'Malavikagnimitra' is Kalidasa's first play. The author shows his humility and is
uncertain whether people would accepts play. He pleads 'Puranamityeva Na sadhu
sarvam,Na chapikavyamnavamityavadyam' (Everything old is not good, nor is every thing knew
badly). There may be some thing, which may not be of much use in the old, and the
new may also be good. The theme of the play is the love-story of Agnimitra and Malavika.
Kalidasa's second play 'Vikramor -vashiya' is about the loves and
tribulations of king
Pururava and the heavenly damsel 'Urvashi'.
'Abhijnana Shakuntala' is Kalidasa's greatest creation. This literary masterpiece has been
translated into several languages around the world.
The story of Shakuntala appears in the 'Adiparva' chapter of the epicMahabharata.
King Dushyanta, whiles on a gaming expedition (safari), and arrives at the hermitage of
sage Kanva. The latter was away and his adopted daughter Shakuntala looks after the
distinguished guest's needs. Dushyanta, immediately on seeing her, is struck by her beauty
and offers to marry her. Shakuntala lays down a condition that the king should promise to
hand over the kingdom to the son born to her and Dushyanta agrees. They marry and spend
some happy days, after which the king returns to the capital. Shakuntala, in course of
time, gives birth to a son who is named Sarvadamana.
Six years pass and still Dushyanta does not send for his spouse and son. Sage Kanva
voluntarily decides to send Shakuntala to the nalace. When she arrives at Dushyanta's
abode, he refuses to recognize her. Shakuntala is grief- stricken. Then amidst her lament
a heavenly voice commands Dushyanta: "He is your son. Accept him." The
king then takes him in and the boy later comes to be renowned as Bharata.
Kalidasa weaves a great play basing on this Mahabharata theme. The first meeting of
Dushyanta and Shakuntala is a lively, 'colorful sequence in the play. Dushyanta, in the
course of his hunting
Expedition arrives at Kanva's hermitage and there in the garden he sees Shakuntala engaged
in watering the plants along with her maids. Mesmerized by her beauty, he desires to marry
her while Shakuntala also is deeply impressed by the sight of the royal dignitary. They
then marry in the 'Gandharva' style. The king returns to the capital while Shakuntala,
left behind does not directly ask for the king's promise to make her son the prince
consort to succeed him. It is supposed to be understood. After the king returns, sage
Durvasa comes to call on sage Kanva. The latter was away and Shakuntala was so lost in her
thoughts of king Dushyanta that the sage's words: " 1, a guest, have come" fell
on her deaf ears. The sage is enraged and always quick to anger, curses her: "May the
person about whom you are thinking forget you!" Later, he relents and says:
"When he sees an object, which he has given you and recognizes it, he will remember
Unfortunately, Shakuntala loses the ring given by Dushyanta who just forgets her.
Kanva sends Shakuntala, now pregnant, to the court of Dushyanta along with his
disciples. (Mahabharata pictures her child, about six now, who is very active.) Kalidasa
portrays the farewell of sage Kanva to Shakuntala very touchingly. The whole ashram is
plunged in sorrow. Kanva, Shakuntala's maids, all shed tears at departure; even the trees,
plants, and birds bow down with grief.
Upon her arrival, king Dushyanta cannot recognize Shankuntala. He even thinks it
improper to eye a damsel who is astranger to him. He could not believe that this woman is
his wife. The ring is lost on the way and Shankuntala, overcome with grief after being
rejected by Dushyanta, collapses and is then carried away by a divine light. After a few
days, the ring is found in the stomach of a fish and Dushyanta, upon seeing it, remembers
everything. He feels sad that he rejected Shakuntala. Later, on his way back from Heaven
where he had gone to assist Indra on an errand, he visits the hermitage of
Mareecha. There he sees a boy daringly attempting to bare the jaws of a lion's cub. On
inquiry, he learns that he is none other than his own son Sarvadamana.Dushyanta, his
consort and their son are happilyunited.
At the end of the play, one feels sad at the sufferings of Shakuntala and we are at a loss
as to whether we should blame Dushyanta or the 'Divine Power' for these happenings. In the
last act, we see Shakuntala wrapped in a very ordinary saree, but she is a picture of
grace and dignity. Though young in age, she speaks but a few words in a profound sense.
She is a real Tapaswini (one who wants to sacrifice life for eternal salvation). One
wonder at the manner in which she has transformed herself from a pleasure- seeking young
girl into a young woman imbued with a sense of total renunciation and service. Through
portraying scenes of Shakuntala's maids teasing her, sage Kanva's far-sightedness, the
King's paining for Shakuntalas love when she is away, Shakuntala's unsullied sense
of love, the divine grace which brought about the happy reunion, the playwright presents
before us a large canvas on which all the vicissitudes of life are touched upon.
'Meghaduta' is a beautiful love-lyric. A 'Yaksha', who is forced to be separated from his
mistress for a year, sends her a message. The lady is residing at Alakanagari. 'Go and
tell her that I told so', instructs the Yaksha to the cloud who becomes his messenger. The
very fact that a cloud ('Megha') is chosen to be a messenger of love is something unique.
The poet fascinatingly describes the travels of the cloud from Ramagiri to
Alakanagari. The rivers, hills and mountains, cities and towns, vast fields, farmers'
daughters as well as girls in the cities, the birds and the bees -- are all described by
the poet vividly. It is a total picture of a beautiful world. His descriptions of
Alakanagari, the Yaksha's house and the garden around, theYaksha's wife playing the Veena
and her grace and beauty are captivating.
'Ritusamhara' is a somewhat small-scale poetical creation depicting the six seasons.
However, it is equally appealing. The poet here sees beauty in everything. Each different
facet of nature he sees in each of the seasons fascinates him; it is a romantic sight.
In sum, it gives us great aesthetic pleasure to read Kalidasa's works. His descriptions
enthrall us. With him we are in the company-cultured a highly civilized, cultured
personality. It is like a flower which, in bloom, spreads its fragrance all around. And a
man's mature, ripened mind and intellect brings pleasure to those around him. In
Kalidasa's creations, we enter the world of people pure in mind and body and who are
graceful. We learn here the manner in which man's nature can reach high, moral levels. It
pleases us deeply to come into contact withcharacters like Parvati, Dileepa, Raghu, Aja,
Shakuntala, Dushyanta and Kanva. It is for this wonderful experience that we as well as
people in other countries read Kalidasa.