Bahuka held the reins expertly and the horses galloped fast. It appeared to Rituparna that they were flying in the air. The other charioteer was seated next to Bahuka. He wondered who this Bahuka was, being so good with the horses. Was he Matalai, the charioteer of Indra? Or was he Nala?
Exchange of knowledge
The air rushed past him with such a force that the king found even breathing difficult. Suddenly, the garment which he wore around his chest flew off. He asked Bahuka to stop immediately so that he could fetch it. Bahuka said, “Your Excellency! Your garment is behind us by eight or ten miles by now”.
Rituparna was thrilled finding his horses galloping at unbelievable speed. He wanted to impress Bahuka with his own learning. He said. “Bahuka, look at that tree far in front of us. I can tell you exactly how many leaves it has”. Then, he gave the number. He asked Bahuka to stop the chariot when they reached near it. When they stopped the king said. “Now you break that particular branch and count the leaves on it. You multiply what you get by the number of branches. You shall arrive at my figure”. Bahuka was surprised that the king was absolutely right. He wanted to learn how he did it. In exchange he promised to teach the king his knowledge of horses.
Rituparna said. “I did my calculation using the science called Akshahridaya or the secret of dice. I shall teach you also how you can apply it in the game of dice. Once you know the secret there will be none who can beat you in that game”. Nala was, no doubt, interested. He remembered the words of the serpent, Karkotaka.
(Indian Statisticians observe that the principles of Statistics and Probability theory lie behind the science of dice as king Rituparna stated it. It is the basic theory of averages which the king applied. Of course, the theory of Probability plays a big role in the game of dice).
Bahuka started the chariot with renewed speed. The two, king and his charioteer, then taught each other their respective area of knowledge. It is said that it was at that moment that Kali completely left the body of Nala.
Arrival in Vidarbha
It was near sunset. The residents of Vidarbha heard a terrifying rumbling sound. They looked out and found a chariot arriving at a tremendous speed. Everyone wondered who would be coming. Damayanti was expecting Nala and came out into the open terrace of the palace to observe whether her dear husband finally arrived. She found the king, Rituparna, stepping out. The charioteer who sat in front also stepped down. He looked ugly and shabbily dressed and bore no resemblance to her handsome Nala.
Who was he? The sound of the chariot was exactly as though Nala, himself, was at the reins. But, who is this ugly man? Was it possible that Nala taught him his secret knowledge of horses? She decided to find out and sent her maid to the charioteer.
King Bhima surprised
The Vidarbha king wondered what would have brought Rituparna to his land. After receiving the king courteously Bhima asked his host what could be his mission.
Rituparna was equally confused. The Swayamwara was supposed to be the very next day. That was why he impressed upon his charioteer to use all his skill and reach the land of Vidarbha in such a hurry. But, he found no sign of any wedding arrangements. Nor did he find any other king at the palace. It would be highly embarrassing, if there was any confusion about the invitation he received. So, he replied that it was just a courtesy call on his part.
The Vidarbha king was even more puzzled with that reply. A mere courtesy call by some one from a distance of eight hundred miles! But, he outwardly showed no signs of surprise and lead Rituparna to a quarter of the palace that was hurriedly arranged for his comfortable stay.
Meanwhile, the maid sent by Damayanti accosted the charioteer, Bahuka. She repeated the words of Damayanti addressing her husband why he left her all alone in the forest. Bahuka shed tears and repeated the same words which he spoke earlier in reply to that question.
Damayanti’s suspicion grew stronger this time. She wanted to test the charioteer further. She knew some of the gifts of Nala that no other human beings could perform. Only raw meat and vegetables were supplied for dinner for the visitors. Damayanti made sure that there was no fire in the kitchen to cook the food. There was no water either. The maid was asked to hide and watch what would happen next.
The maid was greatly surprised to find that the charioteer was nonplussed by not finding water and fire. He seemed to be in prayer for a while and water filled the cooking pots automatically. He prayed again facing the setting sun and fire lit the wood in the oven instantaneously. Several steaming and sweet smelling dishes were made ready in no time by the charioteer. The maid managed to bring some sample of the dishes to her mistress. Damayanti was certain after tasting them that the cook was none other than her husband.
As a final test she sent her children to the charioteer. He embraced them with tears flowing down his cheeks and took them into his lap.
Damayanti was by now sure that the charioteer was none other than Nala. But, how did he look so different? We shall learn about it in the next, concluding, part of the story.