The adventures of Damayanti
We insert here a few original extracts from the adventures of Damayanti, starting from the moment when she finds herself alone in the jungle till the time when she goes back to her parents' home. The reader will find side by side the original Sanskrit and a translation.::"
OKing Yudhishthira! Nala had gone. Refreshed, the slender waisted Damayanti wakened, shuddering at the wood's silence. When she did not see her husband, afraid and anguished she cried aloud and called the King: "Maharaj!
"Ha, lord! Ha, Maharaj! Ha, my prince! Why hast thou abandoned me? Ha, I am slain, I am doomed, I am frigtened in this lonely forest.
* It has been said that one could learn Sanskrit by reading this text again and again, as it is considered relatively simple to understand.
"Surely, O king thou wert true and just. How having spoken the truth couldst thou have abandoned me while I was sleeping in the forest?
"I am thy diligent and faithful wife. I have not done any wrong to thee. If any wrong was committed, it was by others, not by me. So how couldst thou leave me ?
"O king, the words that thou hast proclaimed in the presence of the gods [at the swayamvar ceremony], wilt thou be able to make them true to me?
"Death does not come to men except at the appointed time. This is the only reason why thy wife, although abandoned by thee, is still living for a moment.
"Enough with this jest! This is enough, o best of men! I am afraid, o unconquerable. Show thyself, my lord.
"I saw thee, I saw thee! King, I saw thee there, Naishadha.
Having hidden thyself with creepers, why dost thou not answer me?
"Lord of Kings, here I am weeping and crying, and thou dost not come to console me, o King, how cruel thou art!
"I grieve not for me nor for anyone else. I weep only for thee, o king, how wilt thou be, all alone?
"When thirsty and hungry, exhausted, at nightfall thou wilt not see me under the trees, how wilt thee feel?"
Then overcome with pain, like one burnt by the fire of anger, sobbing, she runs here and there.
At times she springs forth, at times she sinks to the ground, mad with grief. At times, frightened she hides. At times she wails and sobs loudly.
At times, beside herself with grief, seared with extreme pain, she sighs loudly. Weeping, the faithful daughter of Bhima said,
The creature by whose spell Nala had to experience pain after pain, let this creature suffer a greater pain than ours.
"Let the evil being who has reduced the innocent king Nala to this state, live a miserable life and suffer a greater pain than he."
Thus Bhima's daughter mourned and sought her lord in this forest haunted with wild beasts. Like one possessed, she runs here and there, again and again crying, "Ha, ha, King!"
Like a bird she ceaselessly wails and her laments are heart rending.
Suddenly a hungry python with a huge body seized her who was coming towards him.
Even while being swallowed by the python and over whelmed with horror, she did not grieve for herself as much as she grieved for the Naishada King.
"Ah Prince, why dost thou not come rushing towards me? I am here in this lone wood captured by this snake as though I had no protector!
"Naishadha, [when I am dead] how will it be for thee when thee rememberest me again and again? Prabhu! How could thee abandon me today in this jungle?
"Blameless Nala! When, [after this ordeal] thou hast regained thy senses, thy consciousness and thy wealth, thou wilt be tired, hungry and sad. Then who, my lion among kings, will wipe away thy weariness?"
At that time, some hunter who was roaming through the deep forest, heard her bewailing and approached rapidly. Seeing a woman with long eyes, caught by that snake, he came running. With a sharp weapon he tore the head of the snake. Having killed the animal who now was inert, the hunter freed Damayanti. She washed her body with water, he gave her many reassurances and after she had eaten something, he asked her,
"Who is thy husband, o thou with the fawn's eyes? How earnest thee in this jungle? And how hast thee been reduced to this miserable state, noble lady?"
O, king Yudhishthira, [said Brihadashva] then Damayanti asked by him recounted all that had befallen her.
Seeing her with half a cloth, of full hips and breasts, her
whose body was without a blemish, whose face was glowing like the full moon, whose eyes were with curving lashes, and whose voice was melodious, the hunter fell to desire.
With sweet and tender words, this greedy man, tormented by lust, tried to console her. The noble lady understood.
The faitthful Damayanri perceived his evil intention and filled with a fierce anger burnt as it were with the fire of wrath.
Alhough this vile and wicked hunter was intending to take her by force, he did hesitate to touch her, bright as a flame, invincible.
