The Great indian Poet Kalidasa

The great Indian poet Kalidasa Among the ancient poets, Balmiki and Bedavas are next to the poet Kalidasa. Scholars of the East and the West have agreed on Kalidasa that the great poet Kalidasa is at the forefront of all the poets who have appeared on earth. Kalidasa’s writings have earned this glory. The biography of the great poet Kalidasa is discussed in Sanskrit literature.

The Great Indian Poet Kalidasa

Next to Valmiki and Veda Vyasa stands Kalidasa among others as the great Indian Sanskrit poet. Scholars of East and West have seen eye to eye on the fact that Kalidasa ranks in the very first line of the great poets so far produced in the world. Ryder, the American scholar, paid a glowing tribute to Kalidasa by saying thus:   ” …… Kalidasa ranks not with Anacreon and Horace and Shelley, but with Sophocles, Virgil, and Milton”.The oeuvre of Kalidasa deserves this glory. Here is a brief discussion on the life of Kalidasa and his wonderful contribution to Sanskrit literature.      

    Jawaharlal Nehru in his ‘Discovery of India’ praises Kalidasa as ” the greatest poet and dramatist of Sanskrit literature”. Nehru says, ” Europe first learned of the old Indian drama from Sir William Jones’s translation of Kalidasa’s ‘Shakuntala’, published in 1789……. Translation also appeared ( made from Sir William Jones’s translation ) in German, French, Danish, and Italian. Goethe was powerfully impressed and he paid a magnificent tribute to ‘Shakuntala’. The idea of giving a prologue to Faust is said to have originated from Kalidasa’s prologue, which was in accordance with the usual tradition of the Sanskrit drama “.       

The legend of the great poet Kalidasa

   One of the highest talented poets in Sanskrit literature is, beyond doubt, Kalidasa. He is for Sanskrit literature as Shakespeare for English and Tagore for  Bengali. The name ‘Kalidasa’ does not refer to a person only; it definitely represents a golden epoch of ancient Indian literature. But it is a matter of great regret that very little has so far been known about this great poet. So the people of subsequent ages have cooked up various stories about him. Then appear the ageless legends that fit him finely.

             As legend has it Kalidasa was a great fool at the first stage of his life. His wise wife, Vidyavati, would mock his foolishness. Insulted by his own wife, Kalidasa attempted to commit suicide. At this juncture, Kalidasa like the dacoit Ratnakar, it is said, received blessings from the goddess Kali or Saraswati. After that, the foolish Kalidasa turned out to be a Maha Kavi ( a great poet ).

The story of the foolish Kalidasa turning out to be a Maha Kavi ( a great poet ) :

In his childhood, Kalidasa lost his parents. Reared by a cowman, Kalidasa could not receive the formal education. He looked like a prince. So a beautiful princess married him. Tradition has it that the princess being much too disobedient the king decided to teach her a lesson by marrying her off to the uneducated foolish Kalidasa.

      Kalidasa was so silly that one day he was seen sawing a log of a tree on which he was actually sitting. Even scolded and taught by a traveler how to cut it, Kalidasa was unable to understand the matter. He did what he thought was good and fell down on the ground. The news got the air. 

       For this, he had to get an earful from his wife. Affronted by his wife, Kalidasa, in a fit of rage or anger, tried to commit suicide by drowning himself in water. But the goddess Kali ( in another view, Saraswati ) came to his rescue. Since then he, some say, started bearing the name ‘Kalidasa’ —- the data, i.e., the servant, of Kali. Today, there are thousands of rumors around him. Later he came out as the greatest poet and playwright of Sanskrit literature.

      Many Eastern and Western scholars after a great deal of discussion are still in a confusion about the actual time and date of the appearance of Kalidasa. So, Rabindranath Tagore wrote with regret :    “Hayre kabe kete gechhe Kalidaser kal”     Panditera vivad kare laye tarikh saal”.(Loosely translated thus: Alas, long gone is Kalidasa’s time,   Pundits still argue about the date and year.) 

Two prevailing opinions about the time (period) of Kalidasa

The great poet Kalidasa was born in the first century B. C. ( In the Kalidasa-composed play ‘Malavikaagnimitram’ the king Agnimitra of the sunga clan belongs to c. 185 to 48 B. C.)                       

