy with his own hand. In him a 'Supreme Lord' has taken tribute from an inaccessible land of snowy mountains. In him a 'World's Lord' has stationed the world's guardians at the entrance to the regions, and the treasure of all the earth has been distributed among the first of the people. These and the like great undertakings do we see, resembling those of the first age of gold. Therefore we are eager to hear from the beginning onwards in the order of his lineage the fortunes of this auspiciously named hero, rich in the merit won by noble deeds. It is long since we first desired to hear. As the magnet attracts hard and sapless iron, so do the qualities of the great even the hard and tasteless minds of insignificant people: much more those of others naturally tasteful and susceptible. Who could be without curiosity regarding his story, a second Maha-Bharata ? Pray relate it, your highness ! Let our Bhrigu race become even more pure by the purificatory hearing of the deeds of the royal sage." So much said he became silent.
"Sir," replied Bana with a smile, "your remarks accord not with fitness. I consider the demands of your curiosity impracticable. People absorbed in their own objects are commonly void of discrimination between the possible and impossible. Attracted by the virtues of others and confused, I suppose, by passion for hearing stories of friends, the minds even of the great lose their discernment. Consider, sir ! On the one hand you have a mere student's wit of an atom's capacity, on the other his majesty's story commensurate with the whole edifice of Brahma; on the one hand a few sounds with circumscribed letters and the five modes of word-formation, on the other virtues beyond calculation. Beyond the comprehension of the omniscient, beyond the capacity of the god of speech, beyond the strength of the goddess of eloquence, how much more is he beyond such as I! What man could possibly even in a hundred of men's lives depict his story in full? If, however, you care for a part, I am ready. In what way may a feeble tongue possessed of a few grains of letters be of service? Your highnesses are the audience, the fortunes of Harsa the theme: what more can be said? The day, however, is near its close. The adorable sun, bright with matted locks of ruddy rays trailing behind, is sinking in the mass of the evening glow, like the Bhrigu Rama in the great pool of all Kuruksetra's blood. Tomorrow I will narrate the story." "So be it," they all assented, and rising soon after, he proceeded to the Shona for his twilight worship.
Then, with heat soft as a Malwa woman's wine-flushed cheek, the day folded itself up. Red exceedingly, as if through toying with the lotus beds, the sun kissing the dusk declined: following the track of whose chariot horses, the darkness sped like Yama's buffalo along the firmament. In due course the bark dresses banging upon the hut-roofs of the house ascetics were gathered in along with their patches of red blaze. The heavens were gladdened by the smoke of the Agnihotra rite, stealing away the taint of the Kali age. The sacrificers preserved a rigid silence: the women strolled around in the restlessness of recreation time. Bundles of green panicum and rice were being strewn about for the sacrificial cows after milking; the Vaitana fires were being lighted, the braided ascetics, hairy with black antelope skins, were seated on their clean mats, the students mumbled their tasks, the meditating yogis squatted in the Brahma posture, innumerable scholars ran about with sounds of clapping, while, by leave of their wearied old teacher, a concourse of dolts, dandies, and boys performed their twilight task by blunderingly belching out the disconnected lines of their books.
As the evening was now established in the sky and the lamps called stars were peeping forth, Bana proceeded to the house, and sate down in the same company with his loved kinsmen. The first watch having been so spent, he betook himself to a bed in the house of Ganapati. With all the others, however, who in spite of closed eyes obtained no sleep, waiting like lotus beds for the sunrise, curiosity made the night wear but heavily away.
Awaking at the fourth watch of the night, the same bard as before sang a couple of verses:
'Stretching out his foot behind, elongating his body upwards to full length by bending his spine,
'With bowed neck leaning his mouth upon his breast, tossing his dust-grey mane,
'His projecting nostrils restlessly moving through desire for fodder, the steed,
'Now risen from his bed, gently whinnying paws the earth with his hoof.
'With bent back and loins brought near his mouth, curving his neck sideways,
'His curls matted about his ears, the horse with his hoof rubs the corrner, of his eye,
'Inflamed by irritation in sleep, while small bits of chaff cling to his moving eyelashes,
'And his eye is unesily smitten by his tossing hoar-frost-scattering forebead-tuft.'
