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English articles on Sanskrit Mahakavya Kumarasambhavam of Kalidasa by Prof. Radhakrishnan (Rtd Vivekananda College) for benefit of devotees and those interested to have a glimpse of our literature.

Parvathi’s Penance:
After Manmatha was burnt to ashes by Siva, right in front of her eyes, Parvati’s hopes were shattered. She considered he own physical charm as unworthy since it could not win over Siva, which is the very definition of charm:
Priyeshusaubhagyaphalaa hi chaarutaa.
She now resolved to do intense penance to achieve the same goal, namely of getting Siva as her husband. For, what beauty cannot achieve, Penance can certainly accomplish that, observes Mallinatha who has written a commentary on it called Sanjeevani. He quotes Manusmrti which says:

यद्दुष्करं यद्दुरापं यद्दुर्गं यश्च दुष्करम्।
तत् सर्वं तपसा प्राप्यं तपो हि दुरतिक्रमम्॥
Tat sarvamtapasaapraapyam
Tapo hi duratikramam.
When Mena, the mother of Parvathi came to know the decision of her daughter, she tried to dissuade her from undertaking the penance. She said, “ If you want to propitiate the Gods, then there are many deities in our house whom you can worship. Where is the penance and where is your tender body ? The Sirisha flower can withstand the weight of a bee but not of a bird!
पदं सहेत भ्रमरस्य पेलवं शिरीषपुष्पं न पुनः पतत्रिणः।
But Mena did not succeed in dissuading Parvathi from doing penance, because Parvathi’s mind was firm in realizing her objective. Who can make the water in a river flow backwards, observes  Kalidasa , using ArthantaranyasaAlankaraaccompanied by DipakaAlankara:
क ईप्सितार्थस्थिरनिश्चयं मनः पयश्च निम्नाभिमुखं प्रतीपयेत्।
Approved by her father Himavan, who was happy at her great ambition, Parvathi went to the peak, which later came to be known as GauriSikharam. Leading an austere life, Parvathi, with matted hair  (Jataa),  who was  earlier hurt by even the flowers that fell down from her hair while rolling on a luxurious  bed, now slept on the bare ground. She herself planted saplings and watered them herself. Her affection for the plants cannot be set aside, later even by Lord Subrahmania:

गुहोऽपि येषां प्रथमाप्तजन्मनां न पुत्रवात्सल्यमपाकरिष्यति
Na putravaatsalyamapaakarishyati.
She used to feed the antelopes with forest grains. They trusted her so much that she could measure the length of her eyes with that of them, in front of her friends. After a sacred bath, wearing a bark as upper garment and offering into the fire and uttering praises of the Lord, when Parvathi was doing penance, even the sages came there to see her. For, in matters of Dharma, it is not the age which matters:
कृताभिषेकां हुतजातवेदसं त्वगुत्तरासङ्गवतीमधीतिनीम्।
दिदृक्षवस्तामृषयोऽभ्युपागमन्न धर्मवृद्धेषु वयः समीक्ष्यते॥
Didrkshavahtaammunayo’ bhyugaaman
Na dharma vrtteshuvayahsameekshyate.
Even that forest became sacred because of her doing penance there. Gradually she intensified her penance. In summer, she did Panchagni Tapas, sitting on the ground surrounded by fire on all four sides and looking at the Sun as the fifth source of heat. In fact, her PaaranaaVidhi or the subsistence was not different from that of the trees since she took only that which came near her of its own accord. Even during the rainy season , she did not take any shelter and was fully drenched while she continued with her penance uninterrupted. Kalidasa even says that the nights witnessed her penance through the lightning:
व्यलोकयन्नुन्मिषितैस्तडिन्मयैर्महातपः साक्ष्य इव स्थिताः तपाः।
In the place of the fruits which she was taking earlier, she started to take only the leaves which fell of their own accord. Intensifying the penance, she stopped even that. Hence she came to be known as APARNA:

स्वयंविशीर्णद्रुमपर्णवृत्तिता परा हि काष्ठा तपसस्तया पुनः।
तदप्यपाकीर्णमतः प्रियंवदां वदन्त्यपर्णेति च तां पुराविदः॥
Paraa hi kaashtaatapasahtayaapunah
Vadantiaparneticha taampuraavidah.
By enduring all the ordeals, by means of Vratam, harsh on her body tender like the lotus-stalk, Parvathi surpassed the intensity of penance of all sages:

