Being Alert to Our Prime Duty

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept my humble obeisances! All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev!

The great poet Kalidasa was in the court of King Bhoja of the Kingdom of Dhara and he was a great patron of poetry. The king knew well the talent of Kalidasa as a poet, especially the innumerable ways of bringing simile in his poems. It is famously said “Upama kalidasasya”. The King developed a strange interest, knew not why, but he desired Kalidasa to sing the last song for him before he died. Normally the ‘charama sloka’ eulogizing the person is sung only after a person is dead. Kalidasa, therefore made it clear to the king that as he was blessed by Kali Devi, if he sang the song, the king‘s life would come to an end immediately. Bhoja raja got angry with Kalidasa for disobeying his order and banished him from the capital of Dhara.

The King dearly missed the presence of Kalidasa and he went in search of the great poet disguising himself as a ‘Sooth Sayer‘. The king somehow spotted Kalidasa, and he decided to play a strategy to make Kalidasa to sing the last song for him. When he was talking to Kalidasa, the King told him that he is from the city of Dhara and immediately Kalidasa with genuine interest in the welfare of King Bhoja enquired him for the news of the city and whether the King Bhoja was keeping sound health. The Sooth Sayer replied , "Oh, what a calamity, King Bhoja is dead as he was unable to bear the separation from his best friend and poet Kalidasa.” Kalidasa was shattered to hear the sad news about his friend and with great grief sang the ‘charama sloka’ in praise of the departed soul!!

adya dhārā nirādhārā nirālambā sarasvati
panditāh kanditā sarve bhojarājā divam gate

 The Kingdom of Dhaaraa is now deserted due to the demise of Bhoja Raja. The learned poets would get punished anywhere now as Goddess Saraswathi remains unsupported without King Bhoja.

The moment Kalidasa sang the charama sloka, the King in the disguise of the 'Sooth Sayer‘ fell down on the ground and died. Kalidasa was quick to realise that it was none other than his best friend and the King himself who acted as the Sooth Sayer to hear the charama sloka from him. Kalidasa prayed to Kali Devi to spare his friend by singing the same sloka to give the opposite meaning. Kali Devi was moved by Kalidasa’s poetry and gave a new lease of life to the King but restricted it to a time of about a Muhurta. Kalidasa embraced the King and told about the short life at his disposal. King Bhoja wanted that time to be utilized in glorification of the Supreme Personality Of Godhead and he urged Kalidasa to compose an epic on the glories of Lord Rama and Bhoja also joined him to make it.The kavya is well-known as” Bhoj Champu” or Champu Ramayana and is one of a very rare literary joint venture by King Bhoja and Poet Kalidasa.

This reminds us of the great Parikshit Maharaja and King Khatvanga who when informed of the time left to live in this material world, made a conscious decision to absorb themselves in glorifying the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that being the supreme interest and prime duty of our life. Srimad Bhagavatam 1.19.5 says on what King Parikshit did once informed that he would live only for seven days.

atho vihāyemam amuṁ ca lokaṁ
vimarśitau heyatayā purastāt
kṛṣṇāṅghri-sevām adhimanyamāna
upāviśat prāyam amartya-nadyām

Mahārāja Parīkṣit sat down firmly on the banks of the Ganges to concentrate his mind in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, rejecting all other practices of self-realization, because transcendental loving service to Kṛṣṇa is the greatest achievement, superseding all other methods. 

Srimad Bhagavatam 2.1.13

khaṭvāṅgo nāma rājarṣir
jñātveyattām ihāyuṣaḥ
muhūrtāt sarvam utsṛjya
gatavān abhayaṁ harim

The saintly King Khaṭvāṅga, after being informed that the duration of his life would be only a moment more, at once freed himself from all material activities and took shelter of the supreme safety, the Personality of Godhead.

Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport that a fully responsible man should always be conscious of the prime duty of the present human form of life. The activities to meet the immediate necessities of material life are not everything. One should always be alert in his duty for attainment of the best situation in the next life. Human life is meant for preparing ourselves for that prime duty. Mahārāja Khaṭvāṅga is mentioned herein as a saintly king because even within the responsibility of the state management, he was not at all forgetful of the prime duty of life. Such was the case with other rājarṣis (saintly kings), like Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira and Mahārāja Parīkṣit. They were all exemplary personalities on account of their being alert in discharging their prime duty.

Herein we see that King Bhoja initially wanted to hear his own glories from the mouth of the great poet Kalidasa, but once he came to know that only a few moments are available to live, he realized that tthe Lord is the Supreme object of glorification and without feeling sorry, became alert to the prime duty of human life of remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead and absorbing himself in glorifying Lord Rama during the last few moments of his life. We pray that we may snatch or steal whatever time available to remember and glorify the Supreme Lord and thaus be always alert to our prime duty in human form of life.

Thank you very much.
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Vaijayantimala devi dasi
Chennai.