Not without a reason do we enumerate each chapter of these pages as an uchcHvAsa, a warm breath let out reluctantly when it became unbearable. But then who has not his own parcel of misfortunes and baggage of sorrows to bear upon his shoulders as we have on ours? We entertain no desire of letting the sympathetic reader carry any of our load for us and get encumbered with even a tiny portion of our tragedies; indeed only some pleasing, some wondrous, maybe some curious memories of ours we intend to invite him for partaking from the otherwise worthless story of our life; and in this if we occasionally slip, the reader of these leafs must be generous in pardoning his narrator.
The memory of that fortunate day is still quite vivid in our now otherwise hazy mind, when wandering all over bhAratavarSha without any planned itinerary or constant fellow travellers, from one wonderful country to the next, yesterday in that janapada and today in this, picking a trick or two here or learning a trade there, at one time serving trifles of a tyrant danseuse and at other time assisting a kind-hearted merchant, now painted in face like a wandering kAlamukha from karNATa country and now dressed for pretending to be a paurANika reteller from va~Nga, thus in summary flying like a fallen leaf whither the wind of fate might carry it, we had found ourselves on the outskirts of the famed metropolis of sthANvIshvara, also called thAnesara in prAkR^ita tongue.
And no mean welcome waited upon us! As we climbed up the sprawling rAjapatha which seemed from a distance raised like the back of the massive turtles that we had seen on the sea shores of the utkala country, the city seemed to us to be bustling with some celebration, the pleasing hum of, as it seemed, hundreds of mR^ida~Nga-s and bherI-s coming to us from afar but steadily growing with our hypnotic eager pace.
A grand procession it was, and colourful. As far as one’s glance could reach from behind the shoulders of the tall onlookers, (we must say that the men of this country are quite tall), one’s eyes only met as if a tide of beautifully clad pretty ladies slowly marching, dancingly and playfully. So large was the entourage itself of these women that surrounded the tall royal shivikA-s carrying the royal family, that you could not get even a distant glance at the royals. From far if the beats of mR^ida~Nga-s and bherI-s incited you, here they were subdued by the rhythmic and teasing symphony that their peers made: paTaha, kAhala, veNu, shaMkha, vINA and who knows how many other instruments which I would not even be able to name!
The colourfully dressed women marching, would raise their arms and in perfect synchrony make them subtly fall, and as they did that their bejewelled bangles and heavy anklets with countless tiny bells would raise such a magical rattle that stood out even in that riot of sounds! The movement of their palms coming down was so delicate as if they seemed to be plucking some AkAsha-kusuma-s from a galaxy! Nay, to us they themselves seemed like some divine flowers fallen down from the suraloka, for they would laughingly also throw in air, now and then, sweet smelling colours, which mixed with their perspiration had so painted their faces and bodies! The locks of their hair had all become pink and yellow and green!
Then there was in the front a large troupe of dancers, ever smiling through their beautiful faces and singing in their melodious voice. When they turned and paused on beats in striking graceful poses, we still remember how their tall kesha-latA would curl up to embrace them and gently stroke past their breasts like an expert lover! To the then young heart of ours these martyaloka-apsarA-s seemed like skillful and confident generals of an invading army marching under madanadeva himself who had set out on conquering some distant lands!
But we later learnt from a fellow onlooker, a curd seller, that the procession was to go towards the mArttaNDa temple. mahArAjAdhirAja shrI harShavardhana deva had been blessed with a nephew, and on that day was to be held the nAmakaraNa saMskAra of the infant.
Ah! blessed be the prince, we prayed in our heart! At least there was someone whose birth was so celebrated with delight. We were reminded of our own childhood, spent without the love and care of a mother and as a burden to our karmavIra father, who had heavier duties to detain him from smiling at his boy, smelling his hair or kissing his forehead. And still, we did not complain, nor do we today, for whatever little was noble or good in us, it is because of the kR^ititva and blessings of our aged pitAshrI, who left us alone and orphaned when we were thirteen or fourteen.
Even in this Ananda-kolAhala, our heart shed a tear silently. We looked skywards, and thought our pitR^i-pitAmaha-gaNa were also crying with us: where our ‘yashoMshu-shuklI-kR^ita-saptaviShTara’ vaMsha, and where this tail-less, run-away, unfortunate baNDa, whose worth was less than that even of the leash with which he was tied! O dhariNIdevI, our heart ached, would you not give us escape and let this unfortunate child of yours hide in your bosom?
(based on the immortal novel by AchArya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi)