Front Page Titles (by Subject) II.—: URVASHI - Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
II.—: “URVASHI” - Kalidasa, Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works [400 AD]
Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works, by Arthur W. Ryder (London: J.M. Dent, 1920).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The second of the two inferior dramas may be conveniently called Urvashi, though the full title is The Tale of Urvashi won by Valour. When and where the play was first produced we do not know, for the prologue is silent as to these matters. It has been thought that it was the last work of Kalidasa, even that it was never produced in his lifetime. Some support is lent to this theory by the fact that the play is filled with reminiscences of Shakuntala, in small matters as well as in great; as if the poet’s imagination had grown weary, and he were willing to repeat himself. Yet Urvashi is a much more ambitious effort than Malavika, and invites a fuller criticism, after an outline of the plot has been given.
In addition to the stage-director and his assistant, who appear in the prologue, the characters of the play are these:
Pururavas,king in Pratishthana on the Ganges.
Manavaka,a clown, his friend.
Urvashi,a heavenly nymph.
Chitralekha,another nymph, her friend.
Aushinari,queen of Pururavas.
A charioteer, a chamberlain, a hermit-woman, various nymphs and other divine beings, and attendants.
The scene shifts as indicated in the following analysis. The time of the first four acts is a few days. Between acts four and five several years elapse.
Act I.—The prologue only tells us that we may expect a new play of Kalidasa. A company of heavenly nymphs then appear upon Mount Gold-peak wailing and calling for help. Their cries are answered by King Pururavas, who rides in a chariot that flies through the air. In response to his inquiries, the nymphs inform him that two of their number, Urvashi and Chitralekha, have been carried into captivity by a demon. The king darts in pursuit, and presently returns, victorious, with the two nymphs. As soon as Urvashi recovers consciousness, and has rejoined her joyful friends, it is made plain that she and the king have been deeply impressed with each other’s attractions. The king is compelled to decline an invitation to visit Paradise, but he and Urvashi exchange loving glances before they part.
Act II.—The act opens with a comic scene in the king’s palace. The clown appears, bursting with the secret of the king’s love for Urvashi, which has been confided to him. He is joined by the maid Nipunika, commissioned by the queen to discover what it is that occupies the king’s mind. She discovers the secret ingeniously, but without much difficulty, and gleefully departs.
The king and the clown then appear in the garden, and the king expresses at some length the depth and seeming hopelessness of his passion. The latter part of his lament is overheard by Urvashi herself, who, impelled by love for the king, has come down to earth with her friend Chitralekha, and now stands near, listening but invisible. When she has heard enough to satisfy her of the king’s passion, she writes a love-stanza on a birch-leaf, and lets it fall before him. His reception of this token is such that Urvashi throws aside the magic veil that renders her invisible, but as soon as she has greeted the king, she and her friend are called away to take their parts in a play that is being presented in Paradise.
The king and the clown hunt for Urvashi’s love-letter, which has been neglected during the past few minutes. But the leaf has blown away, only to be picked up and read by Nipunika, who at that moment enters with the queen. The queen can hardly be deceived by the lame excuses which the king makes, and after offering her ironical congratulations, jealously leaves him.
Act III.—The act opens with a conversation between two minor personages in Paradise. It appears that Urvashi had taken the heroine’s part in the drama just presented there, and when asked, “On whom is your heart set?” had absent-mindedly replied, “On Pururavas.” Heaven’s stage-director had thereupon cursed her to fall from Paradise, but this curse had been thus modified: that she was to live on earth with Pururavas until he should see a child born of her, and was then to return.
The scene shifts to Pururavas’ palace. In the early evening, the chamberlain brings the king a message, inviting him to meet the queen on a balcony bathed in the light of the rising moon. The king betakes himself thither with his friend, the clown. In the midst of a dialogue concerning moonlight and love, Urvashi and Chitralekha enter from Paradise, wearing as before veils of invisibility. Presently the queen appears and with humble dignity asks pardon of the king for her rudeness, adding that she will welcome any new queen whom he genuinely loves and who genuinely returns his love. When the queen departs, Urvashi creeps up behind the king and puts her hands over his eyes. Chitralekha departs after begging the king to make her friend forget Paradise.
Act IV.—From a short dialogue in Paradise between Chitralekha and another nymph, we learn that a misfortune has befallen Pururavas and Urvashi. During their honeymoon in a delightful Himalayan forest, Urvashi, in a fit of jealousy, had left her husband, and had inadvertently entered a grove forbidden by an austere god to women. She was straightway transformed into a vine, while Pururavas is wandering through the forest in desolate anguish.
The scene of what follows is laid in the Himalayan forest. Pururavas enters, and in a long poetical soliloquy bewails his loss and seeks for traces of Urvashi. He vainly asks help of the creatures whom he meets: a peacock, a cuckoo, a swan, a ruddy goose, a bee, an elephant, a mountain-echo, a river, and an antelope. At last he finds a brilliant ruby in a cleft of the rocks, and when about to throw it away, is told by a hermit to preserve it: for this is the gem of reunion, and one who possesses it will soon be reunited with his love. With the gem in his hand, Pururavas comes to a vine which mysteriously reminds him of Urvashi, and when he embraces it, he finds his beloved in his arms. After she has explained to him the reason of her transformation, they determine to return to the king’s capital.
Act V.—The scene of the concluding act is the king’s palace. Several years have passed in happy love, and Pururavas has only one sorrow—that he is childless.
One day a vulture snatches from a maid’s hand the treasured gem of reunion, which he takes to be a bit of bloody meat, and flies off with it, escaping before he can be killed. While the king and his companions lament the gem’s loss, the chamberlain enters, bringing the gem and an arrow with which the bird had been shot. On the arrow is written a verse declaring it to be the property of Ayus, son of Pururavas and Urvashi. A hermit-woman is then ushered in, who brings a lad with her. She explains that the lad had been entrusted to her as soon as born by Urvashi, and that it was he who had just shot the bird and recovered the gem. When Urvashi is summoned to explain why she had concealed her child, she reminds the king of heaven’s decree that she should return as soon as Pururavas should see the child to be born to them. She had therefore sacrificed maternal love to conjugal affection. Upon this, the king’s new-found joy gives way to gloom. He determines to give up his kingdom and spend the remainder of his life as a hermit in the forest. But the situation is saved by a messenger from Paradise, bearing heaven’s decree that Urvashi shall live with the king until his death. A troop of nymphs then enter and assist in the solemn consecration of Ayus as crown prince.