But Darmayanti, albeit so desolate, abandoned by her lord, stripped off her kingdom, cursed him angrily, as the time for supplication was over.
"If it is t true that I have never given a thought to any man save the Naishadha king, then may this vile hunter fall dead!"
Hardly had she spoken when the hunter fell to earth, stone dead, like a tree burned by a lightening bolt.
Leaving the spot and more than ever oppressed by grief, the queen went deeper still into the forest. Whom could she ask for tidings of her lord? When evening fell, she saw a tiger looking for its prey. She approached him:
"Here comes the king of the forest. His great jaws armed with four fold fangs. A tiger is approaching and stands face to face on my path. I shall go to him fearlessly: 'Sir, thou art the chief of the beasts and the master of this forest.
'Know me to be Damayanti, the daughter of the king of Vidarbha, the wife of the king of Nishadha, the subduer of his foes.
'I am alone in this jungle searching for my husband, miserable, sorrow stricken, o Lord of the beasts, if thou hast seen Nala, comfort me.
'But if thou canst not speak about him, then king of the forest, devour me, savage lord, and set me free from this woe.'
"This tiger has heard me crying yet he does not comfort me. He directs his steps towards the river, full of sweet water, flowing towards the ocean."
Then Damayanti saw a great mountain that reared its crest . high into the heavens. She asked the mountain if it had seen her husband. But the mountain did not answer a word.
For three whole nights and days she wandered, her feet leading her to the North. At last she saw stretched in front of her a beautiful grove inhabited by holy men, clad with bark. They lived in contemplation and had mastered their senses. Some lived only on water or air, some lived only on the leaves fallen from the trees. A ring of huts formed an ashram around which one could see different kinds of animals grazing peacefully. They welcomed Damayanti and asked her who she was. She told the holy men the tale of her life. The seers told her,
chap 64 (contd)
"Fair lady, your future will be bright. We can see by the power of our tapasya. Soon you will behold Naishadha.
"O! daughter of Bhima, thou wilt see Nala again, thou wilt see the king of the Nishadhas, the terror of his foes, the best among those firm in dharma, and he will be freed from troubles.
"Thou wilt see your husband purged of all sins and covered with gems, thou wilt see him the subduer of his foes, ruling again over the same city,, giving fear to enemies and wiping out the pain of his friends, o fair lady, thou wilt see this king of a noble descent."
Having said these words to the dear queen of Nala, daughter of a king, these ascetics disappeared from sight along with the ashram and holy fiires.
Then seeing this great wonder Damayanti of perfect beauty, daughter in law of king Viresena, was amazed.
"Is it a dream that I saw? What kind of miracle took place?
Where are all those ascetics? Where is the ashram?
"Where is that river with clear water inhabited by birds? Where are the charming trees covered with flowers and fruits?"
Damayanti continued her journey to the North searching for her husband. At first the gloom of the forest deepened, but afterwards, the trees grew farther apart and at last she came to the banks of a wide river on whose waters swam wild duck and geese and swans. She walked upstream a little way, till she saw that a company of merchants had camped by the river. She hastened to join them. Seeing her worn with grief and toil, covered with dust and clad in half a cloth, the merchants thought at first that she was an evil spirit of the woods. She explained who she was and that she was searching for her husband the king of Naishadas. The leader of the merchants told her that their caravan was going to the lands of Subahu, King of the Chedis, and that if she wished, they could take her along. The merchants and the queen journeyed several days together until they came to a large lake. They halted and camped close to its waters. The same night a herd of elephants came there to drink, and as the camp barred their way they rushed through it, trampling it under and goring with their tusks all who came in their way. Many of the merchants perished and some of those who escaped abused Damayanti as an evil spirit and the cause of their ill fortune. The queen fearing for her life left them and fled into the forest.
The princess of Vidarbha felt very sad and reflected, "What crime have I committed, that in this desolate forest I came across a group of people as large as the sea and they were killed by a herd of elephants? All this has been brought about by my ill luck. No doubt sorrow after sorrow I will have to bear.
"None dies before his time, this is the lore of ancient sages. This is why — even though I am so sad that I would be glad to die — I was not trampled upon by the elephants.
"Nothing, good or bad, happens to man unless by destiny. From my childhood I have not wrought any wrong in thought, word or deed which could bring me such grief.
