Damayanti

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Damayanti was a princess who fell in love with the king Nala after hearing about his fame and virtues... - Prabhati Mukherjee

Damayanti (दमयंती), a character in Hindu mythology, was the princess of Vidarbha Kingdom, who married king Nala, of Nishadha Kingdom, and their story is told in the Mahabharata. Damayanti was a princess of Vidarbha Kingdom. She was of such beauty and grace that even the gods could not stop from admiring her. She fell in love with Nala simply from hearing of his virtues and accomplishments from a golden swan.

Quotes[edit]

Damayanti was a princess who fell in love with the king Nala after hearing about his fame and virtues. She succeeded in her resolve to marry him, by correctly identifying him in the svayamvara although four gods had assumed Nala's appearance in order to marry Damayanti. - Prabhati Mukherjee
  • Damayanti was a princess who fell in love with the king Nala after hearing about his fame and virtues. She succeeded in her resolve to marry him, by correctly identifying him in the svayamvara although four gods had assumed Nala's appearance in order to marry Damayanti.
    • Prabhati Mukherjee in: Hindu Women: Normative Models", p. 42

Nala and Damayanti: A Love-tale of East India, Done Out of the Sanskrit of the Mahābhārata, the Oldest Epic Poem of India[edit]

Translated by Adealide Rudolph in [1], Nala and Damayanti: A Love-tale of East India, Done Out of the Sanskrit of the Mahābhārata, the Oldest Epic Poem of India], Kirgate Press, 1902

