Darpa Dalana: Ladies in Love

The five and sixth chapters of the Darpa Dalana deal with pride in heroism and charity respectively. The fifth chapter tells the story of a mighty and proud king who finally finds his match in battle in a pair of sages, while in the sixth we are introduced to the famously generous Yudhiṣṭhira and the golden mongoose to demonstrate that giving should be measured by intentions rather than gems.

Here is a verse from the latter:

प्राप्तुं स्वर्गवराङ्गनास्तनतटस्पर्शातिरिक्तं सुखं

दत्तो मेरुरपि प्रयाति तृणतामात्मोपकारेच्छया

आपन्नार्तिविलोकने करुणया श्रद्धासुधापूरितं

सत्त्वोत्साहसमन्वितं तृणमपि त्रैलोक्यदानाधिकम् २७

For a gift made for one’s own benefit,

in order to obtain

pleasures to top even those of caressing

the breasts of ladies in paradise,

though as great as Meru’s mountain,

is worth no more than a blade of grass.

But a blade of grass given gladly

with compassion, faith, and the best of intentions,

at the sight of others’ sufferings,

is greater than the gifting of the triple world.

In the seventh, and final chapter, Kemendra moves into another gear. Suddenly, we have left behind the hard-hitting but spartan didacticism that prevailed in the previous chapters and we find ourselves in the realm of ornamental kāvya, with Śiva and Pārvatī high up in the Himalayas. The longer metre and flowery language, replete with kavi samaya (the poetic conventions that mark the magical world of kāvya apart from reality), do not though lessen the bite with which Kemendra satirises his prey – here sages who have spent thousands of years mortifying their bodies to attain liberation, unsuccessfully.

Śiva, who is the undisputed master of tapas or austerities, demonstrates to Pārvatī that the reason the sages are still struggling is because they have not yet cleansed themselves of desire and hatred. To do this, he assumes the form of a ravishingly beautiful young man, and, strolling into the ashram, brings the sages’ wives to their knees:

तासां तदालोकननिर्निमेषा दृष्टिः परं कर्णपथप्रविष्टा

उत्सृष्टलज्जाविपुलाभिलाषादसूचयन्मुग्धमृगीविलासम् ४६

तासां तदर्चारभसोत्थितानां स्रस्तांशुकोत्कम्पिघनस्तनीनाम्

नवेन कामेन खलीकृतानां जृम्भाभवोऽभूद्भुजयोर्विलासः ४७

As [the sages’ wives] gazed unblinking at him – all shame forsaken in the intensity of their desire – their eyes grew large like those of beautiful does, tapering at the edge to their very ears. They scampered up to welcome him, breasts trembling, veils slipping. Dizzy with a passion they had never before experienced, they started to yawn and stretch.

The poet then turns our gaze to the sages, who are apoplectic, and proceeds to describe their furious – and amusing reaction – to the god’s arrival. Happily for them, at Pārvatī‘s request Śiva removes their delusions. Nevertheless, Kemendra has made his point:

प्रशान्तोऽन्तस्तृष्णाविषमपरितापः शमजलै

रशेषः सन्तोषामृतविसरपानेन वपुषः

असङ्गः सम्भोगः कमलदलकीलालतुलया

भवारण्ये पुंसां परहितमुदारं खलु तपः ७३

Penance calms the heat of inner craving

with the water of tranquility,

and the body with endless draughts

of the nectar of contentment.

One can enjoy without getting attached

like the drop of water on the lotus leaf.

In this wilderness called life, though,

penance is great only when it serves others.


This is the last post in the series on the Darpa Dalana. To learn more about the Rasāla edition, and/or to purchase a copy of the print or eBook please click here. To read the previous posts, please click here.

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