5.THE MARRIAGE OF DEVAYANI
ONE warm afternoon, pleasantly tired with sporting in the woods Devayani and the daughters of Vrishaparva, king of the asuras, went to bathe in the cool waters of a sylvan pool, depositing their garlands on the bank before they entered its waters. A strong breeze blew their clothes together into a huddled heap and when they came to take them up again, some mistakes naturally occurred. It so happened that princess Sarmishtha, the daughter of the king, clad herself in Devayani's clothes. The latter was vexed and exclaimed half in jest at the impropriety of the daughter of a disciple wearing the clothes of the master's daughter. These words were spoken half in jest, but the princess Sarmishtha became very angry and said arrogantly: "Do you not know that your father humbly bows in reverence to my royal father every day? Are you not the daughter of a beggar who lives on my father's bounty? You forget I am of the royal race which proudly gives, while you come of a race which begs and receives, and you dare to speak thus to me." Sarmishtha went on, getting angrier and angrier as she spoke till, working herself up into a fit of anger, she finally slapped Devayani on the cheek and pushed her into a dry well. The asura maidens thought that Devayani had lost her life and returned to the palace. Devayani had not been killed by the fall into the well but was in a sad plight because she could not climb up the steep sides. Emperor Yayati of the Bharata race who was hunting in the forest by a happy chance came to this spot in search of water to slake his thirst. When he glanced into the well, he saw something bright, and looking closer, he was surprised to find a beautiful maiden lying in the well. He asked: "Who are you, O beautiful maiden with bright earrings and ruddy nails? Who is your father? What is your ancestry? How did you fall into the well?"