Durgesa Nandini/Book 1/Chapter 5
The traces of the road along which Jagat Singha returned from Vishnupur to Jahanabad, still exist. At some distance to the south of it, is the village of Garmandaran. The women whom Jagat Singha met in the temple, went towards this village. Several ancient forts were situated in Garmandaran, which may probably have owed its name to that circumstance. The river Amodara flowed through it. At one place, it so much deviated from the right line, that two sides of a triangular piece of land were completely surrounded; on the third, rose a rock-cut fort. At the head of this piece of land, and just where the river first entered, rose a stupendous castle from the water, piercing Heaven. The pile was composed entirely of black stone. The strong current laved its two sides. The traveller still sees the massive ruins of this impregnable fortress;—only the lower part now remains, the building having been reduced to a heap of ruins by the destructive ?hand of Time. Over it, the tamarind, the madhabi and various other wild trees and shrubs have formed themselves into a wood, which affords shelter to the snake, the wolf and other ferocious beasts. Several other forts were situated on the other side of the river. These were inhabited by certain wealthy persons belonging to the same family. But our story has no connection with any other besides the first.
When Balin, the Emperor of Delhi, came to conquer Bengal, a soldier named Jayadhar Singha accompanied him. The night on which Balin obtained victory, the soldier performed prodigies of valor for the Imperial cause. In reward of his services, the Emperor gave him a Jaigir in the village of Garmandaran. The descendants of this Jaigirdar grew powerful, constructed forts at their own pleasure, and bade defiance to the ruler of Bengal. In 998 of the Bengali era, the castle which I have described in detail was inhabited by Virendra Singha, a descendant of Jayadhar Singha.
In his young days, Virendra was not on good terms with his father. He was of a haughty and impatient temperament, and seldom or never acted up to the wishes of his parent. Hence quarrel and altercation frequently ensued between the father and the son. The old land-holder fixed his choice on the daughter of a neighbour, also a land-holder and belonging to the same caste. The father of the girl had no son, so that by this alliance, Virendra could in all probability increase his fortunes. The bride too was beautiful. The match was therefore in every way highly acceptable in the eyes of the old man, and he accordingly made preparations for the coming ceremony. But instead of caring for all this, Virendra clandestinely married the daughter of a poor and forlorn widow who lived in the neighbourhood. When intelligence of this mesalliance reached the ears of the land-holder, he drove out his son in a fit of rage. Driven out from his father's house, the young man set out for Delhi with the intention of entering the army. His spouse was then in the family way, and he could not take her with him; she remained in her mother's cottage.
Now, when his son had gone away, the old land-holder began to lament over the separation, and became a prey to remorse. He assiduously tried every means to get news of his child;— but in rain. Failing in his endeavours, he welcomed his daughter-in-law with open arms, and brought her from the house of her poor mother. In time, the wife of Virendra Singha, gave birth to a daughter, and died after a few days.
On arriving at Delhi, Virendra embraced the military profession and entered the Rajput army of the Emperor. In a short time, he rose to a high rank through his abilities. After having in several years acquired wealth and distinction, he received the tidings of his father's demise. Considering it further unnecessary to remain in a distant land, or to serve, he returned home. He brought many persons with him from Delhi—among whom were a maid servant and an ascetic. In the following story we shall have to do with these two only. The maid-servant was called Bimala, the name of the ascetic was Abhiram Swami.
We have before called Bimala a maid-servant, we shall also do so now. The report ran that she was the paid servant of Virendra. She managed the house-hold affairs, and in particular tended Virendra's daughter,—no other reason was visible for her stay in the castle. I am therefore obliged to call her a maid-servant. But for all this, no signs were visible in her of the ?maid-servant. She was respected by the inmates as a house-wife; all of them rendered obedience to her. From her countenance, she appeared to have been surpassingly fair in her youth—a ray of that beauty still lingered, like the setting moon in the 'sweet hour of prime.' Gajapati Vidyadiggaja, a disciple of Abhiram Swami, was an inmate of the castle. Whatever his attainments in Rhetoric, he had an inordinate thirst to display his wit and to pass for a wag. "The goodly maid-servant," he used to say, seeing Bimala, "is like a pail of clarified butter: as love's fire is cooling more and more, her frame is getting more and more compact." Here it should be remarked that from the day when he happened to make this display of his wit, Bimala nick-named him "Rasikdas Swami" (illustrious bond-slave of gallantry). Form and bearing apart, Bimala's civility and conversation were such as could by no means be expected from an ordinary maid-servant. Many people said that for a long time she was an inmate of the Emperor's Zenana. Whether the report was true or false, Bimala alone could say; but she was never known to allude to the subject.
Was Bimala a widow? Who knows? She wore ornaments, did not fast like widows, and in other ways behaved like a woman in wife-hood.
That she cherished Tilottama, the Chieftain's Daughter, with real affection, her conduct in the temple has clearly showed. Tilottama returned her love. The other follower of Virendra Singha, Abhiram Swami, did not always remain in the fortress. He often travelled, spending a month or two in Garmandaran, a month or two on the journey. The inmates and other people believed him to be Virendra Singha's spiritual guide—and very truly, to all appearance, considering the homage Virendra paid him. Nay, he did not transact any of his domestic affairs, without previously consulting Abhiram Swami,—and the advice given by his spiritual guide was almost always successful. The fact was that Abhiram Swami was a man of experience and possessed an acute intellect. Moreover, by virtue of his austerities, he had learnt to control his passions in almost all worldly transactions: when required, he could master his passion and go through the business calmly. Under such circumstances, what wonder that his advice would be more effectual than the schemes of the impatient and haughty Virendra Singha?
Besides Bimala and Abhiram Swami, a maid-servant, named Ashmani, had come with Virendra Singha.
- Hindu widows fast on the eleventh day of the new and the eleventh day of the full moon, and do not wear ornaments.