There is very little known for certain about the life of Kālidās. It is not clear where he lived, and the time he might have lived is anywhere from 130 BC to 600 CE.
Kālidās wrote three plays: Mālawikāgnimitra ("Mālavikā and Agnimitra"), Abhijñānashākuntala ("The Recognition of Shakuntala"), and Vikramorwasheeya ("Pertaining to Vikram and Urwashi"). Abhijñānashākuntala, that is regarded as a masterpiece was the first to be translated into English and German.
Mālawikāgnimitra tells the story of King Agnimitra, who falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Mālavikā. When the queen discovers her husband's passion for a servant girl, she becomes very angry and orders that this girl is sent to prison; but it turns out that the girl is a princess, therefore the affair is accepted in the end.
Abhijñānashākuntala tells the story of a king, Dushyanta, who meets in the forests Shakuntalā, the adopted daughter of a wise man who lives with him in a cottage in the forests. Dushyanta and Shakuntalā fall in love with each other and get married. Dushyanta stays with Shakuntalā in the forests for while until he gets called back to his court for some pressing matter. After many difficulties there follows a happy end.
Vikramōrwasheeya is more mystical than the above two plays.
Kālidās wrote two very good epic poems, Raghuvamsha ("Dynasty of Raghu") and Kumārasambhawa ("Birth of Kumar Kartikeya"), and the lyrical Meghadoota ("Cloud Messenger") and Rutusamhāra ("The Exposition on the Seasons").
Some historians credit Kālidās with a few other works, including the following; however, scholars commonly believe that they were the creations of some other authors writing under the name Kālidās:
- There have been a few other authors in Sanskrit of lesser statures having the same name, Kālidās; the authors of Nalodaya and Shrutibodha were two among them.
- Some historians think he was a poet-dramatist at the court of a king named Vikramāditya. But there were several kings in ancient India who took the name Vikramāditya. One among them was the famous Chandragupta II Vikramāditya of the Gupta dynasty, who took the throne of Magadh around 378 CE.
- Kalidasa: Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works by Arthur W. Ryder
- Biography of Kalidasa
- Kalidasa and Ancient India Archived 2005-09-01 at the Wayback Machine
- Works by Kalidasa at Project Gutenberg
- Clay Sanskrit Library Archived 2019-07-07 at the Wayback Machine publishes classical Indian literature, including the works of Kalidasa with Sanskrit facing-page text and translation. Also offers searchable corpus and downloadable materials.
- Kalidasa at The Online Library of Liberty