Hearing this, Bana dispelled his slumbers, and having arisen, washed his face, worshipped the holy twilight, took his betel at sunrise, and sought the same place as before. Meanwhile all his kinsmen collected and sat down in a circle round him. Having learnt their object through the former discussion, he began to relate to them the fortunes of Harsha:-
"Listen. There is a certain region named Shrikantha, peopled by the good, a heaven of Indra, as it were, descended upon earth, where the laws of caste usage are for ever unconfused and the order of the Krita age prevails. Owing to the number of its land lotuses the ploughs, whose shares uproot the fibres as they sear the acres, excite a tumult of bees, singing, as it were, the excellencies of the good soil. Unbroken lines of Pundra sugar-cane enclosures seem besprinkled by the clouds that drink the Milky Sea. On every side its marches are packed with corn heaps, like extemporized mountains, distributed among the threshing floors. Throughout it is adorned with rice crops extending beyond their fields, where the ground bristles with cumin beds watered by the pots of the Persian wheel. Upon its lordly uplands are wheat crops variegated with Rajamasa patches ripe to bursting and yellow with the split bean pods. Attended by singing herdsmen mounted on buffalos, pursued by sparrows greedy for swarms of flies, gay with the tinkle of bells bound to their necks, roaming herds of cows make white its forests, revelling on Vaspachedya grass and dropping milk as if the Milky Sea had been drunk by the bull of Shiva and then divided up by him into many portions through fear of indigestion. Like eyes let fall by Indra when blinded by the smoke of its divers burnt sacrifices, thousands of spotted antelopes dot the districts. Regions, pale with the dust of Ketaki beds emitting white pollen, gleam like the approaches of Shiva's City when made grey by the sprinklings of the Pramathas. Pot-herbs and plantains blacken the soil around the villages. At every step are groups of young camels. The exits are made attractive by vine-arbours and pomegranate orchards; arbours, ablaze with Pilu sprays, besmeared with the juice of hand-pressed citron leaves, having flower bunches formed of spontaneously gathered saffron filaments, and travellers blissfully sleeping after drinking the juice of fresh fruit, very hostels, as it were, with wood-nymphs dispensing ambrosia: orchards, where the fruit, ripe to bursting, seems coloured by the beaks of the parrots attacking the seeds, and the flowers are tinged by the cheeks of climbing monkey tribes. There are lovely groves where woodrangers taste the cocoa-nut juice, where travelling folk plunder the date-trees, monkeys lick sweet-scented date juice, and partridges tear the Aruka to pieces with their beaks. Not barren are the sylvan hollows of forest pools, refuge of myriad travellers, encircled with avenues of tall Arjuna trees and turbid at the edges through the descent of herds of kine. Troops of camels and flocks of sheep form in hordes under the guardianship of camel boys. Wandering droves of mares, besmeared with the sap of crushed saffron beds, where they roll as if to seduce the steeds of the sun's chariot, visit the land, roaming like the deer of the Maruts at will, with snorting nostrils and uplifted heads drinking in the air, as it were to beget speed in the young lying in their wombs.
Seen like wild geese amid the dusk of ever-smoking sacrifices, the reeds are white upon the earth. The land's vast resources sound through the animate world like peacocks wild at the sound of drums in concert. Good men, in conduct spotless as the moon's rays, adorn it like pearls. It has the attraction of all-welcoming hosts, like huge trees whose rich fruit is plundered by hundreds of voyagers. Great men are its bulwarks, clad, like the feet of the Himalaya, with the hair of deer bearing the fragrance of civet. Graced is it with ponds like Vishnu's navel, where fine birds are seated upon lotuses with tall stalks. Its regions are filled with wide ranches, which, like the turmoil of the churning of the Milky Ocean, wash the lands with torrents of churned milk. Such is the land of Shrikantha.
There did false doctrines fade away, as if washed out by a rain of tears due to the smoke of the Triple Fire. Sinful ways vanished, as if consumed by the burning of the bricks for altars. Demerit was scotched, as if cleft by the axes which fashioned sacrificial posts. Caste confusion ceased, as if cleansed by a rain from the smoke clouds of oblation fires. Sin fled, as if gored by the horns of the many thousands of presented oxen. Disasters were cut away, as if excised by numerous axes chiselling stone for temples. Calamities sped afar, as if routed by the tumult of munificent rites. Disease was dissipated, as if consumed by myriad blazing sacrificial kitchens. Sudden death came not near, as if alarmed by the sharp beat of holy drums struck at bulls' wedlocks. Plagues departed, as if deafened by the never-ceasing noise of hymns. Overwhelmed, as it were, by the rule of law, mishap did not arise.
In such a country is a certain district called Sthanvishvara, blessed, like the world's first youth, with sweet fragrance of lovely flowers in divers pleasances; bedecked, like the road to Dharma's gynaeceum, with many myriads of buffalos stained from rolling in saffron; whitened at its borders, like a part of the celestial realm, with yak-tail flappers shaken by the winds; blazing to all the ends of heaven, like the encampment of the Krita age, with thousands of flaming sacrificial fires; allaying all inauspicious signs, like the Brahma-world's first descent, by the meditation of Brahmarsis seated in the posture of thought; thronged, like a rival to the Northern Kurus, with hundreds of great rivers uproarious with tumult; surpassing Tripura, as it were, in having all its people unacquainted with the devastating might of Shiva's arrow; bright, like a replica of the moon world, with rows of white houses plastered with stucco; like a claimant to the name of Kuvera's City, oppressing the world with clanking ornaments of wine-flushed beauties.
