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|Kalidãsa: A Native of Magadh|
After Valmiki and Vyas Kãlidãsa is the most celebrated poet of the Sanskrit language. Jayadeva, the author of Prasanna-raghava and not of the Gita-govindam called him- कविकुलगुरुः कालिदासो विलासः. Bãna-bhatta, the unparalleled prose-writer of Sanskrit and a native of Magadha on the Sone river wrote about Kãlidãsa in his famous work Harshacharitam:-
निर्गतासु न वा कस्य कालिदासस्य सूक्तिषु।
However, the date and birth-place of this great poet have been a riddle to Sanskrit scholars because they have been searching it in the sea of the Sanskrit literature. Despite their deep dive, they have found little and that, too, in the realm of conjecture and no positive evidence. But if one looks beyond Sanskrit literature and delves in history-sources, one will be delighted to find two positive references to the birth-place of Kãlidãsa and both testify to the fact that the great poet was a native of Magadh.
V.V. Mirashi and N.R. Navelekar in their well researched work “Kalidãsa: Date, Life and works” has discussed the supposed birth-places of Kalidãsa at length. In the book’s third chapter ‘The Riddle of the Birth-place’ he has analysed the claims of Bengal Kashmir, Vidarbha, Daśapura or Vidiśa and Ujjayini as the birth-places of Kalidãsa. In addition, scholars of Odisha and Mithila also claim Kalidãsa to be the native of their regions. But no champion of these six regions has been able to cite any positive evidence in their claims. Mirashi and Navelkar have declared Ujjayini to be the birth-place of Kalidãsa only on the emotional ground.
Dharma-svãmi a Buddhist pilgrim from Tibet, visited Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Tirhut Vaishali and other parts of Bihar between 1234 and 1236 A.D. after a long stay in Nepal in the pursuit of academic interests. Undaunted by inclement weather, destruction of important centres of learning like Nalanda and frequent in slaughts of Turk invaders he carried on pilgrimage to the Vajrãsana at Bodh Gaya and remained present in the ruins of Nalanda in the company of Rahula Sribhadra for several weeks. His visit to Bihar is a thrilling account of adventure and absolute faith.
On return journey to his native place he stayed in the Nepalese and Tibetan monasteries for some years and them reached his own monastery at ITe-u-ra in c. 1241 A.D. and remained there for 23 years until his death in 1264 A.D. His stay in Nepal and Bihar had enhanced his reputation and he had been invited by the Mongol Khan Kublai Khan twice to visit his court. But it could not materialize. Dharma-svamin’s accounts are trustworthy. On the basis of his narratives his disciple Upãsaka Chos-dar wrote his biography which is regarded almost as an eye-witness’ account of the incidents narrated therein.
This detailed introduction has been presented because the story of Kãlidãsa has been narrated at length in this book:-
“Again, in Magadha there is a non-Buddhist stone image called Devi Kãli, or Lha-mo Nag-mo (in Tibetan). In front of the chapel there is a dried up well, and a gate built of loose stones, facing East. There exists a story that in ancient time this stone image made a fool talk, after which he became a learned Pandita. Though he had propitiated a non-Buddhist god, he was bestowed with the mastery of this World. Formerly, in India a Rãjã had a daughter who was very learned in Sanskrit. When the Rãja decided to give her away in marriage, the daughter said, “If there is one more learned than me in Sanskrit, I shall go [to him]. If you give me to another, I shall not go?” the Rãjã made enquires, saying, “Who is learned in Grammar?” They said, “The most learned was Vararuchi”. The Rãjã said, “Daughter, I shall give you to Vararuchi?” The daughter replied, “I am more learned than Vararuchi. I am not going to him?” And thus they were unable to make her go, Vararuchi became disgusted, and thought, “One should find a fool as a husband for this girl” Accordingly he went in search of a fool. He saw a man sitting on a tree branch and cutting it at the root. Vararuchi thought, here was a fool. The branch broke and the man fell down. Vararuchi then said to him, You should marry the Rãjã’s daughter?” In India there was a custom to pronounce a benediction when begging. Vararuchi taught the fool to say “Om svasti”. When the fool had mastered it, he took him to the Rãjã’s palace, and said, “He is a great Pandita! He is my teacher. You should give the daughter to him!” The Rãjã said, “If it is so, let us give her away!” The fool then pronounced the benediction, but because of fright or inability, instead of “Om svasti”, he produced something which sounded like “u-sa-ta-ra”. Immediately Vararuchi interpreted the fool’s words and composed a beautiful solka.
“Rudra with Umã, Samkara with Vishnu
Vararuchi called this composition the “Necklace of Sarasvati” and said that it was composed by this great Pandita. The Rãjã and his daughter then paid homage to him. Having given the Rãja’s daughter to the fool, they held the marriage ceremony. Vararuchi then fled away. It would have been against the Rãjã’s law to leave the fool after having married him. The Rãjã’s daughter did not like him and began to hate him. The fool was greatly afflicted by this, and went to pray before the image of the Kãli-Devi supplicating the goddess to destroy him. After the laps of two days, the Rãjã’s daughter thought, “If the fool were to die, it would not be good,” and sent her maid servants with some food and betel-nuts. The maid servants contemptuously spat some betel chewed by them into the fool’s mouth. (Observing this), the goddess thought, “Even maid servants despise him! I should bestow on him a magic spell!” The goddess slapped the cheek of one of the maids, and asked the, fool, “What sort of magic spell would you like (to possess)?” The fool replied that he would like to become learned in Sanskrit Grammar, and immediately he was transformed into a learned man. With his right hand he took the rough stalk of a lotus which was similar to that of a rose, and with his left hand the soft stalk of the blue lotus. Then standing in front of the door of the daughter’s apartment, he sent the following message through a maid,
“In my right hand (I have) a lotus,.
