Chapter 106 — King Lavana Marries a Tribal Maiden

The king related:—

My own land abounding in forests and rivulets appeared like a miniature of this planet earth. This land of which I am king and where I am now sitting in my royal assembly hall, amidst my courtiers and all these citizens, appeared like the paradise of Indra.

That sorcerer appeared here from a distant country, like a demon rising from the infernal region to the surface of the ground. He whirled his magic wand emitting its radiance around, like the tempest rends and scatters the rainbow of Indra in fragments in the air. I was looking intently at the whirling wand and the horse standing before me, then mounted on the back of the steed in the dizziness of my mind.

I sat on the back of this unmoving horse and seemed to ride on a fleet horse with the swiftness of pushkara and avartaka clouds riding over the tops of immovable rocks. Then I went on a chase at full speed, passing over an ownerless desert, howling like the surges of the boundless ocean. The horse bore me through the air as if we were blown by the winds. We dashed onward like common people who are carried afar by the currents of the unsatisfied desires of their minds.

Then being fatigued with my journey, and moving slowly on my wearied horse, I reached the edge of a desert which was as vacant as the mind of a pauper, and as empty as the heart of a woman. 10 It was like the wilderness of the world burned down by a conflagration, without even a bird flying over it. It was like a waste of sandy frost without a tree or any water in it. 11 In its extent, it appeared like another sky or like the eighth ocean of the world. It was like a sea on earth with its bed entirely dried up. 12 It was as expanded as the mind of a wise man, and as furious as the rage of the ignorant. There was no trace of human feet and no track with any grass or herb in it.

13 My mind was bewildered in this boundless desert, like that of a woman fallen into adversity and having no friend, food or fruit for her support. 14 The face of the sky was washed by waters appearing in the mirage of the sandy desert. I traveled panting in that dreary spot until it was sunset.

15 It was with great pain and sorrow that I crossed that vast desert, like a wise man who crosses this world, all hollow and void within. 16 After passing this desert and as the sun was setting, I reached a thick forest, tired with traversing through the hollow sphere of heaven. 17 Here birds were warbling amidst jamb and kadamba trees. They were the only friends that weary travelers could meet in their weary and lonely journey. 18 Here detached plots of long grass were seen waving their tops, like covetous men nodding their heads on finding some riches to their heart’s content. 19 This shady forest afforded me a little joy after my pains in the dry and dreary desert, just like a lingering disease seems more desirable to men than the pains attending death.

20 I got under the shade of a jambira tree and felt myself as pleased, as when sage Markandeya got to the top of the mountain during the great deluge. 21 I took shelter under the vines descending from its branches, just as the scorching top of a mountain finds temporary shade under a dark cloud. 22 As I was holding the hanging roots in my hand, the horse slid away from underneath me, like the sins of a man glide under him who puts his trust in the sacred Ganges River. 23 Fatigued with my travel that long day through the dreary waste, I took refuge under this tree like a traveler rests under the shelter of a kalpa tree at the setting of the sun. 24 All this business of the world was stopped as the sun went down to rest in the western hills

25 As the shade of night spread over the bosom of the universe, the entire forest below took itself to its nightly rest and silence. 26 I rested in the grassy hollow of a branch of that tree, my head on a mossy bed like a bird in its nest. 27 I remained there as unconscious as one bitten by a snake, and like a dead body that has lost its past memories. I was as impotent as a sold slave and as helpless as one fallen in a dark pit. 28 That one night I passed in my senselessness seemed like a long kalpa aeon. I thought I was buffeting in waves like sage Markandeya at the great deluge. 29 I passed the night under a train of dangers and difficulties that invaded me as in the state of dreaming. I had no thought about bathing or eating or worshipping my Maker. 30 I passed the night in restlessness and disquiet, shaking like the branch of a tree. This single night of trouble was as long as it was tedious to me.

31 A melancholy spread over my face, as darkness veils the face of the night. My waking eyes kept watching for the day, like the watchful eyes of blue lotuses expect the rising moon. 32 The demonic noise of wild beasts hushed in the forest at the end of the night. I began to shiver from the cold, my teeth clattering. 33 Then I saw the east red with the flush of intoxication, as if it was laughing at seeing me drown in my difficulties. 34 I saw the sun advancing towards the earth, mounted on his Airavata, the regent elephant of that quarter. He seemed as full of glee as an ignorant man has in his folly, and as a poor man in obtaining a treasure.

35 I got up from my mossy bed and shook off my bed cloth, like Shiva tossing off his elephant hide during his giddy evening dance. 36 Then I began to wander in the wide forest, just as God Rudra (Shiva) roves about the wide world after its desolation by his demons at the end of kalpas. 37 There was no animal of any kind to be seen in the desolate desert, just as the good qualities of good breeding are never found in the illiterate. 38 I saw only lively birds, perched and chirping all about the woods without intermission.

