The Raghuvamsa deals with characters that are human beings, and for that reason are nearer to us. Although there are divine or super-human aspects in the lives of the heroes, yet we feel our responsive chord is struck by Dilipa and Sudaksina undertaking all hardships for the birth of a son, Raghu's childhood, Aja's love and grief, Bharata's brotherly love and self-denial, and Rama and sita—the paragons of conjugal love. In fact, the delineation of human life and aspirations is all along infused with highest ideals of conduct and character : kings ruling with justice, free from greed, helping even gods against the forces of evil; sages practising penances and religious rites and acting as the custodians of the spiritual and moral well-being of the poeple; demons and other perpetrators of crime being brought to book. The feminine characters, though differing in their characteristics, are yet all exemplars of faithful married life. Sudaksina the matronly queen, Indumati, the beautiful, Kausalya and Sumitra- –the self-denying queens and mothers, Kaikeyi the mother redeemed after her fall; Sita—and what shall we say about this ideal but tragic figure whom Kalidasa has portrayed so vividly and so deeply in spite of the limitations of space at his disposal? She has the loveliness of Indumati, the matronly serenity—even in youth—of Sudaksina and nobility and self-denial, greater than those of Kausalya or Sumitra. Her message to Rama is an epitome of the ideals of Indian womanhood; the tragic vein bursting into eloquence, the nobility, the dignity, the unshakable faithfulness and the magnanimity of the woman's soul in agony lift Sita into the ideal plane, leaving us wondering with admiration at the well-high divine heights which the feminine heart was able to scale.
Kalidasa is a master of the Vaidarbhi style which contains a judicious use of compounds, is perspicous and full of harmony. The poet's mastery over language is matched only by its simplicity and chastity. The figures of speech, especially those of sense, are profusely employed, and that, too, mostly with Kalidasa's aptness and elegance. There are, it must be admitted, occasional similes which smack of the pedant. Assonance, alliteration, etc., are also used : indeed, in the ninth canto the poet has exhibited his capacity to write in the artificial style by using the yamaka (e.g कुरवका रवकारणतां ययुःin fifty-four verses.
As much by reason of its human interest and lofty moral tone as by the poetic beauty of the various episodes the Raghuvamsa has remained a cherished possession to the elite in India.
Great as Kalidasa's indebtedness to the Ramayana is, he has not followed the Ramayana in the matter of the order to the kings of the Solar race; his order of kings is much more similar to that found in the Vayu Purana and the Visnu Purana, especially the former. In the Pratimanataka—a drama ascribed to Bhasa who was a predecessor of Kalidasa,—Rama's ancestors are mentioned in the same order as that in Raghu. In the first fifteen cantos Dilipa, Raghu, Aja, Dasaratha and Rama are described, Rama and Raghu standing out prominently among them. The sixteenth gives a description of Rama's son Kusa, followed by that of his son, Atithi, in the seventeenth. The eighteenth canto stands in sharp contrast to all the rest both for the large number of kings-21 in all—described therein and also the artificiality of these descriptions. The kings are described with the help of play on words so that puns and superficial—even unmeaning—comparisons become sufficient for the descriptions of the king. For instance, King Pariyatra had 'by his height vanquished the mountain Pariyatra' (18.6) or king Dhruvasandhi was 'comparable to Dhruva' and 'there was eternal peace (ध्रुव: सन्धिः) among the enemies who surrendered themselves to him.' (18.34). All kings are dismissed in a stanza or two except Sudarsana whose description as a minor king given in nineteen verses concludes the canto. The last canto contains a vivid description of the debauchee Agnivarna who died a victim of his own dissolute ways. His widow, who was enciente, ruled the kingdom with the help of ministers. This glaring inconsistency and the apparently abrupt close of the poem have raised the question whether the poem, as it is, is complete. A traditional report spoke of the Raghuvamsa as consisting of twenty-two cantos, while another spoke of twenty-five. These claims are not substantiated by the production of definite evidence and must be dismissed as mere hearsay. On the other hand, Hillebrandt was struck by the contrast presented by the economical way in which the poet selected by way of a back-ground to the description of Rama, only a few named—Dilipa, Raghu, Aja and Dasaratha—from the long line of his ancestors on the one hand and the sight of a crowd of twenty-one successors in the body of a single canto, viz., the eighteenth on the other. This contradiction, he explained, was due to the fact that the last two cantos are un-authentic. He supported this contention by pointing out the comparative shortness of these two cantos, the artificiality of description in the eighteenth, and the lack of taste in the nineteenth canto.
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