Kālidāsa (KAHL-ee-DAHS-uh) lived during the reign of Chandragupta II (r. c. 380-413), though Indian tradition often places him during the reign of Vikramāditya I of the first century b.c.e. His name, meaning “servant of Kali,” identifies him as a devotee of Śiva, and a great deal of his poetry recounts tales of the legends of Śiva and praise for the city of Ujjain, with which Kālidāsa is associated.
Kālidāsa’s major works are in the form of epic poetry, including the Kumārasambhava (traditionally c. 60 b.c.e., probably c. 380 c.e.; The Birth of the War-God, 1879), which retells the birth of Kumāra and Śiva’s love for Pārvatī, and the Raghuvamśa (traditionally c. 50 b.c.e., probably c. 390 c.e.; The Dynasty of Raghu, 1872-1895), regarding the life of Rāma; lyric poetry, including the elegy Meghadūta (traditionally c. 65 b.c.e., probably c. 375 c.e.; The Cloud Messenger, 1813); and drama, including the Mālavikāgnimitra (traditionally c. 70 b.c.e., probably c. 370 c.e.; English translation, 1875), the Vikramorvaśīya (traditionally c. 56 b.c.e., probably c. 384 c.e.; Vikrama and Urvaśī, 1851), and the Abhijñānaśākuntala (traditionally c. 45 b.c.e., probably c. 395 c.e.; Śakuntalā: Or, The Lost Ring, 1789), all tales of love. Kālidāsa’s poetry is widely regarded as achieving the highest levels in description and expression of emotion of all classical Indian literature.
Kālidāsa was one of the first Sanskrit writers to receive the attention of Europeans and remains the...
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