The Harsha-carita of Bana, Chapter IV
No alliance wish they even in dreams, they make no joining of hands;
By the sole power of their name do the great become liege lords of the wedded earth!
Like the tusk set at a wide interval in the capacious mouth of the elephant-headed god, so in a house though populous
There arises but one like to Prithu, causing all monarchs to shake!
From this Puspabhuti there issued a line of kings, as from Vishnu a lotus whose calix the best of the twice-born voluntarily occupied, as from the ocean a treasure of jewels attended by Lakshmi, as from the orient mount a troop of planets including Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, the Moon, the Sun, and Mars, as from the might of Sagara a sea capable of supporting a commerce of greatness, as from Shura a Hari race boasting a Durjaya and a Bala. In which line were born kings free from the stain of violating Dharma, as living beings came from the commencement of the golden age; dominating the world by their splendour, like the rays from the source of light; thronging the regions with their armies in array, like the hills sprung from Brahma; strong to support the world, like the sky elephants born from Brahma's hand; rising in might to guard the oceans, like clouds from the season of rain; bestowing the fruits of desire, like trees of Paradise from the Heavenly Garden; embracing all beings, like the variations of existence sprung from Vishnu.
The line so proceeding, there was born in course of time a king of kings named Prabhakaravardhana, famed far and wide under a second name Pratapashila, a lion to the Huna deer, a burning fever to the king of the Indus land, a troubler of the sleep of Gujarat, a bilious plague to that scent-elephant the lord of Gandhara, a looter to the lawlessness of the Lats, an axe to the creeper of Malwa's glory. From his members of royalty the coronation water purged no foulness but filthy lucre. Even an enemy's life, that coward's darling, when kept like a straw in the mouth of battle, filled him with shame. It was torture to him to be accompanied in battle even by his image in the sword-blade which his hand bore, torture that even his bow bent to the foe in conflict. A proud man, he was vexed by his proud ambitions. Steadfast he kept his royal majesty, as if pinned by the implanted arrow-points of countless foes. Levelling on every side hills and hollows, clumps and forests, trees and grass, thickets and anthills, mountains and caves, the broad paths of his armies seemed to portion out the earth for the support of his dependents. By deterring all enemies his own prowess annoyed him as much as that of others, leaving his passion for battle ungratified. In the seraglios of slain rivals his valour was, as it were, materialized in the form of the five elements, fire in the women's hearts, water in the hollows of their eyes, wind in their sighs, earth upon their forms, ether in the vacant solitude. As in a mirror, his glory was matched in those gems among ministers who attended him. Once more: - his greatness was made to glow by the fire of his valour, his success was digested by the heat of his courage, the growth of his race was fostered like, a bamboo by the water of the sword's edge, his valorous deeds were proclaimed by the mouths of the wounds which his steel dealt, his grasping of tributes by the callosity of the bow string. A furious onslaught he counted a present, war a favour, the approach of battle a festival, a foe the discovery of a treasure, a host of enemies the acme of prosperity, a challenge to conflict a boon, a sudden onset an ovation, the fall of sword strokes a shower of wealth. Beneath his rule the golden age seemed to bud forth in close packed lines of sacrificial posts, the evil time to flee in the smoke of sacrifices meandering over the sky, heaven to descend in stuccoed shrines, Dharma to blossom in white pennons waving over temple minarets, the villages to bring forth a progeny of beautiful arbours erected on their outskirts for meetings, alms' houses, inns, and women's marquees, Mount Meru to crumble in a wealth of utensils all of gold, a very cornucopia to bear fruit in bowls of riches lavished upon Brahmans.
This king had a queen, Yashovati, by name, noble as Shankara's Parvati, but remaining Sati in another incarnation, holding the heart fast like Vishnu's Lakshmi, with sparkling glancing eyes like the moon's Rohini, mother of all her people like Prajapati's Buddhi, descended from towering kings like the ocean's Ganges, deft in compliance to his will like the hamsa-king's Hamsi, with an adoring world at her feet like Dharma's Triad, never abandoning his side night or day like Vasistha's Arundhati. She was endowed with the gait of a hamsa, the voice of a cuckoo, the answering love of a ruddy-goose, the full bosoms of the rainy season, the laugh of wine, the manifold worth of a treasure, the rich gifts of a golden shower, the enfolded charms of a lotus, the fruitfulness of a flower, the adorableness of the twilight, the moon's freedom from heat, a mirror's responsiveness to all creatures, Samudra's intuition of character, the Supreme Spirit's universal penetration, the scriptures' stainless principles. She was honey in converse, ambrosia to those who sought delight, rain to her servants, beatitude to her friends, bamboo-like to her elders. The pride was she, of the family of smiles, the penance purity of womanhood, the fulfilment of Kama's ordinances, the Eureka of loveliness, the ovation of passion, the fruition of beauty's wishes, the special providence of charm, the genesis of affection's ancestry, love's boon-winning, grace's perfect creation, youth's majesty, intelligence's cloudless rain, glory's lustration, goodness' bloom of beauty, Dharma's heart's delight, Prajapati's creation of the atoms of bliss: the quietude of quiescence, the decorousness of decorum, the nobility of high birth, the temperateness of temperance, the stand of steadfastness, the witchery of grace. Such was the queen, the centre of all creatures' love, confidence, duty, and felicity, who upon the king's bosom shone like Lakshmi on the bosom of Hell's Vanquisher.
The king was by natural proclivity a devotee of the sun. Day by day at sunrise he bathed, arrayed himself in white silk, wrapt his head in a white cloth, and kneeling eastward upon the ground in a circle smeared with saffron paste, presented for an offering a bunch of red lotuses set in a pure vessel of ruby and tinged, like his own heart, with the sun's hue. Solemnly at dawn, at midday, and at eve he muttered a prayer for offspring, humbly with earnest heart repeating a hymn having the sun as its centre.