  • Prince Nala brave, handsome, and endowed with all the good qualities that a prince ought to have could manage horses with such skill, that for no one else in all the world would they go so swiftly.
    • In: p. 3.
  • He was like the Sun-god in his splendor. He was handsome, he honored the gods and ever spoke the truth. Fond of study, he knew all the songs and hymns of the Vedas. He was king of the Nishadhans.
    • In: p. 3.
  • Among the neighboring tribes of the Vidarbhans, there was, likewise, a very brave and noble king, called Bhima, who had everything he desired except children. One day a 'Brahman Seer,' or wandering Hindu priest, named Damana, came to Bhima and asked for food and drink. Bhima and his queen, in true Oriental style, treated Damana with the greatest kindness and courtesy.
    • In: p. 4.
  • Damana felt very kindly disposed; and, when he went away, promised them a 'jewel of* a girl' and three noble sons. And so it happened that Dama, Danta, and Damana, and Damayanti, the jewel of a daughter, came to gladden the house of King Bhima and his queen
    • In: p. 5.
  • Damayanti was famous among her father's people for her radiant beauty and her charm of manner; and when she was grown up into a beautiful young woman, she had a hundred slaves with splendid ornaments to wait upon her and a hundred friends to sit around and help her while away the time. The Hindus said she was as beautiful and perfect as the cloud-born lightning. She had those peculiar charms, which they considered so desirable, a slender waist and long eyes. 'There was none,' they said, 'among gods or Yakshas or men, so beautiful.' Even the gods had heard of her beauty, and were exceedingly desirous of seeing her and of standing well in her favor.
    • In: p. 5.
  • Damayanti had heard of Nala,- how he was called 'the man-tiger;' how he was without equal in beauty among the people of the earth; and how he seemed the god of love himself in bodily form. Nala, in turn, in his kingdom, heard of nothing but Damayanti's beauty and graciousness.
    • In: p. 6.
  • Nala, not being able any longer to restrain his desire to be near so beautiful and amiable a princess, went secretly into a forest near Bhima's palace, and dwelt there. While he was wandering about one day, he came upon a flock of swans with most beautiful golden plumage.
    • In: p. 6.
  • As he caught hold of one, and thought, "What a fine dish of meat for my table to-day!" the swan, assuming a human voice, said: "You most not kill me, O King, for I will do you a favor. I will speak of you to Damayanti, so that she will never at any time love anybody but you." Nala at once let the swan go; and she with her companions flew up and off to the city of the Vidarbhans
    • In: p. 7.
  • Damayanti, at that time, was walking with her hundred friends in a pleasure-grove near the palace. When the maidens saw these golden-feathered birds flying into the grove, they ran towards them with cries of delight, each maiden selecting one for pursuit. The swan that Damayanti approached, assuming a human voice, said:
    • In: p. 7.
O Damayanti, there is a prince among the Nishadhans, whose name is Nala. He is as beautifill as the Asvins. …You are the jewel of women; Nala is the most excellent of men. If you were to marry each other, your union would be the most distinguished in all the earth.
  • O Damayanti, there is a prince among the Nishadhans, whose name is Nala. He is as beautiful as the Asvins....You are the jewel of women; Nala is the most excellent of men. If you were to marry each other, your union would be the most distinguished in all the earth.
    • In p. 7-8, Swan talking to Damayanti in human voice
  • Say this also to Nala, O Golden-plumaged One. The bird… flying hack told everything to Nala. After that, Damayanti could think of nothing but Nala.
    • Damayanti in: p. 9.
Finally, her friends went with the matter to King Bhima. They announced that his daughter was ill. They had not heard what the swan had said to Damayanti, neither had the father. But he was a wise man, and began to consider that she was now old enough to marry, and that she was very, very beautiful, and must have a husband befitting her rank....
  • Finally, her friends went with the matter to King Bhima. They announced that his daughter was ill. They had not heard what the swan had said to Damayanti, neither had the father. But he was a wise man, and began to consider that she was now old enough to marry, and that she was very, very beautiful, and must have a husband befitting her rank. So he decided to celebrate her Svayamwara' according to the custom of the early Hindus. At this Swayamvara, she was expected to choose for a husband from the kings and princes the one whom she liked best.
    • In: p. 9.
  • Accordingly, Bhima sent out invitations to all the kings and princes of the surrounding tribes.
    • In: p. 10.
  • About this time, two demi-gods Narada and Parvata while returning from their wanderings on the earth...had heard of the Swayamvara. Now, as well-honored guests, they entered the dwelling of Indra;...Indra inquired concerning the inhabitants of the earth in words befitting the ruler of the gods.
