69. The Hunt of Dushyanta

69. The Hunt of Dushyanta

“Janamejaya said, ‘I desire to hear from you about the birth and life of the high-souled Bharata and of the origin of Shakuntala. O holy one (Rishi Vaishampaayana), I also desire to hear all about Dushyanta — that lion among men — and how the hero (Veera in Sanskrit) obtained Shakuntala. O knower of truth and the first of all intelligent men (Rishi Vaishampaayana), it is your duty to tell me everything.’

“Vaishampaayana said, ‘Once on a time (king Dushyanta) of mighty arms, accompanied by a large force, went into the forest. He took with him hundreds of horses and elephants. The force that accompanied the monarch was of four kinds (foot-soldiers, chariot-warriors, cavalry, and elephants) — heroes armed with swords and arrows and bearing in their hands maces (Gada in Hindi) and stout clubs. Surrounded by hundreds of warriors with lances and spears in their hands, the monarch (Dushyanta) set out on his journey.

“With the lion-like roars of the warriors and the notes of conchs (Shankha in Sanskrit) and sound of drums, with the rattle of the chariot-wheels and shrieks of huge elephants, all mingling with the neighing of horses and the clash of weapons of the variously armed attendants in diverse dresses, there arose a deafening tumult while the king was on his march. Ladies gifted with great beauty saw from the terraces of goodly mansions that heroic monarch, the achiever of his own fame. The ladies saw that he was like to Shakra (Lord Indra), the slayer of his enemies, capable of repulsing the elephants of enemies. They believed that he was the wielder of Vajra (Lord Indra) Himself.

“They said, ‘This is that tiger among men who in battle is equal to the Vasus in skills, and in consequence of the might of whose arms no enemies are left.’ Saying this, the ladies from affection pleased the monarch (Dushyanta) by showering flowers on his head. Followed by foremost of Brahmanas uttering blessings all the way, the king (Dushyanta) in great gladness of heart went towards the forest, eager for slaying the deer. Many Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras, followed the monarch who was like to the king of Devas (Lord Indra) seated on the back of a proud elephant.

“The citizens and other classes followed the monarch for some distance. They at last refrained from going farther at the command of the king. The king, then, ascending his chariot of winged speed, filled the whole earth and the heavens, with the rattle of his chariot wheels. As he went, he saw around him a forest like to Nandana itself (the celestial garden). It was full of Vilwa, Arka, Khadira (catechu), Kapittha (wood-apple) and Dhava trees. He saw that the soil was uneven and scattered over with blocks of stone loosened from the neighbouring cliffs. He saw that it was without water and without human beings and lay extended for many Yojanas around. It was full of deer, and lions, and other terrible beasts of prey.

“King Dushanta, that tiger among men, assisted by his followers and the warriors in his army, agitated that forest, killing numerous animals. Dushyanta, piercing them with his arrows, felled numerous tigers that were within shooting range. The king wounded many that were too distant, and killed many that were too near with his heavy sword. That foremost of all wielders of arrows (Dushyanta) killed many by hurling his arrows at them. Well-familiar with the art of whirling the mace (Gada in Hindi), the king of immeasurable skills fearlessly wandered over the forest. The king roamed about, killing the resident of den of the wilderness sometimes with his sword and sometimes by fast-descending blows of his mace and heavy club.

“When the forest was so disturbed by the king (Dushyanta) possessed of wonderful energy and by the warriors in his army delighting in warlike sports, the lions began to desert it in numbers. Herds of animals deprived of their leaders, from fear and anxiety began to utter loud cries as they fled in all directions. Tired with running, they began to fall down on all sides, unable to quench their thirst, having reached river-beds that were perfectly dry. Many so falling were eaten up by the hungry warriors. While others were eaten up after having been duly quartered and roasted in fires lit up by them. Many strong elephants, maddened with the wounds they received and alarmed beyond measure, fled with trunks raised on high. Those wild elephants, betraying the usual symptoms of alarm by urinating and ejecting the contents of their stomachs and vomiting blood in large quantities, trampled, as they ran, many warriors to death. That forest which had been full of animals, was by the king with his bands of followers and with sharp weapons soon made devoid of lions and tigers and other monarchs of the wilderness.’”



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