A collection from various sources.
Last update: Feburary 15, 1996
kaalidaasa\footnoteSome of the Sanskrit words are
modified for pronunciation, at times with first letter in upper case.
From: Encyclopedia Americana
Written by: Walter Harding Maurer
University of Hawaii at Manoe
KALIDASA, k\a-le-d\a'sa (kaalidaasa), India's greatest Sanskrit
poet and dramatist . In spite of the celebrity of
his name, the time when he flourished always
has been an unsettled question, although most
scholars nowadays favor the middle of the 4th
and early 5th centuries A.D., during the reigns of
Chandragupta II Vikramaaditya and his successor
Kumaaragupta . Undetermined also is the place of
Kaalidaasa's principal literary activity, as the frequent
and minute geographic allusions in his
works suggest that he traveled extensively.
Numerous works have been attributed to his
authorship . Most of them, however, are either
by lesser poets bearing the same name or by others of
some intrinsic worth, whose works simply
chanced to be associated with Kaalidaasa's name
their own names having long before ceased to be
remembered . Only seven are generally considered genuine.
Plays. There are three plays, the earliest of
which is probably the Malavikaagnimitra ( Malavikaa and Agnimitra),
a work concerned with palace intrigue . It is of special interest because the
hero is a historical figure, King Agnimitra, whose
father, Pushhpamitra, wrested the kingship of
northern India from the Mauryan king Brihadratha about 185 B.C.
and established the Sunga
dvnasty, which held power for more than a century . The
Vikramorvashiiya ( Urvashii Won Through
Valor) is based on the old legend of the love of
the mortal Pururavaas for the heavenly damsel
Urvashii . The legend occurs in embryonic form in
a hymn of the Rig Veda and in a much
amplified version in the ShatapathabraahmaNa.
The third play, AbhiGYaanashaakuntala ( Shakuntalaa Recognized
by the Token Ring), is the work
by which Kaalidaasa is best known not only in
India but throughout the world . It was the first
work of Kaalidaasa to be translated into English
from which was made a German translation in
1791 that evoked the often quoted admiration by
Goethe . The raw material for this play, which
usually is called in English simply Shaakuntala
after the name of the heroine, is
contained in the Mahaabhaarata and in similar
form also in the PadmapuraaNa, but these versions seem crude and
primitive when compared
with Kaalidaasa's polished and refined treatment of
the story . In bare outline the story of the play is
as follows: King Dushhyanta, while on a hunting
expedition, meets the hermit-girl Shakuntalaa,
whom he marries in the hermitage by a ceremony of mutual consent.
Obliged by affairs of
state to return to his palace, he gives Shakuntalaa
his signet ring, promising to send for her later.
But when Shakuntalaa comes to the court for their
reunion, pregnant with his child, Dushhyanta fails
to acknowledge her as his wife because of a
curse . The spell is subsequently broken by the
discovery of the ring, which Shakuntalaa had lost
on her way to the court . The couple are later
reunited, and all ends happily.
The infiuence of the AbhiGYaanashaakuntala outside India is
evident not only in the abundance
of translations in many languages, but also in its
adaptation to the operatic stage by Paderewski,
Weingartner, and Alfano.
Poems. In addition to these three plays
Kaalidaasa wrote two long epic poems, the
Kumaarasambhava ( Birth of Kumaara) and the
Raghuvamsha ( Dynasty of Raghu). The former is
concerned with the events that lead to the marriage of the god Shiva
and Paarvatii, daughter of the Himaalaya . This union was desired by
the gods for the production of a son, Kumaara, god
of war, who would help them defeat the demon
Taaraka . The gods induce Kaama, god of love, to
discharge an amatory arrow at Siva who is engrossed
in meditation . Angered by this interruption
of his austerities, he burns Kaama to ashes
with a glance of his third eye . But love for
Paarvatii has been aroused, and it culminates in
The Raghuvamsha treats of the family to which
the great hero Rama belonged, commencing with
its earliest antecedents and encapsulating the
principal events told in the RaamaayaNa of
Vaalmikii . But like the Kumaarasambhava, the last
nine cantos of which are clearly the addition of
another poet, the Raghuvamsha ends rather
abruptly, suggesting either that it was left unfinished by the
poet or that its final portion was lost early.
Finally there are two lyric poems, the
Meghaduuta ( Cloud Messenger) and the Ritusamhaara
( Description of the Seasons). The latter, if at all
a genuine work of Kaalidaasa, must surely be
regarded as a youthful composition, as it is distinguished
by rather exaggerated and overly exuberant depictions
of nature, such as are not
elsewhere typical of the poet . It is of tangential
interest, however, that the Ritusamhaara, published
in Bengal in 1792, was the first book to be
printed in Sanskrit.
