Meghadoota -The Cloud Messenger

An exotic cloud travel from Vindhyaas to Kailasha..

Sujatha R
32 min readDec 7, 2020

It is said that every Indian and literature enthusiast should read and enjoy the Meghadootha. A timeless poem penned around 2000 years back in the era of Guptas. It has enchanted many sanskrit scholars, Jain monks, stalwarts like Ravindranath Tagore to Western and Oriental Scholarship. What lies in it? What makes it so timeless?

A mini collection of handpicked verses celebrating emotions, beautiful landscapes and vivid imagination. I have put together music pieces, lyrics, sanskrit verses and simple translation. In the subsequent posts, I hope to explore vocabulary, framing style of sounds and parallels with Sunderakaandam.

The other day I came across an interesting post. The author blogged about his helicopter expedition trailing the aerial path of the cloud circuit as given in Meghadootha and he sounded full of awe and admiration. How could Kalidasa have such a real and vivid imagination he said..

I had a distant dream that someday and perhaps with lot of assistance, I will get to have a taste of the genius of Kaalidasa. Hugely inspired after the helicopter post, I searched up a dozen videos and posts and bookmarked them for later reading. That evening glided a beautiful irradiant monsoon cloud in the sky.. as though inviting me to get started into this journey.. And I wandered into the land of poetry and imagination.

Dr Gowri Mahulikar addressing a group of Vedanta and Sanskrit students mentions “Literature deepens the appreciation and language sense.. And Meghadootha is simple and enjoyable.. it is sulabham and provides sukham.” And that kind of convinced me.. understanding this work will perhaps help me in widening my appreciation of Sanskrit.

Meghadoota belongs to the sandesha kavya “messenger poetry” genre. A “khanda kavya” or a mini lyrical poem comprising of 115 verses. Poetry is that which paints emotions. And the words of Meghadootha are a treat of rasa dwani. Stirring an emotion.. ringing a sound.. painting a faint visage.. And simple emotions from everyday walks of life.

Background

A certain Yaksha was in the service of Kubera.. the Lord of the wealth. His duty was to perhaps to collect a hundred lotuses from Lake Manasa in the early hours. One night, in order to pass time with his newly wedded wife, the Yaksha choose to pluck the buds in the previous day evening instead.

Alas.. Next day while offering the flowers, a bee that was lurking inside the flower stings Kubera. Kubera was a great devotee of Shiva and he was outraged that the flowers were not fresh.. The angry Kubera banishes his assistant Yaksha to the earthly woods of Ramgiri down in the Vindhya mountains for a years time discharging him of all his powers.

Well Meghadootha does not outline this story.. The scholars went restless why the Yaksha was banished and this is one such theory. Other one being the elephants trampling the lotuses in the lake as it was unattended by Yaksha..

The heartbroken Yaksha keeps thinking about his wife and feels her absence. She too misses him all day and all night. He sees a monsoon cloud passing by northwards and requests the cloud to deliver a message to his beloved wife who was far off at the Himalayas.

Carefully he plans the long itinerary for the Cloud ensuring the journey is comfortable, memorable and covering beautiful landscapes and destinations.. ensuring regular halts for the cloud at the hill stations, recharging its water from the nearby rivers and getting ready for the long journey.

In an era without satellite imagery and weather maps, Kalidasa provides a vivid aerial imagery.. He elevates the real and mundane with choice of poetic imagination and bliss.. the clouds, rivers, trees and landforms do the talking as though they had feelings just like us.. And weaves in a medley of emotions from viraha, maitri, shringaara, saundarya, vatsalya to bhakthi.. separation, friendship, beauty, motherly affection and devotion.

The poem is divided into 2 parts. Poorvamegham describing the journey in the North East trajectory upto Mount Kailash and Uttaramegham further describing the journey in the mystical land of Kubera.

The cloud’s journey starts from Ramgiri which is modern Ramtek in Nagpur and then pass through Vindhyaas, Dasarna. Plenty of Refuelling and sporting with the rivers on the way, giving water to the needy.. A small detour and night stay at the dazzling city of Ujjain in Avanti paying a visit to Mahakaal. Then head to Devgiri, the abode of the war god Skanda. Next he should visit the famous chambal valley and Kurukshetra. After drinking the holy waters of Saraswati and Ganga, the cloud should reach the mountain of Kailasa.. On top of this mountain stands the beautiful city of Alakanagari.

In the realms of imagination, I enjoyed a beautiful trip across the Vindhyas, the Gangetic plains and touching the sky of Kailasha.. Put on your seat belts and get ready to float on the cloud for this beautiful journey.

PoorvaMegham — The Eastward Travel

The Forlorn Yaksha

1.1

Audio Track 1 [1–2]

A mistake was made and the Yaksha was banished from the comforts of the Himalayas to the distant Ramagiri peak in the Vindhyas..

kaschit.. kanta viraha gurunaa .. A certain Yaksha was lost in sorrow of seperation from his beloved. For he erred in his duty swa adhikaara pramatta.. And a curse was thrown on him for a period of one year. In loneliness he meandered in the many hermitages of Ramgiri and yet he did not find solace...vasathi ramagiri aashrameshu..

The streams and water bodies once basked and sanctified by Sita’s bathing janaka-tanaya.. snana punya udakeshu.. and the trees casting a loving thick shade.. snigdha chaya tarushu

**As Shakespeare once said..”What’s in a name?”.. While Kalidasa is a master of vivid detailing, he chooses not to name the hero of his poem and instead begin with a “kaschit”.. “A certain fellow” kind of opening.. Poets of those time generally begin with an invocation of God.. and ‘ka’ seems to be beeja mantra for brahma the creator.. Hidden symbologies is Kalidasa for us.

