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A SANSKRIT DRAMA, IN SEVEN ACTS,
THE DEVA-NAGARI RECENSION OF THE TEXT,
EDITED WITH LITERAL ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF ALL THE METRICAL
NOTES, CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY,
MONIER WILLIAMS, M.A, D.C.L.,
Hon. Doctor in Law of the University of Calcutta;
Hon. Member of the Bombay Asiatic Society;
Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Oriental Society of Germany;
Boden Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Oxford.
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.
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_L HE following pages are the result of an endeavour to furnish English students of Sanskrit with a correct edition of the most celebrated drama of India's greatest dramatist. About a centuryhas elapsed since Sir W. Jones discovered that there existed in India a number of Natakas or Sanskrit dramas, many of them of great antiquity; some abounding in poetry of undoubted merit, and all of them containing valuable pictures of Hindu, life and manners. Eager to apply the means thus gained of filling what was before an empty niche in the Temple of Sanskrit Literature, Sir W. Jones addressed himself at once to translate into English the Sakuntala, which he was told was the most admired of all the extant plays.
This work is by the illustrious Kalidasa, who is supposed by some native authorities (though on insufficient grounds) to have lived in Ujjayini, the capital of king Vikramaditya, whose reign is the starting-point of the Hindu era called Samvat, beginning 57 years B.C. Kalidasa is described as one of the 'nine gems' of that monarch's splendid court. It seems, however, more probable that Kalidasa flourished in the third century of the Christian era (see p. 474 of Indian Wisdom, published by W. H. Allen & Co., 13, Waterloo Place, London). The Sakuntala is acknowledged on all hands to be the masterpiece of the great Indian poet. Indeed, no composition of Kalidasa displays more the richness and fertility of his poetical genius, the exuberance of his imagination, the warmth and play of his fancy, his profound knowledge of the human heart, his delicate appreciation of its most refined and tender emotions, his familiarity with the workings and counter-workings of its conflicting feelings,—in short, more entitles him to rank as 'the Shakespeare of India.' On the Continent such men as Goethe, vi PREFACE.
Schlegel, and Humboldt have all expressed their admiration of the Hindu poet's greatest work. Goethe's four well-known lines, written in 1792, are—
'Willst du die Bliithe des friihen, die Fruchte des spateren Jahres,
Unfortunately the Pandits omitted to inform Sir W. Jones that the multiplication of manuscripts of this play, consequent upon its popularity, had led to a perplexing result,—not, however, unexampled, as has since been proved by what has happened to the Ramayana,—namely, that the numerous manuscripts separated themselves into two classes: the one, embracing all those in Devanagari writing, which, without being uniform, had still a community of character; the other, all those in Bengali.
These two classes of MSS. are usually distinguished by the names 'Deva-nagari recension' and 'Bengali recension,' which terms may conveniently be adopted. The Deva-nagari recension
'Thus translated by Mr. E. B. Eastwick :—
'Wouldst thou the young year's blossoms and the fruits of its decline,
Augustus William Ton Schlegel, in his first Lecture on Dramatic Literature, says: 'Among the Indians, the people from whom perhaps all the cultivation of the human race has been derived, plays were known long before they could have experienced any foreign influence. It has lately been made known in Europe that they have a rich dramatic literature, which ascends back for more than two thousand years. The only specimen of their plays (Nataks) hitherto known to us is the delightful Sakontala, which, notwithstanding the colouring of a foreign climate, bears in its general structure a striking resemblance to our romantic drama.'
Alexander von Humboldt, in treating of Indian poetry, observes: 'The name of Kalidasa has been frequently and early celebrated among the western nations. This great poet flourished at the splendid court of Vikramaditya, and was, therefore, contemporary with Virgil and Horace. The English and German translations of the Sakuntala have excited the feeling of admiration which has been so amply bestowed upon Kalidasa. Tenderness in the expression of feelings, and richness of creative fancy, have assigned to him his lofty place among the poets of all nations.' In another place he says: 'Kalidasa is a masterly describer of the influence which Nature exercises upon the mindB of lovers. The scene in the forest, which he introduced in the drama of Vikrama and Urvan'i, is one of the most beautiful and poetical productions which has appeared in any time.'