By Kālidāsa
Translated by David Smith
Foreword by U.R. Ananthamurthy (To be published in the second edition)


This greatest of court epics describes events leading up to but not including the birth of Kumára (also known as Skanda or Karttikéya), the war god destined to defeat the demon Táraka. The gods attempt to deploy Kama, the Indian Cupid, to set the ascetic supreme deity Shiva on fire with love for Uma (also known as Párvati), the daughter of the god of the Himalayan mountain range. Kama’s mission fails and the enraged Shiva turns his flaming third eye on the love god, burning him to ashes. Next Párvati herself turns to intense asceticism in order to win spiritual power and thereby the husband for whom she longs. She succeeds and the climax of the poem is Shiva and Párvati’s marriage and cosmic lovemaking, and Kumára’s divine conception.

To win Shiva’s love, Párvati lives outdoors come rain or shine:


Excessively heated by twofold fire:
by the sun in the sky and by fires fed by fuel,
at the end of the hot season drenched with fresh showers
she along with the earth gave off rising steam.
Pausing a moment on her eyelashes,
beating against her lower lip,
breaking up in the fall
on to the protrusion of her breasts,
slithering into the three folds of skin below,
the first drops of water
eventually reached her navel.
360 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-4008-8  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-4008-1  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation

About the Translator

David Smith is Reader in Indian Religions at Lancaster University. He is the author of Ratnákara's Hara·víjaya: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Court Epic, The Dance of Siva: Religion, Art and Poetry in South India and Hinduism and Modernity.

About the Foreword Writer

U.R. Ananthamurthy is a leading writer and critic. He was the winner of Jnanpith award in 1994 and was former President of the Sahitya Akademi. His prolific works encompass many genres, including novels, short stories, plays, poems and essays.