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And so, with her husband riven away through his respect for the Guru, bereft of her happiness, left joyless, /

Though she remained at the same spot, high up in the palace, Sundarī no longer seemed to be herself. // 6.1 //


Anticipating her husband's approach, she leant forward, her breasts invading the bulls-eye window. /

Expectantly she looked out from the palace roof towards the gateway, her earrings dangling down across her face. // 6.2 //


With her pearl necklaces hanging down, and straps dishevelled, as she bent down from the palace, /

She looked like the most gorgeous of the heavenly nymphs (the apsarases) gazing from her celestial abode at her lover, as he falls down, having used up his ascetic credit. // 6.3 //


With a cold sweat on her beautiful brow, her face-paint drying in her sighs, /

And her eyes restless with anxious thoughts, there she stood, suspecting her husband, somewhere else. // 6.4 //


Tired out by a long time standing in that state, she dropped, just where she stood, onto a couch, /

And lay across it with her necklaces scattered and a slipper half hanging off her foot. // 6.5 //



One of her women, not wishing to see Sundarī in such tearful distress, /

Was making her way down from the palace penthouse, when she burst into tears, and made a commotion with her feet on the stairs. // 6.6 //


Hearing the sound on the stairs of that woman's feet Sundarī quickly jumped up again; /

Transfixed with joy, she bristled with excitement, believing it to be the approach of her beloved. // 6.7 //


Scaring the pigeons in their rooftop roosts with the jangling of her ankle bracelets, /

She dashed to the stairwell, without worrying, in her excitement, about what extremity of her diaphonous raiments might be falling off. // 6.8 //


On seeing the woman she was crestfallen; she sighed, threw herself again onto the couch, /

And no longer shone: with her face suddenly pallid she was as grey as a pale-mooned sky in early winter. // 6.9 //


Distressed at not seeing her husband, burning with desire and fury, /

She sat down with face in hand and steeped herself in the river of worries, whose water is sorrow. // 6.10 //


Her lotus-rivalling face, resting on the hennaed stem of her hand, /

Was like a lotus above the reflection in the water of its mud-born self, drooping down. // 6.11 //


She considered various possibilities, in accordance with a woman's nature; then, failing to see the truth that her husband had taken refuge in the dharma, /

While obviously still impassioned and in love with her, she constructed various scenarios and uttered various laments: // 6.12 //


"He promised me: 'I'll be back before your make-up is dry'; /

From what cause would such a cherisher of promises as my beloved is, be now a breaker of promises? // 6.13 //


In him who was noble, good, compassionate, always in awe of me, and all too honest, /

How has such an unprecedented transformation come about? Through a loss of passion on his part? From a mistake of mine? // 6.14 //


The heart of my lover -- lover of sexual pleasure and of me -- has obviously waned in its passion, /

For if he did still love me, having regard for my heart, he would not have failed to return. // 6.15 //


Another woman, then, in beauty and in nature better than me, my beloved has surely beheld; /

For, having soothed me as he did with empty words, the guy has gone and left me, attached to him as I am. // 6.16 //


As for that devotion to Buddha of which he spoke, it was just a line to me for leaving; /

For if he were clearly settled on the Sage he would fear untruth no less than a grisly death. // 6.17 //


While I put my make-up on, he held the mirror as a service to me, and thought of another! /

If he holds it now for that other so much for his fickle affection! // 6.18 //


Any woman who does not wish to suffer grief like this should never trust a man. /

How could he treat me before with such regard and then in a twinkling leave me like this, like anybody?" // 6.19 //


This she said and more, love-lorn, and suspecting her love of loving another. /

Then the giddy weeping woman, having dizzily climbed the palace stairs, tearfully told her these words: // 6.20 //


"Though he may be young, good-looking, full of noble ancestry, and filled with charm and fortune, /

Never did your husband cheat on you. You are being silly, and judging him amiss. // 6.21 //


Ma'am! Do not accuse your loving husband, a doer of loving deeds who merits your love; /

He never even looks at any woman other than you, like greylag gander with kindred greylag goose. // 6.22 //


For you, he wished to stay at home; for your delight, he wished to live; /

But his noble brother, the Tathāgata, so they say, has banished him, his face made wet by tears, into the wandering life. // 6.23 //


Then, on hearing what had happened to her husband, all of a sudden, up she leapt, shaking; /

She clasped her arms and screamed out loud like a she-elephant shot in the heart by a poisoned arrow. // 6.24 //


Her eyes puffed-up and reddened by tears, the slender trunk of her body trembling with anguish, /

She broke and scattered strings of pearls, as down she fell, like a mango branch weighed down by too much fruit. // 6.25 //


Wearing clothes suffused with lotus colours, with lotus face, and eyes as long as lotus petals, /

She was like a Lotus-Hued Lakṣmī,1 who had fallen from her lotus pedestal. And she withered like a lotus-garland left in the sun. // 6.26 //


She thought and thought about her husband's good points, sighing long and hard and gasping /

As out she flung the arms that bore her gleaming jewels and hennaed hands, with reddened fingertips. // 6.27 //


"Now I don't have any need for ornaments!" she cried, as she hurled her jewels in all directions. /