**And Kalidasa chooses Ramgiri as the starting point of this journey.. Sunderkand of Ramayana describes the happy moments that Rama and Sita spend at the Chitrakoot gardens.. The chaaya and taru coupling between shadows and trees perhaps further reminding him of his beloved in this atmosphere.

chitrakoot water falls
 कश्चित् कान्ताविरहगुरुणा स्वाधिकारात्प्रमत्तः
शापेनास्तङ्गमितमहिमा वर्षभोग्येण भर्तुः ।
यक्षश्चक्रे जनकतनयास्नानपुण्योदकेषु
स्निग्धच्छायातरुषु वसतिं रामगिर्याश्रमेषु ॥ १॥

1.2

Some months were gone and the Yaksha grew weak in seperation.. his golden bracelets falling off his arm..kanaka valaya.. prakoshtah

On the first day of Aashada in the southern sky.. he spotted a cloud..
aashadasya prathama divase..megham aslishta

vapra-krida .. parinita gaja.. Like a huge dark elephant breaking the fortess walls with its trunk.. he saw this cloud dashing into the peak of Ramagiri.. It was a sight worth seeing.. prekshaneeyam

**22nd of June is celebrated as ‘Kalidasa Day’ due to this celebrated verse “aashadasya prathama divaasafirst day of monsoon

 तस्मिन्नद्रौ कतिचिदबलाविप्रयुक्तः स कामी
नीत्वा मासान् कनकवलयभ्रंशरिक्तप्रकोष्ठः ।
आषाढस्य प्रथमदिवसे मेघमाश्लिष्टसानुं
वप्रक्रीडापरिणतगजप्रेक्षणीयं ददर्श ॥ २॥

1.3

This servant Yaksha of the king of kings.. raja rajasya dadyau..
seeing the cloud reflected in himself..

“O Cloud.. If a happy lover is anxious at your sight.. How much more do
those who are seperated.. and wanting to hug their beloved..”
kanta aslesha pranayini jane

 तस्य स्थित्वा कथमपि पुरः कौतुकाधानहेतोः
अन्तर्बाष्पश्चिरमनुचरो राजराजस्य दध्यौ ।
मेघालोके भवति सुखिनोऽप्यन्यथावृत्ति चेतः
कण्ठाश्लेषप्रणयिनि जने किं पुनर्दूरसंस्थे ॥ ३॥

1.4

The Month of shraavan (nabasi) nearing.. he wished to inform his beloved about his welfare kushala mayim.

This benevolent and friendly Yaksha made a friendly welcome and offered freshly bloomed kutuja flowers (giri malli) as an oblation.

1.5

How CAN a cloud.. a mere mere aggregate of “smoke-charge-water-wind” and hardly a candidate for a messenger? dhumra-jyothih-salila-marutah

Swayed by desire he made this request yachana to the cloud.. as those in love can hardly discern living and nonliving.. chetana achetanashu

“ kva megha .. kva patukarana”.. A style used to represent a paradox or contrasting opposites.. “Where stands an inanimate cloud and where a clever intelligent tool to deliver messages”

 धूमज्योतिः सलिलमरुतां संनिपातः क्व मेघः
संदेशार्थाः क्व पटुकरणैः प्राणिभिः प्रापणीयाः ।
इत्यौत्सुक्यादपरिगणयन् गुह्यकस्तं ययाचे
कामार्ता हि प्रकृतिकृपणाश्चेतनाचेतनेषु ॥ ५॥

Invocation to the Cloud

1.6

Audio Track 2 [6–7]

“jaatam vanshe bhuvana vidithe.. You are no ordinary cloud.. You belong to a great family that has potential for pralaya and heavy down pours.. pushkaara aavartakaana.”

“I know you are the prakruthi purusha.. The great minister of Indra Maghona and a shape changing kaamaroopa megha. By the destiny of fate.. vidhi vashaad.. I am seperated from my bandhu..”

 जातं वंशे भुवनविदिते पुष्करावर्तकानां
जानामि त्वां प्रकृतिपुरुषं कामरूपं मघोनः ।
तेनार्थित्वं त्वयि विधिवशाद्दूरबन्धुर्गतोऽहं
याच्ञा मोघा वरमधिगुणे नाधमे लब्धकामा ॥ ६॥

1.7

“San-taptaa-naam.. twamasi sharanam.. O cloud.. You are the refuge for the wretched and those burning from the pain of seperation. You should carry the news of my health to my beloved for I am seperated by the wealthy dhanapathi Yaksha.. You must set to Alaka.. the land of Yaksha eshwara.. The buildings there are glittering white due to the moonlight on Siva’s head who resides in the outer garden. ”

 संतप्तानां त्वमसि शरणं तत् पयोद प्रियायाः
संदेशं मे हर धनपतिक्रोधविश्लेषितस्य ।
गन्तव्या ते वसतिरलका नाम यक्षेश्वराणां
बाह्योद्यानस्थितहरशिरश्चन्द्रिकाधौतहर्म्या ७॥

1.8

In those days.. menfolk would travel away from home on various work like voyages etc and return back during monsoon seasons. The women folk would not really take care of adorning themselves as their men absent.. but the sight of the cloud brings colour and exitement into the innocent faces of the women. A reminder

“O Cloud.. The rustic women with awe brush back their curly hair tips with fingers.. gruhitha alaka kantha.. and gaze at you.. as you trail in the wind.. bringing them news of arrival of their loved ones..”

https://www.fizdi.com/

Departing from Ramagiri

1.9

“O Cloud.. With your course unimpeded.. you will certainly find your brother’s chaste wife counting days and the thin ray of hope she clings to.”

1.10

Artist Purna Chakravarthy

“Softly, as a favourable wind propels you, the water greedy Chataka sings a sweet song. A row of cranes delighted by your sight will attend upon you in the sky.”

**Legend is that the Chataka birds wait for months for the rain to quench their thirst..

1.11

“Just hearing your thunder would make the earth fertile and sprouts the mushrooms.. The Raja hamsas Swans longing to fly to lake Manasa will be your companions in the sky till Kailasha.. for they have stocked up fresh stalks of Lotus..”

1.12

“Every year at this time.. you bid bye to your dear mountain friend.. aaprucchasva priya sakham.. and shed a tear of seperation.. whose slopes has the footprints of Rama..raghupati paada mekhala

A poetic expression.. time for the monsoon cloud to depart Ramagiri after giving its rains

Path of the Cloud

1.13

“My dear friend.. Shrunoo.. Listen carefully the path prayaanam to be taken.. After setting feet on the mountain when ever tired kinnah kinnah.. drink wholesome water of streams whenever exhausted kshinah kshinah and take care of yourself”

Audio Track 3(13)

मार्गं तावच्छृणु कथयतस्त्वत्प्रयाणानुरूपम्
सन्देशं मे तदनु जलद श्रोष्यसि श्रोत्रपेयम् ।
खिन्नः खिन्नः शिखरिषु पदं न्यस्य गन्तासि यत्र
क्षीणः क्षीणः परिलघु पयः स्रोतसां चोपभुज्य॥१.१३॥

1.14–1.16

“The astonished simple women with their faces turn upwards wondering if the winds blew of the peak of the mountain.”