The heavenly will can be won to favour its worshippers. So it happened that on the occasion of one hot season the king slept on his palace roof white with stucco spotless as the moon-light; and the queen lay on a second couch at his side. The night was near its close, and the lord of stars was declining with faded radiance, robbed of his beauty by the approach of dawn. A cool frosty dew was falling, like the moon's sweat evoked by his delight as his finger tips touched the lotus beds. Smit by the breath of intoxicated sleeping beauties, the seraglio lamps staggered as if drunk. The king slept. The stars mirrored in his white nails seemed to be stroking his feet. His limbs were carelessly extended, as if consigned to the queens of the quarters. The beauty of his lips fanned him with wine-perfumed breath like the wind of her own lotus-like hand acting as a fan. In the clear surface of his cheek the imaged moon shone like a topknot of white flowers displaced by the clutching of hair in amorous dalliance.
Suddenly with a cry 'Help, my lord ! help' the queen leapt up, a tremour swaying her willowy form, and her tinkling anklets seeming to call out to her attendants. Instantly, scorched as it were in both ears by a cry for help such as never in all the world he had heard, much less in his queen's mouth, the king awoke from sleep. With a right hand that trembled with rage he drew from beside his head a sword whose glittering edge drew a line like a prolongation of his ear-wreath across the night. His left hand swept aside his robe of fine muslin, as if it were the intervening ether. Loosened by his hand's furious movement, his golden bracelet flashed upon the heavens, as if his heart were roaming in search of the cause of alarm. He brought his left foot furiously down with a stamp that shook the palace. His necklace, which had fallen in front of him, having come within range of his sword edge, shone like a severed portion of the moonlight. Inflamed with rage and sleep, as if stained with betel from Lakshmi's kisses, his eyes cast a glow upon the whole circle of the heavens, while a dark trident-shaped frown seemed to bring night back again, as he leapt up hastily crying, 'Fear not, my queen, fear not'. When however on casting his glance in every direction he saw nothing, he inquired of the queen the cause of her fright.
By this the women of the night watch had run up like family goddesses, and the servants who slept near were all awake. So now that the alarm which had made her heart tremble had subsided, the queen replied: - 'I know now, my lord. I saw in a dream two shining youths issue from the sun's disk, filling the heavens as with radiance of morning, and turning the whole world as it were into lightning. They wore crowns, earrings, armlets, and cuirasses: swords were in their hands: they were bathed in blood cochineal red. All the world bowed before them with upturned faces and hands joined reverently at their foreheads. Accompanied by one maid like a moon incarnate, who issued from the ray Susumna, they lighted upon the earth, and while I screamed, cut open my womb with a sword and essayed to enter. My heart quaked, and I awoke with a cry to my lord.'
At that juncture the morning horn rang out at the porch, like the first utterance of the king's glory proclaiming the vision's fulfilment. Briskly sounded the tom-toms, as if to announce a coming exaltation. The daybreak drum boomed, as if pleased to be struck with the stick. 'Victory ! Victory!' pealed the loud voices of those who recited well-omened calls from sleep. In the stable yard of the favourite horses the slowly rising marshal chanted a Vaktra and an Aparavaktra verse, as before the sweetly neighing steeds he scattered emerald grass a-drip with frosty water: -
'By misshapen trees a treasure, by flashing light a fine jewel,
'By an omen the approach of luck is clearly in the world revealed !
'As the dawn, his harbinger, announces the sun, as the speeding blast the rain's approach,
'Even so the appearance of a previous vision foretells good, yea and evil hap to men!'
At these words the king's heart was filled with delight. 'Queen,' said he, 'you are defected at the hour of joy. Your parents' prayers are answered. Our wishes are fulfilled. Our family goddesses have accepted you. In his graciousness the holy god of the radiant crown will grant you joy, and that soon, by the gift of three noble children.' So much said, he descended and performed the customary ceremonies. Yashovati also was cheered by her husband's words.
After the lapse of a short period of time his majesty Rajyavardhana came first of three to being in the queen's womb. Even as he lay in the womb his glory shed a pallor over his mother. Oppressed as it were by the weight of his virtues, she could not support her frame. As if satisfied with the ambrosia of his outpouring loveliness, she became averse to food. Languid with the slowly growing burden of her child, she yet insisted on being conveyed with the support of friendly hands to salute her parents, who would have stayed her. In her lassitude she could be seen, like a doll-figure, propped against the nearest walls and trunks of trees. She could not lift her feet, which seemed checked by bees greedily settling upon such lotuses. Slow, slow was her gait, as if she were conducted by domestic hamsas clinging in greed for lotus threads to the rays of her toe-nails. Seeking a support, she would put forth a lotus hand even towards forms reflected in jewelled walls, much more then towards her women friends. She longed to clasp even the rays of gemmed pillars, much more the house-creepers. Her household duties she had scarce strength to command, not to speak of performing them. Needless to say that her feet were wearied by the burden of her anklets, - even her imagination failed to mount the palace. She could not support even her limbs, much less her ornaments. The very idea of climbing, play hills made her bosom tremulously heave. When she should have risen in welcome, her child, as if through pride, kept her motionless with slender hands in vain applied to the points of her knees. All day long her downcast glance was turned in joy upon her zone, her lotus face brought near her bosom as if longing to see her child had drawn it inwards. With her child in her womb, and her husband in her heart, she bore as it were a double majesty. Resigning her form to her friends' bosoms, she set her feet on the laps of her handmaids, on the heads of her co-wives. When the tenth month arrived, she brought forth my lord Rajyavardhana, a prince composed as it were of lightning atoms to quell the cabals of all kings; capable of supporting the whole world's weight, as if endowed with the mechanism of Shesa's hood; heart-shaker of all kings, as if constructed with the limbs of sky elephants. His birth was a birth of joy to the people, who became as it were dancing incarnate. For one month, which seemed a day, the king held a great festival, innumerable blown horns noisily sounding, hundreds of beaten tom-toms merrily booming, a world filled to overflowing with the burden of deep-rumbling drums, the hearts of all mankind ravished in a madness of delight.
