The Birth of Kumára

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

The Birth of Kumára

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


“Love’s Wife’s Lament”
(Canto 4, pp. 129-153)
(32 pp, 1.35mb)

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Download the title page and table of contents and one chapter of the book (in English and Sanskrit on facing pages), bundled together as a .pdf file. You can also download the CSL Front Matter (6pp, 1.3mb). It describes how we transliterate the Sanskrit text in the Roman alphabet and includes a guide to pronunciation. It also explains our system of representing phonetic fusion (sandhi).

You can set Adobe Acrobat Reader to display the Sanskrit text and translation in facing page view. Simply go to “View” in the toolbar, select “Page Layout” and click on “Facing.”

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

Foreword by U.R. Ananthamurthy (PDF) (To be published in the second edition). 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.

The Birth of Kumára: Sanskrit Text-critical Notes

This page provides text-critical notes to the Sanskrit text of The Birth of Kumára (Kumārasaṃbhava). This is a corrected and expanded version of the notes in the printed edition (pp. 348–50).

The Sanskrit text is based on the Sanskrit text transmitted to Vállabha·deva (early tenth century), who is perhaps the earliest surviving commentator on ‘The Birth of Kumára’ and even, conceivably, the earliest surviving commentator on any kāvya. I give Kali·dasa’s text as published by M. S. Narayana Murti. Sometimes I follow instead the text of Gautam Patel, often as it happens where that text coincides with Malli·natha’s text; and occasionally I reject both and adopt the reading of Malli·natha. In three instances I follow other editions.


Kumārasaṃbhava of Kālidāsa. Critically edited by Suryakanta. Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1962.

Vallabhadeva’s Kommentar (Śāradā Version) zum Kumārasambhava. Edited by M. S. Narayana Murti. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Supplementband 20,1. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1980.

mahākavikālidāsaviracitam kumārasambhavam śriānandadevāyanivallabhadevaviracitayā pañjikayā sametam. Edited by Gautam Patel. Ahmedabad: Gautama Vādīlāla Patela, 1986.


My deviations from Murti’s Sanskrit text are as follows:
Mall. = Malli·natha
Vall. = Vallabha·deva

