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Part I

Our Purana-s and Itihasa-s deal with astrology offering valuable clues to planetary vibrations and their influences on humans. One key clue exists in the story of Nala and Damayanti, which occurs in the Mahabharata and is the core subject of the famous composition Naishada Charitra by Sriharsha. This composition, along with Kalidasa’s Kumarasambava and Raguvamsa, Bharavi’s Kiratarjuniya, and Magha’s Sishupalavadha constitute the five Mahakavya-s of India. In astrological parlance, the story of Nala and Damayanti gains high relevance because the hero of the poetry, King Nala who lives in opulence gets into the grip of Saturn; after going through immense suffering he regains glory after liberation from the hold of Saturn. On many scores, this story has eternal relevance and the moral of this story needs to be understood by people, who wish to overcome adversities caused by planets in inauspicious positions.

Talking of propitiation of planets to thwart adverse consequences of planetary transits, why Saturn stands alone and why Saturn assumes greater importance than other planets? Barring Jupiter and Venus, the rest are either total or part malefic, delivering evil effects. Venus can also turn into a functional malefic, when influenced by Kendradipatya dosha. Let us seek a convincing answer for the question raised earlier: why Saturn is the most dreaded among the different planets?

Three explanations come to my mind.

1. Saturn is slow when passing through a zodiacal sign and consequently it influences the native for a longer duration, but only at a specified period of time. All planets in transit bear evil influences in all houses, except 3, 6, and 11. (Mantreswara indicates that in addition Rahu, Ketu, and Sun offer beneficial results in 10th house apart from 3,6 and 11) We tolerate injections, because that pain lasts only for a short period of time. Should the pain were to remain for long, we would, of course, be concerned. So the length of time of Saturn’s transit is the first major concern.

2. The next element of concern pertains to that Saturn is a Dukka Karaka (grief giver). All suffering is attributed to Saturn. Sun is Atmakaraka, Mars is Bhrat-r-Karaka, but Saturn is a Dukka Karaka. So, when a planet exclusively owns ‘grief’ as its principal action portfolio that is scary.

3. Sun denotes soul (atman); moon denotes mind (manas). So for none, these planets can be a malefic. The author of Laghu Parasari in Chapter 1, verse 11 indicates that neither Sun nor Moon can induce Ashtamadhipatya dosha attributed to ownership of 8th house. When a planet occurs juxtaposed to either Sun or Moon, that planet must qualify as first-rate malefic and that becomes true of Saturn. The 6th house is house of the enemy. Saturn by virtue of being Lord of Capricorn (6th house from Leo, owned by Sun) becomes an enemy of Sun; Moon by owning Cancer, 6th from Aquarius (owned by Saturn), becomes an enemy of Saturn.

Keeping the above in view, let us look at the story of Nala.

The story of Nala and Damayanti was narrated by Sage Brihadasva to Yudistra and his brothers (excluding Arjuna who then had embarked on the journey seeking pasupata from Mahadeva). Yudistira’s poser to the Sage was whether anyone in human history had ever lived a more wretched life than himself. The sage answers Yudistra’s question with the story of Nala and Damayanti. King Nala’s plight was worse than that of Yudistra, according to Brihadasva, because Nala lost Damayanti, children, and counsellors during exile; whereas Yudistira’s wife, brothers, and counsellors remained with him during exile. Brihadasva’s narrative on Nala and Damayanti is a reminder to us about the impermanence of objects of human desire. Knowing that good fortune is an oscillating phenomenon, Brihadasva advises Yudistra to remain calm, when things do not auger well. The message conveyed here is that when time is adverse, we are separated from our loved ones; we are reunited when time turns favourable, but we have no control over this time cycle.

King Nala was the son of Virasena. He was well versed in the veda-s, heroic and was a person of modest passions. He was a great soul, beloved of men and women, was strong and handsome. Two special abilities of King Nala are worth recounting. He was well versed in training and maintaining horses (Aswa Sastra: equestrian science). He was also a master cook. In cooking, two terms are used frequently: Nalapakam and Bimapakam. Nalapakam refers to cooking small quantities of food, but extremely delicious and satvik. Bhimapakam refers to cooking of large quantities of tamasic food. Nalapakam originates from Nala.

