Wednesday, December 7, 2011

LOTUS in another LOTUS

There are many stories about the well known Poet Kalidasa.  Many many stories which have been told and retold over generations.  Not only many stories, but also many variations of them.  Variations about the times of his life and works.  Variations about the many characters around him.  Variations about the places in which he was born and lived.  Almost everything about him is disputed with each advancing many versions of above details.  One wonders whether we would have had this much excitement if everything was codified and authenticated about him.   Many versions because everyone wants to claim that the poet belonged to their place and their surroundings.  Many versions because he has touched many aspects of life and described many places in his works.  The various disputes and versions have only rendered him even more attractive and closer to us.

One of the stories about Kalidasa is linked to a Lotus.   This story assumes that he was one of the nine gems in the court of King Vikramaditya.  Some say Bhojaraja.  Again two version and disputes.  The list of nine gems is given in this verse:

धन्वन्तरिक्षपणिक अमरसिंह शङ्कुः बेताल भट्ट घटकर्पर कालिदासः |
ख़्ह्यतोवराहमिहिरः नृपतेःसभायां  रत्नानिवैवररुचिर्नव विक्रमस्य ||

Dhanvantari, Kshapanika, Amarasimha, Shanku, Vetala Bhatta (Betala Bhatta), Ghatakarpara, Kalidasa, Varahamihira and  Vararuchi were the nine gems in the Court of King Vikrama. Or Bhoja, if you want to say that Vikrama was one other name or title for Bhoja.

The story goes that the other poets or some of them became very jealous of Kalidasa because the King valued him more that any of them and considered him as his personal friend.   They some how hatched a plot to see that the King becomes unhappy with Kalidasa and banishes him from his empire.  Another version says that the King wanted Kalidasa to recite King's epitaph when he is alive, as otherwise the King would not be able to hear it!   Unwilling to do this Kalidasa hid himself for sometime.   Another version says he was sent to Ceylone (SriLanka) on the invitation of King Kumarapala there, as an ambassador.   Whatever the reason, Kalidasa is sent away or gone away for sometime.

Then enters Dindima (डिंडिम),  another poet said to carry the blessings of Lord Shiva and has obtained the Lord's Damaru ( a hand held drum- Dindima also means this instrument) and capable of defeating all other poets in debate.  Having come to know that Kalidasa is not presently available in the King's court, he arrives at the King's court and presents a riddle to the King and his poets.  The riddle is like this:

कमले कमलोत्पत्तिः श्रूयते न तु दृश्यते  
(Kamale Kamlotpattihi shruyate na tu drushyate)
It is said that a Lotus is born in another Lotus.  This is only an imaginary thing but not to be seen anywhere.

None of the other poets or the Courtiers are able to solve the riddle.  Dindima gives a week's time for solving the riddle and leaves with a promise to arrive after a week to hear the solution to the riddle.  Upset with the inability of other poets to solve the riddle, the King offers a prize of half of his kingdom (!) to anyone who solves the riddle before Dindima returns.

The Court Dancer gets a banner prepared describing the riddle and gets it tied prominently at her home thinking that looking at it frequently would inspire her to solve the same and get the prize.  Kalidasa comes to  her house by chance and sees this banner.  He immediately takes the face of the dancer in his hands and says:

बाले तव मुखांबोजे कथं इन्दीवरद्वयम्?  Balee tava mukhamboje katham indeevaradwayam?
How is it there are two lotuses in your lotus face?

Taken together the riddle and answer read:
 कमले कमलोत्पत्तिः श्रूयते न तु दृश्यते | बाले तव मुखांबोजे कथं इन्दीवरद्वयम्? ||
It is said that a Lotus is born in another Lotus.  People say they have not seen it.  What is special about one Lotus being born in another Lotus?  Right now I am able to see Two Lotus (eyes) in one Lotus (face), forget about one in one, it is even two in one!

The story goes on to say that the dancer hid Kalidasa in her house (some say she even killed) and claimed the prize in the King's court by solving the riddle in the presence of Dindima.  Dindima was not the one to be fooled.   He tells the King that such a wonderful solution can be given by only one person on the earth - Poet Kalidasa himself.  There are many further versions of the story.  The King threatens the Dancer who discloses the place in which Kalidasa was kept hiding.   Kalidasa comes out of hiding.  King, Kalidasa, Dindima and other poets become friends and everything is fine thereafter.

The beauty of the story is in solving the riddle.  The seemingly impossible riddle is solved effortlessly and with a higher degree of ecstasy.  That is why they say "A poet can see things not seen even by the Sun".   Kalidasa is immortal through his works as well as such stories.


The photo on the left is of the Lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera) flower.  The one on the right is Water Lily (Nymphaea).  The difference is in the arrangement of circular pod as can be seen from the center of the flower. Structure of lotus seed pod is not available in Water lily.  (These pictures are taken from Wikipedia.)


  1. Times like these I am inspired to pick up my Sanskrit books again! All thought and no action, of course ;). Looking forward to more posts like this!

  2. Happy ending, straight out of Amar Chitra Katha! Murthy ji- thanks for including the Sanskrit part... Though its a forgotten language in today's generation, it feels so good to read the original....stumbling, grappling with the words and pronunciations ....notwithstanding.