Maṇimēkhalai

Book II
[Mādhavī Languishes]

On the occasion of the great festival thus announced, Mādhavī and her daughter Maṇimēkhalai were not in their accustomed place. Distracted with grief at this remissness on the part of her daughter and grand-daughter, Chitrāpatī summoned her daughter’s companion Vasantamālā and sent word through her that the great Indra festival had been announced. Vasantamālā being of Chitrāpatī’s way of thinking went to where Mādhavī and her daughter were, and seeing their languishing form, told her in sorrowful tones:–

‘Have you cause of dissatisfaction? You that are expert in the arts in their varied branches, does it not ill-become you to assume the garb of penance? So say all people in the city, the wise people and the others alike. It does not become you to be that. It is much rather matter for shame that you should adopt this line of conduct.’

Mādhavī replied:

‘Having heard of the death of my beloved, I have lived without sending my life away along with his. I have lost the esteem of this beautiful old city and have given up all feeling of shame. When women in worldly life lose their husbands, they heave sighs of sorrow and give up their own lives. Failing that, they usually consign themselves to the flames, entering fire as if it were the cool water of a tank. If they should not do that, they would wear their body out in prayer and penance in order that they may, in another birth, live happily with their beloved. This is the way of the chaste in this broad world.

Our dear one Kaṇṇakī, [117] the chaste wife of my beloved, finding it impossible to bear the sorrow of the calamity that had overtaken her husband, with her hair all dishevelled, with tears flowing in torrents over her breasts, burnt the great city of the Pāṇḍyas by mutilating her breast.

Maṇimēkhalai the daughter of that chaste one is fit only for the life of an ascetic and not for the life of a courtesan, full of evil. Further than this in the extremity of sorrow I came here to the hermitage of the holy ones and threw myself at the feet of the sage Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ as the only saviour.

Learning from me what had befallen my beloved one, he taught me that “those that are born enjoy only growing suffering. Those that cease to be born do enjoy unending great bliss. By attachment comes the first; giving up attachment brings the next. Bear this in mind.” He further expounded the character of the śīlas (discipline), and impressed it upon me that this is the only way of saving oneself. Please therefore convey this to my beautiful companions and my mother.’

Hearing this from her, Vasantamālā, not knowing what to do, returned as if she had dropped a jewel of immeasurable value in the sea.