The Story begins with a brief description of Nala, the most handsome of men, and Damayanti, the beautiful princess of Vidarba Kingdom. She is the only daughter of King Bhima and had three brothers, who were lofty souls and possessed great fame. Two geese serve as the messengers between Nala and Damayanti sparking love between them through descriptions of their respective charms. By hearing about one another, they fall in love. Seeing how pale Damayanti had become tormented by love, her girlfriends inform her father, Bhima, who realizes that his daughter’s marriage needs to be organized; so he announces a Swayamvara, seeking the eligible man to marry his daughter.

To understand Swayamvara, we need to understand that eight forms of marriage existed in ancient India.

1. Rakshasa vivaha: Marriage by forcible abduction of a girl; forbidden generally, but permitted for kings.

2. Parisache vivaha: Marriage through deceitful abduction of a girl in sleep; forbidden in general, kings excepted.

3. Asura vivaha: Marriage through purchasing a girl by a man. Some smriti-s discourage this practice, since it tantamounts to selling of a child.

4. Arsa vivaha: Marriage involves a gift of a bull and a cow; an accepted form.

5. Daiva vivaha: The girl has no choice in selecting the man; choice remains with the girl’s father or guardian.

6. Prajapatya vivaha: Girl’s father gives away the girl to a man, who seeks her hand, so that both of them are eligible to perform their duties together.

7. Gandharva vivaha: The marriage between a willing girl and her lover, (e.g., Dushyanta and Sakuntala. Sage Kanva, Sakuntala’s father, endorsed this marriage since Dushyanta was supposed to have relied on his conscience.

8. Brahma vivaha: Marriage involving giving the bride to a boy by circling the sacred fire three times.

Swayamvara is a part of the above listed marriage forms according to Grihyasutras, Manusmriti (or Yajnavalkya smriti). Swayamvara is not an exhibition of grooms. The suitor has to satisfy certain conditions or be a fit person to become the eligible groom.

Swayamvara-s are of three types.

1. Virya Shulka Swayamvara: The groom wins over the bride by demonstrating a feat of prowess. Exceptionally difficult conditions were to be satisfied, which involved strength, bravery, and skill.
(a) Rama married Sita by setting the arrow in pinaka, which was a condition set by Janaka.
(b) Arjuna married Draupadi by hitting the metal fish fixed to spinning wheel with an arrow by seeing the fish’s reflection in water.

2. Soundarya Shulka Swayamvara: The girl is free to choose one of the assembled handsome men. Damayanti’s swayamvara belongs to this category

3. The bride is free to choose her husband. Savitri’s marriage to Satyavan..(This is the third category)

King Jaichand of Kanauj held a Swayamvara for his daughter Samyogita (Samyukta), who liked Prithvraj Chauhan (1149―1192 CE). To insult Prithviraj, Jaichand installed a statue of Prithviraj as the keeper of the fort. During the Swayamvara, Samyogita garlanded the statue of Prithviraj, who was hiding in the vicinity. He took Samyogita on his horse, sped away, and married her. This is an example Swayamvara from recent past. Please note that in this episode an intended Swayamvara got converted into a Gandharva form of marriage.

We can close this analysis on Swayamvara with the following points.

1) Swayamvara form of marriage ended approximately during the time Slave dynasty came to power in India in 1206 C.E.
2) It created unnecessary conflicts between kings and was mainly responsible for the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of Mohammad Ghori, in the second battle of Tarain in 1192 C.E.
3) Subtle differences between Gandharva vivaha and Swayamvara.
In Swayamvara
• the man must have been invited
• he should hail from a family of comparable social and economic status
• he should accomplish a task, in case it is fixed as a pre-condition for winning the bride’s hand.

In Gandharva Vivaha ,romance between the boy and the girl or their mutual liking leads to marriage.Unlike Swayamvara ,the parent’s wish is not given weightage.The status of the groom is immaterial in this category of marriage.It is quite possible that in some instances the bride and groom may have a mutual affinity and the marriage may be solemnized through a Swayamvara.In Modern times this is comparable to a boy and a girl who have mutual affinity but get their parents’ approval and enter into wedlock.

The Swayamvara of Damayanti was fixed on an auspicious lunar day in an auspicious season. This shows that King Bhima had considered astrological factors for fixing the time of Swayamvara.

When Nala leaves for the Damayanti’s Swayamvara in Vidarba Desa, he meets Indra, Kubera, Varuna and Yama. These celestial beings request Nala to be their messenger to Damayanti and Nala concurs. Indra, the King of the celestials says: “I am Indra. I have come to attend Damayanti’s Swayamvara with the other three celestials. Please praise us by name before Damayanti and she will marry one of us.” Nala retorts: “You know very well, I am going for the same purpose. Is it fair on your part to ask me to do this job?” Nevertheless, the gods decided to enforce Nala’s promise and he had no option but to praise the celestials before Damayanti.

