Nala was the King of Nishadha Kingdom and son of Veerasena was a gifted charioteer. He was also known for his bravery and his war skills. One day Brahmins came to his court and suggested few girls for his marriage. One of them was Damyanti daughter of King Vidharbha. He ordered his painters to paint the picture of Damyanti. They painted her picture so beautiful which results from an attraction of Nala towards Damyanti without even seeing her. Soon his attraction converted into love and she eagerly wanted to marry Damyanti.
Nala decided to send a message of his love to Damayanti. One day Nala caught a swan. Swan asked Nala to release him and promise him that he will do anything for him in return. After hearing this from swan Nala made a plan. Nala asked him to go to Damayanti and sing songs in his praise. As a result, swan did the same. He went to the Damayanti’s palace and when he found her alone in the garden he started singing Nala’s praise. After hearing from swan Damayanti also fell in love with Nala.
Meanwhile, Damyanti’s father announced her swayawavara which was attended by everyone like Gods and humans. Damyanti chose Nala and married to him. Now the question is how Damayanti recognized Nala. So, she recognized him from his shadow because Gods had no shadows but Nala did. When Damayanti chose Nala as her husband everyone else got disappointed, but at the same time they Gods blessed the couple.
Between all the Gods and humans there was Demon Kali (incarnation of Kala yuga), who was supposed to attend the swayanvara. But somehow he arrived late. He runs into the gods and listened from them the whole story of Nala and Damayanti’s marriage. Kali got angry and took the vow to become a cause for the fall of Nala’s kingdom.
Kali observed Nala’s life and Kingdom for twelve years to find a weakness of Nala. And after twelve years he succeeded to find one. Kali guided him and his brother Pushkara to play a game of gambling (Kali was a great gambler). But at the end of the game, Nala lost his everything and got deserted.
In the power of Kali, Nala and Damayanti went to forests for their exile. Nala and Damayanti spent the first three days at the border of a nearby forest. They survived only on water from a river. Then, besieged by hunger, Nala went in deep forest for searching the food. He saw some birds in a reimbursement. He thought that he may be able to get at least one of them down. He took his clothes off and threw them over the birds. In a buzz of wings, the birds rose up and carried away the cloth with them. They also announced that they came to take everything lasts to Nala away from him.
Nala stood naked and started calling Damayanti’s name for help. Nala told Damayanti to go back to his father and left him. But Damayanti chose to live with Nala and will face all problems with him. That night they found a traveler’s shelter and decided to spend that night there. When Damayanti got slept Nala decided to leave her alone so that she can be safe. Nala picked up his sword and cut the knot of their joint clothes. He wished for Damayanti’s good future and decided to come back when situations will be fine.
When Damayanti woke up she started looking for her husband. In her search, she gets into the deep forests. During this Damayanti was caught by a huge python. A hunter passing by looked at her. He killed the python and saved her life. Hunter got attracted by the beauty of Damayanti and tried to touch her. Damyanti warned him not to come closer to her otherwise he had to face consequences. Hunter ignored her warning, as a result, he got hit by the stroke of lightning which got him down.
Damayanti again started looking for Nala and after many days she met a traveling group of priests. But they also didn’t see Nala. She joined them and reached the kingdom of Chedi. There she met the queen and her daughter. She told them all the story but kept her identity hidden. She started working there as the personal maid of the queen and her daughter.
On the counterpart when Nala left Damayanti, after walking for some distance he saw a huge fire and heard a shout of someone for help. Nala was boomed by Agni Deva that he will never go hurt by fire. So he decided to save that person. Nala passed flames easily and saw a huge snake there, it was a Naga named as Karkotaka. Nala picked up the snake and started walking out of the fire. But after walking for nine steps at the tenth step Karkotaka sand its little fang into his hand. Which made Nala an ugly man. His color turned out in jet black from fair. He said to Nala that his poison will not hurt him but it will slowly end Kali hidden inside him. But now Nala cannot be recognized by anyone.
