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Indian idylls, from the Sanskrit of the Mahâbhârata online

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1 thank thee for the blessing of such lore ;
I clasp thy feet." Therewith Narada went
To Nandana, leaving him comforted.

Son of the Pandavas, be patient, too !
Thy Prince, thy gallant Abhimanyu,
Fell like a lord of men, and hath his meed
In Swarga with the blessed. Rise thou up.
Quit grief, and take thy weapons, and renew
The battle with thy brothers on the plain.



THE BIRTH OF DEATH. 269

Whoso reads and whoso hears
This fair story of old years.
Well and wisely gives his paifis ;
Sinee thereby his spirit gains
Piety a7id peace aiid bliss ;
Nay, and heavenward leadeth this ;
Andy on earth, its wisdom brings
Wealth and health and happy things.



THE NIGHT OF SLAUGHTER.

(FROM THE OPENING OF THE SAUPTIKA PARVA OF THE
MAHABHARATA. — Vol. hi, of the Calcutta Quarto Edition.)

To Narayen^ Best of lords ^ be glory given,
To great Saraswati, the Queen ifi heaven ;
Unto Vydsa, too, be paid his meed.
So shall this story worthily proceed.

" Those vanquished warriors then," Sanjaya said,
" Fled southwards j and, near sunset, past the tents
Unyoked ; abiding close, in fear and rage.
There was a wood beyond the camp, untrod.
Quiet ; and in its leafy harbor lay
The Princes, some among them bleeding still



THE NIGHT OF SLAUGHTER. 271

From spear and arrow gashes ; all sore spent,

Fetching faint breath, and fighting o'er again

In thought that battle. But there came a noise

Of Pandavas pursuing, — fierce and loud

Outcries of victory ; whereat these chiefs

Sullenly rose, and yoked their steeds again,

Driving due east ; and eastward still they drave

Under the dusk, till drouth and desperate toil

Stayed horse and man ; then took they lair again

The panting horses, and the Princes, wroth

With chilled wounds, and the death-stroke of their King.



" Now were they come, my Prince ! " Sanjaya said,
" Unto a jungle thick with stems, whereon
The tangled creepers coiled ; here entered they.
Watering the horses at a stream, and pushed
Deep in the thicket. Many a beast and bird
Sprang startled at their feet ; the long grass stirred
With serpents creeping off; the woodland flowers



272 INDIAN IDYLLS.

Shook, where the pea-fowls hid ; and, where frogs plunged,
The swamp rocked all its reeds and lotus-buds.
A banian-tree, with countless dropping boughs
Earth-rooted, spied they, and beneath its aisles
A pool ; hereby they stayed, tethering their steeds.
And, dipping water, made the evening prayer.

" But when the ' Daymaker ' sank in the west,
And Night descended, — gentle, soothing Night,
Who comforts all, with silver splendor decked
Of stars and constellations, and soft folds
Of tender darkness drawn, — then the wild things
Which roam in darkness woke, wandering afoot
Under the gloom. Horrid the forest grew
With roar and yelp and yell, around that place
Where Kripa, Kritavarman, and the son
Of Drona lay beneath the banian-tree.
Full many a piteous passage instancing
In their lost battle-day of dreadful blood j
Tili sleep fell heavy on the wearied lids



THE NIGHT OF SLAUGHTER. 273

Of Bhoja's child and Kripa. Then these lords,
To princely life and silken couches used,
Sought on the bare earth slumber, spent and sad.
As homeless outcasts lodge.

" But, O my King !
There came no sleep to Drona's angry son.
Great Aswatthaman. As a snake lies coiled
And hisses breathing, so his panting breath
Hissed rage and hatred round him, where he lay,
Chin uppermost, a,rm-pillowed, with fierce eyes
Roving the wood, and seeing sightlessly.
Thus chanced it that his wandering glances turned
Into the fig-tree's shadows, where there perched
A thousand crows, thick roosting, on its limbs, —
Some nested, some on branchlets, — deep asleep.
Heads under wings, all fearless ; nor, O Prince !
Had Aswatthaman more than marked the birds,
When fierce there fell out of the velvet night.
Silent and terrible, an eagle-owl,

18



2 74 INDIAN IDYLLS.

