The Mahabharata Home
"Vrihadaswa said, 'Damayanti, having bowed down unto the gods, thus addressed Nala with a smile, 'O king, love me with proper regard, and command me what I shall do for thee. Myself and what else of wealth is mine are thine. Grant me, O exalted one, thy love in full trust. O king, the language of the swans in burning me. It is for thy sake, O hero, that I have caused the kings to meet. O giver of proper honour, if thou forsake me who adore thee, for thy sake will I resort to poison, or fire, or water or the rope.' Thus addressed by the daughter of the king of the Vidarbhas, Nala answered her saying, 'With the Lokapalas present, choosest thou a man? Do thou turn thy heart to those high-souled lords, the creators of the worlds, unto the dust of whose feet I am not equal. Displeasing the gods, a mortal cometh by death. Save me, O thou of faultless limbs! Choose thou the all-excelling celestials. By accepting the gods, do thou enjoy spotless robes, and celestial garlands of variegated hues, and excellent ornaments. What woman would not choose as her lord Hutasana--the chief of the celestials, who compassing the earth swalloweth it? What woman would not choose him as her lord the dread of whose mace induceth all creatures to tread the path of virtue? And what woman would not choose as her lord the virtuous and high-souled Mahendra, the lord of the celestials, the chastiser of Daityas and Danavas?
[paragraph continues] Or, if thou couldst choose in thy heart Varuna amongst the Lokapalas, do so unhesitatingly. O accept this friendly advice.' Thus addressed by Naishadha, Damayanti, with eyes bathed in tears of grief spake thus unto Nala, 'O lord of the earth, bowing to all the gods, I choose thee for my lord. Truly do I tell thee this.' The king, who had come as the messenger of the gods, replied unto the trembling Damayanti standing with folded hands, 'O amiable one, do as thou pleasest. Having given my pledge, O blessed one, unto the gods in especial, how can I, having come on other's mission, dare seek my own interest? If seeking my own interest consists with virtue, I will seek it, and do thou also, O beauteous one, act accordingly.' Then Damayanti of luminous smiles slowly spake unto king Nala, in words choked with tears, 'O lord of men I see a blameless way, by which no sin whatever will attach unto thee. O king, do thou, O foremost of men, come to the Swayamvara in company with all the gods headed by Indra. There, O Monarch, in the presence of the Lokapalas I will, O tiger among men, choose thee--at which no blame will be thine.' Thus addressed, O monarch, by the daughter of Vidarbha, king Nala returned to where the gods were staying together. And beholding him approach those great gods, the Lokapalas, eagerly asked him about all that had happened saying, 'Hast thou, O king, seen Damayanti of sweet smiles? What hath she said unto us all? O sinless monarch, tell us everything.' Nala answered, 'Commanded by you I entered Damayanti's palace furnished with lofty portals guarded by veteran warders bearing wands. And as I entered, no one perceived me, by virtue of your power, except the princess. And I saw her hand-maids, and they also saw me. And, O exalted celestials, seeing me, they were filled with wonder. And as I spake unto her of you, the fair-faced maiden, her will fixed on me, O ye best of the gods, chose me (for her spouse).' And the maiden said, 'Let the gods, O tiger among men, come with thee to the Swayamvara, I will in their presence, choose thee. At this, O thou of mighty arms, no blame will attach to thee.' 'This is all, ye gods, that took place, as I have said. Finally, everything rests with you, ye foremost of celestials.'"
Next: Section LVII