Chapter 120 — King Lavana Visits the Forest Where He Lived as a Tribal; Lamentation of the Woman Tribal

Vasishta continued:—

Now Rama, listen to the wonderful power of error displayed in changing phenomena, like the changing forms of ornaments in the substance of the same gold.

King Lavana, having perceived the falsehood of his vision at the end of his dream, resolved the following day to visit that great forest himself. He thought to himself, “Ah! When shall I revisit the Vindhyan region? It is inscribed in my mind and I remember having undergone a great many hardships in my life there as a forester.”

So saying, he traveled south accompanied by his ministers and attendants, as if he was going to make a conquest of that quarter. In a few days he arrived at the foot of the mountain. There he wandered about the southern, eastern and western shores of the sea. He was as delighted with his round course as the luminary of the day in his daily journey from east to west. In a certain region, he saw a deep and sorrowful forest stretching wide along his path, like the dark and dismal realms of death. Wandering in this region he saw everything he had seen in his dream. He inquired into former circumstances, and wandered to learn whether they were that same as what he saw in his vision.

He recognized the tribal (chandala) hunters of his dream, and being curious to know the rest of the events, he continued in his wandering about the forest. Then he saw a hamlet at the edge of the wilderness, foggy with smoke, and appearing like the place where he bore the name of Pushta-Pukkusha or cherished tribal. 10 There he saw the same huts and hovels and the various kinds of human houses, fields and plains, with the same men and women that dwelt there before. 11 He saw the same landscapes and leafless branches of trees, shorn of their foliage by the all devouring famine. He saw the same hunters pursuing their chase and the same helpless orphans lying around.

12 He saw the old lady (his mother-in-law) wailing at the misfortunes of other women who were lamenting like her with their eyes drowned in tears at the untimely deaths and innumerable miseries of their fellow brethren. 13 The old matrons with their eyes flowing with brilliant drops of tears, their bodies and bosoms emaciated under the pressure of their afflictions, were mourning with loud cries of sorrow in that dreary district, stricken by drought and dearth.

14 They cried, “O you sons and daughters who lie dead with your emaciated bodies for want of food for these three days, say where have your lives fled, stricken as they were by the steel of famine from the armor of your bodies. 15 We remember your sweet smiles showing your coral teeth resembling red gunjaphalas to our lords as they descended from towering palm trees with red-ripe fruit held in their teeth, and growing on the cloud-capped mountains. 16 When shall we again see the fierce leap of our children springing on wolves crouching in groves of kadamba, jamb, lavanga and gunja trees? 17 Even in the face of Kama, the god of love, we do not see those graces that we used to see in the blue and black faces, the dark color of spice leaves, of our children when they feasted on their dainty food of fish and flesh.”

18 “My blackish daughter,” says one (the mother-in-law), “has been snatched away from me with my dear husband like the dark Yamuna by the fierce Yama. O they have been carried away from me like a tremendous gale blows a tamara tree branch with its clustering flowers from this woodland scene. 19 O my daughter, with your necklace of the strings of red gunja seeds gracing the firm breast of your youthful person, and with your swarthy complexion like the sea of ink gently shaken by the breeze. Ah! Where have you fled with your clothing of woven withered leaves and your teeth as black as the jet-jambu fruits?”

20 “O young prince, who was as fair as the full moon and did forsake the fairies of your harem, and who took so much delight in my daughter, where have you fled from us? Ah my daughter! She too is dead in your absence and fled from my presence. 21 Being cast on the waves of this earthly ocean and joined to the daughter of a tribal, you were, O prince, subjected to mean and vile employment that disgraced your princely character. 22 Ah! that daughter of mine with her trembling eyes, like those of the timid fawn, and O, that husband valiant as the royal tiger, you are both gone together, just as the high hopes and great efforts of men flee with the loss of their wealth.”

23 “Now without a husband and lately having also lost my daughter, and being thrown in a distant and barren land, I have become the most miserable and wretched of beings. Born of a low caste, I am cast out of all prospects in life. I have become a personification of terror to myself and a sight of horror to others. 24 O, that the Lord has made me a widowed woman and subjected me to the insult of the vulgar and the snobbery of the affluent. Prostrated by hunger and mourning at the loss of husband and child, I rove constantly from door to door begging for alms for my support.”

25 “It is better that one who is unfortunate and friendless, or subject to passion and diseases, should die sooner than live in misery. Dead and inanimate beings are far better than the living miserable. 26 Those who are without friends and who have to toil and moil in unfriendly places are like the grass of the earth, trampled under feet and overwhelmed under a flood of disasters.”

27 The king seeing his aged mother-in-law mourning in this manner, offered her some consolation through the medium of her female companions. Then he asked that lady to tell him, “Who are you? What do you do here? Who was your daughter and who is your son?”

28 She answered him with tears in her eyes. “This village is called Pukkasa-Ghosha. Here I had a Pukkasa for my husband who had a daughter as gentle as the moon. 29 She happened to have a husband, beautiful as the moon, who was a king and chanced to pass by this way. By this accident they were matched together, like an ass finding by chance a pot of honey lying on her way in the forest. 30 She lived long with him in married bliss and produced to him both sons and daughters who grew up in this forest like a gourd plant grows on a tree serving as its support.”