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III. An Eclipse of the Sun

Now Kamalamitra, when he was separated from Anushayiní by the curse of the ascetic, fell down to earth, and was born as the son of a King of the Solar Race in a distant country. And his father gave him the name of Umra-Singh p, for the astrologers said: He will live on earth like a lion, and run over it like his rival in the sky. And when he grew up, there was no one in that country who could match him in riding, or wrestling, or swordsmanship, or any other martial exercise: so that the people said of him: He looks like the very soul of the nature of a Kshatriya that has assumed a body suited to its deeds. Surely he is an incarnation of Kumára q, come down to earth for the destruction of the King's enemies. And the women flocked around him like flies about honey, for their hearts were trampled to pieces, like lotuses, by the wild-elephant of his glorious youth, and their souls were intoxicated with the nectar of the beauty of

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his figure, and followed him about like captives chained in rows. But Umra-Singh laughed at them all, and even outdid the moon-crested god r, in that he drank continually the deadly poison of the ocean of their seductions, without even staining his throat.

Then one day his father said to him: Come, now, I have arranged your marriage with the daughter of my most powerful enemy: so shall we become friends by the method of conciliation. Umra-Singh said: Find another bridegroom, for I have married my sharp sword. So his father was annoyed, and said: What is this folly, and whence can I procure another bridegroom? But Umra-Singh was silent. And three times his father repeated his words. Then after a while, Umra-Singh said: Bridegroom or no bridegroom, I will not marry anybody but the lady of my dream. Then said his father: Who, then, is this lady of your dream? Umra-Singh said: I do not know. But every other month, on the last day of the dark fortnight, there comes to me in a dream a vision of a woman, floating on a pool of white lotuses, in a boat of sandal with silver oars. But

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who she is I cannot tell, and her face I can never see, for it is always turned away.

Then his father began to laugh, and deride him. But Umra-Singh cared no more for the stream of his derision than Maheshwara for the Ganges when it fell on his head. Then his father said: Dismiss this delusion, and prepare for the wedding: for I have arranged the ceremonies, and appointed the day. But Umra-Singh laughed, and said: Marry her thyself: for I tell thee, I will not marry anybody, but the lady of my dream. Then his father flew into a rage, and summoned his guards, and threw the prince s into prison, saying to himself: He shall stay there, with his dream to keep him company, till he learns to obey. But Umra-Singh persuaded his gaolers to let him escape, for the subjects loved him more than his father. And he fled away by night into another country, abandoning his royal position for the sake of his dream.

And then he went from city to city, and from one country to another, eluding the pursuit of the agents sent after him by his father to bring him back, till at last he came to Indirálayá. And he dived into

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a disreputable quarter of that city, like a frog into a well, and remained there disgusted with life and his relations, plunging into dissipation to drown his grief, and surrounded by gamblers and outcasts, counting the whole world as a straw, supporting himself on his own courage, and his dream. And little by little all he had melted away like snow in the sun of his generosity, or was swallowed up by the ocean of greedy gamblers, among whom he scattered it with an open hand, asking, like his ancestor t, nothing in return. And at last, being reduced to extremity, clad in garments worn and ragged, which like clouds vainly obscuring the Lord of the Day, could not hide, but rather increased, the beauty of his form, with nothing left to eat or drink, he determined to abandon the body. So taking down his sword from the wall, and holding it in his hand, he went out of his wretched lodging, saying to himself: Death is better than dishonour and insignificance, hunger and the loathing of life: for what is death but the beginning of another life, which cannot be worse than this one, be it what it may? And who knows but that I may meet her in the next life whom I dream of

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in this? For she who is but a dream now, may be a reality in another birth, and I may discover that lotus pool, waiting for me in another life. Therefore now I will go outside the city wall, and find some deserted garden, and there I will cut off my own head, and offer it up to Durgá as a sacrifice.

And as he stood at the door of the house, pondering which way he should go, there fell on his ear, for the hundredth time, the sound of the beating of drums. And he listened, and heard the criers crying: Whatsoever high-caste man has been to the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, let him come to the King: lie shall share the King's kingdom, and marry the King's daughter. And Umra-Singh laughed, and said to himself: What! are they still looking for a man, who has seen the Land of the Lotus of the Sun? And how, then, did they know that there was such a land to be seen?

And then on a sudden he started, as if he had been bitten by a snake. And he struck his hand on his sword, and exclaimed: Ha! But if nobody has ever seen that land, and no one knows anything about it, then, if one should come and say: Lo: I have seen it: who could discern whether he was speaking the truth or telling a lie? For who can compare the description with a reality which neither he nor

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anyone else ever saw? So what is to hinder me from going to the King and saying: I have seen that Lotus Land, and now, give me the reward? For here I am, about to put myself to death; and what greater evil can befall me at the hands of the King, even though he should discover the deceit? And yet, how can he? For who knows what that land is like, or even where it is? But if; on the contrary, I get credit, then I shall obtain, not only this far-famed daughter, for whom I care nothing, but also the resources of his kingdom; and with them I can equip an army, and go and compel my father to restore me to my position. So where is the harm? or rather, is it not pure gain, and no loss, to make the attempt and abide the result, whether I live or die?

Then instantly, without hesitation, he went up to the criers, and said to them: Cease your crying, and take me to the King, for I have seen that Lotus Land. But the criers, when they heard what he said, could not believe their ears, and almost abandoned the body from excess of joy. For they were almost dead from exhaustion, and continual shouting all day long. And they danced like peacocks at the sight of the first cloud in the rainy season, and caught him in their arms, holding him as if they

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were afraid he would escape, to carry him away, like a precious jewel, to the King. And the news ran through the city like fire in a dry wood: There has been found a man who has seen the Land of the Lotus of the Sun. And a vast crowd of people ran from every street, and pressed around him, and accompanied him to the palace, and stood before it, tossing like the sea, while the guards took him in to the King.

