A Rival For Kalidas

In Avanti, there was a poet called Hem-Chandra. He was a rich man too. He heard about the greatness of Kalidas and his prominent position at the court of King Bhoja. He decided to defeat Kalidas and become the Lion of Bhoja’s court.

So Hem-Chandra rode in his palanquin from Avanti to Dhara, followed by a large entourage. At Dhara, he put up in a choultry. News of this would-be conquerer spread all over the city and reached the ears of Kalidas.

Kalidas wanted to ascertain how much of a scholar Hem- Chandra was. He dressed like a working man and went to the choultry where Hem-Chandra was lodging.

Shortly afterwards, Hem- Chandra came out and called the bearers as he wanted to go somewhere. Kalidas stepped forward along with the others. As Hem-Chandra got into the palanquin, Kalidas took his position as one of the bearers in the front.

The palanquin moved forward. Kalidas, who was not accustomed to this sort of work, constantly changed the weight from one shoulder to another. Seeing this, Hem-Chandra asked him:

अय मांदोलिका दंड: स्कंध किं तव बाघति ?” (Does the palanquin-support hurt your shoulders?)

In saying this, Hem-Chandra committed a grammatical blunder. Kalidas, who noticed it, replied;

” न बाधते तथा मां हि यथा बाधति बाधते । ” (It does not hurt me as badly as your bad grammar does.)

Hem-Chandra was surprised at this. Could a mere bearer talk of grammar to a poet like himself? “Well, my man,” he said to Kalidas. “Who taught you grammar?”

“Sir,” replied Kalidas, “I am no scholar. I am the palanquin bearer of Kalidas. When he teaches his pupils, I chance to hear a thing or two.”

On hearing this, Hem-Chandra thought it would be worth his while to meet Kalidas in person and make sure of his worth.

Kalidas expected Hem-Chandra to come and see him and return home. He then dressed like a servant and waited for the guest.

Soon Hem-Chandra arrived and asked him, “Is Kalidas at home?” And Kalidas replied:

” नलीन खलीन लीलया नमय चुनमय जवंहयं निरगा दुरगारिरंहसा पुर गारुत्मत गोपुरा दुहिः”

(Mounted on a new horse, with reins in his hands moving up and down, he rode past the emerald tower in the city with the speed of an eagle.)

The meaning of the verse was quite simple, but the cadence and rhythm of the composition were so exquisite that Hem-Chandra was astonished. If the servant at the door of Kalidas’ house was such a magnificent poet, he had little chance of defeating Kalidas. That very day Hem-Chandra left Dhara and returned to Avanti.

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