तपः शरीरैः कठिनैरुपार्जितं तपस्विनां दूरमधश्चकार।

Arrival of Siva as Brahmachari:
At this stage, Lord Siva wanted to test her devotion and commitment, and hence he appeared in the disguise as a Brahmachari. Wearing the skin of deer and carrying a Palasa stick in hand, the Brahmachari entered the penance grove as if he was the very embodiment of the fist of the four Ashramas or stages of life:
अथाजिनाषाढधरः प्रगल्भवाग्ज्वलन्निव ब्रह्ममयेन तेजसा।
विवेश कश्चिज्जटिलस्तपोवनं शरीरबद्धः प्रथमाश्रमो यथा॥
Athaajinaashaada- dharahpragalbha-vaak
{Our scriptures speak of the four-fold stage of life, namely

  1. Brahmacharya 2) Grihastha 3) Vaanaprastha and 4) Sanyaasa.

The first stage is as a student when every human has to observe celibacy and acquire knowledge. In the second stage, he gets married and leads the life of a house-holder. After performing his duty as the house-holder, he has to slowly detach himself from the mundane pleasures and retire to the forest. The fourth stage is to become a Sanyasin and seek Moksha.}
Parvathi received him with great respect and hospitality. After a while, the Brahmachari addressed her like this:
“ Are you able to get holy twigs, grass and pure water for the observance of your vow and rituals. Are you indulging in penance within your physical means ? For, Sarira or the physical body of a person is the first means of performing religious activities:
अपि क्रियार्थं सुलभं समित्कुशं जलान्यपि स्नानविधि क्षमानि ते।
अपि स्वशक्त्या तपसि प्रवर्तसे शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्॥
Sareeramaadyamkhalu dharma saadhanam.
(  This is one of the best statements of Kalidasa to show that physical health is very important to pursue spiritual practices. As we say ‘a sound mind in a sound body’. This statement is very often quoted by other writers and scholars )
O Parvathi! The statement is true that the pleasant appearance will not lead to sinful actions. Your conduct has indeed set an example worthy of imitation by  even the sages:

यदुच्यते पार्वति पापवृत्तये न रूपमित्यव्यभिचारि तद्वचः।
तथा हि ते शीलमुदारदर्शने तपस्विनामप्युपदेशतां गताम्॥
tathaa hi teseelamudaaradarsane
I understand that, out of the three pursuits of Dharma ( righteousness), Artha
( wealth) and Kama (Desire), your penance is oriented more towards the first one, since the other two have been cast away from your mind. Because of your very cordial hospitality extended to me, you need not treat me as a stranger. For, if one exchanges seven words, the friendship becomes strong between the two persons. (Kalidasa’s usage of the expression Saptapadi is significant here, because in future it is going to be a marriage ritual between the two of them ):

प्रयुक्तसत्कारविशेषमात्मना न मां परं सम्प्रतिपत्तुमर्हसि।
यतः सतां सन्नतगात्रिसङ्गतं मनीषिभिः साप्तपदीनमुच्यते॥
Na maamparamsampratipattumarhasi
I am curious to ask you questions which you may answer if it is not a secret. What could be the purpose of your penance ? You are born in the family of Brahma himself. Your beauty is the most charming in the three worlds. You enjoy great wealth. You are in the prime of youth. What else could be the purpose of penance ?
Why is it that you are bereft of ornaments which any girl would wear in youth and you are wearing the bark normally worn by only the old people.If  you desire heaven, then your efforts are in vain because you father’s place is as good as heaven. If you penance is for getting a prospective bridegroom, then enough of this vow. A gem is always sought after and does not go in search of a possessor:

