Kalidasa and Valluvar on Bad Friends and Laughter (Post No.3946)

Written by London Swaminathan


Date: 27 May 2017


Time uploaded in London: 13-57


Post No. 3946


Pictures are taken from various sources such as Face book, Wikipedia and newspapers; thanks.


contact: swami_48@yahoo.com



Kalidasa and Valluvar on Bad Friends and Laughter (Post No.3946)


Tiruvalluvar is the author of Tirukkural, the Tamil Veda. It has got 1330 couplets organised in 133 chapters. Each chapter has a specific subject dealing with virtues, wealth and love (between man and woman). It expresses the highest and purest truths. It is very rare to see a secular work like this in any other language in the world. It has become very popular because of its brevity and universal appeal. Anyone will enjoy reading it.


Kalidasa is the most celebrated poet of India. His seven literary works are considered the best in classical Sanskrit literature. He is more famous for his over 1300 apt similes, imageries and analogies. All the similes in other Indian literatures are his imitations or adaptations. His influence over Indian literature is enormous. There is lot of scope for comparative studies.


Here are some amazing similarities in the above two books on two subjects: Laughter and Friendship.


Tamil poet Thiru Valluvar is so obsessed with friendship, that he deals with it in 70 to 80 couplets under different headings.


Kalidasa says that the relationship with bad friends should be cut off like a poisoned finger affected by a snake bite. Tiruvalluvar says the bad friends are like harlots and thieves.


“Cunning friends whose motive is gaining money, are like harlots who sell their body for gold and thieves who plunder” (Kural 813)

“It is better to leave than have the friendship of mean, low minded people that are useless and unhelpful” (Kural 815)

Kalidasa says,

“A friend who is part and parcel of life should be discarded if wicked as a finger which is part of body is cut down if it is bitten by a snake. But a good man, though unfriendly should be accepted, as a medicine though distasteful is acceptable to the sick” (Raghuvamsa 1-28)

द्वेष्योऽपि सम्मतः शिष्टस्तस्यार्तस्य यथौषधम्।
त्याज्यो दुष्टः प्रियोऽप्यासीदङ्गुलीवोरगक्षता॥ १-२८

dveṣyo’pi sammataḥ śiṣṭastasyārtasya yathauṣadham |
tyājyo duṣṭaḥ priyo’pyāsīdaṅgulīvoragakṣatā || 1-28

dveSyo.api sammataH shiSTastasyaartasya yathauSadham |
tyaajyo duSTaH priyo.apyaasiida~NguliivoragakShataa || 1-28


Even if someone is despicable he becomes agreeable to King DilIpa, in case if he were to be a principled person, as with a pungent medicine somehow agreeable to a patient; and even if someone is dearer to him he becomes discardable to him in case if he were to be an unprincipled person, as with a finger fanged by a snake, severable for anyone. [1-28]

A friend indeed is a friend in need!

In the Rtu Samhara Kalidasa says,

“The bodies of elephants, lions and oxen were scorched by the fire due to the excessive heat in summer season. They quickly emerged from the grass where they were burnt by fire and they all rested on the banks of a river together, forgetting their natural enmity. They behaved like friends. The image suggests that a real friend is helpful, particularly during distress. Rtu Samhara 1-27


Valluvan defines a good friend more beautifully:

“Genuine friendship hastens to redress distress even like the hand which picks up quickly that garment that slips (Kural 788)

“Friendship with worthy men is like the taste in the good books; the more we study the more we know” (Kural 783)


There are two words for laughter in Tamil : one with good and another with bad connotations. Strictly speaking both are interchangeable. Only the context determines its meaning. Valluvar deals with laughter in over 16 couplets whereas Kalidasa used it in lesser places. But Kalidasas’ three plays have the Vidushaka (comedian, Jester) which gives good scope for creating mirth. All the ancient Sanskrit dramas have this Vidushaka/ jester character.


