Kālidāsa was a
Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the
greatest poet and dramatist in the
Sanskrit language of India. His
plays and poetry are primarily based on the Vedas, the
Much about his life is unknown, only what can be inferred from his
poetry and plays. His works cannot be dated with precision, but
they were most likely authored within the 4th-5th century CE.
1 Early life
1.2 Theory of multiple Kalidasas
2.2.2 Minor poems
3 Later culture
5 Further reading
6 See also
10 External links
Scholars have speculated that Kalidasa may have lived near the
Himalayas, in the vicinity of Ujjain, and in Kalinga. This hypothesis
is based on Kalidasa's detailed description of the
Himalayas in his
Kumārasambhava, the display of his love for
Ujjain in Meghadūta, and
his highly eulogistic descriptions of Kalingan emperor Hemāngada in
Raghuvaṃśa (sixth sarga).
Lakshmi Dhar Kalla (1891-1953), a
Sanskrit scholar and a Kashmiri
Pandit, wrote a book titled The birth-place of Kalidasa (1926), which
tries to trace the birthplace of Kalidasa based on his writings. He
concluded that Kalidasa was born in Kashmir, but moved southwards, and
sought the patronage of local rulers to prosper. The evidence cited by
him from Kalidasa's writings includes:
Description of flora and fauna that is found in Kashmir, but not
Ujjain or Kalinga: the saffron plant, the deodar trees, musk deer etc.
Description of geographical features common to Kashmir, such as tarns
Mention of some sites of minor importance that, according to Kalla,
can be identified with places in Kashmir. These sites are not very
famous outside Kashmir, and therefore, could not have been known to
someone not in close touch with Kashmir.
Reference to certain legends of Kashmiri origin, such as that of the
Nikumbha (mentioned in the Kashmiri text Nilamata Purana); mention (in
Shakuntala) of the legend about
Kashmir being created from a lake.
This legend, mentioned in Nilamata Purana, states that a tribal leader
named Ananta drained a lake to kill a demon. Ananta named the site of
the former lake (now land) as "Kashmir", after his father Kashyapa.
According to Kalla,
Shakuntala is an allegorical dramatization of
Pratyabhijna philosophy (a branch of
Kashmir Shaivism). Kalla further
argues that this branch was not known outside of
Kashmir at that time.
According to folklore, Kalidasa was originally an unintelligent
person, and married a princess. Challenged by his wife, he studied
Puranas and other Indian literature and become a great poet. Another
legend states that he visited Kumaradasa, the king of Sri Lanka
formerly known as Ceylon and, because of some treachery, Kalidasa was
Several ancient and medieval books state that Kalidasa was a court
poet of a king named Vikramaditya . A legendary king named
Vikramāditya is said to have ruled from
Ujjain around 1st century
BCE. A section of scholars believe that this legendary Vikramaditya is
not a historical figure at all. There are other kings who ruled from
Ujjain and adopted the title Vikramaditya, the most notable ones being
Chandragupta II (r. 380 CE – 415 CE) and
Yasodharman (6th century
The most popular theory is that Kalidasa flourished during the reign
of Chandragupta II, and therefore lived around 4th-5th century CE.
Several Western scholars have supported this theory, since the days of
William Jones and A. B. Keith. Many Indian scholars, such as
Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi
Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi and Ram Gupta, also place Kalidasa in this
period. According to this theory, his career might have
extended to the reign of
Kumaragupta I (r. 414 – 455 CE), and
possibly, to that of
Skandagupta (r. 455 – 467 CE).
The earliest paleographical evidence of Kalidasa is found in a
Sanskrit inscription dated c. 473 CE, found at Mandsaur's Sun temple,
with some verses that appear to imitate
Meghaduta Purva, 66; and the
Ritusamhara V, 2-3, although kalidasa is not named. His name,
along with that of the poet Bharavi, is also mentioned in a stone
inscription dated 634 C.E. found at Aihole, located in present-day
Theory of multiple Kalidasas
Some scholars, including M. Srinivasachariar and T. S. Narayana
Sastri, believe that all the works attributed to "Kalidasa" are not by
a single person. According to Srinivasachariar, writers from 8th and
9th centuries hint at the existence of three noted literary figures
that share the name Kalidasa. These writers include Devendra (author
Rajashekhara and Abhinanda. Sastri lists the
works of these three Kalidasas as follows:
Kalidasa alias Matrigupta, author of Setu-Bandha and three plays
Mālavikāgnimitram and Vikramōrvaśīyam).
Kalidasa alias Medharudra, author of Kumārasambhava,
Kalidasa alias Kotijit: author of Ṛtusaṃhāra, Shyamala-Dandakam
and Srngaratilaka among other works.
