Of the hundred and eight Durga (Kali) temples in Bharat one is at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. The Goddess Kali here is well-known for her prowess, magnanimity and compassion. Ujjain was the famous capital of a vast kingdom of yore. Emperor Vikramaditya ruled this kingdom unblemished. He had many great qualities. He was a devotee of Bhadrakali of Ujjain through whose blessings he became world renowned. He accomplished many great and impossible deeds. Vikramaditya had nine lofty scholars in his court. They were known as nine pearls. They were:
Dhanvantari (inventor of Ayurveda), Kshapanaka, Amarasimha (author of Amarakosha – the Sanskrit lexicon), Vetalabhatta, Khatakarpara, Kalidas, Varahamihira, Ratnakara, and Vararuchi.
Among the nine pearls that adorned the court of Vikramaditya, Kalidas was a poet unparallel in human history. We have received six great works from him. Three dramas and three epic poems. Malavikagnimitram, Vikramorvaseeyam and Sakuntalam are the dramas. Raghuvamsam, Meghadootam and Kumara Sambhavam are the epic poems.
No connoisseur of literature could so far specify the cynosure of Kalidas’s compositions. Whether it is the deep insight, wisdom, transcendental knowledge, poetical genius, geographical acumen, style of narration, superb poetical stamina, unique similes that stand ahead – there is no precise conclusion. He combined words with the brilliant focus and perfection of a gifted sculptor. Of all his Kavyas, dramas are superior and yet among them, Sakuntalam stands out as a beacon.It is widely believed that Kalidas became such immortal poet only after receiving a tender touch of Bhadrakali.
Before the sudden and spontaneous turning point in life, Kalidas was a foolish shepherd.The princess of a suburb of Ujjain was a damsel with unquestionable beauty, grace, modesty, virtues, wit and wisdom. She had mastered all branches of science, arts, the Vedas and the Vedangas. Attracted by her rare combination of all these qualities, several princes came forward seeking her hands. But none could win her. She had self-imposed a condition that she would marry only that prince who emerges victorious in a verbal combat with her. Since no prince could proceed beyond the initiation of argument with her, let alone defeat her, all them returned baffled. The defeated, disgraced, disappointed and ashamed princes put their heads together.
They devised a stratagem to force her marry a most idiotic person. As they were busy searching for such a crazy guy, lo and behold, up on the tree, a stupid was engaged in cutting the very branch of the tree he was perching.
Alas! Who else will be more ideal than this? All the princes jumped with joy.
They somehow brought him down. He was emitting foul smell and was murmuring and muttering frequently.The princes called the barber, who gave a proper dressing on his beard and head. Then he was given an oil bath. After giving him a sumptuous feed and a new pair of silk clothes, he was given a tough training on various issues before encounter with the princess of which he grasped partially. He was led to the princess for debate.
“Here is the wisest and wittiest person on earth.” The group of princes introduced him to the princess. “He belongs to a rich tradition and is most worthy to be your husband”. “Let him defeat me in discourse”. “Oh, yes. By all means.”Whatever wicked things the shepherd uttered, each prince, one after the other, supported him, with strange explanations and new surprising meanings.
Unable to bear the combined onslaught, the princess helplessly agreed to marry him. With the revengeful enthusiasm of the defeated princes, marriage of her with the shepherd was solemnised as a gala function. Many covetable prizes were distributed. It became one of the glorious ceremonies of wedlock unprecedented in history. The guests and gathering parted away.
First night of the newlyweds
The royal bedroom was decorated in the regale and elegant style. The palanquin was decorated. But Kalidas wandered hither and thither as if some unknown objects uttering:“Bah…Bah…Bah…”The princess lost in thought. She, unfed, invited him with great respect, to partake the royal delicacies. He stood in a corner of the palatial room, deserted and monotonous, looking everything in amazement. The princess, with hunger, tediousness, agony and penury slipped into a nap .Time passed. Her husband, whom she had affectionately invited to bed, was sleeping on the hard floor.In the light dim, she saw him rolling up and down, occasionally scratching his head, face and the whole body. “Bah…Bah…Bah…” he used to scream.
KK Shanmukhan (The writer can be contacted at [email protected])
(To be concluded)