Shariramadhyam khalu dharmasadhanam is from Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam

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A Letter From Grandpa

Niranjan Shah, a civil engineer, who pioneered famous high-rise buildings in Baroda, is a broadcaster in India and the USA and a prolific writer. Under “A Letter from Grandpa.” he has been writing since 2002 on India’s historical, philosophical, and literary heritage. He can be reached at nshah32@hotmail.com   

By Niranjan Shah
My dear Snehi and Sohan:
Sharirmadhyam khalu dharmasadhanam  meaning “the body is the means of fulfillment of dharma” is an expression from Sarga 5:33 of Kumarasambhavam by Mahakavi Kalidasa. Kumarasambhavam is a Sanskrit drama-poem.

The full verse is api kriyartham sulabham samitkusham jalanyapi  // snanavidhikshamani the api svashatkya tapasi pravartase shariramadhyam khalu dharmasadhanam //  

The meaning of the verse is:

Your body is made of easily available wood and grass for religious rites; water is also useful for performing religious bath; you are already doing penance according to your strength; therefore your body is really the first means of performing or fulfilling dharma.

This was the expression of Lord Shiva indicating the importance of body for any penance. 

The first eight chapters (sargas) of Kumarasambhavam are accepted as his authorship, the last nine may be later additions. Kumarsambhavam is widely regarded as one of Kalidasa’s finest works, a paradigmatic example of Kavya poetry. The style of description of spring set the standard for nature metaphors pervading many centuries of Indian literary tradition. Kumarasambhavam literally means “Birth of Kumara” or Kartikeya. This epic of 17 chapters entails Shringara Rasa, the rasa of love, romance, and eroticism. Tarakasur, a rakshasha,  was blessed that he could be killed by none other than Lord Shiva’s son.  Shiva had won over Kamadeva (the God of Love). Parvati performed great tapasya (or spiritual penance) to win the love of Lord Shiva. Consequently, Shiva and Parvati’s son Kartikeya was born, who killed Tarakasur to restore the glory of Indra, the King of Gods.

Kalidasa had left his home in pursuit of knowledge and to become worthy of his intellectual wife Vidyottama (literally “epitome of erudition”). When he returned from this conquest, his wife asked, “Is there any erudition, which should prompt me to extend a special welcome to you?”  Kalidasa impressed his wife with the answer she expected and over the next few years created three great epics based on the three words uttered by his wife: asti — Kumarasambhavam, kashchit — Meghadutam, and vaakvishesha — Raghuvamsham.

Shariramadhyam khalu dharmasadhanam is the slogan of  All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi

— Grandpa’s blessing
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