Chapter 108 — King Lavana’s Description of Drought & Wildfire

The king continued to say:—

Time passed away. Old age overtook me and turned my beard to blades of grass covered with white frost. My days passed away in alternate joy and grief brought on by my fate and acts, just like a river flows with green and dried leaves scattered on it by the wind. Every moment I suffered quarrels and arguments, misfortunes and bad luck. They beset me as thick and as fast as the arrows of sorrow flying in battle. My foolish mind kept fluttering like a bird in the maze of my wishes and fancies. My heart was disturbed by passions, like the sea by its raging waves. My soul was revolving on the vehicle of my wandering thoughts. I was carried away by them like floating straw to the whirlpool of the eventful ocean of time. I, who moved about like a worm in the woodlands of Vindhya for my simple support, felt in the passing of years to be weakened and pulled down in my frame like a two-legged beast of burden. In that state of my wretchedness, I forgot my royalty like a dead man and became convinced that I was a tribal bound to that hilly spot like a wingless bird.

The world appeared to me like the final desolation, a forest consumed by fire. It seemed like the seashore lashed by huge waves, or a withered tree struck by lightning. The marshy ground at the foot of Vindhya was all dried up and left no grain, vegetable or water for food or drink. The whole group of tribals was about to die in dearth and dryness. 10 Clouds ceased to rain and disappeared from sight. Winds blew with sparks of fire in them. 11 Forest trees were bare and leafless and withered leaves were strewn over the ground. Wildfires were raging here and there, and the woodlands became as desolate as the homes of austere ascetics. 12 There followed a severe famine and a furious wildfire spread all around. It burnt down the whole forest and reduced grass and gravel to ashes.

13 People had ash all over their bodies and were starving for want of food and drink. The land was without any article of food or even grass or water. It had turned into a dreary desert. 14 The mirage of the desert glistened like water and deluded dry buffaloes to roll in it. There was no current of breeze to cool the desert air. 15 Only calls and cries for water came to the ears of men who were parched under the burning rays of the torrid sun. 16 The hungry mob, hurrying to browse upon branches and herbs, yielded their lives in those acts, while others sharpened their teeth tearing and devouring one another. 17 Some ran to bite the gum of catechu, thinking it to be a bit of flesh. Others swallowed stones as if they were cakes lying on the ground before them. 18 The ground was sprinkled with blood from men biting and tearing each other, like blood profusely spilled when a lion kills a big and starving elephant. 19 Every one was as ferocious as a lion in his attempt to devour another as his prey. Men fought each another like wrestlers in a contest.

20 Trees were leafless and hot winds blew like firebrands on all sides. Wild cats licked human blood spilled on the rocky ground. 21 The wildfires’ flames rose high in the air with clouds of smoke whirling with the howling winds of the forest. It growled aloud everywhere and filled the forestland with heaps of brown cinders and burning firebrands. 22 Huge serpents were burnt in their caves, and the fumes rising from these burning bodies served to grow poisonous plants while the flame stretching aloft with the winds gave the sky an appearance of the glory of the setting sun.

23 Strong, howling winds raised heaps of ashes like dust that stood like domes in the sky unsupported by pillars. Little children stood by their weeping parents, crying for fear of them. 24 There were some men who tore a dead body with their teeth and, in their great haste to devour the flesh, bit their own hands and fingers that were covered with their own blood. 25 Vultures flying in the air darted upon the smoke, thinking it a turret of trees, and pounced upon the firebrands, taking them for bits of raw flesh. 26 Men biting and tearing one another were flying in all directions when the splitting of burning wood hit their breasts and bellies and made them gory with blood gushing out of them. 27 Winds were howling in hollow caves and the flames of the wildfire flashed with fury. Snakes were hissing for fear of these, and the burned woods were falling down with hideous noise.

28 Thus beset by dangers and horrors, with no shelter other than the rugged hollows of rocks, this place presented a picture of this world with its encompassing flames burning like the twelve zodiacal suns on high. 29 Winds blowing hot in the burning woods and rocks dried up everything. The heat of the fire below and the sun above, together with the domestic disasters caused by influence of the planet Saturn, made this place a counterpart of this sorrowful world.