The Rãjã’s daughter observed, “The Sloka is good poetry! He must have propitiated the goddess!” and continued to live with the fool. Thus having propitiated the goddess Kali, he became a scholar known as Kãlidãsa or the “Servant of Kãli.” Among the grammatical treatises composed by him, there was one called Ka-li-pa vyãkarana. The Dharmasvãmin said that in Tibetan the word vyãarana meant a “prophecy”, also “grammar”, or “exposition”. Even nowadays there exist in India several versions of this treatise, but according to the Dharmasvãmin, the grammatical treatise composed by Chandragomin had a greater vogue.
This story has been repeated mutatis mutandis by another famous Tibetan historian Lama Taranath in his book “The History of Buddhism in India” written in 1608 A.D. He gives the following account:-
" Next is the account of Kãlidãsaa
In addition, tradition adds that when the enlightened Kãlidãsa went to his wife and knocked the door, she asked “अस्ति कश्चिद् वाग्विशेषः. Kãlidãsa composed three poetical works after these three words:
अस्त्युत्तरस्यां दिशि देवतात्मा कुमारसम्भवम्
So far no historian has taken notice of the trust-worthy account of Dharma-svamin on Kãlidãsa. These are only two positive accounts on the life of Kãlidãsa and both indicate that the birth-place of Kãlidãsa was Magadh.
On the basis of certain descriptions of customs and rituals in some works of Kãlidãsa, certain historians have tried to locate him in either Ujjain, Kashmir, Bengal, Vidarbha, Vidisha, Mithila, Odisha and some other parts of the country. Mere deviation of the path of the cloud-messenger to Ujjain and the majestic description of the town has led to many historians to declare that Ujjain was his birth-place. But no one has noticed many glaring cases the partiality of Kãlidãsa in favour of Magadh e.g. in Raghu vansa he has declared himself that- Sumitrã, the queen of Dasaratha and the mother of Lakshmana and Satrughna was a native of Magadha. In the Valmiki Rãmayana Kausalya has been shown a native of the Kosala country and Kaikeyi that of Kekaya. But the native place of Sumitra has not been indicated at all. But Kãlidãsa, being a native of Magadh had the affinity of Magadha and therefore he made this connect of Magadha to Ayodhya in the following verse of the Raghuvamsa:-
तमलभन्त पतिं पतिदेवताः शिखरिणामिव सागरमापगाः।
i.e. The daughters of the kings of Magadha, Kosala and Kekaya, who regarded their husband as their deity, obtained for their husband him — a mighty warrior (lit. who drove his arrows deep into the persons of his enemies), just as the rivers, the daughters of the mountains, obtain the (mighty) main.
It is really a great partiality of the great poet to his native place. Kãlidãsa was aware that Magadha was not mentioned even once in the Vãlmìki Ramayana, even then he made this declaration. What else except sheer partiality can be attributed to this arbitrary addition in the story of the Rãmayana?
Another partiality towards Magadh has been shown by Kãlidãsa in the Raghuvamsa in the context of Indumatì-svayambara. In the galaxy of kings present in the hall the Magadh king gets the first place and in his praise are the following verses composed by Kãlidãsa:-
ततो नृपाणां श्रुतवृत्तवंशा पुंवत्प्रगल्भा प्रतिहाररक्षी।
Then Sunanda, the door-keeper of the harem, bold (clever in speech like a man, and well acquainted with the lives and pedigrees of kings, took the princess, first of all, to the presence of the king of the Magadhas, and thus spoke —
All the historians, except a few, have suggested that Kãlidãsa was a court poet of king Vakramãditya. This king Vikramãditya has been variously identified from the legendary/historical king of Ujjain after whom this Vikrama Samvata is supposed the be prevalence to Chandragupta II or Skandagupta or even Yasovarma. The upper date of Kãlidãsa is the second century B.C., as has named Agnimitra in his drama Malavikagnimitram. Agnimitra is the son of Vasumitra and grand-son of Pushyamitra who, after, having dethroned the last Mauryan king in 185 B.C., defended the sovereignty of the country. The lower limit of his date is the first half of the seventh century when his name is mentioned by Banabhatta in the Harsha-charitam and in the Aihole inscription dated 634 A.D. In the Aihole inscription Kãlidãsaa is mentioned as follows
स विजयतां रविकीर्तिः कविताश्रितकालीदासभारविकीर्तिः।
Scholars like V.V. Mirashi find shadow of the poems of Kãlidãsa in the Mandsore inscription dated 473 A.D. But the majority of historians rightly associate him with the great Gupta Emperor Chandragupta II (375-416 A.D.). The capital of Chandragupta II was Pataliputra and therefore Kãlidãsa lived in the court at Pataliputra and not at Ujjain. There is no positive proof that Chandragupta II had transferred his capital from Pataliputra to Ujjain or he had stayed there for a considerable period. When Fahien had visited Pataliputra in c. 400 A.D. during the reign of Chandragupta, Pataliputra was the capital of the Gupta empire. When his minister and army commander was on march to defeat the śakas, he declared himself to be ikVyhiq=d% i.e. a resident of Pataliputra. When Chandragupta II’s son Kumaragupta established the Nalanda University, he established it in the vicinity of his capital. Had Ujjain been his capital, he would have established it near Ujjain. Thus Kalidas was a native of Magadh both by birth and domicile i.e. his place of work. His association with Ujjain is based on the presumption that since Kãlidãsa was a court poet of Chandragupta II and he has made a beautiful description of Ujjain; Chandragupta’s court had shifted there. It is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. From the writing of Kalidasa it appears that Ujjain was a flourishing city but not a royal capital or a fortified town.
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