With wide, soft, deadly, dusky wings, and eyes
Flame-colored, and long claws, and dreadful beak,
Like a winged sprite, or great Garood himself.
Offspring of Bharata ! it lighted there
Upon the banian bough ; hooted — but low —
The fury smothering in its throat, then fell
With murderous beak and claws upon those crows ;
Rending the wings from this, the legs from that,
From some the heads, of some ripping the crops ;
Till, tens and scores, the fowl rained down to earth
Bloody and plucked, and all the ground waxed black
With piled crow-carcasses ; whilst that great owl
Hooted for joy of vengeance, and again
Spread the wide, deadly, dusky wings.

" Up sprang
The son of Drona : ' Lo ! this owl,' quoth he,
' Teacheth me wisdom — lo ! one slayeth so
Insolent foes asleep. The Kuru Lords
Are all too strong in arms by day to kill ;



THE NIGHT OF SLAUGHTER. 275

They triumph, being many. Yet I swore

Before the King, my father, I would kill

And kill, — even as a foolish fly should swear

To quench a flame. It scorched ; and I shall die

If I dare open battle ; but by art

Men vanquish fortune and the mightiest odds.

If there be two ways to a wise man's wish,

But only one way sure, he taketh that ;

And if it be an evil way, condemned

For Brahmans, yet the Kshattriya may do that

Which vengeance bids against his foes. Our foes.

The Pandavas, are furious, treacherous, base.

Halting at nothing ; and how say the wise

In holy Shasters ? — " Wounded, wearied, fed.

Or fasting ; sleeping, waking, setting forth.

Or new arriving ; slay thine enemies ! "

And so again : " At midnight, when they sleep ;

Dawn, when they watch ; noon, if their leaders fall ;

Eve, should they scatter ; all the times and hours

Are times and hours good for killing foes." '



276 INDIAN IDYLLS.

^' So did the son of Drona steel his soul
To break upon the sleeping Pandu chiefs
And slay them in the darkness. Being set
On this unlordly deed, and clear in scheme,
He from their slumbers roused the warriors twain,
Kripa and Kritavarman."



THE GREAT JOURNEY.

(FROM THE MAHAPRASTHAnIKA PARVA OF THE MAHA-
BHARATA. — Vol. iv. of the Calcutta Quarto Edition.)

To Narayeti, Lord of lords ^ be glory given.
To sweet Saraswati, the Queen ift heaven ;
To great Vydsa, eke, pay reverence due,
That this high story 7nay its course pursue.

Then Janmejaya prayed : " O Singer, say,
What wrought the princes of the Pandavas
On tidings of the battle so ensued,
And Krishna, gone on high? "

Answered the Sage :
" On tidings of the wreck of Vrishni's race,
King Yudhisthira of the Pandavas
Was minded to be done with earthly things,



278 INDIAN IDYLLS.

And to Arjuna spake : ' O noble Prince,
Time endeth all j we linger, noose on neck,
Till the last day tightens the line, and kills.
Let us go forth to die, being yet alive/
And Kunti's son, the great Arjuna, said :
' Let us go forth to die ! — Time slayeth all.
We will find Death, who seeketh other men.'
And Bhimasena, hearing, answered : 'Yea,
We will find Death ! ' and Sahadev cried : ' Yea ! '
And his twin brother Nakula ; whereat
- The princes set their faces for the Mount.



" But Yudhisthira — ere he left his realm
To seek high ending — summoned Yuyutsu,
Surnamed of fights, and set him over all,
Regent, to rule in Parikshita's name
Nearest the throne ; and Parikshita King
He crowned, and unto old Subhadra said :
' This, thy son's son, shall wear the Kuru crown.
And Yadu's offspring, Vajra, shall be first



I



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 279

In Yadu's house. Bring up the little prince

Here in our Hastinpur, but Vajra keep

At Indraprasth ; and let it be thy last

Of 'virtuous works to guard the lads, and guide.'

" So ordering ere he went, the righteous King
Made offering of white water, heedfully,
To Vasudev, to Rama, and the rest, —
All funeral rites performing ; next he spread
A funeral feast, whereat there sat as guests
Narada, Dwaipayana, Bharadwaj,
And Markandeya, rich in saintly years,
And Yajnavalkya, Hari, and the priests :
Those holy ones he fed with dainty meats
In kingUest wise, naming the name of Him
Who bears the bow ; and- that it ^ould be well
For him and his — gave to the Brahmanas
Jewels of gold and silver, lakhs on lakhs.
Fair broidered cloths, gardens and villages.
Chariots and steeds and slaves.