Nala being an ordinary mortal liable to birth and death, whereas Indra and others being immortals, it was unfair in the eyes of Damayanti. Further the celestials’ anger brings misery to humans. But Nala being a good soul, he requests Damayanti to choose one of the gods instead of him. Damayanti hits upon an idea and says: “During Swayamvara, I will choose you instead of the gods. So the gods cannot blame you.” The gods understand Damayanti’s mind and they come to Swayamvara as Nala–alikes. Showing an exceptional intelligence, Damayanti chooses Nala from the look-alikes.

How did Damayanti distinguish Nala from the Devas? Damayanti knew that the Celestials have certain features, which the humans do not have.

• Celestials do not wink; winking is a human attribute.
• Feet of the celestials do not touch the ground.
• Garlands worn by celestials do not fade.
• Perspiration occurs only in humans; Celestials do not perspire.

Applying these, Damayanti chose Nala and garlanded him. Nala got the blessings of gods Indra, Agni, Kubera, Yama, and Varuna. Nala married Damayanti.

On the way the gods meet Kali Purusha and enquired where he was going. Kali Purusha said, “I heard that a Swayamvara for Damayanti is scheduled. I am on my way there, hoping that she will choose me.” The gods laughed and said, “All is over. Damayanti married a mortal human by name Nala, rejecting everyone else.” Kali Purusha was infuriated. He decided immediately the following course of action. Nala and Damayanti should lose their kingdom. They should suffer from the pangs of separation.

We can boldly consider that Kali Purusha, who makes his advent in this story is none else than the planet Saturn. I am basing my view on the fact that according to legends pertaining to the holy town Tirunallar (Tamil Nadu) Nala is supposed to have visited the Temple of Saturn here, to overcome his misery. Hence it is probable that Kali Purusha refers to Saturn.

Part II

In my previous article we saw how the marriage between Nala and Damayanti took place,which earned the wrath of Saturn, who was desirous of winning Damayanti’s hand in the swayamvara. In this article we shall see what happened to the newly wedded couple as a consequence of Saturn showing his wrath on them.

Before we go to the story, let us explore some of the astrological features of Saturn. Let us see how Saturn functions in the twelve zodiacal signs.

Aries: A person born with Saturn in Aries is wrathful, does evil deeds and is devoid of any virtue.
Taurus: The person suffers due to his wickedness and foolishness. Servility is the key characteristic of this person.
Gemini: The person spends his time travelling; lives away from native place and is secretive,deceitful, angry, mean and lustful.
Cancer: The behaviour of this person is full of contradictions;childhood is full of struggles; lacks maternal love; suffers from ill-health.
Leo: The person is committed to study, research and writing; enjoys conjugal happiness; begets wealth and honour from spouse’s family.
Virgo: The person bears a lean body; reticent, affluent but discontented; ambitious and arrogant.
Libra:This person is poised favourably for material prosperity; has a strong inclination for worldly and sensual pleasures; acquires name and fame.
Scorpio: The person likes to misappropriate wealth of others; performs mean acts; life is full of hurdles; cruel, wrathful, avaricious and arrogant.
Sagittarius: The person is soft spoken, reticent, given to scholarly pursuits and well versed in various disciplines.
Capricorn: The person is fond of good places and ornaments; begets wealth, extremely industrious and has sound knowledge of arts.
Aquarius: The person is crooked, lethargic, deceitful and unethical. Although Aquarius is a house owned by Saturn, its presence in Aquarius is not desirable; companions will also be mischievous.
Pisces: The person is wealthy and becomes eminent in his family and among his relatives; ethical, crafty and is a connoisseur of gems.

We know that Saturn in Aries is debilitated. When Saturn is about to transit Aries, do we infer that everyone who is born while Saturn is in Aries would be devoid of virtues? No, not necessarily.

Please note that in Aries, Saturn lacks Sthanabala(residential strength). However if Saturn in Aries attains Libra in navamsa, then Saturn will give the effects of an exalted planet. Same is also true while Saturn is in retrograde. If Saturn in Aries gets aspected by Jupiter, much of Saturn’s evil qualities are arrested and Saturn yields auspicious results. Same is true when Mars conjoins Saturn in Aries and gives rise to Neechabhanga raja yoga.

Saturn in Lagna is generally considered an unwelcome feature of any horoscope. However Saturn in Libra, Sagittarius and Pisces is considered a blessing and the person would prosper similar to a king.

The game of dice

We shall return to the tale of King Nala. One morning, King Nala recited his morning prayer with a blemish; he had not washed the heel after attending to the call of nature. This was the opportunity Kali Purusha was waiting for twelve years. Using this opportunity, he immediately occupied Nala’s body.

Kali Purusha meets Pushkara and exhorts him to play a game of dice with Nala and assuring him of victory. Elated by this offer of Kali Purusha, Pushkara challenges Nala to a game of dice. Under the influence of Kali, Nala begins to play the game.One by one, gold, silver, robes are lost in stake. Finally he loses even his Kingdom.Pushkara, knowing that Nala had lost everything asks whether the play could go on, with Damayanti as a stake. It is at this stage, Nala stops the game and gets out with Damayanti.

Pushkara, the new King issues an ordinance that any citizen who bestows attention of Nala would be executed. Consequently Nala is forced to spend three nights on the outskirts of the city living only on water with none offering any help. Unable to look after Damayanti, Nala requests her to go to her father’s kingdom. Once she goes to her father’s palace, she would be assured of a decent living. Damayanti requests Nala to accompany him so that both of them could stay in her father’s palace. But King Nala has his own reservations on this thought.

Damayanti’s father was the king of Vidarba; so was Nala – the king of Viraata. If Nala were to go to his father-in-law’s palace in glory, he would bring joy to her parents. But Nala, having been reduced to the status of a beggar, who would be happy to see him in this plight? Nala says to Damayanti, that if both of them went to see King Bhima at this point of time, they would only bring misery to her parents. After the discussion had ended, the idea of going to King Bhima’s palace was dropped.

Desertion of Damayanti

Plunged into distress, Damayanti went into deep sleep. Nala thinks of a perverse idea. Why not desert Damayanti? Nala’s reasoning went as follows:if Damayanti continued to stay with him, she will only remain in distress. If he deserted her, a possibility of her joining her relatives exists and thus regaining happiness. So, under the influence of Kali Purusha, Nala decides that desertion of Damayanti was the best option, under prevailing circumstances.

When Damayanti woke up, she finds her husband missing and she starts searching for him. Soon, she was seized by a huge snake which was waiting for its prey. She shouts for help; hearing the cry, a hunterarrives on the scene, kills the snake and rescues Damayanti. But Damayanti’s joy was short lived. The hunter was overcome with lust. Damayanti stating that she had love for Nala alone and nobody could substitute him, cursed the hunter and the moment she pronounced her curse, the hunter fell down dead.

In the forest Damayanti comes across a group of ascetics. She explains her plight to them. The ascetics replied “The future will bring happiness to you. Soon you will be united with King Nala. You will be freed of all sins. You will be decked with all kinds of gems and rule over the same city. Your enemies will be chased out. You will be crowned with every blessing”. After uttering this benediction, the ascetics vanished from sight, leaving Damayanti in a state of amazement, wondering whether all that she just saw and heard was only a dream.

Damayanti joins a caravan, which was bound for the city of Suvahu, ruler of the Chedis. At night the caravan halted in a forest. Suddenly a group of wild elephants attacked the caravan, killing all those who were sleeping. As Damayanti woke up, she saw a raging fire, which was adding to the misery of the merchants caused by the elephant attack. Damayanti thought that all her woes were due to the sin, she committed in preferring Nala as her husband, ignoring the celestials who had come for the swayamvara.

Requested by the queen of Chedi Kingdom, Damayanti agrees to stay in their palace subject to three conditions that she would not eat any left overs, not wash anyone’s feet, and not speak to men.

Enter the serpent king

King Nala, in the meantime, had entered a thick forest. In the midst of the forest-fire Nala hears a voice repeatedly crying aloud. The voice belonged to the Serpent-king Karkotaka,whosaid, “O King, I am a snake, Karkotaka by name. I deceived the great sage Narada and got cursed. There is no snake in this world equal to me. Please take me in your hands”. Once Nala followed the command, Karkotaka became the size of a thumb. Karkotaka told Nala to take a few steps. As Nala took the tenth step, he was bitten by Karkotaka. Nala’s appearance started changing immediately and he was amazed.

Before we continue this narrative,we shall take a brief look at the Ayurvedic view of snake bites.Not everyone dies of a snake bite.Please note that all snakes are not poisonous. Basically all snakes fall under two categories: poisonous, non-poisonous.

