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The Complete Works of Kalidasa (Volume 1): Poems
The Complete Works of Kalidasa (Volume 1): Poems
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From the Jacket

Kalidasa's status as a major poet and dramatist in classical Sanskrit Literature is unquestioned. Yet whereas individual works of the poet have been translated, an edition containing an English translation of his collected works does not seem to have been undertaken specially a rendering that combines fidelity to the text with readability using contemporary English. Three volume edition planned by the Sahitya Akademi might well be the Kalidasa corpus in its entirety thereby fulfilling a long felt need and making these classics accessible to a much wider audience than at present.

All seven of the great poet's works that are considered authentically his are being rendered into English verse (verse and prose in the plays) by Chandra Rajan. She has also written a long critical introduction that serves to place the texts in their context and suggests ways of looking at them singly and as part of the oeuvre.

The first volume, Poems opens a window into the rich world of the imagination of a writer of whom it was once said that no second to him has been found. The two volumes to follow will further explore the remarkable world of the art and the profound vision of this writer out of our ancient past whose many splendoured geniuses flowered and fulfilled itself in a many sided achievement.

Kalidasa is a courtly poet but his knowledge of the human heart and his understanding of the complex play of Human motivation are profound. A Keen observer of nature in all its varied aspects he sees with a painter's eye and speaks with a poet's tongue he is at the same time a learned writer who wears his enormous learning lightly and with grace. A mystic awareness of the transcendental combines in his works with a sensuous feeling for beauty in women and nature reflecting as it does the blend of the erotic and spiritual that characterise Siva mythology. Kalidasa's work is instinct with Siva's presence. In all of his works he celebrates the values of the great civilisation that he was heir to but not without questioning as is made amply clear in the introduction.

Chandra Rajan nee Sarma studied Sanskrit from the age of nine in the time honoured tradition at the feet of a guru. She was educated at St. Stephen's College, Delhi University where she had a distinguished academic record taking degrees in English and Sanskrit Language and Literature.

Chandra Rajan has taught English Literature at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University and at the University of Western Ontario London, Canada.

Her publications include Winged Words an anthology of English poetry from 1550 to 1950 which was widely prescribed and used as a textbook; Re_visions,a volume of poems; Kalidasa: The Loom of Time the Pancatantra of Visnu Sarma in the Purnabhadra redaction The Vetalapancavinsatika of Sivadasa, all three in the Penguins Classics series. She has read papers at conferences and seminars; which have been or are in the process of being published.

 

About the Book

Kalidasa's status as a major poet and dramatist in classical Sanskrit Literature is unquestioned. Yet whereas individual works of the poet have been translated, an edition containing an English translation of his collected works does not seem to have been undertaken specially a rendering that combines fidelity to the text with readability using contemporary English. Three volume edition planned by the Sahitya Akademi might well be the Kalidasa corpus in its entirety thereby fulfilling a long felt need and making these classics accessible to a much wider audience than at present.

All seven of the great poet's works that are considered authentically his are being rendered into English verse (verse and prose in the plays) by Chandra Rajan. She has also written a long critical introduction that serves to place the texts in their context and suggests ways of looking at them singly and as part of the oeuvre.

The first volume, Poems opens a window into the rich world of the imagination of a writer of whom it was once said that no second to him has been found. The two volumes to follow will further explore the remarkable world of the art and the profound vision of this writer out of our ancient past whose many splendoured geniuses flowered and fulfilled itself in a many sided achievement.

Kalidasa is a courtly poet but his knowledge of the human heart and his understanding of the complex play of Human motivation are profound. A Keen observer of nature in all its varied aspects he sees with a painter's eye and speaks with a poet's tongue he is at the same time a learned writer who wears his enormous learning lightly and with grace. A mystic awareness of the transcendental combines in his works with a sensuous feeling for beauty in women and nature reflecting as it does the blend of the erotic and spiritual that characterise Siva mythology. Kalidasa's work is instinct with Siva's presence. In all of his works he celebrates the values of the great civilisation that he was heir to but not without questioning as is made amply clear in the introduction.

 

About the Author

Chandra Rajan nee Sarma studied Sanskrit from the age of nine in the time honoured tradition at the feet of a guru. She was educated at St. Stephen's College, Delhi University where she had a distinguished academic record taking degrees in English and Sanskrit Language and Literature.

Chandra Rajan has taught English Literature at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University and at the University of Western Ontario London, Canada.

