Kalidasa [key], fl. 5th cent.?, Indian dramatist and poet. He is regarded as the greatest figure in classical Sanskrit literature. Except that he was retained by the Gupta court, no facts concerning his life are known. His three surviving plays are Sakuntala (or Shakuntala), Vikramorvasi, and Malavikagnimitra. These court dramas in verse (nataka) relate fanciful or mythological tales of profound romantic love intensified and matured by adversity. Sakuntala, which is generally considered his masterpiece, tells of a maiden, Sakuntala, whom King Dushyanta marries. The king is bewitched so that he forgets his bride until a ring he gave her is discovered in the body of a fish. In Kalidasa's two epics, Raghuvansa and Kumarasambhava, delicate descriptions of nature are mingled with battle scenes. The other poems of Kalidasa are shorter and almost purely lyrical. Meghaduta [cloud messenger] is a description of the regions of India crossed by a cloud traveling between a tree spirit and his wife. Ritusamhara describes the course of pastoral love through the six seasons into which Indians divided the year.
See B. S. Miller, The Theatre of Memory (1984); studies by M. B. Harris (1936) and K. Krishnamoorthy (1972).
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