Cobra, Krait and Viper are examples of poisonous snakes. Pythons are non-poisonous.Some varieties of water snakes and some of the coral snakes are non-poisonous. Snakes bite humans in defence. It is also said that persons who commit sins are liable to be bitten by snakes. The bite of Cobra is dangerous as it activates the Vata element (air element)and therefore the poison spreads quickly. Next in the order of danger is the bite of Russell’s Viper and such similar types of snakes which activates the Pitta element (fire element). Kapha element (water element) is activated by the bite of Krait and such similar types of snakes.

Coral snakes are most notable for their red, yellow-white, and black banding. In some regions, the order of the bands distinguishes the non-venomous from the venomous coral snakes, inspiring some folk rhymes like the one quoted below: Red on yellow, kill a fellow;Red on black, friend of Jack. This rhyme may be true for Coral Snakes in North America.Coral snakes use a pair of small fangs fixed in the front of their top jaw to discharge their venom. They feed on smaller snakes,lizards, frogs, birds and rodents. Coral snakes have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting, unlike Vipers, which have retractable fangs and tend to prefer to strike and let go immediately.The broad, triangular head is sometimes used(in North America) to ‘identify’ a venomous snake but there is no single external characteristic that will distinguish venomous from non-venomous species of Snakes.In general,approximately 80% of snakes are non-poisonous, while the remaining 20% are poisonous.

A person will die if bitten on the 5th, 8th or 9th lunar day, New Moon or Full Moon day, when the constellation is Bharani, Kritika, Makha, Ashlesha, Visakha or Moola. Usually no treatment is given to a person bitten on such days as the treatment will prove futile.

The Mongoose is a predator which feeds on snakes. Mongooses mostly feed on  earthworms, lizards, snakes, chicken and rodents. However,the Indian Gray Mongoose  is  well known for their ability to fight and kill snakes particularly the cobras. They are adept at such tasks due to their agility, thick coat, and evolved acetylcholine (neural)  receptors, which render them resistant  to snake venom. Cobra venom when introduced into the blood stream of another animal, blocks the transmission of nerve impulses and signals. Mongoose resist cobra venom, because  they have a special capacity that resists the effect of the venom  from blocking the receptor sites of the neural transmitters.Since we are on the topic of snake bites I thought I should explain why the Mongoose is able to overcome the threat of snakes.

Karkotaka blessed Nala saying “You will not feel any pain on amount of any poison. I changed your form so that you go about unnoticed. Now, you may go to Ayodhya, where you introduce yourself as Vahuka to King Rituparna, who will teach you the nuances of dice game. You will regain your Kingdom”. Further Karkotaka gave Nala a pair of clothes, on wearing them he could regain his original appearance.

Vahuka (who is none other than Nala in disguise) meets King Rituparna and tells him that he is adept in two areas – cooking and equestrian science. Vahuka got the job of superintendent of the stables. He was also given a decent salary.

An emissary from King Bhima comes to the Chedi Kingdom. The appearance of Damayanti was comparable to that of a full Moon at the time of an eclipse caused by Rahu. The emissary noticed a mole in Damayanti’s face, which is an indication of prosperity. The emissary was able to know that she was none other than Damayanti, daughter of King Bhima. Once the truth was revealed, it was understood that the Chedi queen was the sister of Damayanti’s mother. Damayanti was sent back to her parental house in Vidharba with royal escort. Having reached Vidharba Damayanti tells her story to her parents. The King sends his emissaries in search of Nala. The emissaries report that a person resembling King Nala is now employed in the service of King Rituparna in Ayodhya.

Exchange of knowledge

How to bring Nala to Vidarba? A plan is hit upon by Damayanti. She calls a messenger and requests him to tell King Rituparna that Damayanti will hold another swayamvara. Accordingly the message is conveyed to King Rituparna. Rituparna’s charioteer is Vahuka, who is Nala in disguise.

Rituparna says “I intend going to Damayanti’s swayamvara in the course of a single day”. Nala decided to select certain horses, which were lean, of high breed, docile, free from faults, born in Sindhu Kingdom and which could run fast. Rituparna felt that the horses were weak and may not stand the journey. Nala said “Sir, if you suggest some other horses, we can take them. But from my experience, I can tell you, that these horses are the best ones”.Nala’s view prevailed. As they were travelling, the upper garment of the King fell. So, the King suggested that the horses be stopped so that the garment could be picked up. But Nala replied “Sorry, it cannot be recovered we have travelled one yojana (5 miles) from that spot”. Such was the speed of the chariot.

As they were travelling, they saw a Vibhitaki tree which bore lots of fruits. King Rituparna said “The two branches have fifty million leaves and the number of fruits on the tree is 2095. Nala decided to verify the King’s claim. He counted the leaves and fruits and found them to be correct. Rituparna imparted the knowledge of the science of dice and Nala in turn taught equestrian science to King Rituparna.

At this point of time, Kali Purusha left Nala’s body, vomiting the virulent poison of Karkotaka. Kali Purusha, while leaving blessed King Nala saying, “If anyone recites your history, they need have no apprehensions from me” (In other words, persons who recite or listen to Nala’s story will not be affected by Sani Dosha or evil caused by Kali Purusha). Kali Purusha, then entered the Vibhitaki tree. From that day, Vibhitaki became an accursed tree, falling into disrepute.

In traditional Indian medicine, Beleric is known as ‘Bibhitaki’ (Terminalia belerica).In its fruit form it is used in the popular Indian herbal Rasayana treatment Triphala. In Sanskrit it is called vibhīdaka ( विभीदक.).

According to Dymock, Warden, Hooper’sPharmacographia Indica (1890), “This tree, in Sanskrit Vibhita and Vibhitaka (fearless), is avoided by the Hindus of Northern India, who will not sit in its shade, as it is supposed to be inhabited by demons. The pulp of the fruit (Beleric myrobalan) is considered by Hindu physicians to be astringent and laxative, and is prescribed with salt and long pepper in affections of the throat and chest. As a constituent of triphala (three fruits), i.e., emblic, beleric and chebulic myrobalans, it is employed in a great number of diseases, and the kernel is sometimes used as an external application to inflamed parts.”

Perhaps it is this episode which constitutes the basis for the belief that sitting under a Vibhidaki tree is inauspicious and therefore to be avoided.

Part III

In our previous article, we paused our discussion with the exit of Shani Bhagavan from Nala’s life. Before we commence the narrative let us look at a few facts about Saturn’s behaviour in transit.

Transits of Saturn

In Tamilnadu, Saturn’s 7.5 year transit is classified into three rounds.

First round Mangu Sani.

This occurs when 7 1/2 Saturn occurs for the first time. It spoils health and education.

Second round Pongu Sani.
This is considered a fertile or auspicious period, contrary to prevailing views of text books. Auspicious functions like marriage would materialise. One view which probably could be inferred is that the second round is less harmful than the first. Please note that in most cases, first phase of Saturn happens in childhood whereas second round happens in adulthood – so the person is able to overcome hassles better.

Third Round Kungu Sani.
This may, in several instances, prove to be the final Sade-Sathi in a person’s life. Mental worries, agony,mourning arise. In many instances, the person many even die.Out of the 7 1/2 years, Janma Sani is deemed to be the worst. It can also be life threatening. T

When Saturn transits the 8th house, sorrows, fear of accidents, attack through weapons and other dangers are possible. Problems from government arise. The person gets humiliated. Wasteful expenditure will occur. The person will be trapped in litigation . Transfer to alien places is likely. The native is forced to take up menial jobs.

The saying Buddi Karmanu Sarini (One’s mind functions in accordance with past karma) is applicable to Saturn’s transit over inauspicious houses. When the past Karma of a person is bad, the intellect of that person gets corrupted, forcing that person to perform evil deeds. Such deeds lead to losses, dishonour and other undesirable consequences. All such events are foreshadowed by transit of Saturn over inauspicious houses.

With these introductory remarks, let us proceed to discuss the remaining part of the story of Nala and Damayanti.

When King Rituparna with his entourage reached the Vidharba kingdom they were given a cordial reception by King Bhima. Damayanti, sensing that Nala had appeared in disguise as Vahuka deputes a female messenger to pick up a conversation with Vahuka. Vahuka, while talking to the messenger says, “A chaste woman should continue to live in virtue, even when deserted by her husband, especially when the latter undergoes difficulty”.Further he says, “Seeing her husband’s plight, she should not get angry, especially when he is deprived of kingdom, bereft of prosperity, oppressed by hunger and overwhelmed by calamity”. As these remarks of Vahuka were conveyed to Damayanti, she is convinced that Vahuka is King Nala in disguise. Hearing these remarks, she is oppressed with grief.

Damayanti confronts Vahuka with a barrage of questions: “Who, except King Nala could desert his wife in the forest?What is the offence I committed to deserve this?Why should King Nala desert me, especially when I had married him in a Swayamvara in preference to the celestials?Why did King Nala break the vow to protect me which he took at the time of marriage?” King Nala gives a one-line answer to all these queries, “All these wrong actions are not attributable to me – they are due to Kali Purusha”.

King Nala further says, “I have now come here only for your sake. There is no other purpose for my visit. Kali Purusha was with me when all these evil things happened. Fortunately, Kali Purusha has already left me. But I want to ask you a question, “Can any woman, forsaking her loving and devoted husband, choose another man as her husband?”

Damayanti says that remarriage is not in her mind at all. In fact, all this drama was enacted only to bring Nala from Ayodhya to Vidharba. A great king like Rituparna cannot be enticed to come to Vidharba without a proper reason. This whole episode of a ‘Second Swayamvara’ is only a concocted drama to ensure that Nala and Damayanti have a happy reunion.
At this juncture, King Nala remembers the benediction of the serpent King Karkotaka. He puts on the clothes given to him and the moment he wears it, he regains his old form — that of King Nala.With their hearts filled with joy, both Nala and Damayanti decide to spend sometime in the palace of King Bhima.King Rituparna now understood that his charioteer is actually a King. He apologises to Nala in case he had done anything wrong, while in service. Nala replies, “I was happier in your kingdom Ayodhya, than in my own kingdom”. Then King Rituparna left for Ayodhya.

After staying in Vidharba for a month, King Nala re-enters his kingdom with a retinue of sixteen elephants, fifty horses and an infantry comprising six hundred soldiers. Nala challenges Pushkara to a game of dice.Nala gives an alternative suggestion too: In case Pushkara is unwilling to play dice, he could choose to face him in a battle.

This time, Nala decides to offer as stake, not only all his valuables and belongings but also his wife Damayanti. Pushkara is more than happy as winning Damayanti would mean that she would have to wait for him like a celestial Apsara in heaven and that it is his great good fortune to get someone who has the beauty of Damayanti as his companion.Pushkara, this time is worsted in the game of dice and the kingdom is regained by King Nala.

King Nala forgives Pushkara for all that had happened. “All the suffering I underwent is due to Kali Purusha. You are not the real cause. So I forgive you”, says Nala to Pushkara. Nala gives a portion of the kingdom and obedient servants to Pushkara to enable him to lead a happy life.The whole city rejoiced after Nala had taken over as king once again.

Please note that this narrative is in the form of a story told by Sage Bridaswa to the Pandava brothers. Concluding the story the Sage says “Nala suffered the woes all alone but finally regained his prosperity. But I see you,the Pandavas in the forest, along with Lord Krishna. You are also meeting scholars who are well versed in the Vedas. So, there is only little cause for sorrow. The influence of Kali (or Shani Bagwan) is destroyed when one hears the story of Nala besides that of Damayanti, Rituparna and the serpent King Karkotaka”

The Mahabharata itself is a long story and the Nala—Damayanti episode could be said to be a ‘sub– story’. Although we pause at this particular point, the Mahabharata continues, but we now turn our attention to the moral of this story. We shall try to assimilate some of the important suggestions our sages have given us through this story.

Implications of the story and final comments

1. Sriharsha’s Naishada Çaritha ends after the swayamvara. But what we have discussed so far is the entire story of Nala and Damayanti.

2. For Nala’s reversal of fortune, the reason cited is the entry of Kali Purusha owing to the failure to wash his feet after attending the call of nature. Similarly Damayanti had to pay a heavy price for failing to honour the Gods who came to the swayamvara .Wrong karma and divine wrath are harmful. This is why both Nala and Damayanti had to suffer.

3. There is this saying Vivahascha vivadascha samayoreva shobathe” (in debate and in marriage, only two equals can give rise to glory.) It is a glorious sight to see two equally erudite scholars debate; so also marriage between two persons equally good is a delight and will be appreciated by one and all. Here King Nala is a king of wide reputation. Damayanti, Princess of Vidharba is most beautiful among humans and even Gods. Hence the marriage of Nala and Damayanti is extolled in legends like Mahabharata.

4. According to Srimad Bhagavatam, (I–17–38), Kali Purusha is supposed to be present in five places: gambling houses, bars or pubs, places where harlotry is carried on, abattoirs or places of murder and gold stock rooms. It thus turns out that untruth, infatuation, lust, passion and enmity are the abstract qualities over which Kali Purusha has his sway.