A second period having elapsed, in the month of plantains, when the bud is on the Kadamba tree, the barley blades grow in clusters, the red-lotus stands erect, the cataka's heart expands, and the dwellers in Manasa are dumb, in that month Harsa came to being at once in the heart and womb of Yashovati, even as Krishna in Devaki. Gradually once more her willowy form, arrayed as it were in all her child's pure worth, assumed a pallid hue. As pregnancy came on, her cup-like bosoms grew dark in their tender nipples, as if stamped for an emperor to drain. Like a river of milk let into her face for her bosom's supply, her eye, long, moist and white, assumed a sweeter expression. Slow grew her gait beneath the load, as it were, of a frame weighed down by the whole array of auspicious marks. As she moved tardily about, the earth, clasping her lotus feet mirrored in the spotless mosaic, seemed to pay her a prelude of worship. All day long as she lay on her couch, the reflection of figures embroidered in the awning rested on her cheek's clear round, like a Lakshmi awaiting the child's birth. In the night time, when she had mounted the roof, the moon's disk imaged in her bared of her shawl in the pangs of pregnancy, appeared like a white umbrella mysteriously held above her child. Even the chowrie women on the painted walls waved their chowries while she slept in her apartment. In her dreams all the four sky-elephants seemed to consecrate her, bearing water in folded lotus leaves held by their trunks. When she awoke, the puppet servants in the chamber on the roof raised not once alone the cry of 'Victory!' If she called to her maids, incorporeal voices went forth, crying 'Say your commands.' Even in play she would suffer no violation of her will. Moreover a wish grew upon her to bathe even in the united waters of the four great oceans. It was her heart's desire to roam round sand isles in creeper arbours by the sea shore. Even on occasions of urgency her brow would capriciously move. Despite the jewelled mirrors close to her hand she was bent on seeing her face in a drawn sword's blade. Supplanting the lute, the bow's twang, ill-suiting a woman, was pleasing in her ear. Her eye was gratified by lions in their cages. Even in saluting her parents she scarce could bend her apparently stiffened head. Her friends, never for an instant leaving her side, brightened the house, as in anticipation of the approaching birth festival, with eyes wide-open in joy, as though strewing on every side a ceaseless protective charm in the shape of a rain of blooming lotus petals, white, red and blue. Great physicians holding various herbs sat in their proper places, supporting her as the mountains support the earth. In the knots of her necklace-cord were fixed fine jewels, like the hearts of the oceans come with Lakshmi.
At length in the month Jyaistha, on the twelfth day of the dark fortnight, the Pleiads being in the ascendant, just after the twilight time, when the young night had begun to climb, a sudden cry of women arose in the harem. Hurriedly issuing forth, Suyatra, daughter of Yashovati's nurse and herself dearly beloved, fell at the king's feet, crying 'Good news ! your majesty, you are blessed with the birth of a second son,' and carried off the customary festal spoil.
At that very instant approached the astrologer Taraka, a man very highly esteemed by the king. Hundreds and hundreds of times he had shown supernatural insight by announcing facts beyond the ken of man, a calculator, deeply read in all the treatises on astronomy, extolled and liked among all astrologers, endowed with knowledge of the three times, and a Maga. 'Give ear, O king!' he cried; 'it was on a day like this, free from the taint of all evil conjunctions such as malignant aspects of the sun and moon, at a moment like the present, when all the planets were similarly at their apexes, that Mandhatri came to birth. Since then in all the intervening time no second has in the whole world been born at a conjuncture so fit for an universal emperor's birth. The son now born to your majesty shall be coryphaeus of the Seven Emperors, bearer of the Seven Imperial Signs and the Great Jewels, lord of the Seven Oceans, performer of all sacrifices of Seven Forms, the peer of him of the Seven Steeds.'
Instantly unblown horns rang out spontaneously loud and sweet. Unbeaten boomed the consecration drum deep as the roar of oceans in turmoil. Unstruck the auspicious tabors pealed. Like a timbrel proclaiming security to all the world, the tabor's echo thrilled through the aerial spaces. Tossing their manes, the horses neighed with joy, while their muzzles were graced by wisps of green Durva sprays which they haughtily took. Sportively uplifting their trunks as if dancing, the elephants trumpeted in sounds grateful to the ear. Soon a heavenly breeze, fragrant with perfumes of wine, blew like a sigh of Lakshmi letting fall the disc. In the courts of the sacrificers the unfed Vaitana fires blazed up with flames curving to the right to foretell the coming luck. From the earth uprose great treasures, enclosed in cups bedecked with chains of gold. In the shape of echoes from the beaten tabors the regents of the sky seemed joyfully to give forth a clamour of congratulation to the heavens. At that moment white-clad Brahmans approached with the Veda on their lips, like the Prajapatis of the golden age, to foster the new-born life. Like Dharma incarnate came the family priest with lustral water and fruits ready in his hand. Like immemorial customs the arriving elders of the family could be seen. Away ran disorderly crowds of freed prisoners, their faces hairy with long matted beards, their bodies black with many a miry smirch, like the kindred of a waning Kali age. Like camp lines of a now departed wickedness seemed the rows of shops, given up to general pillage. In a great throng of boys danced the old nurses, encircled, like the young mother's tutelary deities incarnate, in a troop of dwarfs and deaf people with laughing upturned faces. So proceeded the great birth festival, the order of the royal household gone, the pretence of chamberlains laid low, the macebearers robbed of their maces, entrance to the harem in no wise criminal, master and servants reduced to a level, young and old confounded, learned and unlearned on one footing, drunk and sober not to be distinguished, noble maidens and harlots equally merry, the whole population of the capital set a-dancing.
From the morrow onwards the wives of the neighbouring kings could be observed in thousands approaching the palace from every side. Amazonian nations they seemed, pouring onwards, wide-opened mines, Krishna's mistresses on the march, families of Apsarases lighted upon the earth. After them followed servants bearing garlands in wide baskets, with bath powder sprinkled upon the flowers; dishes laden with bits of camphor, clear as crystal granules; jewelled caskets of saffron scents; ivory boxes, studded with rows of sandal-hued Areca nuts and tufted with slim Khadira fibres dripping mango oil; vermillion and powder boxes red and pink, with murmuring bees sipping Parijata perfumes; betel trees with bundles of nuts hanging from the young slips. As they danced, the quarters of the heavens rang with jewelled anklets clashing as their feet knocked together.
