Kalidasa (Devanagari: कालिदास Kālidāsa) was a Sanskrit poet and dramatist, his title Kavikulaguru (Preceptor of All Poets) bearing testimony to his stature. Known to be an ardent worshipper of Shiva, he wrote his plays and poetry largely based around Hindu mythology and philosophy. His name means, literally, "Kali's servant." His life cannot be dated with precision, but most likely falls within the Gupta period, probably in the 4th or 5th century.
- अनुभवति हि मूर्ध्ना पादपस्तीव्रमुष्णं ।
शमयति परितापं छायया संश्रितानाम् ॥
- स्रजमपि शिरस्यन्धः क्षिप्तं धुनोत्यहिशंकया
- न रत्नमन्विष्यति मृग्यते हि तत्
- A jewel is sought after and has not to seek.
- Kumārasambhava, Canto V, 45; translation by M. R. Kale
- A jewel is sought after and has not to seek.
- If a professor thinks what matters most
Is to have gained an academic post
Where he can earn a livelihood, and then
Neglect research, let controversy rest,
He's but a petty tradesman at the best,
Selling retail the work of other men.
- Mālavikāgnimitram, i.17. In Poems from the Sanskrit, trans. John Brough (London: Penguin, 1968), no. 165; as reported in A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations by Alan L. Mackay (Bristol: IOP Publishing, 1991), p. 136.
Quotes about Kalidasa
- Kalidasa, the immortal poet and playwright, is a peerless genius whose works have won world-wide fame. The matchless qualities of his work have been lavishly praised both by the ancient Indian critics and modern scholars. [...] In modern times the translations of Kalidasa's works in numerous Indian and foreign languages have spread his fame all over the world and now he ranks among the few topmost poets and playwrights of the world.
- Ram Gopal, Kālidāsa: His Art and Culture (1984)
- The performance begins with a prologue, in which an actor or the manager discusses the play; Goethe seems to have taken from Kalidasa the idea of a prologue for Faust.
- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors.
- The first time I came upon this inexhaustible work, [Shakuntala] it aroused such enthusiasm in me and so held me that I could not stop studying it. I even felt impelled to make the impossible attempt to bring it in some form to the German stage. These efforts were fruitless but they made me so thoroughly acquainted with this most valuable work, it represented such an epoch in my life, I so absorbed it, that for thirty years I did not look at either the English or the German version. It is only now that I understand the enormous impression that work made on me at an earlier age.
- Goethe. source: Letters from Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
- It is enough that Goethe, ablest of all Europeans to transcend provincial and national barriers, found the reading of Shakuntala among the profound experiences of his life, and wrote of it gratefully:
Wouldst thou the young year’s blossoms, and the fruits of its decline,
And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed;
Wouldst thou the Earth and Heaven itself in one sole name combine?
I name thee, O Shakuntala! and all at once is said.
- Goethe. quoted in Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors.
- I cannot easily find a product of human mind more pleasant than this [Shakuntala]… a real blossom of the Orient, and the first, most beautiful of its kind! Something like that, of course, appears once every two thousand years.
- J. G. Herder. source: An Introduction to Eastern Ways of Thinking, N.L. Gupta. Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
- A factor of uncertainty in precessional chronology is that the equinox moves very slowly (1° in nearly 71 years), so that any inexactness in the Vedic indications and anyambiguity in the constellations’ boundaries makes a difference of centuries. This occasional inexactness might, for example, be enough to neutralize the shift of ca. five centuries in Kalidâsa’s date, who could be dated to ca. 100 BC on narrowly interpreted astronomical grounds, rather than the conventional date of ca. AD 400... The great playwright and poet wrote that the monsoon rains started at the beginning of the sidereal month of Asâdha, which was most accurate in the last centuries BC: “We can, therefore, say that about 2000 years have elapsed since the period of Kâlidâsa”, according to P.V. Holay. This implicit astronomy-based chronology of Kalidasa could be enlisted as evidence for a higher chronology of the imperial Guptas, at whose court he supposedly worked. That unconventional chronology has been proposed by K.D. Sethna... However, shifting Kâlidâsa to ca. 100 BC would not necessarily have such drastic implications, as philologists had already questioned his synchronism with the Guptas on other grounds, arguing that he fits better in the Shunga or immediately post-Shunga age, which happens to be just around 100 BC. So, either way, the playwright’s birth date can be accommodated into the prevailing chronological paradigm.
- P.V. Holay quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2007). Asterisk in bharopiyasthan: Minor writings on the Aryan invasion debate.
- He first translated, in 1813, Kalidasa's Megha Dutt (Cloud Messenger), a work Wilson favorably compared to European poetry: "I advance an opinion that we have few specimens either in classical or modern poetry of more genuine tenderness or delicate feeling."
- H.H. Wilson, quoted in Ibn, W. (2009). Defending the West: A critique of Edward Said's Orientalism. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books.