There are several stories about life of Kalidasa, though none of them seems to be authentic. However, the most famous story about life of Kalidasa says that Kalidasa was an illiterate idiot and was a dumb fool to start with. A king’s daughter was a very learned lady and the story goes as she wanted to marry only a person who will defeat her in “Shastarthaa” (scriptural debate). However, if anyone is not able to defeat her, would be black faced and kicked out of the country.
The idea was enough to irk the Pundits. Nobody wanted to get his face blackened and sent out of the country, so these witty people took Kalidasa to her. These Pundits spotted Kalidasa cutting a branch of a tree on which he was sitting himself.
They told the princess that Kalidasa does only mute or symbolic debates. The debate started and the princess showed him one finger, which she meant that “Shakti is One“. However, Kalidasa took its meaning that she will poke his one eye and he showed him two fingers. The princess took this answer to be a valid one manifesting that Shakti is in duality (Shiva and Shakti).
Continuing the debate, princess showed her five fingers manifesting that there are 5 elements earth, water, fire, air, and void. Kalidasa manifested it as that she will slap him. So, in answer he showed her his Fist. The princess again took this as a valid answer as she manifested that all five elements combine and make the body or srusti.
Thus, she married with Kalidasa. But after marriage she came to know that it was a fraudulent marriage and thus kicked him out of the house. After this humiliation, Kalidasa straightaway went to Kali’s temple and dedicated himself to Kali. Goddess Kali was appeased and granted him profound wisdom and art and speaking ability. He returned home and his wife spoke these words:
asti kashchit vaag-vishesha
Which literally mean you are an expert now in speaking?
These three words spoken by his wife are the opening words of his three great works as follows:
- Asti : Kumarasambhavam starts with asti-uttarasyaam dishi
- kashchit : Meghdoot starts with kashchit kaantaa
- Vaag : Raghuvamsha starts with vaagarthaaviva
Please note that the above story may be neither historically correct nor there are any evidences to prove it. It goes as it is J, so no need to prove it.
Works of Kalidasa
Mālavikāgnimitram is the Sanskrit play, which depicts Agnimitra as its hero. Malvika is a maid servant whom Agnimitra falls in love. This was known to his chief queen, who imprisions her. Later it was known that Malvika was of a royal birth and she was accepted as queen of Agnimitra. Mālavikāgnimitram gives account of Rajsuya Yajna of Pushyamitra Shunga, father of Agnimitra.
Abhijñānaśākuntalam is a Sanskrit play which depicts the story of Dushyanta, king of Hastinapur, and Shakuntala, daughter of the sage Vishwamitra and the apsara Menaka.
Vikramōrvaśīyam is a Sanskrit Drama which depicts the love story of Puruvas a Vedic King and Urvashi. Puruvas is chosen to reflect the qualitites of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. Pururavas is a mythological entity representing Sun and Vikramaditya means the “Glory of Sun”.
Raghuvamśa is a Sanskrit epic poem that is a long (19 Sargas) narration of genealogy of Lord Rama’s Raghu Vamsa beginning with King Dileep up to Agnivarna.
Kumārasambhava is an epic poem which has 17 sirgs, ot of which only 8 are accepted as his authorship. Kumara or prince is Kartikeya and it refers to birth of Kartikeya, son of shiva and Parvati after a lot of Tapasya to win Shiva who had already won Kamdeva (God of Love). Kartikeya later killed Tarakasur demon who was blessed that he would not be killed by any other than son os Shiva and Parvati.
Ritusamhara is again a mini epic poem in Sanskrit which has 6 Sargas. These Sargas refer to 6 seaosns (Ritu) viz, Grisma (Summer) , varsha (Rains), Sharad (Autumn), Hemanta (Cool), Sisira (Winter) and Vasantha (Spring). It mentions the feelings, emotions and experiences of lovers in 6 seasons. Ritusamhara is considered to be the earliest work of Kalidasa.
Meghaduta means a messenger of Clouds. It’s a poem with 11 stanzas. The theme of Meghaduta is a Yaksha, who is subject of Lord Kubera (King of Wealth). His wife is waiting for him at Mount Kalidasa. Kubera at some place in central India exiled the Yaksha and he wishes to send his message to his wife. For that, he convinces a cloud to take his message and pass it on to his wife. The poem narrates about the beautiful sights and visual perceptions he would come across while going northwards to take this message to his wife.
The true beauty and grandeur of the literature in Gupta Era can be seen in the kavyas. The greatest among all the names is Kalidasa who lived in 4th century CE and was contemporary of Chandragupta II. His earliest production was Ritusamhara. But earliest drama was Malvikagnimitram. Meghaduta is pioneer Dutakavya in Sanskrit literature. Kumarasambhava and Raghuvamsa have the epic grandeur. Kumarasambhava deals with the union of Shiva and Parvati and birth of their son Kartikeya who destroyed Tarakasur.
Raghuvamsa described the life and career of 28 kings of Raghu Dynasty which included Rama. The Prakrit Poem Setubandha is believed to have been written/ revised by Kalidasa for king Pravarsena. Malvikagnimitra, Vikramovarshiyam and Abhijanan-Shakuntalam are three plays penned by Kalidasa. Please note that Kalidasa’s style was imitated by Ceylon King Kumaradasa, who has written Janakiharana. Kalidasa wrote Malvikagnimitra which accounts the celebration of Vasantotsava (Spring festival).