Thus the festal jubilation gradually blossomed forth. Here young people, of ancient noble houses and unused to dancing, showed by frolics their love for the king. There drunken slave women allured the favourites, while the monarch himself looked on with a secret smile. In one place respectable old feudatories were, much to his amusement, clasping the necks of the intoxicated bawds of the capital in a furious dance. In another place naughty slave boys, set on by a glance from the sovereign, betrayed in songs the secret amours of the ministers of state. Elsewhere wanton water-girls raised a laugh by embracing aged ascetics. Elsewhere again in the eagerness of ardent rivalry throngs of slaves carried on a war of foul language. In another place chamberlains knowing nothing of dancing were, to the entertainment of the maids, violently forced to dance by the king's women. The festival showed mountains of flower heaps, rum-booths like shower-baths, Nandana forests of Parijata scent, a hoar-frost of camphor dust, a booming of drums like Shiva's laugh, a hubbub like the ocean-churning, vortexes of dancing rings, a horripilation of rays from jewelled ornaments, a very tiara of sandal forehead marks, a never ceasing propagation of echoes, an endless efflorescence of tokens of favour.
Young men frolicked in thousands, prancing, like Kamboja steeds, with garlands of Kesharas hanging upon their shoulders, leaping with dancing eyes like spotted antelopes, rending the earth with furious stamps, as did the sons of Sagara with spades. Scarce could the earth sustain the tramp of troubadours dancing to time. Smash went the pearls in the ornaments of the young princes slapping each other in their play. Minium dust crimsoned the shell of Brahma's egg in every part, as with the blood of a reproduced Hiranya-Garbha foetus. The heavens gleamed with clouds of perfume powder, as if Mandakini had disclosed a thousand sand isles. Yellowed with scattered scent dust, the daylight glowed, as though Brahma's lotus, ground by the rocking world, had stained it with clouds of pollen from its filaments. Men tripped over heaps of pearls that fell from necklaces broken in collisions.
In this place and in that harlot-women danced to the accompaniment of instrumental music. Tambourines were slowly, slowly thumped; reeds sweetly piped, cymbals tinkled, string drums were belaboured, the low gourd lute sang, gently boomed the kahalas with their brazen sounding boxes, while all the time a subdued clapping proceeded. Even the clank of jingling anklets kept time pace by pace, as if intelligent, with the clapping. Whispering softly, like cuckoos, in low passionate tones, they sang the words of vulgar mimes, ambrosia to their lovers' ears. Wreaths were about their brows, and chaplets round their ears, upon their foreheads sandal marks. With upraised creeper-like arms, vocal with rows of bracelets, they seemed to embrace the very sun. Like Kashmir colts, they leapt all aglow with saffron stains. Great garlands of amaranth hung down upon their round hips, as if they were ablaze with passion's flame. Their faces, marked with rows of vermilion spots, seemed to wear the rubric of the edict plates of Love, whose ordinances none may resist. Dusty were they with camphor and perfumes scattered in handfuls, like roads frequented by the desires of youth. Like women chamberlains of a children's festival, they lashed the young folk with great wreaths of flowers. With tossing forehead marks and earrings they swayed like creepers of Love's sandal tree. Like waves of passion's flood, they gleamed all resonant with the cries of anklets adding music to their steps. As to what was proper to be said or not, they were as void of discrimination as the childish play of happiness. While the rapid booming of the drums thrilled through their lithe frames, they cast off flower pollen, like Ketakis. All day their faces were, like red lotuses, abloom; by night they slept no more than night lotuses. As if possessed, they were surrounded by throngs of princes. Like endearments, they stole away the heart; like songs, they kindled the flame of desire; like the symptoms of stoutness, they gave rise to joy. Adding passionateness to passion itself, a glow to love, a joy to joy, a dancing motion to dancing, festivity to festival, in ogling they seemed to drink with the white (shells) of their eyes, in scolding to imprison in cages of rays from their nails, in gestures of anger to lash with curling eyebrows, in making love to pour a rain of all (sweet) feelings, in deftly moving to scatter transformations.
In other places, where under the terror of chamberlains' wands the people had made room, the king's wives essayed the dance, a brilliant throng with a forest of white parasols held above them, as if they were wood nymphs roaming beneath trees of paradise. Some, wrapt in loose shawls hanging from both shoulders, swayed as if mounted on play swings. Some, with wavy robes torn by the edge of golden armlets, were like rivers lined by crossing ruddy-geese. Others, whose bright side glances were bounded by earrings entangled in tufts of white waving chowries, were like pools with hamsas plucking at forests of blue lotuses. Others, from whose tripping feet trickled a dew of lac-reddened sweat that besprinkled the palace hamsas, resembled moonlight nights when the twilight casts a glow upon the moon's disk. Others, with brows curved in derision at the contortions of chamberlains bending beneath golden girdles placed about their necks, seemed love-nets with outstretched arms for toils.
All womankind being thus set dancing, the earth, crimsoned by trickling lac from their feet, seemed rosy with the flush of love. Their round gleaming bosoms made the festival like a mass of auspicious pitchers. Their tossing arms caused the world to seem nought but rings of lotus roots. Their sparkling playful smiles created as it were a season all of lightning flashes. The days seemed dappled by the light of dancing eyes. Brilliant ear chaplets of Shirsa flowers cast a green tint upon a daylight seemingly of parrots' tails. Dark hanging Tamala sprays of braided hair shed a blackness as of collyrium on the prospect. Uplifted tendril-like hands made all creation gleam like one red lotus-bed. The radiance of rainbow-tinted gems infused a colour of jays' wings into the sunlight. Echoing with clusters of tinkling ornaments, the heavens seemed nought but clanging bells. Even old ladies shouted like maniacs. Old men even lost all shame, as though bewitched. The wise forgot themselves, as if intoxicated. Even hermits' hearts were all agog for a dance. The king gave away all his fortune. Heaps of wealth, like Kuvera's treasuries, were plundered by the folk on every side.
This great festival ended, another period of time passed gradually by. Rajyavardhana was now nearing his sixth year, while his majesty Harsa could just manage five or six paces with the support of his nurse's finger. His majesty wore upon his head a mustard amulet, like a spark of his valour's fire just peeping forth. His form was stained yellow with gorocana, as if his inborn warrior's prowess were coming to light. His neck was ornamented with a row of great tiger's claws linked with gold, like buds of pride bursting from his heart. He could manage a child's first indistinct cries, the prelude as it were of truth. His innocent smiles won his kinsmen's hearts, as flowers do bees. Tiny teeth, growing like buds of happy smiles and watered with the dew of his mother's cuplike breasts, were beginning to adorn his lotus mouth. The womenfolk in the harem safeguarded him like honour; the ministers of state preserved him like a state secret; the young nobles held fast to him as to virtue; his kindred cherished him like the family prestige; the swords of guards caged him in like a lion's whelp.