"I think for the sake of Nala I rejected the gods who had come to my swayamvara. It is due to their influence that today I am experiencing the pain of separation." Thus the faithful and fair Damayanti poured out her grief.
O Yudhishthira! [said Brihadashva] Then with certain brahmins saved from the massacre — men who had read the Vedas — she travelled, beautiful and sad like the moon crescent in autumn, and soon one evening she arrived in the capital of the King of Chedis, the just Subahu.
Clad with half a garment she entered the great city. She was mad with grief, emaciated and weak, her hair was loose, and she was unwashed.
The inhabitants of the city saw her walking like a mad woman. At that time village children saw her enter the capital and followed her with curiosity Surrounded by them she approached the royal palace.
The queen mother of the Chedis was touched by the great beauty and nobility of Damayanti. She advised her daughter, Sunanda, to take this lady as her companion. Sunanda looked at Damayanti and loved her instantly. Damayanti made it very clear that the queens must protect her as she was the faithful wife of a man who, for no fault of his own, had left her. She would not bear to be wooed by any man.
Several years passed. The king Bhima had sent emissaries everywhere to try and find a trace of Damayanti and Nala. Finally a brahmin named Sudeva arrived in the city of the Chedi king and recognized Damayanti by the tiny mole between her eyebrows. A little later, Damayanti escorted by a strong band of horsemen returned with Sudeva to Vidarbha.
Let us now go back to the story as told by Sister Nivedita:
... Once more Damayanti was dwelling — but now with her children by her side — in her father's house. For Bhima had sent out messengers in all directions to seek for her, and by them had she been found and brought back to her own people: But always she wore but half a veil, never would she use ornaments, and even she waited sorrowfully for the coming again of her husband, Nala. For in all this time he had never been heard of.
Now it had happened to Nala that on finally leaving Damayanti he saw a mighty forest fire, and from its midst he heard the voice of some creature crying, "Come to my aid, O mighty Nala!"
Saying, "Fear not!" the King stepped at once within the circle of fire, and beheld an enormous snake lying there coiled up.
And the snake spoke, saying, "I have been cursed, O King, to remain here, unable to move, till one named Nala carry me hence. And only on that spot to which he shall carry me can I be made free from this curse. And now, O Nala, if thou wilt lift me in thy hands, I shall be thy friend and do to thee great good. Moreover, there is no snake equal unto me. I can make myself small and light in thy hands. I beseech thee to lift me and let us go hence!"Then that great snake made himself as small as the human thumb, and taking him in his hands, Nala carried him to a place outside the fire. But as he was about to place him on the ground, the snake bit him, and Nala perceived that as he was bitten, his form had been changed.
And the snake spoke, saying, "Nala, be comforted! I have deprived thee of thy beauty, that none may recognise thee. And he who has wronged and betrayed thee shall dwell in thee from this time in uttermost torture. Henceforth art thou in peace, and that evil one in torment from my venom. But go thou now to Ayodhya, and present thyself before the king there, who is skilled in gambling. Offer him thy services as a charioteer. Give to him thy skill with horses, in exchange for his knowledge of dice. When thou dost understand the dice, thy wife and children will be thine once more. And finally, O King, when thou desirest to regain thy proper form, think of me and wear these garments." And saying these words that lord of Nagas gave unto Nala two pieces of enchanted clothing, and immediately became invisible.
And Nala made his way to Ayodhya, and entered the service of Rituparna the King, receiving great honour as the Master of the Horse. And all the stables and their attendants were placed under him; for Rituparna desired nothing so much as that his steeds should be fleet.
But night after night the fellow officers of the charioteer — who was known in the palace of Ayodhya as Vahuka — would hear him alone, groaning and weeping, and listening they dis tinctly heard the words: "Alas! where layeth she now her head, a hungered and a thirst, helpless and worn with toil, thinking ever of him who was unworthy? Where dwelleth she now? On whose bidding doth she wait?" And once, when they begged him to tell them who it was that he thus lamented, he told them in veiled words his whole story. "A certain person," he said, "had a beautiful wife, but little sense. The wretch was false. He kept not his promises. Fate came upon him, and they were separated. Without her, he wandered ever to and fro oppressed with woe, and now, burning with grief, he resteth not by day nor night. At last he has found a refuge, but each hour that passes only reminds him of her. When calamity had overtaken this man, his wife followed him into the wild woods. He repaid her by deserting her there! Abandoned by him, lost
in the forest, fainting with hunger and thirst, ever exposed to the perils of the wilderness, her very life was put by him in danger. Yea, my friends, it was by him — by him that she was thus deserted, by him, that very man, so foolish and ill fated, that she was left thus alone in the great and terrible forest, surrounded on every side by beasts of prey — by him, by him!"
With his mind dwelling thus on Damayanti, did Vahuka the charioteer live in the palace of Rituparna. And Damayanti, sheltered once more in her father's house, had one thought, and one only, and that was the possibility of recovering Nala. Now it was the custom amongst the Vidarbhas to send out Brahmins periodically, who, bearing the King's orders, wandered from town to town and from country to country, telling stories to the people from the holy books, and giving religious instruction wherever it was needed. It had indeed been by the aid of these strolling teachers that Damayanti herself had been discovered, when she was acting as lady in waiting to a foreign princess. Now, therefore, it was decided that she should give them their directions, and try by their means to trace out her long lost husband. They came to her therefore for instructions, and she gave them a song which they were to sing in all the assemblies that they should come to in every realm.
"Whither, beloved Gambler, whither art thou gone, Cutting off one half my veil, Abandoning me, thy devoted wife, Asleep in the forest?
|Ever do I await thee,As thou wouldst desire me, Wearing but half a veil, Enwrapt in sorrow|
|Relent, O King O Hero! Relent and return thee,|
To her who weepeth incessantly
For thy departure!"
"Crying thus, add to the part your own words," she said to the Brahmins, "that his pity be awakened. Fanned by the wind, the fire consumeth the forest!"
"Surely a wife should be protected
And maintained by her husband.
Strange that, noble as thou art,
Thou neglectest both these duties!
Wise thou wast, and famous,
High-born and full of kindness.
Why didst thou then deal to me this blow?
Alas, the fa tilt was mine!
My good fortune had departed from me!
Yet even so, thou greatest, thou noblest
Amongst men, even so, have pity,
Be merciful to me!"
"If, after ye have sung in this wise," said Damayanti to the Brahmins, "any should chance to speak with you, oh, bring me word of him! I must know who he is, and where he dwelleth. But take ye great heed that none may guess the words ye speak to be at my bidding, nor that ye will afterwards return to me. And do not fail, I beseech ye, to seek out all that is to be known regarding that man who shall answer to your song!"
Having received these orders, the Brahmins set out in all directions to do the bidding of Damayanti. And their quest led them far and near, through cities and villages, into strange kingdoms, amongst forests, hermitages, and monasteries, and from one camp of roving cowherds to another. And wherever
hey went they sang the songs and played the part thiat Dama yanti had laid upon them, seeking in every place, if by any means they might bring back to her news of Nala.
And when a long time had passed away, one of these Brahmins returned to Damayanti, and said to her, "O Dama yanti, seeking Nala, the king of the Nishadas, I came to the city of Ayodhya, and appeared before Rituparna. Butt though I repeatedly sang thy songs, neither that King nor any of his courtiers answered anything. Then, when I had been dismissed by the monarch, I was accosted by one of his servants, Vahuka the charioteer. And Vahuka is of uncomely" looks and figure, and possessed of very short arms. But he is skilful in the man agement of horses, and is also acquainted with the art of cookery.
"And this Vahuka, with many sighs and some tears, came up to me and asked about my welfare. And then he said, 'She should not be angry with one whose garment was carried off by birds, when he was trying to procure food for both! The honour of a woman is its own best guard. Let her not be angered against one who is consumed with grief. Noble women are ever faithful, ever true to their own lords, an
uncomely = ugly
this Brahmin, Sudeva, and said, "Go straight as a bird, Sudeva, to the city of Ayodhya and tell Rituparna the King that Bhima's daughter, Damayanti, will once more hold a Swayamvara. Kings and princes from all parts are coming to it. Knowing not whether the heroic Nala lives or not, it is decided that she is again.. to choose a husband. Tomorrow at sunrise, say thou, when thou seest him, the ceremony will take place." And Sudeva, bowing before the Queen mother and her daughter, left the royal presence, and proceeded to Ayodhya.