Her publications include Winged Words an anthology of English poetry from 1550 to 1950 which was widely prescribed and used as a textbook; Re_visions,a volume of poems; Kalidasa: The Loom of Time the Pancatantra of Visnu Sarma in the Purnabhadra redaction The Vetalapancavinsatika of Sivadasa, all three in the Penguins Classics series. She has read papers at conferences and seminars; which have been or are in the process of being published.

Introduction

Kalidasa's status as the major poet and dramatist in classical Sanskrit literature in unquestioned.

Once, when poets were counted, Kalidasa occupied the little finger; the ring finger remains unnamed true to its name; for his second has not been found.

That is high praise Kalidasa's accomplishment is distinguished not only by the excellence of the individual works, but by the many-sided talent which the whole achievement displays. He is a dramatist, a writer of epic and a lyric poet of extraordinary scope. In his hands the language attained a remarkable flexibility, becoming an instrument capable of sounding many moods and nuances of feeling; a language limpid and flowing, musical, uncluttered by the verbal virtuosities indulged in by many writers who followed him; yet, remaining a language loaded in every rift with the rich ores of the literary and mythical allusiveness of his cultural heritage. By welding different elements to create new genres, his importance as an innovator in the history of Sanskrit literature is clearly established. The brilliant medieval lyric poet, Jayadeva, in praising Kalidasa as Kavi- kula-guru(Master of poets), conveys his recognition of this aspect of the poet's greatness. Bana, the celebrated author of the prose-romance, Kadambari, exclaimed,.

Who is not delighted when Kalidasa's perfect verses spring forth in their sweetness, like honey-filled clusters of flowers?

Thus drawing attention to the exquisite craftsmanship of the poet's verse. For nearly two millennia, Kalidasa's works have been read with deep appreciation, widely commented upon and lavishly praised. It would be safe to assume that the poet enjoyed success, fame and affluence during his lifetime. We sense no hint of dissatisfaction in his works, no sign of bitterness as not receiving his due recognition. Yet, we do not possess any information about him, his lift and the time in which that life unfolded and fulfilled itself. All we are left with are a few legends. The poet has drawn a veil of silence round himself so complete that even his real name is unknown to posterity.

No name is affixed to the poems and the epic; they have come down to us virtually anonymous. What information we possess is derived from references to them by later poets and writers, by the commentaries written on them and from inscriptions. The name is mat with only in the plays, where in each prologue, the author styles himself as Kalidasa. Like others in Sanskrit literature, this name is descriptive: Vyasa meaning ' the compiler' is the author of the Mahabharata; similarly Kalidasa means the votary or servant of Kali. Kali is time in the feminine (kala is time); the concept of Time as a creative principle is as old as the Vedas. We can then translate the name Kalidasa into 'the servant of Time': intriguing idea.

Kala and Mahakala are among the many names given to Siva, the Absolute; the many names given to godhead are descriptive of its different aspects and functions as seen in the world of phenomena and apprehended by the human consciousness. Formless, Eternal, One, Siva is pure consciousness, the changeless reality behind the manifold, changing world that is brought into being by his inherent power of sakti - cosmic energy. Kali is one of the many names of Sakti; the names descriptive of the creative power are the feminine forms of the words pertaining to the many aspects and functions of the unitive godhead: Sivani, Bhavani, Kali, Mahakali, derived from Siva, Bhava, Kala and Mahakala define the feminine, creative aspect of the One. In iconography this concept is imaged as ardhanarisvara- the Lord whose one half is woman. Siva and Sakti are therefore one indivisible Whole.

Forword

Kalidasa’s works have unfortunately come down to us not in their original form but in several recensions (divergent versions of a text) current in different regions of the country. The ancestry of the recensions in not clear. But it is evident that after his lifetime, Kalidasa’s poems and plays became subject to alterations, the reasons for which are again not clear. It is not uncommon for this to happen in the history of Sanskrit literature. Many factors would have contributed to the process of the one true text becoming many diverse recension. The manuscripts of the works, none of them contemporaneous with the author, belong to one or other of the recessions. They display bewildering variety of readings; the length of the texts themselves as well as the number and order of the verses in them vary; interpolations present a problem. Some of the variants are substantive enough to warrant a some what different reading of the text, as in the case of Abhijananasakuntalam (Sakuntala for short).

The translations in these volumes differ in their textual basis from the great majority of other translation. The texts of both Meghdutam and Abhijnanasakuntalam follow the Eastern Indian (Bengal) recessions to which insufficient attention has been given. Even though the Bengal version is not the one translators most frequently use, the bibliographical arguments for it, and for Sakuntala in particular, are not unequal to those for other texts and, as I shall endeavor to show, there are strong, aesthetic arguments for it. These arguments are rehearsed in the introduction to The Plays Volume 2.