It was at this time that queen Yashovati became pregnant with Rajyashri, even as Narayana's form with the earth. And when the time of her delivery was come, as the pool gives birth to the lotus bed with its long red stalks and roots, as the rains to the autumn sweetly vocal with wild geese, as the spring to woodrows with their limbs all fair with flowers, as the sky to the shower of wealth flashing with grains of gold, as the tide to gems with a flood of light, as the new- moon time to the crescent which delights all men's eyes, as Shaci to Jayanti a sight for a thousand eyes, as Mena to Gauri wooed by all mountains, so Yashovati gave birth to a daughter, who added to the two sons formed a further ornament, like the line of a necklace above her two bosoms.
About this time Yashovati's brother presented his son Bhandi, a boy about eight years of age, to serve the young princes. Tufted with tossing side-locks of curly hair, the boy was like a reborn Kama with his head encircled by the smoke line of the flame of Shiva's anger. Darkened on one side of his body by an earring of sapphire, whitened on the other by the light of a pearl in his ear-ornament, he was like a compound Avatar of Vishnu and Shiva. A diamond bracelet bound about his stout forearm suggested a rejuvenated Parashu-Rama, betokened by the cord of his axe, which was itself all worn away in his slaughter of the Ksatriyas. Curved bits of coral were tied to his neck string, as if he were a reincarnate Hiranyakashipu wearing bits of Narasimha's claws broken against his adamantine breast. Though still a child, he bore himself stiffly, like a seed of the tree of valour.
To this additional son the king's regard was equally attached, as Shiva's sight to his third eye. The princes also, the heart's joy of all creatures, derived a greater splendour from the company of this naturally courtly child, as do April and May when accompanied by the southern Malaya breeze. Growing in due course step by step with a fourth brother, as it were, namely the people's joy, they came to manhood. With stout thighs like pillars, forearms broad as propylaea,, long arms like bars, wide chests like panels, stately as tall ramparts, they were like the gateway of a great city strong to afford refuge to a whole world.
Charming were they and not to be gazed upon, like sun and moon overpowering the world by the flame of their flashing splendour and effulgence manifested, like fire and wind, in radiance and power; adamantine in the hardness of their frames, like the immovable Himalaya and Vindhya in conjunction; fit to bear the yoke of the Krita age, like two great bulls; like Aruna and Garuda, borne on horses and well-proportioned; like Indra and Vishnu, with the gait of elephants; like Karna and Arjuna, bedecked with ring and diadem; like the eastern and western heavens, capable of procuring the uprising and setting of all great lights. In their over-weening pride they could scarce contain themselves in the hovel of earth straitened by the too great proximity of the shore's boundary. They scorned the very shadows averted from the light; they blushed that even their reflections should approach men's toe-nails; they were pained at the coward breaking even of one of their hairs; they felt shame at the second umbrella mirrored in their crest-jewels. The name of master, even as given to the Six-faced God, grated upon their ears; a counterpart, even as seen in their mirror, caused their eyes to smart; to clasp hands even in twilight adoration seemed to plunge a spear into their brows; the very bow borne by the clouds distressed their hearts: even painted kings that would not bow appeared to burn their feet. They honoured not even the sun's light, content with a bounded sphere; they scoffed even at the ocean, whose Glory was carried away by a mountain (Mandara); they sneered at the potent wind that wore no warlike shape. It was torture to them that even Himalaya should be fanned by Yaks' tails, agony that the very seas should have their conchs, intolerable that even Varuna should be a rival overlord of the four oceans. The very monarchs, whose parasols they seized not, they left void of splendour. Gracious though uncourted, they poured honey with their lips even upon unassuming people. The stocks of evil kings, however far removed, their hot anger caused to wither. Day after day their hands, begrimed with the marks of sword play, seemed defiled by quenching the fire of all other monarchs' prowess. By the deep twang of their bows at recreation time they seemed conversing after recent dalliance with the queens of the quarters. Thus were the names Rajyavardhana and Harsa proclaimed abroad over all the earth, in so much that in a very little time they attained to fame in other Continent Isles likewise.
One day their father, having summoned them, retired in their company after dinner to his private apartments and affectionately addressed them: - 'My dear sons, it is difficult to secure good servants, the first essential of sovereignty. In general mean persons, making themselves congenial, like atoms, in combination, compose the substance of royalty. Fools, setting people to dance in the intoxication of their play, make peacocks of them. Knaves, working their way in, reproduce as in a mirror their own image. Like dreams, impostors by false phantasies beget unsound views. By songs, dances, and jests unmatched flatterers, like neglected diseases of the humours, bring on madness. Like thirsty catakas, low-born persons cannot be held fast. Cheats, like fishermen, hook the purpose at its first rise in the mind, like a fish in Manasa. Like those who depict infernos, loud singers paint unrealities on the canvas of the air. Suitors, more keen than arrows, plant a barb in the heart. For these reasons I have appointed to wait upon your highnesses the brothers Kumaragupta and Madhavagupta, sons of the Malwa king, inseparable as my arms from my side; they are men found by frequent trials untouched by any taint of vice, blameless, discreet, strong, and comely. To them your highnesses also will show a consideration not enjoyed by the rest of your dependents.'
