The Story of Kalidas

Long long time ago, in India near the city of Ujjain lived a king who had a beautiful and learned daughter, Vidyottama. The princess was very proud of her learning. She would often put down the wise men in the king’s court. They started to dislike her even though they were afraid to show it outwardly. One day a group of wise men walking by the forest saw a very unusual sight. A handsome young man was sitting on the tip of one of the upper branches and trying to chop of the branch from its base. The wise men immediately agreed that this man was a great fool. This man was none other than Kalidasa. They decided to use him to take revenge on Vidyottama.

Vidyottama was of marriageable age. She had decided to only marry a man who was wiser than her. The wise men brought the marriage proposal to the king. They also mentioned that Kalidasa was a very learned man who was on  a month long maun-vrat (the vow of silence). It was considered that maun-vrat brought purity of mind and speech and was practiced by many sages in those days. The king was impressed by the beauty of the young man and the praises from the wise men of his court. However, Vidyottama was not going to be satisfied before she tested his learning, herself. A debate was arranged where Vidyottama and Kalidasa would only communicate through gestures.

The princess raised her index finger . Kalidasa, quickly replied by showing two fingers. He had thought that Vidyottama was meaning to poke him in one eye. He was obviously thinking of outdoing her. Actually she had indicated that God is one without a second.  Kalidasa’s answer was wisely interpreted as the truth has two parts the supreme God and the individual soul. She was surprised by this wisdom. Venturing further, she showed her five fingers to indicate five senses. Kalidasa thought she was about to slap him so he showed his fist.  This time Vidyottama thought it to mean that controlling the five senses can lead to ultimate greatness. Thus impressed, she then agreed to marry Kalidasa.

Shortly after their marriage, one night there was a camel growling outside. When the princess asked her husband “What is that?”, she expected a wise reply. But Kalidasa stammered to say the word camel in Sanskrit (ushtra). The princess understood that Kalidasa was no learned man but a fool. So she drove him out of the palace.

Heartbroken, Kalidasa was about to commit suicide. He was a devotee of Kali. He prayed to Her to grant him wisdom. With the blessings of Goddess Kali, Kalidasa was endowed with knowledge and wit. He became one of the greatest  Sanskrit poets of all times (mahakavi) and one of the “nine jewels” of the court of King Vikramaditya.