Dramatis Personl
Agnimitra - King of Vidisa & Hero.
Pushyamitra - Father of Agnimitra
Vasumitra - Son of Agnimitra.
Gautama -The Vidushaka.
Ganadasa - Dance-Master.
Haradatta - Do.

Yagnasena - King of Vidarbha.
Madhavasena - A rival of Yaguasena.
Sumathi - Minister of Madhavasena.
Virasena - Commander-in-Chief of Agnimitra.
Dharini -1st Queen of Agnimitra.
Iravati - 2nd Queen of Agnimitra.
Malavika - Sister of Madhavasena & Heroine.
Vakulavalika Maids
Vasulakshmi - Daughter of Dharini. 


In ancient India there was a kingdom called Vidisa ruled over by a King named 
Agnimitra. Adjacent to his territories was the kingdom of Vidarbha, where reigned a king
called Yagnasena. There were constant feuds between the two rulers. Agnimitra 
espoused the cause of one Madhavasena, a rival to the throne of Vidarbha and entered
into an alliance with him for taking his sister Malavika in marriage, notwithstanding that 
he already had two wives, Dharini and Iravati. 

Madavasena was captured by Yagnasena's forces in one of the encounters between 
them and thrown into prison. When Aginimitra demanded his unconditional release,
Yagnasena declined to comply with the demand; and thereupon Agnimitra ordered his 
commander-in Chief, Varasena, to invade the kingdom of Vidarbha. 

After the seizure of Madhavasena, his minister Sumathi set out for Vidisa with Malavika 
and his sister Kausiki to carry out the promise of Madhavasena. As part of the
route lay through jungles, he joined a party of caravans proceeding to Vidisa. But en 
route they were attacked by a gang of dacoits. A fierce battle was joined and the
merchants valiantly resisted the onslaught of the marauders; but they were ultimately 
overwhelmed and routed. In the melee, Sumati lost his life. Kausiki lost
consciousness and was left for dead by the brigands. When she regained her 
consciousness it was with great sorrow that she perceived that her brother had been 
and Malavika carried away by the robbers. With a heavy heart, she performed the last 
rites of her brother; and, taking to herself the habit of religious, she bent her steps
towards Vidisa and gained admission into Agnimitra's palace. There she became known 
as the Parivrajika and was soon on intimate terms with Queen Dharini. 

Malavika, however, was not long in the custody f the brigands. For they soon came up 
against a party of frontier guards of Visasena, Who immediately gave battle to
them and rescued Malavika from their custody. Virasena sent her under escort to his 
sister Dharini, commending her talents and aptitude for music and dance. Dharini
sent her to her Dancing-Master to learn dancing; and soon Malavika was making rapid 
progress with her lessons. 

Malavika's arrival had been noticed by the Parirajika, and there had been mutual 
recognition between the two; but for reasons of her own, she kept Malavika'sidentity a
secret, and, in consequence, nobody in the palace as one of the maids of Dharini, 
learning music and dance. 

After Malavika's arrival, Dharini had had executed a portrait of herself and her maids and 
was, one day, examining it for its likeness, when Agnimitra suddenly entered
the apartment and saw the portrait in her hands. When he took the portrait in his hands 
and examined it, he took the portrait in his hands and examined it, he noticed a
figure of transcending beauty in the group. Concluding that she must be a recent arrival 
and curious to know who she was, Agnimitra asked Dharini for her name.
Dharini was loathe to give any information and evaded his queries, but his young 
daughter Vasulakshmi, with child-like innocence, gave out that she was Malavika.
Agnimitra had not know his betrothed by sight and the mere mention of her name did not 
enlighten him. But he was struck with her matchless beauty and fell in love
with her. 

In course of time, Agnimitra's love for Malavika became so great that he became 
lovesick for her. Her vision, through seen only in a picture, kept constantly rising in his
mind, and he was seized with a burning desire to get a sight of her in person. But he was 
anxious to avoid an estrangement between himself and his Queens by taking
high-handed steps to secure his object. But he saw no means of accomplishing his 
object as Dharini, suspecting the king's partiality of Malavika, become more vigilant in
guarding her from his observation. In despair he turned to Gautama, his Visudhaka, to 
devise the means of his getting a sight of Malavika. 

