The Mahabharata Home
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'Then at the sacred hour of the holy lunar day of the auspicious season, king Bhima summoned the kings to the Swayamvara. And hearing of it, all the lords of earth smit with love speedily came thither, desirous of (possessing) Damayanti. And the monarchs entered the amphitheatre decorated with golden pillars and a lofty portal arch, like mighty lions entering the mountain wilds. And those lords of
earth decked with fragrant garlands and polished ear-rings hung with jewels seated themselves on their several seats. And that sacred assembly of Kings, graced by those tigers among men, resembled the Bhogavati swarming with the Nagas, or a mountain cavern with tigers. And their arms were robust, and resembling iron maces, and well-shaped, and graceful, and looking like five-headed snakes. And graced with beautiful locks and fine noses and eyes and brows, the countenance of the kings shone like stars in the firmament. And (when the time came), Damayanti of beauteous face, stealing the eyes and hearts of the princes by her dazzling light, entered the hall. And the glances of those illustrious kings were rivetted to those parts of her person where they had chanced to fall first, without moving at all. And when, O Bharata, the names of the monarchs were proclaimed, the daughter of Bhima saw five persons all alike in appearance. And beholding them seated there, without difference of any kind in form, doubt filled her mind, and she could not ascertain which of them was king Nala. And at whomsoever (among them) she looked, she regarded him to be the king of the Nishadhas. And filled with anxiety, the beauteous one thought within herself, 'Oh, how shall I distinguish the celestials, and how discern the royal Nala?' And thinking thus, the daughter of Vidarbha became filled with grief. And, O Bharata, recollecting the marks belonging to the celestials, of which she had heard, she thought, 'Those attributes of the celestials, of which I have heard from the aged, do not pertain to any of these deities present here upon the earth.' And revolving the matter long in her mind, and reflecting upon it repeatedly, she decided upon seeking the protection of the gods themselves. And bowing down unto them with mind and speech, with folded hands, she addressed them trembling, 'Since I heard the speech of the swans, I chose the king of the Nishadhas as my lord. For the sake of truth, O, let the gods reveal him to me. And as in thought or word I have never swerved from him, O, let the gods, for the sake of that truth, reveal him to me. And as the gods themselves have destined the ruler of the Nishadhas to be my lord, O, let them, for the sake of that truth, reveal him to me. And as it is for paying homage unto Nala that I have adopted this vow, for the sake of that truth, O, let the gods reveal him unto me, O, let the exalted guardians of the worlds assume their own proper forms, so that I may know the righteous king.' Hearing these piteous words of Damayanti, and ascertaining her fixed resolve, and fervent love for the king of Nishadhas, the purity of her heart and her inclination and regard and affection for Nala, the gods did as they had been adjured, and assumed their respective attributes as best they could. And thereupon she beheld the celestials unmoistened with perspiration, with winkless eyes, and unfading garlands, unstained with dust, and staying without touching the ground. And Naishadha stood revealed to his shadow, his fading garlands, himself stained with dust and sweat, resting on the ground with
winking eyes. And, O Bharata, discerning the gods and the virtuous Nala the daughter of Bhima chose Naishadha according to her truth. And the large-eyed damsel then bashfully caught the hem of his garment and placed round his neck a floral wreath of exceeding grace. And when that fair-complexioned maiden had thus chosen Nala for her husband, the kings suddenly broke out into exclamations of Oh! and Alas! And, O Bharata, the gods and the great Rishis in wonder cried Excellent! Excellent!, applauding the king the while. And, O Kauravya, the royal son of Virasena, with heart filled with gladness, comforted the beauteous Damayanti, saying, 'Since thou, O blessed one, hast chosen a mortal in the presence of the celestials, know me for a husband even obedient to thy command. And, O thou of sweet smiles, truly do I tell thee this that as long as life continueth in this body of mine, I will remain thine and thine alone. Damayanti also, with folded hands paid homage unto Nala in words of like import. And the happy pair beholding Agni and the other gods mentally sought their protection. And after the daughter of Bhima had chosen Naishadha as her husband, the Lokapalas of exceeding effulgence with pleased hearts, bestowed on Nala eight boons. And Sakra, the lord of Sachi, bestowed on Nala the boon that he should be able to behold his godship in sacrifices and that he should attain to blessed legions thereafter, and Hutasana bestowed on him the boon of his own presence whenever Naishadha wished, and regions also bright as himself. And Yama granted him subtle taste in food as well as pre-eminence in virtue. And the lord of waters granted Nala his own presence whenever he desired, and also garlands of celestial fragrance. And thus each of them bestowed upon him a couple of boons. And having bestowed these the gods went to heaven. And the kings also, having witnessed with wonder Damayanti's selection of Nala, returned delighted whence they had come. And on the departure of those mighty monarchs, the high-souled Bhima, well pleased, celebrated the wedding of Nala and Damayanti. And having stayed there for a time according to his desire, Naishadha, the best of men, returned to his own city with the permission of Bhima. And having attained that pearl of a woman, the virtuous king, O monarch, began to pass his days in joy, like the slayer of Vala and Vritra in the company of Sachi. And resembling the sun in glory, the king, full of gladness, began to rule his subjects righteously, and give them great satisfaction. And like unto Yayati, the son of Nahusha, that intelligent monarch celebrated the horse sacrifice and many other sacrifices with abundant gifts to Brahmanas. And like unto a very god, Nala sported with Damayanti in romantic woods and groves. And the high-minded king begat upon Damayanti a son named Indrasena, and a daughter named Indrasena. And celebrating sacrifice, and sporting (with Damayanti) thus, the king ruled the earth abounding in wealth.'"
Next: Section LVIII