28o INDIAN IDYLLS.

'' Which being done, —
O Best of Bharat's line ! — he bowed him low
Before his Guru's feet, — at Kripa's feet,
That sage all honored, — saying, ' Take my Prince ;
Teach Parikshita as thou taughtest me.
For hearken, ministers and men of war !
Fixed is my mind to quit all earthly state.'
Full sore of heart were they, and sore the folk,
To hear such speech, and bitter went the word
Through town and country, that the King would go ;
And all the people cried, ' Stay with us, Lord ! *
But Yudhisthira knew his time was come, .
Knew that life passes and that virtue lasts,
And put aside their love.

• " So, with farewells

Tenderly took of lieges and of lords,
Girt he for travel, with his princely kin,
Great Yudhisthira, Dharma's royal son.
Crest-gem and belt and ornaments he stripped



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 281

From off his body, and for broidered robe
A rough dress donned, woven of jungle-bark ;
And what he did — O Lord of men ! — so did
Arjuna, Bhima, and the twin-born pair,
Nakula with Sahadev, and she, — in grace
The peerless, — Draupadi. Lastly these six, —
Thou son of Bharata ! — in solemn form
Made the high sacrifice of Naishtiki,
Quenching their flames in water at the close ;
And so set forth, midst waihng of all folk
And tears of women, weeping most to see
The Princess -Draupadi — that lovely prize
Of the great gaming, Draupadi the Bright —
Journeying afoot ; but she and all the five
Rejoiced, because their way lay heavenwards.

" Seven were they, setting forth, — Princess and King,
The King's four brothers, and a faithful dog.
Those left Hastinapur ; but many a man,
And all the palace household, followed them



282 INDIAN IDYLLS.

The first sad stage : and, ofttimes prayed to part,
Put parting off for love and pity, still
Sighing, ' A little farther 1 ' — till day waned ;
Then one by one they turned, and Kripa said :
' Let all turn back, Yuyutsu ! These must go/
So came they homewards, but the Snake-King's child,
Ulupi, leapt in Gunga, losing them ;
And Chitrangada with his people went
Mournful to Munipoor, whilst those three queens
Brought Parikshita in.

" Thus wended they,
Pandu's five sons and loveliest Draupadi,
Tasting no meat, and journeying due east.
On righteousness their high hearts fed, to heaven
Their souls assigned ; and steadfast trod their feet —
By faith upborne — past nullah, ran, and wood.
River and jheel and plain. King Yudhisthir
Walked foremost, Bhima followed, after him
Arjuna, and the twin-born brethren next,



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 283

Nakula with Sahadev : in whose still steps —
O Best of Bharat's offspring ! — Draupadi,
That gem of women, paced, with soft, dark face, —
Beautiful, wonderful ! — and lustrous eyes.
Clear-edged like lotus-petals ; last the dog
Following the Pandavas.

"At length they reach
The far Lauchityan Sea, which foameth white
Under Udayachala's ridge. — Know ye,
That all this while Nakula had not ceased
Bearing the holy bow, named Gandiva,
And jewelled quiver, ever filled with shafts.
Though one should shoot a thousand thousand times.
Here — broad across their path — the heroes see
Agni, the god. As though a mighty hiU
Took form of front and breast and limb, he spake.
Seven streams of shining splendor rayed his brow.
While the dread voice said : * I am Agni, chiefs !
O sons of Pandu, I am Agni ! Hail !



