The Ramayana/Book I/Canto LXIII: Menaká

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto LXIII: Menaká

A thousand years had thus flown by
When all the Gods within the sky,
Eager that he the fruit might gain
Of fervent rite and holy pain,
Approached the great ascetic, now
Bathed alter toil and ended vow.
Then Brahmá speaking for the rest
With sweetest words the sage addressed:
'Hail, Saint! This high and holy name
Thy rites have won, thy merits claim.'

Thus spoke the Lord whom Gods revere.
And sought again his heavenly sphere.
But Vis'vámitra, more intent,
His mind to sterner penance bent.

So many a season rolled away,
When Menaká, fair nymph, one day
Came down from Paradise to lave
Her perfect limbs in Pushkar's wave,
The glorious son of Kus'ik saw
That peerless shape without a flaw
Flash through the flood's translucent shroud
Like lightning gleaning through a cloud.
He saw her in that lone retreat,
Most beautiful from head to feet,
And by Kandarpas [1] might subdued
He thus addressed her as he viewed:
'Welcome, sweet nymph! O deign, I pray,
In these calm shades awhile to stay.
To me some gracious favour show,
For love has set my breast aglow.'

He spoke. The fairest of the fair
Made for awhile her dwelling there,
While day by day the wild delight
Stayed vow austere and fervent rite
There as tne winsome charmer wove
Her spells around him in the grove,
And bound him in a golden chain,
Five sweet years fled, and five again.
Then Vis'vámitra woke to shame,
And, fraught with anguish, memory came
For quick he knew, with anger fired,
That all the Immortals had conspired

To lap his careless soul in ease,
And mar his long austerities.
'Ten years have past, each day and night
Unheeded in delusive flight.
So long my fervent rites were stayed,
While thus I lay by love betrayed.'
As thus long sighs the hermit heaved,
And, touched with deep repentance, grieved,
He saw the fair one standing nigh
With suppliant hands and trembling eye.
With gentle words he bade her go,
Then sought the northern hills of snow.
With firm resolve he vowed to beat
The might of love beneath his feet.
Still northward to the distant side
Of Kaus'ikí, [2] the hermit hide,
And gave his life to penance there
With rites austere most hard to bear.
A thousand years went by, and still
He laboured on the northern hill
With pains so terrible and drear
That all the Gods were chilled with fear,
And Gods and saints, for swift advice,
Met in the halls of Paradise.
'Let Kus'ik's son,' they counselled, be
A Mighty saint by just decree.'
His ear to hear their counsel lent
The Sire of worlds, omnipotent.
To him enriched by rites severe
He spoke in accents sweet to hear:
'Hail, Mighty Saint! dear son, all hail!
Thy fervour wins, thy toils prevail.
Won by thy vows and zeal intense
I give this high preëminence.'
He to the General Sire replied,

Not sad, nor wholly satisfied:
'When thou, O Brahmá, shalt declare
The title, great beyond compare,
Of Bráhman saint my worthy meed,
Hard earned by many a holy deed,
Then may I deem in sooth I hold
Each sense of body well controlled.'
Then Brahmá cried, 'Not yet, not yet:
Toil on awhile O Anchoret!'

Thus having said to heaven he went,
The saint, upon his task intent,
Began his labours to renew,
Which sterner yet and fiercer grew.
His arms upraised, without a rest,
With but one foot the earth he pressed;
The air his food, the hermit stood
Still as a pillar hewn from wood.
Around him in the summer days
Five mighty fires combined to blaze.
In floods of rain no veil was spread
Save clouds, to canopy his head.
In the dank dews both night and day
Couched in the stream the hermit lay.
Thus, till a thousand years had fled,
He plied his task of penance dread.
Then Vishnu and the Gods with awe
The labours of the hermit saw,
And S'akra, in his troubled breast,
Lord of the skies, his fear confessed.
And brooded on a plan to spoil
The merits of the hermit's toil.
Encompassed by his Gods of Storm
He summoned Rambhá, fair of form,
And spoke a speech for woe and weal,
The saint to mar, the God to heal.


  1. The Indian Cupid.
  2. 'The same as she whose praises Vis'vámitra has already sung in Canto XXXV, and whom the poet brings yet alive upon the scene in Canto LXI. Her proper name was Satyavatí (Truthful); the patronymic, Kaus'ikí was preserved by the river into which she is said to have been changed, and is still recognized in the corrupted forms Kus'a and Kus'i. The river flows from the heights of the Himálaya towards the Ganges, bounding on the east the country of Videha (Behar). The name is no doubt half hidden in the Cosoagus of Pliny and the Kossounos of Arrian. But each author has fallen into the same error in his enumeration of these rivers (Condochatem, Erannoboam, Cosoagum, Sonum). The Erannoboas, (Hiranyaváha) and the Sone are not different streams, but well-known names of the same river. Moreover the order is disturbed, in which on the right and left they fall into the Ganges. To be consistent with geography it should be written: Erannoboam sive Sonum, Condochatem (Gandakí), Cosoagum.' SCHLEGEL.