Sunday, April 26, 2009

Celebrating ‘Meghdoot’!

O cloud, the parching spirit stirs thy pity;
My bride is far, through Royal wrath and might;
Bring her my message to the Yaksha city,
Rich-gardened Alaka, where radiance bright
From Shiva’s crescent bathes the palaces in light.

Learn first, O cloud, the road that thou must go,
Then hear my message ere thou speed away;
Before thee mountains rise and rivers flow:
When thou art weary, on the mountains stay,
And when exhausted, drink the rivers’ driven spray.

Thus began Yaksha in Mahakavi Kalidas’s immortal epic requesting Meghdoot (Cloud-Messenger) to take his message to his wife at Alakanagari, Yaksha’s hometown. Kalidas, the Sanskrit poet, lived in approx 100 BC era and has written many other classics. But ‘Meghdoot’ is, by far, the most renowned of his works earning him and Sanskrit literature fame the world over. The narrative in ‘Meghdoot’ begins on the first day of Aashädh (fourth month in Hindu calendar) and we celebrate this day in the legendary poet’s memory.

Meghdoot’ has been translated in many languages all over the world and late CD Deshmukh, Sanskrit-scholar, economist and the former Finance Minister of India, proudly wore his love for Kalidas’s poetry on his sleeve. The above lines have been taken from his translation of the epic. Renowned Marathi poets like BB Borkar, Shanta Shelke, Kusumagraj and Vasant Bapat have also translated ‘Meghdoot’ and those readers not fortunate enough to follow Sanskrit can enjoy the same fluency and intensity of the classic in Marathi.

Kalidas Din’ as a tradition holds importance for celebrating age-old classics in Indian tradition and is a day to proudly remember and venerate the creative minds that made them happen. A feature based on compilations from Marathi translations of 'Meghdoot' specially recorded for AIR Nashik FM a few years back is also available for your listening pleasure here.

Although it may not be fashionable, in modern age, to read and appreciate ancient Sanskrit classics, who would deny the strong romanticism and lyrical value in verses such as –

The supremest woman from God’s workshop gone –
Young, slender; little teeth and red, red lips,
Slight waist and gentle eyes of timid fawn,
And idly graceful movement, generous hips,
Fair bosom into which the sloping shoulder slips…
And thunder not, O cloud, but let her keep
The dreaming vision of her lover’s face –
Loose not too soon the imagined knot of that embrace…


  1. According to Arthur Ryder, the best guess for when Kalidasa lived and wrote is Fifst Century. What are your sources?

  2. As you've mentioned, it is the best guess. What I have written is also a guess based on various books written on the subject. And it is just a matter of few years in a span of over 2000 years... Let's enjoy the beauty of Kalidas's verses rather than matters of lesser importance!