284 INDIAN IDYLLS.

O long-armed Yudhisthira, blameless king, —
O warlike Bhima, — O Arjuna, wise, —
O brothers twin-born from a womb divine, —
Hear ! I am Agni, who consumed the wood
By will of Narayan for Arjuna's sake.
Let this your brother give Gandiva back, —
The matchless bow : the use for it is o'er.
That gem-ringed battle-discus which he hurled
Cometh again to Krishna in his hand
For avatars to be ; but need is none
Henceforth of this most excellent bright bow,
Gandiva, which I brought for Partha's aid
From high Varuna. Let it be returned.
Cast it herein ! '

" And all the princes said,
' Cast it, dear brother ! ' So Arjuna threw
Into that sea the quiver ever-filled.
And glittering bow ; then, led by Agni's light,
- Unto the south they turned, and so southwest,



THE GREAT JOURNEY. . 285

And aftenvards right west, until they saw
Dwaraka, washed and bounded by a main
Loud-thundering on its shores ; and here — O Best ! —
Vanished the god ; while yet those heroes walked,
Now to the northwest bending, where long coasts
Shut in the sea of salt, now to the north.
Accomplishing all quarters, journeyed they ;
The earth their altar of high sacrifice,
Which these most patient feet did pace around
Till Meru rose.

" At last it rose ! These Six,
Their senses subjugate, their spirits pure,
Wending along, came into sight — far off
In the eastern sky — of awful Himavat ;
And, midway in the peaks of Himavat,
Meru, the mountain of all mountains, rose.
Whose head is heaven ; and under Himavat
Glared a wide waste of sand, dreadful as death.



286 INDIAN IDYLLS.

" Then, as they hastened o'er the deathly waste,
Aiming for Meru, having thoughts at soul
Infinite, eager, — lo ! Draupadi reeled.
With falterihg heart and feet ; and Bhima turned,
Gazing upon her ; and that hero spake
To Yudhisthira : ' Master, Brother, King !
Why doth she fail? For never all her hfe
Wrought our sweet lady one thing wrong, I think.
Thou knowest ; make us know, why hath she failed? '

" Then Yudhisthira answered : ' Yea, one thing.
She loved our brothers better than all else, —
Better than heaven : that was her tender sin.
Fault of a faultless soul ; she pays for that.'

" So spake the monarch, turning not his eyes.
Though Draupadf lay dead, — striding straight "on
For Meru, heart-full of the things of heaven.
Perfect and firm. But yet a little space
And Sahadev fell down ; which Bhima seeing,
Cried once again : ' O King, great Madri's son



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 287

Stumbles and sinks. Why hath he sunk ? — so true,
So brave and steadfast, and so free from pride ! '

" ' He was not free,' with countenance still fixed,
Quoth Yudhisthira ; ' he was true and fast
And wise ; yet wisdom made him proud ; he hid
One little hurt of soul, but now it kills.'

'' So saying, he strode on, Kunti's strong son.
And Bhima j and Arjuna followed him.
And Nakula, and the hound ; leaving behind
Sahadev in the sands. But Nakula,
Weakened and grieved to see Sahadev fall —
His dear-loved brother — lagged and stayed ; and then
Prone on his face he fell, that noble face
Which had no match for beauty in the land, —
Glorious and godlike Nakula ! Then sighed
Bhima anew : ' Brother and Lord ! the man
Who never erred from virtue, never broke
Our fellowship, and never in the world
Was matched for goodly perfectness of form
Or gracious feature, — Nakula has fallen ! '



288 INDIAN IDYLLS.

" But Yudhisthira, holding fixed his eyes, —
That changeless, faithful, all-wise king, — repHed :
* Yea, but he erred ! The godlike form he wore
Beguiled him to believe none like'to him,
And he alone desirable, and things
Unlovely, to be slighted. Self-love slays
Our noble brother. Bhima, follow ! Each
Pays what his debt was.'

" Which Arjuna heard,
Weeping to see them fall ; and that stout son
Of Pandu, that destroyer of his foes,
That Prince, who drove through crimson waves of war,
In old days, with his milk-white chariot-steeds.
He, the arch-hero, sank ! Beholding this, —
The yielding of that soul unconquerable.
Fearless, divine, from Sakra's self derived,
Arjuna's, — Bhima cried aloud : ' O King !
This man was surely perfect. Never once.
Not even in slumber, when the lips are loosed,



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 289

Spake he one word that was not true as truth.
Ah, heart of gold ! why art thou broke ? O King !
Whence falleth he ? '

" And Yudhisthira said,
Not pausing : ' Once he lied, a lordly lie !
He bragged — our brother — that a single day
Should see him utterly consume, alone,
All those his enemies, — which could not be.
Yet from a great heart sprang the unmeasured speech.
Howbeit a finished hero should not shame
Himself in such wise, nor his enemy.
If he will faultless fight and blameless die :
This was Arjuna's sin. Follow thou me ! '