Sastri goes on to mention six other literary figures known by the name
"Kalidasa": Parimala Kalidasa alias Padmagupta (author of
Navasahasanka Charita), Kalidasa alias Yamakakavi (author of
Nalodaya), Nava Kalidasa (author of Champu Bhagavata), Akbariya
Kalidasa (author of several samasyas or riddles), Kalidasa VIII
(author of Lambodara Prahasana), and Abhinava Kalidasa alias Madhava
(author of Sankshepa-Sankara-Vijayam).
According to K. Krishnamoorthy, "Vikramaditya" and "Kalidasa" were
used as common nouns to describe any patron king and any court poet
Kālidāsa wrote three plays. Among them,
Shakuntala recognised by a token") is generally regarded as a
masterpiece. It was among the first
Sanskrit works to be translated
into English, and has since been translated into many languages.
Shakuntala stops to look back at Dushyanta, Raja Ravi Varma
Mālavikāgnimitram ("Pertaining to Mālavikā and Agnimitra") tells
the story of King Agnimitra, who falls in love with the picture of an
exiled servant girl named Mālavikā. When the queen discovers her
husband's passion for this girl, she becomes infuriated and has
Mālavikā imprisoned, but as fate would have it, Mālavikā is in
fact a true-born princess, thus legitimizing the affair.
Abhijñānaśākuntalam ("Of the recollection of Shakuntala") tells
the story of King
Dushyanta who, while on a hunting trip, meets
Shakuntalā, the adopted daughter of a sage, and marries her. A mishap
befalls them when he is summoned back to court: Shakuntala, pregnant
with their child, inadvertently offends a visiting sage and incurs a
curse, by which
Dushyanta will forget her completely until he sees the
ring he has left with her. On her trip to Dushyanta's court in an
advanced state of pregnancy, she loses the ring, and has to come away
unrecognized. The ring is found by a fisherman who recognizes the
royal seal and returns it to Dushyanta, who regains his memory of
Shakuntala and sets out to find her.
Goethe was fascinated by
Kalidasa's Abhijñānaśākuntalam, which became known in Europe,
after being translated from English to German.
Vikramōrvaśīyam ("Pertaining to Vikrama and Urvashi") tells the
story of mortal King Pururavas and celestial nymph Urvashi who fall in
love. As an immortal, she has to return to the heavens, where an
unfortunate accident causes her to be sent back to the earth as a
mortal with the curse that she will die (and thus return to heaven)
the moment her lover lays his eyes on the child which she will bear
him. After a series of mishaps, including Urvashi's temporary
transformation into a vine, the curse is lifted, and the lovers are
allowed to remain together on the earth.
Kālidāsa is the author of two epic poems,
Raghuvaṃśa ("Dynasty of
Kumārasambhava (Birth of 'Kumara' or Subrahmanya).
Raghuvaṃśa is an epic poem about the kings of the Raghu dynasty.
Kumārasambhava describes the birth and adolescence of the goddess
Parvati, and her marriage to Lord Shiva.
Kālidāsa also wrote two khandakavyas (minor poems):
His descriptive poem:
Ṛtusaṃhāra describes the six seasons by
narrating the experiences of two lovers in each of the seasons.[N 1]
His Elegiac poem:
Kālidāsa created his own genre of poetry with his
poem Meghadūta,(in English Translated to "The Cloud
Messenger") which is the story of a
Yaksha trying to send a
message to his lover through a cloud. Kalidasa set this poem to the
'mandākrānta' meter, which is known for its lyrical sweetness. It is
one of Kalidasa's most popular poems and numerous commentaries on the
work have been written.
Montgomery Schuyler, Jr. published a bibliography of the editions and
translations of the drama
Shakuntala while preparing his work
"Bibliography of the
Sanskrit Drama".[N 2] Schuyler later
completed his bibliography series of the dramatic works of Kālidāsa
by compiling bibliographies of the editions and translations of
Vikramorvaçī and Mālavikāgnimitra. Sir William Jones published
English translation of Sakuntala in 1791 C.E. and Rtusamhara was
published by him in original text during 1792 C.E.
Many scholars have written commentaries on the works of Kālidāsa.
Among the most studied commentaries are those by Kolāchala
Mallinātha Suri, which were written in the 15th century during the
reign of the Vijayanagar king, Deva Rāya II. The earliest surviving
commentaries appear to be those of the 10th-century Kashmirian scholar
Sanskrit poets like Bāṇabhaṭṭa,
Rajasekhara have lavished praise on
Kālidāsa in their
tributes. A well-known
Sanskrit verse ("Upamā Kālidāsasya...")
praises his skill at upamā, or similes. Anandavardhana, a highly
revered critic, considered
Kālidāsa to be one of the greatest
Sanskrit poets ever. Of the hundreds of pre-modern Sanskrit
commentaries on Kālidāsa's works, only a fraction have been
contemporarily published. Such commentaries show signs of Kālidāsa's
poetry being changed from its original state through centuries of
manual copying, and possibly through competing oral traditions which
ran alongside the written tradition.