दिवं यदि प्रार्थयसे वृथा श्रमः पितुः प्रदेशास्तव देवभूमयः।
अथोपयन्तारमलं समाधिना न रत्नमन्विष्यन्ति मृग्यते हि तत्॥
Na ratnamanvishyatimrgyate hi tat.
From your facial expressions, I presume that you observe this vow to get a bridegroom. I do not even find any one who should be sought after by you, much less a person who is difficult to obtain.   How long will you suffer  like this ? I have gathered some power of penance from this life as a Brahmachari. I shall give you half of this power with which you can realize your goal. But I would like to know who that bridegroom is .”
When asked like this by the Brahmachari, Parvathi was not directly able to answer, due to bashfulness. She directed her friend, with a mere glance, to reply.  The friend of Parvathi replied to the queries of the Brahmachari.
“This friend of mine, Parvathi,  is subjecting herself to torture, like a lotus under the scorching sun, in order to get Siva as her husband, disdaining even gods like Indra and others. After witnessing the destruction of Manmatha, she has realized that Siva cannot be attracted by charm but only by penance. Even as the body of Manmatha was being burnt, his arrow failed to attack Siva but hit Parvati’s mind. From that time onwards, she has been restless in her palace. Even while asleep, she would suddenly get up with words such as ,‘O Nilakantha !   Where are you going ?’
She used to even draw the portrait of Siva in private and taunt, saying, ‘ You are said to be all-pervasive. How is it that you do not know me in this state of love?’As she did not find any other means of obtaining the Lord, she got permission from her father and has come to this place along with us to propitiate Lord Siva.”
When the friend of Parvathi told the Brahmachari like this, he, without exhibiting any sense of happiness,  askedParvathi whether it is true or just a joke. To this, Parvathi told the Brahmachari“ O Vedic Scholar ! I am keen in achieving something very high and this penance is being done towards that. For, there is no desire which cannot be achieved:
तपः किलेदं तदवाप्तिसाधनं मनोरथानामगतिर्न विद्यते।
The Brahmachari then started his address to Parvathi, “ It is a known fact that Siva has an inclination towards inauspicious things and yet you have a  desire for him, which I do not approve of. How can you endure the first holding of your hand, which will be decked with the auspicious wrist band with his hand encircled with snakes? Please think for yourself for a while whether these will ever match, namely your bridal silken cloth with the designs of swan and his elephant skin dripping with blood :
वधूदुकूलं कलहंस लक्षणं गजाजिनं शोणितबिन्दुवर्षि च।
Gajaajinamsonitabindhuvarshi cha.
Even your enemies would not tolerate your soft foot, anointed with red dye and accustomed to walking on floral decorations, to tread on the burial ground which is the abode of Siva. Is there  anything more despicable than the fact that the ashes of funeral pyre will come into contact with your body which is accustomed to the application of sandal paste? There is yet another mockery. After the marriage, people will laugh at you when they find you travelling on the back of the old bull of Siva instead of a stately elephant which should be your vehicle:
विलोक्य वृद्धोक्षमधिष्ठतं त्वया महाजनः स्मेरमुखो भवैष्यति।
Two things are to be pitied, namely the moon and now you for coming into contact with Siva.”
( There is a general opinion in society that so far as marriage is concerned, different people look for different considerations. So goes a popular saying:

कन्या वरयते रूपं माता वित्तं पिता श्रुतम्।
बान्धवाः कुलमिच्छन्ति मिष्टान्नमितरे जनाः॥
This means that the girl is keen about the good looks of the boy, the mother is keen that he should be rich, whereas the father prefers a learned boy. The relatives are particular about the family background whereas the other people are content with a sweet sumptuous meal.)
The Brahmachari continues with his argument against Siva saying that Siva does not have any of these required qualifications.
“ He has three eyes. No body knows about his family background. The fact that he is Digambara indicates about his wealth position. Please tell me if Siva has any of the qualifications that are looked for in a bridegroom:

वपुः विरूपाक्षमलक्ष्य जन्मता दिगम्बरत्वेन निवेदितं वसु।
वरेषु यद्बालमृगाक्षि मृग्यते तदस्ति किं व्यस्तमपि त्रिलोचने॥
Hence, desist from this wrong  pursuit. Where is he and where are you with all auspicious marks? A pillar in the cremation ground does not deserve to be mistaken for a sacrificial post.”
When Parvathi heard this speech of the Brahmachari, hurling accusations at Siva, her anger was exhibited through the knitting of eye-brows and her eyes turning red. She started her befitting reply to the Brahmachari( who is in fact, Siva himself in disguise).
“ You are speaking like this because you do not know the real truth about Hara. The dull-witted people always find fault with others who are much superior:
अलोकसामान्यमचिन्त्यहेतुकं द्विषन्ति मन्दाश्चरितं महात्मनाम्।
The so-called auspicious things are sought after by those who want to avoid some danger or want more prosperity. But what is the use of these things for a person who is the refuge of the entire world and who is free from all desires?
Though he appears to be poor, he is the source of all the wealth.  Though he resides in the cremation ground, he is called as the Lord of the three worlds. Though he appears to be terrible, he is called as Siva , the most auspicious one. No body knows the real nature of the bearer of  Pinaka:

अकिञ्चनः सन्प्रभवः स सम्पदां त्रिलोकनाथः पितृसद्मगोचरः।
स भीमरूपः शिव इत्युदीर्यते न सन्ति याथार्थ्यविदः पिनाकिनः॥
Akinchanah sanprabhavahsasampadaam
Na santhiyaathaarthyavidahpinaakinah.
The physical body of the Lord, who has the universe itself as his nature, cannot be determined by any one, be it that he is adorned with ornaments or snakes, silken dress or  elephant skin, he is bearing a skull or the moon.  You said that his body is besmeared with the ash of the funeral ground but the ash becomes so sacred after coming into   contact with his body and when it falls down at the end of   his dance,it is considered as sacred and held on the head by even the gods. Though he does not possess wealth, when he travels on his bull, Indra , mounted on the celestial elephant Airavata would get down from the elephant and salute the feet of Siva. While heaping abuses on Siva, you have inadvertently uttered one truth. You said that his ancestry is not known. The Lord Siva is hailed as the cause for even the creator Brahma himself. How can any one, then, know his ancestry?
Enough of the arguments. Let Siva be whatever you have heard about him. My mind is firmly stuck with him in love. For people who are affected by love, the criticism will not deter their spirit:
अलं विवादेन यथा श्रुतस्त्वया तथाविधस्तावदशेषमस्तु सः।
ममात्र भावैकरसं मनः स्थितं न कामवृत्तिर्वचनीयमीक्ष्यते॥
Na kaamavrttihvachaneeyameekshate.”
After giving this fitting reply to the Brahmachari, Parvathi turned to her friend and said “ My friend ! Turn away this ascetic who seems to be desirous of speaking further. For, it is not only the person who talks ill of the great  men who would get the sin but also those who are listening to such baseless charges:
न केवलं यो महतोऽपभाषते शृणोति तस्मादपि यः सो पापभाक्।
Na kevalamyomahato’pabhaashate
Srnotitasmaadapi yah sapaapabhaak.
( It should be recollected in this context that Smrti Texts say that when some one speaks ill of good people, we should not listen to it. Either we should close our ears or move away from that place:
गुरोः प्राप्तः परीवाद: न श्रोतव्यो कथञ्चन।
कर्णौ तत्र पिधातव्यौ गन्तव्यं व तथोऽन्यतः॥
Na srotavyahkathamchana.
Then Parvathi remarked that it is better to go away from that place and she suddenly turned away to leave the place. At that time Siva assumed his original form and held her with a smile. Parvathi was totally taken aback and she neither went away from that place nor stayed there, like a flowing river which is hampered by a mountain on its way:
मार्गाचलव्यतिकराकुलितेव सिन्धुः
 शैलाजिराजतनया न ययौ न तस्थौ।
Lord Siva told her “ From today onwards, I have become your slave because you have bought me by the power of your penance.”
When Parvathi heard these words, she at once forgot all the difficulties undergone while doing the rigorous penance. Any fatigue will disappear when the good result is obtained:
अद्य प्रभृत्यवनताङ्गि तवास्मि दासः
क्रीतस्तपोभिरिति वादिनि चन्द्रमौलौ।
अह्नाय सा नियमजं क्लममुत्ससर्ज
क्लेशः फलेन हि पुनर्नवतां विधत्ते॥
Klesahphalena hi punarnavataamvidhatte.

With this , the fifth chapter comes to an end.  Kalidasa has very beautifully described the penance of Parvathi, whose  argument with the Brahmachari, who is Siva himself in disguise is a master piece of dialogue. Ultimately it is the penance which could accomplish for Parvathi, what her physical charm could not succeed.  Again, the episode has proved the greatness of penance and austere vow which  will help in the realization of God.

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