“I admire you for your intuition, My king! She is not the daughter of a Brahmin mother.” – Botu is talking in a deep voice today, I notice.

“I do not think her mother is slave girl either. Do not give me wrong information.” – I want to talk in a lighter mood.

“No, she was a nymph.” – My old friend’s voice remains sad as it is. I choose not to interrupt, even if he is going to make the story a monotonous one.

“She is daughter of the venerable Biswamitra.”  The gravity of the information shudders me from inside. Biswamitra the esteemed sage of the era is reputed not only for his great wisdom but also for devastating anger. He is the seer whose vision captured the Gayatri, the mother of the hymns in the Vedas. He is the seer of the third Mandala of Rigvedas – the hymns those reveal the finest of wisdom of our time, hymns those will inspire many future generations. Biswamitra the mentor of many kings was born as Kaushika, the scion of Amavasu dyanasty. Even though born in the warrior clan, he performed austerities with an aspiration to challenge the best Brahmin, Basishtha. He attained immense power pleasing Lord Siva. He once performed austerities to earn the same spiritual power with Bashistha, a Brahmarishi with divine qualities. If this girl is his daughter then he may destroy me if he dislikes my approaching her daughter. I do not count this a comfortable affair any longer.

Botu somehow understands my discomfort; tells, “Do not worry. The sage has left her forever.”

“Tell me – why did he left his daughter?” – I am curious.

“Biswamita sought to attain the same spiritual power as Bashistha; hence undertook a fierce penance for one thousand years after which the all-powerful Brahma would make him a royal sage. You know how insecure Indra the king of paradise feels in such cases. As the smoke of the auspicious fire lit by Biswamitra reached paradise, the terrorizing thought that Biswamitra would soon claim the royal throne of the paradise overwhelmed him. He called all the gods to discuss the issue with them. Unable to find out an option, the trembling Indra knocked the door of the heavenly dancer Menaka. He praised her beauty at first. Mentioning her commendable qualities that would easily attract a man from all kinds of high origins, he requested to save him and his throne – “I am threatened by the penance of Biswamitra. Please find an option to restrain him” was his only prayer to her that day. Menaka was no less afraid of Biswamitra’s anger. She requested the king with folded hands not to send her for that difficult task. How could she, a fragile woman disturb the penance of a great sage whose anger and strength of will was well-known on the earth? None of the universe could imagine annoying the mighty warrior who has the power to start a new penance after killing Bashistha’s hundred sons was. After all he was a sage who had power to create any disease and cure it instantly. Who would dare deceiving a sage who has supremacy to create a river tributary name Koushiki? Who would look at the eyes of the pious sage whose eyes accumulate the valour of both the sun and the moon? She warned him that such an activity could well place her along with Indra in peril. But once Indra is scared, he indulges into scarier options. Menaka had to go to restrain Biswamitra at his behest. The god Kama and the Bayu the god of wind went along to help her.”

“Three of them reached the mountain Hemanta, found the sage mediating sitting beside a large fire. All of them were trembling in fear inside, but Menaka gathered courage to adorn herself in exclusive cloths and jewelry to catch the sage’s attention. As she went closer to the sage in pretext of plucking flowers in the mountain, the wind blew the fine silk cloth uncovering part of her fascinating beauty. Menaka pretended to catch the cloth while cursing the wind. But the sage could not resist looking at the exquisite beauty in the meantime as Kama threw all his five arrows to him creating a mysterious wave of love. The sage embraced the beautiful Menaka. He engaged himself in enjoying a life of worldly love and elegant lust with her for next ten years; thus forgot his penance and Indra’s throne was saved.”

“One evening the sage wanted to worship gods. He asked Menaka to fetch him some water. Menaka mockingly told him that she was happy to see the man remembering gods. That brought the sage into senses – he remembered his once taken vows. Own distraction made him angry. And seeing his angry face, Menaka ran away in fear of his curse. She was expecting by that time; gave birth to the sage’s daughter in the forest and went back to paradise.

The baby was left in the forest alone by her mother. But kindness of nature saved her. Forest animals did not attack her. Birds surrounded her to protect her. The Hermit Kanva found her in the vicinity of his hermitage next morning. He picked her up, brought her to own hermitage and placed her under care of his sister. He raised her like own daughter. Sakuntala is the name he had given her. You fell in love with this girl, My King!”

To be cont.