One of the three surviving plays by Kali dasa (fifth century), universally acknowledged as the supreme poet in classical Sanskrit, How Urvashi Was Won, like the other two, is a masterpiece of lyricism, subtle characterization, and the working through of a bold theme. How Urvashi Was Won is the story of King Puru ravas and his love for an immortal, the dancer Urvashi, who normally lives in the heaven of the gods but who has come down to earth in order to realize her passion for the alltoo- mortal king. The tragic love of this asymmetrical couple was described already in the ancient "Rig Veda" and later often expanded. Kali dasa has reworked the narrative so as to depict a goddess in the process of becoming fully, and dangerously, human—since only human beings (at their best) are, in Kali dasa''s vision, truly capable of the depths and intricacies of loving. This great work of love, loss, and eventual restoration speaks to the human condition generally in highly nuanced verses, accessible to any modern reader.
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