Day 4, Session 1
Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh and Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj
Dr. Ganesh started out by mentioning about the all-pervading influence of Vyasa, Valmiki, and Kalidasa on all aspects of Indian life and culture. While the story of the Ramayana moves in a longitudinal manner, from North to South and back to the North, the story of the Mahabharata moves in a latitudinal manner, from East to the West. Thus in the movements of Rama and Krishna, all corners of India have been covered. And Kalidasa connects all these in his writings.
Angeerasa and Bhrgu are two great sages and their lineage consists of the Aangeerasas and the Bhaargavas. Angeerasa’s son was Brihaspati, the spiritual mentor of the devas while Bhrgu’s son was Shukra, the spiritual mentor of the asuras. These two great lineages—the Aangeerasas and the Bhaargavas—have contributed immensely to the Indian ethos. While the Aangeerasas mostly travelled by land and were centered around the Himalayas, the Bhaargavas travelled mostly by sea and were centered around Baruch and Mahishmati.
The ancient Indian conception of space and time were unique and path-breaking. They celebrated space in the form of tirthas and kshetras. They celebrated time in the form of vratas, utsavas, and parvas. In the words varsha (rain, land) and tala (measurement of distance, measurement of rhythm) they found a convergence of space and time – while the former is connected with nature, the latter is connected with culture.
In sacred spaces of nature, the holy rivers represented gati (that which is continuous) and the holy mountains representation sthiti (that which is constant).
Even the common man connects with Vyasa, Valmiki, and Kalidasa through the various pilgrimage centers and the multitude of festivals. The birth of Rama and Krishna are celebrated with such gusto in every home.
Rama was born on the ninth day—navami—of the lunar month of Chaitra, in the bright half—shukla paksha—of the month, during the day time. It was the season of spring. It was uttarayana, the bright half of the year. His birth was at such an auspicious time, filled with brightness.
Krishna was born on the eighth day—ashtami—of the lunar month of Shravana, in the dark half—krishna paksha—of the month, during midnight. It was the season of rain. It was dakshinayana, the dark half of the year. His birth was in such darkness that his inner light had to brighten everything.
Apart from the birthdays of Rama and Krishna, several other festivals have come to us from these great works: Vijayadashami, Deepavali, Gita Jayanti, Holi, Hanumad Jayanti, etc. The birthdays of Vyasa is celebrated on Guru purnima, Valmiki on Ashvayuja purnima, and Kalidasa on Utthanadvadashi.
Dr. Ganesh mentioned that we can avoid imitating the West and use our own festivals for celebrating mother’s day, father’s day, etc. He said that Holi is such a good replacement for Valentine’s day. Vata-savitri-vrata can be wife’s day, Svarnagowri Vrata can be mother’s day, Bhimana amavasya can be husband’s day, and so on.
If we lose connection with Vyasa-Valmiki-Kalidasa, we lose all our festivals and pilgrimages – we can celebrate neither time nor space.
To demonstrate how the themes and values of the three great poets have come into common parlance thanks to several of our saint-poets, Dr. Ganesh invited Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj to sing some of the compositions based on the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the works of Kalidasa. This was an extension of the previous evening’s concert, which was also centered around the themes from these works.
Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj mellifluously rendered several classical and film songs that have captured the essence of these literary giants. The highlight of the performance was a shodasha yugala ragamalika and dhaivata sammohanam – both composed by Dr. Ganesh.
Day 4, Session 2: Meghadutam
Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh
Kalidasa, an orchidaceous poet, satisfies all the five senses, just like a flower does – its colour is a treat to the eyes, its fragrance a joy to the nose, its petal so tender to touch, its honey so sweet to taste, and its silent movement peppered by the buzzing of the bumbling bees are music to the ears.
Dr. Ganesh mentioned that in our tradition, kaama (desire) is treated as the first creation. Without desire, the world would not move. It is therefore also called sankalpa-yoni. When desires are uncontrolled, they fall under the purview of the arishadvarga but when they are tempered, they become a purushartha. The adhikaari-bheda is the spirit of Sanatana Dharma – people have to act as per their temperament, their svadharma. This is precisely what Krishna says in the Gita: यो यो यां यां तनुं भक्तः श्रद्धयार्पियुमिच्छति.