Abhijñānaśākuntalam was one of the first works of
Indian literature to become known in Europe. It was first translated
to English and then from English to German, where it was received with
wonder and fascination by a group of eminent poets, which included
Herder and Goethe.
Willst du die Blüthe des frühen, die Früchte des späteren Jahres,
Willst du, was reizt und entzückt, willst du was sättigt und nährt,
Willst du den Himmel, die Erde, mit Einem Namen begreifen;
Nenn’ ich, Sakuntala, Dich, und so ist Alles gesagt.
Wouldst thou the young year's blossoms and the fruits of its decline
And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed,
Wouldst thou the earth and heaven itself in one sole name combine?
I name thee, O Sakuntala! and all at once is said.
— translation by E. B. Eastwick
"Here the poet seems to be in the height of his talent in
representation of the natural order, of the finest mode of life, of
the purest moral endeavor, of the most worthy sovereign, and of the
most sober divine meditation; still he remains in such a manner the
lord and master of his creation."
— Goethe, quoted in Winternitz
Kālidāsa's work continued to evoke inspiration among the artistic
circles of Europe during the late 19th century and early 20th century,
as evidenced by Camille Claudel's sculpture Shakuntala.
Koodiyattam artist and
Natya Shastra scholar Māni Mādhava Chākyār
(1899–1990) choreographed and performed popular Kālidāsā plays
including Abhijñānaśākuntala, Vikramorvaśīya and
The Kannada films
Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955), featuring Honnappa
Bagavatar, B. Sarojadevi and later
Kaviratna Kalidasa (1983),
featuring Rajkumar and Jayaprada, were based on the life of
Kaviratna Kalidasa also used Kālidāsa's
Shakuntala as a
sub-plot in the movie.
V. Shantaram made the Hindi movie Stree (1961)
based on Kālidāsa's Shakuntala. R.R. Chandran made the Tamil movie
Mahakavi Kalidas (1966) based on Kālidāsa's life. Chevalier Nadigar
Sivaji Ganesan played the part of the poet himself. Mahakavi
Kalidasu (Telugu, 1960) featuring Akkineni Nageswara Rao was
similarly based on Kālidāsa's life and work.
Surendra Verma's Hindi play Athavan Sarga, published in 1976, is based
on the legend that
Kālidāsa could not complete his epic
Kumārasambhava because he was cursed by the goddess Parvati, for
obscene descriptions of her conjugal life with Lord Shiva in the
eighth canto. The play depicts
Kālidāsa as a court poet of
Chandragupta who faces a trial on the insistence of a priest and some
other moralists of his time.
Asti Kashchid Vagarthiyam is a five-act
Sanskrit play written by
Krishna Kumar in 1984. The story is a variation of the popular legend
Kālidāsa was mentally challenged at one time and that his wife
was responsible for his transformation. Kālidāsā, a mentally
challenged shepherd, is married to Vidyottamā, a learned princess,
through a conspiracy. On discovering that she has been tricked,
Vidyottamā banishes Kālidāsa, asking him to acquire scholarship and
fame if he desires to continue their relationship. She further
stipulates that on his return he will have to answer the question,
Asti Kashchid Vāgarthah" ("Is there anything special in
expression?"), to her satisfaction. In due course,
knowledge and fame as a poet.
Kālidāsa begins Kumārsambhava,
Meghaduta with the words Asti ("there is"), Kashchit
("something") and Vāgarthah ("spoken word and its meaning").
Bishnupada Bhattacharya's "Kalidas o Robindronath" is a comparative
study of Kalidasa and the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Ashadh Ka Ek Din is a play based on fictionalized elements of Kalidasa
Kalidasa has had great influence on several
Sanskrit works, on all
Indian literature.[full citation needed][clarification needed] He
also had a great impact on Rabindranath Tagore. The Meghadutam's
romanticism is found in Tagore's poems on the monsoons.[citation
Sanskrit plays by Kalidasa influenced late eighteenth and
early nineteenth-century European literature. According to Dale
Carnegie, Father of Modern Medicine
Sir William Osler
Sir William Osler always kept on
his desk a poem written by Kalidasa.[full citation needed]
Miller, Barbara Stoler, ed. Theater of Memory: The Plays of Kalidasa.
