A Scholar’s test : Kalidasa

The celebrated Sanskrit poet Kalidasa is revered in India as one of the greatest scholars of all time. His exemplary poetic works, based on the ancient holy scriptures and Indian mythology, have their place among the sacred texts. However, his life saga is no less engaging or inspiring. Renowned as the most learned philosopher, he was honored as the 9th gem in the court of Chandragupta Maurya and was also rumored to have had supernatural encounters. His conversation with a woman, as recounted below, is sure to make us question and rethink our perception of ourselves. 

Kalidasa was once walking through a huge forest, and it was taking very long to cross it. The sun was glaring fiercely and seemed to suck every ounce of his energy. While he did not mind the sun, as there was nothing he could do about it, it was the lack of water that bothered him.

As his thirst became unbearable, the sight of a woman passing with a pot of water made him happy with no bounds. He thus walked up to her hastily and called out, “O Mother! The sun has been particularly harsh on me, and so is this unbearable thirst that pricks my throat like a thorn. Please be kind to share your water with me, I plead.”

The woman said, “Son, I know how you must feel. This water is sure to quench your thirst, but I cannot part with it unless I know you. Kindly introduce yourself.”

Kalidasa did not want to waste a minute in small talk. Every word that came out of his mouth seemed to torture his dry throat. However, to not offend the old lady, he quickly replied, “Very well! Consider me a wanderer.”

The woman replied, “How can you be a wanderer my son? There are only two wanderers in the universe, the Sun and the Moon – who never cease to move. Please speak the truth about your identity.”

Kalidasa was taken aback by this response. He cleared his throat and said, “I agree. Why don’t you treat me as a guest?”

And the woman said,  “No, you cannot be a guest, young man. There are only two guests in life – wealthy and youth. Both are sure to arrive and to depart, and never stay even when pleaded a million times! Tell me, who are you?”

Kalidasa was at a loss of words at such a profound philosophy! However, the lady’s arguments charged him up. He replied, “O mother, I am patience.”

Again, the woman was quick to disagree, “I don’t think so. There are only two patient creatures in this world. First is mother earth, which silently bears the burden of all our sins, and second is the trees that surround us. They are always bountiful to everybody without discrimination; even to those who mean harm to them. You are not as patient.”

Kalidasa was growing irritable with his loss at this war of words, and thirst seemed to aggravate his temper. He snapped, “Well, I must be stubborn then!”

The woman replied comfortingly, “No, my child. You are not at all stubborn. Nails and hair are the only two to display stubbornness. No matter how many times you cut them, they always grow back. So do be truthful about who you are!”

Kalidasa lost his patience. So much for a few sips of water! He yelled – “Well, I am a fool then!”

The woman retorted, “How I wish that could be true! There are only two fools to walk on this earth, and you are not among them. The first is a ruler who rules people without any adequate qualifications. And second are the people who try to please that ruler only to be in his good books, even if it means misguiding him in his judgments.”

Kalidasa was awed at the intellect of this woman. He, who was considered the greatest Sanskrit poet the world had ever seen, could not stand tall before an old woman, who probably did not even know how to read! 

He accepted his defeat and fell to the feet of the woman exclaiming, “O mother! How stupid I was to think that I know myself. Our meeting has shifted my perspective, and I cannot be more ashamed of myself. Pardon my ignorance, and show your mercy. Grant me some water, I beg!”

As he lifted his head to look back at the woman with his tear-filled eyes, what he saw made him doubt whether he was there, thirsty and defeated, or was it all just a dream?!

In the place of the old woman, stood a magnificent figure that radiated like a moon! She was none other than Maa Saraswati who had graced Kalidasa with her divine presence. She spoke in a voice that was more soothing than water in this scorching heat.

She smiled and said – “O Kalidasa! Stand up, child. While you are indeed a great scholar and your words have the power to heal and transform lives, it is your ego about your abilities that belittles all your achievements. You are surely educated, but along with that, you have also allowed arrogance to fill your heart. Hence, I had to come myself to guide you. 

The mark of a true scholar is not his knowledge, but his humility. Your education is fruitless if it only feeds your ego. That would be a life wasted. A man like you with such revered intellect must understand and preach about how everything one receives and considers as his achievement, are not his to be proud of. All he must do is keep on learning for one never knows enough. So, you must be nothing but a learner, my child.”

Kalidasa immediately stood up and folded his hands. He thanked Maa Saraswati for shattering his ignorance. He exclaimed that he had realized his mistake, and would hold on to these pearls of wisdom for eternity. Maa Saraswati smiled and finally offered the pot of water to Kalidasa. He thankfully accepted the pot with beaming eyes and drank water that tasted sweeter than nectar! It wasn’t just his thirst for water, but the thirst for knowledge also that had been quenched.                                                                                                                    

This story ends here, but it leaves us an endless message. That is, whatever qualities God has gifted us with, are meaningless unless they prove meaningful for someone.

Credits:Heartfulness Meditation, HFN Team💌

HFN Story Team


One reply on “A Scholar’s test : Kalidasa”

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