On the other hand, the Meghaduuta, until the
1960's hardly known outside India, is in many
ways the finest and most perfect of all Kaalidaasa's
works and certainly one of the masterpiece of
world literature . A short poem of 111 stanzas, it
is founded at once upon the barest and yet most
original of plots . For some unexplained dereliction
of duty, a Yaksha, or attendant of Kubera, god
of wealth, has been sent by his lord into yearlong
exile in the mountains of central India, far away
from his beloved wife on Mount Kailasa in the
Himaalaya . At the opening of the poem, particularly
distraught and hapless at the onset of the
rains when the sky is dark and gloomy with
clouds, the yaksa opens his heart to a cloud hugging
close the mountain top . He requests it
mere aggregation of smoke, lightning, water, and
wind that it is, to convey a message of consolation
to his beloved while on its northward
course . The Yaksha then describes the many captivating
sights that are in store for the cloud on its
way to the fabulous city of Alakaa, where his wife
languishes amid her memories of him . Throughout the
Meghaduuta, as perhaps nowhere else So
plentifully in Kaalidaasa's works, are an unvarying›
freshness of inspiration and charm, delight
imagerry and fancy, profound insight into the
emotions, and a oneness with the phenomena of
nature . Moreover, the fluidity and beauty of the
language are probably unmatched in Sanskrit
literature, a feature all the more remarkable for its
inevitable loss in translation.
Kaalidaasa, Abhijnana-Sakuntala, tr . by M . B . Emeneau
(1962; reprint, Creenwood Press 1976).
Kaalidaasa, The Dynasty of Raghu, tr . by Robert Antoine (Indo-US Inc . 1975).
Mansinha, M., Kaalidaasa and Shakespeare (Verry 1968).
Narang, S . P., Kaalidaasa Bibliography (South Asia Bks . 1976).
Sabnis, S . A., Kaalidaasa: His Style and His Times (Intl . Pub . Ser . 1966).
Singh, A . D., Kaalidaasa: A Critical Study (South Asia Bks . 1977).
From: The Student's English Dictionary
V . S . Apte
Word: navan.h n:v:n:Î
n:v:rtn:öThe nine gems or poets at the court of king Vikramaaditya.
Ky:at::ð v:rahem:ehr:ð n:àp:t:ðH s:B:ay:aö
rtn:aen: v:ò v:r,ec:n:üv: ev:#m:sy: ..
The navarathnas are:
Am:res:öh(amarasi.nha) of the author amarakosha , the most popular
Sanskrit Lexicon . He was a Jaina.
v:r,ec:vararuchi, Poet and grammarian,
identified by some with kaatyaayana, the celebrated author of the
vaartikas on Panini's suutraas.
From: THE DISCOVERY OF INDIA
by: Jawaharlal Nehru
Europe first learned of the old Indian drama from Sir
William Jones's translation of Kalidasa's Shakuntula published in 1789-Something in the nature of a commotion
was created among European intellectuals by this discovery,
and several editions of the book followed . Translations also
appeared (made from Sir William Jones's translation) in
German, French, Danish, and Italian . Goethe was powerfully impressed, and he paid a magnificent tribute to
Shakuntala . The idea of giving a prologue to Faust is said
to have originated from Kalidasa's prologue, which was in
accordance with the usual tradition of the Sanskrit drama.
Kalidasa wrote other plays also and some long poems.
His date is uncertain, but very probably he lived toward
the end of the fourth century A.D . at Ujjayini during the
reign of Chandragupta II, Vikramaditya of the Gupta
dynasty . Tradition says that he was one of the nine gems of
his court, and there is no doubt that his genius was appreciated and he met with full recognition during his life.
He was among the fortunate whom life treated as a
cherished son and who experienced its beauty and tenderness more than its harsh and rough edges . His writings
betray this love of life and a passion for nature's beauty.
One of Kalidasa's long poems is the Meghaduta, the
Cloud Messenger . A lover, made captive and separated
from his beloved, asks a cloud, during the rainy season, to
carry his message of desperate longing to her . To this poem
and to Kalidasa, the American scholar Ryder has paid a
splendid tribute . He refers to the two parts of the poem
and says: ``The former half is a description of external nature,
yet interwoven with human feeling; the latter half is
a picture of a human heart, yet the picture is framed in
natural beauty . So exquisitely is the thing done that none
can say which half is superior . Of those who read this perfect
poem in the original text, some are moved by the one,
some by the other . Kalidasa understood in the fifth century
what Europe did not learn until the nineteenth, and even
now comprehends only imperfectly, that the world was not
made for man, that man reaches his full stature only as he
realizes the dignity and worth of life that is not human.
That Kalidasa seized this truth is a magnificent tribute to
his intellectual power, a quality quite as necessary to great
poetry as perfection of form . Poetical fluency is not rare;
intellectual grasp is not very uncommon; but the combination has
not been found perhaps more than a dozen times
since the world began . Because he possessed this harmonious combination,
Kalidasa ranks not with Anacreon and
Horace and Shelley but with Sophocles, Virgil, Milton . ''
From: A Portable India
Editors: Jug Suraiya and Anurag Mathur
Written by: Harish Trivedi
In secular Sanskrit literature, the biggest name is that of
Kalidasa (5th century AD). Of his two epics, the longer
Raghuvamsha describes the dynasty of Rama, and the shorter
Kumarasambhava celebrates the wedding of Shiva and Parvati
and their union in their lofty picturesque abode,
``the divine souled Himalayas. '' His masterpiece is the play Shakuntala, a
romantic tragicomedy involving a tenderhearted forest maiden
and a king who then goes away and under a curse forgets her.
