(Last Updated on : 09-09-2014)
The story of Nala and Damayanti appears in the Hindu Epic the Mahabharata
and in the Naiadhiyacarita, a poem written by the poet Shriharsha. Nala was the young handsome, and skillful king of Nishadha in central India. Damayanti, the most beautiful girl in the world, was the daughter of King Bhima of Vidarbha, a neighboring country.
One day Nala captured a swan. In return for freedom, the swan flew to Vidarbha and praised the virtues of Nala to Damayanti.After hearing about Nala from the swan Damayanti fell in love with him. About the same time Damayanti's father decided to arrange for a swamvara in order to find a suitable husband for his daughter. Many princes were invited to his palace. Several of the gods also sought her hand in marriage among them were Indra
,Varuna and Yama
.On the way to the palace, the gods met Nala and told him to serve as messenger and announce their intentions to Damayanti. When he arrived at the palace, Nala passed on the message of the gods but Damayanti told him that she wanted only him although he was addicted to gambling and vowed to wed him or die. In the swamvara the gods disguised themselves as Nala .Unable to distinguish among them Damayanti declared that she would marry Nala.The gods assumed their own forms .Damayanti chose Nala,and they were married .
Angered that Damayanti had married a mortal being, the demon Kali vowed to take revenge through his propensity for gambling and waited for twelve long years. Damayanti and Nala along with their two children were leading a happy life .At this time the demon Kali took revenge and in the game of dice he lost his kingdom to his brother Pushkara.Nala and Damayanti started living in the forest. Seeing the pain and misery Nala decided to abandon Damayanti while she was asleep, hoping she would go back to her father's house. Nala divided their one robe into two, and took half with him, leaving half with Damayanti. When Damayanti awoke, she did not go home to her father's house, but kept looking for Nala everywhere. The ascetics in the forest advised Damayanti to go to her father's palace and wait for Nala there but instead she followed a caravan to the kingdom of Chedi. After serving as the handmaiden to the Princess of Chedi, Brahman Sudeva rescued her. Sudeva took Damayanti to her father's house where she was reunited with her children. Damayanti's father promised that he would search for Nala. In the meanwhile,Nala rescued the Naga Karkotaka from fire and was bitten in an attempt to control the devil within him. As a result, the venom turned Nala into a dwarf named Vahuka, who served as a charioteer to the Ayodhya
King Rituparna. King Rituparna was glad to have a charioteer who could make his horses go very fast.The Brahman Parnada met Vahuka in King Rituparna's court and recognized him as Nala Parnada then went to Damayanti and told her that he had found Nala at King Rituparna's court. Damayanti sent Sudeva as a messenger to Rituparna, inviting him to a swayamvara. Rituparna begged Vahuka to get him to Damayanti's swayamvara as quickly as possible. On the way, Vahuka asked Rituparna to share with him the secrets of successful gambling. The knowledge of gambling finally drove Kali from Nala's body.
As soon as Damayanti saw the dwarf she knew it was was Nala because of the flavor of a dish that he cooked for her. The two were reunited and Nala was transformed from being a dwarf into his familiar form. He used the knowledge of gambling he had gained in order to regain everything he had lost from Pushkara.