“It would appear my friend.. A piece of Indra’s bow radiating gem like colours on your ant hill like body. Your splendor like that of Vishnu in that cowherd’s radiance by peacocks feathers.”

“The fields O Cloud.. depend on your rains. Sprinkle some rain on the parched earth. The country women gaze at you with joy. Take some rest and once again take off northwards my friend..”

Artist Purna Chakravarty, Charu Roy..https://www.somewhereinblog.net/blog/meghdhut/28973665

The Amrakoota Peak

1.17

From Ramgiri (chitrakoota), the cloud should pass to the peaks of Amrakoota..

“O Cloud.. When your showers put off the fire of the woods.. vana upplava.. indeed happy will be mountain Amrakoota to rest you on its top. Even the vile not turn away their friends.. What say about the mighty friend Amrakoota indebted to your service.”

1.18

Audio Track 4(18)

“You resembling a braid of thick hair snigdha veni resting on the peak and its sloped covered with wild mango trees kaanana amra with ripened yellow fruit.. looking like breast of the earth sthana iva bhuva.. dark in the centre madye shyama and white in the expanse pandu..”

“A beautiful scene fit to be gazed by the celestial pairs.. amara mithuna prekshaneeyam..

**The allegory of earth’s bosom is used extensively in Indian scriptures.. comparing the fertile mountains to the bosoms of mother earth nurturing her children. Saundarya Lahari, Kanakadharastotram, Samudra-Vasane Devi Parvata-Stana-Mandale etc.

छन्नोपान्तः परिणतफलद्योतिभिः काननाम्रैः
त्वय्यारूढे शिखरमचलः स्निग्धवेणीसवर्णे ।
नूनं यास्यत्यमरमिथुनप्रेक्षणीयमवस्थां
मध्ये श्यामः स्तन इव भुवः शेषविस्तारपाण्डुः ॥ १८॥

Art work of River Reva

1.19

The cloud then passes from Amrakoota to the Vindhyas. Vindhya mountain has a fatherly love for river Narmada as it originates from here. In the Sanskrit thesaurus Amarakosha, ‘Reva’ is another name for Narmada and also called as ‘sagara mekhala’.

“O Cloud.. After having halted in Chitrakoota.. as you traverse.. you will see the white Reva forking into many streams and hitting the boulders at the foot of the Vindhyas.. Reva drakshasu .. vindhya paade ..”

“Like line paintings with vibhuti.. bhakthi chedda.. bhuthi.. over an elephant drawn .. virachitha ange gajaanana” “Drink some water and take rest.”

How did even Kalidasa get to this vivid aerial imagination.. Just imagine yourself to be the cloud and you witness this spread of rivulets and streams from a mountain..like the vein markings on the elephant’s ear.. like adorning the temples of an elephant with ornaments and embellishments.

I have to admit. After reading this verse, I could see the elephant trunk ornamentation in a water fall painting at home.. in the triangles of the pomegranates.. Interestingly, in Orissa, there is a water fall by name ganda-hathi.

1.20–1.23 Dance of flowers, plants, deer, elephants, peacocks and sages

“And when you are thirsty after the shower, suck that water from the river which is scented by the wild elephants crushing the jambu fruits.”

“The green and brown kadhamba buds will blossom as the rain drops touches them. The bees will make a line. The deers will eagerly gather on the marshy banks to feast on the fresh kandhali leaves. The elephant herds will be excited at your arrival.”

“Looking at the skillful chataka birds catching the rain drops.. and pointing to the line of cranes in the sky, the Siddha sages will be delighted. And at your thunder .. their wives in fear running to hug them.

“For my sake you have a desire to travel quickly.. At every mountain you will be tempted to enjoy.. The fresh kutuja flowers blooming in the gardens.. and greetings by peacocks with their eyes full of tears of joy and their sounds of welcome shukla apanga sajala nayana.. swagatikrutya keekaa. O Friend.. I hope you will be able to travel fast for my sake..”

Country of Dasarna

a)Ripening of Earth

1.24

Audio Track 5 (24)

“When you reach the Dasarna, the gardens will be brimming white with Ketaka flowers.. The trees of the village grama will be disturbed by the nest making activity needa aaramba of the local birds .. The Jambu forests at the outskirts will be laden with the dark and ripe fruit parinita-phala-shyaama .. jambu-vana-anta.. The swans hamsa following you to Manasa wish to stay there for some days.. kathi payi dina sthayi hamsa dasharna.. Oblige them..

पाण्डुच्छायोपवनवृतयः केतकैः सूचिभिन्नैः
नीडारम्भैर्गृहबलिभुजामाकुलग्रामचैत्याः ।
त्वय्यासन्ने परिणतफलश्यामजम्बूवनान्ताः
सम्पत्स्यन्ते कतिपयदिनस्थायिहंसा दशार्णाः ॥ २३॥

b)River Vetravati

1.25

The young Narmada here hardly has any volume of water. Playfully she meanders here and there.. And Kalidasa uses his poetic spin to describe this.

“On reaching the capital city of Vidisha.. you will quench your thirst with the waters of Vetravati.. She is fickle-minded running here and there.. blowing a bubble.. displaying a wave.”

1.26 1.27 Meeting with old friend & showering the plants

“O Cloud.. There you should take rest in a low height mountain called nichais.. Your old friend is all waiting to host you.. As an expression of its goosebumps pulakita.. is the blossom of the kadamba flowers on the touch of your rain drops.. prauda pushpa kadamba.

“After the rest, you should sprinkle water on the buds of jasmines lining the river bed.. And for a moment give the flower picking girls some shade.”

**Legend goes that mountains used to fly at one time and Indra with his Vajra immobilizes them. And their wings were turned into clouds. The mountains still feel the kinship when the clouds unite with them.