Gautama evolved an ingenious plan for fulfilling Agnimitra's wishes. In the palace, there 
were two Dance-Masters, Ganadasa, the preceptor of Malavika and Haradatta.
The former was regarded as the protege of the Queen and the latter of the King. But 
both held the same rank in the palace and were men of equal ability and learning.
Gautama's plan was to provoke a quarrel between them by working on their jealousies 
and compel them to seek the decision of the King on their relative merits. The
King would be obliged to accept the position of the arbitrator thus forced on him and 
require them to give demonstration of their skill. In a trial of skill in dancing a
person's ability is judged not merely by his knowledge of theory, but particularly by his 
ability to impart his knowledge to others. Accordingly, the dance-Masters would
be called upon to give proof of such abilities through the demonstrations of their pupils; 
and that would furnish the opportunity for the King to get a view of Malavika
whose reputation was already very high for quick apprehension and an exquisite style. 
But the success of the scheme depended on some disinterested person suggesting
the practical demonstrations as, otherwise, Dharini would scent some plot in it. The 
Queen had a great regard for the Parivrajika and, if the suggestion proceeded from
her, Dharini's suspicions might be laid at rest. So Gautama decided to take the 
Parivrajika into his confidence. She was only too ready to fall in with his wishes and to
play her part in promoting his designs. 

The quarrel was provoked. Ganadasa taunted Haradatta that they differed in their 
abilities as ocean and pond. Haradatta retorted in the presence of respectable persons
that Ganadasa was not equal to the dust of his feet. Thus openly insulted, the two 
adversaries sought the audience of the King to place their grievances before him. The
King heard their complaints and, with a view to adjudicate on their relative merits, sent 
for the Queen and the Parivrajika, ostensibly to ensure that Ganadasa received
fair-play but really to avert suspicion from himself. 

When the Queen heard of the dispute and of the King's invitation to her, she felt uneasy 
about Ganadasa; but she had no suspicion of the real nature of the move. After
she and the Parivrajika had taken their seats, the King directed the Masters to 
commence their disputation. But the Parivajika at once interposed that dancing was an 
essentially of ocular demonstration and not one for argument. It was then that Dharini 
realised the danger of the situation; and, when appealed to for her views, started
that the quarrel itself was not to her liking. Nevertheless, the discussion proceeded as to 
how best to test their abilities. The Parivrajika had already seen the skill of both
the disputants. She was satisfied that they were of equal ability in the practice of the art. 
But some might be good in practising the art themselves, but lack the skill to
impart it to others. Others still might be able as teachers but not possess sufficient skill in 
the practice of the art themselves. He was then the best teacher who combined
both those qualities in himself. After the Parivrajika had propounded her views thus, the 
Vidushaka clinched her argument by putting it in a nut shell to the master that
their ability to give practical training would be the acid test of their capacity. The Queen 
argued if it would be the fault of the preceptor if a dull pupil failed to profit by
the instruction. But Gautama butted in that the very acceptance of such a pupil was 
manifest proof of lack of wisdom in the preceptor. When the Queen refused to give
her assent to Ganadasa to embroil himself in a dispute which seemed to have no other 
object but the fulfilment of her husband's wishes, Gautama rallied him on his good
fortune in having the queen on his side and assured him that he had no need to fear for 
his position, Ganadasa thereupon appealed to the Queen to save him from
ignominy and the taunts of the world. 

"He is called a grocer that deals in knowledge, to whom knowledge is only a source of 
living and who, being concerned to retain his position, is afraid of a controversy
and meekly submits to insults by others." 

And if queen refused to give him the opportunity to vindicate his reputation, the world 
would interpret his abstention only in that light and heap obloquies on him. 

The Queen was in the horns of a dilemma. At last she suggested that both the masters 
might give their demonstrations before the Parivrajika in private. But again she
was check-mated in her designs by the Parivrajika insisting that the judgement of one 
person, however clever, was never a safe guide. Reduced to complete
helplessness and importuned by Ganadasa to give her assent, Dharini at last gave in 
with great reluctance, at the same time observing to the husband that it would have
been a good thing if he displayed as much ingenuity in State-matters. 

Soon after, the party adjourned to the Dance-hall to witness the demonstration. A 
preliminary discussion arose as to who was to be given priority and, at the suggesti9n
of the Parivrajika, it was decided that Ganadasa was entitled to precedence by reason of 
his greater years. Gnanadasa accordingly entered the hall followed by
Malavika. Agnimitra saw Malavika in person for the first time, and was captivated by her 
superb beauty. She was many times more lovely than in the picture. 

