KING Prasenajit had a daughter named Virupa. She had reached a marriageable age. Unfortunately, she was extremely ugly; no prince or warrior would have her for a wife, and even the merchants looked at her askance.
But presently a wealthy stranger came to live in Cravasti. His name was Ganga. The king thought, “Ganga has never seen my daughter. Perhaps he will not refuse to marry her.” And he summoned him to the palace.
Ganga was highly flattered by Prasenajit’s offer. He was of humble birth, and although, as a merchant, he had amassed a great fortune, he had never dreamed of marrying a princess. He therefore accepted the proposal.
“Then come to the palace this very evening,” said the king, “and take my daughter home with you.”
He obeyed. The night was dark, and the wedding took place without Ganga having seen his betrothed. Then Virupa accompanied her husband to his home.
Ganga saw his wife the next day. Her ugliness frightened him. He wanted to turn her out of the house, but he did not dare; he feared the king’s vengeance. He kept her at home, but she was virtually a prisoner; she was not allowed to go out, for any reason whatsoever.
She was very unhappy. In vain she gave her husband constant proof of her affection; he only showed his aversion and his contempt for her. He never looked at her. He hardly spoke to her. And Virupa felt lonely and forlorn.
One day, Ganga was invited to a feast given by some of his friends. “Whoever comes without wife,” he was warned, “will be fined five hundred pieces of gold.”
Ganga decided to attend; it would relieve the monotony of his existence. But he did not want to show Virupa to his friends; he was afraid of being ridiculed. “I shall pay the five hundred pieces of gold,” he thought, “and they will not make fun of me.”
That day, Virupa was sadder than usual. She knew where her husband had gone, and she wept. She said to herself:
“What good is a life as dreary as mine? I never have any pleasure. My master loathes me. And I can not blame him; I am ugly; every one has told me so. I have brought joy to no one. Oh, I loathe myself. Death would be better than this life I lead; death would be sweet. I shall kill myself.”
She took a rope and hung herself.
At that same moment, in Jeta’s park, the Master was wondering, “Who is suffering to-day in Cravasti? Whom can I save from misery? To what unfortunate being can I lend a helping hand?”
By his power of divination, he learned of Virupa’s distress. He flew to Ganga’s house; he entered. Virupa was still alive. The Master loosened the rope she had fastened about her neck. She breathed deeply and looked around. She recognized the Master. She fell at his feet and made him a pious offering. Then he said:
“Look at yourself in a mirror, Virupa.”
She obeyed. She uttered a cry of joy and astonishment. She was as beautiful as a daughter of the Gods. Again she wanted to worship the Buddha, but he had disappeared.
In the meanwhile, Ganga had not been spared the banter of his friends.
“Why did you come without your wife?” they asked him. “Are you afraid to let us see her? She must be very beautiful. You jealous husband!”
Ganga was at a loss for an answer. The feast bored him. One of his friends handed him a cup of intoxicating wine.
“Drink, Ganga,” said he. “We laugh, and you are almost in tears. Come, laugh with us. Drink; this wine will teach you to laugh.”
Ganga took the cup. He drank. He became livelier. He drank again. Presently, he was drunk. And he kept on drinking until, finally, he fell into a heavy sleep.
“Let us hurry over to his house, while he is asleep,” said his friends. “We shall see his wife, and we shall find out why he keeps her out of sight.”
They entered Ganga’s home. Virupa had the mirror in her hand; she was looking at herself. Her eyes were bright with happiness. All the guests admired her, and they went away, quietly, saying, “We now understand Ganga’s jealousy.”
Ganga was still sleeping. They awoke him and said:
“Great is your felicity, friend. What did you do that was so pleasing to the Gods, to deserve a wife of such rare beauty?”
“This is too much!” cried Ganga. “What have I ever done to you that you should insult me so cruelly?”
And he abruptly left them. He was raging with anger and mortification. He flung open the door of his house; he strode through the halls, muttering imprecations; but, suddenly, the curses died upon his lips. He turned pale with astonishment. Before him was standing a woman of incomparable beauty. She was smiling. He slowly came to his senses; then he, too, smiled, and he asked:
“O you who appear before me like some radiant Goddess new-risen from her bed of flowers, O well-beloved, who made you so beautiful?”
Virupa told him the story. From that day, she and her husband knew true happiness, and they both sought every opportunity to evince their faith in the Buddha and show him their gratitude.