When Rituparna heard the news, he sent immediately for Vahuka, the charioteer. If he desired in one day to reach the city of the Vidarbhas, there was only one driver in the world who could enable him to do so. "Exert thyself, 0 Vahuka!" he exclaimed. "Damayanti, daughter of Bhima, holds tomorrow a second Swayamvara, and I desire to reach the city this very "day!"
Hearing these words Nala felt as if his heart would break. "What!" he thought to himself, "is this the madness of sorrow? Or is it perhaps a punishment for me? Ah, cruel is this deed that she would do! It may be that, urged by my own folly, the stainless Princess cares for me no longer. Yet I can not believe that she, my wife, and the mother of my children, could possibly dream of wedding any other. In any case, how ever, there is but one thing to be done. By going there I shall do the will of Rituparna, and also satisfy myself." Having thus reflected, Vahuka answered the King, saying, "O Monarch, I bow to thy behest.* Thou shalt reach the city of the Vidarbhas in a single day."
Wonderful and eventful was the driving of Vahuka the charioteer that day. Never had Rituparna, or the servant who attend ed him, seen such skill. The servant indeed remembered, as he watched it, the fame of Nala. But he turned his eyes upon the driver, and seeing his want of beauty, decided that this could hardly be he, even though he should be disguised and living as a
* behest = command
servant, in consequence of misfortune. Every now and men the chariot would rise into the sky, and course along with the fleetness of the wind. Like a bird would it cross rivers and mountains, woods and lakes. In a few seconds it would speed over as many miles. And Rituparna knew not how to express his delight in the skill of his charioteer. Words could not speak his anxiety to reach the city of the Vidarbhas before nightfall; and more and more, as the hours went on, did he become convinced that only with the help of Vahuka was this possible. But about noon the two became involved in a dispute about the number of leaves and fruits on a certain tree. Rituparna, who was a great mathematician, said there were so many and officer insisted on stopping the car, cutting down the tree and counting, to see if the King's words were true! Rituparna was in despair. He could not go on without Vahuka and vahuka was intent on verifying the numbers. However the charioteer was sufficiently amazed and respectful to the King's Knowledge when he had counted the fruits and found them to be correct. Then, in order to coax him onwards, Rituparna said "Come on, Vahuka, and in exchange for the knowledge of horses, I will give thee my knowledge of dice. For I understand every secret of the gaming table." This was the very moment for which Nala had waited and served so long! However, he preserved his composure, and immediately the King impated to him his knowledge. And lo! As he did so, Kali, the .spirit of darkness, came forth, invisible to others, from within Nala, and he felt himself suddenly to be released from all weakness and blindness, and to have again all his old time energy and power. And radiant with renewal of strength, the charioteer mounted once more on the chariot, and taking the reins in his hands, drove swiftly to the city of the Vidarbhas.
As Rituparna, towards evening, entered the city, the sound of the driving of his chariot fell on the ears of Damayanti in the palace, and she remembered, with a thrill, the touch of Nala on a horse's reins. But, mounting to one of the terraces, she looked out, and could see only one who drove like Nala'
but none who had his face and form. "Ah!" she sighed, "if he does not come to me today, tomorrow I enter the funeral fire! I can bear no longer this life of sorrow!"
The King of Ayodhya meanwhile, hastening to call on ' Bhima, began to think there must have been some mistake. He saw no other kings and princes with their chariots. He heard no word of any Swayamvara. He therefore said that he had come merely to pay his respects. This, thought the King of the Vidarbhas, was a little strange. A man would not usually come so far and in such hot haste, in a single day, merely for a passing visit of courtesy. However, feeling sure that the reason would reveal itself later, he proceeded to offer Rituparna the attentions due to his sank and importance.
Nala, however, had no eyes for anything about him. Buried in thought, he gave orders for the disposal of the horses, and having seen them duly carried out, sat down with arms folded and head bent. At the sound of a woman's voice he looked up. A maid sent from within the palace was asking him, in the name of Damayanti, why and for what purpose had he and Rituparna come. "We came," answered the charioteer bitterly, "because the King heard that the Princess of the Vidarbhas would for a second time hold a Swayamvara!" "And who art thou?" again asked the maiden. "Who an thou?. And who yon servant yonder? Might either of ye by chance have heard aught of Nala? It may even be that thou knowest whither King Nala is gone!"