NY: Columbia University Press, 1984.
K. D. Sethna. Problems of Ancient India, p. 79-120 (chapter: "The
Time of Kalidasa"), 2000 New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
ISBN 81-7742-026-7 (about the dating of Kalidasa)
V. Venkatachalam. Fresh light on Kalidasa's historical perspective,
Special Number (X), The Vikram, 1967, pp. 130–140.
^ "Kalidasa - Kalidasa Biography - Poem Hunter". www.poemhunter.com.
Kālidāsa (2001). The Recognition of Sakuntala: A Play In Seven
Acts. Oxford University Press. pp. ix.
^ Kalidasa at Encyclopædia Britannica
^ Pollock, Sheldon, ed. (2003). Literary Cultures in History:
Reconstructions from South Asia. p. 79.
^ Ram Gopal p.3
^ P. N. K. Bamzai (1 January 1994). Culture and Political History of
Kashmir. 1. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. pp. 261–262.
^ M. K. Kaw (1 January 2004).
Kashmir and It's People: Studies in the
Evolution of Kashmiri Society. APH Publishing. p. 388.
^ "About Kalidasa". Kalidasa Academi. Archived from the original on 28
July 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
^ a b Chandra Rajan (2005). The Loom Of Time. Penguin UK.
Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi
Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi and Narayan Raghunath Navlekar (1969).
Kālidāsa; Date, Life, and Works. Popular Prakashan.
^ Ram Gopal. p.14
^ C. R. Devadhar (1999). Works of Kālidāsa. 1. Motilal Banarsidass.
pp. vii–viii. ISBN 9788120800236.
^ Gaurīnātha Śāstrī 1987, pp. 77–78
^ Ram Gopal p.8
^ Gaurīnātha Śā ihihhistrī 1987, p. 80
^ a b M. Srinivasachariar (1974). History of Classical Sanskrit
Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 112–114.
^ K. Krishnamoorthy (1994). Eng Kalindi Charan Panigrahi. Sahitya
Akademi. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-81-7201-688-3.
^ Kalidas, Encyclopedia Americana
^ a b c Kalidasa Translations of Shakuntala, and Other Works. J. M.
Dent & sons, Limited. 1920-01-01.
^ Schuyler, Jr., Montgomery (1901). "The Editions and Translations of
Çakuntalā". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 22: 237–248.
doi:10.2307/592432. JSTOR 592432.
^ Schuyler, Jr., Montgomery (1902). "Bibliography of Kālidāsa's
Mālavikāgnimitra and Vikramorvaçī". Journal of the American
Oriental Society. 23: 93–101. doi:10.2307/592384.
^ Gaurinath Shastri. p.2
^ Dominic Goodall and Harunaga Isaacson, The Raghupañcikā of
Vallabhadeva, Volume 1, Groningen, Egbert Forsten, 2004.
^ Maurice Winternitz and Subhadra Jha, History of Indian Literature
^ Maurice Winternitz; Moriz Winternitz (1 January 2008). History of
Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 238.
^ Kavirathna Kalidasa (1983) Kannada Film at IMDb
^ Mahakavi Kalidasu, 1960 Telugu film at IMDb.
^ Ram Gopal. P 8
^ "Translations of
Shakuntala and Other Works - Online Library of
Liberty". oll.libertyfund.org. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
^ How To Stop Worrying And Start Living By Dale Carnegie
Ṛtusaṃhāra was translated into Tamil by Muhandiram T. Sathasiva
^ It was later published as the third volume of the 13-volume Columbia
University Indo-Iranian Series, published by the Columbia University
Press in 1901-32 and edited by A. V. Williams Jackson
Raghavan, V. (January–March 1968). "A Bibliography of translations
of Kalidasa's works in Indian Languages". Indian Literature. 11 (1):
5–35. JSTOR 23329605.
Gaurīnātha Śāstrī (1987). A Concise History of Classical Sanskrit
Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
Ram Gopal (1 January 1984). Kālidāsa: His Art and Culture. Concept
Find more aboutKālidāsaat's sister projects
Media from Wikimedia Commons
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Data from Wikidata
Kalidasa at Encyclopædia Britannica
Kalidasa: Translations of
Shakuntala and Other Works by Arthur W.
Biography of Kalidasa
Works by Kalidasa at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Kālidāsa at Internet Archive
Sanskrit Library publishes classical Indian literature, including
the works of Kalidasa with
Sanskrit facing-page text and translation.
Also offers searchable corpus and downloadable materials.
Kalidasa at The Online Library of Liberty
Kālidāsa on IMDb
Epigraphical Echoes of Kalidasa
Works by Kālidāsa
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