Book IV
[The Prince pursues Maṇimēkhalai]

Having reached the garden, Maṇimēkhalai and her companion wandered round enjoying the lovely scenes in it, to which Maṇimēkhalai’s attention was drawn by her companion.

The city was in the meanwhile in great commotion as the state elephant Kālavēgam got into must and went out of control. As it turned hither and thither in the city like a ship caught in a tornado causing destruction on its way, the prince, heir-apparent, mounting his horse, went after it at the head of a guard to bring it back to discipline.

Having successfully done so, he was returning in his car leading the victorious guard that attended him and the crowd that gathered round the cavalcade. Passing through the street of the dancing women, he saw, in the front room of the first floor of one of the houses, a merchant prince standing like a very statue with the stem of his vīna in his embrace, his sweetheart by him.

Looking through the window the prince asked the young merchant what it was that had so stunned him. The young merchant said in reply that, as he was playing on the vīna, he looked out through the window and saw Maṇimēkhalai in the garb of a Buddhist noviciate passing along with her companion towards the flower garden outside the [120] city. The sight of her brought to his recollection all that befell her father Kōvalaṉ in Madura. Thus disturbed in mind, his fingers passed unconsciously on to the wrong string, and that was what actually brought him to the painful state of abstraction in which the prince found him.

Understanding from what he said that Maṇimēkhalai had gone to the garden, the prince turned back telling the young merchant that he would proceed forthwith and bring back Maṇimēkhalai with him in his car, and rapidly drove forward.

When the car came near the garden Maṇimēkhalai heard the rattle of the approaching wheels and told her companion that she had heard from her grandmother that prince Udayakumāra had set his heart upon her, and that, in all probability, the approach of the rattling sound gave indication of his coming. She wished to know what exactly she could do to escape this calamity.

Sutamatī, her companion, asked her to get into the crystal pavilion in the garden and bolt the door from the inside. She then took her stand five bows distance from the pavilion.

The prince having approached the pavilion and seeing the solitary maiden at some distance accosted her:

‘You are now standing alone here in this lonely garden. I understand you came here along with Maṇimēkhalai. Has she attained to the wisdom that she sought? Has she recovered her charming smiles? Have her eyes got back their enchanting beauty? How is it that she has given up the vihāra of the Buddhist mendicants and come to this garden?’

On hearing this Sutamatī felt as one thrown into an underground cellar without an opening, and said to the prince in reply:

‘You are descended from the great Cōḻa Karikāla, who, as a youth, assumed the garb of age in order that he may do justice in a cause brought up before the monarch. [121] Young as you are in age, are you not ripe in wisdom? Is there anything that women can teach you? There cannot be. Even so let me present unto you the following:–

“The human body is the product of action (Karma); is the source of further action. If you remove that which is worn to decorate it, it will show nothing but flesh. It is subject to age and decay. It is the seat of disease. It is the cause of attachment to those that attach themselves to things earthly. It is full of evil. Long-standing hatred lies hidden in it as a poisonous cobra in its hole. It contains within itself the consciousness which is subject to suffering in the present, to helplessness to get out of it, to fainting in the effort to do so, and bitter sorrow as a result thereof. Understand, therefore, oh, prince, this indeed is the nature of a human being. Please turn aside from this, your attachment to her.” ’

Before even these words could reach his ears, he saw within the crystal chamber the form of Maṇimēkhalai.