Kalidasa: Translated by Usha Kishore



The flourit of the legendary Sanskrit litterateur Kalidasa is approximated to be between 4th and 5th century CE. Kalidasa is considered the greatest poet and playwright in the Sanskrit language. His works are primarily based on Indian myth, into which he weaves magical descriptions of nature. There are many debates surrounding Kalidasa’s life and times, but based on his writings, there are speculations that he was born in Kashmir or near the Himalayas and moved south, near Ujjain or Kalinga.


Usha Kishore


Indian born Usha Kishore is a British poet and translator, resident on the Isle of Man. Usha has been internationally published and anthologised by Macmillan, Hodder Wayland, Oxford University Press (UK) and Harper Collins and Orient Swan (India), among others. Her poetry is part of British Primary, Indian Middle School and Undergraduate syllabi. Usha’s poetry has been translated into German, Spanish, Gujurati and Manx Gaelic. Usha translates from Hindi and the Sanskrit. The author of 2 books of poetry and a book of translations from the Sanskrit, Usha’s 3rd poetry collection is forthcoming in 2018 from Eyewear Publishing London.

(Translated from the original Sanskrit into English)

Excerpts from Sharad (Autumn)
{Ṛtusaṃhāram: Canto III}

Robed in reed blooms, a mellow lotus, her comely face;
music of her anklets, amorous cries of wild swans;
willowy stalks of ripening rice, her slender sensuous form;
alluring autumn alights in the guise of a blushing bride.

Earth illumined by reed blooms as the night is by the icy moon,
streams silvered with swans, lakes lustrous with white lilies,
waxen woods lit up by laden myrtle bowing forth in bloom,
glades and groves frosted by flowering jasmine vines.

Their waters engirdled in silver bands of shimmering śaphari fish,
their shores garlanded by jewelled chains of pearly white birds,
their swirling hips, voluptuous sand banks; the rivers drift
languorously today like wanton women in the pangs of passion.

In silver conch shells and pearly lotus blooms, pallid clouds
lightened, unburdened of water, float in fleecy hordes,
as though whirling the wind in their whim. Somewhere,
the sky becomes a king, fanned by myriads of chāmara fans.

The sensuous sky is lined with clusters of collyrium dust,
so too the dusky earth in the crimson of bandhūka flowers;
sown fields bloom in the mellow fruitfulness of kalama rice.
Which youthful heart does not languish in love?

With burnished crowns swaying in the languid breeze, with
sprays of flowers springing from the tips of tender twigs, with
blithe bees swarming, drunk on the dripping honey of drooping
blooms, which heart is not rent by the kovidāra tree?

Adorned in the splendour of infinite starry jewels,
moonfaced, bereft of her obscuring veil of clouds, draping
herself in the radiant raiment of flawless moonbeams,
the night lingers like a besotted maid, longing for love.

With wreaths of waves rippled by the black beaks of teals,
their banks brimming with flocks of wild geese and crane;
with swan song seducing the hearts of milling crowds,
the rivers blush in the saffron pollen of lotus flowers.

Swinging latticed stalks, laden with rice,
swaying great trees, bursting with blooms,
strewing clusters of lustrous lotus flowers;
the wind, in violent gusts, stirs the mind of youth.

Indra’s rainbow vanishes into the plexus of clouds;
lightning does not festoon the heavens today, cranes
do not stir the skies with wingèd winds, peacocks
do not study the azure blues with upraised faces.

Scented with the sweetness of śephālikā blooms,
ringing with the rapturous songs of resting bird-flocks;
thronging with lotus-eyed does seeking the glades,
these groves kindle passion in the mind of man.

With threshing meadows stacked with sheaves of grain,
with content herds of cattle sedately sprawled, with
the symphony of swan song echoing the chorus of cranes,
the purlieus of the village fill the hearts of men with mirth.

The radiant lake shimmering in emerald sheen, adorned
in an array of white lotus blooms and royal swans,
is courted by the seductive sky, disrobed of clouds,
jewelled with the moon and a myriad stars.

