King Bhimashukla was ruler of Varasi. He had a learned daughter med Vidyotma, whom he wanted to give in marriage to renowned scholar Vararuchi. But thinking herself a greater scholar, the princess declared she would only marry the man who could defeat her in a debate over the scriptures.
Resolving to teach the princess a lesson, Vararuchi said, ‘Let me ask my teacher, who is much more learned than me, to come and engage the princess in debate’.
The opportunity for revenge came on a visit to Magadha. Vararuchi was out walking one day when he saw a man on a tree, chopping the very branch on which he was sitting. Immediately knowing him to be an utter fool, Vararuchi brought the fellow along, anointed and dressed him up like a sage.
The fool was instructed not to say anything. Vararuchi then presented him as his teacher to the princess. ‘My guru is observing a vow of silence. However, he can answer through gestures if asked anything,’ he said.
The debate began. The princess held up one finger. Thinking she meant to poke him in one eye, the fool raised two fingers, sigling that he would retaliate by poking her in both eyes. The princess then showed her hand with palm open. The fool held up his fist, thinking that if she intended to slap him, he would punch her in return.
Vararuchi explained the fool’s gestures thus: ‘The princess had shown one finger to signify that the Supreme Brahman created the world, but my guru showed two fingers to mean that along with Brahman, there was also Maya (worldly illusion). When she next displayed her palm to signify the five human senses, he showed his fist to mean that only when the five senses are kept under control, can one attain greatness.’
Greatly impressed, the princess consented to the marriage. Having avenged himself, Vararuchi fled the kingdom.
On discovering how she had been duped, princess Vidyotma’s humiliation and fury knew no bounds. She threw the fool out, calling him a dullard with head full of mud and stones.
Going to drown himself at the river, the dejected fellow saw a woman washing clothes on the bank. Seeing the rounded stone slab, he suddenly thought: ‘If by constant pounding of soft cloth the rough stone can be smoothened, why cannot my brain change by being pounded with knowledge?’
Seeking the gift of knowledge, he began a severe pence, going to the extent of readying to cut his tongue out as sacrifice. Goddess Saraswati then appeared, gave her blessings and told him to take a dip in the river.
As he emerged from the water, words of learning began flowing off his tongue. Thus was born the great poet and scholar Kalidasa. But at the moment of his triumph, he got a glimpse of his eventual downfall.
Carried away by the force of the knowledge bestowed upon him, Kalidasa composed a hymn praising the ethereal beauty of the Goddess, the divine luminosity of Her eyes. Enraged, She cursed him to die in a house of infamy.
To realize Goddess Saraswati, the true devotee must rise above the senses and ego to rejoice in the serenity of eterl spirit. For She is purity and wisdom incarte, the highest consciousness of Creation.