39 It was midday, when the sun had run his eighth hour and plants had dried up the dew of their morning baths, 40 when I saw a maiden carrying some food and a drinking bowl of water, just as Hari (Vishnu) in his disguise in the shape of Madhavi bore the poisonous liquor to the demons. 41 She was of a swarthy complexion and dressed in dark black clothing. When I advanced towards her like the bright moon appears towards the black and dark night, she looked at me suspiciously.

42 I asked her to give me some of her food in my great distress, because, I told her, one is enriched by relieving the distress of the needy. 43 “O good maid,” I said, “increasing hunger is consuming my stomach and I would take any food, even as the female serpent in extreme hunger devours her own young.” 44 I begged of her and yet she gave me nothing, but remained as unmoved as the goddess of fortune who declines to favor the wretched however much they implore her aid. 45 For a long time I kept following her closely from one wood to another, moving behind her in the afternoon and clinging to her like her own shadow.

46 Then she turned to me and said, “Know me to be a tribal (chandala, an outcaste) girl bearing the name of Harakeyuri. We are as cruel as rakshasa demons. We feed on human flesh and the meat of horses and elephants. 47 O king, you cannot get your food simply by begging me for it, as it is hard to have the favor of men without first meeting their own desires.”

48 Saying so, she continued moving with quick light steps at every move, then entered a grove of trees on the wayside. Then she spoke merrily to me saying, 49 “Well, I will give you some of this food if you will agree to be my husband, because base and common people do not do good to others before securing their own good. 50 My tribal father is here plowing in the field with his sturdy yoke of bulls. With his haggard, hungry and dusky stature, he looks like a demon standing in the cemetery. 51 This food is for him. I may give it to you if you agree to marry me, because the husband deserves to be served even at the peril of one’s life.”

52 To this I replied, “I agree to take you to my wife, for what fool would adhere to his family customs when his life is in danger?” 53 Then she then gave me half of the food she had with her, as Madhavi parted with half of her ambrosia to the hungry Indra of old. 54 I ate the tribal’s food and drank the beverage of jambu fruits that she gave me. Then I rested at that place and fell into a sleep caused by my fatigue and long walking.

55 Then she approached me like a black cloud approaches the sun. She held me in her arms and led me onward with her guiding hand as fondly as her second self. 56 She took me to her father, a fat and ugly fellow of repulsive appearance, like the tormenting agony of death leads a person to the hideous cell of the devil. 57 My companion whispered the news of our situation to his ears, like a black bee hums her tale softly to the ear of an elephant. 58 “This man,” she said, “is to be my husband, if you, my father, will give your consent.”

To this he expressed his approval by saying, “Vadham. Be it so by the end of this day.” 59 He loosened the bulls from their yoke, as the lord of death releases his hell hounds. It was dusk when the sky was hidden by evening mist and the dust rising as the herds return, and we were dismissed from the demons’ presence to make our own way.

60 We passed the great jungle in a short time and reached the tribal’s house in the evening, just like demons pass through a cemetery to rest in their funeral vaults at night. 61 One side of the house had slaughtered monkeys, cocks and crows, swarms of flies flying over them and sucking the blood sprinkled over the ground. 62 Moist entrails and arteries of slaughtered beasts were hung up to be dried in the sun and chased by ravenous birds hovering over them. Flocks of birds fluttered over jambira trees. 63 Heaps of fat were laid up to be dried in the portico, ravenous birds flying over them. The skins of slain animals smeared with blood lay in piles. 64 Little children had bits of flesh in their hands beset by buzzing flies, and older tribals sat and rebuked the children.

65 Then we entered the house scattered with disgusting entrails and intestines. I thought I was like the ghost of a dead man standing beside the lord of death. 66 I was offered a seat of a big plantain leaf, given with due respect so that I might be seated as a welcome guest in the abominable abode of my newly earned father-in-law. 67 My squint eyed mother-in-law then eyed me with her blood-red eyeballs, and muttered with gladness in her look, “Is this our would be son-in-law?”

68 Afterwards we sat on some seats made of skin and I partook of the meal served to me as reward for my sins. 69 I heard many of those endearing words that are the seeds of endless misery, and many speeches that were unpleasant to my mind because they were of no benefit to me.

70 One day afterwards, when the sky was cloudless and the stars were shining, it came to pass that they presented a dowry of cloths and other articles before me. 71 With these they gave that frightful maiden to me and we were joined together as black and white, and as sin and its torment together. 72 The flesh-eating tribals celebrated the marriage ceremony with a profusion of wine and loud shouts of joy. They beat their noisy drums with merriment, as wicked men delight in carrying on the acts of their vileness.