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Shakuntala or the recognition of a Shakuntala is a beautiful story of love and enlightenment that takes its readers on a heartwarming journey where honesty and faith overcome separation and sorrow, and the light of love shines through the darkness of wickedness and jealousy. The story of Shakuntala originally appears in the epic of Mahabharata as a precursor to the Pandava and Kaurava lineages. Later the great Indian author, Kalidasa, who was greatly influenced by the ancient Indian epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana, turn edit into a beautiful play that to this day has captured the imagination of the world and has become one of the most sought-after classics. 

The main themes of Shakuntala are spirituality, love, duty, honesty, and faithfulness. The story of Shakuntala starts in the forests of Hastinapura in northern India, where King Dushyanta chases after a deer in a hunt. Right when the youthful king is about to release his arrow and slay the deer, a sage stops him and tells him that the deer belongs to a hermitage nearby and that as a king he must defend the innocent not kill them. The King respects the spiritual man’s wish and spares the deer’s life. In response to this merciful action, the sage prays for the monarch and prophecies that he will have a son that will rule the world. Then he suggests that the king should visit the nearby ashram of sage Kanva where the deer belongs. When the royal chariot nears the monastery, the King removes his crown and wears regular clothing to look modest. As he enters the sacred grove, a vein throbs in his arms, an omen foretelling of a beautiful woman’s charm.  At this moment three girls arrive at the groves to water the trees. 

The king hides in the shadows to observe the girls and right away he is blown away by the beauty of one of them, named Shakuntala. The girls playfully attend to the trees, suddenly a bee frightens Shakuntala, and her friends seeing her disturbed jokingly say that she should call on King Dushyanta for help. Right at this moment the King steps out of his hiding place and makes his presence known to the girls. Without knowing who the newly arrived stranger is, Shakuntala falls in love with him at first sight. One of the girls asks the king who he is? And the king answers that he is the new minister of religious welfare and he is there to make sure that the monastery is well taken care of. The King, who is under the impression that Shakuntala is the daughter of the sage of that Ashram, asks how is it possible that a sage could have any child? 

One of the girls answers that the sage is only Shakuntala’s spiritual father and that her true biological parents are a royal sage and a nymph. Dushyanta asks Shakuntala if she is eager to end her vow of chastity and marry, which makes the girl angry. The King seeing his question making Shakuntala angry, gives his ring to her and relieves her of her hospitality duties. Suddenly his men arrive and tell him that the royal entourage has caused an elephant to go berserk in the sacred grove and that he must go and help with it.  Dushyanta cannot get Shakuntala out of his head and his privileged royal life becomes joyless labor without her. Her beauty has left such a lasting impression on the king’s mind that in his eyes everything pales in comparison to her mesmerizing gaze. Next, two messengers from the Ashram arrive at the King’s camp and tell Dusyanta that evil spirits have attacked the monastery and that Shakuntala’s father, sage Kanva, is as king for the King’s help to protect the sacred grove and preserve the holy rituals. Dushyanta, hoping to see Shakuntala again,  accepts the challenge and goes back to them on astery.

The King's spiritual power expels the demons from the Ashram and allows the holy rituals to continue uninterrupted. After performing his duties. Dushyanta goes to the same orchard where he first met Shakuntala and once again hides behind the trees to gaze at his beloved. Shakuntala who has fallen madly in love with Dushyanta, rests under a tree, while her friends ask her about the reason behind her recent unhappiness. After revealing the symptoms of her pain and suffering, they tell her what she is experiencing is love and that she is heartsick for someone. Shakuntala replies that from the moment she met Dushyanta, she has been impatient to see him again. One of her friends suggests that Shakuntala must write a love poem for Dushyanta to let him know about her feelings. Shakuntala composes a beautiful poem on the spot and writes it on a lotus leaf with her nails. Then she recites the poem for her friends. When the King hears the poem, he loses his patience and reveals his presence to the girls in the garden. Seeing this the girls leave and allow their friend and Dusyanta to be alone. The King then tells Shakuntala who he really is and that he is madly in love with her too. 

Once they proclaimed their feelings for one another their love constitutes a marriage between Dushyanta and Shakuntala and they secretly become husband and wife. After a few months, it is time for the King to return to the capital. Before going back, the King tells Shauntala to wait for her father to come back from a trip and then join him at the palace to make their marriage public and officially announce it. As days pass by, Shakuntala who is still waiting for her father to return becomes more impatient which causes her to neglect her everyday duties. One day an old sage named Durvas arrives at the Ashram, and expecting the usual hospitality that is afforded to the men of cloth at a monastery, announces his arrival. 

