Kālidāsa

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Kalidasa, KAlidAsa, Kaalidaasa


Kālidāsa literally means ‘servant of Kālī’.

Kālidāsa has been universally acclaimed as the brightest among the great authors of Sanskrit literature and one of the greatest poets and dramatists of the world. He was undoubtedly the super-master of Indian poetic style. His upamā-s or allegories have been considered as the best model for other writers.

Even though he is very well-known, his fixed date has not been acclaimed. It varies from the 2nd century B. C. up to the 4th century CE. However, based on an embossed metallic piece discovered at Bhiṭa[1] during archaeological excavations, some modern scholars have tried to fix his date to 2nd century B. C.

Many assumptions are made in the popular literature works regarding his life. According to most of these, he was a dunce who became a highly evolved scholar and poet overnight due to his devotion to Mother Kāli. According to other versions, he was a brāhmaṇa of good Śaiva parentage, highly educated and cultured. He was one of the nine jewels in the court of the king Vikramāditya.

Kālidāsa's Work

Kālidāsa has authored different types of literary works. His works includes dramas and poetry.

Kālidāsa's Dramas

  1. Abhijñānaśākuntala - It depicts the story of the king Duṣyanta and Śakuntalā, the adopted daughter of the sage Kaṇva
  2. Vikramorvaśīya - The story of the king Vikrama, also known as Pururava, and the celestial nymph Urvaśi is the main theme of this drama
  3. Mālavikāgnimitra - The love story of Mālavikā, the princess of Vidarbha and Agnimitra, the king of Vidiśā has been depicted in this drama

Kālidāsa's Poetry

Poetry of Kālidāsa are also called as Mahākāvyas and include:

  • Raghuvamśa - It is a long poetical work classed among the Mahākāvyas and has 19 sargas or cantos. It deals with the stories of 23 kings of the Raghu race. The story of Rāma gets the pride of place among all
  • Kumārasambhava - Though the Kumārasambhava is in eighteen cantos, perhaps Kālidāsa wrote only the first seven. The other eleven is penned by an inferior author. It describes the marriage of Śiva and Pārvatī and the birth of Kumāra, also known as Subrahmaṇya or Kārttikeya. He later on killed the demon Tāraka
  • Meghaduta - It is a small work that graphically describes the pangs of separation of a yakṣa from his beloved wife
  • Ṛtusamhāra - This works give a graphic description of the ṛtus or seasons

References

  1. Bhiṭa is 20 km or 12 miles from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore