Nala and the Gods
Mahabharata, xii, vi, 5, 6-7.
Oriental Department, January, 1897
And when the king of the Nishadhas had been chosen by the daughter of Bhima, the lords of the worlds in their brightness departing beheld Dwapara approaching, with Kali. Thereupon Indra, slayer of Bala and Vritra addressed Kali:
Tell me, Kali, whither art thou going with Dwapara accompanying thee?
And Kali answered Indra:
To the self-choosing of Damayanti, and there shall I choose her, for my heart has gone out to her.
Then Indra said to him, laughing:
The self-choosing is ended! Chosen by her was Nala the King, as her lord,—even in the presence of us.
And thus addressed by Indra, Kali, full of anger, calling all the gods to witness, spoke then this word:
That she took a son of man for her husband, even from amid gods,—for this let there be for her justly a heavy enduring of punishment.
When this was thus spoken by Kali, the heaven-dwellers made answer:
Even with our consent, by Damayanti was Nala chosen; and what woman would not follow King Nala, in whom all virtues dwell, who knows every law, and walks faithfully in all things, who has read the Vedas four, and all the histories as well; in whose house the gods are ever delighted with offerings, according to the law; who hurts no living thing wantonly; who speaks truth, ever constant to his word; in whom are righteousness and firmness, gentle charity and fervid will, purity, self-restraint, control, set ever firm in this tiger of men ; in this human ruler, equal to a lord of the worlds.
Whoever, Kali, would desire to curse Nala, being such as this, he, deluded, would curse himself and of himself destroy himself. Whoever, Kali, would desire to curse Nala, having virtues like these, he would sink in a horrid hell, a wide, impassable abyss.
Speaking thus to Kali and Dwapara, the gods went heavenwards. And when the gods were gone, Kali spoke to Dwapara thus:
I cannot contain my wrath, Dwapara! I shall dwell near Nala, until I cast him forth from his kingdom. He shall not enjoy the daughter of Bhima! Do thou also enter into the dice, deigning to lend me thy aid!
Kali, thus making alliance with Dwapara, came thereupon thither, where the King of the Nishadhas dwelt. And ever desiring to gain power over him, he dwelt long time among the Nishadhas. And in the twelfth year of his dwelling, Kali saw an opportunity against Nala. For the King, having incurred a stain, purified not himself until the evening. And he thereby gained power over Nala; and going to Pushkara, he spoke thus to Pushkara:
Come, play against Nala, O worthy one, and thou shalt conquer Nala, at play with the dice, by my aid. Gain thou the Nishadhas for thy kingdom, conquering Nala the King!
And thus addressed by Kali, Pushkara came to where Nala was; and Kali also, becoming the highest throw, as a bull among cows, came to the side of Pushkara. And Pushkara, slayer of the heroes of the foe, seating himself beside Nala the hero: Let us two play!—thus spoke his brother—for the highest throw!—thus said he, once and again.
And the King, high-souled, did not endure him challenging; when Damayanti the princess of the Vidarbhas was looking on, he thought the time was fair for play. Then Nala, overruled by Kali, lost there at play well colored gold, a yoke of chariot horses, and vestures. And him, maddened with the madness of dice, not one of his lovers was able to stop, when that subduer of the foe was playing. Then the dwellers in the city all, with spokesmen, came to look on their King, seeking to stop him in his folly; and his charioteer, drawing near secretly, announced it to Damayanti, saying:
Here are the folk of this city, lady, standing at the door, full of concern. Let it be announced to the King of the Nishadhas: All thy subjects are standing there, no longer able to bear the downfall of their King, eager to see justice for him.
Thereon she, with voice full of tears, and oppressed with grief, spoke to the King of the Nishadhas, the daughter of Bhima, her heart stricken sore with sorrow.
King, the people, the men of the city, stand at the door, seeking to see thee; they are here with spokesmen all, full of loyalty for their King. Do thou deign to see them.
Thus, verily, she spoke, once and again. But her, of the beautiful eyelids, lamenting in this wise, the King overruled by Kali answered not at all. Thereon those spokesmen, and the dwellers in the city, grief stricken, and shame-faced, went to their houses, saying: It is not he! Then that play lasted thus for many months, and Nala always lost.