The tale of Pururavas and Urvashi, which Kalidasa has treated dramatically, is first made known to us in the Rigveda. It is thus one of the few tales that so caught the Hindu imagination as to survive the profound change which came over Indian thinking in the passage from Vedic to classical times. As might be expected from its history, it is told in many widely differing forms, of which the oldest and best may be summarised thus.
Pururavas, a mortal, sees and loves the nymph Urvashi. She consents to live with him on earth so long as he shall not break certain trivial conditions. Some time after the birth of a son, these conditions are broken, through no fault of the man, and she leaves him. He wanders disconsolate, finds her, and pleads with her, by her duty as a wife, by her love for her child, even by a threat of suicide. She rejects his entreaties, declaring that there can be no lasting love between mortal and immortal, even adding: “There are no friendships with women. Their hearts are the hearts of hyenas.” Though at last she comforts him with vague hopes of a future happiness, the story remains, as indeed it must remain, a tragedy—the tragedy of love between human and divine.
This splendid tragic story Kalidasa has ruined. He has made of it an ordinary tale of domestic intrigue, has changed the nymph of heaven into a member of an earthly harem. The more important changes made by Kalidasa in the traditional story, all have the tendency to remove the massive, godlike, austere features of the tale, and to substitute something graceful or even pretty. These principal changes are: the introduction of the queen, the clown, and the whole human paraphernalia of a court; the curse pronounced on Urvashi for her carelessness in the heavenly drama, and its modification; the invention of the gem of reunion; and the final removal of the curse, even as modified. It is true that the Indian theatre permits no tragedy, and we may well believe that no successor of Kalidasa could hope to present a tragedy on the stage. But might not Kalidasa, far overtopping his predecessors, have put on the stage a drama the story of which was already familiar to his audience as a tragic story? Perhaps not. If not, one can but wish that he had chosen another subject.
This violent twisting of an essentially tragic story has had a further ill consequence in weakening the individual characters. Pururavas is a mere conventional hero, in no way different from fifty others, in spite of his divine lineage and his successful wooing of a goddess. Urvashi is too much of a nymph to be a woman, and too much of a woman to be a nymph. The other characters are mere types.
Yet, in spite of these obvious objections, Hindu critical opinion has always rated the Urvashi very high, and I have long hesitated to make adverse comments upon it, for it is surely true that every nation is the best judge of its own literature. And indeed, if one could but forget plot and characters, he would find in Urvashi much to attract and charm. There is no lack of humour in the clever maid who worms the clown’s secret out of him. There is no lack of a certain shrewdness in the clown, as when he observes: “Who wants heaven? It is nothing to eat or drink. It is just a place where they never shut their eyes—like fishes!”
Again, the play offers an opportunity for charming scenic display. The terrified nymphs gathered on the mountain, the palace balcony bathed in moonlight, the forest through which the king wanders in search of his lost darling, the concluding solemn consecration of the crown prince by heavenly beings—these scenes show that Kalidasa was no closet dramatist. And finally, there is here and there such poetry as only Kalidasa could write. The fourth act particularly, undramatic as it is, is full of a delicate beauty that defies transcription. It was a new and daring thought—to present on the stage a long lyrical monologue addressed to the creatures of the forest and inspired by despairing passion. Nor must it be forgotten that this play, like all Indian plays, is an opera. The music and the dancing are lost. We judge it perforce unfairly, for we judge it by the text alone. If, in spite of all, the Urvashi is a failure, it is a failure possible only to a serene and mighty poet.
THE DYNASTY OF RAGHU
Second canto. The holy cow’s gift.—During twenty-one days the king accompanies the cow during her wanderings in the forest, and each night the queen welcomes their return to the hermitage. On the twenty-second day the cow is attacked by a lion, and when the king hastens to draw an arrow, his arm is magically numbed, so that he stands helpless. To increase his horror, the lion speaks with a human voice, saying that he is a servant of the god Shiva, set on guard there and eating as his appointed food any animals that may appear. Dilipa perceives that a struggle with earthly weapons is useless, and begs the lion to accept his own body as the price of the cow’s release. The lion tries sophistry, using the old, hollow arguments:
Dilipa has no trouble in piercing this sophistical argument, and again offers his own life, begging the lion to spare the body of his fame rather than the body of his flesh. The lion consents, but when the king resolutely presents himself to be eaten, the illusion vanishes, and the holy cow grants the king his desire. The king returns to his capital with the queen, who shortly becomes pregnant.
Third canto. Raghu’s consecration.—The queen gives birth to a glorious boy, whom the joyful father names Raghu. There follows a description of the happy family, of which a few stanzas are given here:
This happy childhood is followed by a youth equally happy. Raghu is married and made crown prince. He is entrusted with the care of the horse of sacrifice,1 and when Indra, king of the gods, steals the horse, Raghu fights him. He cannot overcome the king of heaven, yet he acquits himself so creditably that he wins Indra’s friendship. In consequence of this proof of his manhood, the empire is bestowed upon Raghu by his father, who retires with his queen to the forest, to spend his last days and prepare for death.
Fourth canto. Raghu conquers the world.—The canto opens with several stanzas descriptive of the glory of youthful King Raghu.
But the vassal kings are restless
Raghu therefore determines to make a warlike progress through all India. He marches eastward with his army from his capital Ayodhya (the name is preserved in the modern Oudh) to the Bay of Bengal, then south along the eastern shore of India to Cape Comorin, then north along the western shore until he comes to the region drained by the Indus, finally east through the tremendous Himalaya range into Assam, and thence home. The various nations whom he encounters, Hindus, Persians, Greeks, and White Huns, all submit either with or without fighting. On his safe return, Raghu offers a great sacrifice and gives away all his wealth.1
Fifth canto. Aja goes wooing.—While King Raghu is penniless, a young sage comes to him, desiring a huge sum of money to give to the teacher with whom he has just finished his education. The king, unwilling that any suppliant should go away unsatisfied, prepares to assail the god of wealth in his Himalayan stronghold, and the god, rather than risk the combat, sends a rain of gold into the king’s treasury. This gold King Raghu bestows upon the sage, who gratefully uses his spiritual power to cause a son to be born to his benefactor. In course of time, the son is born and the name Aja is given to him. We are here introduced to Prince Aja, who is a kind of secondary hero in the poem, inferior only to his mighty grandson, Rama. To Aja are devoted the remainder of this fifth canto and the following three cantos; and these Aja-cantos are among the loveliest in the epic. When the prince has grown into young manhood, he journeys to a neighbouring court to participate in the marriage reception of Princess Indumati.2 One evening he camps by a river, from which a wild elephant issues and attacks his party. When wounded by Aja, the elephant strangely changes his form, becoming a demigod, gives the prince a magic weapon, and departs to heaven. Aja proceeds without further adventure to the country and the palace of Princess Indumati, where he is made welcome and luxuriously lodged for the night. In the morning, he is awakened by the song of the court poets outside his chamber. He rises and betakes himself to the hall where the suitors are gathering.