     Kalidasa was born between the fourth and sixth century A.D.  He was supposed to be the court- poet of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II ( the time of reign: 375 A. D. to 415 A. D. ).

There are also various opinions about the time or life of Kalidasa:

  • 1. In a sloka ( the sloka no. 02) of the book  ‘Jyotivirdavaran ‘ which is generally attributed to Kalidasa, he ( Kalidasa ) has been mentioned as one of the nine gems ( Navaratna ) of the court of Vikramaditya. One group of scholars opines that the time of the appearance of Kalidasa is A. D. 57. According to them, Kalidasa appeared ( lived ) during the reign of the shakari Vikramaditya, the king of Ujjain, in first-century A. D. But, Varahamihir, one of the nine gems ( Navaratna ), belonged to the sixth century. Aamar Singh, too, appeared later. Therefore, ‘ Jyotivirdavaran ‘ was not at all composed by Kalidasa.
  • 2. Keith opines that Vikramaditya himself was Chandragupta II, the son of Samudragupta. Kalidasa’s play  Kumarsambhabam ‘ seems to be written about Kumar Gupta, the son of Chandragupta II. Samudragupta reigned from the last half of the fourth century A. D. to the first half of the fifth century A. D. Kalidasa was, therefore, the poet of that time. Kalidasa was the poet prior to Aswaghosa. Aswaghosa was the court poet of Kanishka. Kanishka belonged to the first century A. D. So, Kalidasa did not belong to that time.
  • 3. Kalidasa, in his play ‘Malavikagnimitra’, mentions the name of Vaas. If the period of Vaas is supposed to be in the third century A. D., that of Kalidasa falls in the fourth or fifth century A. D. Kalidasa, therefore, appears later.  Even the seventh-century prose writer Banbhatta has mentioned the name Kalidasa. So Kalidasa belonged to the period prior to Banbhatta.
  • 4. The name of Kalidasa is mentioned in the stone edict of Aihole of Pulokeshi II. The edict was written in A. D. 634 for the achievements of Jainism. This refers to Varavi as well. Varavi, the sixth-century poet, belongs to the subsequent period of Kalidasa, no doubt. So Kalidasa’s period was prior to that.
  • 5. Considering the nine gems theory, Karne and Bhanderkar said that Varahamihir and Kalidasa were contemporary with each other. The time of Varahamihir was A. D. 587. So, his friend Kalidasa existed in the sixth century A. D.  With various options about the period of Kalidasa, the glorious revival of the Indian culture took place in the Gupta era. The names of the Gupta kings Kalidasa has used in his writings directly or indirectly indicate that his appearance came off in the Gupta era.

The Birthplace of Kalidasa :   

 The scholars of the East and west are divided into opinions about the birthplace of Kalidasa. So the following are based on some assumptions :

  • 1. The enthusiasm with which Kalidasa has described the temple of  Mahakal, the river Shipra and the many places of Ujjain signals that he was a resident of Ujjain.
  • 2. Many judges his name that he was a Bengali. His birthplace was somewhere in Nabadwip of West Bengal.
  • 3. According to many thinkers, he was born in Kashmir because he is the only poet who has described the flower  ‘Jaffran’ which is only available in Kashmir.
  • 4. In the opinion of Haraprasad Sastry, he was born in the city of Sandasar of the ancient Malava kingdom.
  • 5. Many others think that the poet had deep relations with Ujjain, but his education and place of occupation were in Kashmir. And he penned all his oeuvre in Ujjain.

The literary style of Kalidasa’s works: 

  • 1. The prime glory of Kalidasa’s poetry lies in its suggestiveness. Without going into exaggeration he has expressed any idea through words only.
  •  2. Indian scholars generally term Kalidasa as ‘the Kalidasa of metaphor’. He is well-versed in using metaphors. Each and every metaphor is lucid and free of far-fetched ness. 
  • 3. One more quality of his literary style is his beautiful expertise in arranging words in order.
  • 4. Kalidasa’s power of description/delineation is absolutely unparalleled. 5. Kalidasa’s characterization is also unique. Every character adds both novelty and a special dimension.


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