Krishna knows the goal which we have to reach and the path which we have to take; but we don’t know it. Surrendering to him will show us the way and will take us to the goal. May the charioteer of Arjuna, drive our life-chariots to the ultimate truth. We offer today’s discourse at his feet.
There is a huge difference between naturalness and artificiality. Nature, even in its worst form, is good. Artificiality, even in its best form, is bad. Man’s creation is anyhow bad while God’s creation is anyhow good. What Damayanti received from nature is compassion, console only. Trees, plants, animals, birds were all supplementing to her. Only the Kali-driven snake and hunter gave trouble to her and that was a plot by Kali to divert her from Nala. His plan was to make her desert Nala atleast for the fear of her life. The hunter who tried to spoil her chastity, died. While the obstacles in the forest ended, the next stage started. Damayanti met humans in town. How they received her, treated her is the point of subject. She had been cooled by the courage and consolation from the sages. It filled an inspiration in her.
While walking further, she confronted a Saartha (a herd of nomadic traders). These traders carried with them all the items they needed. Usually the lone travellers too walked with them. Damayanti found one such group crossing the river. She thought going with them is safe and went there. Her body was covered with dust. She wore a half torn dress. Her appearance resembled a cloud covered moon. The herd looked her too. She appeared differently for each of the member of the herd. They saw her as Goddess Lakshmi, forest Goddess, demigoddess, Rati, Parvati, Sarasvati, a ghost. Some ran away, some screamed, some looked at her astonishingly. If one is a common man, life goes on naturally. But if one has a unique personality, there will be great following and also big hurdles for him. So both trouble and recognition are for sure. Damayanti was divine, but she was appearing as an outcast because of uncleanliness of her body. So there was a confusion in the herd. Some of them ran, some chanted the prayers, some brought stones and sticks to chase her away; only some of them felt compassionate about her and talked with her.
According to Mahabharata, they say:
कासि कस्यासि कल्याणि किं वा मृगय सेवने |
त्वां दृष्ट्वाविदितास्मैह कश्चित्वमसि मानुषी ||
Who are you, oh woman? What are you doing in the forest? We have considered you as a demigoddess and have surrendered to you.
They asked her whether she was a forest goddess, mountain goddess or a demigoddess. They joined their hands and saluted her. They requested her to grace safe transport of their group no matter whether she was a goddess or a yaksharakshasi (these were good looking demons).
Damayanti says them that she wasn’t what they assumed but she was a two legged common human like them, like their daughter or mother. She said that she was in search of her husband Nala, who was a great man. Hence there was no need to fear her, she told. She wanted a company to travel. Shuchi, the herd leader, gave her console and asked her to join them fearlessly. She left with them as they were marching towards Chedi state. She just wanted a support to find her husband. She didn’t have a destination. Can you ever imagine it where you are travelling without knowing where to go? If you had done it atleast one day, you would have known the situation of Damayanti. Without owning anything, without having a house or a place, having lost the spouse and not knowing where he/she is and has to search for him/her, if any of these happened in atleast one croreth of its part, then you will know the condition of Damayanti. Or else it would just be a magazine story. After 1 or 2 days, they rested at a pond during night. At midnight, a group of elephants came to the pond to drink water. Naturally they attacked the place and the people. Many were hurt, but Damayanti was not. Many times this had happened. Elephants came, chaos was created, everything was stamped down. Trunks are like hands for elephants, hence the names Kari (having a kara-hand), Hasti (having a hasta-hand). A big chaos had occurred but Damayanti was unaffected. Some were severely affected, some were finding the reason behind it. Some told that worship of Manibhadra wasn’t proper. They thought about the star, day, time and the cause for the incident. They concluded that it was because of Damayanti. Doubting a pure and noble soul has ill results. They did that to Damayanti when they first saw her and blamed her as witch, evil, insane and the cause for the chaos created was the same. Now they doubted her again. This is natural for them; would you believe any woman who comes and says you that she is the wife of a former prime minister? You will definitely doubt it. They decided to kill her if she appeared in front of them again. We find these kind of instances (witch hunting) in foreign countries where women are mistaken to be witches most of the times, and killed. Damayanti heard them speaking about her. She knew that she wouldn’t be spared. She was afraid, shy and thought that forest was better than the town because animals hunt according to natural law, but they aren’t wicked like humans. She recalled her whole life events to introspect whether she had troubled anyone. She verified that she hadn’t troubled anyone through her body, mind or words. While thinking what was the reason for her facing trouble, her attention diverted to swayamvara. She thought whether the demigods played the game since she hadn’t accepted to marry them. “Though the demigods themselves blessed our marriage, did they cause this, keeping in mind my rejection?” she thought. Then a group of Brahmanas separated from the herd and on her request, they took her to Chedi state. She contemplated on God and went with them.
