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NALA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology]

1. King of Nishadha and husband of Damayanti. The story of Nala and Damayanti is one of the episodes of the Mahabharata, and is well known from having been translated into Latin by Bopp and into English verse by Dean Milman.

Damayanti was the only daughter of Bhima, king of Vidarbha (Birar), and was very lovely and accomplished. Nala was brave and handsome, virtuous, and learned in the Vedas, skilled in arms and in the management of horses, but addicted to the vice of gambling. They loved each other upon the mere fame of their respective virtues and beauty, and Damayanti pined for the presence of her unknown lover.

Bhima determined that his daughter should hold a swayamvara. Rajas flocked to it in crowds, and among them Nala. Four gods, Indra, Agni, Varuna, and Yama, also attended. Nala met them on the way, and reverently promised to do their will. They bade him enter the palace and inform Damayanti that they would present themselves among the candidates, and that she must choose one of them. Nala reluctantly performed his task, but his presence perfected his conquest, and the maiden announced her resolve to pay due homage to the gods, but to choose him for her lord. Each of her four gods assumed the form of Nala, but the lover's eye distinguished the real one, and she made her choice.

They married and lived for some time in great happiness, a son and a daughter, named Indrasena and Indrasena, being born to them.

Kali, a personification of the Kali or iron age, arrived too late for the swayamvara. He resolved to be revenged, and he employed his peculiar powers to ruin Nala through his love of gambling. At his instigation, Pushkara, Nala's younger brother, proposed a game of dice. Kali charmed the dice, and Nala went on losing; but he was infatuatated; the entreaties of friends and ministers, wife and children, were of no avail; he went on till he had lost his all, even to his clothes.

His rival Pushkara became king, and proclaimed that no one was to give food or shelter to Nala, so the ruined monarch wandered forth into the forest with his wife, and suffered great privations. Some birds flew away with his only garment. He resolved to abandon his wife in the hope that she would return to her father's court, so he divided her sole remaining garment while she slept and left her.

Thus left alone, Damayanti wandered about in great distress. She did not go home, but she at length found service and protection with the princess of Chedi.

Nala fell in with the king of serpents, who was under a curse from which Nala was to deliver him. The serpent bit Nala, and told him that the poison should work upon him till the evil spirit was gone out of him, and that he should then be restored to all he loved. Through the effects of the bite he was transformed into a misshapen dwarf.

In this form he entered the service of Rituparna, king of Ayodhya, as a trainer of horses and an accomplished cook, under the name of Bahuka.

Damayanti was discovered and conducted to her father's home, where she found her children. Great search was made for Nala, but in vain, for no one knew him in his altered form. One Brahman, however, suspected him, and informed Damayanti. She resolved to test his feelings by announcing her intention of holding a second swayamvara.

King Rituparna determined to attend, and took Nala with him as driver of his chariot. Rituparna was skilled in numbers and the rules of chances. On their journey he gave a wonderful proof of this, and he instructed Nala in the science. When Nala had acquired this knowledge the evil spirit went out of him, but still he retained his deformity.

Damayanti half penetrated his disguise, and was at length convinced that he was her husband by the flavour of a dish which he had cooked. They met, and, after some loving reproaches and the interference of the gods, they became reconciled, and Naha resumed his form.

He again played with Pushkara, and staked his wife against the kingdom. Profiting by the knowledge he had obtained from Rituparna, he won back all and again became king. Pushkara then humbled himself, and Nala not only forgave him, but sent him home to his own city enriched with many gifts.

The text of this poem has been often printed, and there are translations in various languages.

2. A monkey chief, said to be a son of Viswakarma. According to the Ramayana, he had the power of making stones float in water. He was in Rama's army and built the bridge of stone called Ramasetu, or Nalasetu, from the continent to Ceylon, over which Rama passed with his army.

BAHUKA [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] The name of Nala when he was transformed into a dwarf.

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