But perhaps the most original and popular work of Kalidasa is
the Meghaduta (The Cloud Messenger), in which a banished
newly-wed lover sights a likely cloud on the exhilarating first
day of the monsoon and begs it to carry a message to his
beloved wife pining in their fabled city of Alakapuri in the
Himalayas . The first half of the poem gives an enchanting
cloud's eye-view of the changing landscapes of central and
north India, and the second half describes in sensuous and
glittering detail the pining lady, still ravishing in her attenuation . Though he mainly wrote epics and plays, Kalidasa's genius
was essentially lyrical . He delights constantly with his apt
similes and he is the master of sweet elaboration of the softly
unfolding sentiment . Many readers including Western orientalists
have regarded him as the greatest Indian poet ever, and the one
who expresses best the characteristic Indian sensibility . In
colonial times, in proud patriotic counter-assertion, he was
often claimed by Indian scholars to be the Shakespeare of India.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote a marvellous humorous poem on Kalidasa.
Can anyone find it and add it here? If it is in Bengali, please send
it as you would pronounce it.
S:it:ö b:hÚ b:aD:et: .
The cold hurts very much
by: Kedar Naphade,email@example.com
s:v:ðü j:an:ent: y:t:Î B::ðj:rawH drb:arð Aev:½t: kev:H kal:idas:H . kdaec:t:Î
OkH p:rdðS:iy:H p:eNRt:H B::ðj:rawò s:ndðS:ö )ex:pt:v:an:Î .
A:g:em:\y:aem: Am:Økedv:s:ð B:v:t:H drb:arsy: p:eNRt:òH s:h c:c:aüö
ev:v:adö c: kt:Øüö Eet: . t:T:a B::ðj:raj:a drb:arð AkT:y:t:Î O\:H
p:eNRt:H A:g:em:\y:et: Eet: .
Everybody knows that poet kAlIdAsa was in King Bhoj's court . Once a foreign
scholar sent a message to King Bhoj . It said,``I shall come on such and s
date to debate and discuss with the scholars in your court ''. King Bhoj th
mentioned in his court that this scholar was going to come.
y:esm:n:Î edv:s:ð p:eNRt:H A:g:cCet:, t:esm:n:Î kal:idas:H p:al:K:iD:arksy:
-p:ö p:erdD:an:H t:sy: sv:ag:t:ay: up:esT:t:H B:v:et: . n: K:l:Ø j:an:aet:
p:eNRt:H y:t:Î kal:idas:H Ov: s:H . p:al:K:iö skndy::ðH H v:hn:Î en:g:üt:H
kal:idas:H p:eNRt:ðn: s:h . t:esm:n:Î kal:ð eS:eS:rH B:v:et: ?t:ØH S:it:H
c: p:v:n:H dðhö t:aRy:et: Ev: . v:det: p:eNRt:H, S:it:ö b:hÚ b:aD:et:
Eet: . c:t:ØrH kal:idas:H tv:ry:a Ov: p:Ønv:det:
``n: t:T:a b:aD:t:ð S:it:ö y:T:a b:aD:et: b:aD:t:ð ''
On the day the scholar arrived,kAlIdAsa disguised himself as a palanquin
carrier and went to recieve him . The scholar did not know that he was
indeed kAlIdAsa . Carrying the pAlakhI on his shoulders,kAlIdAsa set off
with the scholar . It was winter that time and the cold wind was hitting
the body . The scholar said,``The cold hurts very much,'' Clever
``Cold does not hurt as much as `badhati' ''
A:tm:n:ðp:di K:l:Ø b:aD:Î D:t:ØH Eet: n: ev:wat:ö p:eNRt:ðn: . m:ny:t:ð s:H,
y:ed Ot:esm:n:Î rajy:ð p:al:K:iD:arkaH Aep: Ot:av:t:Î j:an:ent: s:öskát:ö
p:eNRt:òH s:h m:ðl:H m:m: p:raB:v:ay: Ov: . t:T:a kal:idas:ö A:wap:y:et: n:
K:l:Ø EcCaem: Ot:esm:n:Î rajy:ð g:nt:Øö . g:àhð g:em:\y:aem: . Eet:.
The scholar did not know that the verb ``badh '' was `Atmanep
hence had used the wrong form bAdhati instead of the correct form
bAdhate')He thought,if even the palakhicarriers in this kingdom know the
language so well,then meeting with the scholars shall certainly lead to
my defeat . then he ordered kAlIdAsa,``i really do not want to go to t
extremely cold place . we should go back home . ''
c:t:Ørsy: kal:idas:sy: .
Of the clever kAlIdAsa
by: Kedar Naphade,firstname.lastname@example.org
G::ðe\:t:ö kdaec:t:Î B::ðj:rawa, y:ed k:ð|ep: kev:H m:m: drb:arð n:Üt:n:ö
kavy:ö p:Yet: t:ehü ddaem: t:sm:ò l:x:,py:kaeN: Eet: . Â:Øtv:a Ot:dÏ,
b:hv:H K:l:Ø A:g:t:aH kv:y:H drb:arð sv:kavy:p:Yn:ö kt:Øüö .
(King Bhoj once proclaimed,``If any poet reads a new poem in my court
shall give him One Lakh Rupees ''. Having heard this indeed many poets
thronged the palace in order to read their poetry.)
p:rnt:Ø drb:arð Aev:½nt: kñc:n: ev:¾an:aH y:ð kö Aep: kavy:ö
)T:m:Â:Øty:n:nt:rö Ov: s:mp:ÜN:üt:y:a p:Øn:r:ðVt:Øö S:Vt:aH . Et:rð c:
¾it:iy:p:Yn:an:nt:rö p:Øn:,Vt:v:nt:aH . Any:ð t:àt:iy:p:Yn:at:Î
(However,in the court there were several scholars who could re-recite a
poem completely just after having listened to it once . Then there were
others who could re-recite it after they had heard it twice,and yet
others who could do it after the third reading.)
