|Biographies of Great
Indians & Hindus
Who is this Kalidasa? When did he live and where in India was he residing? Much
discussion has taken place for a long time now about his life and times. Not many
queries on this score have elicited definite answers. Several legends have sprouted
around him. For instance, one story says that he was the son of a Brahmin and lost his
parents while he was a baby of six months. A cowherd brought him up; he had no schooling
of any sort. At that time, a king named Bheemashukla ruled over Kashi (Banaras). He wanted
his daughter Vasanti to marry Vararuchi, a scholar in his court. But she refused saying
she was herself a greater scholar than he was. Vararuchi was furious.
One day, the King's minister happened to see this cowherd-boy sitting atop a tree in a
forest and attempting to fell the tree by axing its roots. " What a fool! He should
be an ideal husband to Vasanti!" rethought and brought the boy to the capital. The
minister and Vararuchi instructed the boy not to say anything except 'Om Swask to any
questions put to him at the palace, dressed him up in elegant clothes and took him to the
royal presence. The boy was good-looking and they made Vasanti to believe that he was a
Vasanti married him and only later came to know of the truth. She was grief-stricken.
She was a devout worshipper of goddess Kali and taught her husband to worship her.
However, no amount of his devotional prayer could please the Goddess and finally, he vowed
to offer his life in sacrifice if She did not bless him. The goddess relented and
inscribed some letters on his tongue. He then became a great poet- scholar. Since goddess
Kali blessed him, he assumed the name of 'Kalidasa' (devotee of Kali).
This is one of the most popular legends about Kalidasa.
There are several other stories but they lack authenticity.
It appears Kalidasa was at the court of emperor Vikramaditya. The place and time of this
king are also not definite. But it can be said with some certainty that Kalidasa lived
before the 6th century A.D., i.e., about 1400 years ago. But when exactly he lived before
the 6th century is not firmly established. Though a deep affection for the city of Ujjain
is discernible in his works, it cannot be said with certainty that he lived there. But we
can assume that, wherever he may have been born, he had lived at Ujjain.
Kalidasa, however, had good knowledge of the whole of Bharat. In his poem
'Meghaduta', his descriptions of mountains and rivers and cities and villages stretching
from Ramagiri in Central India up to Alakanagari in the Himalayas are very beautiful. In
another epic poem 'Raghuvamsha', Kalidasa, while portraying the conquests of emperor
Raghu, describes the places and peoples, their modes of living, food-habits and trades
and professions, rivers and mountains in almost the whole country -- Assam, Bengal and
Utkal in the East; Pandya and Kerala in the South and Sind, Gandhara and other places in
Reading these pen-pictures, one cannot help but conclude that the poet must have had a
personal knowledge of these areas. In short, he must have traveled widely across the
length and breadth of the land, seen those places, talked to the people and studied their
modes of living.
Kalidasa possessed that distinct intellect which makes one a great poet. He was a
scholar and his works display his poetic genius as well as scholarship. Also they are
marked by a belief of what is good in life and people's noble goals of life. He could
describe the rich and wealthy life of a royal palace and the serene, simple and peaceful
life at a hermitage with equal understanding. He could, likewise, describe the joys of the
marital life of a man and his spouse as well as their pangs of separation. He creates
scenes of a serious and thoughtful nature as also hilarious scenes of light comedy. In his
works is found an excellent combination of art-consciousness, unmatched wordpower and an
unparalleled capacity for vivid portrayals.
Kalidasa wrote seven works. 'Kumarasambhava' and 'Raghuvamsha'are his two epic poems.
'Malavikagnimitra', 'Vikramorvashiya' and 'Abhijnana Shakuntala' are his celebrated plays.
'Meghaduta' and 'Ritusamhara' are also poetical works of great distinction.
[ Back ] [ Up ] [ Next ]