Malavikagnimitram: The Dancer and the King


Status: Read from Sep 04 to Sep 07, 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 165
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Kalidasa


Believed to be Kalidasa’s first work, Malavikagnimitram is the love story of King Agnimitra and the dancer Malavika. The tale unfolds through humorous palace interludes, vivid descriptions of fine arts and the cunning machinations of court players. Even in this early work, Kalidasa’s characteristic penchant for romance, art and natural beauty is evident at every delightful turn of the plot. He transforms a simple tale of forbidden love into an engrossing courtly drama filled with beauty, humour and wit.

Srinivas Reddy’s engaging translation captures to perfection the joyous vigour of the young dramatist’s voice.


Malavikagnimitram is Kalidasa’s first sanskrit play narrating the love of king Agnimitra, the Shunga Emperor at Vidisha, for for the beautiful hand-maiden of his chief queen, and dancer Malavika. When the queen discovers her husband’s passion for this girl, she becomes infuriated and has Mālavikā imprisoned, but as fate would have it, in the end she is discovered to be of royal birth and is accepted as one of his queens.

The ways devised by Agnimitra’s brahmin friend Gautama, so that the king can get a chance to meet Malavika are very hilarious. The translation is very poetic and there is use of so many metaphors used to describe fine arts, romance and nature’s beauty which are fun to read. It’s a light and quick read.

A newly enthroned enemy, not yet popular with his subjects, is easily rooted out, like a freshly planted sapling.

A king only completes a challenging task with the help of a friend, for even a man with perfect vision needs light to see in the dark.

A fire burns ever more brilliant by absorbing the sun while the moon glows bright when embraced by the night.

When two mad elephants want to fight each other, peace comes only when one of them is defeated.

Even with a bad student, a good teacher’s intellect shines through.

About the Author:


Kālidāsa (Devanāgarī: कालिदास  “servant of Kali”) was a 5th century (end of 4th century) renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language.

Nothing apart from his works is known with certainty about the life of Kālidāsa, such as where he lived or the dates of his birth and death. He composed seven major works: three plays: Mālavikāgnimitram , Abhijñānaśākuntalam, Vikramōrvaśīyam , two epic poems: Raghuvaṃśa , Kumārasambhava, and two lyrical poems (khandakavyas): Ṛtusaṃhāra, Meghadūta.  According to legend, he was known for his beauty, which brought him to the attention of Princess Vidyottama and she married him. However, as legend has it, Kālidāsa had grown up without much education, and the princess was ashamed of his ignorance and coarseness. A devoted worshipper of Kali (by other accounts of Saraswati), Kālidāsa is said to have called upon his goddess for help when he was going to commit suicide in a well after he was humiliated by his wife, and was rewarded with a sudden and extraordinary gift of wit. He is then said to have become the most brilliant of the “nine gems” at the court of the king Vikramaditya of Ujjain. Legend also has it that he was murdered by a courtesan in Sri Lanka during the reign of Kumaradasa.


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