Friday 5 August 2011


Kalidasa Charitram
To anybody born in this country, to whichever region he may belongs, Kalidasa immediately strikes a vibrant emotional chord. Since the last 16 centuries, Kalidasa the incomparable poet, has been a household name among people who had even the least interest for poetry. His works have been translated into most major languages of India. He was acclaimed as one of the “nine gems” – Navarathnas in the court of Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya, during the heydays of Gupta dynasty, considered by historians as the most splendid chapter in ancient India.
It appears that Kalidasa was born as a Brahmin and became a ‘Vidwan’ during his adolescence. He was a Shiva bhaktha. However, as ill luck could have it, he incurred the wrath of a yogi, whom he insulted, apparently for a grammatical error. The yogi cursed the impertinent youth that he would forget all that he has learnt and would henceforth behave like an imbecile. Immediately thereon, Kalidasa begged for pardon. The yogi’s heart melted and he foretold that the hitherto young scholar, would regain his former stature, after obtaining the grace of Goddess Kali.
As a result of the curse, the youth lost his intelligence and became a lowly shepherd tending goats in the wilderness. However, he was very handsome.
 During that time, a very rich chieftain was looking for a bridegroom for his very accomplished and beautiful daughter. However, the daughter stipulated that she will marry only a person who could defeat her in debate.
Many prospective grooms tried, but on getting defeated had to return disappointed. Finally the trickle of suitors also stopped. The courtiers, who were assigned the work of procuring grooms, became very much vexed and they hatched a plan to get the girl married to a dunce as poetic justice.
Their search for an idiot culminated in finding an inveterate fool, up above a tree branch, cutting below where he was perched, not understanding that he would fall along with the branch. The courtiers caught hold of him, decked him in fine attire and in the company of a few scholars, sent him to the court. He walked through the corridor where the paintings of legendary Kings were displayed. Among them was the picture of Ravana.
Kalidasa on seeing the painting exclaimed ‘hey Rabhana’. The princess who was present there immediately found fault with him and corrected him to say ‘Ravana’. Immediately the scholars accompanying the youth objected quoting that the brother of Ravana were Kumbhakarna and Vibheeshana and hence the name of the eldest of them should have been Rabhana and not Ravana. Thus defeated, the princess was compelled to marry the ignoramus.
In the nuptial chamber the princess easily found out that the handsome youth was really a dunce and hence he was unceremoniously banished from her house.
In desperation the bridegroom loitered in the nearby jungle at night and reached a Kali temple. Because of his early good ‘samskara’, he was persuaded to go inside the temple. The goddess was on her nocturnal rounds. Kalidasa bolted the entrance from inside and awaited the return of Kali. Finding the doors closed she demanded ‘Who is inside?”. Kalidasa retorted saying “Who is outside?.” The Goddess answered “Kali outside” and pat came the reply “Her dasa inside”.
This announcement pleased Kali and she directed her ‘Dasa’ to put out his tongue through a narrow opening on the door. The Goddess scribbled a few ‘mantraksharas’ on his tongue, which immediately transformed the idiot into an unparrelled scholar and poet. The youth acquired the name Kalidasa from then on.
Kalidasa returned to his wife. She could find out on conversing with him that a great change had come about on her husband. She exclaimed Asti, Kaschi, Vagvilasa, meaning how come this wonderful speech.
However, Kalidasa refused to stay with his wife and went away. But to honour the words of his most scholarly wife, he composed three great Mahakavyas beginning with the words with which she had addressed him. Thus Kumara Sambhavam starting with Asti, Megha Sandesam commencing with Kaschi to and Raghuvamsam beginning with Vaagartha were composed by him. Soon the poet joined the court of Vikramaditya known as Bhoja Raja, who treated Kalidasa as his closest friend.
After he wrote Megha Sandesham, a message from a Yaksha to his wife, wherein he has given free flow of his poetic fantasy, Kalidasa met a Yaksha in person who affirmed that what the poet wrote was a true story pertaining to him and wondered how Kalidasa knew all the details. This was proof of his inner knowledge or jnana drishthi.
The poetic genius of Kalidasa was such that he had the miraculous power by which whatever he uttered would come true. Once, unfortunately, after a tiff, Kalidasa was banished from the kingdom. After a few months the king regretted this slip and was bent upon tracing the poet who was living incognito. Vikramaditya in the guise of a mendicant finally caught up with Kalidasa in an unknown hideout.
 Kalidasa enquired of the sadhu, who was coming from Ujjain about the king to which he replied that the king was dead. Immediately Kalidasa uttered a sloka “The great scholar that was the former Bhoja Raja has gone to heaven.” The king at once actually fell dead.
Now the great poet knew that the person was none other than Vikramaditya. Immediately Kalidasa changed the stanza and sang “Bhoja Raja is born on earth”.
Instantly, the king regained consciousness and the companions happily returned to the capital.
Kalidasa immortalised himself with his immortal ‘Natakas’ (dramas) Sakuntalam, Malavakagnimitram, and Vikramorvasiyam.
Incidentally, the great astronomer Varahamihira was his companion in Vikramaditya’s court.
The luster shed by the dazzling duo of the kings court was such that historians proclaim that Vikramaditya’s reign was undoubtedly the best period in the long history of Bharat Varsha in terms of prosperity, scholarly excellence and administrative brilliance.
Article by : P. Ramdas Thampuran
Source: Bhavan's Journal 30 June 2008
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