Shakuntala being deep in her thoughts ignores the sage’s call and forgets to honor him. The short-tempered sage loses his composure and puts a curse on Shakuntala and tells her that the man who loves her shall never remember her again. At this moment one of Shakuntala’s friends rushes for her help and after honoring the sage and apologizing for Shakuntala’s tentativeness begs him to lift the curse. The sage concedes that the curse will be over only when the king sees a token of Shakuntala’s love or an object that was given to her by him. Shakuntala’s friend reminds her of the ring that Dushyanta gave to her when they first met and tells her to remember to take it with her to the palace, in case the curse was real and the king had forgotten about her. While in deep meditation, Shakuntala’s father, sage Kanva, hears a voice congratulating him on her daughter’s marriage to King Dushyanta, and that he must give his blessing to their union because she is now carrying the child that will rule the world. Hearing the voice, Kanva sends a messenger to the Ashram and lets Shakuntala know that she has his blessing to join her husband at the palace. Next, the trees of the forest bless Shakuntala by miraculously providing her with ornaments to wear for her wedding. 

At the palace, the youthful king, who is now witched, hears a song that fills him with both desire and sorrow. Surprised by the overflow of emotions he wonders why he has suddenly lost his composure when he is not even separated from anyone he loves. Next Shakuntala and her companions arrive at the palace and tell the king that the bride’s father has granted his blessing and he can now receive his wife without worry. The King, baffled by their claims, does not remember Shakuntala and tells them that he has never met a girl named Shakuntala let alone married her. Shakuntala desperately tries to clear her name and remind Dusyanta of their relationship but the King continues to act as if he has never met her. At this moment Shakuntala looks for the king’s ring and realizes that it is not on her finger and it has been lost. Wondering what to do with the girl, the king consults with the court’s priest and decides to give shelter to Shakuntala until her baby is born. If the child is truly Dushyanta’s then he will bear the divine sign of a future king on his body. 

Meanwhile, heartbroken by the king’s rejection, Shakuntala prays and begs the earth to swallow her up. Suddenly a light shines upon her and carries her away to another realm. When the news of her disappearance reaches Dushyanta, he gets anxious and questions his behavior toward Shakuntala, and asks himself if she truly was his wife. Next, a fisherman finds the King’s lost ring inside a fish’s belly and brings it to the court. Upon seeing it, the king remembers Shakuntala and is instantly plunged into remorse and depression. Days pass and the king’s mental state deteriorates to the point that everyone says he has caught the “Shakuntala Fever”. One day, a demon attacks the palace and tries to capture the king’s confidant. When Dusyanta rushes to his aid, the charioteer of the king of gods, Indra, appears and tells him that an invincible breed of demons has assembled to take over the world and he must defeat them. Hearing this the King obeys the divine command and embarks on his heavenly campaign. Six years later, Dusyanta successfully crushes the demonic army and is on his way back to his kingdom. While flying to earth on Indra’s chariot, suddenly the king sees the golden peak of the mountain of gods. Dushyanta feels an invisible force dragging him to that place and asks the charioteer to take him there to honor Marica, Indra’s celestial father.

Upon arriving at Marica’s holy hermitage, like the first time that he met Shakuntala, a vein in Dushyanta’s arm throbs.  The king remembers his desire to reunite with her and painfully tells himself that he has forever lost the fortune that was once the love of his life. Right at this moment, he sees a little boy playing with a lion cub at the temple. The king is surprised by the sense of connection that he feels towards the boy and after observing him for a few moments he realizes that he carries the signs of a future king. The boy’s servants tell the king that his bloodline goes back to the kings of the Puru lineage who are Dushyanta’s family and that this mother was allowed to give birth to him at the heavenly temple because she is the daughter of a nymph. Upon hearing this and finding out that the name of the boy’s mother is Shakuntala the king rejoices and realizes that this must be the end of his search for his wife. Right at this moment, the boy drops his protective amulet and the king picks it up. The servants tell the king that he must be the father of the boy because the necklace can only be picked up by the boy’s real parents. The king is still in awe that Shakuntala enters. 

Dushyanta immediately recognizes his wife but Shakuntala does not recognize him. Dushyanta tells her that the curse has come full circle since now it is he who needs to be recognized by her. Shakuntala then remembers Dusyanta and breaks down in tears. Dushyanta tells her how the ring was returned to him and offers it to his wife again but Shakuntala refuses it and asks the king to wear it himself. Next Dushyanta, Shakuntala, and their son go to ask Marica for his blessing. Marica bestows his blessing upon them and tells the king that his son will in fact become a universal emperor. Then he tells them to return to their country and keep the covenant between the kingdom of Indra in heaven and Dushyanta’s kingdom on earth strong.


Anonymous said...

What is her summary of story at the shakuntaka

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