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Kalidasa’s ‘Raghuvamsam’ now in English

Friday, May 6, 2016,13:33 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

New Delhi | One of Kalidasas greatest Sanskrit works ‘Raghuvamsam’, which recounts the legendary tales of the Raghu dynasty whose scions include Lord Ram, is now available in English.

The widely read epic poem has been translated by former diplomat A N D Haksar. ‘Raghuvamsam: The Line of Raghu’, published by Penguin Random House, deals with the story of the Ramayana and the ancestry of Lord Ram and its relevance today. Kalidasa invokes in this epic poem in classical Sanskrit the entire gamut of literary flavours, ranging from the erotic and the heroic to the tragic and comic, the horrific and peaceful.

The forbears and the descendants of Lord Ram are also brought to life. He speaks of the ideal couple, Dilipa and Sudakshina, their son Raghu’s valour and generosity, the tragic love of Aja and Indumati, the travails of Dasaratha, the feats of Kusha and Atithi, and finally, the dynasty’s downfall with Sudarshana and Agnivarna.

Composed in 19 cantos, the translated version provides an insight into ancient India, its land, people and seasons, and its social and cultural values that are still relevant today. According to Haksar, the popularity of ‘Raghuvamsam’ for study and comment in India was enhanced by its subject matter and poetic style.

He says translating ‘Raghuvamsam’ was a wonderful though taxing experience. Kalidasa’s narrations and descriptions are dramatic but straightforward. His evocations of scenes and moods are sensitive and effortless. But his play on words, their multiple meanings, their music and cadence, is difficult to reproduce in a language as different as English, though I have attempted this wherever possible, he says.

Haksar mentions three actualities regarding ‘Raghuvamsam’. First, with its 1557 verses spread over 19 cantos, ‘Raghuvamsam’ is by far the largest of the poet’s compositions, more than twice the length of his other epic, and 10 times that of the two lyrical poems.

Second, it seems to be the most studied and commented on of his works in India over the centuries, as far as known. And third, it is perhaps the only work of Kalidas with which his name has been associated in other Sanskrit writing, he says.

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