The Mahabharata Home
"Vrihadaswa said, 'After Varshneya had gone away, Pushkara won from the righteous Nala that latter's kingdom and what else of wealth he had. And unto Nala, O king, who had lost his kingdom, Pushkara laughingly said, 'Let the play go on. But what stake hast thou now? Damayanti only remaineth; all else of thine hath been won by me. Well, if thou likest, that Damayanti be our stake now.' Hearing these words of Pushkara the virtuous king felt as if his heart would burst in rage, but he spake not a word. And gazing at Pushkara in anguish, king Nala of great fame took all the ornaments off every part of his body. And attired in a single piece of cloth, his body uncovered, renouncing all his wealth, and enhancing the grief of friends, the king set out. And Damayanti, clad in one piece of cloth, followed him behind as he was leaving the city. And coming to the outskirts of the city, Nala stayed there for three nights with his wife. But Pushkara, O king, proclaimed through the city that he that should show any attention to Nala, would be doomed to death. And on account of these words of Pushkara and knowing his malice towards Nala, the citizens, O Yudhishthira, no longer showed him hospitable regards. And unregarded though deserving of hospitable regards, Nala passed three nights in the outskirts of the city, living on water alone. And afflicted with hunger, the king went away in search of fruit and roots, Damayanti following him behind. And in agony of famine, after many days, Nala saw some birds with plumage of golden hue. And thereupon the mighty lord of the Nishadhas thought within himself, 'These will be my banquet today and also my wealth.' And then he covered them with the cloth he had on--when bearing up that garment of his, the birds rose up to the sky. And beholding Nala nude and melancholy, and standing with face turned towards the ground, those rangers of the sky addressed him, saying, 'O thou of small sense, we are even those dice. We had come hither wishing to take away thy cloth, for it pleased us not that thou shouldst depart even with thy cloth on.' And finding himself deprived of his attire, and knowing also that the dice were departing (with it), the virtuous Nala, O king, thus spake unto Damayanti, 'O faultless one, they through whose anger I have been despoiled of my kingdom, they through whose influence distressed and afflicted with hunger, I am unable to procure sustenance, they for whom the Nishadhas offered me not any hospitality, they, O timid one, are carrying off my cloth, assuming the form of birds. Fallen into this dire disaster, I am afflicted with grief and deprived of my senses, I am thy lord, do thou, therefore, listen to the words I speak for thy good. These many roads lead to the southern country, passing by (the city of) Avanti
and the Rikshavat mountains. This is that mighty mountain called Vindhya; yon, the river Payasvini running sea-wards, and yonder are the asylums of the ascetics, furnished with various fruit and roots. This road leadeth to the country of the Vidarbhas--and that, to the country of the Kosalas. Beyond these roads to the south is the southern country.' Addressing Bhima's daughter, O Bharata, he distressed king Nala spake those words unto Damayanti over and over again. Thereupon afflicted with grief, in a voice choked with tears, Damayanti spake unto Naishadha these piteous words, 'O king, thinking of thy purpose, my heart trembleth, and all my limbs become faint. How can I go, leaving thee in the lone woods despoiled of thy kingdom and deprived of thy wealth, thyself without a garment on, and worn with hunger and toil? When in the deep woods, fatigued and afflicted with hunger, thou thinkest of thy former bliss, I will, O great monarch, soothe thy weariness. In every sorrow there is no physic equal unto the wife, say the physicians. It is the truth, O Nala, that I speak unto thee.' Hearing those words of his queen, Nala replied, 'O slender-waisted Damayanti, it is even as thou hast said. To a man in distress, there is no friend or medicine that is equal unto a wife. But I do not seek to renounce thee, wherefore, O timid one, dost thou dread this? O faultless one, I can forsake myself but thee I cannot forsake.' Damayanti then said, 'If thou dost not, O mighty king, intend to forsake me, why then dost thou point out to me the way to the country of the Vidarbhas? I know, O king, that thou wouldst not desert me. But, O lord of the earth, considering that thy mind is distracted, thou mayst desert me. O best of men, thou repeatedly pointest out to me the way and it is by this, O god-like one, that thou enhancest my grief. If it is thy intention that I should go to my relatives, then if it pleaseth thee, both of us will wend to the country of the Vidarbhas. O giver of honours, there the king of the Vidarbhas will receive thee with respect. And honoured by him, O king, thou shall live happily in our home.'"
Next: Section LXII