DETOUR TO UJJAIN

1.28

“vakrah pantah yadapi bhavatah.. O Cloud.. even if it means to take a detour and a curvy path instead of northward.. it is all worth it.. The dazzling and electrifying city of Ujjain.. vidyut daama spurita chakita. The city’s streets.. Paura anganaanam”

“If one does not see this beauty.. his eyes and life is wasted.. loola apangai yadi na ramase.. vanchita asi..

River Nirvindya

Audio Track 6 (29)

1.29

By this course, Narmada gather water and is full of turbulence. Kalidasa calls her Nirvindhya..

“Nirvindya is all prepared for your visit. A row of chirping birds fly over her turbulent waves vihaga shreni kaanchi gunaa.. as though her waistband tinkling and gliding.. Her swaying moves chalaan.. She flaunts her navel eddy darshita vartha nabhi.. She is full of raasa and shringaar..”

Kalidasa makes a pun.. “Woman does not tell about her love. Only confuses and manifests like this. The wise understand it.. stree na pranaya vachanam..vibramo hi priyeshu.. Take a hint my friend and make her happy..”

वीचिक्षोभस्तनितविहगश्रेणिकाञ्चीगुणायाः
संसर्पन्त्याः स्खलितसुभगं दर्शितावर्तनाभेः
निर्विन्ध्यायाः पथि भव रसाभ्यन्तरः सन्निपत्य
स्त्रीणामाद्यं प्रणयवचनं विभ्रमो हि प्रियेषु ॥ २८॥

River Sindhu

1.30

“Having left Nirvindhya, you will see river Sindhu who has emaciated thin like a lock of hair.. veni bhoota pratanu salila.. and her pale lustre from the trees shedding their leaves on the banks.. as though pining and crying for you.. pandu chaya.. tata uru.. jeerna parne..”

“You are so lucky O Cloud.. Somebody has been pining in your absence.. saubhagyam te subaga viraha avasta.. Shower your love on her and restore her beauty and thirst.”

Visiting Avanti and Vishala(Ujjain)

**Ujjain was called called Vishala. Perhaps Kalidasa is from Ujjain and therefore he dedicates a couple of lines on the exotic beauty of the place. Even today Ujjain conducts Kalidasa Samaroha annual get together.

31–34

“On reaching the country of Avanti, the elders of every village will narrate the story of King Udayana.. prapya avanti nudayan .. katha covida grama vrudda..”

“Those who had merit to visit the heavens built this dazzling city of Vishala (Ujjain) after they came back to earth..”

“And when ever a relative visit, the elders ready to tell the stories.. Here did the King Udayana carry away the beloved daughter of Pradyota.. and here there was the golden garden.. and here roamed the elephant Nalagiri

**Kalidasa revered his predecessor Bhasha.. A great poet who perhaps produced the world’s first drama ‘Swapna Vasavadatta’ based on the story of King Udayana.

“The morning air will be charged with the cooing of cranes.. the fragrance of blooming lotuses and a cool breeze from the river Sipra like a lover coaxing his beloved with words..”

“And on seeing the myraid pearl necklaces.. glitter of emeralds emanating like shoots of grass.. the markets stocked with corals.. as if oceans were left with only salt and water in them.”

Evening Prayers to Chandi and Mahakaala

Audio Track [35–36]

1.35

“The smoke of the incense dhoop escaping from the lattice of the windows.. used by the women to dry their hair.. And your form and colour will be enhanced by it jhaala udderna..kesha sanskaara dhoopa.. Enjoy the dancing peacocks and the beauty of the mansions.”

1.36

“Should you visit the abode of the husband of Chandi.. the Ganas would gaze upon you with awe thinking of you as Shiva.. who happens to have a darkish blue neck just of your colour. barthu kanta chavi.. iti ganaih sa aadaram.

“The gardens enjoy a cool breeze from Gandavati.. ripe with lotus pollen and fragrant with perfumes used by the young ladies in their water sports.”

1.37

“What ever time you reach MahaKaal, stay back till twilight. With your drumming, rumbling and thunder.. partake in the evening aarthi sandhya seva of Shiva.. and you shall be rewarded.”

1.39

“When Shiva begins to dance in the evening.. his vastness expanding in the flanks of the woods bhuja taru vanam.. you should hurry and wrap around the digambara.. like a covering of the elephant hyde.”

“And with the blood dripping from the hyde aardra naagani geecham.. such a gory scene for Maa Bhavini.. should you transform into the pinkish twilight.. just like the freshly blosommed japa flower nava japa pushpa raktam. Maa Bhavani will be delighted.. her eyes astonished shantodwega timita nayana and pleased with your bhakthi.. drusta bhakti bhavaanya”

**Gajasura was an elephant demon who was killed by Shiva and then liberated. Interesting to note that Ujjain home for Mahakaaleshwar temple was one of the earliest meridians of the world before GMT.

1.40-1.42 As it turns pitch dark..

“As it turns pitch dark.. throw some streaks of light on the pathways.. with the help of your wife.. the lightening Saudamini.. For the girls will be running in a hurry to meet their beloved.. Their flowers and beads breaking and scattering kunda mukta maala.. But dont you thunder and scare the girls with too much rain.”

“And spend that night on some terrace with the pigeons roosting.. Your wife lightening fatigued over the long flashing.”

“And get started with your journey when the Sun rises.. For he is ready to wipe the dew like tears of sadness on the Lotuses.”

The mature River Gambira

The river reaches her volume by now and she is called Gambhira. Earlier rivers were shown to be young, fickle minded and full of waves and turbulence. Gambhira like her name is a very mature river.

1.43

“You can see your reflection in her so clear. As Gambhira is clear, pleasant and full of poise.. chetasi prasanna.. A stream of white fishes playing in her.. As though her eyes inviting you.. Do not disappoint her.”

1.44

“The reflection of the bare branches on the banks holding her thin cover of blue cloth neela salila vasana.. It must be difficult for you to part from her. But you must move on.”

**A beautiful scene of a serene river with reflection of bare branches..

Prayers to Skanda at Devgiri

1.46

“When you reach Devgiri, you must change into a cloud of flowers and bathe the war god Skanda with the heavenly waters of Ganges as he resides there.. tatra skanda niyathi vasathi..

1.47

Kalidasa’s affection to include his goddess Bhavani and her son in the verse.

“O Cloud.. With your thunderings prolonged and their echoing in the mountains.. Do make that Skanda’s peacock dance.. its feathers falling whose circles bear streaks of lustre. And mother Bhavani out of affection to her son, sports the feather on her ear instead of a blue lotus petal.”

**In the next verse, Kalidasa uses ‘saravanabava’ which is translated to ‘born in the woods of sara’.. It also happens to be the beeja mantra for Skanda aka Karthika in the south.. A very clever way of showing his respect.

sa ra va na bha va

A Pearl string studded with a Sapphire

1.49

“O robber of Krishna’s complexion.. River Chamarvati will be ematiated and thinned by your seperation (lack of rain). When you bend down to drink its water.. It would look like a string of pearls rekha muktaam gunam eva with a dark dazzling sapphire in the centre.. sthula madye indra neela.”

“The bystanders and travellers in the sky will turn their bewildered eyes at this sight. prekshayanthe gagana gatayo..”

**Chamarvati is modern Chambal valley. This verse is heights of poetic imagination. And the reference to the ‘celestial bystanders’ as the point of observation is just brilliant.

wallpaperscraft.com

Kurukshetra

1.51

“Then entering that land of Brahmavartha Janapada chaaya.. repair that field of warrior kshatras with your shadow.. Arjuna with his gandeeva had poured a rain of hundred arrows on the Kauravaas.. shita-shara-shata.. like you rain shower on the lotuses.”

**According to Dr Nagaraj, in the ancient days, there were two rivers. Saraswati was creating ponds in the course and Drushadvati was flowing on rocky terrain. The land between was called Brahmavartha..

A holy dip at the rivers

Unlike the flirting relation with the earlier rivers, there is a sense of respect and divinity building up.

1.52

“O gentle one.. Once you have a sip of Saraswati.. You will be purified internally.. black from outside you may look antah shuddas.. tavam api bhavita.. varna matrena krushnah.”

** Blessings from Devi Saraswati for its literary seekers and reading this work of literature.

1.53

“There you should go to Jahnu’s daughter (Ganga) who cascades from the top of the mountains.. A staircase used by Sagara’s sons to climb the heavens..”

1.54

“O Cloud.. Should you think of drinking Ganga’s holy water so clear and transparent spatika vishadam.. Bending down like a celestial elephant, your dark image reflecting in her and moving along.. People must be wondering.. ‘How did the beautiful Sangam with the black waters of Yamuna happen’ ‘A place other than prayaag.’”

**A very vivid imagination.

Reaching Himalayas

photogrist IG, Cosmic group FB

1.55–1.59

“On reaching that mountain which flows that Ganges.. white with snow and having scent of musk deer.. and your dark mass resting on the peak.. It would seem that white bull of Nandi swirled some mud on the mountain.”

“If the wind blows and then a forest fire caused by the rubbing of the Sarala trees and burning the tails of chumari birds.. it should be apt of you to save with a thousand showers.. for the riches should be used for the service of the distressed.”

“The angry sharabas animals may attack you mistaking your roaring sound for a Lion.. Ward them off with hail stones for their useless undertakings.”

“The bamboos are swayed by wind producing a gentle music.. the song of kinnara women accompanied with your rumbling resounding in the caves .. a musical treat for Shiva indeed.”

“After seeing places of interest in the outskirts of Himalayas.. Proceed Northwards by the opening in mount Krauncha.. A path taken by the flamingos and by the eminent Brigus. hamsadwaaram..krounchrandram..”

Majesty of Kailasha

The long journey of the cloud is coming to an end. .A very beautiful description of Kailasha

Audio Track (61–62)

1.61

“O Cloud.. Soaring higher.. you should be the guest of Kailasha.. whose joints were loosened by that dashamukhi Ravana..”

“Kailasha’s flanks shines like the mirrors as though servicing the heavenly ladies.. tridasha vanitha darpanasya. You become a guest of that Kailasha.

**And why is it so full of white snow? Not the mundane physics of Ice..

“The peaks of Kailasha as white as lotus.. because triambaka Shiva
in his dance of ecstasy laughed and laughed.. the laughter piling day after day.. raashi bhuta pratidina.. triambakasya attahasa..**a very poetic imagination of the pile of ice.”

गत्वा चोर्ध्वं दशमुखभुजोच्छ्वासितप्रस्थसन्धेः
कैलासस्य त्रिदशवनितादर्पणस्यातिथिः स्याः
शृङ्गोच्छ्रायैः कुमुदविशदैर्यो वितत्य स्थितः खं
राशीभूतः प्रतिदिनमिव त्र्यम्बकस्याट्टहासः ॥61॥

1.62

“O dark Cloud.. Utpashyaami.. I can visualise that when you rest on that mountain.. which is spotless white like a piece of freshly cut ivory.. it is a beauty to be gazed with unfaltering eyes.. stimitha nayana prekshaneeyam.”

“It seems like the fair skinned Balarama’s black cloak was playfully hurled on the mountain..”

Matt Sahil.. Milky way over Rainier Mt.
उत्पश्यामि त्वयि तटगते स्निग्धभिन्नाञ्जनाभे
सद्यः कृत्तद्विरददशनच्छेदगौरस्य तस्य ।
शोभामद्रेः स्तिमितनयनप्रेक्षणीयां भवित्रीम्
अंसन्यस्ते सति हलभृतो मेचके वाससीव॥62॥

1.63 Divine stairway to Shiva Parvathy

“hitva bujaga valayam..O Cloud.. Casting off his armlets lest it scares her. Shambu natha datta hastham.. if Shambu happens to walk with Gauri giving her his hand in that pleasure hill kreeda shaila.”

“She will find it difficult to walk on the boulders with her bare feet.. O Mighty Cloud.. Surrender and solidify into ice..”

“sopanatvam kuru .. mani tata aarohana.. and spread yourself like a stairway..
a soft beady like walkway for Gauri.. On you they will tread.. What a fortune indeed..”

**Kalidasa’s devotion to Bhavani has been seen in MahaKaali evening twilight service, at Devgiri mountain with Skanda and here in Kailasha.

हित्वा तस्मिन् भुजगवलयं शम्भुना दत्तहस्ता
क्रीडाशैले यदि च विचरेत्पादचारेण गौरी
भङ्गीभक्त्या विरचितवपुः स्तम्भितान्तर्जलौघः
सोपानत्वं कुरु मणितटारोहणायाग्रयायी॥१.६३॥

**I found this perfect picture in a cosmology group. I have rotated to seem close to the imagination.

Mammoth Cloud (Michael Johnston)

1.64 – 1.66

The cloud is in a frozen stair form here..

