Chapter I

Wide was the plain, the morning sun shining full upon it, drinking up the dew as the Divine drinks up the spirit of man. Far it stretched, resembling the ocean, and riding upon it like a stately ship was the league-long Rock of Chitor. It is certainly by the favour of the Gods that this great fortress of the Rajput Kings thus rises from the plain, leagues in length, noble in height; and very strange it is to see the flat earth fall away from it like waters from the bows of a boat, as it soars into the sky with its burden of palaces and towers.

Here dwelt the Queen Padmini and her husband Bhimsi, the Rana of the Rajputs.

The sight of the holy ascetic Visravas pierced even the secrets of the Rani's bower, where, in the inmost chamber of marble, carved until it appeared like lace of the foam of the sea, she was seated upon cushions of blue Bokhariot silk, like the lotus whose name she bore floating upon the blue depths of the lake. She had just risen from the shallow bath of marble at her feet.

Most beautiful was this Queen, a haughty beauty such as should be a Rajput lady; for the name "Rajput" signifies Son of a King, and this lady was assuredly the daughter of Kings and of no lesser persons. And since that beauty is long since ashes (all things being transitory), it is permitted to describe the mellowed ivory of her body, the smooth curves of her hips, and the defiance of her glimmering bosom, half veiled by the long silken tresses of sandal- scented hair which a maiden on either side, bowing toward her, knotted upon her head. But even he who with his eyes has seen it can scarce tell the beauty of her face - the slender arched nose, the great eyes like lakes of darkness in the reeds of her curled lashes, the mouth of roses, the glance, deer-like but proud, that courted and repelled admiration. This cannot be told, nor could the hand of man paint it. Scarcely could that fair wife of the Pandava Prince, Draupadi the Beautiful (who bore upon her perfect form every auspicious mark) excel this lady.

(Ashes - ashes! May Maheshwara have mercy upon her rebirths!)

Throughout India had run the fame of this beauty. In the bazaar of Kashmir they told of it. It was recorded in the palaces of Travancore, and all the lands that lay between; and in an evil hour - may the Gods curse the mother that bore him! - it reached the ears of Allah-u- Din, the Moslem dog, a very great fighting man who sat in Middle India, looting and spoiling.

(Ahi! for the beauty that is as a burning flame!)

In the gardens beneath the windows of the Queen, the peacocks, those maharajas of the birds, were spreading the bronze and emerald of their tails. The sun shone on them as on heaps of jewels, so that they dazzled the eyes. They stood about the feet of the ancient Brahmin sage, he who had tutored the Queen in her childhood and given her wisdom as the crest-jeweled of her loveliness. He, the Twice-born sat under the shade of a neem tree, hearing the gurgle of the sacred waters from the Cow's Mouth, where the great tank shone under the custard-apple boughs; and, at peace with all the world, he read in the Scripture which affirms the transience of all things drifting across the thought of the Supreme like clouds upon the surface of the Ocean.

(Ahi! that loveliness is also illusion!)

Her women placed about the Queen - that Lotus of Women - a robe of silk of which none could say that it was green or blue, the noble colours so mingled into each other under the latticed gold work of Kashi. They set the jewels on her head, and wide thin rings of gold heavy with great pearls in her ears. Upon the swell of her bosom they clasped the necklace of table emeralds, large, deep, and full of green lights, which is the token of the Chitor queens. Upon her slender ankles they placed the chooris of pure soft gold, set also with grass-green emeralds, and the delicate souls of her feet they reddened with lac. Nor were her arms forgotten, but loaded with bangles so free from alloy that they could be bent between the hands of a child. Then with fine paste they painted the Symbol between her dark brows, and, rising, she shone divine as a nymph of heaven who should cause the righteous to stumble in his austerities and arrest even the glances of Gods.

(Ahi! that the Transient should be so fair!)