WHEN the gods were returning after attending the wedding of Nala with Damayanti, they met Kali, the most dangerous of demons and Dwapara, his friend on their way. Indra asked: “Oh, Kali, where are you to?”
Kali: “Gods, have mercy, we are going to wed Damayanti.”
The gods laughed at them scornfully and told:“You are searching for a cage long after the bird has flown off. She has married Nala, a gentle king. We have also participated in the marriage and are back.”
To this Kali replied scornfully: “Wonderful. In your presence she wedded a human being. Love-thirsty, you were looking helplessly, swallowing your saliva. No shame. Now you behold. We shall separate them and do havoc in their life.” Having said this Kali roared a thunderous laugh.
Indra warned him: “Look Kali, Nala is a great hero and to play tricks with him will not do well to you. Be careful.” Thus warning them, the gods departed. Kali and Dwapara straight went to Pushkara a dejected and depressed cousin of Nala. Hearing the footsteps, Pushkara asked: “Who is there? Come closer and tell me, what do you want? These days no one comes to me. All go in search of Nala. He is the king. I have no power now.”
“No, Pushkara, don’t say that. You should have been the king. No matter. We will make you. And let us tell you I am the all potent Kali and he is Dwapara my friend. Have courage and challenge Nala who is enjoying your rights also. Challenge him for a battle of dice. Rest of the things you leave to us.
Encouraged by Kali and Dwapara, Pushkara challenged Nala for a dice combat. Though Damayanti prevented him, Nala did not give heed.
In the game of dice Nala was miserably defeated. Pushkara became king. He ordered Nala and Damayanti to leave the country and go to the forest.
Nala and Damayanti wandered in the forest without food and safety. Kali, was following them trying to enter into Nala. It took a long time for Kali to attack and enslave him.
Under the influence of Kali, Nala lost his own self and started behaving strangely.
One night as Damayanti was sleeping hungry and fatigued, keeping her head on Nala’s lap, Nala lifted her head slowly and put it down. He thought there would be no escape for both of them until they are together. He prayed God to protect her and with a heavy heart, cut half of her cloth and left her in the forest alone. He escaped from her without a particular design or destination.
Damayanti, when got up from her nap, did not see Nala around. She thought he was hiding somewhere nearby to make jest. Finding alone in the dense forest for some time, she began to shout for him and having no result started crying. There was no use. She still wandered aimlessly.
She fell down tired. Sleep, thirst, hunger, anxiety and fear overcame her. She fell into a short swoon. A senstation and pain on her leg which felt her leg very heavy woke her up. She knew that a python was slowly swallowing her leg. She started crying aloud.
A hunter who was preparing to go for hunting heard this sweet crying voice and he assumed that it should be a lady who was in danger.
When he reached the spot, to his utter surprise he found a beautiful lady alone. Her leg was half swallowed by a python. In the first look itself he could assume that she did not belong to the tribal community or anywhere around that area.
He addressed her: “Do not lament, Oh lady matchlessly beautiful. I shall instantly kill the python.” Then he took his sword out and cut the snake into pieces.
Damayanti got relieved. Addressing the hunter she said: “Friend, thank you. I am indebted to you. I don’t have anything valuable to reward you suitably for this favour.”
But the hunter was reluctant to go.
The hunter began to approach her with amorous gestures. She requested him not to trouble her and leave her alone. But he was stubborn and determined.
Damayanti remembered the boon that Indra had conferred on her that anyone who tried to dishonour her would instantly perish. Unwillingly though, she had to apply hat boon. The movement she recalled that boon, the hunter fell dead.
She travelled many miles and on the way met with a team of merchants. The leader of the team happened to observe her dirty clothing and tired personality. But he could also distinguish that she should be of some noble birth. He approached her and inquired about her.
She told him that she was the niece of the queen of Chedi and that she was going there. The chief of the merchant gave her food and new clothing and took her to Chedi and entrusted her to her aunt.
The queen understood her story in detail and finally sent her to her father at Kundina.
King Bhima had been so restless that there was no place for him to trace for her. When, however his daughter reached home he was happy. He sent many servants to different destinations in search of Nala.
(To be continued)
Courtesy: Nala and Damayanti for students