A country’s wealth is reflected in its literature. If the poets always sing about poverty and begging bowl we know that the general public suffered and starved. If the poets sing about gold and gems and enormous wealth and donation it means that the country was wealthy. Kalidasa,the greatest of the Indian secular poets, sings about gold and gems though out his seven books. As a matter of fact he himself was considered one of the Nine Gems (Nava Ratnas) in the court of Vikramaditya who started his own era in 56 BC.
Kalidasa’s praise of Himalayan gems is sung by Sangam poets as well. Sangam poets who lived hundred or two hundred years after Kalidasa might have got the information from his works. If this is the only similarity then we can ignore it as coincidence. But I have identified 225 similes between Kalidasa and Tamil Sangam literature which proves that Kalidasa lived around 1[SUP]st[/SUP] century BC or before the Sangam period.
Tamil kings were very rich. Tamil literature refers to thrones and cots made up of ivory and gold. The chariots were decorated with gold. Even the elephants had big gold plated coverings to its face. Roman ships poured gold in to Tamil Nadu (South India) and took spices in exchange. This was corroborated by Roman writers of first few centuries and discovery of thousands of Roman gold coins though out South India.
Kalidasa uses 16 names for the Himalayas including Kailash and Kubera saila. He is all praise for the Himalayas. He is so excited whenever he describes the mountains.
“There is in the northern quarter, the deity souled Lord of Mountains, by name Himalaya,who stands, like the measuring rod of the earth, spanning the Eatern and Western oceans”. 1-1:Kumarasambhava
“Snow could not be a destroyer of beauty in the case of him who is the source of countless jewels.” 1-3
“Who bears on his peaks, a richness of metals, appearing like an untimely twilight, with its colours reflected upon patches of clouds, and the cause of amorous decking of the heavenly nymphs.” 1-4
In Kumara I-3 and Ragu. II 29, IV 79 he describes the gems available in the Himalayas.
Tamil poets echo it in Puram 218 (Kannakanar) 377 (Ulochanar )Pattina. 190-198 sung by a Brahmin poet Kadiyalur Rudran Kannanar:
“Brought by the cart, gems and gold from the Northern Mountain
Sandal and eagle wood from the hills of Coorg
Pearls from the southern sea, coral from the east
Ganga’s wealth and Kaveri’s produce
Eza’s provisions and Kazhaga’s plenty “(Pattinapalai 193-197)
In addition to these there are hundreds of mention of all types of gem stones and precious metals.
(Please read my article :How did Shakespeare know Cobra Jewel-the Indian Nagaratna, where in I have explained what is Nagaratna)
We find the following references about the cobra jewel in Tamil and Sanskrit.
Kakaipatini Nachellaiyar ,a poetess of Sangam period says that the the snakes with cobra jewels are dancing in the holy Himalayas like the women possessed by divine spirits in Pathitru Pathu (6-lines 10 to 1)
Hindus believed that the snakes carried luminescent gem stones on their heads. They used them to find their prey. The general theme is that snakes use the light of Nagaratnam (cobra jewel) and if they lose it, snakes become very upset.
Kalidasa in Kumara Sambhavam : 2:38, 5:43, Raghuvamsam 6:49, 10:7, 11:59, 11:68,13:12, 17:63;Rtu Samharam 1:20
Sangam Tamil poets in Aka Nanuru 72, 92, 138, 192, 372; Pura Nanuru 172, 294, 398; Kurunthokai 239; Natrinai 255; Kurinchipattu Lines 221,239
This is not an exhaustive list. We find such references in innumerable places.
Pearl in the Oyster
If the rain falls on Swati star day the oysters open their mouth to drink the rain drops and the rain drops become pearls-This was the belief of ancient Indians including Tamils.
Malavi.1-6: Kalidasa says , ‘the skill of a teacher imparted to a worthy pupil attains greater excellence, as the water of a cloud is turned in to a pearl in a sea shell.In Puram 380 ,Karuvur Kathapillay says the same about the origin of pearls. Bhartruhari makes it more specific by saying the rain on Swati Nakshatra days become pearls. Biologits also confirm on full moon days lot of sea animals like corals release their eggs or spores. So far as India is concerned it might have happened in that particular (Swati star with Moon) season.
Kalidasa gives more similes about pearls. He describes the river that is running circling a mountain as a garland of pearls( Ragu.13-48 and Mega.-49)
Other references from Kalidasa: sweat drops as pearl:Rtu.6-7; tears as pearls: Mega 46, Ragu VI 28,,Vikra V 15; smile-KumarI-44, water drops on lotus leaf:Kumara VII 89
In Tamil the teeth are compared to the pearls: Ainkur. 185, Akam 27
Since Gulf of Mannar is the main source of pearls in India ,thre are innumerable references to pearls in Tamil literature. Even Kautilya refers to the pearls from Pandya country. Korkai was the harbour city where the pearl fishing was flourishing. Aink 185,188, Akam 27,130 and Natri 23mention pearls from Korkai.
The pearl recovered from elephant ivory is referred by Kalidasa and other poets:Kumar I-6,Ragu 9-65.This is referred to by several Sangam Tamil poets:Murugu 304, Malaipadu 517, Kali 40-4, Puram 170 (V M Damodaran),Pathitru.32 (K Kappiyanar), Natri. 202 (P P Katunko), Kurinji 36 (Kapilar), Akam 282 (Thol Kapilar).
Pearl from bamboo trees is also sung by a Tamil poet in Akam 173 (Mulliyur Puthiyar).
Ivory throne : Ragu 17-21
Akam 369 gem shield ;Kali 40- ivory pestle; Puram 35 –diamond needle