So much said, he ordered the chamberlain to summon the pair. After a brief interval the two princes, whose eyes were fixed upon the entrance, saw Kumaragupta, the elder brother, entering with the chamberlain. He was a young man neither very tall nor very short, in age about eighteen years. He planted weighty steps, as if to steady the ground, which trembled with the movements of numerous kings. A pair of rather slim shanks, issuing from not over-prominent knee joints, sallied as it were from thighs showing thick hard flesh of compact growth due to incessant practice in leaping. His hollow sides tapered at the waist, as if his middle, like that of Mandara, had been rubbed down by the serpent Vasuki when whirled about in the fury of gods and Asuras. A chest of vast breadth offered room for unbounded feelings of respect for his master. With quiet and graceful motions his pendulous arms appeared to be carrying him across the not easily traversed ocean of manhood. Upon his stout forearm, where it was marked by the bowstring's scar, shone a spray of light from the jewelled bracelet of his left wrist, like a sprouting bud of his valour's fiery flame. From the jewel of his ear-ornament there descended upon his huge shoulder a tawny light, like an antelope skin worn in sign of dedication to the use of arms. His face, whose cheeks reflected the decorated figures of armlets with upstanding points, suggested a moon with Rohini set in its heart. A downcast eye with pupil fixed and still seemed to give a lesson in decorum to the lotuses, whose faces are uplifted with desire for Lakshmi. For a crest he bore an Amlataka flower, like his loyalty, upon his head. He displayed a graceful flexibility such as might have been presented by a nation of bows affrighted by his merciless breaking of their rings. He derived a dignity from senses conquered even in boyhood and, like conquered foes, kept well under his control. The law of princely nobility was the trusted mistress whom he followed. Resplendent as he was, the noble nature within made his brilliance soothing as a sun with a moon inside it. From the hardness of his frame he seemed to wear down the very mountains. His happy graciousness was as if he were selling to joy the people whom he purchased by his look.
Behind him came his younger brother Madhavagupta, who for height and dignity resembled a moving realgar mountain. In the guise of a low topknot of Malati flowers great glory seemed to be imprinting upon his head a father's kiss at going forth. His meeting brows seemed to bespeak the late union of those irreconcilables, youth and decorum. With profound gravity he kept his gaze fixed, like his loyal devotion, upon his heart. Cooled by a smearing of the purest sandal paste and provided with a pillow in the shape of his necklace, his breast was like a broad slab of moonstone for glory to rest upon when wearied by her round of brief visits to numberless rival kings. He had the eye of a gazelle, the nose of a boar, the broad shoulders of a buffalo, the forearm of a tiger, the prowess of a lion, the gait of an elephant, bribes, as it were, offered by the frightened creatures after losing all else in the chase.
Entering, they bowed from afar till their four limbs and heads touched the ground, then assumed a suitable position indicated by a kindly glance from the king. After a momentary pause he gave them instructions from that day forth to wait upon the princes. 'As your majesty commands' they answered, and rising, saluted Rajyvardhana and Harsa by swaying their heads again and again to the earth. They on their part saluted their father. From that hour the two were, like opening and shutting, never absent from the range of the princes' eyes, - like inspiration and exspiration, night and day before their mouths, - like a pair of arms, ever constant at their side.
Meanwhile Rajyashri gradually grew up in daily increasing familiarity with friends expert in song, dance &c. and with all accomplishments. In a comparatively limited period she came to maturity. On her alone fell the glances of all kings, like arrows on the targe, and sending envoys, monarchs sought her hand.
One day the king, standing on the roof of the seraglio, heard a man in the outer court sing an arya couplet which had suggested itself to him: -
'At the time of the bosoms' swelling, growing with the passing of each rainy season,
'A daughter brings low her father, like a river its bank, in a whirlpool of agitation.'
Hearing this, the king dismissed the servants, and said to the queen at his side: - 'Our darling Rajyashri, my queen, is now grown a young woman. The thought of her, like her noble qualities, never for a moment leaves my heart. As soon as ever girls near maturity, their fathers become fuel to the flame of pain. The swelling of her bosoms darkens my heart, as clouds the day. It is a law of right, by whomsoever framed not with my consent, that children born of our body, dandled at our breasts, never to be abandoned, are taken from us by the unexpected arrival of someone unknown to us. Truly, these indeed are the brandmarks of this transient life. Herein has sorrow's fire more than in aught else a power to burn, that whereas both are our offspring good men grieve at a daughter's birth. Hence is it that to their daughters noble men offer water even at birth in their tears. For this fear sages, neglecting marriage, dispensing with domestic life, take refuge in desolate forests. Who indeed can bear to part with a child? The more that suitors' envoys flock in, the deeper does wretched anxiety retire, as if abashed, into my heart. What can we do? In spite of all, householders must follow the ways of the world. In general too, though a bridegroom may have other merits, the wise especially incline towards good family. Now at the head of all royal houses stand the Mukharas, worshipped, like Shiva's foot-print, by all the world. Of that race's pride, Avantivarman, the eldest son, Grahavarman by name, who lacks not his father's virtues, a prince like the lord of planets descended upon earth, seeks our daughter. Upon him, if your majesty's thoughts are likewise favourable, I propose to bestow her.'
To these her husband's words the queen with tearful eyes and a heart alarmed by love for her daughter replied: - 'Mothers, your majesty, are to their daughters no more indeed than nurses, useful only in rearing them. In their bestowal the father is the judge. Love for a daughter however far far exceeds love for a son, pity causing the difference. My lord only knows how all our lives long she is a care to us.'
His resolution taken in the matter of his daughter's bestowal, the king sent for his sons and acquainted them also with his purpose. Then on a day of good omen, in the presence of the whole royal household, he poured the betrothal water upon the hand of an envoy extraordinary, who had arrived previously with instructions from Grahavarman to sue for the princess.
