Over the next couple of weeks, we have two more verses playing on the quintessential elements of female beauty, as per kāvya. In this week’s, an onlooker imagines how the creator fashioned Damayantī’s lower back and midriff, replete with the ‘triple wrinkle’ of flesh that is as prized in kāvya as the flat stomach is in today’s world (although it should also be noted that the waist itself should be so thin as to be almost invisible, a much more familiar notion for the modern-day reader).
The image below shows Damayantī in the famous painting by Raja Ravi Varma alongside the haṃsa sent to her by the love-struck Nala.
[By the by, some of the most attractive male forms – including that of Kṛṣṇa at times – also have a triple wrinkle of flesh upon their stomachs, but more on that later.]
उदरं नतमध्यपृष्ठतास्फुटदङ्गुष्ठपदेन मुष्टिना ।
चतुरङ्गुलमध्यनिर्गतत्रिवलिभ्राजि कृतं दमस्वसुः ॥
Gripping Damayantī’s waist
in a single handspan
he indented the small of her back
with the imprint of his thumb,
and pressed out
from between his four fingers
laid across her soft belly
three elegant folds.
2.34 Śrīharṣa’s Naiṣadhīyacarita