Dr. N.P. Unni (b. 1936) has the unique distinction of being the first candidate to be awarded a Ph.D Degree in Sanskrit by the University of Kerala. After a long teaching career in the Govt. Sanskrit College, Trivandrum, he joined the University of Kerala as Curator in the reputed Oriental Research Institute and Manuscripts Library. Later he became Reader in Sanskrit and from 1979 onwards he served as professor and head of the Dept; till 1996. Then he became the Vice-Chancellor of the prestigious Sree Sanksracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Kerala, for a period of four years. Dr. Unni has written/edited/commented/published more than 40 books in the different fields of study like Classical literature, dramas, and Tantra, Arthasastra, Kerala history, Dramaturgy Commentatorial literature, Literary criticism etc. His magnum opus is an English translation with text and notes of the Natyasastra of Bharata in 4 volumes. He was awarded the Certificate of Honour by the President of India in 2001. In 2010 he received the Amritakirti Puraskaram from Mata amrtanandamayidevi. The latest one happens to be the Pushpakasri in the year 2012. Kavikulaguru Kalidasa Sanskrit University honoured him with the title Mahamahopadhyaya and Adi Sankaracharya Award (2012) Kerala based Uttradam Tirunal Institute of Culture conferred on him the title Bharatasree (2014).
The present volume is the fourth book on Kalidasa studies by the author. The first one entitled Meghasandesa of Kalidasa with the commentary Pradipa of Daksinavartanatha was issued from Delhi and published by Nag Publishers in the year 1984. It also carried an introduction In English in 46 pages dealing with the details of the South Indian commentator.
The second volume contained three Sanskrit commentaries viz; Pradipa of Daksinavartanatha, Vidyullata of Purnasarasvati and Sumanoramani of Paramesvara. It was edited with an elaborate introduction in English consisting of 131 pages and it was published by Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan, Delhi, in 1987.
The introductory portion of the second work was reprinted under the title Meghasandesa - an assessment from the South by Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan, Delhi in 1986 as a monograph.
The third edition of the Meghasandesa with an English translation of the author may be seen included in the Kalidasasarvasvam in the complete works of Kalidasa in two volumes. The work is included in Volume I (Poems). It was published again by New Bharatiya Book Corporation, Delhi, 2009.
The present volume consists of the text, English translation and 12 Sanskrit commentaries on the poem. Since the earlier collections having 3 commentaries have gone out of print and scholars reminded me of a reprint, I thought it fit to include more commentaries. I am aware of the collection of Eight Sanskrit commentaries issued by Kalidasa Sanskrit Academy, Ujjain in the year 2009. This volume included the Rasadipini commentary of Jagaddhara which I have not consulted earlier. This volume Meghadutam - Astavyakhyavibhusitam consisted only of the text and commentaries and it does not give the biographical details of the commentaries included therein, which somewhat lessens the value of otherwise excellent publication. I hope that the information supplied by me in this respect will be welcomed by research oriented scholars and students.
The preparation of the present volume was an enormous task involving much labour in procuring even printed books. I had to seek the assistance of galaxy of scholars and. friends to achieve this. Thus I am indebted to Professor Saroja Bhate and V. N. Jha of the University of Poona. Dr. Rajendra Nanavati of Baroda and Gautam Patel of Ahmedabad who were of immense help whom I could always approach when needed, Prof. S. P. Narang, the Kalidasa specialist stands foremost in providing meaningful information from time to time. Dr. Srinivasa Rath deserves sincere thanks to many items of Kalidasa studies. Dr. S.A.S. Sarma of Pondicherry is a friend of mine who always renders necessary help in such matters. I shall not forget my late friend Tapasvi Nandi in my studies on Kalidasa. Dr. Kamesvari of the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute, Chennai always responds to my telephonic requests coming up with valuable information.
These and other friends local and international - deserve my sincere gratitude in the preparation of this volume of great significance. To all of them I am beholden.
MEGHASANDESA - THE LYRIC OF LOVE
Kilidasa in the South
Kalidasa is truly called the national poet of India as the Ganges is our national river and the Gita is our national scripture. He is held in high esteem all over India and numerous legends have grown around his name. Legends say that he was an illiterate and that it was Goddess Kali who blessed him with poesy. Then there are many stories of his having been favorite of the courtesans. According to one account he was one of the nine gems of the royal court of Vikramaditya of Ujjain, while yet another connects him with emperor Bhoja forgetting the anachronism involved.
In the south too, as in other parts of India, there are several legends connected with the poet. A popular legend maintains at Kalidasa was a dunce in his early days. He was chosen by some mischievous scholars to be the husband of a haughty princess who out-witted all the scholars of the time by her quick-wittedness. The scholars searching for a naive happened to see Kalidasa cutting the branch of a tree on which he himself was perched. Taking him to be the greatest dunce of the land, they dressed him in the garb of a scholar and took him to the house of the princess. On seeing a picture of Ravana, the dunce exclaimed in surprise and addressed the portrait as of Rabhana. The princess laughed at his naivety, but the accompanying scholars rallied to support the dunce maintaining that the form Rabhana as spoken by the fellow must be the correct one, They argued in the following lines:
Since the brothers of the demon were called Kumbhakarna and Vibhisana with a ‘bha’ in the middle of their name, he must be Rabhana and not Ravana. At last the princess had to admit her defeat in the wordy encounter and had to marry the dunce since she had promised to marry the scholar who defeats her in argument. Later, at her advice the dunce worshipped Goddess Kali and got enlightenment. It is said that he entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Goddess at night when she was out of the shrine. He bolted the door from inside to the embarrassment of the Goddess who could not enter the temple before day-break. At last she blessed the fellow and made him a real scholar scribbling a mantra on his tongue with the tip of her sword. Hence-forth he was known as Kalidasa. This is one of the most popular legends in the south figuring the poet.
The people of the south have always considered him as one of the greatest of poets. His references to the southern region have endeared him to the southerners. His intimate knowledge of the several parts of India is known from the Raghuvamsa and the first part of the Meghasandesa. Probably a native of Ujjain, Kalidasa has evinced a good deal of intimacy with the south. He has expressly mentioned countries like Pandyas, Cholas and Keralas.
In about seven stanzas of the fourth canto of the Raghuvamsa (IV.52-58) Kalidasa describes the incursion of Raghu who was on his march for victory. They contain reference to the topography of Kerala and allusion to the famous legend regarding the creation of Kerala by sage Parasurama, whose deeds are described in many chronicles. By throwing his battle axe into the sea and causing the waters to unveil a new landscape, he created the land of Kerala and bequeathed the same to his successors. Hence Kerala is often referred to as Bhargavaksetra - the land of Bhargava - Parasurama. That these stanzas refer to the incident is important from the point of view of Keralites. Further, the fact that Kerala is demarked by several rivers flowing from the Sahya mountain in the east to the western sea is hinted at by the reference to the river Murala/ Muraci. This river is referred to as Murala by Mallinatha, Kerala commentators like Arunagirinatha and Narayanapandita have mentioned it as Muraci only. Daksinavartanatha, another south Indian commentator agrees with the form given by Kerala commentators. The present writer has identified the river Muraci with the river Curni alias Periyar or Always river flowing to the west. The Sahyan ranges which form a fortress protecting the land is mentioned twice in these stanzas. The Ketaka flower found in plenty in this region and the various flora like the murmuring palm trees and coconut trees are also mentioned to give an idea of the region. The elephants that roam about the mountain regions too find a mention at the hands of the poet. The Kerala damsels running away from the path of the soldiers on the march provide an exciting picture. All this shows Kalidasa’s familiarity with the topography and specialities of the region. It is natural in these circumstances that Keralites have a special reason to love the great poet.
Daksinavartanatha in his commentary on the Raghuvamsa has pointed out the familiarity of the poet with the topography of the south. In the course of his explanation he says that a particular reference is to the region on the banks of the river Kayakuti in the Pandya country. On another occasion he shows that the poet knew that the southern coast was crescent shaped.
