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Encyclopedia > Kalidasa

Kālidāsa (कालिदास) is arguably India's greatest Sanskrit poet and dramatist, his title Kavikulaguru ('Preceptor of All Poets') bearing testimony to his stature. Known to be an ardent worshipper of Shiva, he wrote his plays and poetry largely based around Hindu mythology and philosophy. His name means literally Kali's slave. Sanskrit ( संस्कृतम्) is a classical language of India and a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. ... Lord Åšiva. ... The term Hindu mythology refers collectively to a large body of Indian literature (essentially, the mythology of Hinduism) that detail the lives and times of legendary personalities, deities and divine incarnations on earth interspersed with often large sections of philosophical and ethical discourse. ... Hindu philosophy (one of the main divisions of Indian philosophy) is traditionally seen through the prism of six different systems (called darshanas in Sanskrit) that are listed here and make up the main belief systems of Hinduism. ... A common scene depicting Kali standing over Shiva Although her presentation in the West is usually as simply dark and violent, Kali is a goddess with a long and complex history in Hinduism. ...

Contents


The date of Kalidasa

The exact dates of Kalidasa's life are disputed. These range from the 1st century BC to the 5th Century AD.



Kalidasa's play Mālavikāgnimitra has as its hero the second Sunga king Agnimitra. This king is known to have ruled around 170 BC. So Kalidasa had to be after him. The Aihole Prashasti of 634 AD, compares the skill of its composer to Kalidasa's. This then becomes the latest date for Kalidasa. In addition, the Indian tradition associates the poet with the court of a king Vikramaditya. Approximate greatest extent of the Sunga empire (185 BCE-73 BCE) For other uses of the term Sunga see Sunga (disambiguation) The Sunga empire (or Shunga empire) controlled the eastern part of India from around 185 to 73 BCE. It was established after the fall of the Indian Mauryan empire. ... Durga Devi Temple at Aihole Aihole is now in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, India. ... The period of prominence of the Gupta dynasty is very often referred to as the Golden Age of India. ...


Historians generally associate Kalidasa with reigns of Gupta kings Chandragupta Vikramāditya, and his successor, Kumaragupta in the 4th century AD. Chandragupta II is known to have assumed the title of Vikramaditya and reigned over the zenith of the Gupta golden-age.It must be noted that Kalidasa does not mention any king as his patron or any dynasty other than the Sungas in his works. The fact that he named his play about Pururava and Urvashi as Vikramuurvashiiya, replacing Pururava by Vikrama in the name and calling Pururava by that name in the play , is treated as an indirect tribute to his patron. The name of his epic Kumārasambhavam is considerd a pun on the name of Kumaragupta. Kumara being another name of kartikeya and the birth of this war god is tied to birth of the Gupta king.In addition, Kalidasa's mention of Huns in Raghuvamsha is taken as veiled reference to Skandagupta's victory over them. The camapign of Raghu in the same epic is supposed to be modelled on Samudragupta's campaign. He is supposed to have composed his Meghadūta at Ramagiri, identified as Ramtek in central India near Nagpur.It is known that Prabhavatigupta, Chandragupta II's daughter was married to the Vakataka king who had his capital nearby.These clues have lead to assign Kalidasa to the Gupta age. Silver coin of the Gupta King Kumara Gupta I (414-455 CE). ... The period of prominence of the Gupta dynasty is very often referred to as the Golden Age of India. ... Silver coin of King Kumaragupta (414-455 CE). ... The play is about the love story between Pururava and Urvashi. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... In Hinduism, Kārttikeya (also Skanda, Subrahmanya, Kumara, Arumugan, Shanmugan, Murugan, Guha, Saravana, Swaminatha, Velan,Velavan, Senthil) is a god born out of a magical spark created by Shiva. ... The Huns were a group of Central Asian nomadic tribes, who appeared in Europe in the 4th century. ... Kalidasas Raghuvamsha tells of the family of Rama and his descendents, including the conqueror Raghu. ... In Hindu mythology, Raghu was a valorous king of the Ikshavaku dynasty. ... Samudragupta, ruler of the Gupta Empire (c. ... The Meghaduuta (which translates literally as cloud-messenger) is a lyrical poem written by Kalidasa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets. ... Nāgpur City name is derived from River Nag which flows through manoj mishras city. ... The Vakataka was an Indian dynasty. ...



However, dissent has been raised by scholars on this association based on the following issues:


- Kalidasa does not mention any Guptas ever.


