Meghadūta (Sanskrit: मेघदूत literally Cloud Messenger) is a lyric poem written by Kālidāsa (c. 4th–5th century CE), considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets. It describes how a yakṣa (or nature spirit), who had been banished by his master to a remote region for a year, asked a cloud to take a message of love to his wife. The poem become well-known in Sanskrit literature and inspired other poets to write similar poems (known as "messenger-poems", or Sandesha Kavya) on similar themes.
A poem of 120 stanzas, it is one of Kālidāsa's most famous works. The work is divided into two parts, Purva-megha and Uttara-megha. It recounts how a yakṣa, a subject of King Kubera (the god of wealth), after being exiled for a year to Central India for neglecting his duties, convinces a passing cloud to take a message to his wife at Alaka on Mount Kailāsa in the Himālaya mountains. The yakṣa accomplishes this by describing the many beautiful sights the cloud will see on its northward course to the city of Alakā, where his wife awaits his return.
In Sanskrit literature, the poetic conceit used in the Meghaduta spawned the genre of Sandesa Kavya or messenger poems, most of which are modeled on the Meghaduta (and are often written in the Meghaduta's Mandākrāntā metre). Examples include the Hamsa-sandesha, in which Rama asks a Hansa Bird to carry a message to Sita, describing sights along the journey.
In 1813, the poem was first translated into English by Horace Hayman Wilson. Since then, it has been translated several times into various languages. As with the other major works of Sanskrit literature, the most famous traditional commentary on the poem is by Mallinātha.
The great scholar of Sanskrit literature, Arthur Berriedale Keith, wrote of this poem: "It is difficult to praise too highly either the brilliance of the description of the cloud’s progress or the pathos of the picture of the wife sorrowful and alone. Indian criticism has ranked it highest among Kalidasa’s poems for brevity of expression, richness of content, and power to elicit sentiment, and the praise is not undeserved."
Meghadūta describes several scenes and is a rich source of inspiration for many artists.
Composer Fred Momotenko wrote the composition 'Cloud-Messenger', music for a multimedia performance with recorder, dance, projected animation and electronics in surround audio. The world premiere was at Festival November Music, with Hans Tuerlings (choreography), Jasper Kuipers (animation), Jorge Isaac (blockflutes) and dancers Gilles Viandier and Daniela Lehmann.
The Meghadūta has been translated many times in many Indian languages.