At:H y:da k:ð|ep: kev:H A:g:t:v:an:Î, sv:sy: n:v:kavy:ö c: p:eYt:v:an:Î, kñ|
ev:¾an:aH AkT:y:n:Î n: K:l:Ø n:Üt:n:ö Ot:dÏ . p:Sy:, v:y:m:ep: On:ö
j:an:im:hð . t:t:H p:Øn:rv:dn:Î t:dÏ kavy:ö . t:dn:nt:rö y:ð e¾p:aeYn:H
AB:v:n:Î t:ð|ep: t:dðv: AkT:y:n:Î Av:dn:Î c: kavy:ö . t:dn:nt:rö
e*:p:aeYn:H t:T:òv: AkÙv:ün:Î . At:H n: k:ð|ep: kev:H )apn::ðt:Øö AS:Vn::ðt:Î
(So whenever any poet came and read his new poem,some scholars sad,this
is not really new . see,we also know it . Then they recited the whole poem.
then those who could remember things after they had heard it twice said
the same thinf and recited the poem . Then those who remembered things
after they had heard them thrice did the same thing . Hence no poet was
able to claim the lakh rupees.)
kal:idas:ay: n: K:l:Ø A,cy:t: Ot:dÏ . köec:t:Î n:v:kev:ö s:H sv:kx:ð
A:n:it:v:an:Î t:ö Ot:dÏ s:ØB:ae\:t:ö c: d¶:v:an:Î -
(kAlIdAsa didnt really like this . He took one poet to his room,and gave
him the following subhAshhita -)
sv:est: Â:i B::ðj:raj:n:Î tv:m:eK:l:B:Øv:n:ð D:aem:ükH s:ty:v:Vt:a //
ep:*:a t:ð s:ög:àhit:a n:v:n:v:et:em:t:a rtn:k:ð®:ð m:diy:H . //
t:aöstv:ö dðhiet: raj:n:Î s:kl:b:ØD:j:n:òwaüy:t:ð s:ty:ö Ot:dÏ //
n::ð v:a j:an:ent: y:¶:nm:m:káet:m:ep: n::ð dðeh l:x:ö t:t::ð m:ð .. //
(O King Bhoj,let there be good !You are the (greatest)just and
true-speaker in the whole world . 99 Crores of precious stones belonging to
me were taken by your father . Give them back t me,O king .. all the
scholars in your court know that this is true . If they do not,then they
do not know my poem either . Then give me the lakh !)
drb:arð kev:H t:t:Î kavy:ö Ap:Yt:Î . n: K:l:Ø v:Vt:Øö AS:Vn:Øv:n:Î
kñ|ep: ev:¾an:aH y:t:Î j:an:ent: t:t:Î kavy:ö Eet: . At:H A)apn::ðt:Î kev:H
l:x:,py:kaeN: . c:t:ØrH K:l:Ø kal:idas:H .
(The poet read this poem in the court . None of the scholars were able to
say that they knew this poetry . So the poet got one lakh rupees . kAlIdAsa
was indeed clever !)
A story on Kaalidaasa's name
Written by: Vidhyanath K . Rao
The following (far-fetched)story is told about the name of Kaalidaasa.
There was a learned and intelligent princess who said she will
marry only the man who is able to defeat her in debate . Many tried and
failed . In revenge,some of them got hold of a dim-wit and brought him
to debate the princess . But they said that this man was currently
observing a vow of silence and will debate in sign language . The
princess interpreted the signs the dim-wit made in her own way and
thought herself defeated . But the truth came out on the wedding day.
The princess was angry and turned out her husband . In dejection he
went to the Kaali temple to sacrifice himself . But Kaali stopped him
and gave him the gift of `Vaac'. When he returned home,the princess
asked him ``asti kaachid.h vaag.h?'',to be intrpreted as ``what do you have to
say?'' (see note below). The man then replied,reciting the Meghaduuta
starting with ``kashchid'',RaghuvaMsa starting with ``vaagarthau''
and Kumaarasambhava starting ``asti''. Because he became a poet by the
grace of Kaali,he became known as Kaalidaasa.
Note: the princess's question is the weak link in this story.
``asti kashchid.h vaak.h?'' is grammatically wrong (the genders dont agree).
From: The Hindu World Part I
Written by: Benjamin Walker,1968
Kalidasa (AD ?350-600?)the greatest of the sanskrit dramatists,and the
first great name in Sanskrit literature after Ashvaghoshha . In the intervening
three centuries between Asvaghosha (who had a profound influence on the
poet)and Kalidasa there was some literary effort,but nothing that could
compare with the maturity and excellence of Kalidasa's poetry . Virtually no
facts are known about his life,although colourful legends abound . Physically
handsome,he was supposed to have been a very dull child,and grew up quite
uneducated . Through the match-making efforts of a scheming minister he
was married to a princess who was ashamed of his ignorance and coarseness.
Kalidasa (Kall's slave),an ardent worshipper of Kali,called upon his goddess
to help him,and was rewarded with sudden gifts of wit and sense . He became
the most brilliant of the `nine gems' at the court of Vikramaditya of Ujjain.
There is strong reason to believe that Kalidasa was of foreign origin . His
name is unusual,and even the legend suggests that it was adopted . The
stigma attaching to the suffix `dasa' (slave)was very strong,and orthodox
Hindus avoided its use . His devotion to the brahminical creed of his time
may betray the zeal of a convert . Remarkably enough,Indian tradition has
no reliable data concerning one of its greatest poets,whereas there is a fund
of information both historical and traditional about hundreds of lesser
literary luminaries . Kalidasa was well acquainted with contemporary
sciences and arts,including politics and astronomy . His knowledge of
scientific astronomy was manifestly gleaned from Greek sources,and
altogether he appears to have been a product of the great synthesis of Indian and
barbarian peoples and cultures that was taking place in north-western India
in his day . Dr S . Radhakrishnan says,`Whichever date we adopt for him
we are in the realm of reasonable conjecture and nothing more . Kalidasa
speaks very little of himself,and we cannot therefore be sure of his authorship
of many works attributed to him . We do not know any details of his life.
Numerous legends have gathered round his name,which have no historical
value' (II,p . ii). The apocryphal story that he ended his days in Ceylon,and
died at the hands of a courtesan,and that the king of Ceylon in grief burned
himself to death,is not accepted by his biographers . Listed below are the
chief works attributed to Kalidasa.
Shaakuntal,with a theme borrowed from the Mahabharata,is a drama in
seven acts,rich in creative fancy . It is a masterpiece of dramatic skill and
poetic diction,expressing tender and passionate sentiments with gentleness
and moderation,so lacking in most Indian literary works . It received
enthusiastic praise from Goethe.
Malavikaagnimitra (Malavika and Agnimitra)tells the story of the love of
Agnimitra of Vidisha,king of the Shungas,for the beautiful handmaiden of his
chief queen . In the end she is discovered to be of royal birth and is accepted
as one of his queens . The play contains an account of the raajasuuya sacrifice
performed by Pushyamitra,and a rather tiresome exposition of a theory on
music and acting . It is not a play of the first order.
Vikramorvashi (Urvashii won by Valour),a drama of the troTaka class relating
how king Pururavas rescues the nymph Urvashii from the demons . Summoned
by Indra he is obliged to part from her . The fourth act on the madness of
Pururavas is unique . Apart from the extraordinary soliloquy of the demented
lover in search of his beloved,it contains several verses in Prakrit . After many
trials the lovers are reunited in a happy ending.
Meghaduuta (Cloud Messenger): the theme of this long lyrical poem is a
message sent by an exiled yaksha in Central India to his wife in the
Himalayas,his envoy being a megha or cloud . Its beautiful descriptions of nature
and the delicate expressions of love in which passion is purified and desire
ennobled,likewise won the admiration of Goethe.
Raghuvamsha (Raghu's genealogy),a mahaakavya,regarded by Indian critics
as Kalidasa's best work,treats of the life of Rama,together with a record of
his ancestors and descendants . There are many long descriptions,large parts
of which are contrived and artificial . Only one king in this pious dynasty fails
to come up to the ideal standard,namely,Agnivarna.
Rituu-samhaara,(Seasonal Cycle),a poem describing the six seasons of the
year in all their changing aspects.
Kumaara-sambhava (Kumaara's Occasioning),usually translated `The Birth
of the War-god',a mahaakavya relating how Parvati won the love of Siva in
order to bring into the world Kumara (i.e . Karttikeya)the god of war to
destroy the demon Taraka . The last few cantos are usually omitted from
printed versions,being of an excessively erotic nature . This is especially true
of Canto VIII where the embraces of the newly-wedded divine couple are
dwelled upon in vivid detail.
Great as Kalidasa was,it has been observed that he had his literary
weaknesses . He showed no interest in the social problems of his day; his plays do
not reflect the tumultuous times in which he lived; he felt no sympathy for
the lot of the common man; his work is overburdened with description,and
is sentimental,wordy and at times coarse . Within his range he was
unsurpassed by any of the dramatists who wrote in the Sanskrit language,but this
does not amount to much,for the general standard of Sanskrit drama is not on
a par with the best elsewhere . Comparing his works with those of the Persians,
Arabs,Greeks and Europeans,and by the same strict standards of criticism,
Max Muller declares,`Kalidasa's plays are not superior to many plays that
have been allowed to rest in dust and peace on the shelves of our libraries'.
I . Athalye,G . (Ed.). The Vikramorvaniyam of Kalidasa,2nd Ed.,Bombay,1948-
II . De,S . K . Meghaduta,New Delhi,1957-
III . Keith,A . B . Sanskrit Drama,Oxford,1924-
IV . Muller,Max . Heritage of India,Ind . Ed.,Calcutta,1955-
V . Ryder,A . (Tr.). Shakuntala and the Writings of Kalidasa,London,1912-
VI . Upadhyaya,B . S . India in Kalidasa,Allahabad,1947-
From: The Reader's Companion to World Literature
Kalidasa: Sanskrit dramatist and poet (4th century A.D.). Little
is known of Kalidasa's life,but there is sufficient evidence to surmise
that he lived at the court of Chandragupta II,a great patron
of the arts . Kalidasa may not quite deserve the title of the Indian
Shakespeare,given to him by his first English translator,Sir
William Jones,nor the unqualified praise bestowed upon him and
his Shaakuntal by Goethe . Nevertheless,he is India's foremost
classical dramatist,who wrote at least three important dramas
and showed great ability as an epic and lyric poet . Raghuvamsha
is long poem in honor of the house of Raghu,is probably his
best-known epic work . Here,as in his purely lyrical poems,
Kalidasa proves himself master of the language . In his plays,too,the
grace and beauty of poetic speech are most striking,especially in
the descriptive and lyrical passages . These are the qualities that
distinguish Vikramorvashi,the story of the love,separation,and
final union of the king Pururavas and the nymph-Urvashi;
Malavikagnimitra,a story of court love and intrigue ending
in the marriage of King Agnimitra
and the princess Malavika; and Shaakuntal,
Kalidasa's best-known and most remarkable work.