Autumnal air, chill wind charming white lilies; an
enchanted sky parts in fleeing flocks of clouds; lucent
are the once ambered waters, the warm earth dry.
Jewelled is heaven with moonbeams and strings of stars.

Bestowing the splendour of the moon on the faces of women,
bestowing the amorous cries of swans on their jewelled anklets,
bestowing bandhūka crimson on their luscious lips, alluring
autumn, with her bewitching beauty, departs elsewhere.

śaphari – silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
chāmara – fan made of yak tail
collyrium archaic term for eye salve/eyeliner. In Indian Literature, this term is used for black eyeliner
bandhūka – bright red, noon blooming flower (Pentapetes phoenicea)
kalama – variety of winter rice
kovidāra – Orchid tree, which has reddish purple flowers (Bauhinia pupurea). In Indian myth,
the kovidāra tree is considered to be one of the trees of Paradise.
Indra – King of Gods of the Vedic pantheon
śephālika – Night flowering jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum)


ऋतुसंहारे तॄतीय: सर्ग:
शरद् (उद्धृतभाग:)

काशांशुका विकचपद्ममनोज्ञवक्त्रा
सोन्मादहंसरवनूपुरनादरम्या ।
प्राप्ता शरन्नववधूरिव रूपरम्या ॥

काशैर्मही शिशिरदीधितिना रजन्यो
हंसैर्जलानि सरितां कुमुदै: सरांसि ।
सप्तच्छदै:  कुसुमभारनतैर्वनान्ताः
शुक्लीकृतान्युपवनानि च मालतीभि:

पर्यन्तसंस्थितसिताण्डजपंक्तिहारा: ।
नध्यो विशालपुलिनान्तनितम्बबिम्बा
मन्दं प्रयान्ति समदा: प्रमदा इवाध्य ॥

व्योम क्वचिद्रजतशंखमृणालगौरैस्
त्य्क्ताम्बुभिर्लघुतया शतश: प्रयातै: ।
संलक्ष्यते पवनवेगचलै: पयोदै
राजेव चामरशतैर्रुपवीज्यमान: ॥

भिन्नाञ्जनप्रचयकान्ति नभो मनोज्ञं
बन्धूकपुष्परजसाऽरुणिता च भूमि: ।
वप्राश्च पक्वकलमावृतभूमिभागा:
प्रोत्कण्ठयन्ति न मनो भुवि कस्य यून: ॥

पुष्पोद्गमप्रचयकोमलपल्लवाग्र: ।
चित्तं विदारयति कस्य न कोविदार्: ॥

मेघावरोधपरिमुक्तशशाङक्वक्त्रा ।
ज्योत्स्नादुकूलममलं रजनी दधाना
वृद्धिं  प्रयात्यनुदिनं प्रमदेव बाला ॥

कुर्वन्ति  हंसविरुतै:  परितो जनस्य
प्रीतिं सरोरुहरजोरुणितास्तटिन्य:  ॥

आनर्तयं स्तरुवरान्कुसुमावनम्रान् ।
उत्फुल्लपङजवनां नलिनीं विधुन्वन्
यूनां मनश्चलयति प्रसभं नभस्वान्  ॥

नष्टं धनुर्बलभिदो जलदोदरेषु
सौदामिनी स्फुरति नाध्य् वियत्पताका ।
धुन्वन्ति पक्षपवनैर्न नभो बलाका:
पश्यन्ति नोन्नतमुखा गगनं मयूरा: ॥

स्वस्थस्थिताणडजकुलप्रतिनादितानि ।
प्रोत्कण्ठयन्त्युपवनानि मनांसि पुंसाम् ॥

स्वस्थस्थितप्रचुरगोकुलशोभितानि ।
ह्ंसै: ससारसकुलै: प्रतिनादितानि
सीमान्तराणि जनयन्ति नृणां प्रमोदम् ॥

स्फुटकुमुदचितानां राजहंसाश्रितानां
मरकतमणिभासा वारिणा भूषितानाम् ।
श्रियमतिशयरूपां व्योम तोयाशयानां
वहति विगतमेघं चन्द्रतारावकीर्णम् ॥

