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I. A Lotus of the Day

BUT Anushayiní a, when she disappeared in the forest, fell down to earth like a falling star, and entered the womb of the favourite wife of the King of Indirálaya b, and was born after the manner of mortals as his daughter. And at that moment she lit up the birth chamber with the radiance diffused from her body, which put the lamps to shame. And the nurses and waiting women were astonished, for wonderful to say! the lids of the child's eyes were fringed with long black lashes, looking like rain-clouds hanging low to hide the rising moon. And suddenly those lashes rose like a curtain, and there came from beneath them a flood of blue colour, which pervaded the room like the odour of camphor and sandal-wood made visible to the eye, and overcame

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the senses of all that stood by, till they were within a little of swooning away. And like men lying on their backs and gazing into the depths of the sky, they felt as it were enveloped in the colour of heaven, and lost their perception of mundane affairs. For though they knew it not, they were looking at the reflection of the glory of the moon-crested god.

So they all stood round in silence, watching the child's eyes. And at last, the King, and his ministers, and his physicians and astrologers, drew a long breath, and looked at each other in amazement. And the prime-minister said: King, this is a wonderful thing. For these eyes are the eyes, not of a child, but of a sage c, or rather, of a god. And surely this is no mere mortal maiden, but rather some deity, or portion of a deity, smitten by a curse, and doomed thereby to descend for a period into this lower world, to expiate awhile sins committed in a former birth. For such things often come about. And beyond a doubt your Majesty is favoured, in being chosen by the deity to be the

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means of his incarnation. Then hearing this speech of his minister, whose words were always suited to the events, the King was excessively delighted. And he celebrated the birth of his daughter with extraordinary magnificence, and gave gold and villages to Brahmans and the poor. And taking counsel with his astrologers and Brahman sages skilled in names and their applications, he gave to his daughter the auspicious name of Shrí d. For he said: Her eyes are like lotuses, and like the pools in which they dwell: and surely they are the very echo of the eyes of the Goddess of Beauty when she rose from the sea, and lay in her blue lotus cradle, lapped by the foam of which she was composed, and gazing at the wondering waves with eyes that mocked them, and robbed them of their hue.

Then time passed away, and the years with the seasons followed each other like caravans over the desert, and old age and grey hair came and took up their dwelling at the wrinkled root of the King's ear. And meanwhile Shrí grew from a child into a girl, and at length the dawn of her womanhood broke. And like the horns of the waxing moon,

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her limbs rounded and swelled into the very perfect orb of supreme loveliness, and she became as it were the very salt of the sea of beauty e, inspiring in all who drank of it insatiable thirst, and an intolerable craving for the water of the blue lakes of her eyes. And at last there came a day when the King her father looked at her, and said to himself: The fruit is ripe: and now it is time that it were plucked and eaten.

So he went to the apartments of the women, to find her mother, his principal Queen, Madirekshaná f. But when she learned the object of his coming, the Queen said: Aryaputra g, it is useless. For our daughter will not even listen to the word husband, much less undergo the thing. The King said: What is this? Should the cornfield refuse the plough, or a maiden refuse to be married? Is she not now of ripe age, and does not a grown-up maiden in the house bring upon herself and her relations infamy in this world and the next? Madirekshaná said:

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[paragraph continues] Speak to her yourself, and persuade her to it if you can. For of her own accord she told me, that her marriage was a thing not to be thought of, even in a dream.

So the King sent for his daughter, to question her himself.

And after a while, Shrí came in, undulating as she moved like a swan h, and swaying like a flower waving in the wind: for her waist could be grasped by the fist, and her bosom was glorious, like the swell of an ocean wave. And like a child she smiled at her father i with parted lips and half-shut eyes, casting before her through the net of their lashes the magical charm of the colour of a wet lotus: and her girdle jingled as if with joy, while the flashing jewels with which she was covered all over changed colour, as if with envy at being outshone by the play k of her eyes. And the old King looked at her with pride and wonder and delight: and he laughed to himself, and said: Wonderful is the cunning

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of the Creator, and incomprehensible the mystery of a woman's beauty! For I am old, and I am her father, and yet I feel before her like a domestic servant in the presence of a ruler of the world. Surely she would drive a young man into madness and ecstasy. And did the Creator, forsooth! form this incarnation of the intoxication of woman to no purpose? Surely she is a husband's ideal correlative in human form! And then he said to her: My daughter, it is high time that you were married: for an unmarried daughter is a scandal in her father's house.