Shaakuntal is a seven-act drama based on the legend of the king
Dushyanta,who,during a hunting party,comes to Kanwa's
hermitage and falls in love with his foster daughter Shakuntalaa,the child
of the holy Viswamitra and the nymph Menaka . After a secret and
simple wedding,the king has to return to the capital and leaves
his ring with Shakuntalaa,who is to follow him later . When Shakuntalaa,
filled with longing for her absent husband,neglects to pay
due respect to the divine sage Kashyapa-comparatively small
matter to touch off the fateful events of the following acts-—he
pronounces a curse to the effect that she will be forgotten by her
beloved unless some token reminds him of her . When Shakuntalaa
goes to the court,the king does not recognize her,and the ring,
which might have aided her,is lost . In her plight,she is assisted
by Menaka and taken to heaven,where she gives birth to a son.
In the meantime a fisherman finds the ring in the stomach of a
fish,and the king regains his memory and begins the search for
Shakuntalaa . While visiting Kashyapa,Dushyanta watches a boy wrestling
with a lion's cub and learns that it is his son . He is reunited
with Shakuntalaa (in one of the most tender scenes of the play),and
Kashyapa frees him of his feeling of guilt by telling him the story
of the curse.
The play consists of a series of lyrical outbursts rather than of
scenes marking the progression of the action . For instance,when
the king searches for his wife,we are,in the main,shown variouS
aspects of his state of inner unrest . Kalidasa's characters are not
too well drawn; most of them are stylized puppets . Because the
miracles of the gods determine the outcome of man's fate,there
is little need to lay bare the workings of the human mind . The
men are idealized; only the women seem to be somewhat closer to
Shaakuntal is meant for the stage,as the prologue,with its
dialogue between stage manager and actress,clearly indicates . Some
humor relieves the solemn and fantastic scenes,and the two
stables speaking in their own peculiar language provide elements
of farce . Yet the quick changes in location,the utter disregard for
the element of time,the various scenes in motion—--on the hunt,
in the car of indra in the air—strike--anybody brought up with
the traditions of Western drama as unusual.
by Shashikant Joshi
Wow!What do I say about him . He is my idol!!
Here are some extracts from the `prastaavanaa' (preface)of
Kumarasambhavam,translated by Pt . Praduman Pandey . I am leaving aside
My main aim was to give the story of Kalidasa's gaining wisdom,but I
find some other stuff to be of general interest . See how
historians/literature-researchers tackle such simple questions as when
was Kalidasa born,where did he live.
There is lot of descrepancy about his life time,place of birth and
even some of his works!!
Kalidasa's Life Time
There are eight hypothesis about his lifetime . The main logics,
ecidences are as follows:
1-6th century AD,Yashodharman defeated Mihirkul of HooN clan . Dr.
Harnely says this Yashodharman is kalidas's Vikramaaditya.
Flaw: Y . never tok the title of Vikramaaditya
2-Fargusen says that 6th century AD,there was a king Vikramaaditya in
Ujjayini (present day Ujjain). he defeated Shakas,started
`Vikram-samvat' calendar,starting it 600 years back 57BC . Prof . Max
Muller basing on this said that Kalidasa was in the court of this
Flaw: There was no king by name VIkramaaditya in 600 AD in India.
`Vikram-samvat' calendar was in vogue since 1st century BC as
`maalav-samvat'. This is clear from `mandasor' `shilaalekha' (stone
3-Kalidasa was familiar with Greek astronomy,using words like
`jaamitra'. Greek astronomy/geometry was popularised by AryabhaTTa who
was in 5th century AD . SO,Kalidasa was in 6th AD onwards . Dr McDonald
refutes this saying `Romaka-siddhaanta' was prevalant before
AryabhaTTa,so he didn't popularise Greek astronomy.
4-Mallinaath (the most famous commentrator on Kalidasa)gives two
meanings to Meghadoot's 14th verse . He says that `dinnaaga' and
`nichula' words refer to Buddhist philosophers `dinnaaga'. Based on
this some scholars put kalidasa in 6th century AD `coz kalidasa's
contemporary `dinnaaga' was disciple of Vasubandhu who was in 6th
Flaw: Vasubandhu was apparently in 400 AD `coz his books were
translated in Chinese around 475-525 AD.
5,6,7: some more complex conjuctures :-))
Finally this is what can be said about his lifetime:
Kalidasa in his drama `Malvikaa-agni-mitra' makes Agni-mitra his
hero,who was the son of Pushamitra Shunga who was in 2nd century
BC . This is his upper bound.
VaaN.bhaTTa in the preface of his kaadambaree mentions Kalidasa.
VaaN.bhaTTa was in early 7th century AD . This is Kalidasa's lower
Many tell tales are there for his life . Some call him native of
Kashmir,some of Vidarbh,some of Bengal and others of Ujjain.