“The heavenly damsels will turn you into a shower bath .. as you will sprinkle water when struck by the sharp edges of their bracelets. Should they bother you too much with their sport.. frighten their ears with aloud thunder.”

“When you reach lake Manasaa, you should drink its water.. You should enjoy sporting water on the the golden lotuses, the Airavata elephant and bloom the buds of the wish desiring Kalpa Vriksha.”

“Like a lover my friend.. My city Alaka is seated on Kailasha.. Ganges dropping from her slopes like the veil of her Saree.. You will not miss to notice the city my friend. It has lofty mansions covered by the cotton clouds and rain.”

Uttara Megha

The beautiful mansions and women at Alaka
Kubera’s Palace
The Yaksha’s house
The forlorn Yakshi
Farewell to the Cloud

Purva Megha was a scenic description till Kailash.. A vivid mix of real, imaginary interspersed with events from our Scriptures.

Yaksha now describes his home city which lies on the top of Kailasha.. The beautiful mansions and women of Alka Nagari.. the landmarks to Kubera’s palace.. beautiful spots around.. the location and identification marks of the Yaksha’s house and the description of his wife..

2.1 Beauty of Alaka’s Mansions

“The mansions of Alaka stand quite a comparison with you my friend. Their lighting with your flashing.. their pictures with your many coloured rainbow.. their musical concerts with your pleasant rumble.. their sapphire paved floors with your complexion.. their high rised mansions competing with your towering heights.”

2.2 The Beautiful women of Alaka Nagari

An iconic description..There is no dearth of wealth and flowers in Kubera’s land..
It flowers in all the seasons.. Sarvatra kusuma sampanna

hasthe leela kamalam..O Cloud.. Where the young women sport a lotus in their hand..
alake baala kunda..adorn their wavy hair with fresh buds of kunda flowers..
pandu anana.. her fair face adorned decorated whitish with the pollen powder of Rodhra flowers..

chooda paasha.. On her braids attached are the fresh Kurabakas (a thorny flower)..
On her ears, lovely sirisha swinging.. and at the hairline, dangling Kadamba
seemantha neepa
which has sprung upon your approach.

O Cloud.. You would like to see all of this..

हस्ते लीलाकमलमलकं बालकुन्दानुविद्धं
नीता रोध्रप्रसवरजसा पण्डुतामाननश्रीः ।
चूदापाशे नवकुरबकं चारु कर्णे शिरीषं
सीमन्ते
च त्वदुपगमजं यत्र नीपं वधूनाम् ॥ ६५ ॥
kunda flower.. pollen of rodra..
hair style with thorny kurabaaka, sirisha eardrop, kadamba hair partition @ plantsofmeghadootha

2.15 Kubera’s Landmark Palace

O Cloud..
Kubera’s palace is a landmark there.. you cannot miss the rainbow like arch toranaa.. my house lies further north behind that.. dhanapathi gruha uttare asmaadeyam

Nearby is a mandaara plant full of flowers.. that can be plucked easily by hands.. hasthe praapya..baala mandaara vruksha. and my beloved nurtures it like her own son..krutaka tanaya

**The easy read of a literary gem like Meghadootha is compared to the easy pluck of mandaara flowers..hasthe praapya..baala mandaara vruksha

तत्रागारं धनपतिगृहानुत्तरेणास्मदीयं
दूराल्लक्ष्यं सुरपतिधनुश्चारुणा तोरणेन
यस्योपान्ते कृतकतनयः कान्तया वर्धितो मे
हस्तप्राप्यस्तबकनमितो बालमन्दारवृक्षः॥२.१५॥

2.16 The Emerald StepWell

and further O Cloud.. is a beautiful step well vaapi.. with steps of emerald green.. marakata shila soopana marga (and not the mundane moss due to the rainy season)

Golden lotuses with the radiant vaidurya like stalks.. and many a floating swans hamsas once they see you.. no more longing for seeing lake Maanasa..

वापी चास्मिन् मरकतशिलाबद्धसोपानमार्गा
हैमैश्छन्ना विकचकमलैः स्निग्धवैदूर्यनालैः ।
यस्यास्तोये कृतवसतयो मानसं संनिकृष्टं
नाध्यास्यन्ति व्यपगतशुचस्त्वामपि प्रेक्ष्य हंसाः॥२.१६॥

2.17 Sapphire Pleasure Hill

On the bank of the pleasure hill
whose summit has a spread of indra nila sapphires..
fence of golden kadali banana plants..
a spectacular view and my wife’s favorite..

O cloud..check it out with a flash of your lightening

I recollect that hill.. and wonder is she still enjoying?

तस्यास्तीरे रचितशिखरः पेशलैरिन्द्रनीलैः
क्रीडाशैलः कनककदलीवेष्टनप्रेक्षणीयः ।
मद्गेहिन्याः प्रिय इति सखे चेतसा कातरेण
प्रेक्ष्योपान्तस्फुरिततडितं त्वां तमेव स्मरामि॥२.१७॥

2.18 Trees in front of the Yaksha’s Home

So far the Yaksha has described the rainbow studded arch, the dear mandaara tree, the greenish step well and the bluish neelamani pleasure hill.. The Yaksha now begins to zoom in and describe the details of his home..

Enclosed by the fence of kurabaka.. At the entrance are two trees.. Ashoka and Kesar..

(like pregnant ladies, these trees too have their dohadha craving moments before they blossom)

The blood red ashoka desires a gentle kick of my beloved’s left foot (perhaps with red painted feet and anklets) and then it blooms all red..

The kesar plant desires a mouthful of sprinkled wine.. and then blooms the wine coloured buds..

**The cravings of the trees very well imagined.. There are two little trees in front of my house. And a little by the side a wine coloured flowering plant and a red flowering plant too. Cannot stop thinking of them as Ashoka and Kesar :)

रक्ताशोकश्चलकिसलयः केसरश्चात्र कान्तः
प्रत्यासन्नौ कुरुवकवृतेर्माधवीमण्डपस्य
एकः सख्यास्तव सह मया वामपादाभिलाषी
काङ्क्षत्यन्यो वदनमदिरां दोहदच्छद्मनास्याः॥२.१८॥
Red colour Ashoka flowers..Wine colour Kesar(Bakula)

2.19 The dancing Peacock

Meghadoot by Narendra Deb

And behind my home is a marble bench sphatika palaka..

