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Nala Damayanti


Nala was the king of Nishadha Kingdom. He was very dharmic and everybody praised him for his good qualities. Once he came to know about the beautiful Damayanti, daughter of Vidarbha king Bhima from a Hamsa. Hamsa also informed Damayanti of the noble king Nala. When the king of Vidharba chose a svayamvara for his daughter Damayanti, she obviously chose Nala as husband in preference to even the gods who came to marry her.

All the gods left the place praising the qualities of Nala and blessing the couple. But the personification of evilness called as Kali vowed to divert Nala from the path of Dharma (righteousness or virtue) and separate Nala and Damayanti. Such was the purity of Nala that it took several years for Kali to find a small fault in him and bring him under the influence of evil.

There was a practice in royal family to play dice to improve reasoning ability. Kali found Nala is mad about the play and thus got chance to deviate him from Dharma. Nala once played dice or gambling with his brother Pushkara and lost all his wealth and the kingdom to Pushkara. Pushkara became king, and proclaimed that no one was to give food or shelter to Nala, so Nala wandered forth into the forest with his wife, and suffered great privations. Some birds flew away with his only garment. He resolved to abandon his wife in the hope that she would return to her father's court, so he divided her sole remaining garment while she slept and left her.

Thus left alone, Damayanti wandered about in great distress. She did not go home, but she at length found service and protection with the princess of Chedi.

Nala fell in with the king of serpents, who was under a curse from which Nala was to deliver him. The serpent bit Nala, and told him that the poison should work upon him till the evil spirit was gone out of him, and that he should then be restored to all he loved. Through the effects of the bite he was transformed into a misshapen dwarf.

In this form he entered the service of Rituparna, king of Ayodhya, as a trainer of horses and an accomplished cook, under the name of Bahuka.

Damayanti was discovered and conducted to her father's home, where she found her children. Great search was made for Nala, but in vain, for no one knew him in his altered form. One Brahmin, however, suspected him, and informed Damayanti. She resolved to test his feelings by announcing her intention of holding a second swayamvara

King Rituparna determined to attend, and took Nala with him as sarathi of his chariot. Rituparna was skilled in numbers and the rules of chances. On their journey he gave a wonderful lessons on probability to Nala, and Nala easy mastered the science. When Nala had acquired this knowledge the evil spirit Kali went out of him, but still he retained his deformity.

Damayanti half penetrated his disguise, and was at length convinced that he was her husband by the flavor of a dish which he had cooked. They met, and, after some loving reproaches and the interference of the gods, they became reconciled, and Naha resumed his form.

He again played with Pushkara, and staked his wife against the kingdom. Profiting by the knowledge he had obtained from Rituparna, he won back all and again became king. Pushkara then humbled himself, and Nala not only forgave him, but sent him home to his own city enriched with many gifts.

The very utterance of the name of Nala is said to cleanse us of the evil effects of Kali.

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