Unadorned and drooping, she resembled a creeper shorn of blossoms. // 6.28 //


She clasped the golden-handled mirror, and reflected, "My husband held this up for me." /

And the tamāla paint she had applied so carefully, she rubbed aggressively off her cheeks, as if the paint had angered her. // 6.29 //


Like a greylag goose, when a hawk has wounding talons on the gander's wing, she hooted mightily, /

As if in competition with the cooing pigeons on the palace roof, whose throats were all atremble. // 6.30 //


She lay down to sleep in soft and gorgeous bedclothes, on a bed bedecked with cats-eye gems and diamonds, /

But in her costly crib with golden legs, she tossed and turned, and no respite did she obtain. // 6.31 //


She eyed her husband's ornaments; his clothes, guitar and other items of amusement; /

Thus she entered deeply into darkness: she raised a shriek, and then, as if descending into a mire, sank down. // 6.32 //


Her belly trembled out of breathlessness, like a cave being rent inside by fiery thunderbolts. /

As, in her innermost heart, she burned with the fire of grief, Sundarī seemed at that moment to be going out of her mind. // 6.33 //


She howled, then wilted, screamed, then swooned; she reeled, stood rooted, wailed then brooded. /

She vented anger and rended garlands; she scratched her face and slashed her clothes. // 6.34 //


Hearing the howling of the lovely-toothed one – for O, how l2ovely were her teeth! - the ladies-in-waiting suffered utmost torment; /

They climbed from inside the palace up to the roof, like nervous kiṁnarīs ascending a mountain peak. // 6.35 //


Their despondent faces wet with tears, like lotus ponds with rain-soaked lotus buds, /

They settled down along with her, according to rank and as they wished, and along with her they burned in grief. // 6.36 //


On the palace roof, enfolded by her women, the slender Sundarī, gaunt with worry, /

Seemed like a streak of crescent moon enshrouded among the autumn clouds by a hundred rays of lightning. // 6.37 //


There was one among them there, however, who was senior in years, and good with words, a well-respected woman: /

Holding Sundarī from behind in a firm embrace and wiping tears away, she spoke as follows: // 6.38 //


"Grief does ill become you, the wife of a royal seer, when your husband has taken refuge in dharma; /

For in the lineage of Ikṣvāku, an ascetic forest is a desired inheritance. // 6.39 //


Well you know of wives of Śākya bulls gone forth in search of freedom: /

As a rule, they turn their houses almost into ascetic groves and they observe the vow of chastity, as if it were a pleasure. // 6.40 //


If your husband had been stolen by another, due to her superior looks and qualities, then tears you should let flow; /

For how could any beautiful and virtuous wife, who abounds in excellence, refrain from shedding teardrops when her heart was broken? // 6.41 //


Or had he met with some disaster -- and may no such thing ever be! -- then yes, tears; /

Because there is no greater sorrow for a woman of noble birth who dignifies her husband as if he were a god. // 6.42 //


But on the contrary, he now is roving happily, meeting no disasters, but enjoying a healthy and fruitful life. /

Free from eager longing, he is following dharma: at a time for celebration, why are you in such a state of weeping consternation?" // 6.43 //


Though this woman, with her unctious kindness,3 thus put forward many sorts of argument, Sundarī could not be satisfied at all. /

Then another woman, with a sense of intimacy, said what helped her mind and fit the occasion.4 // 6.44 //


"Truly and categorically, I am telling you that soon enough you'll see your husband back again. /

Dispossessed of you, the fellow will survive out there no longer than living things survive when dispossessed of consciousness. // 6.45 //


Even in the lap of luxury he could not be happy, lacking you there by his side; /

And even in the direst pickle, not a thing could trouble him, as long as you were in his sight. // 6.46 //


Be happy. Don't keep crying. Spare your eyes from shedding molten tears. /

The way he feels for you, and his passion, are such that he, bereft of you, will find no pleasure in the dharma. // 6.47 //


Some might say that having worn the ochre robe, he won't relinquish it, by dint of noble birth combined with strength of character. /

But, he put it on unwillingly, while looking forward to going home: what fault is there in taking it back off?" // 6.48 //


Thus consoled by her little women when her husband had purloined her heart, /

Sundarī came to earth, just as Rambhā,5 with her heart turned towards Dramiḍa, came once upon a time, enfolded in the midst of sister apsarases. // 6.49 //



The 6th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "A Wife's Lament."






1 The goddess of beauty, Lakṣmī, is portrayed in statues set on top of a lotus pedestal.

2 The original contains a play on rudantīm. “Howling” is rudantīm. “Lovely teethed-one” is cārudantīm.

3 Snehāt originally means “out of oiliness” and hence both “unctuously” and “tenderly.”

4 The words of latter woman, therefore, are a precursor to those of the Buddha and Ānanda in Cantos 10 & 11, whereas the unctuous but ineffectual words of the eloquent woman may be seen as a precursor to the words of the striver in Cantos 8 & 9.

5 Rambhā was reputedly the most gorgeous of all the apsarases, or celestial nymphs; she is also mentioned in 7.36.






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