On a golden staff kaanchana yashti daily comes a peacock..

On the claps of my wife
taala shrinja and sounds of her bangles dances neelakanta peacock to its beats..

तन्मध्ये च स्फटिकफलका काञ्चनी वासयष्टि-
र्मूले बद्धा मणिभिरनतिप्रौढवंशप्रकाशैः ।
तालैः शिञ्जावलयसुभगैर्नर्तितः कान्तया मे
यामध्यास्ते दिवसविगमे नीलकण्ठः सुहृद्वः॥२.१९॥

2.20 Signs at the doorway

O virtuous Cloud..
You should remember these details.. At the door treshold is the shanka and the padma..

and my wretched house without my presence is perhaps like a withered lotus
when the Sun sets.

एभिः साधो हृदयनिहितैर्लक्षणैर्लक्षयेथा
द्वारोपान्ते लिखितवपुषौ शङ्खपद्मौ च दृष्ट्वा ।
क्षामच्छायां भवनमधुना मद्वियोगेन नूनं
सूर्यापाये न खलु कमलं पुष्यति स्वामभिख्याम्॥२.२०॥

2.21 Wait and Watch

The Yaksha has provided details about Alkanagari and signages around his house. Now he asks the cloud to wait and watch.. And look for a suitable time to talk to his Yakshi.

O Cloud..
Having reached, you must become small as an elephant cub.. On the beautiful gem studded pleasure hill that I just described, you must rest and watch.. Peep into my house with a gentle lightening flash.. alpaabaasam.. just like fireflies twinkling dance.

गत्वा सद्यः कलभतनुतां शीघ्रसंपातहेतोः
क्रीडाशैले प्रथमकथिते रम्यसानौ निषण्णः ।
अर्हस्यन्तर्भवनपतितां कर्तुमल्पाल्पभासं
खद्योतालीविलसितनिभां विद्युदुन्मेषदृष्टिम्॥२.२१॥

2.22 The Beautiful Yakshi

Audio Track

And finally when you get to meet my wife.. How do I describe her beauty?

tanvi shyama.. shikari dashana
slender, dark and tapering pointed teeth..

adhya srishti iva dathu
perhaps the creator’s best maiden creation..

paakva bimboodara
red lips like the ripened tindora fruit..

chakitha harini prekshana
with long doe like eyes with fickleness.

and her navel pulled in.. a heavy bosom and a curvy hip..

**This was a much celebrated verse to describe feminine beauty in those times. bimba is ‘tindoora’ in hindi, ‘dondakai’ in telugu.

तन्वी श्यामा शिखरिदशना पक्वबिम्बाधरोष्ठी
मध्ये क्षामा चकितहरिणीप्रेक्षणा निम्ननाभिः
श्रोणीभारादलसगमना स्तोकनम्रा स्तनाभ्यां
या तत्र स्याद्युवतिविषये सृष्टिराद्येव धातुः॥२.२२॥

2.24 Lovelorn Yakshi

Audio Track
Surely.. Nuunam.. That crying rudita face of my beloved resting on her hand and eyes filled with tears.. lower lip swollen due to her excessive sighs nissvaasa.. her unkempt hair blocking her face.. has a miserable appearance.. the moon when hidden by a cloud..

नूनं तस्याः प्रबलरुदितोच्छूननेत्रं प्रियाया
निःष्वासानामशिशिरतया भिन्नवर्णाधरोष्ठम् ।
हस्तन्यस्तं मुखमसकलव्यक्ति लम्बालकत्वाद्
इन्दोर्दैन्यं त्वदनुसरणक्लिष्टकान्तेर्बिभर्ति ॥ ८५॥

2.25 The Yakshi passing time

If I find the seperation difficult.. she being delicate.. how much more difficult for her..She must be doing one of these activities to pass time..

You may sight her suddenly pale in seperation.. perhaps in a half minded prayer or maybe sketching my portrait..

or may be talking to the caged bird called Saarika.. asking.. “Do you remember him daily the way I do? Were n’t you his favorite?”
“Kachit bartuh .. smarathi rasike.. twam hi tasya priye iti?

**Our hero yaksha is not given a name.. but the bird is called Saarika.. This is Kalidasa.

आलोके ते निपतति पुरा सा बलिव्याकुला वा
मत्सादृश्यं विरहतनु वा भावगम्यं लिखन्ती
पृच्छन्ती वा मधुरवचनां सारिकां पञ्जरस्थां
कच्चिद् भर्तुः स्मरसि रसिके त्वं हि तस्य प्रियेति॥२.२५॥

2.26 Yakshi with her Veena

In her old clothes malina vasane.. may be trying to play Veena.. singing my own composition..virachita padam
and when my name in it she utters.. the strings are wet with tears.. tantrim aadram .. nayana salila

and she wipes again and again .. bhuyah bhuyah and unable to sing reminiscing me..

उत्सङ्गे वा मलिनवसने सौम्य निक्षिप्य वीणां
मद्गोत्राङ्कं विरचितपदं गेयमुद्गातुकामा ।
तन्त्रीमार्द्रां नयनसलिलैः सारयित्वा कथंचिद्
भूयो भूयः स्वयमपि कृतां मूर्च्छनां विस्मरन्ती॥२.२६॥

2.17 Counting the days left

O Cloud..
You may see dehali pushpa flowers on the door treshold marking each day of absence.

**Women those days had their ways of counting days.

शेषान् मासान् विरहदिवसस्थापितस्यावधेर्वा
विन्यस्यन्ती भुवि गणनया देहलीदत्तपुष्पैः

2.37 If she is sleeping

How considerate and loving the Yaksha is towards his wife..

O Jalada Cloud..
in that time.. if she happens to be in a happy sleep..
tasmin kaale.. labda nidra sukha

Wait and bear with her for only three hours.. do not rumble with your thunder and disturb her..maa bhud.

for she is a light sleeper.. yaama matra..
(In those days, noble padmini type of women slept for less time )

for she must be dreaming of me.. mayi swapna labde katichita
please.. let the knot of hug not loosen too soon in her dreams at least..

