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Posts Tagged ‘kalidasa

The death of love

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Arguably the greatest long poem (mahakavya) in classical Sanskrit is Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava (or “The Birth of Kumara”), which tells the tale of how the warrior god Skanda (the “Kumara” of the title) came to be born.  Once, the gods were suffering greatly from the attacks of the demon Taraka.  Unable to defeat Taraka, the gods approached the creator-god Brahma to ask for his help.  Specifically, the gods asked for a general who could lead them to victory against Taraka.  Brahma told the gods that they must find a way to convince Shiva the Destroyer to marry Parvati, the daughter of the mountain god.  The child of Shiva and Parvati would be the general that they were looking for.  However, Shiva was deeply absorbed in meditation and would not easily be tempted into marriage.  The gods approached Kamadeva, god of love (armed, like his Greco-Roman counterpart, with bow and arrow), and requested that he use his unique abilities to make Shiva fall in love with Parvati.  Kamadeva agreed, and went to the mountaintop where the god Shiva was engaged in meditation.  Shiva, however, sensed the intrusion of the love god.  Kalidasa describes what happened next (the Clay Sanskrit Library edition 3.69-72):

Then Three-eyed Shiva,
through his self-control
powerfully suppressing
the disturbance of his senses,
wished to see the cause
of his mind’s disturbance
and sent his gaze in all directions.

He saw Self-born Love ready to attack,
his lovely bow drawn right back
to form a circle,
his fist resting
at the corner of his right eye,
shoulder hunched,
left foot arched.

Enraged by the violation of his penance,
his frown made his face
dreadful to behold,
and from his third eye
a sparkling, blazing fire
suddenly flew forth.

“Lord, hold back your anger,
hold back!”—
even as the cries of the wind-gods
crossed the sky,
that fire born from the eye of Shiva who is Being,
reduced to ashes Intoxicating Love.

His corporeal form having been disintegrated by the fire emanating from the mystical third eye of Shiva the Destroyer, Kamadeva, the god of love, is henceforth known as Ananga, the Bodiless God.


Written by uncudh

September 7, 2009 at 7:39 pm

The Cloud Messenger

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The poet Kalidasa founded an entire genre of Sanskrit poetry with his lyric poem Meghaduta, or The Cloud Messenger, namely the genre of duta-kavya or messenger poems.  Messenger poems are centered around the theme of separated lovers, where one lover wishes to send a message to his/her beloved.  The poem consists largely of a picturesque description of the scenery through which the messenger will travel, along with a description of the message itself.  In Kalidasa’s The Cloud Messenger, an exiled yaksha (a sort of spirit) requests a passing cloud to take a message to his wife.  Here is one verse (2.64, from the Clay Sanskrit Library translation):

Where, with their various wonders,
the mansions are your equal:
you have your lightning
they their lovely ladies;
you have your rainbows,
they their colorful pictures;
drums are beaten in them to make music,
you have your gentle rumble;
you have water inside,
they have floors made of jewels;
you are lofty,
their turrets kiss the clouds.

Written by uncudh

December 28, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Posted in literature

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