    • In: p. 10-11.
  • Narada, addressed Meghavan,...and said about the beautiful Damayanti and her Swayamvara. Agni and the other chiefs of the gods entered, and were so greatly delighted with the story that they all said: "We will go also."
    • In: p. 11-12.
  • King Nala, also, having heard of the Swayamvara, was going with undaunted spirit to prove his devotion to Damayanti. When the gods saw Nala advancing along the road on the earth below them, and looking as beautiful as the God of Love and as radiant as the sun, they were so astonished that they stopped their chariots in mid-air. They even meditated a return to their own world, when they saw in Nala so powerful a rival. Soon, however, they thought out a better plan, and descended immediately from the 'sky-surface' to meet Nala. Ho, Sir! Greatest of Princes, always truthful," they said, "do as a favor. Be our messenger."
    • In: p. 12.
  • And Nala, of courteous disposition, promised to do whatever they might desire. Then making a reverent gesture, he asked: "Who are ye, Noble Beings, who wish me to be your messenger? and tell me what 1 shall do?" Indra replied: "Know us to be the immortal gods, taking this journey for the sake of Damayanti. I am Indra; this one is Agni, the God of Fire; that one is Varuna, Lord of the Waters; and that one there is Yama, King of Death and the Under-world. Announce to Damayanti, will you? that we are coming — that we the Protectors of the World, the gods, Indra and the rest, have a great desire...to win yon. Choose, therefore, some one of those gods for your husband."
    • In: p. 13
  • Do not send me, since 1 am going for the same purpose myself. How, indeed, can a man who feels love for a woman speak of such a thing to her for others. Excuse and forgive me, Mighty Princes.
    • Nala to Indra in: p. 14.
  • But the gods insisted: "Do this, Nala. Give us your promise. Why will you not aid us. Go on immediately, Prince of the Nishadhans".
    • In: p. 14.
  • But how can I enter her well guarded apartment?
    • Nala to Indra in: p. 14.
  • You shall be able.
  • Without further objection, Nala promised, and passed on to the dwelling of Damayanti. There he saw the daughter of Bhima surrounded by her friends,…As soon as the beautiful maidens saw Nala sprang up...astonished, but not displeased at his presence.
    • In: p. 14-15.
  • Who art thou, O thou of entirely faultless body, inspiring love in my heart. Thou art a god? 1 wish to know thee, and how thou earnest here and was not noticed. Truly, thou must be a king of wonderful power, because my chamber is well guarded.
    • Damayanti addresses Nala in: p. 15.
  • 1 am known as Nala, Beautiful One, and have come here as a messenger of the gods. Indra, Agni, Varuna, and Yama desire to win you. Choose one of these, therefore, to be your lord in wedlock. For this. Good Lady, I am sent; and it was by their divine aid that I entered unnoticed and unhindered. You have heard all, Fair One. Decide as you wish.
    • Nala replied to Damayanti in: p. 16.
  • Show me according to thy will, O Prince, what I may do for thee, since I and whatever goods I possess are thine. Show thy affection without hesitation. The words of the swan yet burn within my heart; and, truly, for the sake of thee alone has this assembly of princes been called. If thou, O my Honor-giver, shalt reject me, loving thee as I do, then I will resort to poison, fire, water, or the rope.
    • Damayanti to Nala in: p. 16.
  • When you may marry a god, how can you desire a human being. Let your mind be turned toward those World-creating, Noble Princes, to the dust of whose feet I am not equal. And, indeed, if you waver in your decision, you will bring me to a disgraceful death. Rescue me from that, O Faultless One...But I, with all reverence towards the gods, choose thee, O king, for my husband — I do indeed.
    • Damayanti to Nala in: p. 18.
  • But since 1 have come as a messenger, Fair One, how can I have anything to say about myself Indeed, since I have given the gods my solemn promise, and have undertaken this matter for the sake of others, how can I, at this time, tell you about my own love? If at another time my opportunity shall come, then I will speak in my own behalf. So let it be now. Good Lady.
    • Nala to Damayanti in: p. 18.
  • I see a way, O Prince, by which you will be safe and not at all at fault. O Best of Men, go back to the gods, and come with them to my Swayamvara.
    • Damayanti to Nala in: p. 19.
  • Thus Nala returned to the place where the gods were assembled. When the Protectors of the World saw him entering their midst, they desired to hear what had happened just as it was. "O king," they said, "did you see the brightly-smiling Dayamanti? and what answer did she return to us. Tell us truly."
    • In: p. 19.
  • With the magic power you gave me, I found the dwelling-place of Damayanti, and entered its large, well-guarded halls, unseen by all until I reached the apartment of her grace, the king's daughter. She and her friends saw me, and were greatly astonished; and, while you were being described by me, O Best of the Gods, she, the fair-faced woman, beside herself for the moment, chose me.
    • Nala to the gods in: p. 19.
  • Let the gods come with you, O Noble Man, to my Swayamvara. In their presence, I will choose you, Nala; and it will not be your fault.
    • Nala conveying the reply of Damayanti to the gods. in p. 20.
  • At the auspicious time of the holy lunar day, King Bhima sent summons to the kings and princes to assemble for the Swayamvara. These, urged on by the eagerness of their love for Damayanti, were not slow in obeying.
    • In: p. 20.
Finally, she saw that she must appeal to the gods themselves for aid. So, giving them adoration, both with her voice and with her mind, she knelt reverently before them, and tremblingly spoke:
Then the daughter of Bhima, knowing Nala from the gods, chose him, as was right. And she, with her long eyes, being ashamed to speak before so large a company, caught hold of the border of Nala's mantle, and threw a beautiful wreath upon bis shoulders. Thus she chose him to be her husband.
  • After they were seated, Damayanti, the fair-faced, entered the theater, stealing the eyes and the thoughts of the kings with her beauty. Then the names of the kings were announced, and Damayanti saw five men, all looking exactly alike. Nala was one of these; but which one, she could not distinguish. Each one she looked at seemed to be King Nala. In great distress, this beautiful girl tried to recall the signs that are said to distinguish gods from men, but all the signs she had ever heard of as marking the gods did not appear to belong to these.
    • In: p. 21.
  • Finally, she saw that she must appeal to the gods themselves for aid. So, giving them adoration, both with her voice and with her mind, she knelt reverently before them, and tremblingly spoke:
    • In: p. 22
  • As surely as Nala was chosen by in for a husband, when 1 heard the word of the swan, so surely, may the gods point him out to me. As surely as I am not unfaithful in word or thought, in virtue of that, let the gods show him to me. As surely as the ruler of the Nishadhans has been ordained by the gods to be my husband, so surely, may the gods point him out to me. As surely as I have desired this Swayamvara to be appointed for the winning of Nala alone, so surely, may the gods let me know him. And may the Protectors of the World, the mighty Lords, take their own forms, in order that I may be able to recognize my Nala, the ruler of men
    • Damayanti addressing the gods in: p. 22-23.
  • Hearing the piteous words of Damayanti uttered in this way, the gods assumed their own characteristics. She now saw them all without sweat, with unwinking eyes, with unwithered and tasteless garlands; and they stood upon air without touching the ground. She recognized Nala as the only one of these, who cast a shadow, had winking eyes, withered garlands, was covered with sweat, and stood on the ground.
    • In: p. 23.
  • Then the daughter of Bhima, knowing Nala from the gods, chose him, as was right. And she, with her long eyes, being ashamed to speak before so large a company, caught hold of the border of Nala's mantle, and threw a beautiful wreath upon bis shoulders. Thus she chose him to be her husband.
    • In: p. 23.
  • Since thou, at this time, O Fair One, choosest me in preference to a god, know me as thy husband taking pleasure in thy command; and as long as life shall endure in my body, sweetly smiling one, so long will I be devoted to thee — I give you my promise.
    • Nala joyfully greeted Damayanti in: p. 24
    • ...the sound of "bravo! bravo!" was heard from the astonished gods and great seers, as they praised King Nala. And so Nala with glad heart comforted the slender-waisted Damayanti.
  • ...after Nala had been chosen by Damayanti, the gods felt no offense; and being well disposed, promised Nala eight gifts. Indra gave Nala the power to see him bodily in sacrifice, and endowed him with the gait of a god when he walked. Agni, the Fire-God, gave him the power to have fire whenever he wished it, and promised him abodes in heaven as bright as his own light. Yama gave him wonderful skill in cookery, and an excellent devotion to right. Varuna, the Lord of Waters, gave him the power to have water whenever he should desire it. And all the gods together promised him two children.
    • In: p. 24-25.
  • After these most excellent guests had gone, Bhima, the magnanimous, rejoicing, made the wedding for Damayanti and Nala.
    • In: p.25
  • The marriage ceremony having taken place, Nala remained for a time at Bhima's court, passing the days most pleasantly. Finally, having been dismissed by Bhima (which is according to the Hindu notion of courtesy), he went to his own city. There the hero-king, happy and radiant as the sun, remained for a long time protecting his subjects in justice. He also worshiped the gods with horse-sacrifice, and with many other good deeds and acceptable gifts.
    • In: p. 26.
  • Nala and Damayanti were always wandering about like gods. A son and a beautiful daughter were given to them, as the gods had promised; and thus, the ruler of men, sacrificing and wandering about, protected the earth filled with treasure.
    • In: p. 26.

