Adorning his Kavya, Meghadoot, with Vipralamba sringara rasa Kalidasa immortalized the words, “Ashadhasya prathama divase” – the beginning of rainy season and the ‘romance’ of Indians with Varsha (rain) and the Varsha ritu (rainy season).
For aeon monsoon winds have been romanticizing the lives of Indians.
It is with the monsoon rains that “impregnation in the entire universe” rests – grass waiting to sprout, greenery to blossom, and for that matter the whole spectrum of nature looks forward to the life – giving monsoons from the oceans.
Though the arrival of monsoons is a perennial feature in India, it appears anew every year. Dark clouds descend in rows, darkening the sky – making it look like the color of a peacock’s feather. Reverberating thunder announces its arrival. Moist – laden cool winds gush in. Its resplendent tunes make peacocks welcome them with a shrill cry – dancing in gay abandon. Children, seeing the lightning spread fast the darkness, run to their mothers. Suddenly, the vast sky opens up. A vertical sheet of water descends. It rushes at an incredible speed, as though to meet its mate – the scorched earth. When the much – longed and long – waited – for waters ultimately descend, the mother earth swallows the first ambrosial waters of the season with glee.
Thus sets in the varsha ritu: suddenly, countryside shines in deep emerald. Birds, being relieved from the scorching summer winds, chirp in raga. Life gets rejuvenated, gets a fresh lease, and the whole universe sways in celestial joy. Monsoon rains simply wash away the old and give life to new creativity. They are muses to poets – Kalidasa’s Meghdoot is one such gift.
Being evoked by “meghamaslishtasanum / vaprakreda parinata gaja prekshneyam dadarsa” (a cloud resting on the mountain peak that charged the peak in mimic fray, / as an elephant attacks a bank of earth in play) on “…Ashadhasya prathama divase (MS s.2 ); the first day of Ashadha, a month in the Hindu calendar, the day when monsoon starts, poet Kalidasa romances with megha by making the emaciated protagonist of his kavya, ‘Meghadoot’, “bade him [megha] a welcome couched in affectionate expressions, after worshipping him with fresh jasmine flowers”, for, he is “desirous of sustaining the life of his beloved one, and of sending news of his welfare to her [his wife] by the cloud.”
And thus beginning his kavya ‘Meghadoot’, and adorning it with Vipralamba sringara rasa Kalidasa immortalized the words, “Ashadhasya prathama divase” – the beginning of rainy season and the ‘romance’ of the Indians and Indian poets in particular with Varsha (rain) and the Varsha ritu (rainy season).
The poet portrays the love in severance, the longing and anguish of lovelorn Yaksha in the rainy season as is reflected in the 3rd verse itself, where the poet very provocatively questions in ‘mandakranta’, a prosody that could best sing and linger the long – drawn out plangency of longing in separation thus: “Meghaloke bhavati sukhinopanyathavritti chetaha / Kanthasleshapranayini jane kim punardurasmathe (MS s.3) – at the sight of a cloud the feelings even of the happy are changed, how much more must this be the case when the person longing for embracing the neck of his beloved one is far away from her?.”
The grief of separation being so intense that the Yaksha, knowing fully well the nature of the cloud: “What possible connection can there be between a cloud which consists of smoke, light, water and wind and messages which can be carried by creatures endowed with sound organs of sense?” (MS s.5); yet, in all his eagerness and foolishness, implores thus: “O cloud, thou art the refuge of the distressed; please, therefore, take to my beloved one a message from me… thou art go to the seat of the Yakshas, called Alka” (MS s.7). For, according to the poet, “… kamartah prakritikrupanah chetana chetaneshu…” (MS s. 5 – the distracted lover fails to note the distinction between the inanimate and the animate).
In a similar vein, he then offers directions to the cloud as to how to reach his house in Alkapuri that affords him good visuals which could beguile the fatigue of his journey. Here and there he also advises the megha to bestow his kindness on the women “going to lovers’ houses at night … to show the path by lightning bright like a streak of gold on a touch – stone and not to make noise by thundering and discharge water, for they are timid” (MS s.39).
Perhaps with a concern for the farming community, Yaksha then advises Megha that it is not farmers alone, even their wives – “tyayyayattam krishiphalamiti bhruvikaranahhaznyha / preetisnigdhyrjana pada vadhulochanyha…” (MS s. 16) – who are “innocent of all coquettish art” look at varsha [you] with “loving glances", for on thee depends the fragrant furrow’s fruitful outcome: the net result of ploughing the land, sowing the seed, nurturing the shoots with appropriate manure to grow richly till ripens and finally harvesting the crop – all that squarely rests with Megha [you] and the rains that you bless them with.
Hastening back to his own plight, he also reminds cloud not to forget his prayer half the way, of course, subtly saying, “…those who have undertaken important business for their friends are never remiss” (MS s.40).
On reaching the top of the Himalayan mountain, Yaksha says, he [Megha] could see Alkapuri, “as on lover’s lap, with her white garment in the shape of the Ganges disarranged, with full of lofty palaces” (MS s.65).
He then guiding him to his palace, advises that he can identify his wife as “the lady full of deep distress…changed like lotus creeper blighted by frost (MS s.84); face resting on her hand and partially visible through dishevelled hair, eyes swollen through bitter weeping, the lower lip assuming different color owing to the heat of her sighs” (MS s.85) – and if she is not asleep, “O cloud, thou shouldest say to her thus: 'Thy consort living in the hermitage of Ratnagiri is doing well. O, fortunate one, do not be very much afraid; who enjoys constant happiness or suffers uninterrupted misery? (MS s.114); “They say love dies away during separation; [this is] a thoughtless assertion. Affection becomes accumulated as its desire for the object loved is intensified from non – enjoyment' (MS s.117); my curse will come to an end when Vishnu rises from his serpent couch … pass the remaining four months … afterwards, we shall enjoy in the light of autumnal moon…” (MS s.115).
Every year, as the monsoon rains set in, this cloud poem, touching every reader with her cool fingers and consuming his/her heart with a burning anguish revivifies him, the Sahrudaya, besides gaining fresh youth for itself. With every passing rainy season it becomes younger and younger for, no soul can afford not to be moved by Kalidasa’s verses that are “smooth, like blossom – clusters” depicting not only his love for nature, but also his respect for “all life, from plant to god.”
As I slowly returned from that lull, from that trance …from that romance with “…Ashadhasya prathama divase”, I ended up with a feeling: India has so much to be thankful to monsoon, for in it, all its existence recycles year after year.