Imagination at its sensuous best
TO imagine the clouds as a befitting messenger for carrying amorous messages to an estranged lover is a highpoint of creativity, especially in an age when literary traditions are not yet established. It takes the genius of a Kalidasa to not only conjure up such an archetype but also use it to create an enchanted universe of love, separation, fealty, and longing that is unique in world literature. In a grand sweep Kalidasa delivers the high points of human passion, the many expressions of nature, and the mosaic of Indian landscape that makes the poem soothing and graceful. The storyline of Meghadutam is simple: a yaksha under curse of estrange-ment from his beloved at Ramagiri hills in Central India is urging a passing cloud to take his message to his lover who is living at Alaka on Mount Kailash. The poem is written in 111 stanzas in two cantos, namely Purba Megha (Advent of the First Cloud) and Uttara Megha (The Cloud Later). The poem was first translated into English by Horace Hayman Wilson in 1813. Since then, it has been translated several times into various languages.
The celebrated poem is presented in coffee table book form by two researchers of classical literature namely Dr Ajit Kumar Tripathy and Sri Purna Chandra Tripathy. Each stanza is presented with an exquisite piece of painting by Chintamani Biswal. The book opens with a foreword by Dr Karan Singh, the connoisseur of ancient literature and philosophy. Dr Singh sets the tone for the lyrical grace that the poem proffers. The brief preface by Dr A.K.Tripathy and Sri P.C. Tripathy discusses the views of many scholars of the past and present starting with the first English translator Mr Wilson, who have brought the beauty of Kalidasa's artistry before the lovers of litera-ture. The editors have made an attempt to chart the course of the poem's geography and present a different perspective as to the locale of the narrative. Basing on the similarity of place names and other logic they are of the view that Ramagiri hills, where the Yaksha lives, belongs to the Koraput district of Odisha.
The translation into English in verse libre is soothing and conveys the meaning and the feeling completely. Here is how Kalidasa's description of river Gambhira is presented in English translation.
"By sucking up the water would you have removed
from the waist of river Gambhira her blue water robe, slipping it down her sloping flanks
exposing her body down to hips with nothing but a row of hanging canes touching the water that she would use as her slender hands
to hold on to the slipping robe
to cover her loins and exposed thighs. Experienced you are
in enjoying such amorous pleasures in the past,
having bent down over her so near and so close difficult it would be my friend
to depart from a mistress
with her charms exposed." (Stanza 44, Purba Megha Canto)
The poem is full of such exquisite descriptions of man and nature in passionate interaction, made more live by love and yearning. Would you ever find a more sensuous description than the following?
" Her waist you find unadorned
by the usually worn waist band of a string of pearls, caste aside by her
at the adverse turn of destiny.
Her lovely thigh which I used to stroke and gently knead with my hands
at the end of love's enjoyment,
and nail marks, you would not find there now. Yellow-white and juicy as a tender banana stalk it would still be
throbbing when you arrive". (Stanza 36, Uttara Megha Canto)