Kalidasa lived in the golden age of the Guptas, the time of an Indian cultural renaissance, which culminated in Shankara. Kalidasa is the vishwarupadarshana of the Gupta period. He is one of those rare poets with krishna-prajna – the Krishna-awareness.
Meghadutam is a short poem of less than a hundred and twenty five verses in the Mandakranta poetic meter. While every single verse connects to the rain cloud, the motif of the poem, not a single verse is superfluous and the work is far from preachy. Even the most ardent diggers for social message will not find anything remotely connected with upadesha. It is pure poetry. A perfect lyrical poem.
The story is quite straightforward: Yaksha, a demigod, is cursed by Kubera, the lord of demigods, to go away from his beloved. Yaksha is promptly transported to Ramagiri in Madhya Pradesh. He wants to send a love message to his beloved, residing in Alakavati in the foothills of the Himalayas. So he requests the cloud to pass on his message.
It is a poetic tradition in Sanskrit that the roaring of the clouds will remind a lover of his lost love. Kalidasa spins this upon its head by making the Yaksha ask the cloud to pass on his message. When the cloud reaches Alakavati and roars, it will not pain Yakshi but instead will give her the message of her lover. Dr. Ganesh remarked that it was akin to making a naughty boy the class monitor, thus making him spend all his energies in taking care of the unruly class!
In the Rtusamharam, an early work of Kalidasa, he experimented with having space as constant (stithi) and time as variable (gati) – the entire poem happens in the same place, the Malava province but traverses a whole year with the six seasons. In the Meghadutam, he reverses this. Space is variable while time is a constant. The entire poem takes places during one season but spread over a vast landscape.
The Meghadutam is set in the rainy season. It is an important time for all people – the farmers are ready to sow the seeds, the merchants are ready to embark on travel by land and sea, the warriors are preparing for battle (which often took place in autumn or winter), and the scholars are mostly confined to indoors with their studies and rituals. This is also the season that finds a beautiful reciprocation by animals and birds. It’s heart-warming to see in this work that the lovelorn Yaksha, in spite of all his distress, never forgets the beauty of nature.
The Meghadutam has several connotations. Not only is Kalidasa using a new poetic technique, he has captured in poetry so many various shastras and sciences. His close observation of nature coupled with his deep knowledge of astronomy and other branches of learning is sublimated by his experience to create pure art. It is so typical of our ancient seers to observe everything closely – that was verily their tapasya. They were able to preserve and propagate knowledge by means of an unbroken oral tradition. We have to be ever grateful to so many millennia of collective consciousness.
Dr. Ganesh said, “I never feel that Kalidasa or Vyasa or Valmiki are far away from me. I think of them as my friends, who are sitting beside me, sharing a verse, showing me something beautiful, and giving me pure joy filled with rasa. This is the reason we don’t say ‘the Late Kalidasa’ or ‘divangata Vyasa.’ They are forever with us!”
Day 4, Session 3: Discussion
Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh
This session was dedicated to a discussion and a Q&A – questions from the participants, answers by Dr. Ganesh. A few notable questions and answers are presented here:
- Why the title of Kalidasa’s epic ‘Kumarasambhavam’ when it doesn’t include the birth of Subrahmanya?
- The word ‘kumara’ is a reference to Skanda and the word ‘sambhavam’ has two meanings – birth and possibility. Although it doesn’t talk about the birth of Skanda per se, it deals with the possibility of a great hero, the general of the army of the gods, and thus the name.
- You mentioned in your talk yesterday about how Shiva-Rama-Krishna are ideals at the individual, familial, and societal levels. We find some difference in their characters itself – how do we resolve this dichotomy when we try to bring this ideal into our life?
- Shiva is a symbol, a concept. He can apply to all three realms, for he is an ideal. He is not a real person – he has no parents, no siblings, no friends. He is self-sufficient at the highest level. As for Rama and Krishna, they were historical figures and so I suggested looking at them as ideals for family and for society. Of course these are not water-tight compartments but a broad classification. For instance, Krishna’s family life was a disaster while his social life was excellent. While Rama’s social life was in shambles, his family life was great. Even in his absence, his twin sons grew up to be such worthy successors to him. On the other hand, Krishna’s children were wayward and rouge-like. In general, we must remember that ideals are for people who act, just like armours are for people who fight. If we don’t act, then ideals become illusions.
- Can you shed some light on Draupadi marrying five brothers.
- This act of polyandry is quite rare even in the time of the Mahabharata. However, in some regions, particularly the Garhwal district in Uttaranchal, we find such practices even today. From those ancient times, some societies and clans followed this practice. The Pandavas hailed from such a place and particularly Kunti felt strongly about this, for she wanted her sons to be united. And Draupadi was a strong woman who could manage her five husbands very well.
Dr. Ganesh said in his concluding remarks that Ramayana is sthiti of dharma and Mahabharata is the gati of dharma.
Day 4, Session 4: Kumarasambhavam
Arjun had spoken in the previous session about how Dakshayini after her sacrificial death in the Daksha-yajna was reborn as the daughter of the parvata-raja. Narada had predicted even when Parvati was a young girl that she would ultimate become one with Hara by winning him over by her Love and sharing half of his body.
While the first canto is at the personal level of Shiva and Parvati, the second canto is at the global level. The parents of the world – Parvati and Parameshvara – are separated and the people of the world have become orphaned. There is chaos everywhere and the cosmic order (rta) has been destroyed. Indra and other deities go to Brahma, the creator. They praise him in fitting words that are rich in sound and sense and happen to be the very qualities of Brahma. Indra requests Brihaspati, his Guru, to narrate their woeful tale to Brahma.
The demon Taraka has taken over all the worlds – everything that was formerly public property, be it the sun or moon or wind, have become his private property. “We need the kshaatra to destroy Taraka!” they ask of Brahma. It’s not a peaceful negotiation that they seek but a prayer for power to destroy evil. They want a general for their army – a commander-in-chief for the army of the gods to wage war against Taraka and exterminate him.
Brahma welcomes them and then asks them to go to Uma, who must unite with Shiva and give birth to a son who will be the chief of the army of gods. Indra immediately thinks that Manmatha (Cupid) will help him unite Shiva with Parvati. He makes the grave mistake of thinking that unity would happen merely at a physical level.
Manmatha is summoned by Indra. Even before his master can utter a word, Manmatha says, “Just order me,” and goes on to boast about his prowess. Finally he says that he is capable of uniting anyone and distracting anyone, even the great lord Pinakapani, Shiva and will destroy his courage too! That is precisely what Indra wants and he sends Manmatha on the mission, boosting his morale to the skies. Rati accompanies Manmatha to the place where Shiva is meditating.
Manmatha, the embodiment of desire goes along with Rati, who embodies enjoyment in the season of spring, which becomes the uddeepana-vibhaava, the external trigger for shringaara.
The rest of the episode was brilliantly brought out by Smt. Nirupama Rajendra in her dance performance in the evening, starting with the sojourn of Manmatha and ending with the success of Parvati’s penance. This opening item was called Atma-saundarya. It brought out the essence of the third and fifth canto of Kumaarasambhava of Kalidasa. The lyrics for the production were aptly adapted by Dr. R Ganesh for classical Bharatanritya.
Nirupama’s second item was a representation of the Kalinga-mardhana. The third item was a beautiful Vasanta-dohada in which Nirupama portrayed ten different trees and their feelings during the season of spring. The fourth item was a duet with Rajendra playing Rama and Nirupama playing Sita. It deals with the situation in the flower garden in Mithila where Sita is praying to Gauri for a good husband and Rama, along with Lakshmana, walks by in admiration of the garden. Their eyes meet, they fall in love and a dream sequence ensues. The concluding item, the pièce de résistance, was the Vimaanayaanam, a sublime duet taken from Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsham that deals with the travel from Lanka to Ayodhya on the Pushpaka Vimana.