When Nala was in Ayodhya, Damayanti was staying in Cedi. She did not reveal her true identity but had told the queen mother how she lost her husband and was looking for him. In the kingdom of Vidharbha, Damayanti’s father was concerned at the whereabouts of Nala and Damayanti after hearing the news that Nala had lost everything in a game of dice. He called a large group of Brahmins and asked them to travel in different directions and promised to reward whoever brought news of Nala and Damayanti. One of the Brahmins whose name was Sudeva reached Ayodhya. There in the palace he caught a glimpse of Damayanti and even though she looked different, he recognised her immediately. Damayanti too knew him as he was a friend of her brother.
On seeing him, Damayanti started crying and this was being observed by the queen mother from afar. She called Sudeva and asked him who he was and how he knew Damayanti. Sudeva told her Damayanti’s story and this brought tears to the queen mother’s eyes. She went up to Damayanti and told her, “You are my sister’s daughter; I had last seen you when you were born, and your mother had come to our father’s kingdom to give birth to you.” The queen mother narrated how she had rubbed some skin off Damayanti’s forehead so everyone could see the mole showing her high bearing. Damayanti then asked the queen mother to send her to her father’s kingdom. This she did and Damayanti, after a long period of pain and suffering, met with her parents.
Once in her father’s house, Damayanti immediately called many Brahmins and asked them to go out again and look for Nala. She asked them to recite this verse wherever they went. “O deceiver, after tearing half my dress and leaving me alone in the jungle, where did you go.” A Brahmin called Parnad reached the court of Rituparna, where Nala (as Bahuka) was present. Here, he sang the verse as Damayanti had told him. The words of Parnad hurt Nala and he went to him and said, “Ladies of a high family have the inherent wisdom to save themselves even in the worst of circumstances. If her husband left her, she would understand that he had lost his kingdom and what he was going through, and it was not right for her to get angry.”
Parnad went back to Vidharbha and reported this conversation to Damayanti, who realised that even though his appearance was ugly and different, it had to be Nala. She then devised a plan to force Nala to reveal himself. She calls Sudeva and tells him to go to Ayodhya and announce in Rituparna’s court that Damayanti, the princess of Vidharbha, was going to marry again and the swayamvara to choose her husband would take place the following morning. She knew that except Nala, no other person could reach Vidharbha in such little time and this would force him to come out of hiding.
When Rituparna hears that Damayanti is remarrying, he gets very excited as her beauty and virtues were well known. He calls Bahuka and tells him that he would like to reach Vidharbha by sunrise and only he could make that possible. Bahuka was also shocked that Damayanti is marrying again and wanted to reach Vidharbha as soon as possible to find out why. He told Rituparna that he would choose the horses so that they could leave immediately.
When Rituparna saw the horses that Bahuka had chosen, he scolded him saying such thin horses would never be able to take them so far. Then Bahuka showed Rituparna special marks on the forehead, on the top of the head, on each of their shoulders, on their chests, and on their backs. When he saw the marks, Rituparna praised Bahuka for his skill. Even Nala’s old charioteer, Varshneya, who was present there was shocked at this skill. The three of them then started out for Vidharbha and Rituparna was shocked at the speed at which they were passing rivers, mountains, lakes and valleys.
Now let us try to find hidden meanings in the story till here. We saw that Nala is the real ‘I’ or controller within us. In all of us, this real ‘I’ is asleep and needs to be awakened. This is done by developing the power to observe and control. This power is called Damayanti. We have also seen that the inner observer acquires this power by marrying her. But he cannot hold on to this. In a small lapse of unawareness he loses the power.
To acquire it again and also hold on to it requires two things: (1) Depicted by Nala having mastery over horses – this is symbolic of feelings and emotions. He has mastery over the instinctive and emotional centres, but he is still not a master of his thinking centre which is symbolised by the lack of knowledge of the dice. Nala loses everything in the game of dice. He has to acquire this knowledge and art from Rituparna. Only then, in Gurdjieff’s language, he would have developed both higher thinking and higher emotion; the latter he already had. (2) All our happiness is dependent upon life fulfilling our desires through gaining objects of the senses. Nala’s two children were named Indrasen and Indrasena, whom Damayanti sends to her father’s kingdom. Their names mean army of the senses. This implies that Nala has lost the enjoyment he gets from objects of the senses. Now he must develop the power to enjoy and be happy from within which is not dependant on any desire being fulfilled. This is the real source of happiness that lies hidden in all of us. Only when Nala acquires this, will he be able to hold the power called Damayanti.
The marks on the horses are very significant – forehead signifies logical thinking, top of the head the power of divinity, whereas the shoulders show strength, love, and surrender. The chest shows generosity and the back the power to lift a burden.
Next week we will see how Nala frees himself from Kali and is reunited with Damayanti.