Kilidisa in South Indian literatures
Kalidasa has exerted considerable influence in the literatures of the south. His influence on Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam literatures have been remarkable.
The Teluge literature has its beginning in the century long after the time of Kalidasa. ‘To trace the influence of Kalidasa in particular in Telugu is not an easy task. It requires a thorough knowledge of both Kalidasa’s works and the entire range of Telugu literature covering a period of over thousand years’. Kalidasa’ s works have been translated and adapted to Telugu by many and his ideas were often borrowed. The Telugu Prabandha poets showed their appreciation by using many of his verses and ideas in their works on similar situations. The fact that there are nearly thirty translations of the AbhijnanaSakuntala in Telugu speaks of the popularity of Kalidasa.
In Kannada literature too, Kalidasa is considered as a great poet and his ideas are found reflected in many works of the language. Ranna, one of the greatest of Kannada poets, has paid homage to Kalidasa in his celebrated work Gadayuddha. He states that Kalidasa is famous for his poetic style and Banabhatta for his prose style. The works of Kalidasa have been translated in modem Kannada too, both in prose and verse.
Sanskrit and Tamil which coexisted in the south for nearly two thousand years contributed to the growth of literature. With exception to ValmIki and Vyasa, it was Kalidasa who inspired the Tamil poets most. After the emergence of the Meghasandd8, a number of Dutakavyas arose in that language. ‘The distinction of the Meghasandesa is that the spell it cast comprehended Tamil and even Sinhalese. The Tolkappiyam (dutakavya) is one of the ninety-six varieties of Tamil poetic composition (Prabandha). Although the messenger or go-between is an integral part of all love-poetry, the evolution of a poem-type with this as the core-idea and working out its background and the elements of messenger, route description of the other party, message proper etc, are later. Perasiriyar, of the 13th century, commentator on the Tolkappiyam, mentions the megha (cloud) along with the bird, as example of the love messenger. In Tamil, the dutakavya developed some features of its own, messages from either the lover or the beloved to the other and proliferation of the messenger to all kinds of beings, including objects and abstract ideas. As in Sanskrit, in Tamil too, the dutakavya was employed for a religious and philosophical theme alsot’.
In Malayalam literature the influence of Kalidasa is greater than in other south Indian literatures. Kalidasa and his works have been popular in Kerala from very early times. Though the minds of Kerala scholars and writers were saturated with the works of Kalidasa, the poet’s influences on Malayalam literature is not as deep and conspicuous as one would expect. Kalidasa’s main works are mahakavyas and dramas and Malayalam did not have these two types of literature till the close of the 19th century. It is only the Meghasandesa that set the pattern for Sanskrit and Malayalam literature of Kerala. About two dozen Sanskrit sandesakavyas and at least six Malayalam sandesakavyas were produced in Kerala and some of them are really great. The Sukasandesa of Laksmidasa is the earliest and best to be followed by the Kokilasandesa of Uddanda Sastri, the Hamsasandesa of Purnasarasvati, the Mayurasandesa of Udayaraja, the Bhrngasandesa of Vasudeva, the Cakorasandesa of Payyur Vasudeva and the Kamasendesa of Matrdatta are popular. In Malayalam the Unnunilisandesa and the Kokkasandesa were produced during the middle ages-in the 15th or 16th centuries. The Mayurasandesa of Keralavarma in the present century occupies a significant position in the literature of the region.
Most of the works of Kalidasa have been commented upon by Kerala writers among whom Purnasarasvati, Paramesvara, Abhirama, Arunagirinatha and Narayanapandita are outstanding. Their commentaries focus the all round significance of the text and bring out the worth of the poet by pointed remarks. These commentaries have gone a long way in appreciating the merits of the muse of Kalidasa and have helped those who tried to translate his works into Malayalam from the second half of the 19th century onwards. There are nearly forty translations of Sakuntala alone. Even at present translations of the works of Kalidasa are attempted by Kerala writers.
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