1.9cdprasūtaḥ sānūni gandhaḥ with Patel and Mall. samīraḥ sānūni gandhaiḥ in Murti.
1.19omitted in Murti
1.34bvikrameṣu with Mall. vibhrameṣu in Murti’s verse 33.
1.42omitted by Vall. and Mall.
2.3abte sarve with Patel and Mall. sarve te in Murti.
2.12audghātaḥ with Mall. udgīthaḥ in Murti.
2.15bśāśvataḥ with Mall. śāśvatam in Murti.
2.16astutīḥ with Patel and Mall. nutīḥ in Murti.
2.57budyantaṃ with Patel and Mall. udyataṃ in Murti.
2.60avoḍhum with Mall. soḍhum in Murti.
2.61bsaināpatyam with Mall. senāpatyam in Murti.
3.4apada|kāṅkṣiṇā with Mall. phala|kāṅkṣiṇā in Murti.
3.6bprayukta|rāga|praṇidhir with Patel and Mall. prayukta|rāga|praṇidher in Murti.
3.7dniṣakta with with Patel and Mall. viṣakta in Murti.
3.8ctasyāḥ with Patel and Mall. yasyāḥ in Murti.
3.10atava prasādāt Patel and Mall. bhavat|prasādāt in Murti.
3.22cAirāvaṇ’| with Patel and Mall. dig|vāraṇ’| in Murti.
3.28bnirgandhatayā with Patel and Mall. nirgandham iti in Murti.
3.30cbāl’|âruṇa| with Patel and Mall. bāl’|ātāpa| in Murti.
3.37arasāt paṅkaja|reṇu|gandhi with Mall. saraḥ|paṅkaja|reṇu|gandhi in Murti.
3.38agīt’|ântareṣu with Patel and Mall. gīt’|ântare ca in Murti.
3.38dcucumbe with Mall. cucumba in Murti.
3.46ckaṇṭha|prabhā|saṅga with Patel and Mall. kaṇṭha|prabh”|âbhyakta| in Murti.
3.51dśaraṃ cāpam with Mall. śar’|âvāpam in Murti.
3.54cparyāpta with Mall. saṃjāta|puṣpa| in Murti.
3.57cjit’|êndriye with Patel and Mall. yat’|îndriye in Murti.
3.58cc’ ântaḥ param’|ātma|saṃjñaṃ with Patel and Mall. c’ ântargatam ātma|saṃjñaṃ in Murti.
3.68bsphuṭad| with and Patel and Mall. sphurad| in Murti.
4.2d|vilupta|darśanam with Patel and Mall. |nimagna|darśanam in Murti.
4.16dālāpa|nisarga|paṇḍitām with Patel and Mall. ālāpa|visarga|paṇḍitām in Murti.
4.20aaham with Patel and Mall. iyam in Murti.
4.25dMadhur with Patel and Mall. ṛtur in Murti.
4.30dpradhūmitām with Patel and Mall. pradūṣitām in Murti.
4.31aardha| with Patel and Mall. adya in Murti.
4.36dmāṃ vinā with Patel and Mall. mad|vinā in Murti.
4.40dârciṣi with Mall. ârciṣām in Murti.
4.42dsvena niyojayiṣyati with Patel and Mall. svena sa yojayiṣyati in Murti.
5.10avikriyāṃ with Patel and Mall. kṛta|rūpa|vikriyā in Murti (verse 9a).
5.14dvātsalyam with Patel and Mall. putra|vāllabhyam in Murti.
5.15btasyāṃ with Patel and Mall. tasyā in Murti (verse 13b).
5.16c‘bhyupāgaman with Mall. apy upāgaman in Murti (verse 15c).
5.18apūrva|tapaḥ|samādhinā with Mall. sarva|samādhi|sādhanaṃ in Murti (verse 17a).
5.25bvāta|vṛṣṭiṣu with Mall. varṣa|vṛṣṭiṣu in Murti (verse 24b).
5.26as” âtyanta|him’|ôtkir’|ânilāḥ with Mall. s” âtyartha|him’|ôttar’|ânilāḥ in Murti (verse 25a).
5.29bsvam aṅgaṃ glapayanty with Patel and Mall. tad|aṅgaṃ kṣapyanty in Murti (verse 28b).
5.35cya utpal’|âkṣi! pracalair vilocanais with Mall. ya utpala|kṣepa|calair vilokitais in Murti (verse 34c).
5.38bbhāvini! with Mall. bhāmini! in Murti (verse 37b).
5.40aato ’tra with Patel and Mall. ato ’dya in Murti (verse 39a).
5.42dkṛś’|ôdari with Patel and Mall. tan’|ûdari in Murti (verse 41d).
5.50ctad|ardha|bhāgena with Patel. tato ’rdha|bhāgena in Murti (verse 49c).
5.54bPur’|ârim with Mall. Smar’|ârim in Murti (verse 53b).
5.60beṣv api with Patel and Mall. etayā in Murti (verse 59b).
5.66cbhujena with Patel. kareṇa in Murti (verse 65c).
5.68dvikīrṇa|keś’|âsthi| with Suryakanta (IOL29). vikīrṇa|keśāsu pareta|bhūmiṣu in Murti (verse 67d).
5.79cnṛty’|âbhinaya| with Mall. nṛtt’|âbhinaya| in Murti (verse 78c).
5.85aâṅga|yaṣṭir with Patel and Mall. âṅga|sandhir in Murti (verse 84a).
5.85bnikṣepaṇāya with Mall. nikṣepa eva in Murti (verse 84b).
5.86aavanat’|âṅgi with Mall. anavam’|âṅgi in Murti (verse 85a).
5.86dphalena with Mall. phale na in Murti (verse 85d).
6.5bôtkira with Mall. ôttara in Murti.
6.21cāvedyate with Patel and Mall. ākhyāyate in Murti.
6.24ccintit’|ôpasthitāṃs with Patel and Mall. cintit’|ôpagatāṃs in Murti.
6.36ate c’ ākāśam with Mall. ta ākāśam in Murti.
6.36dsama|raṃhasaḥ with Mall. saha mānasāḥ in Murti.
6.48cavaterur with Patel and Mall. avapetur in Murti.
6.51dsu|vyakto with Patel and Mall. suvyañjo in Murti.
6.53dbhūdhar’|ēśvaraḥ with Patel and Mall. jagatī|dharaḥ in Murti.
6.58apraiṣya|bhāve vaḥ with Patel and Mall. praiṣya|pakṣe vaḥ in Murti.
6.58cmanye with Patel and Mall. tadd hi in Murti.
6.60bbhāsvatāṃ with Mall. bhāsvatā in Murti.
6.63ckāryam with Mall. kṛtyam in Murti.
6.76cyen’ with Mall. yasy’ in Murti.
6.86omitted in Murti.
6.86bsamīpsitam with Patel.
6.87bvimṛśya with Patel and Mall. vicārya in Murti.
7.5csaṃbandhi with Mall. saṃbandha in Murti.
7.9bkṛt’|âṅga|rāgām with Mall. ras’|âṅga|rāgām in Murti.
7.18bvimṛṣṭa with Mall. visṛṣṭa in Murti.
7.30dPura|śāsanasya with Patel and Mall. Smara|śāsanasya in Murti.
7.36bvidher vidhātā with Mall. vidhir vidhātā in Murti.
7.43dsaṃvardhayantau with Patel and Mall. samedhayantau in Murti.
7.68cdhāraṇ’|ôccam with Patel and Mall. pālan’|ôccam in Murti (verse 67c).
7.68duccaistaraṃ with Patel and Mall. uccaistarāṃ in Murti (verse 67d).
7.76cUmā|tanau with Mall. Um”|ātmanā in Murti (verse 76c (sic.)).
7.78dkathyate with Patel and Mall. kathyatāṃ in Murti.
7.79not in Murti or Patel
7.94bādadānaḥ with Patel and Mall. ādadhānaḥ in Murti (verse 93b).
8.14cmekhal”|âpanaya| with AN. mekhalā|praṇaya| in Murti.
8.14drurodha sā with Patel and Mall. rurodha ca in Murti.
8.23avalay’ with Patel and Mall. caraṇ’ in Murti.
8.28bvanitā|sakhaḥ with Patel and Mall. dayitā|sakhaḥ in Murti.
8.36bbarha|maṇḍalaḥ with Suryakanta (Foulkes). gaura|maṇḍalam in Murti.
8.45dvartitāḥ with Patel and Mall. sādhu maṇḍitāḥ in Murti.
8.46abhū|bhṛtā with Mall. bhūbhṛtāṃ in Murti.
8.46cc’ ātmanaḥ with Patel. c’ ātmanā in Murti.
8.51bn’ ânyayā with Foulkes variants and Sītārāma. ’ham anyathā in Murti.
8.64bsāmi|bhinna with Mall. bhina|sāndra|timiraṃ in Murti.