In earlier tidbits, I mentioned Kalidasa.  One can go on and on about Kalidasa.  In this tidbits, I will stick to मेघदूतम्.  It is obvious this means “cloud-messenger”, which is the name under which Meghadutam has been translated into English.  You will find the 1813/14 H.H. Wilson translation here.  However, I don’t think any Indian should read Meghadutam in English translation.  It is impossible to capture the beauty in any English translation.  Ideally, you should read it in Sanskrit.  If not in Sanskrit, you should read a translation in any of the Indian languages.  You will find the Sanskrit text here.

There is nothing in the story.  In fact, it is amazing that a poet should have composed a poem with no story-line, so to speak.  Kubera is the lord of riches and the lord of the yakshas and he lives in Alakapuri, on Mount Kailasha.  One of these yakshas has been negligent in his duties and Kubera banishes him from Alakapuri for one year.  He is banished to some place in the central parts of India.  There, he pines for his beloved wife, who is in Alakapuri.  It is the monsoon season and the yaksha decides to send a message to his beloved.  He uses the cloud as a messenger.  The Purvamegha part of the poem is about the cloud’s journey to Alakapuri and has 66 shlokas.  The Uttaramegha part of the poem is about the cloud’s return from Alakapuri and has 55 shlokas.  The beauty of the poem is in the description of nature.  I, and many others, think the Purvamegha part is better.  It is difficult to understand Meghadutam without a commentary.  Almost everyone depends on the commentary of Mallinatha (1350-1450 CE).  I have earlier told you that these 121 shlokas are written in the mandakranta metre.  Let me give you some samples.

The second part of shloka 7 gives us this. गन्तव्या ते वसतिरलका नाम यक्षेश्वराणां वाह्योद्यानस्थितहरशिरश्चन्द्रिकाधौतहर्म्या.  Let’s take the first bit. गन्तव्या ते वसतिः-अलका नाम यक्ष-ईश्वराणां.  Your (ते) destination (गन्तव्या) is the habitation (वसतिः) of the lords of the yakshas (यक्ष-ईश्वराणां, there are rich yakshas other than Kubera) by the name (नाम) of अलका.  So far so good, but the second bit looks formidable.  वाह्य-उद्यान-स्थित-हर-शिरः-चन्द्रिका-धौत-हर्म्या  A हर्म्य is a palace and these palaces are being washed (धौत).  Washed with what?  There are gardens outside (वाह्य-उद्यान) the palaces.  There is a moon on Shiva’s head (हर-शिरः-चन्द्रिका) and Shiva is in those external gardens.  Shiva has an association with Kailasha.  But this means that there was a statue of Shiva in those gardens and the light from the moon on Shiva’s head was washing those palaces in its glow.

What is the Sanskrit for a mushroom?  There are several and one is शिलिन्ध्र​.  Have you heard of any poet in the world bringing something like a mushroom into poetry?  I haven’t.  Here is the first part of shloka 11.  कर्तुं यच्च प्रभवति महीमुच्छिलीन्ध्रामवन्ध्यां.  This is only part of the shloka.  कर्तुं यत्-च प्रभवति महीम्-उच्छिलीन्ध्राम्-अवन्ध्यां.  कर्तुं प्रभवति means capable of doing.  वन्ध्यां is infertile and अवन्ध्यां is fertile.  You (actually your sound in the remaining part of the shloka) is capable of making that ground (यत् महीम्) fertile and make mushrooms sprout from it (उच्छिलीन्ध्राम्).

We move to shloka 15. रत्नच्छायाव्यतिकर इव प्रेक्षयमेतत्-पुरस्ताद्-वल्मीकग्रात् प्रभवति धनुःखन्डमाखन्डलस्य। येन श्यामं वपुरतितरां कान्तिमापत्स्यते वर्हेणेव स्फुरितरूचिना गोपवेशस्य विष्णोः॥  Broken up, रत्न-छाया-व्यतिकरः इव प्रेक्षयम्-एतत्-पुरस्ताद्-वल्मीक-अग्रात् प्रभवति धनुःखन्डम्-आखन्डलस्य। येन श्यामं वपुः-अतितरां कान्तिम्-आपत्स्यते वर्हेणेव स्फुरितरूचिना गोपवेशस्य विष्णोः॥  आखन्डल is Indra and his bow (धनुःखन्डम्) is the rainbow.  In front (एतत्-पुरस्ताद्), a rainbow will arise from a termite-hill (वल्मीक-अग्रात्) and increase (प्रभवति) the dark beauty of your form (श्यामं वपुः) and make it handsome (प्रेक्षयम्), as if the radiance of jewels is mixed with shadows (रत्न-छाया-व्यतिकरः).  You will look extremely beautiful (अतितरां कान्तिम्-आपत्स्यते) and will look like Vishnu, in his form of a cowherd (गोपवेशस्य), with dazzling (स्फुरितरूचिना) peacock-feathers (वर्हेणेव).  Word by word is always difficult.  But if you put it all together, you should be able to appreciate the imagery.

One final one should do.  This is shloka 18. छन्नोपान्तः परिणतफलद्य्योतिभिः काननाम्रैस्त्वय्यारूढे शिखरमचल: स्निग्धवेणीसवर्णे। नूनं यास्यत्यमरमिथूनप्रेक्षणीयामवस्थां मध्ये श्यामः स्तनः इव भुवः शेषविस्तारपाण्डूः॥  Broken up, छन्न-उपान्तः परिणत-फल-द्य्योतिभिः कानन-आम्रैः-त्वयि-आरूढे शिखरम-अचल: स्निग्धवेणी-सवर्णे। नूनं यास्यति-अमर-मिथून-प्रेक्षणीयाम-अवस्थां मध्ये श्यामः स्तनः इव भुवः शेष-विस्तार-पाण्डूः॥ Let’s not do it word by word now.  You can figure that out.  You have climbed up the peak of the mountain and the extremities are full of ripe mangos in the orchards and their complexion is affecting the hue.  As you have climbed up the mountain, because of your complexion, it looks as if a lady’s braided hair is lying atop the slope.  From above, a couple of immortals will certainly think that this is a sight worth looking at.  It is like a breast of the earth, dark in the centre and pale at the ends.  What is left implicit is that this is the image of a pregnant lady’s breast.  This is the monsoon and soon, the earth will also begin to yield crops.  Meghadutam is nothing but stuff like this.  How can this be translated?  Don’t even bother to read a translation.  Read the Sanskrit, though you will need notes and commentaries.  Kalidasa also authored compositions.  We will talk about them later.  They had stories.  Meghadutam represents the young Kalidasa at work, with poetry churned out of nowhere, that is, out of a cloud.

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