Royal journey to hermitage
I reached hermitage quite early today. I had a purpose behind today’s journey, hence did not waste time by watching the lustrous autumn forest, happy gurgling springs and attentive students devoted to the good of the world. I am drawn to the elegant girl – splendid in a piece of tree-bark covering half of her body. I drenched myself in the dream of her lustrous bare legs while entering the Kanva’s territory. Pity me! I didn’t know meeting two young girls at the gate welcoming me could be catastrophic!
One brought me water to wash my feet, another asked for my pardon for not knowing my identity previous day and forgetting their duties to the most precious guest of the land.
“O master of the land, pardon the ignorant hermitage-dwellers for failing to perform the sacred duties of the host.” – said the sweet voiced girl; probably the younger one. I smiled with a nod. The older one continued, “Great men have large heart that forgives big mistakes committed by insignificant people. Please show your forgiveness by giving chance to the poor hermitage dwellers to serve you afternoon meal today.”
“Sure!” I assured them, “The hermitage of the great sage Kanva is the pride of King Dusmanta’s kingdom. The king finds himself fortunate to be invited for afternoon meal with the wise sages here.”
And it took no time for me to understand what a blunder I have done. These are no petty young country girls but awfully cunning Brahmin offsprings raised by the knowledgeable sages. They are trained to manage both household works as well as hospitality. Even after I had expressed my desire to roam around alone for some time, they continued accompanying me with the pretext of showing me around with such a polite gesture that I could not free myself from their grasp. They showed me the large fruit trees and medicinal plants they are cultivating here and explained each of their use and healing properties. They took me to their large dairy that is a home for few hundred healthy and productive cattle and described how they arrange fodder for those. They showed me jungle animals – dozens of deer, peacocks, few domesticated cheetah along with cats and several other types of birds and informed me how these find shelter in the hermitage during my hunter’s ransacking the forest. I had to admit my fault and promise not to come for a hunting game in nearby forests again. They took me for a walk by the quiet flowing river Malini to heal my heart tormented by the sight of poor animals I tortured. (while I was disappointed understanding the difficulty to get a few more shiny leopard and deer skins from here in future). They also showed me the huts where the sages and their students stay, the seats where meditate and finally, they took me to the sages for a spiritual discussion. Only if I had the power to curse Brahmins!
As the sun rose to the middle of the sky, we finished our spiritual discussion on cosmic energy and its manifestation on the earth, power of contemplation and penance and the like. Then it was time to bath and meal. I enjoyed the simple and tasty meal of rice cakes, lentil soup, ghee and thickened milk presented with great care and affection. Still not seeing my divine beauty around frustrated me.
Spoiling more than half of my day, the girls left me in this small yard surrounded by flower garden for rest where I am sitting now. The sun is already moving towards the western sky. Within a short time, he will disappear. I start pondering what other option I may have to meet my dream.
And she appears opening the door of a small thatched hut on one corner I failed to notice!
She looks surprised seeing an unfamiliar person near her cottage. But within moments, the expression of surprise turned to curiosity. Like a curious deer attracted by the pretentious hunter, she comes towards me.
I gaze at her adept dancer-like smooth movement, her perfect oval face, large curious eyes, a sharp yet petite nose, red lips resembling the cupid’s bow, inviting cleavage behind the tree-bark covering her full-breasts, flawless golden skin, bare thin waist – oh no! I should not stare below her waist like this revealing my stubborn hunger for her body. I focus my eyes on her face as she stops near me. She is still curious but shows little discomfort now. Her discomfort gives me hope. My heart starts beating faster. I should not stay here tonight in the absence of Kanva, the owner of the hermitage. But now I am determined to come back. I look at her eyes. Oh, what a gentle but determined voice she possesses. She asks, “How could this poor hermitage serve you, dear guest! Hope you had a look of our modest abode?
My awestruck voice somehow utters, “I have come to pay my respects to the venerated sages here. Tell me, amiable lady, where has your illustrious father gone?
She looks at my eyes while informing me politely, “My illustrious father is gone to another hermitage run by one of his students for a philosophical discussion. He is supposed to come back within a few days. You may wait here for a couple of days and you will meet him when he arrives.”
I know I will have to talk to her to gain the innocent one’s trust first, hence continue murmuring, “O beautiful one. I king Dusmanta, the ruler of the kingdom is glad having opportunity to be with you. Who are you truly, beautiful lady? The blessed sage is universally honored for decades of celibate austerity and following rigorous vow of withdrawal from senses through meditation. Dharma himself may wander away from his path but an ascetic of rigid vows such as sage Kanva can never fall down to sensory matters. I have never seen complexion fairer than yours; cannot imagine you to be born as his daughter. Would you please clarify my sincere doubt that immediately needs to be dispelled?”
The girl brought up by spiritual truth-seekers does not hesitate telling the truth, “Then listen My King, what I have learnt regarding my birth from the sage Kanva himself – how I became the daughter of the venerable sage.”
“Yes, tell me why gifted with such beauty and qualities, you are staying in these dense forest. Form where have you come? My charming lady, you have deeply touched my heart. I crave to learn all about you; please tell me all.” – I show eagerness to learn it all from her.
She continues telling the story of that old austerity-oriented Biswamitra, whose penances alarmed Indra, the king of the celestials, how fear of being ousted from the high seat in heaven made Indra meet Menaka, the best of celestial Apsaras with a request for a service, how alarmed Menaka first expressed her doubt about tempting the mighty ascetic possessing great spiritual power and finally agreed to support Indra to retain his seat by luring the sage with her beauty, youth, articulation, arts and smile. Without any faltering, my charming lady goes on telling how her voluptuous mother engaged in sensual sport of her dazzling beauty baring half her body being played by the breeze, how her sagacious father war aroused seeing her gorgeous form and invited intimacy, to which her mother responded. Yes her mother was separated from her father after her conceiving through their conjugal bliss of many years. I hear her repeating the same story Botu had told me – Menaka left her as new-born on the bank of the river Malini and went away, never to look back. An entire night she was protected by scores of vultures only to be rescued next day by the Kanva the hermit. He named her Sakuntala deciding to adopt her as his daughter.
Sakuntala concludes her story telling, “This is how I became the daughter of the celibate hermit Kanva. Yes, I am proud daughter of the virtuous, wise and illustrious ascetic.” I see a mysterious smile on her lotus-petal lips and tear in her eyes.
The sun is going down leaving his spreading his red robe in the western sky. This is time for me to leave. I promise her to come back soon. I know how painful it has been for her to tell her life story to an unknown person. Her heavy heart needs rest before being exposed to my lustrous game of love.
I tell her, “Your speech is as beautiful as your flawless form. It pierces my heart even more intensely now. Give me some time to come back to you again and express my feelings as well. Allow me to meet you again day after tomorrow.”
She nods without a word. The same mysterious smile appears on her curved lip again as she bows before me gracefully with folded hands, bending half of her body forward. I bid adieu for the day.
To be cont.