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In the Great God's Hair, by F. W. Bain, [1905], at

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A Lotus of the World.

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A Lotus of the World.

I. A Denier of Deity

Long ago, in the very beginning, when the world and all its creatures and even the gods themselves were young, there lived in a certain country a King who died, leaving the kingdom to his heir. And this heir was only eighteen years old, and his name was Ranga a. And though he resembled in person a combination of the gods of love and war, and was beloved by his subjects, he was generous and hot-tempered and open-hearted and credulous and inexperienced in the ways of the world: and he fell accordingly an easy prey to the schemes of his relations, who plotted against him: and he was ousted from his throne by his maternal uncle, who got the better of him by treachery and drove him out of the kingdom, with nothing left but his life.

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So Ranga fled, and wandering from place to place in disguise, took refuge in a neighbouring kingdom, having become from the king of a country a wandering Rajpoot, heir to nothing but his sword, and starvation, or dependence on others. And he lost his temper, and flew into a rage with everything in the three worlds. And he cursed, first himself, and next his uncle, and then his relations, and finally even the gods. And he exclaimed: O gods, I cast you all away and disavow you. For all my life I have been pious, and cultivated your divinity, and honoured you with praises and offerings: and yet by way of return, you have paid no attention to me, and allowed me to fall into this condition. Now, therefore, I have become an atheist and a nástika b. And in his rage he abused the gods, calling them all by their names. And then he said: Henceforth I will worship none of you, and nothing, save only Her who alone deserves adoration, the Great Goddess of Chance and Wealth and Beauty and Fortune, who rules over the three worlds. And he broke out into praises of the goddess, then and there. And he said: O thou who resemblest the sea that produced

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thee, O Kamalá, O Padmá, O Shrí, O Lakshmí c, O Beauty of beauties and Lotus of lotuses, show thy miserable worshipper favour. Thou art the very essence and soul of caprice, thou art compounded of the substance of waves and of bubbles and flashes of lightning, rivers that flow and flames that flicker, shifting shadows and woman's wiles. Fair and fickle and false and fleeting, thou dost wander and rove at thy own sweet will from one to another, abiding never anywhere long. Thy only law is thy wanton fancy, thy whim of a moment makes one man rich and another poor, one a king and another a beggar, through no merit of his own or reason of thine. Thou art my only god, for thou only art a true divinity, and I worship the sole of thy foot. O thou feminine incarnation of lustre and grace, white and wayward and tremulous and treacherous as foam of the sea, omnipotent, bewildering, frivolous, inconstant, dissoluble as sand, unsubstantial as dreams, I worship the colour in

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thy long deceitful intoxicating eyes, and the undulating swell of thy wave-like limbs. I offer myself to thee as a votary and a victim; do as thou wilt with me. Raise me or lower me, all is the same to me, for my devotion is absolute: thou art my divinity and thy pleasure is my fate.

And as he went on, it so happened, by the decree of destiny, that Water-lily heard him. And without his knowledge, she came near him, to listen to what he said. And she was much pleased by his praises, all the more that she was new to them, having herself but lately risen from the sea. And she looked at him out of the corner of her long lotus eyes, and saw that he was very young, and very handsome; and she took a sudden fancy to him, and pitied him. So when he had finished, she cast at him a glance of approval, smiling with honied lips like a coquette d whose vanity is flattered, and she said: Come, I will prove to this good-looking young Rajpoot that he was not deceived, when he chose my divinity for adoration as more worthy of worship than that of any other of the gods.

So that very night, to do him a service, she put

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a strange thought into his head. And Ranga said to himself: Now I have become a worshipper of Fortune, and a gambler, and now I must put her to the proof, and see what she will do for me. For even she can do nothing for those who sit still, and give her no opportunity of taking their part. So he went out and wandered up and down in the streets of the city, looking for anything that chance might throw in his way. And as he passed by the palace of the King, he looked up, and saw at the top of a tower a room with eight round windows, one at each point of the sky. And as he stood looking at it, a man of the town said to him: Rajpoot, what are you about? Do you not know that it is forbidden even to look at the place where the King keeps his biggest pearl. Then Ranga said to himself: I wonder what sort of a pearl that may be, of which it is not permitted even to look at the case. And he went away filled with curiosity; and as he went, Water-lily blew it into a flame, till he felt a burning desire to satisfy his wish. And finally he said: I will go this very night, and climb up, somehow or other, and see with my own eyes this wonderful pearl.

So he provided himself with a bow and arrow, and a very long string, and a coil of rope. And

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taking all these with him, he went in the middle of the night, and hid himself in the street in the shadow. For the moonlight lit up the palace tower, and buried the other side of the street in the blackness of night. And there he remained, waiting, till he saw the watch come by on its round. Then as soon as it had passed, he came out, and quickly shot the arrow, to which he had tied the end of the string, over the corner of the parapet of the tower. And the arrow fell back to the ground, and Ranga took the string, and tied it to the rope, and drew it up rapidly, till all the string came to an end, and he held in his hands the two ends of the rope. And then very quickly he climbed up with hands and feet like a monkey, and reached the window, and got in through it, leaving the rope hanging down.


11:a 'Dye,' 'colour,' and so, 'a field of battle.' (Pronounce to rhyme approximately with hunger.)

12:b An infidel or sceptic: one who 'says no' or denies.

13:c The names of the goddess are so innumerable, that if accurately followed they would only puzzle the English reader. They may, however, be tabulated generally as referring either to her beauty, her inconstancy or her connection with the lotus. I have therefore chosen for her name that of Water-Lily: the word of all others that best conveys her general attributes to an English ear.

14:d Sanskrit is, I think, the only other language that possesses an exact equivalent for the French.

Next: II. A Rajpoot Marriage