Nacca Jataka

Once on a time, in the first cycle of the world’s history, the quadrupeds chose the Lion as their king, the fishes the monster-fish Ananda, and the birds the Golden Mallard. Now the King Golden Mallard had a lovely young daughter, and her royal father granted her any boon she might ask. The boon she asked for was to be allowed to choose a husband for herself; and the king in fulfillment of his promise mustered all the birds together in the country of the Himalayas. All manner of birds came, swans and peacocks and all other birds; and they flocked together on a great plateau of bare rock. Then the king sent for his daughter and bade her go and choose a husband after her own heart. As she reviewed the crowd of birds, her eye lighted on the peacock with his neck of jeweled sheen and tail of varied hue; and she chose him, saying, “Let this be my husband” Then the assemble of the birds went up to the peacock and said, “Friend peacock, this princess, in choosing her husband form among all these birds, has fixed her choice on you.”

Carried away by his extreme joy, the peacock exclaimed, “Until this day you have never seen how active I am;” and in defiance of all decency he spread his wings and began to dance; and in dancing he exposed himself.

Filled with shame, King Golden Mallard said, “This fellow has neither modesty within his heart nor decency in his outward behaviour; I certainly will not give my daughter to one so shameless.” And there in the midst of all that assembly of the birds, he repeated this stanza:-

A pleasing note is yours, a lovely back,

A neck in hue like lapis lazuli;

A fathom’s length your outstretched feathers reach.

Withal, your dancing loses you my child.

Right in the face of the whole gathering King Royal Mallard gave his daughter to a young mallard, a nephew of his. Covered with shame at the loss of the mallard princess, [208] the peacock rose straight up form the place and fled away. And King Golden Mallard too went back to his dwelling-place.


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