Saturday, 17 December 2011

As they wait for Arjuna to return. Mahabharata 75

As they wait for Arjuna, missing  him, the loss of their kingdom and its repercussions are felt more keenly by the Pandavas, . Bheema keeps worrying and expresses his fears to Yudhisthra, 'Maharaja, Arjuna was our life. He has gone away as per your wish. If anything happens to him we are all  finished. I cannot imagine the difficulties he is facing now. Let us not wait for twelve years. I will go and bring Arjuna back and call Krishna as well. We should  go and kill our opponents now! You can continue your vanavasa later. I do not think it is wrong. If you think it is so, we can perform a yaga to expiate our wrong  deeds. Let us act like the khsatriyas we are, it is not right for us to live in a forest!'

Yudhisthira does not agree and says it is still not time and  holds firm to his dharma and wants to complete the thirteen years! At they keep discussing, rishi Bhruhadashwa comes for a visit. Yudhisthira tells the rishi the story of his woes and bemoans 'Is there anyone as ill-fated as I am? I am sure no one has suffered the way I have!'  The rishi consoles him by saying, ' king Nala suffered even more after loosing everything in gambling. He also went to the forest with his wife. You have your brothers with you, he had none. Don't grieve so much'. Yudhisthira is keen to hear the story and the rishi narrates the story of  Nala and Damayanti. (wikipedia link)
The rishi concludes the story and urges Yudhisthira to take courage and try to be happy,  teaches him 'Akshahrudaya', in case he is invited to gamble again!

The vachana bharata devotes many pages to this story. I guess it is added as a filler! I had heard the story as a kid. The story is about a very beautiful princess, Damayanti, who hears the qualities of king Nala through a golden swan which speaks, falls deeply in love, chooses him rejecting many devatas in a swayamvara! This obviously is too hard for devatas to accept. A mere human had upstaged them and they scheme to teach Nala a lesson! Not easy as Nala is perfect in everything! He is even the greatest chef in the world. 'Nala paaka' is an epithet used to praise a good recipe and cooking.

 But one day this perfect man forgets to wash his feet thoroughly and there is one unwashed spot in his heel. Just what the devatas were waiting for and Shani  manages to take advantage of this one imperfect action and Nala's luck changes and  bad luck begins. There are many twists and turns to the story but happily all ends well for the couple.

Raj Ravi Varma's  painting.  Nala had to manage with half the sari of  Damaynati as he had lost everything in a game of dice, even his clothes. However, the artist depicts Nala, the king, with his crown! The scene depicts how Nala slinks away while his wife is sleeping, thinking it is for her own good!

( This grandmothers' story  is the reason why we kids would wash our feet thoroughly before entering our homes. Most houses had water taps outside in the garden or we would enter home from the back door and wash our feet in the bath room and only then  were we allowed to enter the other rooms! We would also be asked whether we had washed our hands and feet well!  It was even more important at a temple. We better wash our feet well before entering the temple or invite Shani kaata. I am not joking. It was pretty serious!)


CS Murali said...


I do remember elders telling us that while washing feet, one had to ensure that the heels were washed (as these were the areas most likely to be missed). If it wasn't done, Shani would enter through the unwashed spot.


srinidhi said...

We all knew of the story of Nala and Damayanti. I guess it is added here to tell us it is not only
Yudhisthira who was unlucky, there were others too!

Raghunath said...

If life is like standing in a Q look only at those behind you! A sthitapragnya views both good and bad luck with equanimity. Very difficult to achieve but the ideal.