Karkotaka advised him to go to Ayodhya and work with the King. He also gave him two clothes and assured him that soon he will become the old Nala. He also gave him a new name that was Vahuka. Nala went Ayodhya and picked up the job of Charioteer of King Rituparana. He saw varshneya there who was Nala’s former charioteer now working with King Rituparna.
Varshneya was confused about the new charioteer (Nala). “Where are you now, my beloved? Are you in thoughts of that miserable man who left you?” every night, he said these words in prayer. After saying these words, his tears would come to his eyes. Varshneya thought that If Vahuka did not look so different and dark she would have thought she was hearing the voice of her old master. Queen Damayanti had assigned or hand over her twin kids to Varshneya, and this loyal charioteer (Nala or vahuka) had driven them to Damayanti’s parents’ palace.
Far away in the kingdom of the Ayodhya, Damayanti was living her life as a personal maid to the queen-mother and her daughter. They were very kind and humble towards her. Queen – mother had sent men in search of their Damayanti’s lost husband, but none of them had succeeded to found anyone who fitted the description that Damayanti had given of her husband.
One day a priest came to the queen – mother and told her that he came from the kingdom of King Vidarbha. He also told her that he is looking for the princess Damayanti who is lost. He said that he saw her maid and he confused her with princess Damayanti. He asked the queen to confirm that information for him with a birthmark on her body. Queen promised him for her help.
Queen went to Damayanti and requested her that she wanted to wash her face. When queen washed her face she recognized a mole in the shape of lotus on her face. She addressed her as the princess Damayanti and told her about the priest. She also requested her to go back to her parents.
Damayanti get back to her parents but would not stop searching for Nala. She sent messengers in the search of Nala. She ordered them to keep chanting following words while searching:
“Hey gamblers, you cut the knot and left me alone in this world with sorrow. Please answer my calls.”
If anyone responds to these worlds get him to me, Damayanti ordered them. Messengers left for Nala’s search and keep saying those worlds. After some time a piece of news came to Damayanti by the messengers that when they were in the kingdom of Ayodhya, one of the charioteers was asking for the description of the lost man. Damayanti thought that he must be Nala. So she decided to take his test.
She asked her father to announce her second swayawara of her. When Rituparana heard that news he asked her charioteer to ready the horses for leaving for Damayanti’s swayavar. Nala thought that due to her Karmas towards Damayanti, probably she decided to marry again. Varshneya also came with them.
When they were in the way Varshneya observed Nala and thought that he acts like his old master. Due to the speed of Vahuka’s chariot, King’s shoulder cloth flew away. King requested Vahuka to stop but he told him that we came so far from that point. But King again ordered him to stop. King then told vahuka that let me show you the power of my calculation and infraction of seconds he gave him knowledge about the number of leaves and fruits on the two different branches of the tree. Nala got impressed and asked him to teach him his knowledge and in return, he will share his knowledge about horses. King Rituparana agreed.
He gave knowledge to Nala about the science behind throwing the dice and numbers. Due to the poison of Naga, Kali inside Nala was burnt. In a few hours, they reached at the Vidarbha and citizens recognized the voice of chariot as Nala’s chariot. Damayanti decided to take his last test. She ordered Vahuka to cook food for her and ordered Keshni to keep her eyes on him.
Keshni came to Damayanti and said that when she hide herself to watch Nala. Nala got some fibers of vegetables and put them in the sunlight, the vegetables got fire. This made Damayanti sure that Vahuka is Nala. Damayanti ate food made by vahuka which reminds him food made by Nala.
She sent Keshani with her kids to Nala to see his reaction. As a result, Nala kept crying to see his kids in front of his eyes. This filled him with love and affection towards his kids. Damayanti requested to meet Nala. Nala thought of the Karkotaka and put on the two cloths he had given him which turned him to the old Nala again. The entire kingdom of Vidarbha disintegrates out in celebration.
At the end of dwapaar yuga, Nala decided to play gambling with his brother again and won his kingdom back from him. Nala got Damayanti back to his kingdom and lived happily ever after.