Kãlidãsa (circa fourth century CE) is widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language. Not much is known with certainty about his life, and though many are aware of his timeless Sãkuntalam and Meghadútam, very few have actually read him, even in translation. The aesthetics of poetry may have changed over 1500 years—we no longer compare women’s faces to lotuses or their figures to vines—but it is difficult not to be moved by the sheer beauty and lyricism of Kãlidãsa’s description of the exiled yakṣa beseeching a cloud to carry his message across the mountains to his lover, or his evocative narration of the meeting of doomed lovers in the forest.
Mani Rao’s supple, contemporary translation removes the distance between Kãlidãsa and the modern reader; she helps ‘read’ the poetry for us while remaining loyal to the text.
Selections from all seven of the great poet’s works (which are considered by Sanskrit scholars to be authentically his creations) are included in this volume— Meghadūtam, Kumãrasambhavam and Ṛtusaṃhāram; the heroic exploits narrated in Raghuvaṃsam which gives us a remarkable picture of ancient India; as well as the celebrated dramas Abhijnãna Sakuntalam, Vikramorvasíyam and Mãlavikãgnimitram. This is a translation that belongs to today; Kãlidãsa renewed.