I have based my translation of Kumarasambhavam on the Nirnaya Sagar edition of the complete poem with Mallinatha’s commentary on cantos 1-7, and Sitarama’s commentary on cantos 8-17. This edition includes Mallinatha’s commentary on canto 8, but places it at the end as a sort of appendix. I have looked carefully at Dr Suryakanta’s edition of the complete poem for the Sahitya Akademi and used a few of the variant reading that he has listed, mostly those established by Bharata Mallika. It is my great regret that the Kumarasambhavam according to Bharata Mallika has not been edited and published, because he is a very sensitive critic and commentator and his comments on a phrase or an image are so often extremely enlightening.

The translation of Meghadutam in this volumeis based on the text of the poem on which the early seventeenth-century Bengal scholiast, Bharata Mallika wtote his highly informative and sensitive commentary, Subodha. I have used the critical edition of this text with commentary, produced by J.B. Chaudhuri. The differences between this critical editon and the critical edition produced by S.K . De for the National Academy of Letters (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi) are few and minor. The text of the poem established by Mallinatha, the fourteenth-century scholiast from South India, contains a longer version. This text has had wide acceptance and is the one frequently translated. The verses in Mallinatha’s Test which have not been accepted as genuine by Bharata Mallika (or by De) are placed in Appendix III.

I have used the Nirnaya Sagar Press edition of Rtusamharam with Manirama’s commentary- a rather perfunctory commentary.

We now come to the matter of translation and the translation of Kalidasa’s text specifically. Translation is like serving two masters at the same time. Languages do differ widely in their grammatical and syntactical structures and though one hopes to meet the demands of the source and receiving languages in a balanced manner, it is a fact that compromises have to be made one way or the other. We endeavor to provide the best approximation to the original not only within the limitations set by our own abilities but more so within those set by the receiving language.

Sanskrit is a highly inflected language; and it has some distinctive features which indeed constitute some of its strength; for example, the extensive use of compound words and prefixes, and an array of synonyms with slight nuances of meaning that colour the expression of what is being said. The in flexional structure and the use of compound words give the language a tightly knit compactness which is of importance in poetry; this compactness suffers some dilution in translation. Because Sanskrit is a highly inflected languages, word order is not of special importance as it is in English; punctuation is minimal consisting of a vertical stroke (/) to mark the end of the second quarter of a stanza and two vertical strokes (//) that correspond to the period in English. Inversions are frequent, with the predicate often separated from subject and object by long clauses consisting of single compound words, with their sub-units linked alliteratively, not only for euphonic but other poetic effects as well. This lends the language a musical quality difficult to convey in another language. This is especially true in the case of poetry which was and still in chanted or sung and not read silently.

Compound words are also to project images with immediacy: for example the word, parusapavanavegatksiptasamsuskaparnah (Rtu.: 1.22) conveys strongly the picture of wild winds and their force and energy: by splitting the compound word into its sub-units we have the following:

parusa-pavana-vega-utksipta-sam-suska-parnah.
violent-winds-by great velocity-hurling-up-shrivelled-leaves

Compound words can also articulate ambivalences (See notes on Megh.).

Kalidasa’s poetry like much of Indian art is stylized. The stylization is not a rhetorical procedure but part of the self-awareness with which the verse shapes itself. The translation therefore, to be faithful, has to somehow contrive to be stylized and readable; to steer clear of a literalness of rendering as well as an identification of readability with contemporaneity. It has been my endeavor throughout this volume of translation to be faithful not simply to what the poetry says (its paraphrase Abe meaning) but also to how it says what is says. That would be to respect its ways of perceiving itself to create artifacts of the imagination. To accomplish this with some degree of success, inversions are unavoidable at places, and also the occasional passive constructions which is frequent in Sanskrit. I have used these sparingly.

The translation of the prose in the plays poses its own brand of problems. Kalidasa uses several dialects (prakrits) current in his day. It is not possible to differentiate between them by style or through diction. Therefore, there is an unavoidable ironing out of the rich variety of speech of that age into one flat prose.

But I have attempted some slight differentiation in another area. There are several levels of speech in the play, depending on the occasion, private or public, and on the relationships of the speakers to one another; and here some differentiation is possible which I have endeavoured to make.

Nature has a life of its own in Indian thought; it enshrines centers of power, radiating holiness, plenitude, beauty. For this reason, I have refrained from using the neuter form of the English pronoun. A hill is therefore a ‘he’ and a stream is a radiant ‘she’.

