Mahakavi Kalidas was a great Indian poet in the 4th Century B.C. Mahakavi Kalidas who is honoured as one of the greatest poets of the world, and is described as the Shakespeare of India, belonged to the Gupta period. An inscription, discovered most recently, in 1964, establishes his birth in Ujjayini and shows him as a contemporary of King Vikramaditya, who was obviously Chandragupta Vikramaditya.
Early Life: According to legends, Mahakavi Kalidas was a Brahmana by birth, and was ignorant and uneducated. Through the trick of some persons he could marry a princess. But when he was discovered to be a fool, he left the house in search of learning and through the grace of a goddess, ultimately became a celebrated poet.
Tradition has led the people to believe that Kalidas was one of the nine gems or Navaratna of the court of King Vikramaditya of Ujjayini. Historians have accepted him as one of the greatest Sanskrit poets and Dramatists.
Literary Works: Mahakavi Kalidas perfected the Kavya style and the art of poetry in Sanskrit. Human sentiments, presented in ornamental style, made his poetic works superb. The most famous dramas of Kalidas were Malavikagnimitra and Sakuntala. In the first one, he deals with the theme of love between prince Agnimitra and the princess Malavika. In Sakuntala, this is acknowledged as one of the world’s masterpieces in drama Kalidas deals with the romance between Dushyanta and Sakuntala, their secret marriage, their separation, and their final reunion. His another famous play was Vikramorvasi. The Sakuntala of Kalidas has been regarded as the greatest of all the classical Sanskrit dramas.
It is said that when Sir William Jones translated `Sakuntala’ of Kalidas into English and published it in 1789, it created a sensation among the Europeans that such a wonderful drama could have been written in ancient times, describing human emotion and feeling in such a super way. The work was translated to German, French, Danish, Italian and other languages. The celebrated German poet Goethe was so powerfully impressed by this magnificent work that he regarded it as the greatest drama ever written in any literature.
Among the great Kavya of Kalidas, the most famous are the Ritusamhara or the ‘Cycle of the Seasons’, Meghaduta or the ‘Cloud Messenger’, Kumarsambhava or the ‘Birth of Kumara’, and Raghuvamsa or the ‘Race of Raghu’.
The ‘Cycle of Seasons’ is a wonderful description of Nature and its rhythms in relation to human moods and sentiments. The ‘Cloud Messenger’ describes the emotion of an exiled Yaksha from heaven who sends his message to his wife through a passing cloud. Kumarasambhava describes the wedding of Siva and Parvati, and the birth of the god of war for destruction of a demon. The Raghuvamsa, which is a Mahakavya, describes of Rama’s ancestors, of Rama himself, and of Rama’s successors in Ayodhya.
The extravagant beauty of style, the poetic emotion in description; the close observations on Nature and life, the majestic appeal to human mind, and the serenity of the themes, rendered the works of Kalidas immortal. Kalidas’s contributions made the world literature richer.
The western world came to regard some of the works of Mahakavi Kalidas as so excellent in philosophy and feeling that they could not find their parallel in other great languages. In Meghaduta or the ‘cloud messenger’, Kalidas described the separation of a lover from his beloved, and asked a floating cloud to travel far to carry and pass over his message of love.