Chapter 46 — Gadhi’s Loss of his Visionary Kingdom

Vasishta continued:—

Thus was Gadhi surrounded by his courtiers and attended by his ministers. Chiefs paid their homage to him and the royal umbrella was raised above his head and the fan flapped about him. He attained great dignity on seeing his mandates carried out on every side. He was delighted to learn of state affairs and to be informed that his subjects were happy and lived within his dominion without fear. The paeans of the eulogists made him forget himself and his former state. The excesses of his delight made him as giddy as if intoxicated. He ruled for full eight years over Kirapura kingdom and managed himself in an honorable manner throughout that time.

Once he was sitting in the open air at his pleasure and without his royal clothing. He was looking at the clear sky devoid of clouds and darkness and without the light of the sun, moon or stars. His heart was full with the enjoyment of royal dignity, but he did not think much of the trinkets and ornaments that were loaded upon him.

One time he went abroad in this undressed state of his body and saw the setting sun bending his course below the horizon on his usual path of glory. There he saw a band of tribals with black complexions and big bodies singing like melodious cuckoos at the approach of spring season. They were plucking the strings of their lyres with trembling fingers, like a swarm of sweet sounding bees shaking the trembling leaves of trees with their fluttering and buzzing.

10 There stood an old man among them who seemed to be the leader of the band. With his grey head and ruby eyes, he appeared like Mount Meru with its snow covered top and shining caves. 11 He approached the king saying, “How is it, O Katanja, that you came to be here? Has the king of this place taken you for his associate on account of your skill in music? 12 Does he have a liking for sweet songsters, as they do for the musical kokila nightingales? Does he load his favors upon them with presents of household cloths and seats?”

13 “I am as glad to see you here today as men are pleased to see a mango tree filled with flowers and fruit in spring. 14 I am as glad in my heart as the budding lotus at the sight of the rising sun, and the medicinal plants at moonrise. As great men are pleased with all their best gains, so am I pleased at seeing you here because the highest limit of joys is the sight of a friend.”

15 As the tribal was addressing the king in this manner, the king explained how the wheel of time had turned to his favor. 16 At this instant the king’s consorts and servants who were standing at the window overheard their conversation. They were in deep sorrow to learn that he was a tribal by birth. 17 They were as sick at heart as lotus flowers under a shower of frost or a land under famine. Upon learning this, citizens were as cheerless as if they had seen the woods of the mountain on fire.

18 The king hurled his defiance at the words of the old tribal, like a lion lying on the ground shows his teeth at the sneering of a cat on the top of a tree. 19 He fled in haste to the inner apartment among its sorrowful residents with as much throbbing of his heart as a reluctant swan entering a lake of withering lotuses in dry season. 20 His limbs grew stiff and his face became pale with fear. His knees tottered with inner rage like tree trunks shaking with burning fire in their hollows.

21 He saw everyone there sitting in a melancholy mood with downcast looks and drooping heads, like the bending tops of plants eaten at the root by mice and rats. 22 The ministers, ladies of the harem, and all people of the city refrained from touching his body, just as they avoid touching a dead body lying in the house. 23 Servants ceased to minister to him and ladies, despite all their previous love and sorrow for him, loathed his company. 24 They looked upon his cheerless face and dark complexion with its departed brightness as if it was a corpse in a funeral ground which every one loathes to look upon.

25 Though the people sorrowed for his dark body, now smoking with fumes of his own grief, yet they dared not approach his body, which appeared to burn like a volcano amidst its smoke. 26 Courtiers left him with their hearts heaving. His orders were no longer obeyed any more than those of quenching the cool ashes with water. 27 People fled from him like from a horrible rakshasa demon who is the cause of only evil and danger. 28 Thus was he shunned by all and left alone in the populous city. He became like friendless traveler passing through a foreign country, without money or skill to support him. 29 Though he called and approached everybody, he got no answer from anyone, like a hollow sounding reed never receives a reply from any passerby.

30 They all said to one another that the guilt of their long association with the tribal could not be expiated by any penance other than burning themselves alive on the funeral pile. 31 Being so resolved, ministers and citizens all joined together and raised piles with heaps of dry wood. 32 These being lit, blazed all about the ground like stars in the sky. The city was filled with loud wailings of people. 33 Wailing wives shed showers of tears with loud and piteous cries. All about the burning furnaces, weeping people heaved heavy groans with choked voices. 34 The plaintive cries of the self-immolating ministers’ dependents rose like the swell of whistling winds amidst forest trees. 35 The bodies of great brahmins burning on the pyres sent forth their fatted fumes in the air. The smoke scattered by winds hung over the landscape like a portentous mist. 36 The winds bore the stench of men’s burning fat and flesh far and wide in the open sky, inviting flocks of birds to the feast. The disc of the sun was hidden under the wide shadow of the winged tribe. 37 The flames of burning pyres, carried by the winds to the sky, burned like a conflagration on high. Flying sparks scattered in the air appeared like falling meteors blazing in the horizon.

38 Helpless children were crying for their ornaments being robbed by atrocious robbers. They had no guardians. Citizens were threatened with the loss of both their lives and properties by violent thieves. 39 On one side people lamented the loss of their relatives. On the other were bands of thieves, lurking and searching unobserved about houses for plunder and booty. 40 As adverse fate brought on this dire change on the devoted city, its horrified residents remained in mute amazement, like on the final doomsday of creation.

41 Gavala, the tribal prince whose mind was purified and whose manners were refined in the society of the great men of the palace, witnessed the sad catastrophe of the state and mourned with a pensive heart. 42 “It is all owing to me,” he thought, “that all this sorrow has befallen on this state, and that time has brought on the untimely dissolution of doomsday on this kingdom, the royal family, and its ministerial officers. 43 What is the good of this miserable life of mine? My death is a blessing to me rather than living in this wretched state. It is better for the mean and base to die than to live and be reviled by others.”

44 Thus resolved, Gavala prepared a funeral pyre for himself and made an offering of his body in the burning furnace without betraying a sigh, like a poor moth dropping on fire. 45 As Gavala cast his body into the flames and was pulling his limbs singed by the fire, their violent motion and his painful emotion roused the dreaming Gadhi from his reverie in the water.

46 Valmiki said:—

As the sage was saying these things, the day departed with the setting sun to its evening devotion. The congregation broke with mutual salutations to perform of their evening ceremonial baths. They assembled again with the rising sun after dispersion of the gloom of night.