He having gleefully departed with his mission accomplished, the royal household, as the marriage days drew near, assumed an aspect brilliant, charming, exciting, and auspicious. All the world bedecked itself with betel, perfumes, and flowers, distributed with a lavish hand. From every country were summoned companies of skilled artists. Under the charge of royal officers came whole villages, bringing loads of serviceable gifts. Emissaries conveyed presents from many a king. The favourites busied themselves in the disposal of troops of relatives, come in answer to invitations. Leather workers, wild with intoxication - having been treated with wine-flourished in their hands drumsticks, with which they sharply struck the festal drums, till they boomed again. Mortars, pestles, stone blocks and other utensils were bedecked with pounded perfumes. Successive trains of troubadours, appearing on every side, crowded the courts, where images of Indrani were being set up. Carpenters, presented with white flowers, unguents, and clothes, planned out the marriage altar. Workmen mounted on ladders, with brushes upheld in their hands and plaster palls on their shoulders, whitened the top of the street wall of the palace. Torrents of water from pounded saffron now being washed stained the feet of the nation. The courtyards were seas of elephants and horses, suitable for bridal gifts, which were undergoing inspection. Throngs of astrologers, set calculating, investigated the characteristics of different moments. Crocodile-mouthed conduits, conveying scented water, filled a variety of pleasure ponds. The outer terraces resounded with the din of gold-workers engaged in hammering gold. Plasterers were beplastered with showers of sand which fell over them from freshly erected walls. A group of skilled painters painted auspicious scenes. Multitudes of modelers moulded clay figures of fishes, tortoises, crocodiles, cocoanuts, plantains, and betel trees. Even kings girt up their loins, and busied themselves in carrying out decorative work set as tasks by their sovereign, being variously engaged in polishing mosaic floors of red lead, or erecting the posts for marriage platforms, which they strewed with handfuls of liquid atarpana pigment, reddened with cochineal disposed about them, and adorned at the top with mango and Ashoka twigs. From the furthest orient had come the queens of all the feudatories, noble, high-bred, shapely, well-clad, unwidowed dames with lines of vermilion powder glittering on their foreheads. Thronging the household, they sang sweet well-omened songs containing allusions to the bride and bridegroom's families; or with fingers steeped in divers colours dyed neck-strings; or employed their skill in leaf and plant painting to adorn polished cups and collections of unbaked clay-ware; or stained skeins of cotton thread for bamboo baskets and fabrics of wool for marriage amulets; or manufactured cosmetics, compounded of saffron paste clotted by balashana essence, and face unguents adding distinction to beauty; or made strings of cloves mingled with Kakkola fruit, containing also nutmegs, and large bright lumps of crystalline camphor threaded in the intervals.
The palace was arrayed in textures flashing on every side like thousands of rainbows, textures of linen, cotton, bark silk, spider's thread, muslin, and shot silk, resembling sloughs of snakes, soft as the unripe plantain's fruit, swaying at a breath, imperceptible except to the touch. Some were being made by ancient city matrons, cunning in divers ways of cutting and measuring; some, made already, were being dyed by washermen, who beamed with respect for the courtly old ladies of the harem; some, after dyeing, had been shaken by servants clinging to either end, and were drying in the shade; some, now dry, were having all the charm of sprays reproduced in their twisted shapes: in some cases the spotting with saffron paste had been begun, and in others the fragile stuffs were torn, while grasped by servitor, who lifted their arms to clutch them. Couches, whose gay coverlets cast the hamsa tribes into the shade; bodices overlaid with starlike pearls; countless thousands of canvas and cloth pieces, divided up for various uses; awnings bright with soft, freshly dyed bark silk; marquees, whose roofs were covered all over with garments, and posts swathed in strips of variegated silk: all these gave to the court an aspect brilliant, attractive, exciting, and auspicious.
The queen Yashovati, though only one person, seemed in the flurry of the marriage festival multifariously divided, her heart being with her husband, her curiosity with the bride-groom, her love with her daughter, her attentions with the invited ladies, her injunctions with the servants, her body accompanying her motions, her eyes busy in looking after things done and omitted, her joy permeating the festival. The king likewise ever and anon despatched a female camel to his gratified son-in-law, and however apt the servants, intently watching his face, might be in executing his orders, yet in the distraction of fatherly affection he did everything in person along with his two sons.
Thus the royal household became as it were the essence of freedom from widowhood; a world seemed born full of auspiciousness: the prospect seemed composed of troubadours, the sky turned into drums, the roaming domestics to be all ornament, creation looked nought but relatives, time appeared composed of bliss, the splendid festival seemed to blossom forth with all Lakshmi's bloom. It was as if there were a treasure trove of happiness, a realisation of life's purpose, a ripening of good deeds, a youth of felicity, a new reign of delight, a fulfilment time of desires. Calculated as it were by the people's fingers, watched for by the banners on the highways, welcomed by reverberations of auspicious music, invoked by astrologers, attracted by wishes, embraced by the hearts of the bride's women friends, the marriage day arrived. Instantly at dawn all strangers were expelled by the chamberlains, and the royal family was drawn apart.
Anon the groom-in-waiting, having entered, introduced a young man of fair exterior, saying, 'A betel-bearer, your majesty, by name Parijataka, arrived from the bridegroom's presence. With a graciousness due to esteem for his son-in-law the king inquired of the man while still at a distance, 'Young sir, is Grahavarman well?' Hearing the king's voice, he advanced a few paces it a run, and stretching out his arms, courtier that he was, bent his head for some time to the earth; then rising said, 'He is well, as your majesty observes, and sends respectful greetings to your majesty.' Understanding him to have come with tidings of the bride-groom's arrival, the king after offering hospitality sent him back with this charge, 'At the first watch of the night see that no mishap arise owing to the passing of the marriage hour.'
When the day was ended, having transferred to the bride's face as it were the beauty of all his lotus beds, while the sun glowed like the foot of the bridal day's loveliness; when the pairs of ruddy-geese were parting in shame, as it were, that their love should be eclipsed by the bride and bridegroom's affection; when, flecked like a pigeon's throat, the afterglow, with its delicate texture of red silken rays, gleamed like the banner of felicity in the sky; when the dark, like the dust of the bridegroom's approaching train, was besmirching the heavenly spaces, and, as if all ready to effect the favourable conjunction, the starry array was rising; while, like an auspicious marriage bowl, the moon's disk was shooting up with ever growing halo of whiteness from the Udaya hill, and, as the lovely radiance of the bride's face swallowed up the dusky gloom, the night-lotus beds with faces supine seemed to scoff at the idly-risen moon: then true to his time the bridegroom drew nigh. Before him with red gold-studded chowries incessantly flashing ran footmen, like desires with the topmost shoots of passion standing out. The horizon was filled with troops of horses, which were welcomed, as it seemed, by answering neighs from the prick-eared steeds of the capital. Throngs of mighty elephants with chowries waving at their ears, arrayed in trappings all of gold, with gay housings and twanging bells, seemed to re-form the darkness dissolved by the rising moon. He came mounted on an elephant whose muzzle was bedecked with a zodiac of pearls, even as the lord of night rides the eastern heaven. All about him was a hubbub of dancing troubadours shrilling forth the notes of divers birds, as when the new spring comes with his groves. An array of lamps, incensed with dripping perfumed oil, made yellow all the world as with a cloud of saffron toilet powder. His head, with its flowery topknot set amid a blooming jasmine wreath, seemed to laugh to scorn the moonlit evening with its halo and its moon. He had formed for himself a mock vaikaksaka wrap with a wreath of flowers, like a flowery bow taken from Kama vanquished by his beauty. Joyous with the low hum of bee tribes delirious with pride in the fragrance of the flowers, he resembled a Tree of Paradise born and descended again with Shri upon the earth. His heart drawn on as in eagerness to behold his new bride's countenance, he appeared almost to fall forward on his face.
