Kalidasa: An Introduction
Kalidasa is a Classical Sanskrit author of the 5th century CE. He is considered the greatest playwright and poet of Ancient India. He is the archetype for Sanskrit literary world. He is acknowledged as the Kavi Kulguru in Indian Literature.
Little is known about Kalidasa as a person. The meaning of his name is the devotee of Kali, the goddess. Kalidasa is known as one of the nine gems at the court of the fabulous and legendary king Vikramaditya of Ujjain. His plays and poetry are primarily based on the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. His notable works are Abhijnanashakuntala (The Recognition of Shakuntala), Kumarasambhava (Birth of the War God), Malavikagnimitra (Malavika and Agnimitra), Meghaduta (Cloud Messenger), Raghuvamsha (Dynasty of Raghu), Ritusamhara (The Garland of the Seasons) and Vikramorvashi (Urvashi Won by Valour).
Abhijnanashakuntala is a beautiful play in seven acts by Kalidasa. Here the story of Shakuntala of the Mahabharata has been dramatized. This composition is regarded as the best composition by Kalidasa. In the plot of this play King Duṣyanta and Shakuntala meet in the forest and get united. Sir William Jones translated this play into English in 1789. It was the first Indian play that was translated into a western language. Now its translation in various languages of the world is available. Kumarasambhava is an epic poem by Kalidasa. It deals with the birth of Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati. This composition is full of sringara rasa. Malavikagnimitra is a beautiful play in five acts by Kalidasa. It deals with the story of love between Agnimitra and Malavika. Agnimitra was a Shunga emperor at Vidisha and Malavika was an exiled servant girl. Meghaduta is a lyric poem. Here a banished Yaksha conveys his message of love to his wife through a cloud. Raghuvamsha is an epic poem. It narrates the stories related to the Raghu dynasty. Ritusamhara deals with all the six Indian seasons – Summer season, Rainy season, Autumn, Hemanta, Winter and Spring season. Vikramorvashi is a five-act play. It is a love story of King Piruravas and a celestial nymph named Urvashi. Its theme is the love of a mortal for a divine maiden.
The writing style of Kalidasa is appreciable. His compositions are based on the Dharma, Purana, Veda, Philosophy, Astrology and Upanishads. He has used different literary devices like, Rasa, Metre, scientific language and Alamkara. He has used Rasa in his writing style. Various Rasas like Sringar, Kruna, Veera, Hasya, Shanta, and Vibhatsa find fantastic expression in his compositions. Metre has a great importance in his compositions. He has used different types of metres for different situations. This great author has full mastery over language. His language is simple and sweet. Kalidasa appears as an expert in the use of alamkara. He has beautifully used various types of alamkara. His use of artha alamkara is appreciated by the readers and scholars. In short, it can be said the writing style of Kalidasa is unique.
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