But when the King heard the news, he wept for joy. And Umra-Singh seemed in his eyes like a draught of nectar, and like the fulfilment of all his desires in bodily form. And he said to him: O thou unspeakably delightful son-in-law that shall be, hast thou really set eyes on that accursed Land of the Lotus of the Sun? And Umra-Singh said boldly: yes, I have seen it, and I know it well. Then immediately the King in his impatience ran himself to his daughter's apartments, and exclaimed: The bridegroom is found, by the favour of the Lord of Obstacles. Here is a Rajpoot who has seen the Land of the Lotus of the Sun. So prepare for the marriage without delay.

Then said Shrí: Dear father, there is no hurry in this matter. And how do you know that this man is speaking the truth, or is not, rather, some

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impostor, who only wishes to secure me and half your kingdom, by falsely asserting that he has seen, what in fact he never has seen. For the world is full of such crafty rogues, who go about, like cranes, fishing in the wealth of Kings, like pools. Bring him therefore first to me, to examine him; and thereafter we shall see, whether it is time to prepare the marriage ceremonies, or not.

So the King said: Be it so. And he sent for Umra-Singh, and brought him into the presence of Shrí.

And Shrí looked and saw him standing, sword in hand, tall, and lean in the waist like a hungry lion, with shoulders like those of a bull, and long arms, and all the royal marks of a King. And she would have despised him, for his rags and his nakedness, and yet for all that she would, she could not, but felt herself drawn towards him against her will. For her heart was stirred within her at the sight of him, and dim suggestions of that former birth, which she had forgotten, struggled in her soul, and strove to rise up out of its depths. And she stood, gazing at him in silence, with eyes that looked at him but did not see him, like those of one that listens to the tones of a long-forgotten voice, sounding in the hall of memory, and awakening

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longing and fond regret. And as she gazed, she poured over him a flood of blue colour out of her wondrous doubtful eyes.

And Umra-Singh looked at her, and the whole world vanished from his sight in a mass of blue. And he reeled under the blow of her glances, which struck him mercilessly like a club, and time and space fled from his soul, which was filled with colour, and tears, and laughter and pain, and he gasped for breath. For the sight of her half-remembered eyes clutched his heart, and stopped its beating like an iron band. And in that moment there rose before him the dream-woman of the lotus pool, and he knew that it was Shrí.

So they two stood there, like pictures painted on a wall, gazing at each other, and groping in vain for recollection in the darkness of oblivion u, like shadows in a dream. And then, after a while, Shrí came to herself. And she said slowly: So thou hast seen the Land of the Lotus of the Sun? Then mention its peculiarities, and tell me how thou didst arrive at it.

But Umra-Singh stammered and hesitated. For

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her eyes had deprived him of his reason, and he could think of nothing else. And all his audacity had vanished, and become timidity, and he faltered, and spoke, not knowing what he said, with a voice that refused its office, and sounded in his ears like that of another man. And he said: Lady, I went I know not how, and wandered I know not how long, among wastes and deserts and mountains I know not how high, till I came to a land I know not where, called the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, I know not why x.

But as he spoke, the spell was broken, and Shrí woke as it were from a dream. And she saw before her only a ragged Rajpoot, stumbling in his tale, and abashed before her, and unable to support his knavery even by a clever lie. And she was ashamed, and angry with herself, and as she listened, she was suddenly seized with a fit of laughter. And she exclaimed: Hark! hark! to this high-caste hero; listen to his lay of a Lotus Land! He went he knew not where, and did he knew not what, and began at the beginning, and ended at the end. So she laughed and mocked him, while he stood before her

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as it were in a swoon, hearing only the music of her voice, and quailing like a coward before the fire in her scornful eyes.

Then suddenly Shrí clapped her hands in his face, and exclaimed: Dost thou hear, or art thou deaf as well as dumb? Art thou a Rajpoot, and yet could'st thou not find courage enough to carry out thy imposition to the end? Strange! that such a body could be chosen by the Creator as the receptacle of such a soul. And she turned to the King, and said: Dear Father, it is as I said, and as you see, this fellow is but a rogue. Put him out, therefore; and yet, do him no harm. For though he is a knave, yet he is a handsome knave, and deserves rather contempt and laughter, than punishment and blows.

Then the King said to his guards: Take this impostor, and thrust him out into the street. So the guards seized Umra-Singh, who offered no resistance, and threw him out into the street, raining upon him as he went a shower of kicks and blows. And immediately the criers went round the city as before, beating drums and crying aloud: Whatsoever high-caste man has been to the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, let him come to the King: he shall share the King's kingdom, and marry the King's daughter.


32:p The name is Amarasinha. But this is so certain to be a stumbling-block in an English mouth, that I have spelt it as it would be pronounced by a Hindoo. (Um as in drum.) It means 'lion-god' or 'god-lion,' a name suited to a king of the line of the Sun.

32:q The War-god.

33:r Because, though Shiwa drank the kálakuta or deadly sea-poison, with impunity, still it left its mark on his throat, and dyed it blue.

34:s A rajpoot means only the son of a king, and it is to be observed that there were rajpoots in India long before the present 'Rajpoots' ever came there.

35:t i.e. the Sun. There are double meanings in this period, comparing him to the Sun.

40:u adrishta: a peculiar technical term, meaning something that has its roots in the unseen circumstances of a former birth.

47:x No translator can give the alliterative jingle of the rathás and tathás, vads and tads of this and the answer of Shrí below.

Next: IV. Inspiration