" So the King still went on. But Bhima next
Fainted, and stayed upon the way, and sank ;
But, sinking, cried behind the steadfast Prince :
' Ah, brother, see ! I die ! Look upon me.
Thy well-beloved ! Wherefore falter I,
Who strove to stand ? '

19



290 INDIAN IDYLLS.

" x\nd Yudhisthira said :
' More than was well the goodly things of earth
Pleased thee, my pleasant brother ! Light the offence,
And large thy spirit ; but the o'erfed soul
Plumed itself over others. Pritha's son,
For this thou failest, who so near didst gain.'

" Thenceforth alone the long-armed monarch strode.
Not looking back, — nay, not for Bhima's sake, —
But walking with his face set for the Mount ;
And the hound followed him, — only the hound.

»

" After the deathly sands, the Mount ! and, lo !
Sakra shone forth, — the God, — filling the earth
And heavens with thunder of his chariot- wheels.
' Ascend,' he said, * with me, Pritha's great son ! '
But Yudhisthira answered, sore at heart
For those his kinsfolk, fallen on the way :
' O Thousand-eyed, O Lord of all the gods,
Give that my brothers come with me, who fell !



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 291

Not without them is Swarga sweet to me.
She too, the dear and kind and queenly, — she
Whose perfect virtue Paradise must crown, —
Grant her to come with us ! Dost thou grant this ? *

" The God repHed : * In heaven thou shalt see
Thy kinsmen and the Queen — these will attain —
And Krishna. Grieve no longer for thy dead,
Thou chief of men ! their mortal covering stripped.
These have their places ; but to thee the gods
Allot an unknowTi grace : thou shalt go up.
Living and in thy form, to the immortal homes.'

" But the King answered : ' O thou Wisest One,
Who know'st what was, and is, and is to be,
Still one more grace ! This hound hath ate with me.
Followed me, loved me ; must I leave him now?'

" ' Monarch,' spake Indra, ' thou art now as we, —
Deathless, divine ; thou art become a god ;



292 INDIAN IDYLLS.

Glory and power and gifts celestial,

And all the joys of heaven are thine for aye :

What hath a beast with these ? Leave here thy hound.'

" Yet Yudhisthira answered : ' O Most High,

Thousand-eyed and wisest ! can it be
That one exalted should seem pitiless ?
Nay, let me lose such glory : for its sake

1 cannot leave one living thing I loved.'

" Then sternly Indra spake : ' He is unclean,
And into Swarga such shall enter not.
The Krodhavasha's wrath destroys the fruits
Of sacrifice, if dogs defile the fire.
Bethink thee, Dharmaraj ; quit now this beast !
That which is seemly is not hard of heart.'

" Still he replied : ' 'T is written that to spurn
A suppliant equals in offence to slay
A twice-born ; wherefore, not for Swarga's bliss



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 293

Quit I, Mahendra, this poor clinging dog, —

So without any hope or friend save me.

So wistful, fawning for my faithfulness ;

So agonized to die, unless I help

Who among men was called steadfast and just.'

" Quoth Indra : ' Nay, the altar-flame is foul
Where a dog passeth ; angry angels sweep
The ascending smoke aside, and all the fruits
Of offering, and the merit of the prayer
Of him whom a hound toucheth. Leave it here !
He that will enter heaven must enter pure.
Why didst thou quit thy brethren on the way,
And Krishna, and the dear-loved Draupadi,
Attaining, firm and glorious, to this Mount
Through perfect deeds, to linger for a brute ?
Hath Yudhisthira vanquished self, to melt
With one poor passion at the door of bHss ?
Stay'st thou for this, who didst not stay for them, —
Draupadi, Bhima? '



294 INDIAN IDYLLS.

" But the King yet spake :
* 'T is known that none can hurt or help the dead.
They, the dehghtful ones, who sank and died,
Following my footsteps, could not live again
Though I had turned, — therefore I did not turn ;
But could help profit, I had stayed to help.
There be four sins, O Sakra, grievous sins :
The first is making suppliants despair.
The second is to slay a nursing wife.
The third is spoiling Brahmans' goods by force,
The fourth is injuring an ancient friend.
These four I deem not direr than the crime,
If one, in coming forth from woe to weal.
Abandon any meanest comrade then.*

" Straight as he spake, brightly great Indra smiled ;
Vanished the hound, and in its stead stood there
The Lord of Death and Justice, Dharma's self !
Sweet were the words which fell from those dread lips.
Precious the lovely praise : * O thou true King,



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 295

Thou that dost bring to harvest the good seed

Of Pandu's righteousness ; thou that hast ruth

As he before, on all which lives ! — O Son !

