It is rare for one great poet to be inspired by another great poet and to openly acknowledge it. But Rabindranath Tagore was so stirred by Kalidasa’s Meghadoota that he wrote his own poem about it (in Manasi, 1889)In this poem, Tagore says:

In a gloomy closed room I sit alone
And read the Meghadoota,
My mind leaves the room,
Travels on a free-moving cloud,
Flies far and wide…

Tagore begins his poem by addressing Kalidasa:

Ah, supreme poet,
That first hallowed day of Ashadha
On which in some unknown year
You wrote your Meghadoota…

Kalidasa and Tagore, who lived some fifteen centuries apart in time, were both poet-meteorologists. It was so natural for Tagore to express his thoughts about Meghadoota in meteorological terms:

Your stanzas are themselves like
Dark layered sonorous clouds
Heaping the misery of separated lovers
Into thunderous music.

Who can say what thickness of clouds that day,
What festiveness of lightning,
What wildness of wind,
Shook with their roar the turrets of Ujjayini?

Long-repressed tears seem to have poured down
In torrents that day
And drenched your noble stanzas.

Tagore looks upon Kalidasa’s Yaksha as a symbol of all loneliness and separation that prevails in this world and the cloud as a global messenger to all yearning souls:

Did every exile sing to the clouds
The same song of yearning?
Did every lover ask a cloud
To carry a tearful message of love?

The Indian southwest monsoon is a giant atmospheric and oceanic phenomenon. But climate change enthusiasts often strive to instill fear in the minds of the Indian population by telling that the monsoon is in danger. However, from Kalidasa’s first day of Ashadha to the present times, the monsoon has unfailingly come to India every year. To this historical evidence, Tagore adds a poetic truth that blends together the monsoon and the Meghadoota, because to him both appear each year with a fresh newness of life:

Countless first days of the rainy season have passed
Every year has given new life to your poem
By showering it with fresh rain.
With the sound of gathered clouds,
By filling streams with waves
That rush like your rain-swelled verse.

Tagore’s poem about Meghadoota is itself a piece of great beauty and lofty thought. Tagore elevates the loneliness of lovers to a much higher plane and widens its worldly meaning:

Poet, your spell has released
Tight bonds of pain in this heart of mine.
I too have entered that heaven of yearning.

But at the end, Tagore has only more questions for us:

Why do we aim so high only to weep when thwarted?
Why does not love find its true path?

(Reference: Rabindranath Tagore – Selected Poems, William Radice, Penguin Books India)

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