On his arrival at the gate the king and his sons, accompanied by their royal retinue, went forth on foot to meet him. Dismounting he bowed, and the king with outstretched arms gave him a hearty embrace, like Spring embracing Kama. Next in order he embraced Rajyavardhana and Harsa, and the king, taking him by the hand, led him within doors, where he honoured him with a seat equal to his own and with other attentions.
Soon Gambhira, a wise Brahman attached to the king, said to Grahavarman, 'My son, by obtaining you Rajyashri has at length united the two brilliant lines of Puspabhuti and Mukhara, whose worth, like that of the Sun and Moon houses, is sung by all the world to the gratification of wise men's ears. Previously you were set fast by your merits on the king's breast, like the Kaustubha jewel on Vishnu's. But now you are one to be supported, like the moon by Shiva, on his head.'
Even while he spoke, the astrologers, approaching the king, said, 'Your majesty, the moment approaches: let the bride-groom proceed to the bridal house.' The king bidding him rise and go, Grahavarman entered the women's apartments, and, disregarding the thousands of glances that like opening blue lotuses fell upon him from women curious to see the bridegroom, passed on to the door of the bridal house, where he stayed his attendants and entered.
There amid a company of relatives, friends, and servants, mostly women, he espied his bride, whose face, hidden, like the morning twilight, by its roseate veil, dulled the gleaming lamps by its radiance. Not too tightly embraced by woman-hood, which seemed alarmed by her excessive delicacy, she appeared, by the long soft sighs which her bosom, choked with fright, could scarcely utter, to bemoan her departing maiden-hood. Trembling she stood motionless with bashfulness, as if fearing to fall, gazing with a quiver of terror in her mind at that lotus-red hand so soon to be grasped: so might Rohini gaze at the moon when near eclipse. Her body was white with sandal, as though born of a (white) lotus bed whose amassed loveliness had been a gift from the moonlight. A fragrance of flowers breathed about her, as if she bad come forth from the heart of spring. The perfume of her breath attracted the bee tribes, as if she were sprung from the Malaya breeze. Love followed in the train of one who seemed a reborn Rati. Compounded of all gem-like natures, brilliancy, loveliness, intoxication, fragrance and sweetness, the product of the Kaustubha jewel, the moon, wine, the tree of paradise, and ambrosia, she seemed a second Shri formed by the ocean in his rage with gods and asuras. The soft light of an earring produced an ear-pendant of pearly rays like clusters of white Sindhuvara flowers. Her cheek's surface, a glade all green with the emerald glow of her ear-ornament, formed a pleasance, as it were, for the fawnlike gleam of her eye; and thus she seemed to chide her shamefaced friends and heart, which, bewildered by the interesting spectacle of a bridegroom, ever and anon essayed to raise a glance.
No sooner had that thief of hearts made his entrance than he was delivered over by his bride into the clutches of love. Most deftly he performed all that in the marriage hall the bridegroom is made to do by women with faces lit by a mocking smile. Then, his bride having been arrayed in the dress proper for the ceremony, he took her by the hand, and going forth, came to an altar whitened with new plaster and surrounded by invited kings, as when the slopes of Himalaya were girt by mountains gathered to the wedding of Shiva and Parvati. Gleaming around it were earthen dolls, whose hands bore auspicious fruits, and which had five-mouthed cups bristling with dew-besprent blades of barley and enemies, faces painted with soft colours. Brahman witnesses busied themselves in kindling the flame, which smoked under logs heaped up by the teachers. Close to the fire unsoiled green Kusha grass was set, and hard by were bundles of pounding stones, antelope skins, ghee, garlands, and fuel, while a sparkle of parched grain was mixed with dark Shami leaves placed in new baskets. This altar the bridegroom ascended, as the moon with his beauty mounts the heavens. As the god of the flowery bow came with Rati to the red Ashoka, so he drew near the fire with its tremulous sprays of red flame. The fire being fed, he marched round towards the right, attended by the very flames, which as if curious to see the bride's face took a rightward twist. And as the rice oblation was let fall, the blaze, whitened by the gleam of nails, seemed to smile in amazement at the bride and bridegroom's unprecedented grace of form.
Anon a tempest of tear drops, clear as great pearls, showed itself in the bride's face, which yet displayed no discomposure, and, as if to quench the fire's image in her cheeks' clear oval, she burst into weeping. With eyes brimming with tears the women of the family raised a lugubrious cry. All the bridal rites being fully completed, the husband bowed with his wife to their parents, and then entered their chamber. About its portals were figured the spirits of Love and Joy. Bees going before like friends raised a hubbub. The charmed lamps, which lighted it, swayed in the wind of the bees' wings, as if trembling in fear of a blow from their ear-lotuses. At the foot of a blossoming red Ashoka carved on one side stood the god of love aiming his shaft, the arrow drawn to the string, and a third of his eye sideways closed. A fair well-upholstered bed with pillows was guarded on the one side by a golden rinsing vessel, on the other by a golden figure holding an ivory box, like Lakshmi incarnate with an upright lotus stalk in her hand. At the bed's head stood a night bowl of silver bedecked with lotuses, like the moon come to join company with the flowery god.
There, while the bashful young bride slept with her face averted, the bridegroom spent the night in gazing at her images in the mirrors of the jewelled walls, like family goddesses come in curiosity to bear their first words and seen through jewelled loopholes. Abiding in his new father's house, by his noble nature raining ambrosia as it were upon his new mother's heart, he spent ten blissful days, ever varying with continually renewed tokens of favour; and then, leaving regret like a palace porter behind, and taking all men's hearts with him like provisions named in the dowry, he managed to secure his dismissal from the king and set out with his bride to his native country.
Here ends the fourth chapter - entitled The Exposition of The Emperor's Birth - 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, 100-131.