I tried thee in the Dwaita wood, what time

They smote thy brothers, bringing water ; then

Thou prayed'st for Nakula's hfe — tender and just —

NonBhima's nor Arjuna's, true to both.

To Madri as to Kunti, to both queens. ^

Hear thou my word ! Because thou didst not mount

This car divine, lest the poor hound be shent

Who looked to thee, lo ! there is none in heaven

Shall sit above thee, King ! — Bharata's son !

Enter thou now to the eternal joys,

Living and in thy form. Justice and Love

Welcome thee, Monarch ! thou shalt throne with us ! '

" Thereat those mightiest gods, in glorious train,
Mahendra, Dharma, — with bright retinue

1 A reference to the concluding part of " The Enchanted Lake "
will explain this. See p. 234.



296 INDIAN IDYLLS.

Of Maruts, Saints, Aswin-Kumaras, Nats,

Spirits, and angels, — bore tlie King aloft,

The thundering chariot first, and after it

Those airy-moving Presences. Serene,

Clad in great glory, potent, wonderful,

They glide at will, — at will they know and see ;

At wish their wills are wrought ; for these are pure.

Passionless, hallowed, perfect, free of earth.

In such celestial midst the Kuru king

Soared upward, and a sweet light filled the sky,

And fell on earth, cast by his face and form.

Transfigured as he rose ; and there was heard

The voice of Narad, — it is he who sings,

Sitting in heaven, the deeds that good men do

In all the quarters, — Narad, chief of bards,

Narad the wise, who laudeth purity, —

So cried he : ' Thou art risen, Kuru king !

Whose greatness is above all royal saints.

Hail, son of Pandu ! like to thee is none

Now or before among the sons of men,



THE GREAT JOURNEY. 297

Whose fame hath filled the three wide worlds, who corn's
Bearing thy mortal body, wliich doth shine
With radiance as a god's.*

" The glad King heard
Narad's loud praise ; he saw the immortal gods, — ■
Dharma, Mahendra ; and dead chiefs and saints,
Known upon earth, in blessed heaven he saw,
But only those. * I do desire,' he said,
* That region, be it of the Blest as this,
Or of the Sorrowful some otherwhere.
Where my dear brothers are, and Draupadi.
I cannot stay elsewhere ! I see them not ! '

" Then answer made Purandara, the God :
' O thou compassionate and noblest one,
Rest in the pleasures which thy deeds have gained.
How, being as are the gods, canst thou live bound
By mortal chains ? Thou art become of us,
Who live above hatred and love, in bliss
Pinnacled, safe, supreme. Sun of thy race,



298 INDIAN IDYLLS.

Thy brothers cannot reach where thou hast cHmbed !
Most glorious lord of men, let not thy peace
Be touched by stir of earth ! Look ! this is heaven.
See where the saints sit, and the happy souls,
Siddhas and angels, and the gods who live
Forever and forever.'

" * King of gods,'
Spake Yudhisthira, * but I will not live
A little space without those souls I loved.
O Slayer of the demons ! let me go
Where Bhima and my brothers are, and she,
My Draupadi, the Princess with the face
Softer and darker than the Vrihat-leaf,
And soul as sweet as are its odors. Lo !
Where they have gone, there will I surely go.' " *

1 Contrast this magnificent unselfishness with Dante or St.
Thomas Aquinas I The Sanskrit text has a noble simplicity, —
Gantmn ichchami tatra aham yatra me bhrataro gata.



THE ENTRY INTO HEAVEN.



II.



(FROM THE SANSKRIT OF THE SWARGAROHANA PARVA
OF THE MAHABHARATA. — Vol. iv. of the Calcutta Quarto


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