Vasant Ritu – Kalidasa and Bollywood

Kalidasa was undoubtedly one of the greatest poets in classical Sanskrit literature. He was a poet and a dramatist and is known for some of  the best works in Sanskrit such as “Malavikagnimitram“, “Abhigyana Shakuntalam“, “Meghadootam“, “Raghuvamsham” etc.

Vasanta Ritu (spring season) has set in  and there is a sense of excitement in the air-the romance, the gaiety, nature’s finest manifestation in all her beauty- Vasanta, as Kalidasa calls it, is certainly the “Rituraja“, or the king of seasons.

It is impossible to accurately translate his works whilst preserving the lyrical beauty, and even more difficult to compare it to the lyrical visions of Vasanta of the lyricists of the yesteryears. Yet, there are moments of brilliance of various poets in chaste Hindi, some of which correspond to the ideas of Kalidasa.

Through this post, I will attempt to interpret Kalidasa’s vivid description of Vasanta in Raghuvamsham , and correspondingly examine the overlap with the bollywood lyricists on the said subject, and how the picturization of the songs have also derived inspiration by his works.



Come spring, and the gardens are bustling with activity- the constant droning of the bees, the chirping of the birds, the call of the koel and the constant rustling of the leaves. The pleasant warm sunshine and the breeze set up a highly romantic atmosphere. Vasanta is also known as “Madhumaasa“, which brings lovers together.

Kalidasa has captured this spirit thus-

कुसुमजन्म ततो नवपल्लवास्तदनु षट्पदकोकिलकुजितम्।
इति यथाक्रममाविरभुन्मधुर्द्रुमवतीमवतीर्य वनस्थलीम्॥ 

[ kusuma janma= flowers, birth – blossoming;

nava pallavAH= new, leaflets;

tat anu= following that;

ShaTpada kokila kujitam=honeybees, kokilA-s, humming and singings;

iti yathAkramam= in this way, in serial order;

druma-vatIm vana-sthalIm= plants and trees, having, in woodlands;

avatIrya= by descending on those woodlands;

madhuH= vernal season;

Avirabhut = manifested itself]

There was the bursting of flowers and the appearance of tender foliage followed by the humming and signing of honeybees and koels – thus did the spring manifest itself by descending on the thickly wooded woodlands

अभिययुः सरसो मधुसम्भृताम् कमलिनीमलिनीरपतत्रिणः॥ 

Honeybees and water-fowls repaired to the lotus-plants which were by now plentiful in the lake

This is a good time to introduce music to the proceedings. The ideas above have been captured in this Kalavati bandish rendered beautifully by Gangubai Hangal. “Bolana Laagi Koyaliya, Bhramar Bhramat madhumaas aayi”

Roshan had a flair for incorporating traditional bandishes in his music, and this composition from Mamta is an adaptation of a bandish in raga Bahar, delivered flawlessly by Lata-

Sakala Bana Gagana-Mamta

Vasanta is often portrayed as bathed in yellow clothes and embellished with ornaments of mango earrings. Hence,”ambuva ki daari” is a repeating theme along with a reference to the easterly winds.

Kalidasa’s appreciation of the wind is quite sensitive, and full of poetic beauty.

श्रुतिसुखभ्रमरस्वनगीतयः कुसुमकोमलदन्तरुचो बभुः।
उपवनान्तलताः पवनाहतैः किसलयैः सलयैरिव पाणिभिः॥

Here, Kalidasa has used his supreme poetic skills to paint a beautiful picture of the gardens during the vernal season.

“The southern wind vacillated a young creeper with blossom buds of mangoes , which appeared as if bent, like the practicing dancers’ gesticulations which exhilarated the minds of even those who had overcome feud and the mischief of Cupid.“”


Kamadeva (Cupid) and Rathi

Let us now examine a sadabahaar geet from Baiju Bawra which deals with the breeze.

Jhoole Mein Pawan-Baiju Bawra

Notice how the swing has been tastefully embellished with flowers.


झूले में पवन के आयी बहार
नैनों में नया रन्ग लायी बहार
प्यार छल्के हो प्यार छल्के

डोले मन मोरा सजना
छुनरिया बार-बार ढल्के

बादल झूम के आये गागर प्यार की लाये
कोयल कूकती जाये बन में मोर भी गाये

छेडें हम तुम मल्हार

Shakeel has done a good job of capturing the love in the air. One aspect of the song that I liked was the picturization. This is the introduction of Bharat Bhooshan and Meena Kumari(looks so lovely), leaving childhood behind. Hence “Nainon me naya rang laayi bahaar” fits in. The couple are shown enjoying their time in the swing. The song has references to the cuckoo, peacock and carries us through the fully flowered gardens. I think it is a beautifully shot song.

