- (circa fourth or fifth century C.E.)Sanskrit poetKalidasa is considered one of the greatest SANSKRIT dramatists and poets.Little is known for certain about the life of the poet and dramatist Kalidasa. He appears to have lived in the time of the imperial GUPTAS, perhaps in central India, in what is now called Madhya pradesh. Three dramas are attributed to him: Malvikagnimitra, Vikramorvashiya, and Shakuntala.Malvikagnimitra begins as a story of political alliances toward the end of the Mauryan dynasty, but the political aspect is eventually equaled or overshadowed by the love affair between the princess Malvika and the prince Agnimitra. The drama Vikramovashiya tells how one of the celestial nymphs, or ASPARAS, Urvashi goes to live with her lover Pururavas thanks to his prowess or vikrama. It has been called a drama of “luster and brilliance” with no plot or real action. In the skeleton story the celestial nymph Urvashi falls in love with an earthly king, Pururavas. She loses her celestial status but is allowed to live with him. The play is graced with nature description, beautiful poetry, and supernatural effects.Abhijnanasakuntalam sometimes abbreviated to Shakuntala, is recognized as its author’s mas-terpiece. The heroine Shakuntala is the daughter of the celestial nymph Menaka and the sage Vish-vamitra. She is abandoned by her parents and is raised by the caring sage Kanva in his forest hermitage. The king Dushyanta finds the hermit-age and falls in love with the beautiful, simple maiden. In Kanva’s absence the lovers consum-mate a permitted “love marriage.” The king has to leave but gives Shakuntala his signet ring and promises to send someone for her in a few days.Shakuntala soon realizes that she is pregnant. While Shakuntala daydreams about her lover, the irascible sage DURVASAS visits; enraged at being ignored, the sage curses her that her lover will forget her. Shakuntala loses the king’s signet ring, her only proof of their meeting. She visits the king in her pregnancy, but he swears he has never seen her. Finally the ring is discovered in the belly of a fish and is taken to the king, who then remembers. Eventually the king flies back to the hermitage in a celestial chariot provided by INDRA and sees a boy playing there who he recognizes must be his son. The drama ends happily.Among Kalidasa’s great poems is Raghuvamsha, a look back at the dynasty of RAMA, the hero of the RAMAYANA. The poem describes the lives of all of the ancient progenitors of his line. He also wrote Kumarasambhava, a consummate masterpiece about SHIVA and PARVATI and their young son, Kumara. Another of his great works is Meghaduta (Cloud messenger), a charming poem about the God Kubera’s sending a message of consolation to his lover far away by means of a cloud messenger. Nature here is beauti-fully described. Finally, Ritusamhara, a short lyric uncertainly ascribed to Kalidasa, includes a beauti-ful description of the four seasons and the amorous moods appropriate to each.Further reading: Chittenoor Kuhan Raja, Survey of Sanskrit Literature (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1962); Moriz Winternitz, History of Indian Literature (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1964–67).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.