Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 11

 

CHAPTER XI.

ASHMANI'S EMBASSY.


All this while, Ashmani had been expecting Bimala outside, according to her sign. On coming out, Bimala said to her,

"Ashman, I have some very private word with you."

"From your dress," replied the maid-servant, "I gathered that something most important was going to take place to-day."

"To-day I go very far on some important errand," said Bimala. "I can't however go alone at night, nor can I safely take any other person. So, you shall have to accompany me."

"Where are you going?"—enquired Ashmani.

"Ashmani," said Bimala, "you were not in the habit of enquiring so much in days of old."

Ashmani was a little abashed.

"Then wait a bit," replied she. "I'll go and do some household duties, and then come back."

"One word more," said Bimala. "Suppose that to-day you meet with some one of old days, will he be able to recognise you?"

"How's that?" asked Ashmani in surprise.

"Suppose" continued Bimala, "that you meet with Prince Jagat Singha, eh?"

Ashmani remained silent for a long while, and then said in an agitated voice,

"Shall I live to see such a day!"

"You may," said Bimala.

"The Prince will certainly recognise me."

"Then you shall not go"—said Bimala. "But then, whom shall I take? I can't go alone."

"How do I long to see the Prince!" Said Ashmani.

"Suppress your desire as best you can"—returned Bimala. "But what am I to do now?"

Bimala began to think. All of a sudden, Ashmani began to laugh in her sleeve.

"Ill betide thee!" said Bimala. "Why are you laughing without rhyme or reason?"

"A thought has struck me," answered Ashmani. "What if my darling Diggaja goes with you?"

?"Ah! well said," replied Bimala joyfully. "I'll take that gallant with me."

"Gracious me! but I was jesting," said Ashmani in surprise.

"No joke," replied Bimala. "I don't mistrust the numskull. Night and day are all one to the blind man. The Brahmin will understand nothing, and I have no misgivings about him. But then, he won't consent to go."

"Leave that to me," said Ashmani laughing. "I'll bring him. Please wait a little at the gate."

Thereupon, she directed her steps towards a cottage within the castle.

Gajapati Vidyadiggaja, the disciple of Abhiram Swami, has already been introduced to the gentle reader. He has also been enlightened as to why Bimala called him by the cognomen of Rasik Das Swami (illustrious bond-slave of gallantry). This personage was the occupant of the cottage. He was about nine feet in altitude—in breadth, scarcely so much as one foot. His legs, from the loins to the toe, measured about six feet. In breadth they resembled two slender sticks. His color 'held divided empire' with ink; perhaps Agni[1] had sat down to devour his legs, taking them for very sticks, but had found them so utterly devoid of sap, that he had left them in the shape of brands. Owing to his great height, the worthy tended to be double. Among all his members, the nose held the most prominent place—the general lack of flesh was more than made up there. His goodly crown was shaven like that of an Uriya palankeen bearer. The new-grown hairs were very short, and pierced like so many needles. 'The pomp and circumstance' of the tilaka[2] on his forehead was something splendid.

He had not received the title of Gajapati Vidyadiggaja for nothing. His intellect was unusually acute. In his childhood, he had commenced upon Sanskrit grammar in a chatuspati.[3] In not more than seven months and a half, he got by rote the rule "सहर्णेर्घ,[4]" both text and exposition. What, through the kindness of the Bhattacharjya, and what, through the noise and bustle of the class, he read on for ten and five years, and finished the noun affair. Then before entering upon the other affair, "Let me see what the affair is," said the teacher to himself. He then asked his pupil, "Say, child, what do you get, if the termination, अम् comes after the base, राम?" After much exercise of thought, the pupil said, "रामाम्भ."[5] "Child," said the teacher, "now you may go back to your home. Your education with me has been finished. There's no more learning in my stock to bestow on you."

"I have only one word to say," replied the pupil haughtily. "My title?"

"My child," said the teacher, "you have acquired such uncommon learning, that some novel title must be conferred upon you. Accept then the title of Vidyadiggaja."

Diggaja humbly bowed at his feet in perfect self-complacency, and went home.

"I have now mastered grammar," thought he. "Now I must study Law a little. I have heard that Abhiram Swami is a great scholar. Who is there under the sun save him to teach me? To him then I will go."

With this determination, he became an inmate of the castle. Abhiram Swami taught a good many pupils, and was not the man to set his face against any one;—so that whether Diggaja learned any thing or not, he did not deny him his teaching.

The holy Gajapati was not only a grammarian and a lawyer, but he had a touch also of the rhetorician and the wit; for instance, 'the pail of clarified butter.' His shafts were mainly directed against Ashmani; and there was a profound reason for this. "The advent of such a one as I," thought he "is solely for dalliance. This is my fair Vrindaban; Ashmani is my Radhika."[6] Ashmani was also a votary of Mirth; and her Madan-Mohan[7] served but as a substitute for a baboon. Bimala, also upon the scent, occasionally came to make the baboon dance? "Lo! this is my Chandravali",[8] said Diggaja to himself. "And why shouldn't this be, considering what a d-d 'pail of clarified butter' I have discharged? 'Tis a mercy Bimala dosn't know it's a borrowed feather."

To-day great joy awaits Madhava's[9] luck—to-day Vrikabhanu's daughter is hieing herself to the grove-embosomed cottage.

 

 

  1. The God of fire.
  2. Each religions sect of the Hindus paint their forehead and sometimes their arms and chest with certain marks made with colored earths or unguents, distinctive of the class. The tilaka resembles an isosceles triangle with its surface filled in. The Krishnavites paint it on their forehead.
  3. Sanskrit educational institutions, where not only instruction is given gratis, but where the pupils are fed at the expense of the teacher. The latter maintains himself solely by voluntary donations given by rich folks, on occasions of religious ceremonies.
  4. This is the first text about the combination of words, in Mugdhabodha Vyakarana, a standard Sanskrit grammar.
  5. The correct form is रामं.
  6. Krishna, one of the ten Incarnations of Vishnu—the Preserver of the universe, is, practically, the Cupid of the Hindus. His flirtations with the milk-maids of Vrindaban have been immortalized by the Sanskrit Muse; and the story of them is literally a 'house-hold word' in men's mouths. His principal lady-love was Radhika, the daughter of Vrikabhanu. From a spiritual point of view, Krishna may be considered as the Spirit of love, and Radhika, the impersonation of all loveliness and grace.
  7. One of the thousand and one designations of Krishna;—literally, it means, he whose beauty fascinates Madan, the Hindu Cupid.
  8. One of the sixteen thousand paramours of Krishna and a principal rival of Radhika.
  9. Another name of Krishna.