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XI. The Lord of the Beasts

Now in the meanwhile it happened that Maheshwara, as he roamed through the sky with Párwati on his breast, looked down to earth, and caught sight of Umra-Singh wandering in the forest, uttering lamentations, and exclaiming: O Shrí, where art thou hiding? Hast thou, like the desert, no pity for the antelope that is dying of thirst for the water of thine eyes r? And immediately he remembered his boon to Kamalamitra, and grasped the whole story from beginning to end. So he said to Umá with a smile: Go now to thy father s, and

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wait for me: for there is here a matter that demands my attention. Then his consort said to him in a cajoling tone: What is the matter? tell me. Maheshwara said: I will tell thee afterwards: at present I have no leisure: depart. Thereupon the goddess went off pouting to the Snowy Mountain. But the moon-crested god descended to earth. And there, taking the form of an ascetic, he entered the forest. And standing in its densest part, his body white with ashes, garlanded with a necklace of skulls, with a half-moon in his yellow hair, he created by his supernatural power a gong, hanging from a banyan tree in the centre of the wood. And he struck with his trident a blow on that mind-born gong that resounded through the forest like thunder.

Then instantly, hearing that terrible summons, all the denizens of the wood, Yakshas and Pisháchas, Rákshasas and Hamadryads, with the wild animals and the rest, assembled together and flew towards the sound, and crowded around the gong like flies or bees to honey or a dead body. And when they had mustered, they enquired humbly of that Lord of Creatures animate and inanimate: What orders has the Lord of All for his servants, and why are we now summoned? Then said the Great Ascetic:

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[paragraph continues] There is in this wood a lover looking for his bride. And she on her part will sometime or other be here to join him. See that none of you do them actual harm, by devouring or destroying them: for they are to work out their redemption in the wood, by the decree of destiny and my will and pleasure t. For they fell under a curse, and so became mortals: but when they meet here, and the circumstances are favourable, their curse will have an end. Therefore delude them if you will, but beware that you touch not a hair of their heads.

Thus he spoke, and all assented, prostrating themselves at his feet. And then he began to dance. Then all joined furiously in the festival of his favour, seized with the madness born of devotion, uttering ecstatic hymns of praise, each in his own language. So after that he had sported sufficiently, and bestowed on those adorers the nectar of his presence, that Lord whose left half is his wife remembered his promise to the Daughter of the Mountain, and returned to the snowy peak of Kailàs, to tell her the story and coax away her sulks.


80:r There is here an untranslateable play on the word mrigatrishná, 'the thirst of the antelope,' i.e. the mirage of the desert, to which he compares her eyes.

80:s i.e. the Himálaya mountain, of which, or rather whom, Párwati is the daughter, as her name signifies.

82:t The Hindoos never had a Lucian, to laugh at their mythological contradictions. They were always too much under the spell.

Next: XII. The Other Body