Kavikulaguru Kalidasa

Some inspirations to explore..

Sujatha R
6 min readDec 9, 2020

To appreciate a work like Kalidasa’s.. perhaps it needs a moment of entitlement.. A sense of hold and ease in navigation.. A sense of becoming part of the plot. And thanks to the lectures and resources available online.. for providing guidance and fine tuning needed to gaze into the distant and beautiful land of Kalidasa.

A few bookmarks that I have archived for myself for later use.

Kalidasa’s work is considered to be without any shortcomings.. Pristine, unmatched, unblemished and faultless like the lotus that does bloom till sunshine.. “asprushta doshan.. nalini eva drusta.. Na kalidasya aparasya vaani”.

He takes his inspiration from the unity and blend in the divine. Jagatah pitarau vande.. parvathi parameshwarau. And in his works.. nature and its elements.. the trees, flowers and animals stage the emotions and feelings just like human characters.

Kalidasa’s three dramas bear the names: Malavika and Agnimitra, Abhigyaana Shaakuntalam (Token of Shakuntala) and Vikrama Urvashi (Urvashi Won by Valour).

The two epics are The Dynasty of Raghu called Raghuvamsha and Kumara Sambhava on Goddess Parvathy.

A short lyrical poem Meghadootha, and the descriptive poem Rithu Samhaara describing the Seasons.

And some of his characters are celestial.. Like the Yaksha, Urvashi. Shakuntala was daughter of Vishwamitra and the celestial Menaka.

In all his works, the heroines are seen as pristine, unblemished, pure and brave as in Sita, Parvati, the Yaksha’s bride and Shakuntala. And the children are all boys..

In the words of shatavadhani Dr R Ganesh, He represents the quintessential diversity of India. Be it observation on culture, art, flora fauna. Rig Yajur Saam.. text poem and song forms has been adapted by him.. He has taken vedas, Puranas, itihaasa inspirations. Brief and authentic expression of Indian culture through the rainbow of his 7 works.. He did not discriminate based in gender, community..

His style of expression is ‘vidarbha’. He preferred soft consonants. Through his characters once in a while he gives Gita like philosophy.. Sukha Dukha being part of the ferry wheel of life.. And he was an exponent of ‘rasa dwani’ using sounds to bring out emotions. He was good at ‘svabhavokthi’ painting the scenes through words.. And good at alankaar and upama.. His expressions are vakra or oblique. Starting from titles like Kumara Sambhava and Abhigyaana Shakuntalam instead of straightforward titles. He had concept of Fixed and Variable.. In desha kaala vibhakthi.. In meghadootha, the monsoon kaala was fixed, the desha kept changing. In ritusamhaara, desha was Ujjain.. Kaala was the 6 seasons..And the female characters were fixed in terms of nobility, grace, purity etc. Dushyantha for instance was shown variable like a bee. He had immense knowledge of flora, fauna, landscapes, culture of entire India.. And it is seen in the coherence of his works..

Mallinaatha was the greatest commentators of Kalidasa’s work.

Goethe was so fascinated by the drama of Shakunatala which became known in Europe after being translated from English to German. He says if one were to feel the Heaven on Earth.. One had to read Shakuntala.

In the words of Dr Nagaraj, probably Kalidasa lived in the Gupta period about 2000 years back. The Guptas had a pan India expansion and perhaps the Knowledge of entire India from Assam to Kanyakumari that is shown in RaghuVamsha stems from here.

Perhaps he hailed from Ujjain due to the attention it receives in Meghadootha. The flamboyance of the city, mahakaali temple, shipra river, ode to his predecessor Bhasa who composed perhaps the world’s first drama.

Mallinatha once commented on the greatness of Kalidasa. In the Sabha of Saraswati.. Poets asked who was the best. And she said Dandi Dandi Dandi.. Kalidasa asks mother what am I then?

She says ‘You are me and I am you.’ Only She can understand the finer nuances in his verses.