- There have been many Vikramadityas and he could have been in the court of any of these including a legendary one in 1st century BC.


- The campaign sections of Raghuvamsha used cannot be very reliable. It is not correct to assume that the tribes mentioned there were not known prior to Gupta campaigns.Kalidasa's work have not been free from interpolations and such campaign sections are notorios for tampering as seen in case of the campaigns in the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata (Devanagari: महाभारत, phonetically Mahābhārata - see note), sometimes just called Bharata, is one of the two major ancient Sanskrit epics of India, the other being the Ramayana. ...


- Kalidasa was a votary of Shiva and composing a epic poem celebrating the birth of Shiva's son would be a natural expression of devotion. Kumara was a popular name of the war god and it might be a coincidence that it matches the name of a Gupta king.


- There seems to be no reason why Kalidasa should use Agnimitra as a hero as he was far removed from his time and not famous either. In fact, his only reason to greatness is being the hero of Kalidasa's play, otherwise he is just a name in dynastic lists in all ancient works. Kalidasa also seems to be aware of certain historical peculiarities like the fact that Agnimitra's father Pushyamitra still called himself a commander though he had become the king after usurping the throne from the Mauryas. Pusyamitra Sunga (also Pushyamitra Shunga) was the founder of the Indian Sunga dynasty (185-78 BCE). ... Chandragupta Maurya (ruled 322–298 BC), known to the Greeks as Sandracottus, was the first emperor of the Mauryan empire. ...


The dissenting scholars generally favour placing kalidasa nearer to the age of Sungas and the age of legendary Vikramaditya.


His Life

Not much is known about Kalidasa's personal life and background, but there are several myths and legends about it.From his works he comes across as a very educated Brahmin but the legends have a more romantic story to tell. He is said to have been born in a community of shepherds. He was known for his beauty and innocence. A local princess, who vowed to marry only a man who defeated her in debate, outwitted all the scholars in the kingdom. These insulted scholars managed to present the dim-witted Kalidasa as a learned man and even get her to married to him. But when the truth was discovered she was ashamed of his uneducated ignorance and coarseness. A devoted worshipper of the goddess Kali, Kalidasa is said to have called upon the goddess for help and was rewarded with a sudden and extraordinary gift of wit and wealth. A common scene depicting Kali standing over Shiva Although her presentation in the West is usually as simply dark and violent, Kali is a goddess with a long and complex history in Hinduism. ...


The province of Kalidasa is subject of much debate. His loving description of the Himalayas in Kumarasambhavam have made some scholars place his birth in that region. However, kalidasa lavishes much love on Ujjain in Meghaduta and is not tired of singing praises of the city, hinting that he may have been a resident of it. Ujjain (also known as Ujain, Ujjayini, Avanti) is an ancient city of central India, in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River. ...

Indian postage stamp showing a passage from Kalidasa's Meghaduuta
Indian postage stamp showing a passage from Kalidasa's Meghaduuta

Image File history File links Meghdut. ... Image File history File links Meghdut. ... The Meghaduuta (which translates literally as cloud-messenger) is a lyrical poem written by Kalidasa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets. ...

His Death

As in life he is a mystery at its end. Legend has it that he was murdered by a courtesan in Sri Lanka during the reign of Kumaradasa. But this king reigned in the 6th century AD and hence this seems to be improbable.


His Plays

Three famous plays written by Kalidasa are Mālavikāgnimitra (Mālavikā and Agnimitra), Vikramuurvashiiya (Pertaining to Vikrama and Urvashi)and Abhignānashākuntala (The Recognition of Sakuntala). The latter is the most famous, and was the first to be translated into English and German. The play is about the love story between Pururava and Urvashi. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ...



Malavikagnimitra is his first work tells the story of King Agnimitra, who falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Malavika. When the queen discovers her husbands passion for this girl, she becomes infuriated and has Malavika imprisoned, but as fate would have it, Malavika is in fact a true-born princess, thus legitimizing the affair.



Kalidasa's second play, generally considered his masterpiece, is the Abhignānashākuntala which tells the story of another king, Dushyanta, who falls in love with another girl of lowly birth, the lovely Shakuntala. This time, the couple is happily married and things seem to be going smoothly until Fate intervenes. When the king is called back to court by some pressing business, his new bride unintentionally offends a saint who puts a curse on her, erasing the young girl entirely from the king's memory. Softening, however, the saint concedes that the king's memory will return when Shakuntala returns to him the ring he gave her. This seems easy enough--that is, until the girl loses the ring while bathing. And to make matters worse, she soon discovers that she is pregnant with the king's child. But true love is destined to win the day, and when a fisherman finds the ring, the king's memory returns and all is well. Shakuntala is remarkable not only for it's beautiful love poetry, but also for its abundant humor which marks the play from beginning to end.