A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature[edit]

Some birds flew with his only garment. He resolved to abandon his wife in the hope that she would return to her father’s court, so he divided her sole remaining garment while she slept and left her.
Damayanti half penetrated his disguise, and was at length convinced that he was her husband by the flavor of a dish which he had cooked. They met, and, after some loving reproaches and the interference of the gods, they became reconciled, and Nala resumed his form. He again played with Pushkara and staked his wife against the kingdom....

John Dowson in:A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History, and Literature, Trübner & Company, 1870

  • Damayanti is the wife of Nala and heroine of the tale of Nala and Damayanti. She is also known by her patronymic Bhaimi.
    • In: p. 79.
  • They married and for some time in great happiness, a son and daughter, Indra Sena and Indra-Sena, being born to them. Kali, a personification of Kali or the Iron age arrived too late for the Swayamvara. He resolved to be revenged and he employed his peculiar powers to ruin Nala through his love of gambling.
    • In: p. 215.
  • At his instance Pushkara, Nala’s younger brother, proposed a game of dice. Kali charmed the dice, and Nala went on losing; but he was infatuated; the entreaties of friends and minsters, wife [Damayanti] and children were of no avail; he went on till he had lost his all, even to his clothes.
    • In: p. 215.
  • His rival became king and proclaimed that no one was to give food or shelter to Nala, so the ruined monarch wandered forth in the forest with his wife (Damayanti) and suffered great privations.
    • In: p. 215.
  • Some birds flew with his only garment. He resolved to abandon his wife in the hope that she would return to her father’s court, so he divided her sole remaining garment while she slept and left her.
    • In: p. 216.
  • Thus left alone, Damayanti wandered about in great distress. She did not go home, but she at length found service and protection with the princess of Chedi. Nala fell in with the king of serpents, who was under a curse from which Nala was to deliver him. The serpent bit Nala, and told him that the poison should work upon him till the evil spirit has gone out of him, and that he should be restored to all he loved. Through the effects of the bite he was transformed into a misshapen dwarf. In this form he entered the service of Rituparna, king of Ayodhya, as trainer of horses and an accomplished cook, under the name of Bahuka.
    • In: p. 216.
  • Damayanti was discovered and conducted to her father’s home, where she found her children. Great search was made for Nala, but in vain, for one knew him in his altered form. One Brahmin, however, suspected him, and informed Damayanti. She resolved to test his feelings by announcing her intention of holding a second swayamvara. King Rituparna determined to attend, and took Nala with him as driver of his chariot. Rituparna was skilled in numbers and the rules of chances. On their journey he gave a wonderful proof of this, and he instructed Nala in the science. When Nala had acquired this knowledge the evil spirit went out of him, but still he retained his deformity.
    • In: p. 216.
  • Damayanti half penetrated his disguise, and was at length convinced that he was her husband by the flavor of a dish which he had cooked. They met, and, after some loving reproaches and the interference of the gods, they became reconciled, and Nala resumed his form. He again played with Pushkara and staked his wife against the kingdom. Profiting from the knowledge he had obtained from Rituparna, he won back all and again became king.
    • In: p. 216.

A History of Sanskrit Literature/Chapter 10[edit]

...The poem is pervaded by a high tone of morality, manifested above all in the heroic devotion and fidelity of Damayantī, its leading character. It also contains many passages distinguished by tender pathos.
Hero, valiant, knowing duty,
To honour faithful, lord of earth,
If thou art within this forest,...
...Recognized by his wife in spite of his disguise, he regains his true form. He plays again, and wins back his lost kingdom. Thus after years of adventure, sorrow, and humiliation he is at last reunited with Damayantī, with whom he spends the rest of his days in happiness.

Arthur Anthony Macdonell in: A History of Sanskrit Literature/Chapter 10, Wikisource

