Chapter 16 — The Lives of Queen Leela & King Padma; Leela Performs Tapas to Saraswati; Padma’s Death

This husband with a single wife enjoyed the pleasure of an undivided and sincere love in the company of his only consort, just as with a heavenly nymph (apsara) on earth. The seats of their youthful play were gardens and groves, tree gardens of shrubs, and forests of tamara trees. They also played in pleasant tree gardens of vines and delightful alcoves of flowers. They delighted themselves in the inner apartments on beds decked with fragrant flowers, and on walks strewn with fresh blossoms. In spring they amused themselves in the swinging cradles of their pleasure gardens, and in summer heat they rowed in their boats.

Their favorite summer resorts were hills overgrown with sandalwood and the shade of forests, the groves of nipa and kadamba trees, and canopies of paribhadra and devadaru cedars. They sat beside beds of kunda and mandara plants, fragrant with the smell of full-blown flowers, and they strayed about the spring-green woods resounding with the melody of nightingales’ notes. They enjoyed the glossy beds of grassy tufts, the mossy seats of woods and lawns, and water-falls flooding the level lands with showers of rain. 7 They often visited mountain ledges overlaid with gems, minerals and richest stones, as wells as the shrines of gods and saints, holy hermitages and other places of pilgrimage. They frequently haunted lakes of full-blown lotuses and lilies, smiling kumudas of various colors, and woodlands darkened by green foliage and overhung with flowers and fruit.

They passed their time in the amorous dalliances of god-like youths. Their personal beauty was graced by their generous pastimes of their mutual fondness and affection. 10 They amused each other with clever remarks and witticisms and solution of riddles, with story telling and playing tricks of hold-fists, and with various games of chess and dice. 11 They diverted themselves by reading dramas and stories, and by interpreting stanzas difficult even for the learned. And sometimes they roamed about cities, towns and villages.

12 They decorated their bodies with wreaths of flowers and ornaments of various kinds. They feasted on a variety of flavors, and moved about with playful negligence. 13 They chewed betel leaves mixed with moistened mace, camphor and saffron. They hid the love marks on their bodies under the wreaths of flowers and coral that adorned them. 14 They frolicked playing hide and seek, tossing wreaths and garlands, and swinging one another in cradles decorated with flowers. 15 They went on trips in pleasure-boats, and on yokes of elephants and tame camels. They played in their pleasure-ponds by splashing water on one another.

16 They had their manly and feminine dances: the sprightly tandava and the merry lasya. They sang songs with masculine and feminine voices, the kala and giti. They had enjoyed harmonious and pleasing music, playing stringed and percussion instruments. 17 In their flowery conveyances they passed through gardens and pathways, by rivers and on highways, and into the inner apartments of their royal palaces.

18 The loving and beloved Queen Leela, being thus brought up in pleasure and indulgence, at one time thought within herself with a wistful heart, 19 “How will my lord and ruler of earth, who is in the bloom of youth and prosperity and who is dearer to me than my life, be free from old age and death? 20 And how will I enjoy his company on beds of flowers in the palace, possessed of my youth and free-will, for long, long hundreds of years? 21 Therefore I will endeavor with all my vigilance, prayers, austerities and efforts to know how this moon-faced prince may become free from death and decline. 22 I will ask the most knowing, the most austere, and the very learned brahmins how men may evade death.”

23 She accordingly invited the brahmins and honored them with presents, and humbly asked them to tell her how men might become immortal on earth. 24 The brahmins replied, “Great queen, holy men may obtain success in everything by their austerities, prayers and observance of religious rites, but nobody can ever attain to immortality here below.”

25 Hearing this from the mouths of the brahmins, she thought again in her own mind, and with fear for the death of her loving lord. 26 “Should it happen that I come to die before my lord, then I shall be released from all pain of separation from him, and be quite at rest in myself. 27 But if my husband should happen to die before me, even after a thousand years of our lives, I shall so manage it that his soul may not depart from the confines of this house. 28 The spirit of my lord will rove about the holy vault in this inner apartment and I shall feel the satisfaction of his presence at all times.”

29 “For this purpose, I will start this very day to worship Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, and offer my prayers to her, and observe fasts and other rites to my heart’s content.” 30 Having so determined, she began to observe the strict rituals of the scriptures without her lord’s knowledge.

31 She kept her fasts and broke them at the end of every third night. She entertained the gods, brahmins, priests and holy people with feasts and due honors. 32 She performed her daily ablutions, she distributed alms, and she practiced austerities and meditation. In all of these she was painstakingly observant of the rules of pious devotion. 33 She also attended to her unaware husband at the stated times. To the utmost, she took care of him and performed her duties as required by law and custom. 34 Thus observant of her vows, with resolute and persevering pains-taking and unfailing austerity, the young queen passed a hundred of her three-night ceremonies.

35 Saraswati, the fair goddess of speech, was pleased at the completion of Leela’s hundredth three-night ritual in the goddess’ honor, performed with all outward and spiritual courtesy. The goddess spoke to her saying, 36 “I am pleased, my child, with your continued devotion to me, and your constant devotion to your husband. Now ask the boon that you would have of me.”

37 Queen Leela replied, “Be victorious, O moon-bright goddess, to end all the pains of our birth and death, and the troubles, afflictions and evils of this world. Like the sun, put to flight the darkness of our affections and afflictions in this life. 38 Save me, O goddess and parent of the world. Have pity on this wretched devotee and grant her these two boons that she begs of you.”

39 “The one is that after my husband is dead, his soul may not go beyond the precincts of this shrine in the inner apartment. 40 The second is that whenever I call you, you shall hear my prayer, appear before me, and give me your sight and blessing.”

41 Hearing this, the goddess Saraswati said, “Be it so,” and immediately disappeared in the air, just like a wave subsides in the sea from where it had come into view.

42 The queen being blessed by the presence and good grace of the goddess, was as delighted as a doe at hearing sweet music. 43 The wheel of time rolled on its two semicircles of fortnights, the spikes of months, the arcs of the seasons, the loops of days and nights, and the orbits of years. The axle, composed of fleeting moments, gave constant momentum to the wheel.

44 The perceptions of King Padma entered into his subtle body and in a short time, he looked as dry as a withered leaf without its juicy gloss. 45 The dead body of the warlike king was laid over a tomb inside the palace. Queen Leela began to fade away at its sight, like a lotus flower without the waters of its birth.

46 Her lips grew pale from the hot and poisoned breath of her sorrow. She was in the agony of death, like a doe mortally wounded by an arrow. 47 At the death of her lord, her eyes were covered in darkness like a house becomes dark when its light is extinguished. 48 In her sad melancholy, she became leaner every moment. She became like a dried channel covered with dirt instead of water. 49 She moved one moment and was then mute as a statue. She was about to die of grief, like the ruddy goose at the separation of her mate. 50 Then the ethereal goddess Saraswati took pity on the excess of her grief, and showed as much compassion for Leela’s relief as the first shower of rain does to dying fishes in a drying pond.