तस्मिन् काले जलद यदि सा लब्धनिद्रासुखा स्याद्
अन्वास्यैनां स्तनितविमुखो याममात्रं सहस्व ।
मा भूदस्याः प्रणयिनि मयि स्वप्नलब्धे कथञ्चित्
सद्यः कण्ठच्युतभुजलताग्रन्थि गाढोपगूढम्॥२.३७॥

Conversation with the Yakshi

2.38

And when the moment arrives.. Go by the window..with a cool breeze gently sprinkle water.. the smell of malathi flowers arousing her.. suppressing your lightening speak with your thunder to that noble lady.

2.39

The cloud thus speaks..
“O lady.. You are not a widow. Know me to be a cloud.. Your husband’s dear friend. He sends a message for you.”

2.40

At this her face should light up.. Like Sita receiving message from Hanuman..

2.41–2.42

“O Noble lady.. Your beloved resides in the hermitages of Ramagiri. He is safe and alive. He is living at a distance and is emaciated living tormented. He sends these words through me.”

2.44

The Yaksha’s message to his wife

‘I crave to see your body in the creepers here.. your glances in the eyes of the female deer.. the beauty of your face in the moon.. your decorated hair in the plumages of peacocks.. My misfortune..’

2.47–2.49

‘That wind blowing from the North is embraced by me.. O Noble lady.. in a thought that it might have passed you.’

‘I wish nights were reduced to a moment.. O Noble one.. my mind is rendered helpless in the pangs of seperation.’

*Philosophical dialogue on the ups and downs in life being a passing phase..

O dear one.. I am holding on. You too should not be afraid.. Who does happiness leave without interruptions? Man’s condition goes up and down like a ferry wheel. nichair gacchai upari cha..chakra krama

‘Spend the remaining months with your eyes closed.. (endure it without crying)’

Farewell to the Cloud

After detailing the entire journey to the cloud and the words that should be delivered to his wife.. the last piece of touching gratitude and farewell.

2.55

“My dear cloud.. Having done this immense favour to me.. a request unworthy for you anuchit prarthana.. due to friendship or compassion for my seperation..”

“O Cloud, with your splendour enhanced by the rainy season, over regions desired by you istaan deshaan vicharan pravrusha. May you not suffer like me.. seperated even for a moment from lightning (your wife) !”

Audio Track

एतत् कृत्वा प्रियमनुचितप्रार्थनावर्त्मनो मे
सौहर्दाद् वा विधुर इति वा मय्यनुक्रोशबुद्ध्या ।
इष्टान् देशान् विचर प्रावृषा संभृतश्रीः
मा भूदेवं क्षणमपि च ते विद्युता विप्रयोगः ॥२.५५॥

Some Reflections

In the context of Meghadootha, it is apt to say that ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the Beholder’.. There are so many angles and layers to it. One can choose what appeals to them. For some it could just be an exotic poem celebrating beauty of women and nature..

It seems like an encyclopedia of knowledge is needed to appreciate the subtle things. Landscape of India, South West monsoon trajectory, Cloud mechanics, Seasons and its bearings on Trees and Flowers.. Stories around Skanda, Sunderkand, Chandi, Krouncha of Ramayana etc.. the beautiful framing of the verses into the slow moving mandakrantha meter.

I was amazed by Venetia Answill.. Her enthusiasm to trace the circuit in the Himalayan region. And the Japanese painter creating a detailed listing of the flowers of Meghadootha..

A river once crossed is not the same again. It is said that each read of this epic brings in newer emotions and thoughts. Next time you spot a majestic cloud.. sight a flight of small birds chirping in harmony.. do cherish the Kaalidasa in you.

I hope you enjoyed your Saraswat moment of inner purification and literary gratification.. The easy baala mandaara moment of getting joy and bliss through Meghadootha.

And so many characters at stage that we can relate to.. Be it in relations, professional life or in social media.. An agitated unmatt Yaksha.. A young fickle minded Netravathi.. A passionate Nirvindhya.. A mature Gambhira..

At times it felt like we are that majestic cloud. In our younger days.. filled with passion we sport with our talents.. nurture people.. do our jobs.. expand our networks.. travel and explore in our worlds. And as we grow .. the Saraswat moment of inner purification and the Kailash moment of surrender and bliss.

Like the bird flying far off the ship in a distant ocean only to return back to the deck and find peace in itself..

The Yaksha moment in us.. When one falls in love, it seems like an out of the world experience. The beloved seems like the princess from the clouds..

Even smaller moments of sway.. seeing a beautiful visual, reading a wonderful book.. getting that dream job provides a surge of experience. Perhaps Kalidasa’s choice of Yaksha as the lead protagonist resonates with this elevated experience.. Or may be just a spirited person like the lead character.. Or Kalidasa himself in his imaginative self..

Interestingly Ananda Valli from the Taittiriya Upanishad gives a quantitative expression of Happiness.. If a charming capable young man had a Happiness quotient of X, then Gandharvas, Yakshas, Devas and other celestial beings had happiness measures of 100X and so on. The Yakshas are very artistic people and naturally chasing the things of pleasure.

Kalidasa combines the real with the imaginary. A map that I found in Venitia Ansell’s article reviewing Kamalesh Dwivedi’s Kalidasa translation. Ramagiri is located in the Vindhyas seperating Deccan plateau from the Ganges.. A list of rivers and places mentioned in the book and their modern names.

In the Indian subcontinent.. Nature, Motherland and Divinity has always been celebrated with Saundarya, Shringaara and Vatsalya bhava.. Bhagawadgita celebrates the ‘cycle of life’ and the divine exchange between the ‘Sun ocean clouds and rain’.. the cyle of procreation in the dharma aviruddha kaama and the divinity all around us in the Vibhuti Yoga.

Every element of Nature has been celebrated so well in Meghadootha.. full of beauty, poetic imagination and a feel of sublimation and reverence..

Dr Gowri Shata vaaram dhanyavaadah.. Many many thanks for explaining with such simplicity in Sanskrit and English.

And thanks to the ‘cloud technology’ for feeding the thought and providing easy access to the lectures, eBooks, lyrics and songs.. making this journey possible and truly enjoyable..

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Sujatha R

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