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KALIDASA, (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 influence 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, Weinggartner, 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 their marriage. 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.
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'.
Kings of Ayodhya before and after Rama.
Rama was very much a historical figure who ruled from Ayodhya a few thousands of years ago. The details of the line of kings before and after Rama are available in olden texts. The kings associated with some of the places have a bearing on the names of those places even today.
The lineage until Rama is given in Valmeeki Ramayana. 39 kings were there in the lineage before Rama. But counting from Ikshvaaku, the founder of the Ikshvaaku dynasty, there were 34 kings before Rama. This lineage is told by Vasishta, the Kula Guru, at the time of Rama's marriage, as it was the custom to present the lineage of forefathers to the assemblage of dignitaries and the people of the bride's household. This lineage takes into account only the eldest of the family who inherits the throne. King Sibi comes in the lineage of siblings and not the first born. In lineage comes Chola varman who founded the Chola dynasty in the South. Taking the name from Sibi, the Cholans called themselves as Sembians.
kings a24 re mentioned aftion from king Dileepan and then goes to Raghu. ter Rama in Raghu vamsa which was named after King Raghu, the ancestor of Rama who made military expeditions to all parts of Bharat. He went to the west, to the region of Indus river and far beyond and conquered the lands there. He went to the east India, then turned south and from there he went along the west coast of India and reached back to his place. King Raghu has thus established his rule throughout Bharat The kings who succeeded Rama are given in Raghu Vamsa by Mahakavi Kalidasa. varsha. According to Kalidasa, Rama is the great grand son of Raghu. He starts the narra Raghu's son was Aja. In the narration of Aja's marriage, there comes the description of swayamvar of Indumathi. Aja takes part in the Swayamwar and wins her hand. The interesting piece of information for us in this part of Raghu vamsa is that the Pandyan king also took part in the Swayawar!
There is a detailed description of that king in Raghu vamsa. The bride's friend Sunanda who introduced the kings said of the Pandyan king as one who had rich lands. If the princess chose to marry him she would have only his land as her co-wife (other wife of the king). By a specific mention like this, it is implied that the Pandyan kings were the up-holders of Eka patni vratham.
Another interesting piece of information is that the Pandyans had won over Ravana. Ravana had bought peace with the Pandyan kings. This information is also found in the copper plates unearthed at Sinanmanurwhich lists down the name and feats of Pandyan kings.
However there is confusion over the time periods here. Victory over Ravana is mentioned at a place where Rama's grandfather was seeking his bride. Rama was 2 generations away from that time and was yet to be born. But Ravana's early tiff with Pandyans finds a mention there.
I think the Kavi had added up the information that happened later. While composing the verses in praise of the kings who participated in the swayamwar, he had cobbled up the valiant feats connected with the king's dynasty and attributed them to the king in focus.
Rama's grand father Aja marries Indumati in the Swayamwat. His son was Dasaratha to whom Rama was born. From Dileepan to Rama, the lineage is not completely told by Kalidasa as Valmeeki does. But Kalidasa explains what happened after Rama's times.
Let us see what happened to the sons of Rama and his brothers. All the brothers had 2 sons each.
Shatrugna's sons:- Bahu-shruta – becomes the king of Mathura. Subahu – becomes the king of Vidisha
Bharatha and his sons:-
Then Rama made over the country named Sindhu to Bharata with full sovereign authority, at the message of Yudhajit, the maternal uncle of Bharata. [15-87 Raghu vamsa]
Note here that what is now being told as the bastion of Dravidians was originally ruled by Bharatha! His maternal uncle's home is in Kekayaand the route to go that place is described in Valmeeki Ramayana. That route goes through Indus, Baluchisthan and crossing across Bolan pass and then reaching the fringes of Caspian sea. Kekaya was somewhere in today's Kazhaksthaan. We can expect archeological proof of "Aryan" in Kazhaksthaan soon which was actually the home town of Kaikeyi.
Kalidasa proceeds to say that in the Sindhu region Bharata conquered the Gandharva-s in battle and compelled them to take up lutes forgoing their warlike weapons. [15-88] The Gandharvas are semi-divine beings who are the heavenly singers and musicians. They were the dwellers in the country known by the name of Sindhu i.e. the country situated on both sides of the river Indus. The Gandharvas were forced to go back to their hereditary profession of musicians (says Kalidasa)
I will write about the Gandharvas in the upcoming posts, but for the time being, let me say that Gandharvas belonged to today's Kandhaharwhich was the home town of Gandhari, the mother of Kauravas. Bharata's route to Kekaya in Valmeeki Ramayana goes through Kandhahar. Perhaps Bharata was keen on conquering the places en route his maternal country. It is mentioned on valmeeki Ramayana that Bharatha's grandfather and uncle sent along with him a contingent of warriors on his way back to Ayodhya ( when he was called back on the death of Dasaratha) presumably to protect him from attacks by the kingdoms on the way. When he got a chance, I think Bharata made sure that no opponent was there on the way to Kekaya. The entire Indusregion stretching up to Kazakhstan's border was thus already under occupation by Bharata. The Dravidian occupation does not match with the history of Bharath.
Now about Bharatha's sons. Taksha and Pushkala were given to the sons of Bharata. Taksha is Taxila and Pushkala is Peshawar.
