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-
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.
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.
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”
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.
Special credit has to be given to Vijay Bhatt for superbly picturizing two songs-one in Baiju Bawra and this one in Angulimaal.
The lovers in bright yellow
The gaiety of the festival
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.