They walked for miles and miles and reached Chedi state. The king Subaahu was a great follower of Dharma. All were surprised looking at the Dharmic way followed by Damayanti. Though her body was covered with half cloth and was dusty, though she had her hair spread and was looking like a mad woman, her face was lit in divine radiance. People formed groups and watched her astonishingly. Small children stood behind her making mischiefs. Imagine how a woman who was once an empress, stood in this situation. The king’s mother watched Damayanti strolling on the royal street. As Kanakadasa says, Damayanti was a gold plated with mercury, a gem masked in dirty cloth, moonlight hidden by clouds. “She is not an ordinary woman”, the king’s mother felt. She sent her servants to bring her. Damayanti went there. The king’s mother had special respect towards Damayanti, she asked her whereabouts. Damayanti said in one word that she was a ‘Sairandhri’. Sairandhri means one who goes from home to home and does craft work. She said that she would get an opportunity in the palace as it would require such people. The king’s mother became heavy hearted and cried. What a bondage between the hearts! The king’s mother melted more than Damayanti. She said “You be in my shelter. You are like my daughter. Tell me what do you want from me. My servants will help you to find your husband. Or he himself might come here.” Damayanti agreed to it. She told that she had seen mother in her. But she had certain conditions. She would not eat food already tasted by others, she would not massage others’ legs (as she did them only for Nala), she would not converse with any man however great he may be and anyone who desires her must be punished. One last wish she had was to talk with the best among brahmanas as she could find her husband’s information from them. She said that she would stay there only if all her conditions were agreed.
This reminds of Mahabharata. When Droupadi and Pancha Pandavas staying in the city of Virat, Droupadi acting as Sairandhri(one who does tailoring and embroidery) and Pancha Pandavas – Dharmaraya, Yudishtira as Kankabhatta, Bhimasena as cook, Arjuna as dance teacher and Nakula, Sahadeva as horse keeper and cowherd, Droupadi without any hesitation says, “Even king should not desire for me and if anyone else look at me; they won’t be in their body, the next morning”, which implies that they will be dead for sure. Here when Dhamayanti had put these restrictions what might had happened? Did the mother of King said “Get lost, who are you to put these restrictions?” No, she did not do that. Instead she was very happy and whole heartedly said “Your’s is a very rare vrat(ritual); all your conditions are accepted and you will stay with us.” She calls her daughter Sunanda and says “She is a goddess in the form of Sairandhrini. Accept her as your friend; keep her happy and be happy in her company.” In reality Damayanti was the niece of the King’s mother which both didn’t know. The blood relation was drawing the mother of the King towards Damayanti. May be if she had clearly observed Damayanti, story would have been something else. But unfortunately, Damayanti’s forehead was covered with dust. So the King’s mother could not identify the mole which was there between her eyebrows which she had seen when Damayanti was a child. But that unknown connection was making her feel Damayanti as her own. In present days as an effect from the west, our relationships have become involuted.
While Damayanti who was a queen was staying as a slave and searching for her husband, Damayanti’s father Bhimaraja was searching for her. On the otherside, while Nala was just wandering in the forest without any clue, something strange happens. Let us see that tomorrow.
Those who want freedom from Kali should hear and think over Nala Charitre again and again.
Picture courtesy: Internet
TattvaBhaagavatam a special discourse by Sri Sri RaghaveshwaraBharathi Mahaswamiji: full Video :