Sixth canto. The princess chooses.—The princely suitors assemble in the hall: then, to the sound of music, the princess enters in a litter, robed as a bride, and creates a profound sensation.
Then a maid-servant conducts the princess from one suitor to another, and explains the claim which each has upon her affection. First is presented the King of Magadha, recommended in four stanzas, one of which runs:
But the princess is not attracted.
They pass to the next candidate, the king of the Anga country, in whose behalf this, and more, is said:
Him too the princess rejects, “not that he was unworthy of love, or she lacking in discernment, but tastes differ.” She is then conducted to the King of Avanti:
The inducement is insufficient, and a new candidate is presented, the King of Anupa,
The King of Shurasena has no better fortune, in spite of his virtues and his wealth. As a river hurrying to the sea passes by a mountain that would detain her, so the princess passes him by. She is next introduced to the king of the Kalinga country;
But the maiden can no more feel at home with him than the goddess of fortune can with a good but unlucky man. She therefore turns her attention to the king of the Pandya country in far southern India. But she is unmoved by hearing of the magic charm of the south, and rejects him too.
The princess then approaches Aja, who trembles lest she pass him by, as she has passed by the other suitors. The maid who accompanies Indumati sees that Aja awakens a deeper feeling, and she therefore gives a longer account of his kingly line, ending with the recommendation:
The princess looks lovingly at the handsome youth, but cannot speak for modesty. She is made to understand her own feelings when the maid invites her to pass on to the next candidate. Then the wreath is placed round Aja’s neck, the people of the city shout their approval, and the disappointed suitors feel like night-blooming lotuses at daybreak.
Seventh canto. Aja’s marriage.—While the suitors retire to the camps where they have left their retainers, Aja conducts Indumati into the decorated and festive city. The windows are filled with the faces of eager and excited women, who admire the beauty of the young prince and the wisdom of the princess’s choice. When the marriage ceremony has been happily celebrated, the disappointed suitors say farewell with pleasant faces and jealous hearts, like peaceful pools concealing crocodiles. They lie in ambush on the road which he must take, and when he passes with his young bride, they fall upon him. Aja provides for the safety of Indumati, marshals his attendants, and greatly distinguishes himself in the battle which follows. Finally he uses the magic weapon, given him by the demigod, to benumb his adversaries, and leaving them in this helpless condition, returns home. He and his young bride are joyfully welcomed by King Raghu, who resigns the kingdom in favour of Aja.
Eighth canto. Aja’s lament.—As soon as King Aja is firmly established on his throne, Raghu retires to a hermitage to prepare for the death of his mortal part. After some years of religious meditation he is released, attaining union with the eternal spirit which is beyond all darkness. His obsequies are performed by his dutiful son. Indumati gives birth to a splendid boy, who is named Dasharatha. One day, as the queen is playing with her husband in the garden, a wreath of magic flowers falls upon her from heaven, and she dies. The stricken king clasps the body of his dead belovèd, and laments over her.
Aja commits the body of his beloved queen to the flames. A holy hermit comes to tell the king that his wife had been a nymph of heaven in a former existence, and that she has now returned to her home. But Aja cannot be comforted. He lives eight weary years for the sake of his young son, then is reunited with his queen in Paradise.
Ninth canto. The hunt.—This canto introduces us to King Dasharatha, father of the heroic Rama. It begins with an elaborate description of his glory, justice, prowess, and piety; then tells of the three princesses who became his wives: Kausalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra. In the beautiful springtime he takes an extended hunting-trip in the forest, during which an accident happens, big with fate.
Thus is foreshadowed in the birth of Rama, his banishment, and the death of his father.
Cantos ten to fifteen form the kernel of the epic, for they tell the story of Rama, the mighty hero of Raghu’s line. In these cantos Kalidasa attempts to present anew, with all the literary devices of a more sophisticated age, the famous old epic story sung in masterly fashion by the author of the Ramayana. As the poet is treading ground familiar to all who hear him, the action of these cantos is very compressed.
Tenth canto. The incarnation of Rama.—While Dasharatha, desiring a son, is childless, the gods, oppressed by a giant adversary, betake themselves to Vishnu, seeking aid. They sing a hymn of praise, a part of which is given here.
Vishnu is gratified by the praise of the gods, and asks their desire. They inform him that they are distressed by Ravana, the giant king of Lanka (Ceylon), whom they cannot conquer. Vishnu promises to aid them by descending to earth in a new avatar, as son of Dasharatha. Shortly afterwards, an angel appears before King Dasharatha, bringing in a golden bowl a substance which contains the essence of Vishnu. The king gives it to his three wives, who thereupon conceive and dream wonderful dreams. Then Queen Kausalya gives birth to Rama; Queen Kaikeyi to Bharata; Queen Sumitra to twins, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Heaven and earth rejoice. The four princes grow up in mutual friendship, yet Rama and Lakshmana are peculiarly drawn to each other, as are Bharata and Shatrughna. So beautiful and so modest are the four boys that they seem like incarnations of the four things worth living for—virtue, money, love, and salvation.
Eleventh canto. The victory over Rama-with-the-axe.—At the request of the holy hermit Vishvamitra, the two youths Rama and Lakshmana visit his hermitage, to protect it from evil spirits. The two lads little suspect, on their maiden journey, how much of their lives will be spent in wandering together in the forest. On the way they are attacked by a giantess, whom Rama kills; the first of many giants who are to fall at his hand. He is given magic weapons by the hermit, with which he and his brother kill other giants, freeing the hermitage from all annoyance. The two brothers then travel with the hermit to the city of Mithila, attracted thither by hearing of its king, his wonderful daughter, and his wonderful bow. The bow was given him by the god Shiva; no man has been able to bend it; and the beautiful princess’s hand is the prize of any man who can perform the feat. On the way thither, Rama brings to life Ahalya, a woman who in a former age had been changed to stone for unfaithfulness to her austere husband, and had been condemned to remain a stone until trodden by Rama’s foot. Without further adventure, they reach Mithila, where the hermit presents Rama as a candidate for the bending of the bow.
Yet when the bow is given to the youthful Rama, he not only bends, but breaks it. He is immediately rewarded with the hand of the Princess Sita, while Lakshmana marries her sister. On their journey home with their young brides, dreadful portents appear, followed by their cause, a strange being called Rama-with-the-axe, who is carefully to be distinguished from Prince Rama. This Rama-with-the-axe is a Brahman who has sworn to exterminate the entire warrior caste, and who naturally attacks the valorous prince. He makes light of Rama’s achievement in breaking Shiva’s bow, and challenges him to bend the mightier bow which he carries. This the prince succeeds in doing, and Rama-with-the-axe disappears, shamed and defeated. The marriage party then continues its journey to Ayodhya.
Twelfth canto. The killing of Ravana.—King Dasharatha prepares to anoint Rama crown prince, when Queen Kaikeyi interposes. On an earlier occasion she had rendered the king a service and received his promise that he would grant her two boons, whatever she desired. She now demands her two boons: the banishment of Rama for fourteen years, and the anointing of her own son Bharata as crown prince. Rama thereupon sets out for the Dandaka forest in Southern India, accompanied by his faithful wife Sita and his devoted brother Lakshmana. The stricken father dies of grief, thus fulfilling the hermit’s curse. Now Prince Bharata proves himself more generous than his mother; he refuses the kingdom, and is with great difficulty persuaded by Rama himself to act as regent during the fourteen years. Even so, he refuses to enter the capital city, dwelling in a village outside the walls, and preserving Rama’s slippers as a symbol of the rightful king. Meanwhile Rama’s little party penetrates the wild forests of the south, fighting as need arises with the giants there. Unfortunately, a giantess falls in love with Rama, and
Scorned by Rama, laughed at by Sita, she becomes furious and threatening.
Lakshmana thereupon cuts off her nose and ears, rendering her redundantly hideous. She departs, to return presently at the head of an army of giants, whom Rama defeats single-handed, while his brother guards Sita. The giantess then betakes herself to her brother, the terrible ten-headed Ravana, king of Ceylon. He succeeds in capturing Sita by a trick, and carries her off to his fortress in Ceylon. It is plainly necessary for Rama to seek allies before attempting to cross the straits and attack the stronghold. He therefore renders an important service to the monkey king Sugriva, who gratefully leads an army of monkeys to his assistance. The most valiant of these, Hanumat, succeeds in entering Ravana’s capital, where he finds Sita, gives her a token from Rama, and receives a token for Rama. The army thereupon sets out and comes to the seashore, where it is reinforced by the giant Vibhishana, who has deserted his wicked brother Ravana. The monkeys hurl great boulders into the strait, thus forming a bridge over which they cross into Ceylon and besiege Ravana’s capital. There ensue many battles between the giants and the monkeys, culminating in a tremendous duel between the champions, Rama and Ravana. In this duel Ravana is finally slain. Rama recovers his wife, and the principal personages of the army enter the flying chariot which had belonged to Ravana, to return to Ayodhya; for the fourteen years of exile are now over.
Thirteenth canto. The return from the forest.—This canto describes the long journey through the air from Ceylon over the whole length of India to Ayodhya. As the celestial car makes its journey, Rama points out the objects of interest or of memory to Sita. Thus, as they fly over the sea:
Then, as they pass over the spot where Rama searched for his stolen wife:
Rama then points out the spots in Southern India where he and Sita had dwelt in exile, and the pious hermitages which they had visited; later, the holy spot where the Jumna River joins the Ganges; finally, their distant home, unseen for fourteen years, and the well-known river, from which spray-laden breezes come to them like cool, welcoming hands. When they draw near, Prince Bharata comes forth to welcome them, and the happy procession approaches the capital city.
Fourteenth canto. Sita is put away.—The exiles are welcomed by Queen Kausalya and Queen Sumitra with a joy tinged with deep melancholy. After the long-deferred anointing of Rama as king, comes the triumphal entry into the ancestral capital, where Rama begins his virtuous reign with his beloved queen most happily; for the very hardships endured in the forest turn into pleasures when remembered in the palace. To crown the king’s joy, Sita becomes pregnant, and expresses a wish to visit the forest again. At this point, where an ordinary story would end, comes the great tragedy, the tremendous test of Rama’s character. The people begin to murmur about the queen, believing that she could not have preserved her purity in the giant’s palace. Rama knows that she is innocent, but he also knows that he cannot be a good king while the people feel as they do; and after a pitiful struggle, he decides to put away his beloved wife. He bids his brother Lakshmana take her to the forest, in accordance with her request, but to leave her there at the hermitage of the sage Valmiki. When this is done, and Sita hears the terrible future from Lakshmana, she cries:
So she accepts her fate with meek courage. But
While she laments thus piteously, she is discovered by the poet-sage Valmiki, who consoles her with tender and beautiful words, and conducts her to his hermitage, where she awaits the time of her confinement. Meanwhile Rama leads a dreary life, finding duty but a cold comforter. He makes a golden statue of his wife, and will not look at other women.
Fifteenth canto. Rama goes to heaven.—The canto opens with a rather long description of a fight between Rama’s youngest brother and a giant. On the journey to meet the giant, Shatrughna spends a night in Valmiki’s hermitage, and that very night Sita gives birth to twin sons. Valmiki gives them the names Kusha and Lava, and when they grow out of childhood he teaches them his own composition, the Ramayana, “the sweet story of Rama,” “the first path shown to poets.” At this time the young son of a Brahman dies in the capital, and the father laments at the king’s gate, for he believes that the king is unworthy, else heaven would not send death prematurely. Rama is roused to stamp out evil-doing in the kingdom, whereupon the dead boy comes to life. The king then feels that his task on earth is nearly done, and prepares to celebrate the great horse-sacrifice.1 At this sacrifice appear the two youths Kusha and Lava, who sing the epic of Rama’s deeds in the presence of Rama himself. The father perceives their likeness to himself, then learns that they are indeed his children, whom he has never seen. Thereupon Sita is brought forward by the poet-sage Valmiki and in the presence of her husband and her detractors establishes her constant purity in a terrible fashion.
Rama then establishes his brothers, sons, and nephews in different cities of the kingdom, buries the three queens of his father, and awaits death. He has not long to wait; Death comes, wearing a hermit’s garb, asks for a private interview, and threatens any who shall disturb their conference. Lakshmana disturbs them, and so dies before Rama. Then Rama is translated.
Cantos sixteen to nineteen form the third division of the epic, and treat of Rama’s descendants. The interest wanes, for the great hero is gone.
Sixteenth canto. Kumudvati’s wedding.—As Kusha lies awake one night, a female figure appears in his chamber; and in answer to his question, declares that she is the presiding goddess of the ancient capital Ayodhya, which has been deserted since Rama’s departure to heaven. She pictures the sad state of the city thus:
The goddess therefore begs Kusha to return with his court to the old capital, and when he assents, she smiles and vanishes. The next morning Kusha announces the vision of the night, and immediately sets out for Ayodhya with his whole army. Arrived there, King Kusha quickly restores the city to its former splendour. Then when the hot summer comes, the king goes down to the river to bathe with the ladies of the court. While in the water he loses a great gem which his father had given him. The divers are unable to find it, and declare their belief that it has been stolen by the serpent Kumuda who lives in the river. The king threatens to shoot an arrow into the river, whereupon the waters divide, and the serpent appears with the gem. He is accompanied by a beautiful maiden, whom he introduces as his sister Kumudvati, and whom he offers in marriage to Kusha. The offer is accepted, and the wedding celebrated with great pomp.
Seventeenth canto. King Atithi.—To the king and queen is born a son, who is named Atithi. When he has grown into manhood, his father Kusha engages in a struggle with a demon, in which the king is killed in the act of killing his adversary. He goes to heaven, followed by his faithful queen, and Atithi is anointed king. The remainder of the canto describes King Atithi’s glorious reign.
Eighteenth canto. The later princes.—This canto gives a brief, impressionistic sketch of the twenty-one kings who in their order succeeded Atithi.
Nineteenth canto. The loves of Agnivarna.—After the twenty-one kings just mentioned, there succeeds a king named Agnivarna, who gives himself to dissipation. He shuts himself up in the palace; even when duty requires him to appear before his subjects, he does so merely by hanging one foot out of a window. He trains dancing-girls himself, and has so many mistresses that he cannot always call them by their right names. It is not wonderful that this kind of life leads before long to a consuming disease; and as Agnivarna is even then unable to resist the pleasures of the senses, he dies. His queen is pregnant, and she mounts the throne as regent in behalf of her unborn son. With this strange scene, half tragic, half vulgar, the epic, in the form in which it has come down to us, abruptly ends.
If we now endeavour to form some critical estimate of the poem, we are met at the outset by this strangely unnatural termination. We cannot avoid wondering whether the poem as we have it is complete. And we shall find that there are good reasons for believing that Kalidasa did not let the glorious solar line end in the person of the voluptuous Agnivarna and his unborn child. In the first place, there is a constant tradition which affirms that The Dynasty of Raghu originally consisted of twenty-five cantos. A similar tradition concerning Kalidasa’s second epic has justified itself; for some time only seven cantos were known; then more were discovered, and we now have seventeen. Again, there is a rhetorical rule, almost never disregarded, which requires a literary work to end with an epilogue in the form of a little prayer for the welfare of readers or auditors. Kalidasa himself complies with this rule, certainly in five of his other six books. Once again, Kalidasa has nothing of the tragedian in his soul; his works, without exception, end happily. In the drama Urvashi he seriously injures a splendid old tragic story for the sake of a happy ending. These facts all point to the probability that the conclusion of the epic has been lost. We may even assign a natural, though conjectural, reason for this. The Dynasty of Raghu has been used for centuries as a text-book in India, so that manuscripts abound, and commentaries are very numerous. Now if the concluding cantos were unfitted for use as a text-book, they might very easily be lost during the centuries before the introduction of printing-presses into India. Indeed, this very unfitness for use as a school text seems to be the explanation of the temporary loss of several cantos of Kalidasa’s second epic.
On the other hand, we are met by the fact that numerous commentators, living in different parts of India, know the text of only nineteen cantos. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Kalidasa left the poem incomplete at his death; for it was, without serious question, one of his earlier works. Apart from evidences of style, there is the subject-matter of the introductory stanzas, in which the poet presents himself as an aspirant for literary fame. No writer of established reputation would be likely to say:
In only one other of his writings, in the drama which was undoubtedly written earlier than the other two dramas, does the poet thus present his feeling of diffidence to his auditors. It is of course possible that Kalidasa wrote the first nineteen cantos when a young man, intending to add more, then turned to other matters, and never afterwards cared to take up the rather thankless task of ending a youthful work.
The question does not admit of final solution. Yet whoever reads and re-reads The Dynasty of Raghu, and the other works of its author, finds the conviction growing ever stronger that our poem in nineteen cantos is mutilated. We are thus enabled to clear the author of the charge of a lame and impotent conclusion.
Another adverse criticism cannot so readily be disposed of; that of a lack of unity in the plot. As the poem treats of a kingly dynasty, we frequently meet the cry: The king is dead. Long live the king! The story of Rama himself occupies only six cantos; he is not born until the tenth canto, he is in heaven after the fifteenth. There are in truth six heroes, each of whom has to die to make room for his successor. One may go farther and say that it is not possible to give a brief and accurate title to the poem. It is not a Ramayana, or epic of Rama’s deeds, for Rama is on the stage during only a third of the poem. It is not properly an epic of Raghu’s line, for many kings of this line are unmentioned. Not merely kings who escape notice by their obscurity, but also several who fill a large place in Indian story, whose deeds and adventures are splendidly worthy of epic treatment. The Dynasty of Raghu is rather an epic poem in which Rama is the central figure, giving it such unity as it possesses, but which provides Rama with a most generous background in the shape of selected episodes concerning his ancestors and his descendants.
Rama is the central figure. Take him away and the poem falls to pieces like a pearl necklace with a broken string. Yet it may well be doubted whether the cantos dealing with Rama are the most successful. They are too compressed, too briefly allusive. Kalidasa attempts to tell the story in about one-thirtieth of the space given to it by his great predecessor Valmiki. The result is much loss by omission and much loss by compression. Many of the best episodes of the Ramayana are quite omitted by Kalidasa: for example, the story of the jealous humpback who eggs on Queen Kaikeyi to demand her two boons; the beautiful scene in which Sita insists on following Rama into the forest; the account of the somnolent giant Pot-ear, a character quite as good as Polyphemus. Other fine episodes are so briefly alluded to as to lose all their charm: for example, the story of the golden deer that attracts the attention of Rama while Ravana is stealing his wife; the journey of the monkey Hanumat to Ravana’s fortress and his interview with Sita.
The Rama-story, as told by Valmiki, is one of the great epic stories of the world. It has been for two thousand years and more the story par excellence of the Hindus; and the Hindus may fairly claim to be the best story-tellers of the world. There is therefore real matter for regret in the fact that so great a poet as Kalidasa should have treated it in a way not quite worthy of it and of himself. The reason is not far to seek, nor can there be any reasonable doubt as to its truth. Kalidasa did not care to put himself into direct competition with Valmiki. The younger poet’s admiration of his mighty predecessor is clearly expressed. It is with especial reference to Valmiki that he says in his introduction:
He introduces Valmiki into his own epic, making him compose the Ramayana in Rama’s lifetime. Kalidasa speaks of Valmiki as “the poet,” and the great epic he calls “the sweet story of Rama,” “the first path shown to poets,” which, when sung by the two boys, was heard with motionless delight by the deer, and, when sung before a gathering of learned men, made them heedless of the tears that rolled down their cheeks.
Bearing these matters in mind, we can see the course of Kalidasa’s thoughts almost as clearly as if he had expressed them directly. He was irresistibly driven to write the wonderful story of Rama, as any poet would be who became familiar with it. At the same time, his modesty prevented him from challenging the old epic directly. He therefore writes a poem which shall appeal to the hallowed associations that cluster round the great name of Rama, but devotes two-thirds of it to themes that permit him greater freedom. The result is a formless plot.
This is a real weakness, yet not a fatal weakness. In general, literary critics lay far too much emphasis on plot. Of the elements that make a great book, two, style and presentation of character, hardly permit critical analysis. The third, plot, does permit such analysis. Therefore the analyst overrates its importance. It is fatal to all claim of greatness in a narrative if it is shown to have a bad style or to be without interesting characters. It is not fatal if it is shown that the plot is rambling. In recent literature it is easy to find truly great narratives in which the plot leaves much to be desired. We may cite the Pickwick Papers, Les Misérables, War and Peace.
We must then regard The Dynasty of Raghu as a poem in which single episodes take a stronger hold upon the reader than does the unfolding of an ingenious plot. In some degree, this is true of all long poems. The Æneid itself, the most perfect long poem ever written, has dull passages. And when this allowance is made, what wonderful passages we have in Kalidasa’s poem! One hardly knows which of them makes the strongest appeal, so many are they and so varied. There is the description of the small boy Raghu in the third canto, the choice of the princess in the sixth, the lament of King Aja in the eighth, the story of Dasharatha and the hermit youth in the ninth, the account of the ruined city in the sixteenth. Besides these, the Rama cantos, ten to fifteen, make an epic within an epic. And if Kalidasa is not seen at his very best here, yet his second best is of a higher quality than the best of others. Also, the Rama story is so moving that a mere allusion to it stirs like a sentimental memory of childhood. It has the usual qualities of a good epic story: abundance of travel and fighting and adventure and magic interweaving of human with superhuman, but it has more than this. In both hero and heroine there is real development of character. Odysseus and Æneas do not grow; they go through adventures. But King Rama, torn between love for his wife and duty to his subjects, is almost a different person from the handsome, light-hearted prince who won his bride by breaking Shiva’s bow. Sita, faithful to the husband who rejects her, has made a long, character-forming journey since the day when she left her father’s palace, a youthful bride. Herein lies the unique beauty of the tale of Rama, that it unites romantic love and moral conflict with a splendid story of wild adventure. No wonder that the Hindus, connoisseurs of story-telling, have loved the tale of Rama’s deeds better than any other story.
If we compare The Dynasty of Raghu with Kalidasa’s other books, we find it inferior to The Birth of the War-god in unity of plot, inferior to Shakuntala in sustained interest, inferior to The Cloud-Messenger in perfection of every detail. Yet passages in it are as high and sweet as anything in these works. And over it is shed the magic charm of Kalidasa’s style. Of that it is vain to speak. It can be had only at first hand. The final proof that The Dynasty of Raghu is a very great poem, is this: no one who once reads it can leave it alone thereafter.
THE BIRTH OF THE WAR-GOD
Second canto. Brahma’s self-revelation.—At this time, the gods betake themselves to Brahma, the Creator, and sing a hymn of praise, a part of which is given here.
Brahma receives their worship graciously, and asks the reason of their coming. The spokesman of the gods explains to Brahma how a great demon named Taraka is troubling the world, and how helpless they are in opposing him. They have tried the most extravagant propitiation, and found it useless.
Brahma answers that the demon’s power comes from him, and he does not feel at liberty to proceed against it; “for it is not fitting to cut down even a poison-tree that one’s own hand has planted.” But he promises that a son shall be born to Shiva and Parvati, who shall lead the gods to victory. With this answer the gods are perforce content, and their king, Indra, waits upon the god of love, to secure his necessary co-operation.
Third canto. The burning of Love.—Indra waits upon Love, who asks for his commands. Indra explains the matter, and asks Love to inflame Shiva with passion for Parvati. Love thereupon sets out, accompanied by his wife Charm and his friend Spring. When they reach the mountain where Shiva dwells, Spring shows his power. The snow disappears; the trees put forth blossoms; bees, deer, and birds waken to new life. The only living being that is not influenced by the sudden change of season is Shiva, who continues his meditation, unmoved. Love himself is discouraged, until he sees the beauty of Parvati, when he takes heart again. At this moment, Shiva chances to relax his meditation, and Parvati approaches to do him homage. Love seizes the lucky moment, and prepares to shoot his bewildering arrow at Shiva. But the great god sees him, and before the arrow is discharged, darts fire from his eye, whereby Love is consumed. Charm falls in a swoon, Shiva vanishes, and the wretched Parvati is carried away by her father.
Fourth canto. The lament of Charm.—This canto is given entire.
Fifth canto. The reward of self-denial.—Parvati reproaches her own beauty, for “loveliness is fruitless if it does not bind a lover.” She therefore resolves to lead a life of religious self-denial, hoping that the merit thus acquired will procure her Shiva’s love. Her mother tries in vain to dissuade her; her father directs her to a fit mountain peak, and she retires to her devotions. She lays aside all ornaments, lets her hair hang unkempt, and assumes the hermit’s dress of bark. While she is spending her days in self-denial, she is visited by a Brahman youth, who compliments her highly upon her rigid devotion, and declares that her conduct proves the truth of the proverb: Beauty can do no wrong. Yet he confesses himself bewildered, for she seems to have everything that heart can desire. He therefore asks her purpose in performing these austerities, and is told how her desires are fixed upon the highest of all objects, upon the god Shiva himself, and how, since Love is dead, she sees no way to win him except by ascetic religion. The youth tries to dissuade Parvati by recounting all the dreadful legends that are current about Shiva: how he wears a coiling snake on his wrist, a bloody elephant-hide upon his back, how he dwells in a graveyard, how he rides upon an undignified bull, how poor he is and of unknown birth. Parvati’s anger is awakened by this recital. She frowns and her lip quivers as she defends herself and the object of her love.
In response to this eloquence, the youth throws off his disguise, appearing as the god Shiva himself, and declares his love for her. Parvati immediately discontinues her religious asceticism; for “successful effort regenerates.”
Sixth canto. Parvati is given in marriage.—While Parvati departs to inform her father of what has happened, Shiva summons the seven sages, who are to make the formal proposal of marriage to the bride’s parents. The seven sages appear, flying through the air, and with them Arundhati, the heavenly model of wifely faith and devotion. On seeing her, Shiva feels his eagerness for marriage increase, realising that
Shiva then explains his purpose, and sends the seven sages to make the formal request for Parvati’s hand. The seven sages fly to the brilliant city of Himalaya, where they are received by the mountain god. After a rather portentous interchange of compliments, the seven sages announce their errand, requesting Parvati’s hand in behalf of Shiva. The father joyfully assents, and it is agreed that the marriage shall be celebrated after three days. These three days are spent by Shiva in impatient longing.
Seventh canto. Parvati’s wedding.—The three days are spent in preparations for the wedding. So great is Parvati’s unadorned beauty that the waiting-women can hardly take their eyes from her to inspect the wedding-dress. But the preparations are complete at last; and the bride is beautiful indeed.
Meanwhile Shiva finishes his preparations, and sets out on his wedding journey, accompanied by Brahma, Vishnu, and lesser gods. At his journey’s end, he is received by his bride’s father, and led through streets ankle-deep in flowers, where the windows are filled with the faces of eager and excited women, who gossip together thus:
Shiva and his retinue then enter the palace, where he is received with bashful love by Parvati, and the wedding is celebrated with due pomp. The nymphs of heaven entertain the company with a play, and Shiva restores the body of Love.
Eighth canto. The honeymoon.—The first month of marital bliss is spent in Himalaya’s palace. After this the happy pair wander for a time among the famous mountain-peaks. One of these they reach at sunset, and Shiva describes the evening glow to his bride. A few stanzas are given here.
Shiva then retires for meditation. On his return, he finds that his bride is peevish at being left alone even for a little time, and to soothe her, he describes the night which is now advancing. A few stanzas of this description run as follows.
Shiva and Parvati then drink wine brought them by the guardian goddess of the grove, and in this lovely spot they dwell happily for many years.
Ninth canto. The journey to Mount Kailasa.—One day the god of fire appears as a messenger from the gods before Shiva, to remonstrate with him for not begetting the son upon whom heaven’s welfare depends. Shiva deposits his seed in Fire, who departs, bent low with the burden. Shortly afterwards the gods wait upon Shiva and Parvati, who journey with them to Mount Kailasa, the splendid dwelling-place of the god of wealth. Here also Shiva and Parvati spend happy days.
Tenth canto. The birth of Kumara.—To Indra, king of the gods, Fire betakes himself, tells his story, and begs to be relieved of his burden. Indra advises him to deposit it in the Ganges. Fire therefore travels to the Ganges, leaves Shiva’s seed in the river, and departs much relieved. But now it is the turn of Ganges to be distressed, until at dawn the six Pleiades come to bathe in the river. They find Shiva’s seed and lay it in a nest of reeds, where it becomes a child, Kumara, the future god of war.
Eleventh canto. The birth of Kumara, continued.—Ganges suckles the beautiful infant. But there arises a dispute for the possession of the child between Fire, Ganges, and the Pleiades. At this point Shiva and Parvati arrive, and Parvati, wondering at the beauty of the infant and at the strange quarrel, asks Shiva to whom the child belongs. When Shiva tells her that Kumara is their own child, her joy is unbounded.
Shiva conducts Parvati and the boy back to Mount Kailasa, where gods and fairies welcome them with music and dancing. Here the divine child spends the days of a happy infancy, not very different from human infancy; for he learns to walk, gets dirty in the courtyard, laughs a good deal, pulls the scanty hair of an old servant, and learns to count: “One, nine, two, ten, five, seven.” These evidences of healthy development cause Shiva and Parvati the most exquisite joy.
Twelfth canto. Kumara is made general.—Indra, with the other gods, waits upon Shiva, to ask that Kumara, now a youth, may be lent to them as their leader in the campaign against Taraka. The gods are graciously received by Shiva, who asks their errand. Indra prefers their request, whereupon Shiva bids his son assume command of the gods, and slay Taraka. Great is the joy of Kumara himself, of his mother Parvati, and of Indra.
Thirteenth canto. Kumara is consecrated general.—Kumara takes an affectionate farewell of his parents, and sets out with the gods. When they come to Indra’s paradise, the gods are afraid to enter, lest they find their enemy there. There is an amusing scene in which each courteously invites the others to precede him, until Kumara ends their embarrassment by leading the way. Here for the first time Kumara sees with deep respect the heavenly Ganges, Indra’s garden and palace, and the heavenly city. But he becomes red-eyed with anger on beholding the devastation wrought by Taraka.
Amid these sorrowful surroundings the gods gather and anoint Kumara, thus consecrating him as their general.
Fourteenth canto. The march.—Kumara prepares for battle, and marshals his army. He is followed by Indra riding on an elephant, Agni on a ram, Yama on a buffalo, a giant on a ghost, Varuna on a dolphin, and many other lesser gods. When all is ready, the army sets out on its dusty march.
Fifteenth canto. The two armies clash.—The demon Taraka is informed that the hostile army is approaching, but scorns the often-conquered Indra and the boy Kumara. Nevertheless, he prepares for battle, marshals his army, and sets forth to meet the gods. But he is beset by dreadful omens of evil.
Taraka’s counsellors endeavour to persuade him to turn back, but he refuses; for timidity is not numbered among his faults. As he advances even worse portents appear, and finally warning voices from heaven call upon him to desist from his undertaking. The voices assure him of Kumara’s prowess and inevitable victory; they advise him to make his peace while there is yet time. But Taraka’s only answer is a defiance.
