One of Kalidasa's greatest works is 'Kumarasambhava'. Critics maintain that Kalidasa wrote
only the first eight chapters of the epic poem. The work describes the marriage of Lord
Shiva and his consort Parvati. It begins with a fine description of that giant among
mountains, the Himalaya. Kalidasa writes: "Himalaya is rich in life. Living there are
the Siddhas. Kinnaras and Vidyadhara beauties. Clouds in front of the caves look like
curtains. You can trace the track of lions' by looking at the precious stones spilled from
the heads of elephants and not by bloodstains. You have to know the paths they tread by
recognizing 'Sarala' trees against whose stem the elephants rub themselves attracted by
the sweet milk exuded by the trees. All the things needed for a sacrifice ('Yajna') are
available here. Brahma (the God of creation) himself has made this the king of the
mountains." It is not only a place for lovers who want to find happiness in life; it
is also an ideal retreat for those who want to meditate.
Parvati is the daughter of Parvataraja, the King of the Himalayas. In course of time she
blossomed into a girl of matchless beauty. She was very good-looking, like a fine portrait
drawn by a master-painter. Women wear jewelry with a feeling that their beauty is enhanced
by it. But the neck of Parvati appeared to enhance the beauty of the necklace itself.
Parvati's speech was sweet as the playing of the Veena. And her bearing reminded one of a
Narada, a great sage in our epics, is a wandering minstrel. He once came to the court of
Parvataraja, and predicted that the king's daughter would marry Lord Shiva. But
Parvataraja was doubtful whether Lord Shiva would accept the bride. Neither he
volunteered to ask Shiva nor did the latter came forward to ask for the hand of Parvati.
Shiva was in penance atop one of the biggest mountains in the Himalayas. Parvataraja sent
his daughter to serve the Lord who acquiesced to have her near him. Parvati served him
with utmost, pure hearted devotion; she would daily cleanse his place of penance, and keep
ready the articles of 'Tapas' like pure water, leaves of grass, flowers, etc.
While Shiva sat thus in penance, a 'Rakshasa' named Tarakasura began to trouble the Devas.
They, in panic, went to Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, and sought salvation. He
told them that Parvati had. To marry Lord Shiva and that the son born out of their wedlock
would be able to defeat demon Taraka. But then, how to make Lord Shiva, in deep penance to
awake physically and consent to marry Parvati?
Devendra is the king of the Devas. One of the Gods at his court was Kama (Manmatha) whose
wife was the beautiful Rati. Kama had the capacity to make any one desire to
marry.Devendracommanded him to see that Lord Shiva would develop a wish to marry Parvati.
Kama, Rati and their friend Vasanta (Lord of spring) set about the task.
Though it was not the season, Kama created all the glory and beauty of the spring. Mild,
pleasant breeze began to blow from the south. Flowers were sprinkling down from 'Ashoka'
trees. Birds and the bees began to savor the fresh flower of the young mango leaves.
But all this would not deter Lord Shiva from his penance. Kama went there. Shiva was
doing his penance sitting on a tiger-skin under a Devadaru tree. Kama was overwhelmed on
seeing the exquisite grace of Lord and the cupid's bow and arrow fell down without his
being aware of it. At this time, Parvati arrived on the scence to attend to her daily
chores of service to the Lord. She wore a saree colored like the bright red rays of the
Sun. Nice spring flowers adorned her plait. A diamond chain shone on her forehead. Her
gait was like that of a delicate flower- creeper.
This great beauty of Parvati inspired Kama, who hitherto was somewhat, dejected, again to
strive to fulfil his task. Parvati raised her hands to offer her garland of lotus flowers
to Shiva who also eagerly came out of his penance to accept the offering. Kama was waiting
for such a moment and exercised his 'sword of love'. Shiva eyed Parvati once and
immediately realised that he had been weaned away. From his penance. How could this
Kama, Cupid, was ready with his and arrow for action.
Lord Shiva was angry and opened his Third Eye. A great fire flowed forth. Kama was burnt
to ashes and Shiva then disappeared. Rati, seeing her husband destroyed collapsed
unconscious. Parvati's father sorrowfully took her to his home.
Regaining consciousness after some time, Rati lamented that she too would end her life.