Lakshmana's two sons Angada and Chandraketu became the rulers ofKAra-patha kingdom. [15-90]
Rama's sons:- Kusha was made the king of Kushavati, on the Vindhyas. Lava was made the king of Sharavati.
The end of Rama All the people of Ayodhya joined Rama in leaving the earthy plane. All of them entered the river Sarayua and had jala Samadhi. The city wore a deserted look after their exit. As told by Kalidasa:- Having placed Kusha, who was like the goading-rod to his elephant-like hostile princes, in Kushavati; having placed Lava, who drew drops of tears of joy by his witticisms from the eyes of the good, in Sharavati, that firm-minded Rama with his younger brothers and with the fire-tray carried in front of him started for the North while the inhabitants of Ayodhya precipitately leaving their homes followed him out of devotion to their lord. [15-97, 98]
While there arrived a heavenly aircraft for himself, that kind-hearted one to his adherers Rama made the Sarayu River as staircase to heavens for his followers who wish to discard their earthly forms and ascend to heaven. [15-100]
Since the concourse of people seeking a plunge was great at that spot it looked almost like go-pratam, a line of closely packed cows swimming across, and as a consequence became celebrated as a sacred spot under that name, go-pratara, on this earth. [15-101]
What happened after the exit of Rama?
The sons of Rama and his brothers were in their kingdoms assigned to them at the time of Rama's exit. None of them knew what happened at Ayodhya. But Rama's son Kusha could not sleep well at that night. The goddess of Ayodhya, pained by the exit of all her subjects appeared before Kusha (in dream?) and begged Kusha to return to the old capital, Ayodhya. The next morning Kusha announced the vision of the night, and immediately set out for Ayodhya with his whole army. Arrived there, King Kusha quickly restored the city to its former splendour.
He married Kumudavati and had a son Athithi from her.
The lineage after Rama:-
1) Kusha 2) Athithi 3) Nishadha 4) Nala 5) Nabhas 6) PundarIka 7) Kshema- dhanva 8) devAnIka, 9) ahInagu 10) pAriyAtra, 11) shila 12) unnAbha (this name was because his naval was very deep, and he appeared almost like Vishnu) 13) vajraNAbha 14) shankhaNa 15) vyuShitAshva (on account of his having quartered his soldiery and horses on seacoasts) 16) vishva-saha 17) hiraNya-nAbha 18) kausalya (son) 19) brahmiShTha 20) putra 21) puShya, (devotee of the great sage Jaimini.) 22) dhruva-sandhi (killed by a lion while hunting) 23) sudarshana, ( an year old when his father died) 24) agnivarNa (indulged in pleasure life.)
With this, Kalidasa ends Raghu vamsam. This king AgnivarNa did not have any issue from any of the women he enjoyed and died of diseases of his bad habits. But Kalidasa says that his queen was pregnant at the time of his death and was made Regina on behalf of unborn son.
Scholars are of differing opinion on why Kalidasa ended abruptly. There is an opinion that there must have been a remaining part of Raghu vamsa which was lost.
But according to me, looking at the lineage and the description about the kings by Kalidasa, there are some interesting features.
The kings 21 generations before Rama and 21 generations after Rama have had a successful and highly respectful life. There had never been immoral behaviour reported in them or in their kingdom. There were no unnatural or premature deaths. The kings had lived full life and been just rulers. There had been no invasions or rivalries reported.
In the above list of the kings who succeeded Rama , until Pushya, the 21st king, the narration contains nothing other than good things. The 22nd king was killed by lion while he was on a hunting expedition. His son was only a year old then. The name of the king Dhruva sandhi itself seems to indicate a shift to another era! I am thinking of the probable connections of this name to yuga / era classifications. I will write them later.
From Dhruva sandhi onwards, the descendants were of lesser quality. Perhaps due to this deterioration noticed further, Kalidasa stopped the narration with agnivarNa.
Similarly 21 generations before Rama ( as given by Valmeeki) Sagara was the ruler. His sons had an unnatural death at the curse of sage Kapila. River Ganga was brought to give salvation to them. Where they attained their salvation is the Setu at Rameshwaram. (please read my old posts on this topic)
In Sagara's father's times, sibling rivalry was first noticed in the lineage. The practice was to pass on the throne to the eldest son. But the other sons and relatives fought for the throne in Asita's period. Asita lost the throne. When Asita died, his wife was pregnant. Sagara was born to her and with the guidance of sage Chyavana he fought with the detractors and got back the throne. He exiled them to the fringes of Bhratha varsha. They were called as Mlechas as they were ordained to follow non-vedic life. They occupied what is now Assyria, Iran, Iraq etc. Assyria derives the name from Asita in whose honour Sagara fought and won.
After Sagara the lineage went on smoothly and with great honours. This constituted 21 generations before Rama. Similarly 21 generations after Rama the lineage was smooth and highly moralistic. Such a status changed only after 21 generations.
This coincidence makes me connect this to the oft told dictum that one is connected with 21 generations before and after. Rama coming at the centre of this line- up makes me think that the best conduct for 21 generations would result in the birth of a supreme person (su-putran) as Rama. Likewise Rama's in-thing will get manifest for 21 generations after him.
The lineage before Rama as given by Valmeeki:-
1- Brahma, 2-Mariichi
5- Manu (Manu is the earliest Prajaapati -"manuH prajaapatiH puurvam")
6- Ikshvaaku (first king of Ayodhya)