Sages entitled it a hermitage, courtesans a lover's retreat, actors a concert hall, foes the city of death, seekers of wealth the land of the philosopher's stone, sons of the sword the soil of heroes, aspirants to knowledge the preceptor's home, singers the Gandharvas' city, scientists the Great Artificer's temple, merchants the land of profit, bards the gaining-house, good men the gathering of the virtuous, refugees the cage of adamant, libertines the Rogue's Meet, wayfarers the reward of their good deeds, treasure-seekers the mine, quietists the Buddhist monastery, lovers the Apsaras' City, troubadours the festival congress, Brahmans the stream of wealth.
There are women like elephants in gait, yet noble-minded; virgins, yet attached to worldly pomp; dark, yet possessed of rubies; their faces are brilliant with white teeth, yet is their breath perfumed with the fragrance of wine; their bodies are like crystal, yet their limbs are soft as acacia flowers; they are unattainable by paramours, yet robed in bodices; wide are their beautiful hips, yet are they possessed of thin waists; lovely are they, yet honeyed in speech; they trip not, yet have a bright and captivating beauty; they are without curiosity, yet wedded.
Their eyes are a natural mundamala wreath, the garlands of lotus leaves are a mere burden. The images of their curls in the convex of their cheeks are ear-pendants that give no trouble; Tamala shoots are a superfluity. The talk of their dear ones forms happy ear-ornaments; rings and the like are but affectation. Their cheeks alone give a perpetual sunshine; for pomp only have they jewelled lamps by night. Tribes of bees attracted by their breath are their beauteous veils, the duty of noble women their hair-nets. Their voices alone are their sweet lutes, harp-playing is but an irrelevant accomplishment. Laughs are their exceeding fragrant perfumes; needless is camphor powder. The gleam of their lips is a more brilliant cosmetic; saffron unguent is a worthless blot upon their loveliness. Their arms are the softest of playfully smiting wands; purposeless are lotus stalks. Drops of the sweat of youthful warmth are their artful bosom ornaments, necklaces but a burden. Their laps are broad squares of crystal slabs for their lovers; jewelled couches in their mansions a needless means of repose. Bees clinging in greed for such lotuses are their resonant foot-ornaments; useless are anklets of sapphire. Domestic kalahamsas, summoned by the tinkle of their anklets, are the unfailing companions of their walks; attendants are but the accidents of greatness.
In that country there arose a monarch named Puspabhuti, having, like Indra incarnate, a bow supporting all castes, Meru-like in the attribute of a golden nature, Mandara-like in attracting glory, ocean-like in observing proper bounds, ether-like in the noising abroad of his fame, moon-like in his receptivity for arts, Veda-like in truthful speech, earth-like in supporting all mankind, wind-like in sweeping away the bad passions of all kings, a Guru in speech, a Prithu in breast, a Vishala in intellect, a Janaka in asceticism, a Suyatra in splendour, a Sumantra in secret council, a Budha in station, an Arjuna in brilliance, a Bhisma with the bow, a Nisadha in frame, a Shatrughna in battle, a Shura in vanquishing armies of heroes, a Daksa in fecundity; framed in fine as it seemed of the compounded splendour of all the primaeval kings.
This king, jealous of the saying "this earth was made a cow by Prithu," made the earth his queen. Now the minds of the great are naturally wilful and follow their own lights. Wherefore from boyhood upwards he, untaught by any man, entertained a great, almost inborn, devotion towards Shiva the adorable, readily won by faith, upholder of the universe, creator of creatures, annihilator of existence. From all other gods he turned away. Not even in dreams did he take food without worshipping him whose emblem is the bull. Devoted to the Lord of Beings, the increate, ageless, guru of the immortals, the foe of the Demons' City, the lord of countless Hosts, spouse of the Daughter of the Mountains, him before whose feet all worlds bow, he thought the three spheres void of all other deities. The dispositions of his subjects also were conformable to their monarch's mind. Thus: - house by house the holy lord of the Cleaving Axe was worshipped: the winds blowing in those pure districts were fragrant with much resin melted in the sacrificial pits, they dropped a rain of dew from the milk used for bathing, they whirled along petals of Bel twig chaplets. It was with gifts and presents customary in Shiva's worship that the king was honoured by citizens, dependents, councillors, and neighbouring sovereigns, whom his arm's might had conquered and made tributary. Thus: - they gratified his heart with huge Shiva bulls white as Kailasa's peaks, and ringed about their horn-tips with gold-leaf creepers; with golden ewers, with oblation vessels, censers, flowered cloths, lamps on jewelled stands, Brahmanical threads, and mukhakoshas inlaid with bits of precious gems. His queens also complied with his desire, voluntarily undertaking the threshing of the scattered rice, deepening the glow of their hands by staining the temples with unguents, occupying all their attendants in stringing flowers. Now this monarch so devoted to Shiva heard men speak of a certain great Shiva saint named Bhairavacerya, almost a second overthrower of Daksa's sacrifice, who belonged to the Deckan, but whose powers, made famous by his excellence in multifarious sciences, were, like his many thousands of disciples, spread abroad over the whole sphere of humanity. Harmony in character conciliates good will even towards unknown persons; and so, immediately on hearing of this saint Bhairavacrya, the king conceived towards him, though far away, a deep affection as towards a second Shiva, and desired even with longing by all means to see his face.
