Chapter 104 — A Magician, a Horse & a Stunned King Lavana

Vasishta said:—

Rama, hear me relate a very pretty story about the world as an enchanted city stretched out by magic of the magician Mind.

There lies on the surface of this earth a large and populous tract of land by name of Northern Pandava, a country full of forests of various kinds. The forests were deep and dense, and a number of holy hermits live in the fastness of these woods. Vidyadhara maidens had constructed many dwellings of swinging vines. The breeze blew up heaps of red dust from full blown lotuses, rising as high as crimson hills on the ground decorated with wreaths and garlands from loads of flowers fallen from surrounding trees. Groves of karanja plants were decorated with bundles of blossoms to the farthest boundaries of the jungle, and the sky resounded with the rustling noise of leafy date trees in the surrounding villages. There was a range of tawny rocks on one side, and fields brown with ripened grain on another; while the warbling of cerulean doves echoed in the resonant groves.

The shrill cry of the stork sounded in the forest, and the branches of spice and patali flowers hang down like earrings on the hills. Flocks of various birds made a chorus with their cries, and blooming crimson blossoms of paribhadra trees hung over the banks all along the length of running streams. Maidens in the cornfields were exciting the passion of love with their singing. Breezes blowing amidst forests of fruits and flowers dropped down the blossoms in copious showers. 10 Birds, spiritual masters and seers were sitting and singing outside their homes made in mountain caves, making the valley symphonious with their celestial strains of holy hymns. 11 Kinnara and gandharva choruses were singing under their bowers of plantain trees, and the grayish and gay groves of flowers were filled with the hum of the whistling breeze.

12 The lord of this romantic country was the virtuous Lavana, a descendant of King Harish Chandra, and as glorious as his sire the sun upon earth. 13 His fair fame formed a white diadem to crown his head and adorn his shoulders with its brightness. It whitened the hills in the form of so many Shivas smeared with white ash upon his tufted head and person. 14 His sword had made an end of all his enemies who trembled as in a fit of fever on hearing his noble name. 15 His greatest effort was devoted to support respectable men, and his name was uttered like that of Hari (Vishnu) by all his people. 16 The apsara fairies sitting in the celestial seats of the gods on the tops of the Himalayan mountains gleefully sang songs of his praise. 17 The lord of the skies heard the songs of the heavenly maids, and the aerial swans and cranes of Brahma responded to the praises with their gabbling cries.

18 His uncommonly magnanimous and wonderful acts, free from the fault of being stingy, were unlike anything that was ever heard or seen by anybody. 19 His nature knew no guile and he was a perfect stranger to pride and arrogance. He kept himself steadfast to his magnanimity, as Brahma held himself fast to his rudraksha beads.

20 He used to take his seat in the royal throne amidst his courtiers, as the lord of the day occupies his seat in the sky for the eight watches of the day. 21 After he was seated there as happily as the moon in the sky, his chieftains and legions appeared before the throne with their salutations. 22 Then, as the royal party was seated in the court hall, beautiful singers began to sing and ravish the hearts of listeners with the music of lutes. 23 Then a set of handsome maids waved the beautiful fans that they held in their hands over the body of the king. Ministers and counselors, as wise as the teachers of the gods and demons (Brihaspati and Shukra), took their seats beside him. 24 Ministers engaged in the public affairs pending before them, and capable officers reported to the king on the conditions of the county. 25 There were learned pundits reciting holy legends from their books, and courteous eulogists chanting their sacred praises on one side.

26 At this time a magician appeared before the court in his fantastic attire. He boasted and blustered like a roaring cloud threatening to flood the earth with showers of rain. 27 He bowed down to the ruler of the earth, and lowly bent his capped head and neck before the court, like a tree hangs down its loads of fruit at the foot of a mountain. 28 He approached the king like a monkey advances to a shady and lofty tree loaded with fruit and flowers.

29 Then the cunning trickster conveyed the fragrance of his sense with the breath of his mouth. He addressed the lofty headed king with his sweet voice, as the humble bee hums to the lotus. 30 “Allow, O lord who sits on the earthly throne like the moon enthroned on high, to mark one wonderful feat of my art, known as the trick of Kharolikika.” 31 Saying so, he began to twirl his magic staff set with peacock feathers, which began to display many wonders like the wonderful works of creation. 32 The king saw it describing a bright circle emitting particles of its rays around. He saw it like God Indra sees his variegated rainbow sparkling afar in the sky.

33 As this time a chieftain of Sindh entered the court, like a cloud appears in the starry heaven. 34 He was followed by his swift and beautiful war-horse, just like Uchchaihshravas, the seven-headed horse of Indra, follows his master in the celestial regions. 35 The chieftain brought the horse before the king and said, “My lord, this horse is a match for Uchchaihshravas who was produced from the Milky Ocean and flies with the swiftness of the mind. 36 This horse of mine, O king of the earth, is the best of his kind and an equal of Uchchaihshravas. He is a personification of the wind in the swiftness of his flight. 37 My master has made a present of this horse to you, my lord, because the best of things is a suitable present to the best of men.”

38 After the chief ended his speech, the magician spoke in a voice as sweet as that of the swallow after the roaring of clouds is hushed to silence. 39 “My lord, ride upon this horse and wander at your pleasure with full luster on earth, as the sun shines forth in splendor by revolving round the heavens.”

40 Hearing this, the king looked at the horse and, in a voice like that of a peacock answering a roaring cloud, ordered the horse to be brought before him. 41 The king saw the horse like a figure drawn in painting, and gazed upon him with fixed eyes and without closing his eyelids, as if the king himself had been turned into a painting.

42 Having looked upon the horse for a long time, he mounted on his back and sat still with his closed eyelids, as sage Agastya was confounded at the sight of the sea and its rocks. 43 He continued for a couple of hours as if he was drowned in his meditation, and as unconscious saints remain in the enjoyment of their internal and spiritual samadhi. 44 He remained spellbound and overpowered by his own might. None could rouse the king roused from his stupefaction. He remained absorbed in some thoughts of his own mind. 45 Flapping fans ceased to wave about his body and the holders of the fans remained as still as moonbeams at night. 46 Courtiers remained motionless at seeing his stillness, as when the filaments of the lotus remain unmoved when smeared in the mud. 47 The noise of people in the courtyard became hushed and quiet, like the roaring of the clouds stops at the end of the rains.

48 Ministers were drowned in their thoughtfulness and questions at the state of their king, just like the host of gods were filled with anxiety on seeing the club-bearing Vishnu fighting with the demons. 49 People were struck with terror and dismay at seeing this paralysis of their king who remained with his eyes closed, like closed lotuses shorn of their beauty.