शरदि कुमुदसङगाद्वायवो वान्ति शीता
विगतजलदवृन्दा दिग्विभागा मनोज्ञा: ।
विगतकलुषमम्भ: श्यानपङका धरित्री
विमलकिरणचन्द्रं व्योम ताराविचित्रम् ॥

स्त्रीणां विहाय वदनेषु शशाङकलक्ष्मीं
काम्यं च हंसवचनं मणिनूपुरेषु ।
बन्धूककान्तिमधरेषु मनोहरेषु
क्वापि प्रयाति सुभगा शरदागमश्री: ॥


Translators Note

Ṛtusaṃhāram1 is Kalidasa’s classic epyllion2, which celebrates the six Indian seasons.3 The component quatrains of the epyllion create miniature scenes that evoke amatory moods. “Excerpts from Sharad (Autumn),” comprising of the opening and closing verses of Sharad, Canto III of Ṛtusaṃhāram, are part of my wider translation of the epyllion.

Sharad is composed in Vasantatilaka4 and Malini metres5, which cannot be effectively emulated in English; hence, I have resorted to free verse. Translating Sanskrit poetry is always a challenge, the complex declensions of the language furnishing a malleable word order as opposed to rigid English syntax. I have tried to overcome this problem by using rhetorical devices like anaphora and parentheses to make the lines syntactically coherent. Recreating the mellifluous verse of the Source Text was the most difficult part of the translation. This has been done by following certain recurring phonological patterns of the original and by maintaining the languorous autumnal mood and the erotic sensuality of nature, amidst the flurry of seasonal activity. I have retained the original quatrain structure, while adhering to the elaborate imagery and figurative devices. The cultural milieu has been accentuated by interspersing the English translation with transliterated Sanskrit words from the original in IAST6 and the composition period has been highlighted by the use of archaic words like raiment, espouse and maiden.

To accommodate the complex cultural allusions of Ṛtusaṃhāram, I have based my translation on contextual interpretation. One instance is the allusion to the earth-sky duo in “vyoma tōya – āśayānām,” literally translated as “the sky resting on the lake.” My rendition, “the lake courted by the sky,” connotes this romantic pairing. Similarly swans are considered motifs of passion and rivers are personified as sensuous women in Sanskrit Literature and I have contextualised these by referring to “amorous cries of swans” and “rivers drifting like wanton women.”

1 Literally translated as “The Garland of Seasons” or “Cycle of Seasons”. However, I have interpreted the epyllion as “Ode to the Seasons”.
2 Epyllion – called Khanda Kavya (Short epic) in Sanskrit.
3 The six Indian seasons are Greeshma (Summer), Varsha (Monsoons), Sharad (Autumn), Hemanta (early winter), Sisira (Late winter and fall) and Vasanta (Spring).
4 Literally translated as “the ornament of Spring”, the Vasantatilaka is a 14 syllabled meter, with a yati (caesura) after the 8th syllable.
5 Malini (translated as garlanded woman) has 15 syllables to a line with the caesura after the 8th syllable.
6 IAST – International Alphabet of Sanskrit transliteration which allows the Romanisation of Sanskrit and other Indic scripts



  1. One more commendable job by Usha Kishore in showcasing the inexhaustible treasures of Sanskrit literature. Ritusamhara is one of the most sonorous and soul-touching epyllions. And Usha has succeeded in capturing not only the meaning but also the dulcet sound of the slokas; and the very first one, as under, proves it. See how beautiful and lilting the translation is:-

    “Robed in reed blooms, a mellow lotus, her comely face;
    music of her anklets, amorous cries of wild swans;
    willowy stalks of ripening rice, her slender sensuous form;
    alluring autumn alights in the guise of a blushing bride.”

    My hearty congrats to Usha Kishore, and I look forward to not only reading this entire work in translation comparing it meticulously and analytically with the Sanskrit original; but also more and more such creations from her copious and amenable pen.

  2. Great

    Kalidasa’s position among the World of literati is at the very top.

    Unfortunately ordinary people just don’t have the access to the beauty of it because of the language problem

    Best Regards

    Best wishes to the author

    KR Nair

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook