Kālidāsa’s Influence

This article is part 9 of 9 in the series Kalidasa

Kālidāsa and Other Arts

From his works, it is clear that Kālidāsa had extensive knowledge of dance, music and painting. His knowledge of dance can be estimated from his play Mālavikāgnimitram. At the very beginning, he makes his famous remark about the stage.

नाट्यं भिन्नरुचेर्जनस्य बहुधाप्येकं समाराधनम् |
The stage is a one-stop entertainment solution for people of varied tastes and orientations.

Elsewhere in the same play, we get to know his intimate knowledge of dance and his astute observations about it. Similarly, his knowledge of music and painting is found scattered across his works. We also see a close correlation between his works and some of the surviving sculptures from the Gupta Golden Age. For example, the Deogarh Daśāvatāra temple has a relief sculpture depicting Lord Viṣṇu sleeping on his serpent Ādiśeṣa. It is identical to the description of Lord Viṣṇu in the tenth chapter of Raghuvaṃśam. Also, depictions of the marriage of Lord Śiva with Goddess Pārvatī can be found in the caves of Ellora and Elephanta. They have all been based on the mythology created by Kālidāsa in Kumārasambhavam. The ornate detail of the sculptures correlate well with the ornate nature of Kālidāsa’s poetry.

Quantitative Contributions of Kālidāsa

The contributions of Kālidāsa to literature in general are massive. Apart from the inestimable qualitative value of his seven works, there are many quantitative things in which he excelled. He was the first poet to write a complete work devoted to describing the seasons, the Ṛtusaṃhāram. His other short lyrical poem Meghadūtam became so popular that innumerable imitations of it have appeared. Only the messengers change. He has probably invented or perfected at least three poetic meters – Mandākrānta (in Meghadūtam), Drutavilambita (in Raghuvaṃśam) and Rathoddata (in Kumārasambhavam and Raghuvaṃśam). He was probably the first poet to write a suprabhātam of any kind. We see it in the fifth chapter of Raghuvaṃśam where it is dedicated to King Aja. It became so popular that most of the subsequent suprabhātam poems were composed in the same meter in which Kālidāsa had composed his – Vasantatilaka. Further, he is the first one to describe a svayaṃvara in detail. We see it during Indumati’s svayaṃvara in the sixth canto of Raghuvaṃśam. He is also the first great exponent of ornate poetry.

Remembering Kālidāsa

Our tradition celebrates Utthāna-dvādaśi as the birthday of Kālidāsa. It is one of only two dates he has mentioned, the other being the first day of āṣāḍha. The government of India issued a commemorative stamp to honour him in 1960. The government of Madhya Pradesh has instituted the ‘Kalidas Samman’ award which is given away every year to great achievers in the fields of classical music, classical dance, theatre, and plastic arts.

However, probably the best way to remember him is to understand what he really was. In my view, he was the first great urban poet, but probably lived like a hermit in Ujjain during the high-glory days of the Gupta Golden Age. In other words, he was probably like those sages that were seen by King Duṣyanta in the hermitage of Sage Mārīca.

प्राणानामनिलेन वृत्तिरुचिता सत्कल्पवृक्षो वने
तोये काञ्चनपद्मरेणुकपिशे धर्माभिषेकक्रिया |
ध्यानं सत्नशिलातलेषु विबुधस्त्रीसन्निधौ संयमो
यत्काङ्क्षन्ति तपोभिरन्यमुनयस्तस्मिंस्तपस्यन्त्यमी ||
These sages perform penance under the all-giving divine Kalpavṛksa tree; in the fine waters embellished by the pollen grains of gold lotuses, they just take their ritual bath; they penance sitting on platforms made of diamond; and they retain their composure and dignity in the face of extreme temptations arising out of divine women; these sages are meditating in the place which is the object of all penance.

On this note, I shall retire, inviting you to enjoy the world of Kālidāsa in greater detail. I hope your journey would be as enjoyable as it has been to me.

Author(s)

About:

Vasuki is an electronics engineer and an IT professional. He is also a Sanskrit poet with a keen interest in Indian classical music and allied arts.

Prekshaa Publications

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...