Then a voice from the sky told her that Kama would come back to life when Lord Shiva
Meanwhile,Parvati sat for a highly strenuous penance. She would setup a huge fire around
her and standing amidst the fire in blazing Sun would stare at the Sun God. She would sit
unmoved in pouring rain and biting cold and winds. To test this damsel engaged in such
Lord Shiva himself appeared before her in the guise of a 'Brahmacharf (a young lad who had
his 'Upanayana' or sacred thread ceremony) and began to pour abuse on Shiva thus;
"Why do you wish to accept the hand of one whose bracelet is a snake? Why do you, a
damsel in glorious silk, seek unison with one wearing an elephant-skin? Don't people laugh
to see you driving around with Him sitting on an old, emaciated ox? Add to his
grotesqueness his three eyes! Why did you? Have to choose such a groom?"
Not knowing that the lad was Shiva in disguise, Parvati naturally was angry with him for
abusing Shiva. She asked her aide to' send the boy away and she herself rose to leave the
place. Shiva then appeared to her in his true form. Parvati on seeing his divine form was
overwhelmed. She stood glued to the ground not knowing what to do. The poet's description
of this scene is extraordinarily beautiful.
Parvati sent word through her maid to Shiva to ask him to talk to her father about their
marriage. Shiva thereupon sent a message to him through the seven great Sages. The king of
the Himalayas gladly agreed. The marriage took place in a grand style.
The part authored by Kalidasa in 'Kumarasambhava' ends here. The remaining episodes such
as the birth of the son Kumara to Shiva and Parvati, his becoming the Commander of the
Devas' forces and the slaying of the demon Tarakasura are written by another poet.
Kalidasa's works are known for their triple qualities -- a sense of beauty, a capacity for
appreciation of the aesthetic values and our traditional culture. Kalidasa's portrayals of
the great Himalayan mountain and of the mode in which the season of spring (vasanta')
blossomed are some of the most lyrical expressions in the language. His descriptions are
vivid and heart-warming; it is as if we are seeing the events happening before us.
Kalidasa's portrayal of Parvati's grace and beauty magnificently shows his ability as a
poet. Rati's lament upon Kama being consigned to flames moves us to tears. Kalidasa is
equally at ease in portraying the happy marital life of Shiva and Parvati as a couple
deeply in love as also of picturing the grace and beauty of both nature and man,
Feelings of joy and sorrow and all other emotions.
Crowning all these pen-pictures of things that are beautiful and sweet in life is
Kalidasa's extolling of a noble culture. What does 'culture' mean? It is a sense of decent
behavior - in body and mind; it is the blossoming of the mind and heart to savor the
rich and colorful beauty around us -- such as the color and fragrance of flowers which
gladden the hearts of one and all. The thought, word and action of a man's mature mind
give happiness to others. Besides describing these in a masterly style and imagination,
Kalidasa also exhibits his powers of perception while recognizing what we can call as
'beauty in action and behavior'. Episodes such as the Parvataraja's not going by
himself to see Shiva even when sage Narada tells him that Parvati was to marry Shiva, his
agreeing for Parvati's desire to go to serve Shiva, her sitting for penance, his
acceptance of Shiva's offer, sent through the seven Sages, to marry Parvati -- all these
enable us to weave in our minds his personality shining with full grace and honor. Parvati
allows no distraction of her mind and engages herself with singular devotion; she sits for
a strenuous penance to make Shiva accept her and would not tolerate anyone abusing Him.
All these show the high culture in which she is molded. Though stirred a bit on noticing
the beauty of Parvati, Shiva, in his anger at being disturbed in his penance, burns down
Kama, puts Parvati's mind and thoughts to test, sends the seven Great Sages to Parvataraja
-- thus exhibiting his maturity ofmind. In fact, Shiva was not enamoured by the
physical beauty of Parvati and only destroyed Kama who attempted to make him desire her
physically. Actually he admired her several fine, noble qualities and her devout penance.
Both he and Parvati were performing penance and leading a life of sacrifice -- i.e.,
'tapasya'. Both were embodiments of purity. Born to them was Kumara. His parents' penance
fortified him with strength to destroy the demon Taraka.
Kalidasa's poem gives us a vivid picture of what a good,
meaningful life a man could and should lead as propounded by our learned ancestors.