“Kalidasa is the Shakespeare of Sanskrit poetry.” This is the quote often repeated about the great kavi, Kalidasa. He is the author of numerous Sanskrit works including two epic poems: The Raghuvamśa and Kumarasambhava. The Raghuvamśa chronicles the kings of the Raghu dynasty, while the Kumarasambhava offers the story of Parvati’s birth, early years and then marriage to Lord Shiva. Kalidasa wrote numerous smaller poems, one which I personally worked on at Columbia University, called the Meghaduta in which a Yaksha, who has unfairly been separated from his beloved, seeks to convince a cloud to act as his love messenger. Another important famous work of Kalidasa’s is the play Shakuntala, which is properly referred to in Sanskrit as, Abhijñatashakuntalam. Kalidasa has a strong connection in his poems with The Puranas. It is said about Kalidasa that he has a way of conveying the sublime through his poetry. When you listen to or chant his Sanskrit poetry it elevates you from an ordinary state of being to a more exalted higher level of understanding.
Sanskrit Studies Method: Kumarasambhava Exercise
Sanskrit Verse Chanted by Manorama
Listen to the following Kumarasambhava chant and follow along with the text.
Practice both listening and chanting it 3 x’s.
Then read the meaning and sit quietly for 5 minutes.
Verse from the Kumarasambhava
udghātaḥ praṇavo yāsāṁ nyāyaistribhirudīraṇam |
karma yajñaḥ phalaṁ svargastāsāṁ tvaṁ prabhavo girām || 2.12
“Oh, Lord, to which words Om is the beginning; which words are to be uttered with three kinds of accent rules such as udātta, anudātta, and svarita; the completion of these words will be in the Vedic rituals and ultimately is the heaven itself. To you, oh lord, who is the source of the sacred words, the veda-vākyā-s of the Rig, yajur, sāma, adhrvana vedā-s… all praise to thee… (2.11)
In the verse above, Lord Shiva is extolled not only as the sacred sound OM, but also as the source of sound. He is praised as the rhythm in the Vedas. And is linked with the oldest of the Sanskrit books, the Vedas. He is lauded as peace itself. When the student chants this mantra, she participates in the praising of all that Lord Shiva represents and draws that higher knowledge, light and tranquility towards her.
© 2017 Luminous Shabda Inc. & Manorama
Photo by Elena Prokofyeva
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