Then said Shrí: Dear father, do not speak thus. Let me live and die a maiden, for I do not wish to be married l. The King said: Daughter, what is this that you are saying? Is not a husband the very object of your birth? Shrí said: Do not even dream of a husband for me. And there is a reason for this: for I am different from other maidens. And hearing this, the King was perplexed. And he looked at Shrí under his brows, and said to himself: She speaks truth. Certainly

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this daughter of mine, if she be mine m, is not like other maidens. For who ever saw her equal in beauty, or who ever heard of a maiden objecting to be married n? Or was my minister right, and is she really some deity in disguise?

So day after day he continued to urge her and argue with her. But at last, finding that his efforts to move her were as vain as if he were trying to pierce a diamond with a cotton thread, he exclaimed in dismay: Surely my crimes in a former birth were numerous and appalling, seeing that their fruit is a daughter, whose obstinate and unintelligible prejudice against a husband runs counter to the nature of woman, and will be the means of destroying my salvation. Then at last Shrí said: Dear father, do not be angry, and I will tell you the truth. Know that I, too, wish for a husband, but only for one husband, and no other. Then said the King: And

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who, then, is that husband? Shrí said: I do not know. But he will come to claim me, from the Land of the Lotus of the Sun  o. And where, said the King, is the Land of the Lotus of the Sun? Shrí said: I cannot tell. But in a dream I saw a lotus fall from heaven, and I heard a divine voice saying to me: Do not hurry, but wait: for there shall come to you a husband, from the Land of the Lotus of the Sun. For he was your husband in a former birth, and you shall know him by a sign. Then the King said: And what is the sign? Shrí said: I may not tell, for it is known only to the Deity and me. But now, either abandon my marriage, or if you can, find me a man who has seen the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, of caste becoming a king's daughter, and he shall be my husband. For him only will I marry, and none other.

And when the King heard this, he was astonished, and sat silent, looking at Shrí. And he said to himself:

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[paragraph continues] This is a strange story, and the conduct of this mysterious daughter of mine is inscrutable. What is this Land of the Lotus of the Sun? Is it a fancy, the capricious dream of a girl? Or does the dream really point to a previous existence? And he thought for a while, and then he said again: Perhaps it is better to do as she says, and endeavour to discover a man who has seen that Land. For where is the harm? For even if he is found, there will always be time to consider. And, moreover, in this way it may be that she will obtain a husband, whereas she will certainly not get married in any other. Better that she should get a husband, no matter how, no matter who, than remain a maiden to destroy us all.

Then he dismissed his daughter, and summoned his chamberlains, and said to them: Get criers, and send them through the city, and let them proclaim by beat of drum: That any high caste man, who has seen the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, shall share my kingdom, and marry my daughter. And his chamberlains wondered at hearing the order. But they went immediately, and told the criers the order of the King.


21:a That is, her soul, as distinguished from her body: that part of her which, according to Plato and the Bhagwad-Gitá (more logical than modern theologians) is never born and never dies.

21:b The home of Shrí, i.e. a blue lotus, which is so called because the goddess Shrí appeared floating in one at the creation.

22:c shánta: one who has quelled the passions and attained peace. Of such, Shiwa is the chief. But the minister drew his bow at a venture, and knew not how he hit the mark.

23:d Hence the name of the city, above.

24:e Beauty and salt, in the original, are denoted by the same word.

24:f That is, 'a woman with sweet seductive eyes.'

24:g A pretty term employed by ladies in addressing their lords: 'son of an arya, a gentleman.' It has no English equivalent.

25:h The old Hindoos had a special admiration and a special term (hansagaminí) for a woman who walked like a swan.

25:i There is here an untranslateable play on the word kamalahása, which means both the opening of a lotus bud, and an irresistible smile.

25:k wyatikara, a word expressive of the varying lustre or wavering coruscation of jewels,

26:l cf. Callimachus:

δός μοι παρθενίην αἰώνιον, ἄππα, φυλάσσειν.

27:m This touch arises from the beautiful word for a daughter, átmajá, i.e. she that is born from yourself.

27:n A case, perhaps, not absolutely unknown in the west: though beauty, like a fortress, must always like to be flattered by a siege. But in the land of the Hindoos, marriage is like being born or dying, a matter of course, a thing necessary, inevitable, essential, quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus.

28:o There is, in the original here, a nuance not susceptible of direct translation. According to the Hindoos, lotuses are divided into those of the Day and Night, whose lovers are the Sun and Moon. The Lotus in question is a Sun-lotus 'between the Twilights,' i.e., buried in night, and deprived of the presence of the Sun. An allusion to the title of the story is thus introduced. But all this cannot be expressed in English, as it can in Sanskrit, by a single word.

Next: II. By Beat of Drum