The Birth Of The War-God
Kalidasa
Verse
0:43 h
Level 7
Kālidāsa was a Classical Sanskrit author who is often considered ancient India's greatest playwright and dramatist. His plays and poetry are primarily based on the Vedas, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata and the Purāṇas. His surviving works consist of three plays, two epic poems and two shorter poems. The Birth of the War-god is an epic poem in seventeen cantos. The subject is the marriage of the god Shiva, the birth of his son, and the victory of this son over a powerful demon. The story was not invented by Kalidasa, but taken from old mythology. Yet it had never been told in so masterly a fashion as had been the story of Rama’s deeds by Valmiki.

The Birth Of The War-God

by
Kalidasa

Translated by Arthur W. Ryder


The Birth of the War-god is an epic poem in seventeen cantos. Itconsists of 1096 stanzas, or about 4400 lines of verse. The subject isthe marriage of the god Shiva, the birth of his son, and the victoryof this son over a powerful demon. The story was not invented byKalidasa, but taken from old mythology. Yet it had never been told inso masterly a fashion as had been the story of Rama’s deeds byValmiki. Kalidasa is therefore under less constraint in writing thisepic than in writing The Dynasty of Raghu. I give first a somewhatdetailed analysis of the matter of the poem.

First canto. The birth of Parvati. — The poem begins with adescription of the great Himalaya mountain-range.

God of the distant north, the Snowy Range
O’er other mountains towers imperially;
Earth’s measuring-rod, being great and free from change,
Sinks to the eastern and the western sea.

Whose countless wealth of natural gems is not
Too deeply blemished by the cruel snow;
One fault for many virtues is forgot,
The moon’s one stain for beams that endless flow.

Where demigods enjoy the shade of clouds
Girding his lower crests, but often seek,
When startled by the sudden rain that shrouds
His waist, some loftier, ever sunlit peak.

Where bark of birch-trees makes, when torn in strips
And streaked with mountain minerals that blend
To written words ‘neath dainty finger-tips,
Such dear love-letters as the fairies send.

Whose organ-pipes are stems of bamboo, which
Are filled from cavern-winds that know no rest,
As if the mountain strove to set the pitch
For songs that angels sing upon his crest.

Where magic herbs that glitter in the night
Are lamps that need no oil within them, when
They fill cave-dwellings with their shimmering light
And shine upon the loves of mountain men.

Who offers roof and refuge in his caves
To timid darkness shrinking from the day;
A lofty soul is generous; he saves
Such honest cowards as for protection pray,

Who brings to birth the plants of sacrifice;
Who steadies earth, so strong is he and broad.
The great Creator, for this service’ price,
Made him the king of mountains, and a god.

Himalaya marries a wife, to whom in course of time a daughter is born,as wealth is born when ambition pairs with character. The child isnamed Parvati, that is, daughter of the mountain. Her father takesinfinite delight in her, as well he may; for

She brought him purity and beauty too,
As white flames to the lamp that burns at night;
Or Ganges to the path whereby the true
Reach heaven; or judgment to the erudite.

She passes through a happy childhood of sand-piles, balls, dolls, andlittle girl friends, when all at once young womanhood comes upon her.

As pictures waken to the painter’s brush,
Or lilies open to the morning sun,
Her perfect beauty answered to the flush
Of womanhood when childish days were done.

Suppose a blossom on a leafy spray;
Suppose a pearl on spotless coral laid:
Such was the smile, pure, radiantly gay,
That round her red, red lips for ever played.