I have translated only a few of the names of the flora in the Kalidasa landscape. While there are several kinds of lotuses mentioned, each with its own distinctive name in the original and each beautifully evocative, I have reluctantly used the generic term ‘lotus’. I have however retained the Sanskrit names for many other flowers, trees, shrubs and vines mentioned or described, for two reasons. Firstly, English equivalents are not readily available (except botanical terms) and identifications are not always definitive. Secondly the Sanskrit names form part of the poetic effect in certain passages; they frequently sound like the roll call of epic heroes and their weapons.

Beauty, Genius of Blossom- Time, Forsaking
the kadamba, kutaja, and kakubha,
The sarja and the arjuna
now dwells with the saptaparna. (Rtu: 3.3)

Here, the poet seems to be having some fun at the expense of the epic poets.

On the other hand, I have translated nearly all of the epithets of Indra in Meghadutam as well as those given to Siva and Parvati in kumarasambhavam because the meaning of a particular epithet chosen by the poet has a specific significance in the context. In Meghadutam, I have translated for instance Sulapani, Candesvara, (34-6) and Tryambaka (60) because they are epithets resonant with mythic and metaphysical meaning in the context.

In Kumarasambhavam, Kalidasa employs several names/epithets for three of the four main characters in the poem: Siva, Kama, Himalata. I have used the specific names for them in the text wherever I felt that there could be a loss of meaning if they were not used. For instance, I have retained Smara and translated the epithet as Remembrance or The Lord of Memories. Similarly for Siva, I have retained or translated the names that the poet employs, such as Rudra, Pinaki (The Trident- Armed Lord, or Wielder of the Trident). This is done in order to alert the reader to the rich suggestiveness in Kalidasa’s use of proper names available to him; to make available to the reader the mythic and metaphysical allusion that surround the simple word with an aura of meaning; and to provide the reader with those rich resonances to words similar to the resonances that overtones lend to musical note when struck or sounded just right. At other places where a name or epithet is not performing a special function, I have used the terms Siva and Kama which are most familiar to most readers.

At places I have included an elucidatory word or phrase to avoid an excess of annotation; for instance, I include the word moon, to the translation of osadhinam adhipasya (7:1), of the Lord of Plants.

The translations are accompanied by a long introduction, notes and appendices. The introduction suggests way of looking at the three works in this volume singly and as a group. These are however not exhaustive for want of space. Still, an attempt has been made within a brief compass to relate these works in a meaningful way and trace a pattern of development in the poet’s oeuvre. The myths that lend an added depth and resonance to a work, especially Meghadutam, are briefly recounted in Appendix II. An in-depth analysis of a verse from Rtusamharam which is the earliest of Kalidasa’s works, has been included as part of the notes to show how the poet’s multilayered imagery functions as an integral part of the structure (note 7).

The notes should be of some help in bridging gaps in communication by explaining the numerous mythological and metaphysical allusions in the poems and the play. They also points to the possibility of multiple readings of a line or passage; in most cases a translation can convey only one of the possible readings.

Because Kalidasa’s works emerge out of a philosophical context (as all great works of art do) and return us to it, some information about religious and metaphysical concepts both Vedic and Saiva, is unavoidable. It has been kept to a minimum.

The presence of all this background information in no way implies that Kalidasa cannot be read with pleasure and delight without this explanatory apparatus. The response to great poetry (and poetic drama) is the immediate response to it as poetry. While it is true that the Indian and the European intellectual traditions are different, emerging as they do, each from its own world view and intimately interwoven with it, the two worlds of these traditions ought not to be treated as totally opaque to each other. If an educated Indian is able to read and enjoy the Greek tragedies and Tolstoy in English translations, which is the only way for most of us who have neither Greek nor Russian, we can safely assume that English readers (both within the culture and outside it )who have no Sanskrit can appreciate and enjoy Vyasa, Valmiki and Kalidasa, through translations of their works into English. With numerous hurdles to negotiate in the course of translations, it is a matter of satisfaction that translations can ‘carry over’ much of the power and beauty of the original. The notes and annotations are simply a means to enable the reader to explore the depths and reaches of Kalidasa’s art and taste its full flavor- Rasa.