It had been arranged that Malavika should perform the dance known as "Cchalitham", 
after singing the tune of Sarmishata's verse, composed for that purpose. In that
verse, a maiden poured out her heart for her absent lover and prayed to him to realise 
the intensity of her love for him and he helpless condition. Malavika's singing was
entrancing; but her dancing was no less exquisite. The grace of her movements, the 
elegance of her bearing, the accuracy with which she kept measure with time and
the realistic manner in which she expressed the different passions and feelings 
combined with her own lovely form made a profound impression on every one. 
who had not issued the least detail, was in ecstacies of delight. 

But the dance was soon over and the time had come for Malavika to make her exit. It 
was not, however, the intention of the Vidushaka to allow her to depart so quickly.
So he objected that he had observed certain irregularities and asked if others had 
noticed any. The Parivrajika had not noticed any. The dance was unexceptionable.
Agnimitra confessed to growing diffidence in his own protege, after seeing Malavika's 
dance. Then Ganadasaasked Gautama for the irregularity he had noticed. The
Queen rebuked him for taking the Vidhushaka seriously. But Ganadasa persisted, only 
to be told that the customary offerings to a Brahmin before the commencement of
a performance had not been given in that case. Every one laughed at his grand 
discovery, but he had gained his object. After explaining that it was not a regular
stage-performance Ganadasa retired with his disciple, and Agnimitra felt a void in his 
existence, as thought the sun of his destiny had set. 

Soon after, Haradatta entered to know the King's pleasure. The King's object had, 
however, been attained; and he had no further interest in the quarrels of the
dance-masters. But decorum required that he should go through the whole of the affair; 
and he consented with reluctance. But just then it was brought to their attention
that it was noontime; and Gautama seized the opportunity to protest that he felt very 
hungry and that medical opinion was opposed to postponement of hours of meal. So
Haradatta's performance was adjourned to the succeeding day and the party dispersed. 

The next morning Haradatta gave his demonstration; and it was unanimously agreed 
that both the Masters were of equal ability and that what excellence there was on
Ganadasa's side was due solely to Malavika's superior talents. And the episode of the 
Dance-Master quarrel came to an end. 

From the time of his seeing Malavita. Agnimitra's whole thoughts were with her. His mind 
scarcely found peace when he was not contemplating her elegance. He
sought solace in dwelling on the numerous details connected with her dance. But, for all 
that, he did not get complete tranquillity of mind. He was oppressed with doubts
and fears about her feelings towards him. He kept constantly asking himself if she loved 
him or would reciprocate his love. Sometimes he imagined that the song of
Sarmishta was meant as a covert reference to her own lot and an appeal to him. But he 
could not with certainty decide on the state of her feelings; and the more he
thought of it, the more miserable he became. At last he asked Gautama to ascertain her 
mind. Gautama readily agreed and instructed Vakulavalika, a confidante of
Malavika, to sound her feelings. 

But Agnimitra was restless and impatient to ascertain the truth. He was seized with a fit 
of ennui, and was unable to think of any means of diverting himself. When,
however, Gautama reminded him of his engagement to meet Iravati in the garden, he 
felt a reluctance to meet her, as his thoughts were wholly occupied with Malavika
and he would be obliged to dissemble with Iravati. But abstention from the engagement 
did not appear to him to be a much better policy either. For Iravati would take
her disappointment to heart; and the king wished to avoid wounding her susceptibilities. 
So, he decided to meet her and went to the garden accompanied by the

Iravati had not arrived yet; and Agnimitra was amusing himself, looking at the trees and 
flowers when Malavika was seen coming alone in the garden. She proceeded
straight towards an Asoka tree and sat down underneath it. She had not noticed the King 
or the Vidushaka. Curious to know what brought her there, Agnimitra placed
himself hear her behind a tree, so as to be within hearing. 

The Asoka tree was a favourite of Queen Dharini, and had not borne any flowers that 
year, thought the spring was far advanced. According to the prevalent belief, if a
barren Asoka was touched with the foot of beautiful damsel, it would blossom forth in its 
full vernal bloom; and Dharini was anxious to try that remedy on the tree.
Being herself disabled, she deputed Malavika for that task, promising her that if the tree 
blossomed forth with in five days, she was to obtain the fulfilment of her wishes.
That was the reason for Malavika's presence there. She had come in advance. 
Vakulavalika was to join her there with dress and ornaments. 

