Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Nala - King of Nishadas


Nala was the King of the Nishadas, and the son of Virasena. He was was exceedingly handsome, and had a great knowledge of horses. He heard of the divine beauty of Damayanti, the princess of Vidarbha and fell in love with her without ever having seen her. Similarly, she had also resolved to have him as her husband, solely by hearing of his virtuous deeds and great beauty.

When the Swayamvara (self-choice ceremony) of Damayanti was being held, even the celestials Indra, Agni, Varuna and Yama desired her and traveled to Vidarbha to espouse her. When they came to know that Damayanti desired none save Nala, all of them assumed his form and entered the ceremonial hall. Unable to distinguish the real Nala, Damayanti prayed them to reveal themselves. Pleased with her devotion to her true love, the Gods gave up their claim and blessed the couple.

However, not all the Gods were benevolent Kali, the deity of the fourth (and malevolent) era, wanted revenge. He could not harm Nala as long as the King stuck to the path of virtue. Meanwhile, Nala and Damayanti had twin children, a boy named Indrasena and a girl, also named Indrasena.

One day, Nala went for his evening prayers without properly purifying himself, Kali entered his body. Under the vile influence of this deity, Nala gambled and lost his kingdom to his fraternal cousin Pushkara. Pushkara banished Nala and Damayanti to the forest, both of them clad in a single piece of cloth each. However, Damayanti sent her children to her father's kingdom. In the forest, under the influence of Kali, Nala abandoned Damayanti. She underwent many hardships before obtaining asylum as a hand maiden of the princess of Chedi, but she did not disclose her identity to her savior.

Nala saved a Naga named Karkotaka from fire (where that snake had been cursed to suffer by sage Narada). Intending to help his rescuer, the snake bit Nala. However, the venom did not affect Nala, but instead afflicted Kali who resided in his body. Nala was changed into an ugly dwarf. He assumed the name of Vahuka, and took a job in the service of King Rituparna of Ayodhya and bided his time.

Meanwhile, King Bhima had sent messengers to trace his daughter and son-in-law. They discovered Damayanti in the kingdom of Chedi and brought her home. Soon, a messenger arrived to invite King Rituparna to Damayanti's second Swayamvara. Nala was grieved, for he did not know that this was a ruse employed by his wife to regain him. He was the charioteer who drove King Rituparna to Vidarbha. On the way, the King taught him the art of playing dice skillfully, in return for knowledge about horses. The instant this exchange took place, Kali was expelled from the body of Nala.

Even after reaching the Kingdom of Vidarbha, Nala did not seek to join his wife, for he thought she had forgotten her. With the help of her trusted servant Keshini she discovered that Vahuka was her husband Nala. At last, Nala and Damayanti were reunited. With his newfound skill with the dice, Nala won back his kingdom from his cousin Pushakara and lived happily for a long time.

Last Modified At: Fri Nov 19 01:16:45 2004