Vidyadhar Malla, the chief of the Karachuli race, a Rajput tribe, was the king of Triling and Kalinga. Bhagurayana was his minister. Charayana was his Vidushaka or confidential attendant. Chandraverma, the king of Lata, was the maternal uncle-in-law of Vidyadhar Malla. He had no son. To satisfy his desire for a son, he dressed his only daughter Mrigankavali as a son to pass her off as such. People knew that the child was a son.
Bhagurayana had heard from the sages that "whosoever shall wed the daughter of Chandravarma shall become the paramount sovereign." So he told Chandravarma, "My king desires to see your son." Upon this Chandravarma sent his child to the queen of Vidyadhara Malla to be taken care of by her. Thus the minister contrived to bring Mrigankavali to the palace of his king.
One day, while the king is asleep, Mrigankavali puts a necklace on the neck of the king, being induced by a maid-servant who had instructions to do so by the minister. The king takes this as a wonderful dream. The vision of a beautiful maid agitates his mind. The king thus relates to Bidushaka the story of his fancied vision, "for the burden of the heart is lightened by sharing it with a faithful friend."
"A glorious halo appeared before me in my dream, bright as the moon's resplendent disk; within the orb a beauteous maiden moved as gently radiant as the lunar rays in autumn skies.
Advancing near me, she inclined her head in reverence, and, as if pouring ambrosia into my ears, pronounced in softest tones,
'Glory to the deity of love!' Then sighing, she took up this string of costly pearls and placed it on my neck. This awoke me, I started up and saw my vision realised. I caught the nymph by her scarf, but she hastily extricated herself from my hands and fled, leaving me this necklace alone the evidence of her presence." Bidushaka asks his Majesty, "Was not the queen with you when you dreamt? What did she do?"
The king replies, "The queen got angry and left me." Bidushaka remarks, "Why could not you assuage her anger?"
The king answers, "I was absorbed in the maid of my vision."
The Vidushaka, however, treats the whole as a dream, and reproaches the king for his fickleness, as he had just before fallen in love with Kuvalayamala, the princess of Kuntala, and recommends him to be content with the queen, as "a partridge in the hand is better than a pea-hen in the forest."
The prince and the Vidushaka then go into the garden by the back-door, where, over the edge of a terrace, they see some of the fair tenants of the inner apartments amusing themselves with swinging. Amongst them the king recognises the countenance he has seen in his dream, but the party disappear on the advance of the king and his friend.
The king then enters a pleasure-house or pavilion called the kelikailas or mountain of sport built for him by the minister.
It is a beautiful palace built of crystal, and decorated with statues and paintings. One of the paintings is thus described:
"There is your Majesty at pasa (dice) with the queen: behind you stands one damsel with the betel box, whilst another is waving the chownri over your head: the dwarf is playing with the monkey, and the parrot abusing the Vidushaka." The chamber also contains the portrait of Mrigankavali, the damsel whom the prince has really seen in his supposed dream. There is also a statue of her, whence the drama is named Viddha Salabhanjika, meaning a curved statue or effigy.
The king discovers the statue. He thinks, "Who will carve on the wall the person I dreamed of? No one was present when I dreamt. Has anyone carved the statue out of his fancy? A real person may exist in this world or how can an exact figure come here?"
He now verily believes the dream to be a reality. He then puts the necklace of his dream on the neck of the carved statue.
Finally the lady is herself beheld through the transparent wall of the pavilion, but runs away on being observed. The king becomes enamoured of her. He and his friend follow her but in vain. The bards proclaim it at noon, and the two friends repair to the queen's apartments to perform the midday ceremonies.
Kuvalayamala, the object of the king's passion before encountering his new flame, is the daughter of Chandramahasena, the king of Kuntala. She has been sent to Vidyadhara Malla's queen, as the betrothed bride of the supposed son of Chandraverma, who is the queen's maternal uncle. Mekhala, the queen's foster-sister, practises a frolic on Charayana. He is promised a new bride by the queen, and the ceremony is about to take place when the spouse proves to be a "lubberly boy"; he is highly indignant at the trick, and goes off threatening vengeance.