 

Contents
  Acknowledgements ix
  Abbreviations xi
  Key to the Pronunciation of Sanskrit Words xii
  Key to Prose Passages in the Translations of the Plays xiii
  Foreword - A Note on texts and Translations xv
  General Introduction 1
  Poems:  
  Rtusamharam 75
  Kumarasambhavam 107
  Meghadutam 291
  Notes and References 323
  Appendices I Kalidasa's Dates 363
  II Myths 371
  III Interpolated stanzas in Meghadutam 379
  A Select Bibliography 383
  Map 385
  Afterword 387

 

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The Complete Works of Kalidasa (Volume 1): Poems

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IDI070
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2014
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407
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From the Jacket

Kalidasa's status as a major poet and dramatist in classical Sanskrit Literature is unquestioned. Yet whereas individual works of the poet have been translated, an edition containing an English translation of his collected works does not seem to have been undertaken specially a rendering that combines fidelity to the text with readability using contemporary English. Three volume edition planned by the Sahitya Akademi might well be the Kalidasa corpus in its entirety thereby fulfilling a long felt need and making these classics accessible to a much wider audience than at present.

All seven of the great poet's works that are considered authentically his are being rendered into English verse (verse and prose in the plays) by Chandra Rajan. She has also written a long critical introduction that serves to place the texts in their context and suggests ways of looking at them singly and as part of the oeuvre.

The first volume, Poems opens a window into the rich world of the imagination of a writer of whom it was once said that no second to him has been found. The two volumes to follow will further explore the remarkable world of the art and the profound vision of this writer out of our ancient past whose many splendoured geniuses flowered and fulfilled itself in a many sided achievement.

Kalidasa is a courtly poet but his knowledge of the human heart and his understanding of the complex play of Human motivation are profound. A Keen observer of nature in all its varied aspects he sees with a painter's eye and speaks with a poet's tongue he is at the same time a learned writer who wears his enormous learning lightly and with grace. A mystic awareness of the transcendental combines in his works with a sensuous feeling for beauty in women and nature reflecting as it does the blend of the erotic and spiritual that characterise Siva mythology. Kalidasa's work is instinct with Siva's presence. In all of his works he celebrates the values of the great civilisation that he was heir to but not without questioning as is made amply clear in the introduction.

Chandra Rajan nee Sarma studied Sanskrit from the age of nine in the time honoured tradition at the feet of a guru. She was educated at St. Stephen's College, Delhi University where she had a distinguished academic record taking degrees in English and Sanskrit Language and Literature.

Chandra Rajan has taught English Literature at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University and at the University of Western Ontario London, Canada.

Her publications include Winged Words an anthology of English poetry from 1550 to 1950 which was widely prescribed and used as a textbook; Re_visions,a volume of poems; Kalidasa: The Loom of Time the Pancatantra of Visnu Sarma in the Purnabhadra redaction The Vetalapancavinsatika of Sivadasa, all three in the Penguins Classics series. She has read papers at conferences and seminars; which have been or are in the process of being published.

 

About the Book

Kalidasa's status as a major poet and dramatist in classical Sanskrit Literature is unquestioned. Yet whereas individual works of the poet have been translated, an edition containing an English translation of his collected works does not seem to have been undertaken specially a rendering that combines fidelity to the text with readability using contemporary English. Three volume edition planned by the Sahitya Akademi might well be the Kalidasa corpus in its entirety thereby fulfilling a long felt need and making these classics accessible to a much wider audience than at present.

All seven of the great poet's works that are considered authentically his are being rendered into English verse (verse and prose in the plays) by Chandra Rajan. She has also written a long critical introduction that serves to place the texts in their context and suggests ways of looking at them singly and as part of the oeuvre.

The first volume, Poems opens a window into the rich world of the imagination of a writer of whom it was once said that no second to him has been found. The two volumes to follow will further explore the remarkable world of the art and the profound vision of this writer out of our ancient past whose many splendoured geniuses flowered and fulfilled itself in a many sided achievement.

Kalidasa is a courtly poet but his knowledge of the human heart and his understanding of the complex play of Human motivation are profound. A Keen observer of nature in all its varied aspects he sees with a painter's eye and speaks with a poet's tongue he is at the same time a learned writer who wears his enormous learning lightly and with grace. A mystic awareness of the transcendental combines in his works with a sensuous feeling for beauty in women and nature reflecting as it does the blend of the erotic and spiritual that characterise Siva mythology. Kalidasa's work is instinct with Siva's presence. In all of his works he celebrates the values of the great civilisation that he was heir to but not without questioning as is made amply clear in the introduction.

 

About the Author

Chandra Rajan nee Sarma studied Sanskrit from the age of nine in the time honoured tradition at the feet of a guru. She was educated at St. Stephen's College, Delhi University where she had a distinguished academic record taking degrees in English and Sanskrit Language and Literature.

Chandra Rajan has taught English Literature at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi University and at the University of Western Ontario London, Canada.

Her publications include Winged Words an anthology of English poetry from 1550 to 1950 which was widely prescribed and used as a textbook; Re_visions,a volume of poems; Kalidasa: The Loom of Time the Pancatantra of Visnu Sarma in the Purnabhadra redaction The Vetalapancavinsatika of Sivadasa, all three in the Penguins Classics series. She has read papers at conferences and seminars; which have been or are in the process of being published.

Introduction

Kalidasa's status as the major poet and dramatist in classical Sanskrit literature in unquestioned.

Once, when poets were counted, Kalidasa occupied the little finger; the ring finger remains unnamed true to its name; for his second has not been found.

That is high praise Kalidasa's accomplishment is distinguished not only by the excellence of the individual works, but by the many-sided talent which the whole achievement displays. He is a dramatist, a writer of epic and a lyric poet of extraordinary scope. In his hands the language attained a remarkable flexibility, becoming an instrument capable of sounding many moods and nuances of feeling; a language limpid and flowing, musical, uncluttered by the verbal virtuosities indulged in by many writers who followed him; yet, remaining a language loaded in every rift with the rich ores of the literary and mythical allusiveness of his cultural heritage. By welding different elements to create new genres, his importance as an innovator in the history of Sanskrit literature is clearly established. The brilliant medieval lyric poet, Jayadeva, in praising Kalidasa as Kavi- kula-guru(Master of poets), conveys his recognition of this aspect of the poet's greatness. Bana, the celebrated author of the prose-romance, Kadambari, exclaimed,.

Who is not delighted when Kalidasa's perfect verses spring forth in their sweetness, like honey-filled clusters of flowers?

Thus drawing attention to the exquisite craftsmanship of the poet's verse. For nearly two millennia, Kalidasa's works have been read with deep appreciation, widely commented upon and lavishly praised. It would be safe to assume that the poet enjoyed success, fame and affluence during his lifetime. We sense no hint of dissatisfaction in his works, no sign of bitterness as not receiving his due recognition. Yet, we do not possess any information about him, his lift and the time in which that life unfolded and fulfilled itself. All we are left with are a few legends. The poet has drawn a veil of silence round himself so complete that even his real name is unknown to posterity.

No name is affixed to the poems and the epic; they have come down to us virtually anonymous. What information we possess is derived from references to them by later poets and writers, by the commentaries written on them and from inscriptions. The name is mat with only in the plays, where in each prologue, the author styles himself as Kalidasa. Like others in Sanskrit literature, this name is descriptive: Vyasa meaning ' the compiler' is the author of the Mahabharata; similarly Kalidasa means the votary or servant of Kali. Kali is time in the feminine (kala is time); the concept of Time as a creative principle is as old as the Vedas. We can then translate the name Kalidasa into 'the servant of Time': intriguing idea.

Kala and Mahakala are among the many names given to Siva, the Absolute; the many names given to godhead are descriptive of its different aspects and functions as seen in the world of phenomena and apprehended by the human consciousness. Formless, Eternal, One, Siva is pure consciousness, the changeless reality behind the manifold, changing world that is brought into being by his inherent power of sakti - cosmic energy. Kali is one of the many names of Sakti; the names descriptive of the creative power are the feminine forms of the words pertaining to the many aspects and functions of the unitive godhead: Sivani, Bhavani, Kali, Mahakali, derived from Siva, Bhava, Kala and Mahakala define the feminine, creative aspect of the One. In iconography this concept is imaged as ardhanarisvara- the Lord whose one half is woman. Siva and Sakti are therefore one indivisible Whole.

Forword

Kalidasa’s works have unfortunately come down to us not in their original form but in several recensions (divergent versions of a text) current in different regions of the country. The ancestry of the recensions in not clear. But it is evident that after his lifetime, Kalidasa’s poems and plays became subject to alterations, the reasons for which are again not clear. It is not uncommon for this to happen in the history of Sanskrit literature. Many factors would have contributed to the process of the one true text becoming many diverse recension. The manuscripts of the works, none of them contemporaneous with the author, belong to one or other of the recessions. They display bewildering variety of readings; the length of the texts themselves as well as the number and order of the verses in them vary; interpolations present a problem. Some of the variants are substantive enough to warrant a some what different reading of the text, as in the case of Abhijananasakuntalam (Sakuntala for short).

The translations in these volumes differ in their textual basis from the great majority of other translation. The texts of both Meghdutam and Abhijnanasakuntalam follow the Eastern Indian (Bengal) recessions to which insufficient attention has been given. Even though the Bengal version is not the one translators most frequently use, the bibliographical arguments for it, and for Sakuntala in particular, are not unequal to those for other texts and, as I shall endeavor to show, there are strong, aesthetic arguments for it. These arguments are rehearsed in the introduction to The Plays Volume 2.

