Chapter 119 — A Lovelorn Traveler Talks to a Cloud and Is Almost Cremated

The king’s companions continued:—

The traveler having returned home and finding his beloved one by the trees of Mandara Mountain, began to relate to her the pains of his extended separation. “Listen to my marvelous tale,” said he, “and what happened to me one day when I tried to send someone to you with my tidings.”

“In my painful separation, I sought long in vain to send someone to you at this my house. But where can one be found in the world who would take a severe interest in another’s affliction for the sake of charity or mere friendship? Then I saw a big cloud on the top of a mountain resembling the steed of Indra. It appeared cheerfully before me, accompanied by swift lightening as his precursor. I advanced before him and addressed him, saying, ‘Ah brother cloud, you carry the rainbow of Indra like a collar about your neck and are graceful in your course. Have pity on me for a moment. Please go to my dear one and tell her my tidings with your low voice, sympathetic tears and breath of sighs. Because the tender form of a yielding vine is unable to bear your loud uproar. I know not, O dark cloud, to what dwelling to direct you to find my beloved one, who is pictured in my heart by the pencil of my mind and is forever situated in my heart. But now, O my friendly cloud, my distracted mind has lost that figure of my beloved in my heart, together with her sight from my eyes. Now having lost the freedom of my body in a foreign country, I have become only a wooden framework without my love, which is its living soul. For what living body can bear the pangs of separation?’ ”

“People thought I was dead and with tears in their eyes, they began to prepare my last rites and collect wood for my funeral. I was carried away to be burnt on a dreadful funeral pile, which was horribly crackling with cracking wood from the blazing fire on the burning ground. 10 There, O my lotus eyed love, I was laid on the pile by some persons with eyes weeping. The pyre was surrounded by a number of men who stood as spectators of the horrible sight. 11 At that time the twisting smoke of the pyre began to enter my nostrils like the stalks of lotus plants and like the dark and lengthy body of a curved snake enters a hole in the ground.”

12 “But in all this, I was defended by the strong armor of my firm love for you, just as the unborn son of the god Brahma was defended from the showers of darts of an entire army of demons. Thinking myself to be plunged in the cooling pool of your love within my heart, I was untouched by the flames of fire burning all about me. 13 All this time I lay in the ecstasy of my love for you, and I felt raptures of joy rising in my breast as I imagined being with you. I deemed myself drowned in an ambrosial lake while I was in that state of rapture. I thought sovereignty of the whole world was too insignificant before my ecstatic transport. 14 I thought I felt raptures of inexpressible delight fill my whole soul at the thought of all your flattery and graces, and in the allurements of your speech, sweet smiles and side glances, and all your gestures and motions that spread an ambrosial charm all around me.”

15 “I imagined we embraced in amorous holds until exhausted with excess, I lay upon a cool soft bed as if I were drowned in the cold and icy ocean of the moon. 16 At this moment as I lay in my bed, moistened with cool sandal paste and the cooling beams of the full moon, I heard a thundering noise accompanied with flames of fire rising from the burning pile of woods under me, like undersea fire from the Milky Ocean where I was lying.”

17 The king’s companions resumed:—

When the husband had said this much, his wife cried out aloud, “Ah me! I am dead, I am gone!” She was afraid she would hear the sad ending and fell into a swoon, senseless. 18 The husband finding her fainting, began to fan her with lotus leaves sprinkled with water and taking her up to his bosom, tried to restore her to her senses. 19 She wanted to hear him finish his story, so he began to tell the rest holding her chin with his hand.

20 “As I felt the pain of the burning flame touching my body, I cried out and groaned. The spectators hastened to extinguish the blazing pile, delighted to find me alive. 21 With loud shouts of joy like the sound of drums and with garlands of flowers, attendants raised and embraced me to their bosoms. They went on shouting and singing and dancing and laughing with exultation.”

22 “Then I saw the funeral ground that looked like the formidable body of Bhairava, the god of destruction. It was covered with ashes, wreathed with snakes, and studded with human skulls. Bones scattered over the ground looked like the rays of the moon crowning the head of Shiva. 23 Howling winds blew from the funeral piles, like from the burning fire on Hara’s head, bearing the burnt ashes of dead bodies like a dark mist. They bore stink of rotten bones and carried the rustling noise of bones jostling against one another. 24 Burning piles, their flashing flames and flying sparks, and the fiery winds scorching trees and grass gave that place the appearance of the playground of the gods of wind (Vayu) and fire (Agni) and of the sons of the Sun god (Yama and Saturn).”

25 “Thus I saw the funeral ground full of terrors, covered with skeletons of half-burnt bodies and putrid carcasses. It was infested by hungry dogs, howling jackals, and other voracious beasts, and ravenous ravens and vultures. It was a place where vetala and pisacha demons played with fearful shrieks and jarring sounds. 26 I saw the coffins of dead bodies carried by their mourning friends with loud cries and lamentations that filled the air all about. I saw beasts and birds tearing the bodies’ entrails and arteries, yet moist with blood, and I saw the ground scattered with half burnt logs of wood and bushes. 27 In some places, the glaring pyres gave a gloomy light, and in others the tufts of hair were heaped like spots of clouds. In one place the ground was smeared with blood and looked like a lurid sheet of cloth. Elsewhere clouds roared as the sun set below the horizon.”