There is no doubt that rains flutter the hearts of many a lover during spring. “Chede Hum Tum Malhaar” followed by a raga alap-(Malhaar is a raga sung during Varsha traditionally)- Naushad’s music is superb.

Let us move forward.

 The next couplet is a painter’s delight – full of artistic appreciation

“Humming of bees for their song, flowers for the grinning teeth, and wind-shaken leaflets for their clap-tapping, the creepers on the borders of the gardens appeared to be keeping rhythm-clapping to vernal music.”

The grinning teeth has a reference to the network of flowers in the creepers.

Bharat Vyas was the king of poetry in Hindi films, known for his chaste Hindi. He has  several songs on Basant to his credit, and I will be presenting two of the best of them. The first one is “Basant hai aaya rangeela“.  No written word can capture the genius of Shantaram and his imagination in recreating the spring in this song. it just needs to be appreciated by watching it.

Basant Hai Aaya Rangeela – Stree

बसन्त है आया रंगीला

मन की कोकिला लगे चहकने
आज सांस भी लगे महकने
मधु मध्माती अंग अंग मे
नया रंग छाया

आहा बसन्त का मास खुला
आकाश बढ रही प्यास
नैन तन मन सब डोले रे

चले मदन के बान सज रहे प्रान

कोयी अन्जान नाच के बन्धन खोले रे

The  refreshing ambience ,the excitement has been captured beautifully by the poet, in classic Hindi. The reference to “Man Ki Kokila” is very interesting. Every aspect of the song is perfect-the music by C.Ramachandra, the dance, Shantaram’s skillful direction, the lyrics by Bharat Vyas and of course, the delivery by Asha and Mahendra.

Kalidasa had a special liking for the Jasmine creeper – (especially the Navamallika).

“The Jasmine creeper, the delightful beloved of a tree,enraptured the heart of a beholder by the radiance of her smile manifested by her abundant flowers possessing the fragrance of honey spread over the lower lip in the form of her sprout”

JasmineJasmine creepern

My next and final selection is the quintessential spring song. It portrays the Vasantotsav – the festival of gaiety and love, the gardens resplendent with colorful flowers, the involved lovers, the  dance with use of the traditional instruments make a visual treat. The music is by Anil Biswas, and the lyrics are by Bharat Vyas.

Aayi Aayi Basanti Bela – Angulimaal

Special credit has to be given to Vijay Bhatt for superbly picturizing two songs-one in Baiju Bawra and this one in Angulimaal.

aayiaayi-1The lovers in bright yellow


The gaiety of the festival

aayiaayi-4Adorning the hairband of his lover

The last image above, where the lover adorns the hairband of his lover, has a special place in my heart. Kalidasa has a beautiful observation on this-

हुतहुताशनदीप्ति वनश्रियः प्रतिनिधिः कनकाभरणस्य यत्।
युवतयः कुसुमं दधुराहितम् तदलके दलकेसरपेशलम्

[huta huta-ashana dIpti = glowing by oblations, of Ritual-fire, in glow;  

yat= which – flower;  

vana shriyaH kanaka AbharaNasya pratinidhiH= [to a damsel called] vernal beauty, [to her] a golden, ornament’s, replacement;  

dala kesara peshalam= [flower with] petals, filaments, very fine;  

Ahitam= brought – by lovers;  

tat kusumam = that – flower of karNikAra;  

yuvatayaH alake dadhuH = damsels, in curls, they wore it.]

This is the season in which young women adore their hair with karNikAra flowers brought by their lovers, whose petals and filaments will be extremely delicate, brightness as good as the sacrificial fire fed with oblations, and which bear a semblance of a gold-ornament of sylvan-beauty;  such a spring season has come now.

The karNikara flower, though goldenly red, is odourless, Kalidasa has a dig at Lord Brahma for creating this beautiful flower sans its odour.


The Karnikara flower

I would love hear thoughts from my readers on this obstruse subject which I chose, and it took a lot of effort. Is there anything else that strikes you in terms of the description of the vernal season in ancient classical Sanskrit literature and our own songs in Hindi cinema?


The author gratefully acknowledges the work put in here to translate Raghuvamsham.



  1. March 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This is a wonderful post and most elegantly written. Very novel way to analyze film songs. This reminds me that Meghdootam would be a treasure trove of such linkage. I can immediately think of Jagmohan’s O varsha ke pahle badal mera sandesa leta ja from the film Meghdoot (1945), composed by Kamal Dasgupta, and clouds and nature in myriad forms in the classic as well as film songs.

    • March 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks a lot for your encouraging words! Yes indeed, Meghadutham would be a wonderful one to analyze.