It is said that he was a dumb fool to start with . The king's daughter
was a very learned lady (equality of women !:-))and said that she
will marry him who will defeat her in `shaastraartha' (debate on the
scriptures). Anyone who gets defeated will be black faced,head shaven
and kicked out of country on a donkey . (The punishment part might be
later aditions!)SO,the pundits took Kalidasa (whom they apparently
saw cutting the tree branch on which he was sitting)for debate . They
said that he (Kalidasa)only does mute debates . The princess showed him
one finger saying `shakti is one'. He thot she will poke his one eye,
so he showed her two fingers . She accepted it as valid answer,since
`shakti' is manifest in duality (shiv-shakti,nar-naaree etc etc). She
showed her the palm with fingers extended like in a slap . He showed her
the fist . She accepted it as answer to her question . She said `five
elements' and he said `make the body' (earth,water,fire,air,and
void). [ The debate explanations are also apparently later additions]
So they get married and she finds he is a dumbo . So she kicks him out
of the house . He straightaway went to Kali's temple and cut his tongue
at her feet . Kali was appeased with him and granted him profound
wisdom . When he returned to his house,his wife (the learned)asked,
``asti kashchit vaag-visheshaH'' (asti = is; kashchit = when,as in
questioning; vaag = speech,visheshaH = expert; i.e . ``are you now an
expert in speaking'').
And the great Kalidasa wrote three books starting with the 3 words:
with asti = asti-uttarasyaam dishi = Kumara-sambhavam (epic)
with kashchit = kashchit-kaantaa = Meghdoot (poetry)
with vaag = vaagarthaaviva = Raghuvansha (epic)
Another story says that he was the friend of Kumardas of Ceylon . He was
killed by a courtesan once when he visited his friend in Ceylon.
mainly his epics -Raghuvansha and Kumaar-sambhavam; `khanDakaavyaa' -
Meghadoot; and dramas -abhigyaan-shaakuntalam,Vikrama-uravasheeya,
and Malavikaa-agnimitra are considered his works for sure.
Apart from that `Ritu-sanhaar and Shruta-bodh are considered his works
Characteristics of Kalidasa's works
Kalidasa is considered as the greatest poet of `shringaar' (or romance,
beauty)His works is brimming with shringaara-rasa . Sometimes he has
used `haasya' (comedy)and `karuN.' (pathos). There are two aspects of
`sambhoga' (sam = together,
bhoga = to enjoy,consume as in consumer;
so sambhoga = the being together,the romance of being
together,the happy love poems etc)
`vipralambha' -that of separation
Kalidasa was expert at both . Meghadoot is immersed in the
`vipralambha-shringaar'. Kumara-sambhavam's 8th chapter is epitome of
`sambhoga-shringaar'. 4th chapter of KumarS (Rati-vilaapa)and 8th
chapter of Raghu-vansha (aja-vilaapa)are superb examples of
Kalidasa's comedy is of the highest order . (Bharata in his
NaTya-shaastra mentions 8 types of comedy from the crudest of physical
comedy resulting in guffawing loud laughter to the most subtle where
the heart smiles). Kalidasa's comdey brings a gentle smile,not a loud
Alankaraa (figure of speech)is of two types -
`shabda-alankaara' = beauty of sound
`artha-alankaar' = beauty of meaning
Kalidasa uses artha-alankaar more than the former . He is famous for his
`upamaa' (metaphor?). Indian pundits say,``upamaa kaalidaasasya''
(upamaa like Kalidasa's). His upamaa are clear,complete and beautiful.
His observation is sharp and subtle . He knows the nature and human
nature in and out . He has a sound knowledge of the scriptures . His
`utprekshaa' (simile)and `artha-antaranyaas' (transfer of meaning)are
also very beautiful . He has used some `shabda-alankaar's as well.
`anupraasa' (alliteration),`yamaka' (same word repeated with different
meaning),and `shlesha' (pun; one word two meanings).
Kalidasa loves the softer side of nature . He mentions serene and beautiful
ashramas,river banks,gardens,palaces,bumblebee,deer,cuckoo etc.
He loves Himalayas more than the Vindhyaachal (both mountain chains).
Kalidasa knew the human psychology deeply . What humans think in what
situation . He also knew women's psychology very well . He is a master of
expressing emotions through actions . This brings extra dimension to his
work (Remember the shlok about Parvati counting the lotus leaves when
her marriage proposal was being discussed?). In continuation to the
shlok (about The great rishi asking parvati's hand from Himalaya for
Shiva),Kalidasa says,``and then Himalaya glanced at Mena'' It is uderstood
that he was seeking Mena's approval ``as every good householder should
include his wife's opinion in every decision''. (So,women's oppression
is a pretty later development)
Kalidasa expresses inner world and the external world equally well . Among the
objects of metaphors,he knows exactly how much importance to give to
which one . He only describes the major attribute of the thing being
compared . He also maintains the chronological order of events (else you
get what is called kaala-dosha = time decrepancy). e.g . here is a shlok
about Parvati meditating hard to win Shiva:
stithaaH xa.Nam paxmasu taaDita-adharaaH payodhara-utsedhanipaata-chur.Nitaa
valeeshu tasyaaH skhalitaaH prapedire chire.N naabhim prathama-oda-bindavaH
prathama-oda-bindavaH tasyaaH paxmasu xa.Nam stithaaH taaDita-adharaaH
payodhara-utsedhanipaata-chur.Nitaa valeeshu skhalitaaH chire.N naabhim
prathama-oda-bindavaH = first water drop
tasyaaH = her
paxmasu = on eyelids
xa.Nam = momentarily
stithaaH = stayed
taaDita-adharaaH = fell on the lips
payodhara-utsedhanipaata-chur.Nitaa = shattered on hard breasts
valeeshu = in the tri-vali (triple fold on the belly,a mark of beauty)
skhalitaaH = slid
chire.N = in a long time
naabhim = in the navel
prapedire = disappeared
The first drop of rain stayed momentarily on her eyelids,dropped on
her lips,shattered on her hard breasts and trickled down her triple
fold and after a long time disapperaed in her navel.