I have based my translation of Kumarasambhavam on the Nirnaya Sagar edition of the complete poem with Mallinatha’s commentary on cantos 1-7, and Sitarama’s commentary on cantos 8-17. This edition includes Mallinatha’s commentary on canto 8, but places it at the end as a sort of appendix. I have looked carefully at Dr Suryakanta’s edition of the complete poem for the Sahitya Akademi and used a few of the variant reading that he has listed, mostly those established by Bharata Mallika. It is my great regret that the Kumarasambhavam according to Bharata Mallika has not been edited and published, because he is a very sensitive critic and commentator and his comments on a phrase or an image are so often extremely enlightening.

The translation of Meghadutam in this volumeis based on the text of the poem on which the early seventeenth-century Bengal scholiast, Bharata Mallika wtote his highly informative and sensitive commentary, Subodha. I have used the critical edition of this text with commentary, produced by J.B. Chaudhuri. The differences between this critical editon and the critical edition produced by S.K . De for the National Academy of Letters (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi) are few and minor. The text of the poem established by Mallinatha, the fourteenth-century scholiast from South India, contains a longer version. This text has had wide acceptance and is the one frequently translated. The verses in Mallinatha’s Test which have not been accepted as genuine by Bharata Mallika (or by De) are placed in Appendix III.

I have used the Nirnaya Sagar Press edition of Rtusamharam with Manirama’s commentary- a rather perfunctory commentary.

We now come to the matter of translation and the translation of Kalidasa’s text specifically. Translation is like serving two masters at the same time. Languages do differ widely in their grammatical and syntactical structures and though one hopes to meet the demands of the source and receiving languages in a balanced manner, it is a fact that compromises have to be made one way or the other. We endeavor to provide the best approximation to the original not only within the limitations set by our own abilities but more so within those set by the receiving language.

Sanskrit is a highly inflected language; and it has some distinctive features which indeed constitute some of its strength; for example, the extensive use of compound words and prefixes, and an array of synonyms with slight nuances of meaning that colour the expression of what is being said. The in flexional structure and the use of compound words give the language a tightly knit compactness which is of importance in poetry; this compactness suffers some dilution in translation. Because Sanskrit is a highly inflected languages, word order is not of special importance as it is in English; punctuation is minimal consisting of a vertical stroke (/) to mark the end of the second quarter of a stanza and two vertical strokes (//) that correspond to the period in English. Inversions are frequent, with the predicate often separated from subject and object by long clauses consisting of single compound words, with their sub-units linked alliteratively, not only for euphonic but other poetic effects as well. This lends the language a musical quality difficult to convey in another language. This is especially true in the case of poetry which was and still in chanted or sung and not read silently.

Compound words are also to project images with immediacy: for example the word, parusapavanavegatksiptasamsuskaparnah (Rtu.: 1.22) conveys strongly the picture of wild winds and their force and energy: by splitting the compound word into its sub-units we have the following:

parusa-pavana-vega-utksipta-sam-suska-parnah.
violent-winds-by great velocity-hurling-up-shrivelled-leaves

Compound words can also articulate ambivalences (See notes on Megh.).

Kalidasa’s poetry like much of Indian art is stylized. The stylization is not a rhetorical procedure but part of the self-awareness with which the verse shapes itself. The translation therefore, to be faithful, has to somehow contrive to be stylized and readable; to steer clear of a literalness of rendering as well as an identification of readability with contemporaneity. It has been my endeavor throughout this volume of translation to be faithful not simply to what the poetry says (its paraphrase Abe meaning) but also to how it says what is says. That would be to respect its ways of perceiving itself to create artifacts of the imagination. To accomplish this with some degree of success, inversions are unavoidable at places, and also the occasional passive constructions which is frequent in Sanskrit. I have used these sparingly.

The translation of the prose in the plays poses its own brand of problems. Kalidasa uses several dialects (prakrits) current in his day. It is not possible to differentiate between them by style or through diction. Therefore, there is an unavoidable ironing out of the rich variety of speech of that age into one flat prose.

But I have attempted some slight differentiation in another area. There are several levels of speech in the play, depending on the occasion, private or public, and on the relationships of the speakers to one another; and here some differentiation is possible which I have endeavoured to make.

Nature has a life of its own in Indian thought; it enshrines centers of power, radiating holiness, plenitude, beauty. For this reason, I have refrained from using the neuter form of the English pronoun. A hill is therefore a ‘he’ and a stream is a radiant ‘she’.

