The Info List - Kalidasa

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KāLIDāSA ( Sanskrit
: कालिदासः) was a Classical Sanskrit
writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit
language. His plays and poetry are primarily based on the Indian Puranas

Much about his life is unknown, only what can be inferred from his poetry and plays. His floruit cannot be dated with precision, but most likely falls within the 5th century CE.


* 1 Early life

* 1.1 Period * 1.2 Theory of multiple Kalidasas

* 2 Works

* 2.1 Plays

* 2.2 Poems

* 2.2.1 Epics * 2.2.2 Minor poems * 2.2.3 Translations

* 3 Later culture * 4 Influences * 5 Further reading * 6 See also * 7 References * 8 Notes * 9 Citations * 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: tarns , glades etc. * 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 poetry to become a great poet. Another legend states that he visited Kumaradasa , the king of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
formerly known as Ceylon and, because of some treachery, Kalidasa was murdered there.


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 CE).

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 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. 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 Karnataka


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 of Kavi-Kalpa-Lata), Rajashekhara and Abhinanda. Sastri lists the works of these three Kalidasas as follows:

* Kalidasa alias Matrigupta, author of Setu-Bandha and three plays ( Abhijñānaśākuntalam , Mālavikāgnimitram and Vikramōrvaśīyam ). * Kalidasa alias Medharudra, author of Kumārasambhava , Meghadūta and Raghuvaṃśa
. * 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), Kalidasa Akbariya (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 respectively.



Kālidāsa wrote three plays. Among them, Abhijñānaśākuntalam ("Of 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 (1848-1906).

* 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 Raghu") and 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.

Minor Poems

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. * His Elegiac poem: Kālidāsa created his own genre of poetry with his poem Meghadūta or Meghasāndesa,(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". 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 Vallabhadeva. Eminent Sanskrit
poets like Bāṇabhaṭṭa , Jayadeva
and 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.

Kālidāsa's 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. —  Goethe

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
Camille Claudel
's sculpture Shakuntala.

Koodiyattam artist and Natya Shastra
Natya Shastra
scholar Māni Mādhava Chākyār (1899–1990) choreographed and performed popular Kālidāsā plays including Abhijñānaśākuntala, Vikramorvaśīya and Mālavikāgnimitra.

The Kannada films Mahakavi Kalidasa (1955), featuring Honnappa Bagavatar, B. Sarojadevi and later Kaviratna Kalidasa
Kaviratna Kalidasa
(1983), featuring Rajkumar and Jayaprada
, were based on the life of Kālidāsa. Kaviratna Kalidasa
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 Thilagam Sivaji Ganesan
Sivaji Ganesan
played the part of the poet himself. Mahakavi Kalidasu (Telugu, 1960) featuring Akkineni Nageswara Rao
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 that Kālidāsa was mentally challenged at one time and that his wife was responsible for his transformation. Kālidāsā, a mentally challenged Shepard, 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, Kālidāsa attains knowledge and fame as a poet. Kālidāsa begins Kumārsambhava, Raghuvaṃśa
and 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
Rabindranath Tagore

Ashadh Ka Ek Din is a play based on fictionalized elements of Kalidasa life.


Kalidasa has had great influence on several Sanskrit
works, on all Indian literature. He also had a great impact on Rabindranath Tagore . The Meghadutam's romanticism is found in Tagore's poems on the monsoons. Sanskrit
plays by Kalidasa influenced late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century European literature. According to Dale Carnegie , Father of Modern Medicine Sir William Osler always kept on his desk a poem written by Kalidasa.


* 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, Kalidasa Special
Number (X), The Vikram, 1967, pp. 130–140.


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* ^ "Kalidasa - Kalidasa Biography - Poem Hunter". www.poemhunter.com. Retrieved 2015-10-05. * ^ Kālidāsa (2001). The Recognition of Sakuntala: A Play In Seven Acts. Oxford University Press. pp. ix. * ^ Encyclopædia Britannica . "Kalidasa (Indian author)". * ^ 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. ISBN 978-81-85880-31-0 . * ^ M. K. Kaw (1 January 2004). Kashmir
and It\'s People: Studies in the Evolution of Kashmiri Society. APH Publishing. p. 388. ISBN 978-81-7648-537-1 . * ^ "About Kalidasa". Kalidasa Academi. Retrieved 30 December 2015.

* ^ A B Chandra Rajan (2005). The Loom Of Time. Penguin UK. pp. 268–274. * ^ Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi and Narayan Raghunath Navlekar (1969). Kālidāsa; Date, Life, and Works. Popular Prakashan. pp. 1–35. * ^ 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. ISBN 9788120802841 . * ^ K. Krishnamoorthy (1994). Eng Kalindi Charan Panigrahi. Sahitya Akad