Let us look at one or two couplets from Tirukkural:

“Laugh when trials and troubles confront you, for there is no other way to overcome grief” (Kural 621)

It is very difficult to laugh when troubles come to us; one must be a saint like Tiruvalluvar to act that way. But most of us laugh at others’ troubles; particularly the troubles encountered by our enemies.

Valluvar echoed what Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita in the following couplets:

He does not suffer sorrow in sorrow, who does not look for pleasure in pleasure (Kural 629)

He is never afflicted by sorrow who knows the grief is natural and seeks no pleasure” (628)

Kalidasa says,

The lovely gardens resplendent with white jasmine flowers are imagined to be as bright as the sportive laugh f ladies, which is also considered white in colour—(Rtu Samhara 6-23)


In Hindu literature White is used for laughter, red is used for anger, Yellow is used for auspiciousness and Black for sorrow or wickedness. They have colour coded the emotions and feelings.

In the Raghu Vamsa (5-70) Kalidasa says,

“The dew drops fallen on the tender leaves with their interiors red resemble the sportive smile fallen on Aja’s lip brightened by the splendour of teeth”

Dew drops = smile; tender leaves = lips

ताम्रोदरेषु पतितं तरुपल्लवेषु

निर्धौतहारगुलिकाविशदं हिमाम्भः

आभाति लब्धपरभागतयाधरोष्ठे

लीलास्मितं सदशनार्चिरिव त्वदीयम्॥ ५-७०

tāmrodareṣu patitaṁ tarupallaveṣu

nirdhautahāragulikāviśadaṁ himāmbhaḥ

ābhāti labdhaparabhāgatayādharoṣṭhe

līlāsmitaṁ sadaśanārciriva tvadīyam || 5-70

taamrodareShu patita.n tarupallaveShu
nirdhautahaaragulikaavishada.n himaambhaH
aabhaati labdhaparabhaagatayaadharoShThe
liilaasmita.n sadashanaarciriva tvadiiyam || 5-70

“Like the thoroughly cleansed pearls in a necklace the dewdrops are now stringing on the surfaces of tender coppery leaflets only to expropriate their ochreish magnificence onto their whitely white bodies, in which process they look like your pleasing smiles occasionally gleaming with the sparkle of your teeth radiating onto your lower lip… [5-70]


Kalidasa uses tears of joy to express happiness:

The stream of the Himalayan snow melting under the rays of the sun is compared to the tears of joy shed by a woman when her  lover returns to her after a long absence (Raghu vamsa 16-44)


अगस्त्यचिह्नादयनात्समीपम् दिगुत्तरा भास्वति संनिवृत्ते।
आनन्दशीतामिव बाष्पवृष्टिम् हिमस्रुतिम् हैमवतीम् ससर्ज ॥ १६-४४

diguttarā bhāsvati saṁnivṛtte |
ānandaśītāmiva bāṣpavṛṣṭim
himasrutim haimavatīm sasarja  || 16-44

agastyacihnAdayanAtsamIpam diguttarA bhAsvati sa.nnivR^itte |
AnandashItAmiva bAShpavR^iShTim himasrutim haimavatIm sasarja  || 16-44


On the return of the Sun from her co-wife South (indicated by the star Canopus) after his southern solstice to the proximity of North, she that northerly quarter another wife of that Sun shed tears of joy duly dampened with her happiness to which the flow of melted snow from the Himalayas is hypothetical. [16-44]

(Agastya’s direction is South where the star Canopus is known as Agastya Nakshatra)


In the fourth act of famous drama Sakuntala Kanva, the foster father of Sakuntala, sheds tears of joy when she departs to join her husband King Dushyanta.

These are just some examples to show how great poets think alike and use forceful similes to bring out the emotions.

Sources: Raghuvamsa from sanskritdocuments.com

Tirukkural by A Aranganatha Mudaliyar, Trplicane, Madras, 1949

The Imagery of Kalidasa, Dr Vinod Aggarwal, Delhi, 1985




Six Types of Laughter!Tamil and Sanskrit Quotations on Laughter!


