Kalidasa is regarded as kavikulaguru (=the preceptor of the clan of kavi-s). Almost as famous as Kalidasa in the literary circles, is Mallinatha, who has written commentaries regarded very highly by scholars, upon Kalidasa's works.
There is this little-known story (which is, in all probabilities, a legend, ದಂತಕಥೆ) about Mallinatha that I would like to share. I concluded that it was little known, because I could not find references to that story on the internet. I had read it long back, in a Kannada book for children.
Mallinatha was a pampered youth from a rich family. He was made to learn under capable teachers, but he was too lazy to be competent at learning, and abandoned his studies soon. He grew into a handsome youth and since he was from a rich family also, he was in high demand as a son-in-law. He was finally married to a very learned woman.
Mallinatha's wife noticed soon that her husband was too un-knowledgeable for her liking. When one day, Mallinatha praised the beauty of a flower lying on the road-side, she remarked "Of what use is its beauty? Since it does not possess fragrance, it cannot be used for worship". These words stung Mallinatha, and he resolved to restart his learning.
He enrolled himself in a gurukula, and began his studies. For a married youth who had passed his life thitherto in nothing but luxury, life in a gurukula was really hard, but he did not mind that. His guru had instructed his wife, the gurupatni, that mallinatha had to get neem oil instead of ghee, with his meals. Mallinatha was so engrossed with his studies, that he did not notice that he was being served neem oil daily. Because of his assiduous efforts, he made progress in his studies by leaps and bounds.
One day, while he was having his meals with his guru, he noticed that there was something wrong with his food. He said to the gurupatni "Mother, the food is bitter today!". The guru who was sitting next to him, smiled and patted his back, and said "Your education is complete today. You may go home now". He then explained to the puzzled Mallinatha that all during his stay at the gurukula, he was being served neem oil and that he had not noticed it at all, till then.
Mallinatha went back home to the joy of his wife and parents, and wrote the famous commentaries on Kalidasa's works.
The story does not end here. The next part of the story is from Dr.R.Ganesh's "kavitegondu kathe".
Seeing that her husband was now a very learned man, Mallinatha's wife asked him to write a poem about her. After much coercion, mallinAtha wrote a poem, likening her to shoorpanakhaa (रामवैरिभगिनीव राजसे !)
Mallinatha's wife was irritated by this description of her, and was waiting to get back at her husband. Now, in his commentaries, Mallinatha had the habit of writing "ityarthaH" (=this is the meaning), "iti bhAvaH"(=this is the import). He used to be so engrossed with his work, that he used to use these words even during normal conversation. When, one day, Mallinatha asked her what was for lunch, she replied
इत्यर्थ-क्वथितं चैवेतिभाव-तेमनं तथा
सज्जीकृतेद्य भुक्त्यर्थं तुष्यतां भवदाशयः ।
"There is boiled ityartha, majjigehuLi called iti bhAva. Have this lunch and be satisfied!"
Mallinatha was justified in being proud of his wife!