Historian know little about Kalidasa early life. People inferred his existence from his poetry and plays. Historian cannot date his work with precision. However historian estimate that he most likely lived between the 4th-5th century CE.
Kalidasa was born in Kashmir, but moved southwards, and sought the patronage of local rulers to prosper.
According to folklore, once a scholarly princess decided to find a suitable groom by testing men in her kingdom for their intelligence. When no man could pass the test, the frustrated citizens decided to send Kalidasa, an unintelligent man, for an interview with the princess.
Later Kalidasa fared poorly, and the princess humiliated him. This incident forced him to visited a Kali temple which inspired him to learn Sanskrit. He studied the Puranas and other ancient texts, and become a great poet.
Works of Kalidas
Kalidasa was a Sanskrit poet and dramatist. People credited him with writing more than forty poems and plays, and many of these works are popular even today. Meghaduta, Raghuvamsham and Abhijnanashakuntala are among the his best-known work.
People consider Ritusamhara as Kalidasa’s first work. It is a lyrical poem that describes the six seasons: grishma (summer), varsha (rainy), sharad (autumn), hemanta (dewy), shishira (winter) and vasanta (spring).
‘Kumarasambhava’ is a classical poem, based on the myth of Lord Shiva and Parvati’s marriage.
Meghaduta, one of his most famous works, is a lyrical love poem dealing with the story of a yaksha who asks a cloud to take a message to his love, living in the Himalayan city of Alaka.
People consider Abhijnanashakuntala to be the best play in the Sanskrit language. Adapted from Hindu mythology, it tells the story of Shakuntala and King Dushyanta. The story is important because their child Bharata is believed to be the source of the name of ‘Bharat’.
Among his other works are Malavikagnimitram and Vikramorvashiyam. Kalidasa had profound knowledge not only in philosophy, law, economics and zoology, but also in music and fine arts. Kalidasa’s contribution to Sanskrit poetry remains unparalleled.
Legacy of Kalidas
He brought Sanskrit poetry a level with his simple and lucid style of writing which has seldom been surpassed in Indian history.
Sun Temple inscription dated 473CE is the earliest paleographical evidence of Kalidasa. Aihole inscription located in present-day Karnataka date 634 CE mentioned his name.
Later he had a great impact on Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore’s poems on the monsoons shows Meghadutam’s romanticism.
Later Kalidasa Sanskrit plays influenced late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century European literature. Father of Modern Medicine Sir William Osler always kept on his desk a poem written by Kalidasa.