Written by London Swaminathan

Research Article No.1555;   Dated 7th January 2015


Sanskrit book Dasarupa, a treatise on Dramaturgy, mentions six varieties of laughter/Hasa:









Among these,the first two are to be noted with reference to the good characters in Sanskrit dramas. Kalidasa mentioned Mandasmita in his Malavikagnimitra. The mandasmita, in which the teeth are slightly visible, would accordingly correspond to the ‘hasita’ variety. Fotr teasing and mocking, there is another word – parihasa.


English word smile is related to smita.


Valluvar Comedy!


Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar who lived 1500 years ago, sang about the importance  of laughter in life. He mentioned laughter, smile, contemptible laughter,teasing, mockery etc in over 25 places in his verses. Though his couplets are ethical in nature, he never missed an opportunity, to mention it wherever possible. Sanskrit language has got lot of quotes on laughter and smile. I have given below only the important quotations from both the literature.

Tiruvalluvar says that there is no life for a person who does not laugh.


“Even a bright day is gloomy to them who live in this grand world without


the light of smiles! — (Kural couplet 999)


Laughter is the light that lightens the world, he says.


He is the one who advises everyone to laugh when you face some difficulties. He must be a very good psychologist to give such a bold advice:-


“Laugh when trials and troubles confront you, for there is no other way to overcome grief” – (Kural couplet 621)


One’s spirit should not be broken by misfortune, defeat or adversity.He would advise one to laugh, when he meets misfortune, because there is nothing like this to overcome it, and pass on to victory  in due course (Rajaji’s commentary on Tirukkural).


That is what probably Carlyle  had in mind when he said:


“Wondrous is the spirit of cheerfulness

And its power of endurance”


(from SM Diaz commentary on Tirukkural)


Valluvar must have watched friends gathering very often to chit chat and laugh, but when troubles come all the friends run away. So he gives a sound advice:-


“Friendship is not that which shines as a smile in the face; friendship is which shines as a joy in the soul within” ( Kural 786)


Drunkards Comedy


Many of us have seen the words and deeds of the drunkards. They are always funny. It was no different in Valluvar’s days. Here is a couplet to prove it:


“The people will soon find out and laugh at men who drink secretly and stagger senseless with drooping eyes” —- ( Kural 927)

Rajaji, First Governor General of India, explained this couplet: Those who drink in secret, soon become the laughing stock of the locality, for the effect of indulgence can not long remain unknown.


Even in today’s Indian films we see drunkards are used to generate laughter.


Valluvar warns everyone not to laugh or whisper into one’s ears in front of kings and government officials (now Prime minister, Chief minister etc).


Laughter in Sanskrit Literature


One of the Navarasa/nine sentiments in Sanskrit dance-dramas is laughter. All the Sanskrit dramas have characters of jesters (Vidushaka). Every royal court had one Vidushaka or Vikata kavi. They can take any liberty to crack jokes on kings, officials and the administration. Nobody mistook them. Tenali Rama of Andhra Pradesh was a well known ‘vikata kavi’(jester/poet). Humour is part of Indian literature.

There are some sayings about laugher in Sanskrit:


Satire does not prohibit your entry into heaven – Padataditaka

svaragaayatim na parihaasakathaa runaddhi


Mockery begets quarrel–  Sanskrit saying

hasyam kalaha kaaranam

Superficial learning invites derision — Kahavatratnakar p 122

pallavagraahi  paandityam upahaasasya  kaaranam

Ridiculing others is like savouring nectar — Kahavatratnakar p 143

paropahaaso hi sudhaasamo bhavet

Even Indra, the lord of gods, belittles himself if he struts around proclaiming his virtues  — Canakya Niti 6-17


Sanskrit quotations are taken from Suktisudha, Chinmaya International Publication.


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