Being alone-as she imagined herself to be-Malavika gave way to her thoughts and 
began to soliloquise over her hard destiny and the vain hopes and aspirations of her
heart. Agnimitra was curious to know what those aspirations were and to whom her 
words had reference. Like a typical lover, he was only too eager to believe himself
to be the cause of all he yearnings; but he was oppressed with doubts, and speculation 
could not bring him nearer to truth. A surmise was no substitute for certainty.
While in this state of suspense, Vakulavalika entered with toilet materials and began 
decorating Malavika. While about it, she began to draw her out regarding Agnimitra,
bearing in mind the injunctions of Gautama. 

While they were thus occupied, Iravati entered the garden with her maid Nipunika, and 
not finding her husband at the rendezvous, and espying Malavika under the
Asoka, approached the tree unnoticed, and hid herself behind a cover to overhear the 
conversation. The king had not noticed her arrival; nor was Iravati aware of the
King's presence in the proximity. 

Iravati was indignant at the turn the conversation was taking. Vakulavalika was making 
significant observations to Malavika about the King. At first Malavika was
reticent about her feelings towards the King ; but, after a time, she remarked that she 
could not hope for such a high favour and that the thought of Dharini sent a shiver
over her. When Vakulavalika finished decorating her, she observed to her in ambiguous 
terms : "Here stands before you one who is fir to be enjoyed by you." Malavika
betrayed herself, asking "Is it the King?" Vakulavalika replied smiling that she meant the 
overhanging tendrils, for wearing on the head. Iravati was enraged and
exchanged glances with Nipunika. But Agnimitra was happy to have a convincing proof 
of Malavika's love for him. 

Now that his doubts had been resolved, Agnimitra was impatient to discover himself to 
Malavika. Just then Malavika had touched the Asoka with her right foot : and the
King seized the opportunity to make his apparition and enquire if the touch had given her 
any pain. The Solicitude of the King made Iravati bitter. But when he
proceeded further and asked her to administer a similar touch to him. So that he might 
bear to "flower-courage" which he had not borne since he saw her, it was more
than Iravati could stand. She burst in upon the group in frenzied rage, charging the King 
with faithlessness. Her unexpected debut created a consternation in the hearts
of all, and Malavika and Vakulavalika made their escape at the earliest opportunity. But 
Agnimitra could find no way of escape from the embarrassing situation and
pleaded in extenuation that he meant no harm and was only amusing himself, as she 
was late in coming. But Iravati was inexorable and continued to rate him in severe
language. So he prostrated himself before her, hoping to appease her wrath, But she 
was still implacable and turned away from him in haughty disdain. 

When Dharini was appraised of these incidents by Iravati, she threw Malavika and 
Vakulavalika into a cell, in order to mollify Iravati, with strict injunctions to the deeper
not to release them without seeing the ring bearing the design of a serpent. 

When the news of Malavika's incarceration reached the King's ears, he was chagrined 
that she should suffer such indignities and hardships on his account, and desired
Gautama to devise the means of rescuing her from the cell and taking her to a 
rendezvous. Gautama was ready with a project which he communicated to the King.
Agnimitra approved of it and went to see Dharni who was confined to bed with pains in 
the leg. Gautama went straight to the garden, punctured tow marks in his finger
with a thorn and rushed back into Dharini's chamber exclaiming wildly that he had been 
bitten by a serpent and that the poison was working like a hectic in his blood. He
showed the marks made by the serpent's teeth and simulated all the symptoms of snake 
poison. Every one was alarmed for Gautama's life, except the King. Gautama
appealed in a pathetic tone to the King to look after his aged mother after his death and 
asked forgiveness of Dharini for any offence he might have given her in serving
the King. 

In the meantime, the Court Physician had been sent for. But he was privy to Gautama's 
scheme and directed that the patient might be taken over to him. Accordingly,
Gautama was removed from Dharini's chamber and the King also, soon after, took leave 
of her. 

A little later, the Physician sent word to the Queen that the patient was progressing well 
and that there was no danger to his life, but that an object bearing the figure of a
serpent was necessary for the purpose of incantation. The Queen immediately handed 
her ring to the messenger, with instructions to return in as soon as its purpose was

The ring thus secured, Gauthama went straight to Malavika's keeper, showed her the 
ring, satisfied her curiosity by a plausible explanation and took Malvika and
Vahuylavalike to the rendezvous. Agnimitra, receiving intelligence of this, repaired thither 
by a secret passage. On his arrival, Vakulavalika left the place of some pretext
and Gantama stood guard at the entrance, while the lovers, after a long period of 
despair and anguish, met for the first time in secret embrace. 

But they were not for long to enjoy their happiness uninterrupted. Iravati, who was 
uneasy in mind at having spurned the king's prayer for forgiveness, wished to make
amends for it by paying her respects to a portrait of his which was hanging in the place 
of rendezvous. 

