The Mahabharata Home
Vrihadaswa said, "There was a king named Nala, the son of Virasena. And he was strong, and handsome, and well-versed in (the knowledge of) horses, and possessed of every desirable accomplishment. And he was at the head of all the kings, even like the lord of the celestials. And exalted over all, he resembled the sun in glory. And he was the king
of the Nishadhas, intent on the welfare of the Brahmanas, versed in the Vedas, and possessed of heroism. And he was truth-telling, fond of dice, and the master of a mighty army. And he was the beloved of men and women, and of great soul and subdued passions. And he was the protector (of all), and the foremost of bowmen, and like unto Manu himself. And like him, there was among the Vidarbhas (a king named) Bhima, of terrible prowess, heroic and well-disposed towards his subjects and possessed of every virtue. (But withal) he was childless. And with a fixed mind, he tried his utmost for obtaining issue. And. O Bharata there came unto him (once) a Brahmarshi named Damana. And, O king of kings, desirous of having offspring, Bhima, versed in morality, with his queen gratified that illustrious Rishi by a respectful reception. And Damana, well-pleased, granted unto the king and his consort a boon in the form of a jewel of a daughter, and three sons possessed of lofty souls and great fame. (And they were called respectively) Damayanti, and Dama and Danta, and illustrious Damana. And the three sons were possessed of every accomplishment and terrible mien and fierce prowess. And the slender-waisted Damayanti, in beauty and brightness, in good name and grace and luck, became celebrated all over the world. And on her attaining to age, hundreds of hand-maids, and female slaves, decked in ornaments, waited upon her like Sachi herself. And Bhima's daughter of faultless features, decked in every ornament, shone in the midst of her hand-maids, like the luminous lightning of the clouds. And the large-eyed damsel was possessed of great beauty like that of Sree herself. And neither among celestials, nor among Yakshas, nor among men was anybody possessed of such beauty, seen or heard of before. And the beautiful maiden filled with gladness the hearts of even the gods. And that tiger among men, Nala also had not his peer in the (three) worlds: for in beauty he was like Kandarpa himself in his embodied form. And moved by admiration, the heralds again and again celebrated the praises of Nala before Damayanti and those of Damayanti before the ruler of the Nishadhas. And repeatedly hearing of each other's virtues they conceived an attachment towards each other not begot of sight, and that attachment, O son of Kunti began to grow in strength. And then Nala was unable to control the love that was in his bosom. And he began to pass much of his time in solitude in the gardens adjoining the inner apartment (of his palace). And there he saw a number of swans furnished with golden wings, wandering in those woods. And from among them he caught one with his hands. And thereupon the sky-ranging one said unto Nala. 'Deserve I not to be slain by thee. O king. I will do something that is agreeable to thee. O king of the Nishadhas. I will speak of thee before Damayanti in such a way that she will not ever desire to have any other person (for her lord).' Thus addressed, the king liberated that swan. And those swans then rose on their wings
and went to the country of the Vidarbhas. And on arriving at the city of the Vidarbhas the birds alighted before Damayanti, who beheld them all. And Damayanti in the midst of her maids, beholding those birds of extraordinary appearance was filled with delight, and strove without loss of time to catch those coursers of the skies. And the swans at this, before that bevy of beauties, fled in all directions. And those maidens there pursued the birds, each (running) after one. And the swan after which Damayanti ran, having led her to a secluded spot, addressed her in human speech, saying, O Damayanti, there is a king amongst the Nishadhas named Nala. He is equal unto the Aswins in beauty, not having his peer among men. Indeed, in comeliness, he is like Kandarpa himself in his embodied form. O fair-complexioned one, O thou of slender waist, if thou becomest his wife, thy existence and this thy beauty may be of purpose. We have, indeed, beheld celestials and Gandharvas, and Nagas, and Rakshasas, and men, but never saw we before any one like Nala. Thou also art a jewel among thy sex, as Nala is the prime among men. The union of the best with the best is happy.' Thus addressed by the swan. Damayanti, O monarch, replied unto him there, saying, 'Do thou speak thus unto Nala also, 'Saying So be it, to the daughter of Vidarbha, the oviparous one, O king, returned to the country of the Nishadhas, and related everything unto Nala."
Next: Section LIV