According to Bhagwad Gita:“Among punishments I am the rod of chastisement, of those who seek victory, I am morality, of secret things, I am silence, of the wise, I am wisdom (Chap 10, 38). This means the Lord has the authority to chastise wrong doers. So people who have the five above mentioned qualities become liable for punishment. King Nala played the game of dice with Pushkara. This is how he fell a victim to kali Purusha.

5. When Pushkara defeated King Nala, he issued an ordinance that anyone who shows hospitality to Nala would be executed. When Nala defeats Pushkara, he regains his kingdom but Pushkara is asked to demit office without loss of regal splendour. In fact, a portion of the Kingdom is gifted to Pushkara in spite of his defeat. This shows Nala’s benevolence and Pushkara’s mean mindedness. Our Rishis could create myths which foreshadow events in the real world.

In 1976, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto promoted Zia–ul–Haq to the post of Chief of Army Staff. Zia overthrew Bhutto in a bloodless coup d’état on July 5, 1977. Zia eliminated hundreds of political rivals, minorities, journalists and generals opposed to him. On April 4, 1979 Bhutto was hanged to death by Zia’s martial law regime on an alleged murder conspiracy.One can easily draw a parallel between the characters of Pushkara and General Zia-ul-Haq.Zia dealt with Bhutto in ways similar to Pushkara when Nala was ousted.

6. There is an ancient Indian tradition by which a great person cannot be invited as a guest in the absence of a proper occasion. To ensure Nala’s visit to Vidharba, King Rtuparna had to be invited. The “Second Swayamvara” is merely used as a pretext to invite King Rituparna to Vidharba, thereby facilitating Nala’s re-union with Damayanti.

7. In works such as Garuda purana, there are scientific interpretations given to human features. For instance facial hair in women is bad, while absence of facial hair in a man indicates that person may be a crook. In Naishada Charita, we find that the messenger identifies Damayanti through a mole on her face. Here it is explained that the mole explains Damayanti’s prosperity and royal status.

8. The message of Taittiriya Upanishad isSwadhayaya pravachanabhyam na paramathithavyam (Seek and also also impart knowledge – never fail to do both) Here the exchange of knowledge between Nala and Rtuparna is an illustration of this dictum. Knowledge of dice is gained by Nala and Rituparna learnt equestrian science. Knowledge thrives only when imparted and this is a good illustration of the above mentioned dictum.

9. When the time becomes auspicious, one comes across the right people. When time was favorable to Nala, he could defeat Pushkara and regain his Kingdom. But all this was truly achieved on account of his gaining knowledge of dice from Rituparna. So Nala meeting King Rtuparna could be termed an ‘act of God’. Also this underlines the truth of the dictum‘Nothing in this Universe happens by coincidence’.

10. Snakes bite man due to sins of the past. But in this story Karkotaka does a dual job. His biting Nala is due to the effect of Kali Purusha. But purvapunya (merits of earlier births) of King Nala ensured that after biting Nala, Karkotaka also blesses him and also offers guidance for reuniting with Damayanti. So it can be said that when man’s karma is favorable, even a snake will turn out to be an ally.Inscrutable are the ways of destiny.When the caravan was invaded by wild elephants many people who were looking forward to life were killed,while Damayanti who was on the vexed with life,survived.

11. The final benediction offered by Vedavyasa to the reader is this:

“Karkotakasya nagasya damayantya nalasya cha”
“Rtuparnasya rajarse kirttanam Kali nasanam”

Think of the serpent King Karkotaka, of Damayanti and Nala and the Rajarishi
(royal sage) Rituparna and be fee from the shackles of Kali.

This is the final benedictory statement of the story. The message conveyed is that the outcome of human efforts is uncertain; one should not be either overjoyed with success or lose hope in adversity. The assurance given by Maharishi Vyasa is this: “ He who recites the story of Nala repeatedly or will listen to its repetition will never be touched by adversity”. The benefits that accrue to him would be:All his efforts would be crowned with success.He would be blessed with success, fame, progeny (sons and grandsons), pre-eminence among men, health and joy.Such a person would be immune to Shani dosha (or Kali dosha) and therefore will never face adversity.

As words of sages are considered axiomatic and have an intrinsic propensity to come true, I am sure, the avid reader who happens to read the story of Nala and Damayanti in this the three-part presentation in the pages of MODERN ASTROLOGY would be in a position to overcome adversity in their personal lives and also be in a position to guide others to take protection when thwarted by planets in adverse positions.

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