The last of Kalidasa's surviving plays, Vikramuurvashiiya , is more mystical than the earlier plays. This time, the king (Pururavas) falls in love with a celestial nymph named Urvashi. After writing her mortal suitor a love letter on a birch leaf, Urvashi returns to the heavens to perform in a celestial play. However, she is so smitten that she misses her cue and pronounces her lover's name during the performance. As a punishment for ruining the play, Urvashi is banished from heaven, but cursed to return the moment her human lover lays eyes on the child that she will bear him. After a series of mishaps, including Urvashi's temporary transformation into a vine, the curse is eventually lifted, and the lovers are allowed to remain together on Earth. Vikramorvashe is filled poetic beauty and a fanciful humor that is reminiscent of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.


His Poems

In addition to his plays, Kalidasa wrote two surviving epic poems Raghuvamsha (Dynasty of Raghu) and Kumarasambhava (Birth of the War God), as well as the lyrical Meghaduta (Cloud Messenger) and Ritusamhāra (The Exposition on the Seasons). Kalidasas Raghuvamsha tells of the family of Rama and his descendents, including the conqueror Raghu. ... Ritu Samhaaram is a short epic in Sanskrit by Mahakavi Kalidasa. ...


Kalidasa has also been credited with many minor poems and hymns. But these are generraly trated by scholras as works of other poets working under the name of Kalidasa.


Kalidasa in Movies and Plays

The legends of Kalidasa's life have been popularized by movies such as Kaviratna Kalidasa and Mahakavi Kalidasa in Kannada and other South Indian languages. These movies are based on the legends around Kalidasa that offer ample scope for sepcial effects and music. This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... The Kannada movie Mahakavi Kalidasa was made in mid 1950s by the then famous singer of Karnataka Shri Honnappa Bhagavatar of Chamarajapet, Bangalore. ... Kannada (ಕನ್ನಡ ; also, less commonly, Kanarese) is one of the major Dravidian languages of southern India. ...


Mohan Rakesh's acclaimed play in Hindi based on Kalidasa's life 'Ashad ka ek din'( A day in the month of Ashad) tries to capture the conflict between the harsh realities of the times and the ethereal beauty repeatedly portrayed in his works. Kalidasa leaves behind his childhood sweetheart Mallika to go to the royal court. He wins acclaim and life of pleasure. When he comes back to Mallika expecting an eager welcome, he discovers that in the interveining years, her life has taken the harsh road never seen in his art. Mohan Rakesh (मोहन राकेश) (1925-1972) was one of the pioneers of the Nai Kahani (literally new story) movement of the Hindi literature in the 1950s. ...


Of his works, the play on Shakuntala, is the one that lends easily to adaptation and hence been filmed in virtually every major Indian language.


In addition to being a great poet, Kalidas was a good astrologist too Uttara Kaalaamritam. It has been said that his predictions are accurate as he did Upaasana of Goddess Kali.


External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Kalidasa
  • Kalidasa: Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works by Arthur W. Ryder
  • Biography of Kalidasa
  • Kalidasa and Ancient India
  • Works by Kalidasa at Project Gutenberg

  Results from FactBites:
 
Kālidāsa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2330 words)
Kalidasa's works have not been free from interpolations and such campaign sections are notorious for being tampered with as seen in case of the campaigns in the Mahabharata.
Kalidasa was a votary of Shiva and composing an epic poem celebrating the birth of Shiva's son would be a natural expression of devotion.
Kalidasa refused to continue to be the princess' husband because she has taken the place of his guru, being the one directing him to the path of knowledge.
kalidasa (3578 words)
Soon after the time of Kalidasa the art of citra was taken most seriously: citra verses were spread out all over a mahakavya or were mainly concentrated in one of its chapters.
CHATTERJEE, Asoke: A critique of poetic imagery of Kalidasa in Meghaduta.
The Meghaduta of Kalidasa (As embodied in the Parsvabhyudaya with the commentary of Mallinatha arranged accordingly and a literal English translation, various readings, critical notes and an introductory essay, determining the date of Kalidasa from the latest antiquarian researches).
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