Monday, May 28, 2012

Kalidas Katha

Princess Vidyottama was a scholar woman, and very proud of it. She was insistent that she'd marry only a man who would defeat her in Shastrarth (scholistic debate). All the learned men in the kingdom tried, but all of them lost to her and had to leave in disgrace. 

The pundits of the state also tried their luck but none could defeat this learned woman. Their ego was hurt and they decided to join together and get their revenge by making her get married to an absolute fool. With this intent they ventured off to find the most stupid man in the kingdom. 

They happened to come across Kalidas who was sitting on a tree branch and cutting it, sawing between him and the tree trunk, putting himself in danger. 

The pundits shouted to him, "O fool! You are cutting the branch you are sitting on. You will fall!"

Kalidas replied, "So what? It took me a long time to climb up here. At least I will come down faster!"

They then knew that he was the right person! They persuaded him to come down and talk to them. By promising to get him married to a beautiful princess they persuaded him to come with them. But they made him promise that come what may he would not speak a single word in front of the princess. He agreed.

The pundits took care that Kalidas looked the part of a learned pundit with his clothes and appearance. When they put him in front of Princess Vidyottama they told her that he was a great scholar and they were all actually his disciples. They told her that he was willing to engage in Shastrarth with her but he had a maun-vrat (vow of silence) which would last for a few more days. The princess agreed to have the debate by hand-signals.

Here's how it went.

The princess lifted one finger to signify that God is one!

Kalidas in his idiot mind thought that was she was saying, "I would gouge your eye out!"
He lifted two fingers to say, "I will gouge both your eyes out!" 

The princess was confused. She asked the pundits to interpret. They asked her why did you lift one finger. 
She said, "I said that God is one."
परमात्मा एक है। 

Pundits said, "Guruji says that God and Human Soul are two. Without the one the other is incomplete." 
"आत्मा और परमात्मा दो हैं। एक के बिना दूसरा अधूरा है। "

The princess conceded and they moved on. 

Our genius hero thought that she was saying, "I would slap you!"
So he showed her a fist to say, "If you slap me, I would punch you!" 

Again the princess was confused. She asked the pundits to interpret. They asked her, "What did you mean?"
She said, "I said the human body is only a combination of the five elements." 
शरीर तो पांच तत्वों का पुतला है। 

The pundits said, "Guruji replied that when these five elements come together only then the human body is constructed which can be used to worship God!"
जब पंचतत्वों से मिलकर शरीर बनता है तभी मनुष्य उसे इश्वर की आराधना में लगा सकता है। 

This continued for a little while more and finally the princess conceded her defeat. She was happy to marry the learned scholar who had finally defeated her and proven himself worthy of her. 

Now, here comes the twist in the story. 

After the wedding, on the wedding night, Princess Vidyottama and Kalidas were in her royal palace. Out of the window Kalidas spotted a camel and delightedly pointed it out to the princess. 

But when he spoke, he used the word "utra" for camel whereas the correct word in Sanskrit for camel is "ushtra."  
The smart princess understood in a second what had happened and how the pundits had gotten her married to an utter fool. 

She was furious! She called Kalidas a fool and kicked him out. 

But hold on, this is not the end, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost

Spurned by his bride and tortured by his love, Kalidas left the kingdom and travelled far and wide. He was not heard from for many years. 

But several years later, he returned back to the same kingdom. He had spent the years studying and learning everything he could. And now he was a real scholar. 

When he knocked on the door of  Vidyottama's private palace, she asked, "Who is there?" 

In Sanskrit, this sentence has four words. Such was the new, learned Kalidas that he created 4 epics each one starting from one word of that sentence - Meghadutam, Kumarsambhava, , Raghuvansam, Ritusamhara. 

He wrote many other works one of which "Abhigyan Shakuntalam" is considered his masterpiece and was one of the first Sanskrit works to be translated to English. The flow of his flawless Sanskrit in those epics is still unmatched to this date. 

He went on to become one of the "nine gems" of Emperor Vikramaditya's court. 

Now, here's my shame. When our Sanskrit teacher told us this story in high school, he told us the princess's question also in Sanskrit and then he narrated the first shloke (verse) in the original Sanskrit from each of the 4 epics created by Kalidas illustrating how each one started  with one of the words in the question. I feel very ignorant to admit that I don't remember any of that in the original Sanskrit. :( 


Bikramjit said...

dont worry about that I am sure there are many many others tooo who have no idea what they are
and one is me .. I cant understand a single word of sanskrit


Sunil Goswami said...

You are too kind. :)

Dee2020 said...

When he returned to his house, his wife asked the following famous question,
"Asti Kashchit Vaag-visheshaH?''
( asti = is; kashchit = when, as in questioning; vAg = speech, visheshaH = expert; i.e | ``are you now an expert in speaking''). (have you got the linguistics degree?)

In response to her question, Kalidasa wrote three works of exceptional literary beauty, all three poems -- starting with the three words of her question:

With Asti = asti-uttarasyaam dishi = Kumara-sambhavam (epic poem)
With Kashchit = kashchit-kaantaa = Meghdoot (lyric poem)
With Vaag = vaagarthaaviva = Raghuvansha (epic poem)

te three books starting with the 3 words:
with asti = asti-uttarasyAm dishi = Kumara-sambhavam ( epic)
with kashchit = kashchit-kAntA = Meghdoot ( poetrय्)
with vAg = vAgarthAviva = Raghuvansha ( epic)

Sunil Goswami said...

HI Dee2020, Thank you VERY much for that informative comment. And the correction. I remembered it as there being 4 words and 4 epics.

And welcome to my blog. :)

Chirag Shrimali said...

Amazing story 👌

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