Invaluable to classical Sanskrit literature, Meghdoot (The Cloud Messenger) epitomizes the subliminal relationship between a man trapped in trying circumstances and nature. Kalidasa crafted the masterpiece on a mythological incident where Yaksha, a servant of Lord Kuber blessed with the boon of everlasting youth, gets entrammeled by the charms of his Yakshini and neglects his duty of plucking fresh flowers every morning for his master’s religious chores. Enraged, Lord Kuber banishes Yaksha for a year to a hermit’s life in the jungle. While loneliness forces Yaksha to look toward nature and its elements, changing seasons take toll on his body and a forlorn heart. Yaksha grows delirious and has started hallucinating. He has started perceiving human activity and reaction in all animated objects of nature suiting his surging emotions and projected images. He sees a friend in the tumbling dark clouds lumbering toward him who can travel great distances and may help carrying his earnings to his beloved, pining away for him at home in Himalayan Alkanagri. Mrityunjay’s unique perception and contemporary treatment of images of history and heritage presents a lyrical recipe of a mythical drama. Footnotes on mythical characters, symbols, and scriptural references make it all the more reader friendly.
The Cloud Messenger is a transcreation of a Sanskrit classic, Meghdoot, written by Kalidasa during the classical age of Gupta Empire in AD 4–5 Century India. It was inspired by a very informal interaction poet Mrityunjay had with his music composer friend Debajyoti Misra of Kolkata, who wanted him to scribble some verses on clouds for a musical score. Once it started, it transcended the sundry goal and took him to a plane where he started crossing path with the mythical Yaksha of Kalidasa’s Meghdoot (The Cloud Messenger). Already translated in eighteen languages of the world, Mrityunjay took a different way of looking at Yaksha and his befriended “cloud messenger” through the original verses of Kalidasa. Invaluable to classical Sanskrit literature, Meghdoot epitomizes the subliminal relationship between a man trapped in trying circumstances and nature. Kalidasa crafted the masterpiece on a mythological incident where Yaksha, a servant of Lord Kuber blessed with the boon of everlasting youth, gets distracted from his duty. Entrammeled by the charms of his Yakshini, he neglects his duty of plucking fresh flowers every morning for his master’s religious chores. Enraged, Lord Kuber banishes Yaksha for a year to a hermit’s life in the jungle. Eight months into his exile, in the thick embrace of the Ramgiri Forest, loneliness forces Yaksha to look toward nature and seek companionship of the elements of nature, plants and wild creatures around him. Changing seasons and resultant atmospheric changes in those months have taken their toll on his body and forlorn heart. In all possibility, Yaksha grows delirious and has started hallucinating, which is very natural for any human in such circumstances. He has started perceiving human activity and reaction in all animated objects of nature suiting his surging emotions and projected images. He beholds the tumbling dark clouds of Pawas-ritu (the month when monsoon breaks in India—i.e., the end of May and early June—known for its very hot and humid atmosphere) lumbering toward him like a herd of drunken elephants; his heart leaps up with joy. In them, he sees a friend who travels great distances and may serve as his messenger to carry his earnings to his beloved, pining away for him at home in Himalayan Alkanagri. While guiding the befriended clouds to his homeland, Yaksha also realizes that the clouds must help him without neglecting their responsibilities toward mankind and nature. The journey from Ramgiri to Alkanagri holds idyllic descriptions of the land, mountains, streams and rivers, forests and animals, men and women of varied character. Personification in poetry with mythical and historical symbols and animated objects are common yet equally rich in epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, Upnishads, Jataka literature, Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, and Faust of Goethe; but what makes Kalidasa distinct is the way he creates a daily life relation and equation with objects of mythology and nature to express basic human emotion in its various hues. His The Cloud Messenger actually draws a map of the geosocial existence of the entire North India of his time, which imitates present reality. No language has the versatility to capture the meaning and nuances of expressions deliberated through the verses composed in Mandakranta chhand (an intricate meter in Sanskrit poetry) used by Kalidasa in Meghdoot. However, I attempted to encapsulate those images and nuances with all their allegorical expressions as an endeavor to familiarize those who respect it at arm’s length, but are unable to appreciate the teasing theme and many splendored beauty of the Sanskrit original. In order to portray Yaksha’s unfathomable suffering and to create an enabling perspective for present-day readers, Mrityunjay took the liberty of composing some introductory verses (25) in a narrative coming from Yaksha. It is mainly to invoke a sympathetic and understanding mind-set that can visualize the unfortunate condition of Yaksha and his hapless plight. Unless one is sensitized to the backdrop, the appreciation of the emotional drama unfolding on the foreground is fractured.
Mrityunjay, a senior Indian Police Service officer of poetic sensibility, gives a contemporary glimpse of the unfathomable pathos of sunderance suffered by Yaksha and idyllic portrayal of geosocial life of North India in Kalidasa’s Meghdoot (The Cloud Messenger) through the verses of original Sanskrit classic written in AD 4–5 Century.