Notice the time order of events!
Sanskrit pundits have accepted three style of writing -
gauDee = big huge samaasa (word conjugations)
paanchaalee = small samaasa
vaidarbhee = no samaasa
kaavya (loosely poetry)has three features:
oja = harsh words and long samaasa
maadhurya = sweet words with small samaasa
prasaada = scarce samaasa and easy to understand
Kalidasa is of the vaidarbhee style . Easy to understand (yet the trickery of
hinting the cause through mention of effect and vice versa is very
common). He has COMPLETE control over language . His language is very
chaste as per the grammar . His words are very select . He doesn't use
words like `hi,cha,vaa' (also,and)for completing the meter . When he
uses them,he has a purpose!
Kalidasa's verse knowledge is immensely deep . He has used most of the known
meters (chhanda)in Sanskrit . In one chapter he uses only one meter.
The next chapter is in a new meter . The whole of `Meghadoota' is in
`mandaa-krantaa' meter (2-2-2,2-1-1,1-1-1,2-2-1,2-2-1,2-2).
Kalidasa was follower of the Vedic Sanatana dharma . He believed in the
`var.Na-aashraam' social order (four ``castes'' and four `aashraama' (stages of social life))
He believed in dharma,artha,kaama,moxa . Moxa was his eternal goal.
Then dharma . Then comes kaam . He advocates `tyaaga' (opp . of
indulgence)and `tapasyaa'(austerity). He prefers `tapovana'
(forest aashramas)instead of palaces . he is a Shiva devout and remembers
Shiva in all his openings of works (mangala-aachara.N). He puts society
above the individual . He prays here and there for world peace . he is
optimistic . Even though he considers death as natural and life as a
deviation from that,he considers this small life as a great gain.
PS: anyone is free to use this translation as long you give the credit
for translation and typing and extra comments :-)))
s:m:sy:ap:Üt:iü 1 samasyaapuurtii 1
YaYö YYö Yö
by Sameer Mahajan (email@example.com)
hst:accy:Øt::ð hðm:G:X:ð y:Øv:ty:aH .
s::ðp:an: m:ag:ðüN: kr:ðet: S:bdö
YaYö YYö Yö YYYö Y Yö YaH ..
Once King Bhoj lying on his bed saw a young beautiful girl on her way to
fetch water . But as she reached the stairway she stumbled and dropped the
vessel . The King listened to the noise made by the vessel and it gave him
an idea . The next day he called his courtiers and gave the puzzle to solve
``ThaaThaM ThaThaM ThaM ThaThaThaM Tha ThaM Thaa.h ''
None was able to solve it . Kalidas,when asked,demanded two days of
time or the solution . He observed Bhoj's daily schedule minutely for
those two days . The observation provided him the insight into the
solution and he gave the above mentioned answer . The meaning is quite
s:m:sy:ap:Üt:iü 2 samasyaapuurtii 2
ka tv:ö b:al:ð?
by Deepa Ganesan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Once King Bhojha asked KAlidAsa to write a piece containing the
alphabets ``ka,kha,ga,gha.'' KAlidAsa came out with this beautiful verse
which kids can easily learn by heart and recite often:
ka tv:ö b:al:ð kanc:n:m:al:a
ksy:aH p:Ø*:i kn:kl:t:ay:aH .
hst:ð ekö t:ð t:al:ip:*:ö
kav:a rðK:a k K: g: G: ..
Meanings: kA tvam bAle: who are you,little girl(Question);
kAnchanamAlA :(my name is)KAnchanamAlA(Answer);
kasyAH putrI: whose daughter are you (Q);
kanakalatayAH :(I am the daughter of)kanakalatA (A);
haste kiM te :what is it in your hand (Q);
tAlIpatraM: the palm-leaf (used as a slate or writing pad)(A);
kA vA rekhA: what is the outline (written there)(Q);
ka kha ga gha:the alphabets,ka kha ga gha (A).
Notes to contributors
Search for hrule to separate the items in the above file . The original file
is directly loadable to ITRANS for devanagari printout of sanskrit portion.
If you do not have ITRANS installed but if you have a postscript printer,
send a message on email@example.com that you want a postscript file
giving your email address at the end.
Your contribution will be added,to this file,with credits.
It may be useful to add following items:
1)A humorous poem by Ravindranath Tagore on Kalidasa will be interesting.
2)Stories of Kalidasa and Vikramaditya or Bhojaraja mostly in
3)Collect references on his work.
4)Anything else you can think of?
5)What is the complete story about the samasyaapuurtii line
gauriimukhaM chuMbatii vaasudevaH
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