I have translated only a few of the names of the flora in the Kalidasa landscape. While there are several kinds of lotuses mentioned, each with its own distinctive name in the original and each beautifully evocative, I have reluctantly used the generic term ‘lotus’. I have however retained the Sanskrit names for many other flowers, trees, shrubs and vines mentioned or described, for two reasons. Firstly, English equivalents are not readily available (except botanical terms) and identifications are not always definitive. Secondly the Sanskrit names form part of the poetic effect in certain passages; they frequently sound like the roll call of epic heroes and their weapons.

Beauty, Genius of Blossom- Time, Forsaking
the kadamba, kutaja, and kakubha,
The sarja and the arjuna
now dwells with the saptaparna. (Rtu: 3.3)

Here, the poet seems to be having some fun at the expense of the epic poets.

On the other hand, I have translated nearly all of the epithets of Indra in Meghadutam as well as those given to Siva and Parvati in kumarasambhavam because the meaning of a particular epithet chosen by the poet has a specific significance in the context. In Meghadutam, I have translated for instance Sulapani, Candesvara, (34-6) and Tryambaka (60) because they are epithets resonant with mythic and metaphysical meaning in the context.

In Kumarasambhavam, Kalidasa employs several names/epithets for three of the four main characters in the poem: Siva, Kama, Himalata. I have used the specific names for them in the text wherever I felt that there could be a loss of meaning if they were not used. For instance, I have retained Smara and translated the epithet as Remembrance or The Lord of Memories. Similarly for Siva, I have retained or translated the names that the poet employs, such as Rudra, Pinaki (The Trident- Armed Lord, or Wielder of the Trident). This is done in order to alert the reader to the rich suggestiveness in Kalidasa’s use of proper names available to him; to make available to the reader the mythic and metaphysical allusion that surround the simple word with an aura of meaning; and to provide the reader with those rich resonances to words similar to the resonances that overtones lend to musical note when struck or sounded just right. At other places where a name or epithet is not performing a special function, I have used the terms Siva and Kama which are most familiar to most readers.

At places I have included an elucidatory word or phrase to avoid an excess of annotation; for instance, I include the word moon, to the translation of osadhinam adhipasya (7:1), of the Lord of Plants.

The translations are accompanied by a long introduction, notes and appendices. The introduction suggests way of looking at the three works in this volume singly and as a group. These are however not exhaustive for want of space. Still, an attempt has been made within a brief compass to relate these works in a meaningful way and trace a pattern of development in the poet’s oeuvre. The myths that lend an added depth and resonance to a work, especially Meghadutam, are briefly recounted in Appendix II. An in-depth analysis of a verse from Rtusamharam which is the earliest of Kalidasa’s works, has been included as part of the notes to show how the poet’s multilayered imagery functions as an integral part of the structure (note 7).

The notes should be of some help in bridging gaps in communication by explaining the numerous mythological and metaphysical allusions in the poems and the play. They also points to the possibility of multiple readings of a line or passage; in most cases a translation can convey only one of the possible readings.

Because Kalidasa’s works emerge out of a philosophical context (as all great works of art do) and return us to it, some information about religious and metaphysical concepts both Vedic and Saiva, is unavoidable. It has been kept to a minimum.

The presence of all this background information in no way implies that Kalidasa cannot be read with pleasure and delight without this explanatory apparatus. The response to great poetry (and poetic drama) is the immediate response to it as poetry. While it is true that the Indian and the European intellectual traditions are different, emerging as they do, each from its own world view and intimately interwoven with it, the two worlds of these traditions ought not to be treated as totally opaque to each other. If an educated Indian is able to read and enjoy the Greek tragedies and Tolstoy in English translations, which is the only way for most of us who have neither Greek nor Russian, we can safely assume that English readers (both within the culture and outside it )who have no Sanskrit can appreciate and enjoy Vyasa, Valmiki and Kalidasa, through translations of their works into English. With numerous hurdles to negotiate in the course of translations, it is a matter of satisfaction that translations can ‘carry over’ much of the power and beauty of the original. The notes and annotations are simply a means to enable the reader to explore the depths and reaches of Kalidasa’s art and taste its full flavor- Rasa.

 

Contents
  Acknowledgements ix
  Abbreviations xi
  Key to the Pronunciation of Sanskrit Words xii
  Key to Prose Passages in the Translations of the Plays xiii
  Foreword - A Note on texts and Translations xv
  General Introduction 1
  Poems:  
  Rtusamharam 75
  Kumarasambhavam 107
  Meghadutam 291
  Notes and References 323
  Appendices I Kalidasa's Dates 363
  II Myths 371
  III Interpolated stanzas in Meghadutam 379
  A Select Bibliography 383
  Map 385
  Afterword 387

 

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