  2. dustedoff said,

    March 7, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Interesting, Karthik – and such an unusual way to look at songs! (And I learnt something – I hadn’t known the amaltas was also called karnikara).

    • March 7, 2013 at 6:10 am

      Thanks Madhu! Kalidasa has described the spring in Ritusamharam, Raghuvamsham and Abhigyana Shakuntalam. I picked up just Raghuvamsham, lest the post be too long.

    • March 7, 2013 at 6:16 am

      By the way, the Indian government has issued a stamp of Karnikara (amaltas)

  3. Anu Warrier said,

    March 7, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Karthik, very, very unusual post. Linking Kalidasa with Hindi songs – I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, though.

    We call those flowers Konnappoo and used them for Vishu, the Malayalam New Year. It is auspicious.

    You made me turn purple with envy when you talk of spring – we are getting 8 inches of snow here tonight. Which means digging, and more digging tomorrow. 😦

    • March 7, 2013 at 6:12 am

      Thanks Anu! I know, it can be a pain-I have heard similar stories of digging from my friends in the USA :-). Oh, this is Konnappoo?I learnt that today 🙂

  4. March 10, 2013 at 4:08 am

    You continue to keep your own bar of presenting a classical subject to non-classical (common) persons like us in classically telling manner.

    Vasant, as a season has indeed found many songs in Hindi films, but your linking up Stree and Angulimal gems was a special treat, while trying to imbibe the classical part of the post.

    A great job!

    • March 10, 2013 at 6:17 am

      Thanks a lot for your encouraging words Ashokji! I need this kind of continuous support from my readers :). I must tell you that I enjoyed making this post, it helped me understand Kalidasa more as a poet, his attention to detail and his appreciation of nature.

      • March 10, 2013 at 7:38 am

        I can appreciate well that you did like ‘making this post’ – the effort and affection are just simply visible and enjoyable.

        So much so, that i took upon to look for few other songs on Vasant , just to see how they have been treated,in general:
        Here is a small collection that I liked:

        Aya Basant Sakhi – Basant 1942 –

        Aayee Basant Ritu Odhe Chunariya – Meharbani – 1950 Hafiz Khan – Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, Surinder Kaur –

        Lo Phir Basant Ayee –Tahira Sayed and Mallika Pukhraj –

        Aayee Basant Ritu Aayee –Shree Ram Bhakta Hanuman (1948) S N Tripathi – Sona Chatterjee –

        Rut Basant Ayee Ban Upavan –Janak Janak Payal Baje (1955) – Vasant Desai –

        Basant Ritu Ayee Re – Chnadidas (1934) R C Boral – Umadevi –
        Chhayee Basant Aayee Basant Karake Solah Singar – Chandi das (1934) – R C Boral – Pahdi Sanyal –

        Ab Aayee Basant Bahar –Saugandh (1942) R C Boral – Asit Baran –

        There are excellent songs across The border as well:

        Basant Ritu Aayee – Do Bhai (1968) – Wazir Afzal –Noor Jehan -

        Ayee Re Basant – Mossequar (1962) – Rashee Attre – NOOR JAHAN, NASEEM BEGUM, MALA, MUNEER HUSSAIN, SALEEM RAZA, NAZAKAT ALI, SALAMAT ALI –

        And, a clip that was quite new to me –

        “Ritu-Samhar has been composed in Sanskrit Verses by Mahakavi Kalidas during his early years. Vasant-Unmad is a Hindi Poetic adaptation by Dr Neelam Verma of Vasant Varnan in Ritusamhaar. The Musical composition is performed by her in Kathak dance style.
        Music- Ashok Bhattacharya | Singers- Snehanshu, Surabhi and Group| Hindi Poetry, Compilation, Narration and Performance- Dr Neelam Verma” –

  5. March 10, 2013 at 8:42 am

    You have a very good collection there!
    The two songs that I omitted were “Ketaki Gulab Juhi” from Basant Bahar and the first antara of “Kuhu Kuhu Bole” which has lyrics such as “Saj Singaar Ritu Aayi Basanti, Daali Daali kaliyon ko titliyaan Choome”.since there wasnt much in the lyrics or the picturization worth mentioning, though musically superb.

    ritu-Samhara is not opined to be a great work of Kalidasa, and it deals with the physical relations of the lovers during each of the seasons. But even in this work, his description of the seasons and nature is quite good.

  6. niladrichak said,

    March 28, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Great job with this well researched blog Karthik ….. and thanks for keeping it simple for readers like me!

    • March 29, 2013 at 3:01 am

      Thanks a lot Niladri! Brings back fond memories of the glorious time we had at Allahabad!

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