Of Ladies of the Lotus.

IN Himālay of world-wide fame, Māhadeo, the great protector of the universe, gazing in loving wise at his wife Parbati, the fair daughter of Nāga, spake golden words of wisdom regarding the race of women, and into classes four divided he them—Padmini, Chitrini, Sankhini, and Hastini. From the elephant doth the Hastini take her name, and in her ways and looks is she like unto an elephant, and her lust is unto other men than her husband. And after the Sankh, or conch, is the Sankhini named, in that loud and shrill is her voice, and in the front of her plump neck are three circling lines like the hollows of the ribbing of a conch. And the Chitrini men so call, because on the bright surface of her excellences are dark marks, like stripes on a white cloth. Foremost of all is the Padmini, and after the lotus, the flower of perfection, which spring­ing from the slime of ocean and thrusting through the waters to the light of the sun, bore Brāhma, the first of the gods, is she hight. Such are chaste, devoutly attached to their lords, having eyes like a gazelle’s, of fair complexion, their sweat with scent like a lotus, sweet of voice, with fascinating glances which enchant the whole world, walk­ing like swans, smiling faintly with an exalted look of tenderness and affection, blessed with all the signs of good fortune, having small openings to their nostrils, flowing hair of the sheen of black velvet, of slender figure, loving music, and inclined to fasting rather than to feasting.*

In the golden days of yore many were the Ladies of the Lotus—Draupadi,* Sitā,* Savitri,* and others—but in this evil age few: yet among them not the least fair, nor the least famous, was Rup Mati, queen of Māndu, in that her chaste devotion to Bāz Bahādur, the last king of that doomed city, through life and unto death, hath marked her out as one who, despite all trials and temptations, lived and died faithful to husband and ideal. Her fame hath set Māndu for all time among the high places of romance, and her memory and her verse are yet green in the heart of Mālwa. Famed is she in the East even as Lucretia the chaste in the West, and the loves of Rup Mati and Bāz Bahādur are yet on the tongues of men of Hindustān even as those of Laila and Majnun and Shirin and Farhād* in the mouths of the Persians. Worthily, therefore, is she written down as a Lady of the Lotus.