The king having followed and pacified his companion, they go off into the garden, where they see the damsel Mrigankavali playing with ball: she still however flies their advance. Presently they overhear a conversation between her and one of her companions, from which it appears, that notwithstanding her shyness she is equally enamoured of the king.
Her dress is the contrivance of the minister, at whose instigation, Mrigankavali is persuaded by Sulakshana to believe that she is to behold the present deity of love, and is introduced by a sliding door into the king's chamber. The consequence of the interview is to render Mrigankavali passionately enamoured of the king.
One day, the queen, in order to deceive Charayana, manages to celebrate a marriage between him and a son of a maid-servant veiled as a female. The trick is discovered. He is highly indignant.
He now retaliates with the help of the king. He induces Sulakshana, one of the female attendants of the queen, to ascend a Bakula tree and thence send a message in a nasal tone, as if from the sky, to Mekhala, the foster-sister and chief attendant of the queen.
"Thou shalt die at this spot on the full moon day of Baisakh." After many entreaties, the heavenly voice prescribes a relief, "Thou art safe if thou canst pass through the legs of a Brahmin skilled in music and gratified with a fee." Charayana, just the kind of Brahmin required, arrives at this juncture. The king and the queen are present. Mekhala and the queen, both overcome with concern, entreat Charayana to be the Brahmin that shall preserve the life of the former. He consents. As Mekhala tries to pass between his legs, he mounts on her back and says, "you are now caught in your turn. You deceived me once. Now marry me." He triumphs in the humiliation he has inflicted on her. The queen now perceives the intrigue of the king, is in her turn incensed, goes off in a pet and resolves to take revenge.
Chandamahasen, the king of Kuntala as a defeated prince now resides with his daughter Kubalayamala under the protection of the victorious king. The king sees her one day as she rises after bathing in the Narbadda. He becomes enamoured of her and wishes to marry her. The queen gets scent of the matter. To prevent the curse of co-wifeship, the queen now resolves to get her husband married to the son of her maternal uncle so that he may be ashamed into abandoning his polygamous tendency.
The king and the Vidushaka seek the garden, where it is now moon-light. Mrigankavali and her friend Vilakshana also come thither, and the lovers meet: this interview is broken off by a cry that the queen is coming, and they all separate abruptly.
At dawn, Charayana's wife is asleep. In her sleep, however, she is very communicative, and repeats a supposed dialogue between the queen and the Raja, in which the former urges the latter to marry Mrigankavali, the sister of the supposed Mrigankavarma, come on a visit, it is pretended, to her brother--this being a plot of the queen's to cheat the king into a sham marriage, by espousing him to one she believes to be a boy.
The Vidushaka suspects the trick, however, and wakes his wife, who rises and goes to the queen. The Vidushaka joins his master. The king, who is already the husband of the princesses of Magadha, Malava, Panchala, Avanti, Jalandhara and Kerala, is wedded to Mrigankavali. As soon as the ceremony is gone through, a messenger from the court of Chandraverma arrives to announce:--
"O queen! His Majesty Chandravarma wishes it to be known that Mrigankavarma is not his son but his daughter. In the absence of a son he dressed her as such to satisfy his desire for a son. Now that a son has been born to him, it is not necessary to keep up the pretence. The king requests you to settle a suitable marriage for her. The sages have prophesied paramount sovereignty for her husband."
The queen becomes stunned and soliloquises:--
"What is play to me, Providence ordains to be a stern fact. Man proposes, God disposes." She now finds that she has taken herself in, and given herself another rival wife. As the matter is past remedy, however, she assents with a good grace. The minister is glad that his aims are fulfilled. All are happy, Why should Kuvalayamala alone be sorry? The queen therefore allows her lord to marry Kuvalyamala.
To crown the king's happiness, a messenger, sent by the General of His Majesty's forces, now arrives from the camp with the news that the allied armies of Kernata, Simhala, Pandya, Murala, Andhra, and Konkana have been defeated, and Virapala, king of Kuntala, the ally of Vidyadhara Malla, reseated on a throne, from which his kinsman, supported by those troops, had formerly expelled him. The authority of Vidyadhara Malla as paramount sovereign is now declared to extend from the mouths of the Ganges to the sea, and from the Narbada to the Tamraperni in the Deccan.