The departure of the rainy season leaves us with a weather which is hot and humid. The sky is a clean blue. The sun tends to get merciless yet again but is unable to catch up with the ferocity it displays during summers. Rivers and lakes are full to the brim, but are relatively quieter.
In ‘Ritusamhara’, Kalidasa captures this season as evocatively as he does all others. All the natural features of autumn get compared to either some activity or some ornament of the delicately nurtured. Immaculate moonshine is often said to be veiled by clouds. Twinkling stars get alluded to as jewellery of the autumnal night. Affairs of the heart invariably take centre stage.
Bollywood does not refrain from showing us the beauty of this season in all its glory while the hero and the heroine profess their love for each other. But there is a difference. Whereas the attention of the poet is invariably on nature, ornamentation and courtship, Bollywood goes a step further. It uses the season of autumn to also depict hearts which are steeped in a sense of melancholy. The spectacle of dry yellow leaves getting crushed beneath the feet of separated lovers singing soulful songs is common place. The hero and the heroine suffer the pangs of loneliness, laying the blame at the door of a harsh Fate. Their faces are invariably downcast. A sense of despondency prevails.
Consider these couplets from Canto Three of this work of the poet and some of the songs which spring to one’s mind.
“Presently the rivers are journeying slowly with a strutting of prideful lovely girls, for the rising and falling fish in the rivers seem to be the delightful sets of strings at the waistlines of rivers, like the sets of girdle-strings on the waists of girls, and the ranges of white waterfowls on riverbanks seem to be the whitish pearly pendants of rivers, like the pearly pendants around the bosoms of prideful girls, more so the broad sand-dunes at edges of those rivers appear to be the roundish fundaments of those rivers like that of those girls. [3-3]
Baiju Bawra (1952, Vijay Bhatt)
Mujhe Jeene Do (1963, Moni Bhattacharjee)
Kashmir Ki Kali (1964, Shakti Samanta)
Safar (1970, Asit Sen)
“A girl burgeons as a damsel day by day, so the autumnal night is lengthening its night-time day by day, and as a damsel wears shiny jewellery on her nubility, this damsel, called the autumnal night, is wearing clusters of twinkling stars as her jewellery, as the veil of a damsel will be unveiled frequently presenting her face, these veils called clouds on the sky scape are now being unveiled to present the moon like face of this autumnal damsel, and a damsel starts to wear raiment with unblemished whiteness at her pubescence, so also, this autumnal damsel’s wraparound is the immaculate moonshine. [2-7]
Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960, Mohammed Sadiq)
Ganga Jamuna (1961, Nitin Bose)
Bandini (1963, Bimal Roy)
Chandni (1989, Yash Chopra)
“These days the moon is an eye-festival and heart-stealing with his profuse moonbeams, and he is the real gladdener for he is the sprinkler of fresh and coolant dewdrops through those moonbeams, but nowadays he alone is becoming an inflamer, for he is burning the bodies of the women, who are already felled by the arrow of Love-god, which arrow is daubed with the venom, which venom is nothing but their own lusting after their itinerant husbands, that are now separated from them. [3-9]
Jhumroo (1961, Shankar Mukherjee)
Kohinoor (1960, S U Sunny)
Maya (1961, D D Kashyap)
“The fragrance of flowers of white-flower trees is heart-stealing, and nowadays birds are not scorched by the sun, thus they are there in fine fettle, and they are calling each other reciprocally, thus those birds and their callings are heart-stealing, and the eyes of she-deer that are abiding all over there are like black-lotuses, thus with all them the woodlands and their fringes beyond ken, are ecstasizing the hearts of men. [3-14]
Anupama (1966, Hrishikesh Mukherjee)
Black Mail (1973, Vijay Anand)
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006, Karan Johar)
“These days the vault of heaven smiles with the vast of earth in their forms of exalted splendour. On the earth the lakes are bejewelled with emeraldine waters; similar is the sky with somewhat emeraldine hue. Such water is overspread with white-lotuses, similar is the cloudless sky overlaid with stars. These waters are overprotective to kingly swans, similarly the vault of cloudless heaven is holding out the moon, the king of the nights. [3-21]
Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955, V Shantaram)
Rajkumar (1964, K Shankar)
Aandhi (1975, Gulzar)
Bollywood has a marked preference for using the autumn season as a backdrop for melancholic songs of separation and for depicting the yearning for the beloved. Even though Kalidasa refrains from painting this aspect of the season, it may be worth our while to look at some songs which fall in this category.
Dulaari (1949, A R Kardar)
Awaara (1951, Raj Kapoor)
Baiju Bawra (1952, Vijay Bhatt)
Chaudvin Ka Chaand (1960, Mohammed Sadiq)
Baaton Baaton Mein (1979, Basu Chatterjee)
When it comes to capturing the beauty of nature and describing the affairs of the heart, Kalidasa reigns supreme. His knowledge of the geography as well as the topography of India is even more commendable, given the fact that he lived in times when maps, modern navigation tools, internet and global positioning systems did not exist.
[Note: Translation of ‘Ritusamhara’ courtesy Mr. Desiraju Hanumanta Rao: http://www.sanskritdocuments.org/sites/giirvaani/giirvaani/rs/rs_3.htm]