One day, as the failing light was kissing the western hill, the portress approached the king, who was in the harem, and said: 'Your majesty, a recluse stands at the door and declares that he has come by order of Bhairavacrya.' 'Where is he,' the king with profound respect inquired, 'conduct him here, introduce him.' The chamberlain did so, and soon the king saw the ascetic enter, a tall fellow with arms extending to his knees, emaciated by a mendicant's life yet from the stoutness of the bones in his limbs appearing fat, broad in the head, his forehead undulating with deep wrinkles, fleshless hollows beneath his eyes, which were round and ruddy as wine drops, his nose slightly curved, one ear very pendulous, the rows of his prominent teeth distinct as seeds in a gourd, his lip loose as a horse's, his jaw elongated by a hanging chin. A red ascetic's scarf hanging from his shoulder formed his vaikaksaka wrap; his upper robe, consisting of a tattered rag knotted above his heart and stained with red chalk, seemed to betoken the knotted passions of his heart, which he had rent in pieces. In one hand he grasped his bamboo stool. His left held a yoke pole resting on his shoulder, where its motionless point of support was tied with a complicated fastening of hair rope; to this were attached his dirt-scraper and sieve of bamboo bark, his loin cloth at the end, his alms bowl contained in its receptacle, namely a cavity of Kharjura wood, his waterpot fixed in a triangular support made of three sticks, his slippers disposed outside, and a bundle of manuscript bound by a string of stout cord.
As he drew near, the king welcomed him with the usual courtesies, and when he was seated, asked where Bhairavacarya was. Charmed with the king's gracious speech, the mendicant stated that he was staying near the city in a deserted house contiguous with the woods on the Sarasvati's banks; and he further added 'His reverence honours your sovereign majesty with his blessing.' With which words he drew from his pack and presented five jewelled silver lotuses sent by Bbairavacarya, which overlaid the harem with a glow of light.
The king, shrinking, as politeness dictated, from slighting a friend's gift, but also unwilling to be guilty of too hasty acceptance, paused a moment wavering, but at length, yielding to his great nobleness, he took the gifts and said: - 'Our devotion to Shiva, the source of all fruitful results, produces fruits inaccessible indeed to desire, seeing that we find such favour with his reverence, the guru of the world. To-morrow I will see his reverence.' With these words he dismissed the ascetic, profoundly delighted at his news.
The next day he rose early, mounted his horse, and with his white umbrella held above him, and a pair of white chowries waving, proceeded accompanied by only a few nobles to see Bhairavacarya, like the moon visiting the sun. Having advanced some distance, he saw one of Bhairavacarya's own disciples approaching, and inquired where his reverence was staying. 'In a Bel-tree plantation,' the man replied, 'north of yon old temple to the Mothers.' So he proceeded to the place, dismounted, and entered the plantation.
In the midst of a great throng of recluses he beheld Bhairavacarya, who on seeing him at a distance moved like the ocean seeing the moon, and, after his disciples had first risen, rose and went forward to meet the king. Having presented a gift of Bel fruit, he pronounced a benediction in tones deep as the roar of Ganges' flood when it was vomited forth from Jahnu's ear.
The king, whose eyes, expanding their white in pleasure, seemed to repay the lotuses many-fold, and whose brilliant crest-jewel, declining upon his forehead, seemed to put forth a third eye as a manifestation of Shiva's favour, repeated his salutation by a bow from a distance; while from his ear-wreath, as he bent down, bees flew away like departing sins all uprooted by Shiva worship. 'Approach, be seated here,' said the teacher, pointing to his own tiger-skin. 'Your reverence,' the king respectfully replied in a voice flowing like a river of honey and rich with the passionate throbbing utterance of lovesick hamsas, 'you ought not to make me suffer for the faults of other princes. It is surely the bad manners of that inglorious glory which all kings regard, or else the mean pride of wealth, which makes the teacher deal so with me. I am no object for ceremoniousness. Enough of formality: however far removed, in will I am your reverence's disciple. A teacher's seat should be like himself respected, not desecrated. Let your highness only sit here.' So much said, he seated himself on a rug brought by his attendants. Bhairavacrya likewise, complying graciously with the king's not to be resisted words, reoccupied as before his tiger skin. All being seated, the nobles and retinue and also the students, he made the customary offering of flowers and the like. In due course captivated by the king's charm of manner, he began to speak, displaying teeth glittering like devotion to Shiva made visible, and stainless as a piece of moonlight: - 'My son, your exceeding condescension of itself proclaims the majesty of your virtues. You are a vessel for universal good-fortune. Your undertakings harmonize with your greatness. I from birth upwards have never had regard to riches. This poor person of mine therefore is not sold to wealth, that fuel to the fire of the whole round of vice. My life is sustained by alms. A few hard-won syllables of knowledge are mine. I have some small store of merit acquired by humble service of the holy Master Shiva. Be pleased to appropriate whatever of this deserves to be of service. Like flowers, the minds of the good can be bound by very slight ties. Moreover good men approved by the wise, like good words, at the first hearing produce a flash even in profound minds. I was being borne away on the foam-white currents, as it were, of a curiosity plunging into hidden depths, when your nobility drew me back by its array of virtues.'
'Your reverence,' replied the king, 'let the bodies of the good be ever so devoted, their owners alone can be our friends. The mere sight of you has done me infinite good. By his mere coming the teacher has placed me in an enviable position.' After some time spent in these and various discourses he went home.
Another day Bhairavicarya on his part went to see the king, who placed himself, his harem, his court, and his treasury at the ascetic's disposal. But the sage with a smile replied: - 'What have we children of the woods to do, your majesty, with power? Wisdom withers sure enough, like a creeper, under the blaze of wealth. The brightness which shines in us is like that of the firefly, which scorches no other being. Only your majesty's peers are vessels for fortune.' Then after staying some time he departed.
The mendicant as before presented five silver lotuses on each occasion. One day however he entered with something wrapt in white rags, and, having sat down as before, after a pause spoke: - 'Most fortunate king, his reverence informs your majesty that he has a Brahman disciple named Patalasvamin, who from the hand of a Brahmaraksasa took a great sword called Attahasa. Pray accept of this, a weapon befitting your majesty's arm.' With these words he removed the covering of rags, and drew forth from the sheath a sword, like the autumn sky converted to a scimitar, Kalindi's stream solidified to rival Vishnu's sword, the Kaliya snake in its anger against Krishna become a weapon, a bit of the black cloud of doomsday fallen from the heaven foreshadowing a rainfall to dissolve the world; resembling the smile of Hate-, displaying a circle of great teeth, or Hari's stout arm with the fist' tightly clenched; formed as it were of deadly poison capable of taking the lives of all the world; composed of steel heated by the fiery wrath of fate; in its exceeding sharpness humming as with rage at the mere touch of the air; seeming, as its image fell upon the jewelled pavement of the hall, to cleave its very self in twain: jagged in edge with rays, like hairs left upon it after decapitating foes; mincing the day, whose light was cut in pieces by an inlay of radiance flickering like the lightning's frequent flash; a side-glance, as it were, of the night of doom, death's ear-lotus, the triumphal shout of pitilessness, the ornament of arrogance, the family friend of wrath, the body of pride, the comrade of valour, the child of death, the path of approaching glory, the road of departing fame.
The king took it in his hand, and gazing at it for a while, seemed, as it reflected his image, to be giving the weapon a loving embrace. At length he gave his message: - 'Inform his reverence that, though too practised in the art of scorning the acceptance of other people's property, my mind is unable in his case to commit the impropriety of going counter to his words.' Pleased at the acceptance, the mendicant answered, 'Fortune attend your majesty: I now take leave of you,' and so departed. The king, naturally of a warlike humour, felt that by aid of that sword the earth lay in the hollow of his hand.
The days passing, Bhairavacarya on one occasion made a secret petition to the king: - 'The dispositions of the great, your majesty, are careless of their own interests, versed in serving others. To such as your majesty seeing petitioners is a festival, solicitation is to confer a favour,. the acceptance of gifts by others a boon. You are the centre of all men's wishes. Wherefore I now address you: - Listen; by a crore of muttered prayers have I, in garlands, clothes, and unguents all of black as enjoined in the Kalpa, performed in the great cemetery the exordium of the potent rite called Mahakilahridaya. Its completion ends with the laying of a goblin. Without companions this is unattainable. You are capable of achieving this. Should you undertake the task, there will be three other assistants: one the friend of my boyhood, Titibha, the mendicant who visits your majesty; the second Patalasvamin; the third a Dravidian disciple of mine, Karnatala by name. If you approve, let this arm of yours, long as a sky elephant's trunk, take Attahasa and for one night become the bolt of one quarter of the heavens.'
To this speech the king, delighted, like one in darkness who sees a light, at the opportunity of conferring a favour, replied: - 'I am highly honoured, your reverence; I consider myself favoured by a charge to be shared with your disciples.' Overjoyed at the king's words, Bhairavacarya proceeded to make an appointment; - ' Your honour, armed with your sword, will find us in the empty house near the great cemetery here at this hour on the approaching fourteenth night of the dark fortnight.'
The days having passed and the fourteenth having arrived, the king after initiation in the Shaiva ritual fasted. The sword Attahasa he perfumed and honoured with scents frankincense, and wreaths. The day came to a close. A ruddy hue spread over the heaven, as though some one had performed a Bali ceremony with sprinkled blood to ensure the success of the rite. The sun's rays hung down like vampires' tongues greedy for the scattered blood. As though out of attachment to the king he too wished to become a warder of the sky, the sun had occupied the western quarter; like goblins seemed the lengthening shadows of the trees. The encircling darkness started up like hell-haunting, fiends to stay the rite. In the firmament the starry clusters gathered close, as if to look upon a horrid act. Thus at the dead of night, in the soundless stillness of a sleeping world, the king, eluding his court and harem, a dagger gleaming in his left hand, Attahasa drawn in his right, cloaked from head to foot in the spreading radiance of his sword like a dark blue silken robe assumed to escape detection, set forth alone from the city, and reached the appointed spot; royal majesty attending unbidden, and success dragged, as it were, by the hair behind in the shape of braids of bees attracted by his fragrance.
Then the three, Titibha, Karnatala, and Pitilasvamin, came up and announced themselves, armed like Drona's son, Kripa, and Kritavarman in the Night Assault, bathed, garlanded, and strangely attired. About their topknots of flowers ranged murmuring bees, which formed as it were a magic hair tie. On their heads they wore turban wraps with large Svastika knots fastened in the centre of their foreheads, and resembling huge mystic seals. Their cheeks were lit with the light of dazzling earrings pendant from the cavity of one ear, while their mouths were as it were drinking up the gloom of night in the wish to weaken its roaming goblins. Jewelled rings dangling from the other ear anointed them with sparkling lustre like a spell-charmed gorocana pigment. Brandishing sharp swords, wherein their images were reflected, they seemed offering human sacrifices to ensure the success of the rite, while the long-continued flashes of the steel lined the darkness, as if they would cleave the night in three with a view to guarding their several quarters of the horizon. Their bucklers, bearing crescents and scintillating starlike groups of silver globules, might be compared to bits of darkness sheared by the hard sword's edge and forming a second and artificial night. They wore thick new cloths girt with golden chain-belts, and daggers were fastened to their waists.
'Who goes there?' demanded the king of the three. They severally announced their names, and with them at his heels he proceeded to the silent, deep, and awful graveyard, where all was in readiness and pounded resin, flaming in magic lamps, filled the heavens with incense and smoke, as if the night were fleeing away with its gloom half-burned by a scattered mustard charm.
In the centre of a great circle of ashes white as lotus pollen Bhairavacarya could be seen, a form all aglow with light, like the autumn sun enveloped in a broad halo or Mandara in the whirlpool of the churned Ocean of Milk. Seated on the breast of a corpse which lay supine anointed with red sandal and arrayed in garlands, clothes and ornaments all of red, himself with a black turban, black unguents, black amulet, and black garments, he had begun a fire rite in the corpse's mouth, where a flame was burning. As he offered some black sesamum seeds, it seemed as though in eagerness to become a Vidyadhara he were annihilating the atoms of defilement which caused his mortal condition. The gleam of his nails falling on the oblation appeared to cleanse the flames of the pollution due to contact with the dead man's mouth, while his smoke-inflamed eye flung as it were an offering of blood upon the devouring blaze. His mouth, showing the tips of white teeth as he slightly opened his lips in his muttering, seemed to display in bodily shape the lines of the syllables of his charms. The lamps near him were imaged in the sweat of his sacrificial exertions, as if he were burning his whole body to ensure success. From his shoulder hung a Brahmanical thread of many strands, encircling his form, like a multiple Vidyaraja charm.
Having approached, the king saluted, and being welcomed set about his own task. Patalasvamin chose Indra's quarter, Karnatala that of Kuvera, the mendicant that of Pracetas, while the king himself adorned that marked by Trishanku's light.
The warders of the regions having taken their stations, Bhairavacarya confidently entered the cage composed of their arms, and proceeded with his awful work. The opposing fiends having after fruitless resistance and much uproar been allayed, suddenly at the very instant of midnight the earth was rent open to the north and not far from the magic circle, displaying a fissure like the jaws of the mighty boar of doomsday. Forthwith, like a copper post torn up by the sky elephants, there ascended out of the chasm a spirit dark as a blue lotus, with shoulders thick and square as the Great Boar's, a fiend, as it were, risen from the womb of earth or the demon Bali springing up from the cloven hell. The gleam of a Malati wreath amid locks of crisp curled hair, sleek, dark and growing thickly, produced the effect of a sapphire temple crowned with the blaze of a jewelled lamp. A throbbing voice and an eye naturally red suggested one drunk with the vapours of youth. A necklace tossed about his throat. Ever and anon he smeared shoulders comparable to the sky elephants' frontal globe with clay crushed in his clenched hand. Irregularly bespotted with moist sandal paste, he resembled a tract of autumn sky speckled with bits of very white cloud. Above a petticoat white as the Ketaki petal his flank was drawn tight by a scarf, the long white cotton fringe of which, carelessly left loose, hung to the ground just as if it were the serpent Shesa supporting him from behind. His stout thick thighs planted slow paces as if he feared to break through the earth: yet they could scarce support his mountain-like form with its burden of overmastering pride. Again and again he doubled his left arm athwart his breast, raised the right cross-wise, bent his leg, and furiously slapped his arms, with such a noise as though he would raise a storm to hinder the rite and maim the animate world of one sense. 'Ho, my would-be paramour of Vidyidharis,' he sneeringly shouted in tones awful as the echo of Narasimha's roar, 'whence this conceit of knowledge or blind reliance on your helpers, that without making an oblation to me you aspire - fool that you are - to success? What madness is this? Has no mention come to your ears after all this time of me, the Naga Shrikantha, after whom this region, whereof I am lord, is named? Against my will what power have the very planets to move in the heavens? What a miserable unkingly king is this, who accepts favours from such Shaiva outcasts as you! Receive now along with this wretched monarch the reward of your misconduct.' When he had said thus much, the three, Titibha and the rest, rushed upon him; but with furious buffets he dashed them, armour, swords and all, to the ground.
Never before had the king heard himself reviled. His limbs, albeit unwounded, poured forth a stream of furious sweat, water of the sword-edge, as it were, drunk in many a battle. His hair bristled like an array of arrow heads shot out in hundreds to lighten him for the fray. Even Attahasa, mirroring the constellations, seemed to proclaim his unbending spirit by a contemptuous smile showing clearly a row of white teeth. As his hands moved restlessly in the act of tightening his girdle, their horizon-like gleam of nails seemed a demon-quelling charm circle, blocking the wide heaven to guard against escape. Scornfully he cried, 'Ho, serpent, crow, are you not ashamed to demand an oblation in the presence of such a royal flamingo as I? But what avail these taunts? Valour dwells in the arm, not in the voice. Take to your weapon. Not thus are you my match. My arm is untaught to smite the weaponless.' With still greater disdain the Naga replied: - 'Approach, what care I for swords? With my two arms will I crush your pride,' and so slapped his arms. Ashamed to vanquish a weaponless foe with weapons, the king, flinging away sword and buckler, girt up his loins outside his cloak for a fight with fists. So they fought till their furious slapping had bedewed them with a rain of blood from lacerated arms, which falling like stone pillars almost converted the whole world into sound. Soon the king smote the serpent to the earth, and having seized him by the hair, had drawn Attahasa to strike off his head, when amid the wreath on his shoulder he detected the sacred thread. Forbearing his weapon, 'Villain,' he cried, 'this then is the seed of your career of ill-doing, this is whence you proceed without fear in your wicked courses,' and so let him go. Straightway as in a moment he beheld a great brightness; a perfume as of lotus beds opening in autumn smote upon his nostrils; instantaneously he heard a tinkle of anklets, and guided his glance in pursuit of the sound.
In the centre of the sword resting in his hand, like a lightning flash in the womb of a black cloud, he beheld a woman whose radiance seemed to swallow up the night. Her hands were like red lotuses. Like seaside coral beds clinging to her feet trailed the web-like rosy glow of her soft toes. Disguised as her white toe-nails she bore along the splintered moon-disk, as if for fear her lotus hands should close. Clasped anklets lay about her ankles, as though in her coming she had burst from a prison of thick linked chains. Out of a dazzling white silken robe, embroidered with hundreds of divers flowers and birds, and gently rippled by the motion of the breeze, her form rose up as from an ocean's waters. The tribali clasped her waist like the three-fold Ganges pleased at her birth from the deep. Her round bust with its prominent bosom, was like the sky displaying the sky-elephants' frontal bones, and across her bosom, like the dew on the trunk of Airavata in his time of rut, lay a necklace with lustrous pearls like stars of autumn. Swayed like white chowries by her soft, soft breathing, the light of the necklace seemed to fan her. Her hands bore a naturally rosy tint, as if they had caught a vermilion tinge from slapping the forehead of a rut-blinded scent elephant. Her flashing ear-ring shone like the second half of Hara's crest the moon, curved to a circle. Clinging about her ear was an ornament of Ashoka shoots like a cluster of the Kaustubha's brightness. Her forehead lacked not a great sectorial line dark as elephant's ichor, like an unseen umbrella's circular shadow. Moon-white sandal, like the glory of the kings of old, brightened her form from hair-parting to feet. Flowery wreaths, dangling from her throat and kissing the ground, flowed over her like rivers finding their repose in ocean. Limbs soft as lotus fibres voicelessly proclaimed her lotus birth.
'Who art thou, lady?' cried the king unappalled, 'and wherefore hast thou come within my sight?' 'Hero,' she said, almost overpowering him with an unabashedness at variance with her sex, 'know me to be that deer whose pleasure haunt is Narayana's breast, the banner-pennon of Prithu, Bharata, Bhagiratha and the other kings of old, the gay doll upon the victor columns of heroes' arms, the flamingo wantoning with yearning to sport upon the waves of battle's bloodshed stream, the peacock of the thickets of kings' white umbrellas, even Shri, the lioness whose caprice is to roam in the forest of sharp scimitar edges, the lotus bed of the pools of sword-edge water. I am ravished by this thy valorous spirit. Crave of me a boon: I will give thee thy heart's desire.'
Heroes are unwearied in serving others. So the king bowed to her, and heedless of his own advantage, besought the success of Bhairavacarya. Highly gratified, the goddess, anointing the king with her wide-open eyes like a milk ocean thrown over him, replied 'So be it,' and added, 'Because of this magnanimity of thine and because of thy superlative devotion to the holy Lord Shiva thou, like a third added to the Sun and Moon, shalt be the founder of a mighty line of kings persisting unbroken upon earth, daily increasing in greatness, full of matchless heroes elate with purity, high- fortune, truth, munificence, and fortitude. Wherein shall arise an emperor named Harsa, governor like Harishcandra of all the continents, world-conquering like a second Mandhatri, whose chowrie this hand, spontaneously abandoning the lotus, shall grasp.' So saying she vanished.
The heart of the king was beyond measure gratified to hear this. Bhairavacarya himself, having by the words of the goddess and the full performance of the rite instantly acquired the hair-lock, diadem, earring, necklace, armlet, girdle, hammer, and sword, became a Vidyadhara. Addressing the king he said: - 'The wishes, O king, of indolent feeble-minded people embrace not remote objects: but the favours of the good are of their very nature far-reaching. To bestow this boon, unimagined even in dreams, who except your majesty had power? A man of light qualities is lifted up like a scale by the acquisition of a mere particle of success. Having been served by your virtues and having attained my purpose through none other than you, I am inspired by the immodesty of an infatuated heart. And so it is my wish to win remembrance by endeavouring in whatever way I can to afford you some grain of assistance.' The stout hearts of the wise, however, are proof against reciprocation of favours, and the king therefore refused, saying, 'By your reverence's success my task is finished; let your reverence proceed to a station according with your wish.'
After this reply from the king, Bhairavacarya, now on the point of departure, warmly embraced Titibha and the others, and regarding the king with a tearful eye like a blue lotus-bed streaming with frosty dew, "Friend," he resumed, "should I say 'I am going,' that were a poor token of affection'; if I say 'my life is yours,' 'tis superfluous; 'make this poor body your own' would imply the creation of an unreal distinction; 'you have purchased me bit by bit,' the bits fall short of your kindnesses; 'you are my kinsman' would place a distance between us; 'my heart remains with you' would want evidence; 'a success which severs us is torment' would not find credence; 'your kindness was unmerited' a mere reiteration; 'keep me in remembrance' a command. At least in all talk of ingrates and all narrations of ignoble people let me be remembered as one remorselessly bent on his own advantage." So, speaking, he mounted to the sky, lashing the constellations with pearls that started from a necklace burst in his speed, and passed in an orbit cleaving the planet clusters to a station fitting his good-fortune. Shrikantha also spoke; 'Deign, O king, whenever necessary to favour with your commands one bought by your valour and taught discretion,' and so with the consent of the king entered again the same fissure in the earth.
By this the night was nearly spent. Fragrant with the breath of opening day-lotus beds, frosty as if with sweat from the sport of ravishing shawls from the bosoms of forest nymphs, the sylvan breeze had begun to blow, attracting the bees by its perfume, lulling the night-lotuses to sleep, chilled by the night's ending, and interspersed with rime. Scorched as it were by the sighs of ruddy-geese in the anguish of their severance, the night subsided into the western ocean. The lotus beds peeped forth, as if curious to view the bodily presence of Lakshmi. As the birds awoke, the forest, quivering in all its creepers beneath the soft breeze, rained down showers of hoar-frost, like bunches of flowers. With their noisy imprisoned bees the closing night-lotuses hummed like auspicious horns to awake the beauty of the day-lotuses. The stars, buds of the creepers of night, clustered together in the western sky, as if wafted on by the panting breath of the rising sun's chariot-horses. Occupying Mandara's peak, the Seven Sages became grey, as if coated with pollen from thickets of heavenly creepers rocked by the gentle breeze. The Starry Deer as it sank seemed like a fallen goad of the gods' elephant.
Taking Titibha and the others, the king, whose limbs were befouled by the give and take of battle with the demon, bathed in the pure water of a sylvan pool. He then entered the city, and next day gratified all three with unguents, food, and clothing immediately after his own person.
After the lapse of a few days the mendicant, despite the king's remonstrances, departed to the woods. Patalasvamin and Karnatala, men of a warlike spirit, remained in the king's service. Elevated to a fortune beyond their wildest dreams, drawing their swords in the midst of the royal guard, occupying the front rank in the battle, now and then on occasion of story-telling appointed to narrate various actions of Bhairavacarya and incidents of their own childhood, they arrived at old age by the king's side.
Here ends the third Chapter - entitled The Exposition of The King's Ancestry - of the Harsa-Carita composed by Sri Bana Bhatta.
From: The Harsa-Carita of Bana. Translated by E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1897, 70-99.