And as Taraka emphasises his meaning by brandishing his great sword, the warning spirits flee, their knees knocking together. Taraka laughs horribly, then mounts his chariot, and advances against the army of the gods. On the other side the gods advance, and the two armies clash.
Sixteenth canto. The battle between gods and demons.—This canto is entirely taken up with the struggle between the two armies. A few stanzas are given here.
As the struggle comes to no decisive issue, Taraka seeks out the chief gods, and charges upon them.
Seventeenth canto. Taraka is slain.—Taraka engages the principal gods and defeats them with magic weapons. When they are relieved by Kumara, the demon turns to the youthful god of war, and advises him to retire from the battle.
Kumara answers with modest firmness.
And with this the duel begins. When Taraka finds his arrows parried by Kumara, he employs the magic weapon of the god of wind. When this too is parried, he uses the magic weapon of the god of fire, which Kumara neutralises with the weapon of the god of water. As they fight on, Kumara finds an opening, and slays Taraka with his lance, to the unbounded delight of the universe.
Here the poem ends, in the form in which it has come down to us. It has been sometimes thought that we have less than Kalidasa wrote, partly because of a vague tradition that there were once twenty-three cantos, partly because the customary prayer is lacking at the end. These arguments are not very cogent. Though the concluding prayer is not given in form, yet the stanzas which describe the joy of the universe fairly fill its place. And one does not see with what matter further cantos would be concerned. The action promised in the earlier part is completed in the seventeenth canto.
It has been somewhat more formidably argued that the concluding cantos are spurious, that Kalidasa wrote only the first seven or perhaps the first eight cantos. Yet, after all, what do these arguments amount to? Hardly more than this, that the first eight cantos are better poetry than the last nine. As if a poet were always at his best, even when writing on a kind of subject not calculated to call out his best. Fighting is not Kalidasa’s forte; love is. Even so, there is great vigour in the journey of Taraka, the battle, and the duel. It may not be the highest kind of poetry, but it is wonderfully vigorous poetry of its kind. And if we reject the last nine cantos, we fall into a very much greater difficulty. The poem would be glaringly incomplete, its early promise obviously disregarded. We should have a Birth of the War-god in which the poet stopped before the war-god was born.
There seems then no good reason to doubt that we have the epic substantially as Kalidasa wrote it. Plainly, it has a unity which is lacking in Kalidasa’s other epic, The Dynastyof Raghu, though in this epic, too, the interest shifts. Parvati’s love-affair is the matter of the first half, Kumara’s fight with the demon the matter of the second half. Further, it must be admitted that the interest runs a little thin. Even in India, where the world of gods runs insensibly into the world of men, human beings take more interest in the adventures of men than of gods. The gods, indeed, can hardly have adventures; they must be victorious. The Birth of the War-god pays for its greater unity by a poverty of adventure.
It would be interesting if we could know whether this epic was written before or after The Dynasty of Raghu. But we have no data for deciding the question, hardly any for even arguing it. The introduction to The Dynasty of Raghu seems, indeed, to have been written by a poet who yet had his spurs to win. But this is all.
As to the comparative excellence of the two epics, opinions differ. My own preference is for The Dynasty of Raghu, yet there are passages in The Birth of the War-god of a piercing beauty which the world can never let die.
This plan is slight and fanciful. A demigod, in consequence of some transgression against his master, the god of wealth, is condemned to leave his home in the Himalayas, and spend a year of exile on a peak in the Vindhya Mountains, which divide the Deccan from the Ganges basin. He wishes to comfort and encourage his wife, but has no messenger to send her. In his despair, he begs a passing cloud to carry his words. He finds it necessary to describe the long journey which the cloud must take, and, as the two termini are skilfully chosen, the journey involves a visit to many of the spots famous in Indian story. The description of these spots fills the first half of the poem. The second half is filled with a more minute description of the heavenly city, of the home and bride of the demigod, and with the message proper. The proportions of the poem may appear unfortunate to the Western reader, in whom the proper names of the first half will wake scanty associations. Indeed, it is no longer possible to identify all the places mentioned, though the general route followed by the cloud can be easily traced. The peak from which he starts is probably one near the modern Nagpore. From this peak he flies a little west of north to the Nerbudda River, and the city of Ujjain; thence pretty straight north to the upper Ganges and the Himalaya. The geography of the magic city of Alaka is quite mythical.
The Cloud-Messenger contains one hundred and fifteen four-line stanzas, in a majestic metre called the “slow-stepper.” The English stanza which has been chosen for the translation gives perhaps as fair a representation of the original movement as may be, where direct imitation is out of the question. Though the stanza of the translation has five lines to four for the slow-stepper, it contains fewer syllables; a constant check on the temptation to padding.
The analysis which accompanies the poem, and which is inserted in Italics at the beginning of each stanza, has more than one object. It saves footnotes; it is intended as a real help to comprehension; and it is an eminently Hindu device. Indeed, it was my first intention to translate literally portions of Mallinatha’s famous commentary; and though this did not prove everywhere feasible, there is nothing in the analysis except matter suggested by the commentary.
One minor point calls for notice. The word Himálaya has been accented on the second syllable wherever it occurs. This accent is historically correct, and has some foothold in English usage; besides, it is more euphonious and better adapted to the needs of the metre.
The Temple press Letchworth England
[1 ]If a king aspired to the title of emperor, or king of kings, he was at liberty to celebrate the horse-sacrifice. A horse was set free to wander at will for a year, and was escorted by a band of noble youths who were not permitted to interfere with his movements. If the horse wandered into the territory of another king, such king must either submit to be the vassal of the horse’s owner, or must fight him. If the owner of the horse received the submission, with or without fighting, of all the kings into whose territories the horse wandered during the year of freedom, he offered the horse in sacrifice and assumed the imperial title.
[1 ]This is not the place to discuss the many interesting questions of geography and ethnology suggested by the fourth canto. But it is important to notice that Kalidasa had at least superficial knowledge of the entire Indian peninsula and of certain outlying regions.
[2 ]A girl of the warrior caste had the privilege of choosing her husband. The procedure was this. All the eligible youths of the neighbourhood were invited to her house, and were lavishly entertained. On the appointed day, they assembled in a hall of the palace, and the maiden entered with a garland in her hand. The suitors were presented to her with some account of their claims upon her attention, after which she threw the garland around the neck of him whom she preferred.
[1 ]See footnote, p. 128.