The Mahabharata Home
"Vrihadaswa continued, 'Having heard the words of Sudeva king Rituparna, soothing Vahuka with gentle words, said, 'O Vahuka, thou art well-skilled in training and guiding horses. If it pleases thee, I intend to go to Damayanti's Swayamvara in course of a single day.' Thus addressed, O son of Kunti, by that king, Nala felt his heart to be bursting in grief. And the high-souled king seemed to burn in sorrow. And
he thought within himself, 'Perhaps Damayanti in doing this is blinded by sorrow. Or, perhaps, she hath conceived this magnificent scheme for my sake. Alas, cruel is the deed that the innocent princess of Vidarbha intends to do, having been deceived by my sinful and low self of little sense. It is seen in the world that the nature of woman is inconstant. My offence also hath been great; perhaps she is acting so, because she hath no longer any love for me owing to my separation from her. Indeed, that girl of slender waist, afflicted with grief on my account and with despair, will not certainly do anything of the kind, when especially, she is the mother of offspring (by me). However whether this is true or false, I shall ascertain with certitude by going thither. I will, therefore, accomplish Rituparna's and my own purpose also.' Having resolved thus in his mind, Vahuka, with his heart in sorrow, spake unto king Rituparna, with joined hands, saying, 'O monarch, I bow to thy behest, and, O tiger among men, I will go to the city of the Vidarbhas in a single day. O king!' Then, O monarch, at the command of the royal son of Bhangasura, Vahuka went to the stables and began to examine the horses. And repeatedly urged by Rituparna to make haste, Vahuka after much scrutiny and careful deliberation, selected some steeds that were lean-fleshed, yet strong and capable of a long journey and endued with energy and strength of high breed and docility, free from inauspicious marks, with wide nostrils and swelling cheeks, free from faults as regards the ten hairy curls, born in (the country of) Sindhu, and fleet as the winds. And seeing those horses, the king said somewhat angrily, 'What is this, that thou wishest to do? Thou shouldst not jest with us. How can these horses of mine, weak in strength and breath, carry us? And how shall we be able to go this long way by help of these?' Vahuka replied, 'Each of these horses bears one curl on his forehead, two on his temples, four on his sides, four on his chest, and one on his back. Without doubt, these steeds will be able to go to the country of the Vidarbhas. If, O king, thou thinkest of choosing others, point them out and I shall yoke them for thee.' Rituparna rejoined, 'O Vahuka, thou art versed in the science of horses and art also skillful (in guiding them). Do thou speedily yoke those that thou thinkest to be able.' Thereupon the skillful Nala yoked upon the car four excellent steeds of good breed that were, besides, docile and fleet. And after the steeds had been yoked, the king without loss of time mounted upon the car, when those best of horses fell down upon the ground on their knees. Then, O king, that foremost of men, the blessed king Nala began to soothe horses endued with energy and strength. And raising them up with the reins and making the charioteer Varshneya sit on the car, he prepared to set out with great speed. And those best of steeds, duly urged by Vahuka, rose to the sky, confounding the occupant of the vehicle. And beholding those steeds gifted with the speed of the
wind thus drawing the car, the blessed king of Ayodhaya was exceedingly amazed. And noticing the rattle of the car and also the management of the steeds, Varshneya reflected upon Vahuka's skill in guiding horses. And he thought, 'Is he Matali, the charioteer of the king of the celestials? I find the same magnificent indications in the heroic Vahuka. Or, hath Salihotra versed in the science of horses taken this human shape so beautiful? Or, is it king Nala the reducer of hostile towns that hath come here? Or, it may be that this Vahuka knoweth the science that Nala knoweth, for I perceive that the knowledge of Vahuka is equal to that of Nala. Further, Vahuka and Nala are of the same age. This one, again, may not be Nala of high prowess, but somebody of equal knowledge. Illustrious persons, however, walk this earth in disguise in consequence of misfortune, or agreeably to the ordinance of the scriptures. That this person is of unsightly appearance need not change my opinion; for Nala, I think, may even be despoiled of his personal features. In respect of age this one equals Nala. There is difference, however, in personal appearance. Vahuka, again is endued with every accomplishment. I think, therefore, he is Nala.' Having thus reasoned long in his mind, O mighty monarch, Varshneya, the (former) charioteer of the righteous Nala, became absorbed in thought. And that foremost of kings Rituparna, also, beholding the skill of Vahuka in equestrian science experienced great delight, along with his charioteer Varshneya. And thinking of Vahuka's application and ardour and the manner of his holding the reins, the king felt exceedingly glad.'"
Next: Section LXXII