Chattopadhyay was a Bengali writer, now considered to be a key figure in the literary renaissance of Bengal and India. Phillips was an officer of the Bengal Civil Service of British India.
The novel is a tragic love story set in sixteenth century India of the eponymous forest-dwelling girl, who falls in love with Nobokumar, a lost pilgrim who is captured by Kopal-Kundala's foster father, a Tantric sage, and almost sacrificed to Kali before Kopal-Kundala rescues and marries him. The couple travel to Nabakumar's home Saptagram but Kopal-Kundala finds that she is unable to adjust to city life, while her foster father and Nabakumar's first wife plot against them.
At the end of a night in the month of Mágh two hundred and fifty years ago a pilgrim-boat was returning from Gangá-ságor. At that time it was the custom for boats to go in numbers together owing to dread of Portuguese pirates; but this boat was alone, as towards the end of night a dense fog had spread on every side, and the sailors, not knowing in what direction to steer, had wandered far from their proper course. Now there was no certainty whatever as to where they were going or in what direction. Nearly all the passengers were asleep: an old man and a young man were the only two awake. As they were conversing together, the old man suddenly stopped the conversation, and asked the sailors how far they would be able to go that day. One of the sailors, after humming and hawing a little, replied, "I cannot say."