Besides, she had received information that Gautama was in that place and wished to 
congratulate him on his recovery from the snake-bite, which she still believed to be
genuine. So she set out for that place with Nipunika and arrived there to find Gautama 
fast asleep at the entrance. 

Just then Gautama began to talk aloud in his sleep, urging Malavika to supersede he 
rival Iravati, Greatly provoked, Nipunika threw his staff on him, whereupon he woke
up in alarm, crying " A serpent, a serpent." Oravati and Nipunika were hidden from his 
observation. On looking about, Gautama noticed that it was his own staff that had
fallen on him and which he had mistaken for a serpent and observed laughing that for 
the moment he was afraid that he had been done for by a real serpent after the
hoax he had played about a snake-bite. Iravati was astonished to learn the truth about 
the shake-bite. But it was a much more disagreeable surprise for her when, in
response to Gautama's cries, the King came rushing towards the door, followed by 
Malavika who kept urging him not to go near a serpent. 

Iravati was furious. She emerged from her hiding place and felicitated the king ironically 
on his day-time engagements. The party was thrown into a confusion by this
unexpected turn of events, and the situation became very awkward for all. Agnimitra was 
non-plussed as to how to get out of the difficulty, Just them, however,
intelligence was brought to them that Vasulakshmi had been chased by a monkey, that 
the gardeners had driven it off, but that she was trembling all over with fright.
Agnimitra hastened to see his daughter and the company broke up. 

Malavika was apprehensive of the displeasure of Dharini, when she should come to hear 
of the clandestine meeting. But when she learnt that the Asoka had blossomed
forth in its full splendour even before the expiry of the five days, she was somewhat re-
assured. For Dharini had promised to fulfil her wishes if the tree bore flowers. 

Dhariai heard of both these events and perceived that it was no longer possible to put 
any restraint on Malavika and that, in honour bound, she must consent to her union
with Agnimitra. With this resolve, she intimated to the King that she wished to have the 
pleasure of his company at a garden fete she was arranging ; and, at the
appointed hour, went to the garden with Malavika and the Parivrauika. The King had 
guessed Dharini's intention and was eager with expectation. 

After the party had assembled, two maids who had lately arrived into the palace craved 
audience and were admitted. On entry they were recognised by Malavika and
the Parivrijika as the members of Madhavasena's household. Asked about their 
antecedents, they related their connection with Madhavasena's household, the capture 
Madhavasena and Sumathi's departure for Vidisa with Malavika and Kausiki. As they 
were left behind, they knew no further. At that stage the Parivrajika intervened
and revealed her identity and detailed the rest of the story : how they were waylaid by 
robbers, how her brother was killed and Malavika carried away and how she
herself on recovering consciousness went incognito to Vidisa and gained admission into 
the palace. The two maids recognised their Kausiki in the Parivrajika, as also
Malavika. Malavika's capture by the brigands, her rescue by Virasena's men and her 
subsequent entry into the palace were already known in the royal household. But
no one except the Parivrajika had known her identity till then. Dharini felt pangs of regret 
that she had not treated Malavika with the respect due to her rank and
complained to the Parivrauika that she had not done properly to have observed 
reticence about her. But the Parivrauika explained that a long time ago a soothsayer had
predicted that Malavika's fortune would be low for a period of one year and that 
afterwards she would marry a suitable husband. Seeing the prophecy in the course of
fulfilment, she had lift the events to take their own course. 

When the explanations were over, news was brought from the frontier that Vidarbha had 
been invaded and Yagnasena taken captive. Agnimitra forthwith ordered the
kingdom to be divided between him and Madhavasena, each ruling over a half. 

At the same time, glad tidings were received from his father Pushyamitra that the holy 
sacrificial horse which was sent under the protection of Vasyntra, preparatory to
the "Rajasu Yagam" was challenged by a party of Yavana Cavalry, and that after a fierce 
battle the Yavanas were vanquished and the horse brought home safe. After
extolling young Vasymitra's heroism, Pushyamitra invited his son to attend the Yagam 
with his family. 

Great was the rejoicing in the palace on receipt of the news of Vasynuitra's victory. 
Dharini was in ecstacies and was in a mood to accede to the King's wishes
unreservedly. So she sent word to Iravati to obtain her consent to the proposed marriage 
and, after investing Malavika with the bridal veil and ornaments, gave her in
marriage to Agnimitra. The lovers at last attained the consummation of their desires.

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