"Nay, nay!" answered Vahuka. "That King in his calamity wanders about the world, disguised, and despoiled even of his beauty. Nala's self only knoweth Nala, and she also that is his second self. Nala never discovereth his secret to any!"
"And yet," replied the maid, "we sent a Brahmin to Ayodhya, and when he sang —
Ah, beloved Gambler, whither art thou gone, Taking with thee half my veil, And leaving me, who loved thee,
Sleeping in the woods?
Speak thou, great King, the words I long to hear,
For I who am without stain pant to hear them!'
when he sang thus, thou didst make some reply. Repeat thy words now, I beseech thee. My mistress longeth again to hear those words!"
At this Nala answered in a voice half choked: "She ought not to be angry with one whose garment was carried off by birds, when he was trying to procure food for both! The hon our of a woman is its own best guard. Let her not be angered against one who is consumed with grief. Noble women are ever faithful, ever true to their own lords, and, whether treated well or ill, they will forgive one who is deprived of every joy!" As he ended, the King could no longer restrain himself, but bury his head in his arms, gave way to his sorrow; and the girl, seeing this, stole away silently to tell all to the Princess.
News was brought also to Damayanti of the greatness and power of Rituparna's charioteer. It was told her how on coming to a low doorway he would not stoop down, but the pas sage itself would grow higher in his presence, that he might easily enter it. Vessels at his will filled themselves with water. He needed not to strike to obtain fire, for on holding a handful of grass in the sun, it would of its own accord burst into flame in his hand. Hearing these and other things, Damayanti became sure that the charioteer Vahuka was no other than Nala, her husband. Yet, that she might put him to one more test, she sent her maid, with her two children, to wander near him. On seeing them, Nala took them into his arms and embraced them, with tears. Then, realising how strange this must seem, he turned to the waiting woman and said apologetically — "They are so like my own! But do not thou, maid en, come this way again. We are strangers here from a far land. We are unknown, and I would fain* be alone."
And now, having heard this, Damayanti could wait no longer, but sent for the permission of her father and mother, and had Nala brought to her own apartments. Coming thus into her presence, and seeing her clad just as he had left her, wearing only half her veil, the seeming charioteer was shaken with grief. And Damayanti, feeling sure that he was Nala, and seeing him as a servant, whose wont it was to be a king, could scarcely restrain her tears. But she composed herself, and said quietly, "Well, Vahuka, did you ever hear of a good man who went away and. left a devoted wife, sleeping alone, in the forest? Ah, what was the fault that Nala found in me, that he should so have left me, helpless and alone? Did I not choose him once in preference to the very gods themselves? And did he not, in their presence, and in that of the fire, take me by the hand, and say, 'Verily, I shall be ever thine'? Where was that promise, do you think, when he left me thus?"
And Nala answered, "In truth, it was not my fault. It was the act of Kali, who hath now left me, and for that only, have I come hither! But, Damayanti, was there ever a true woman who, like thee, could choose a second husband? At this moment have the messengers of thy father gone out over the whole world, crying, 'Bhima's daughter will choose again a husband who shall be worthy of her.' For this it is that Rituparna is come hither!"
Then Damayanti, trembling and frighted, folded her hands before Nala, and said, "O dear and blessed Lord, suspect me not of evil! This
was but my scheme to bring thee hither. Excepting thee, there was none in the whole world who could drive here quickly enough. Let the gods before whom I chose thee, let the sun and the moon and the air, tell thee truly that every thought of mine has been for thee!" And at the words, flowers fell from the sky, and a voice said, "Verily Damayanti is full of faith and honour! Damayanti is without stain!"Then was the heart of Nala at peace within him. And he remembered his change of form, and drawing forth the enchant ed garments, he put them on, keeping his mind fixed on the
great Naga. And when Damayanri saw Nala again in his own form, she made salutation to him as her husband, and began to weep. Then were their children brought to them, and the Queen mother gave her blessing, and hour after hour passed in recounting the sorrows of their separation.
The next day were Nala and Damayanti received together in royal audience by Bhima. And in due time, Kali being now gone out from him, Nala made his way to his own kingdom of the Nishadas and recovered his throne, and then, returning for his Queen, Damayanti, and their children, he took them all back to their own home, and they lived there happily together ever after.
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