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Story of Two Swans
The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma
|002 - The Story of Two Swans|
The Vidyadhara women and the swans in the Lake Manasa, Ajanta
there lived myriad swans in the Manasa Lake in the Himalayas. When swarmed
together they looked like the darting grove of lotuses. When they dispersed
in segregation the beauty of the lake even surpassed the splendour of
the embellished blue sky with the white clouds. Their soft and silky-voice
was more sonorous than the sound of a woman’s anklets. Furthemore, the
king of the swans, called Dhritarastra was golden hued and appeared far
more gracious than others. His commander-in-chief, Sumukha, however, resembled
his king in every way. All the more, both were equally virtuous and elegant.
and by, the elegance of the two birds became a favourite topic of
discussion among the celestial and supernatural beings like the Devas
(radiant beings), Nagas (Serpants), Yaksas (ogres with great supernatural
powers; also the attendants of Kubera); and the Vidyadhara women
(believably dwelling in the Himalayan region and possessing the power of
special sciences to perform spells).
These beings also conversed with the enlightened human beings, who
in turn, conversed with their disciples and friends. Thus, the fame of the
two swans spread all over the human
land like a wild fire and reached the court of the king of Varanasi, too.
and charmed the Varanasi king’s urge to possess the two birds became so
intense that he decided to capture them by all means. So, he had a
magnificent lake constructed, which rivalled the splendour of the Lake
Manasa. Thence, a variety of attractive water plants, water lilies and
lotuses of all sorts, namely, padma,
utpala, kumuda, pundarika, saugandhika, tamarasa and kahlara were
grown there. The lotus pollen carried by the ripples of the lake would
embellish the banks like the gold wires. Further, the limpidity and
calmness of the lake’s transparent water displaying the fair hue of the
swarms of fishes swimming beneath its surface would catch the eye of every
beholder. Thus, at night the lake would become a mirror for the moon and
stars. Further, the elephants dipped their trunks and blew forth the
cascades of spray like the loosened pearls from a string there. And the
fragrance of which then mingled with the odour of their ruts and the
juices of the trampled flowers and the emanated pastes of the bathing
beauties of all over the places, made the lake the most spectacular site
on the earth.
The flying swans, Ajanta
the king in order to win the confidence of the birds ensured the safety
for all birds by a royal proclamation. So, myriad birds visited the newly
constructed lake and made it their new home.
in a gorgeous autumn day, when the rainy season was just over, and the sky
looked resplendent blue, a pair of Manas swans by chance flew over the
newly constructed lake, which to them appeared to be the birds’
paradise. Allured, they descended and lived there joyously until the
advent of the next rain. Upon return to Manas, the description of the
splendour of the newly discovered lake, which they narrated before their
friends, impelled most of the swans to visit the new lake. But their king
and his commander-in-chief were opposed to any proposal to visit the place
inhabited by the human beings. He
Nonetheless, the swans persisted and persisted; and at last the king and his commander had to accede to their repeated requests. Eventually, one day they all flew to Varanasi and descended on the new lake; and their graceful presence further enhanced the beauty and the splendour of the lake.
When the swans arrived there along with the two most conspicuously gorgeous birds - whose wings were radiant gold; beaks and feet had the lustre, which even surpassed gold; and whose size exceeded an average swan - the king was informed of their arrival in no time. He then without wasting time, hired the service of a skilled fowler (nishada) to catch those two birds. The fowler in turn laid down some well-concealed snares on the sites often frequented by the two swans. Next day, when the swans were wandering cheerfully in a bright sunny day their king reached the site where the fowler had concealed a snare. And he was decoyed. Alarmed, he cried loudly to warn all his friends and called upon them to fly away. Responding to the call all the swans flew away. But Sumukha, the commander-in-chief, however, insisted to stand by his king at the time of his distress. So, despite the requests made by Yudhisthira he stood there adamantly.
the court when the king was apprised of the whole story he, too, was
greatly moved by the virtues and valour of the two swans. He extended
hospitality to them; and amnesty to the fowler. The birds then stayed
there for a few days as the royal guests to give some discourses to the
king and his courtiers. They then flew back to the Manas to join other
[The king of swans was Bodhisatta; and Ananda was the commander-in-chief].
See Hamsa Jataka (No.502); Chullahamsa Jataka (No.533); Mahahamsa Jataka (No.534); Jatakamala No.22Note: The Pali equivalent for Dhritarashtra is Dhatarattha; and he lived in Chittakuta of the Himalayan region. The names of the king of Varanasi; and the fowler’s name varies in each Jataka. The queen of Varanasi in the Pali tradition is, however, called Khema.
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