In the ‘chatur paaka’ scheme of labeling the works.. The poet Magha’s works are called amla paaka sweet and sour and beneficial kinds. Kalidasa’s work is like drakshya paaka.. the sweet juice of soft grapes. Baana’s works is considered naarkela paaka.. Coconut Barfi.. Hard to crack initially.. then sweet.. Kapitta paka is wood apple. Not everyone might like..

Symbolism in Abhigyaana Shaakuntala..

The plot, characters and emotions are carved in perfection. Kalidasa has perhaps taken the 600 verses of Shakuntala aakyatha from aadhiparva of Mahabharatha. Or perhaps from Jataka tales or Padma purana.. What ever be his source of inspiration, he has given life to the drama and made it a timeless piece. If interested, do check out the references for Youtube video links for each topic.

The plants, animals and birds have emotions and a character to play.. Young prince Dushanta is like the bee chasing behind every beautiful flower. Shakuntala so inexperienced, innocent and beautiful like the lotus hidden in the leaves..

She is not even aware of her curse.. her friends think how can this boiling news be delivered on this delicate flower..

When Shakuntala leaves the ashrama, the trees shed their leaves as though crying.. the deers away sadly.

The gentle love of the swan couple just seeking each other’s company as bliss.. The unshaken love in the deer couple.. The lady deer closing her eyes and cries in bliss when her beloved rubs his antlers so gently on her eyes.. And sometimes she rubs her eyes on his antlers with the confidence that he stands unshaken for her (lest her eyes can be blinded..)

And Dushyantha after getting flashes of memory back .. the separation bringing out the pure in him.. transforms from the hovering bee to the faithful deer..

Abhigyana is token or Cognition. The first token being the ring.. The 10 step token exchange and cognition process at the end between Dushyanta and his son is dramatic.

Kumara Sambhava

Dr Gauri beautifully explains the vivid narration svabavokthis. When the saptharishis along with Arundathi goto her parents for discussing the proposal.. the young Gauri to hide her excitement is counting the petals in her lotus to hide her expression to her parents.

When the young vatuh says slanders about her prospective husband, Gauri cannot take it anymore and says it is a sin even to hear all this. He transforms into Shiva and she Shailaputri is frozen like a stone with one leg in the air and want to make a move..

When the news of the bride in the pandal is heard.. women leave all their chores to see the bride. One has kajal in one one eye only and runs to see him.. one is applying alta to her feet and halfway when she hears.. she runs leaving trail of red alta feet marks.. one has the beads of her mekhala tearing off etc etc..

Aashadasya Prathama Divasa

After the famed Meghadoota.. the Yaksha meets the cloud on the first day of monsoon.. And this day is celebrated as Kalidasa day. Came across an interesting panel discussion discussing different aspects of Kalidasa across his works.

Coherency was part of his work and he did not go out of the way to flaunt it. There was an abmiguity of a certain karanika flower and using his poetic descriptions they were able to zero in. He was Charles Darwin and Shakespeare of his era. He apparently described that plant as.. Brahma is miserly in distributing gunas.. And this beautiful yellow flowering tree lacked perfume. Another work he describes the flowers as.. The ladies were carrying a chandelier of lights.. entrouge resembling mountain of karanikas.

In Kumaaraa Sambava, his displays his knowledge of Yoga shastras when Parvathy does penance. The famed Vagarthaviva verse which some scholars believe has reverence to all 3 pairs of Gods.. Through the character of Shiva, when he asks for Parvathy’s hands.. Shiva says he is inseperable from her like vaaga and artha.. speech and expression.

A few tenets on social and political behaviour.. King Dilipa asks Nandini before taking milk from her. He does not reveal his political decisions till the right moment.

Kalidasa’s advaita like approach seen in a few works.. In meghadootha he says Ups and Downs like a ferry wheel. In Kumara Sambhava, the other God pairs were invited for the marriage. Perhaps hebelieved in unity of Prakruthi and Purusha and harmony of nature and expressed it through his works.

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns