The Story of Kalidas(MALAVIKAGNIMITRA)
The last Maurya king was not a powerful ruler. Pushyamitra, the Army Chief, killed him and himself became the king. Agnimitra was the son of Pushyamitra and ruled Vidisha. He had two wives-Dharani and Iravati. The former was the senior queen. Agnimitra handed over the administration of Antpalgarh to Virsen, a distant cousin of Dharani. Virsen sent a beautiful slave girl, Malavika, to Dharani, to be given lessons in dancing and music to make her an accomplished court dancer.
Once, Agnimitra paid a visit to the Art Gallery. In a picture, he saw a charming girl amidst a group of maid servants. He enquired her name but Dharani did not answer. However, their daughter, Vasulakshmi, disclosed that she was Malavika. Dharani was displeased at this disclosure and suspected faithlessness on the part of the king. Since that day a strict watch was kept on Malavika.
Acharya Gunadas used to teach dancing and music to Malavika. The gentle nature, captivating beauty and sharp intellect of Malavika made the Acharya feel that she was not a slave girl but a descendant of some noble family. In fact, Malavika belonged to a royal family but nobody knew it..
Yagyasen and Madhavsen, who were cousins, ruled Vidarbha. They fought between themselves to subdue each other and grab the entire Vidarbha. Malavika was the sister of Madhavsen who wanted to get her married to Agnimitra and thus add to his power by this alliance. When he was on his w'ay to Agnimitra's kingdom, he was attacked by Yagyasen and taken prisoner. In the confusion that followed, Malavika was lost.
Agnimitra wrote to Yagyasen to free Madhavsen but the latter refused. This annoyed Agnimitra and he ordered Virsen to attack Vidarbha and free Madhavsen.
The king wanted to meet Malavika. He asked his friend Gautam who led a gay life, to help him in this affair. Gautam was about to make some suggestion when the two Acharyas, Gunadas and Hardatt, brought their suit before the king. They wanted to know who was the senior Acharya. The king told them that his queen Dharani, and her friend, Kaushiki, would decide their dispute.
The queen heard their dispute. Kaushiki was also present there. She asked the two Acharyas to show her what they had taught their students. Both of them agreed and returned to the studio for making preparations.
The programme began in the studio in the presence of the king, his queen and the royal retinue. Acharya Gunadas, who was the elder of the two, was asked to start his programme first.
Malavika came on the stage in the company of Gunadas. The king was stunned by her beauty. Her graceful dance cast a spell over the audience. Everyone present there praised her in full measure. Just then the time for lunch was announced and Hardatt was asked to put up his student’s performance next day.
Rumours about the love affairs of the king and Malavika spread. The king was in love with Malavika but could not show his feelings towards her for the fear of his queen.
It was the Vasant Festival. Gautam asked the king to visit the Pramodvan as Iravati, the junior queen, had expressed a desire to enjoy a ride in the swing with him.
The young and gay maidens in their bright and colourful attires thronged the Pramodvan. They kicked the ashoka tree with their painted toes and the buds opened into blossoms. There was gaiety, fun and laughter. Only one tree had not blossomed. Iravati used to visit the fair every day. Unluckily,one day she fell down from the swing and sprained her foot. She asked Malavika to nurse it. Malavika came to the Pramodvan with her friend, another maid. She had her toes painted. The king who had also arrived there, was looking at her from a distance. Malavika kicked the ashoka tree with her left foot. Suddenly, Gautam appeared there and told her that she had done a wrong thing by kicking the king’s tree. As Malavika blushed, the king also came there. Malavika and her friend fell at the king's feet and begged his forgiveness. The king lifted Malavika up from the ground and professed his love for her.
Iravati saw what was going on. She was enraged at the behaviour of the king and scolded him. Malavika and her friend disappeared from the scene and left the king alone.When the senior queen, Dharani, came to know of this, she threw Malavika and her friend into a dungeon and told the guard not to release them untill her snake-stone ring was shown to him.
The king was distressed when he came to know about the imprisonment of Malavika. He asked Gautam to plan her release. He himself went to see the queen. While he was talking to her, Gautam appeared there crying and sobbing. He told the king that he was bitten by a snake in the Pramodvan, where he had gone to pick flowers for the queen. His toe was tied with his holy thread and there were marks of snake-bite on it.
The queen became nervous on seeing the dying brahmin. The king comforted her and sent Gautam to the physician, Bharavsiddhi, for treatment. After a while, a messenger came there and told the king that the physician needed snake-stone to draw out the poison from the body of Gautam. The queen removed her ring and gave it to the messenger.
Soon the news came that Gautam had been cured of the snakebite. While the king was on his way back, he met Gautam who told him that Malavika and her friend had been freed from the dungeon and were waiting in Samudra-grih. The king went there in the company of Gautam. There he met Malavika. Gautam and Malavika's friend made some excuse and left the place. The king and Malavika were left alone.
Irayati, the junior queen, also came to the Pramodvan to see Gautam. At the door of Samudra-grih she found Gautam fast asleep and talking about Malavika in his sleep. The queen was annoyed and threw a piece of wood at him. Gautam woke up frightened, thinking he had been bitten by a snake. When the king heard him shrieking, he came there to help him. By that time, Gautam had composed himself and told the king that it was a bad dream which he had seen as a result of his pretension of being bitten by a snake. He confessed that he had not been bitten by a snake but he staged the scene to get the queen's ring to free Malavika.
Queen Iravati, who was out of sight, heard the story. She was in a fit of rage. Malavika was also frightened like a pigeon caught by a cat. The king was in a fix. He tried to pacify the queen but did not succeed. The queen bitterly scolded Gautam as she thought that he was the master-mind behind this. The king quietly left the place. At that time the gardener's wife came there to report that the garden was in full bloom. Malavika thought that it was a good opportunity to slip away.
The king came to his palace and received the happy news of the conquest of Vidarbha by Virsen, Queen Dharani's cousin. Iravati sent a message to the king to visit the Pramodvan and enjoy the colourful scene of blooming flowers with her.
In the meanwhile, Kaushiki had dressed and adorned Malavika like a bride. The king came to the Pramodvan with Gautam and was welcomed by the queen. The king's heart beat wildly when he saw Malavika. At that time, two slave girls, captured by Virsen, were presented to the king. When the slave girls saw Malavika, they offered obeisance to her. When the king enquired the reason for offering obeisance to Malavika, he was told that she was the younger sister of Madhavsen who was escorting her to Vidisha. On the way, he was attacked and taken prisoner and Malavika was lost in the confusion of the battle.
The next sequel was told by Kaushiki who said to the king that when Madhavsen was arrested, my brother, Sumiti, took Malavika away from the battle-ground to a safe place. I and my brother were escorting her to you, when we were attacked by a gang of dacoits. The dacoits killed my brother. I fainted. When I recovered, Malavika was not there. I did not know what had happened to her. Later on, Virsen rescued Malavika from the dacoits and sent her to Dharani, the senior queen.”
The king and the queen expressed their regrets for not treating Malavika in a manner befitting her status. When the king asked Kaushiki to explain why she remained quiet for a year, she said, "A holy man had predicted that Malavika would serve as a slave girl for a year. That is why I kept quiet. Now one year is over and I have told you everything”.
Then the king and Malavika were married with royal splendour. There was much rejoicing in the kingdom.