Yaksagana

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Yaksagana

Yaksagana

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Shani (Saturn) casts his evil eye on Nala, the emperor of Nishada, being jealous of his renown. One evening, when it is time to pay homage to the gods, Nala drinks water to quench his thirst and exposes himself to the evil influence of Shani. Shani disguises himself as a holy Brahmin, goes to Pushkara, a rival king, to persuade him to invite Nala to a game of dice. At the game of dice Nala loses all his wealth and kingdom too to his adversary and prepares to go into exile according to the rules of the game. Sending his only son and daughter to Bhimaka, his father-in-law, Nala moves into the forest, followed by his dutiful wife Damayanti. The sufferings of Damayanti in the wilderness of the forest are too much for Nala to bear, and in utter despair he runs away from her. In his lonely wandering Nala comes upon a wild fire consuming a forest. He hears a snake trapped on top of a burning bamboo grove, shout for help. Nala taking pity on it spreads out a shawl in his arms, for the snake to jump on. While being taken to a safe place the snake bites the ill-fated king. The poison quickly changes his complexion. The fair king of Nishada is transformed into an ugly, loathsome goblin. The change is in a way a blessing in disguise. In this form, assuming the name Bahuka, he gets into the service of Rituparna, the king of Saketa, as a keeper of the stable. Meanwhile a hunter in the forest discovers Damayanti in distress, and takes her to the King and Queen of Chedi, who taking pity on her, employs her as a maid to the crown princess. Damayanti, like Nala, keeps her identity a secret. One day Rituparna goes to the forest on a hunting expedition with Bahuka and discovers that he is an excellent cook. Bahuka on being asked how he learnt the culinary art, explains that he learnt it under Nala, the king of Nishada, who is renowned for his culinary skill. Appendix VI 239 The old king Bhimaka has to bear the responsibility of finding out the whereabouts of his daughter and son-in-law. He entrusts the task to his priest Sudeva. Sudeva, after many a useless attempt, discovers Damayanti at last in Chaidya’s palace. He discloses to the Chaidya queen that Damayanti is her niece. Damayanti is then brought to Bhimaka, her father. In another of his missions priest Sudeva finds the culinary expert Bahuka at Rituparna’s palace. This news cheers Damayanti who strongly suspects that Bahuka should be her lord in disguise. Devising a plan to draw him out of his hiding Damayanti induces her father to announce her remarriage to a suitable warrior whom she would herself choose from among the guests. Invitations are accordingly sent to the neighbouring princes and to Rituparna too, who is outraged at the idea of a second marriage of a maid of the warrior class. He determines to punish all those who are guilty of this breach of tradition. It is sooner said than done. Kundini, the place where the marriage is to take place, is far off. The time at his disposal is too short, just a quarter day left. Seeing his king in a huff Bahuka offers to drive his chariot at the speed of wind so that he may reach the place of marriage in time. Both set off for Kundini. Rituparna is amazed at the incredible speed at which Bahuka drives the chariot. He presses Bahuka to tell him who he really is as no ordinary mortal could drive at this speed. Bahuka tells the king of his great misfortune owing to the evil influence of Shani. Rituparna teaches Bahuka a spell, the chanting of which would exorcise Shani. When Bahuka chants the spell Shani falls at his feet and pleads for mercy, which is granted. But he is asked to remain with Bahuka for a day longer. At the palace of Kundini the wedding guests are duly received, Bahuka and Rituparna being among them. Damayanti gets Bahuka to her palace and accosts him with numerous questions. Nala thinks it is time for him to cast off his disguise and appear before his spouse in his true form. The happy event brings joy to all.