  • One of the oldest and most beautiful stories inserted in the Mahābhārata is the Nalopākhyāna, or "Episode of Nala." It is one of the least corrupted of the episodes, its great popularity having prevented the transforming hand of an editor from introducing Siva and Vishṇu, or from effacing the simplicity of the manners it depicts—the prince, for instance, cooks his own food—or from changing the character of Indra, and other old traits. The poem is pervaded by a high tone of morality, manifested above all in the heroic devotion and fidelity of Damayantī, its leading character. It also contains many passages distinguished by tender pathos.
  • Nala, prince of Nishada, chosen from among many competitors for her hand by Damayantī, [[w:Princess|princess of Vidarbha, passes several years of happy married life with her. Then, possessed by the demon Kali, and indulging in gambling, he loses his kingdom and all his possessions. Wandering half naked in the forest with Damayantī, he abandons her in his frenzy. Very pathetic is the scene describing how he repeatedly returns to the spot where his wife lies asleep on the ground before he finally deserts her. Equally touching are the accounts of her terror on awaking to find herself alone in the forest, and of her lamentations as she roams in search of her husband, and calls out to him:
  • Hero, valiant, knowing duty,
    To honour faithful, lord of earth,
    If thou art within this forest,
    Then show thee in thy proper form.
    Shall I hear the voice of Nala,
    Sweet as the draught of Amṛita,
    With its deep and gentle accent,
    Like rumble of the thunder-cloud,
    Saying "Daughter of Vidarbha!"
    To me with clear and blessed sound,
    Rich, like Vedas murmured flowing,
    At once destroying all my grief?
    • Damayanti's appeal
  • There are graphic descriptions of the beauties and terrors of the tropical forest in which Damayantī wanders. At last she finds her way back to her father's court at Kuṇḍina. Many and striking are the similes with which the poet dwells on the grief and wasted form of the princess in her separation from her husband. She is:
    Like the young moon's slender crescent
    Obscured by black clouds in the sky;
    Like the lotus-flower uprooted,
    All parched and withered by the sun;
    Like the pallid night, when Rāhu
    Has swallowed up the darkened moon.
  • Nala, meanwhile, transformed into a dwarf, has become charioteer to the king of Oudh. Damayantī at last hears news leading her to suspect her husband's whereabouts. She accordingly holds out hopes of her hand to the king of Oudh, on condition of his driving the distance of 500 miles to Kuṇḍina in a single day. Nala, acting as his charioteer, accomplishes the feat, and is rewarded by the king with the secret of the highest skill in dicing. Recognized by his wife in spite of his disguise, he regains his true form. He plays again, and wins back his lost kingdom. Thus after years of adventure, sorrow, and humiliation he is at last reunited with Damayantī, with whom he spends the rest of his days in happiness.

Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India[edit]

Damayanthi (Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists).jpg

Wendy Doniger in: Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India, University of Chicago Press, 1 June 1999

  • Though his reflection was clearly visible on the jeweled floor none noticed it among the portraits of him that had been painted by Damayanti's friends to divert her. Then Damayanti came upon him, but he could not distinguish her among the false Damayantis he saw, and she couldn't see him because he was invisible. She threw a garland at the neck of an illusory Nala [whom she imagined], but it fell on the neck of Nala, who was standing there. Nala was astonished to find the real garland from the woman he was imagining and she was surprised to see it disappear. They were in the same place, thinking that they were in different places.
    • In: p. 146
  • Than Nala made himself visible and told he was the messenger of the gods - though he did not say that he was Nala. When she asked him to stay, Nala revealed that he was Nala. And Damayanti who had blamed herself for her attraction to the messenger of the gods, was relived to find that it was in fact Nala.
    • In: p. 146
  • Nal [had] met the daughter of the great Naga serpent Vasuki. She wished to marry him, but he regarded her as his daughter because of his close friendship with her father, and he told her that he could marry her only if she would be reborn again as a human. She was reborn as a human princess named Damayanti, and when she was of age her father sent an invitation to Indra to come to her self-choice, but the swan carrying the invitation fell into Nal's hands instead. The king sent a second message to Indra, and both Indra and Nal arrived to claim Damayanti. Because Nal was human, Damayanthi was able to identify him despite Indra’s tricks.
    • In: p. 148
  • Nala and Damayanti married and she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. But the demon of gambling and bad luck (Kali) entered Nala when he neglected to wash his feet; he gambled away his kingdom, and he and Damayanti were forced to go to the forest. When birds, incarnations of the dice, stole the clothes he had been wearing, Damayanti wrapped him in the other half of the single cloth that she was wearing. One night, in despair, he cut the piece of cloth in half as she slept, leaving her with one half, and he abandoned her there.
    • In: p. 149

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