Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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SAKUNTALA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] A nymph who was the daughter of Vishvamitra by the nymph Menaka.

She was born and left in the forest, where she was nourished by birds until found by the sage Kanwa. She was brought up by this sage in his hermitage as his daughter, and is often called his daughter. The loves, marriage, separation, and re-union of Sakuntala and King Dushyanta are the subject of the celebrated drama Sakuntala.

She was mother of Bharata, the head of a long race of kings, who has given his name to India (Bharatavarsha), and the wars of whose descendants are sung in the Mahabharata.

The story of the loves of Dushyanta and Sakuntala is, that while she was living in the hermitage of Kanwa she was seen in the forest by King Dushyanta, who fell in love with her. He induced her to contract with him a Gandharva marriage, that is, a simple declaration of mutual acceptance. On leaving her to return to his city, he gave her a ring as a pledge of his love.

When the nymph went back to the hermitage, she was so engrossed with thoughts of her husband that she heeded not the approach of the sage Durvasas, who had come to visit Kanwa, so that choleric saint cursed her to be forgotten by her beloved. He afterwards relented, and promised that the curse should be removed as soon as Dushyanta should see the ring.

Sakuntala, finding herself with child, set off to her husband; but on her way she bathed in a sacred pool, and there lost the ring.

On reaching the palace, the king did not recognize her and would not own her, so she was taken by her mother to the forest, where she gave birth to Bharata.

Then it happened that a fisherman caught a large fish and in it found a ring which he carried to Dushyanta. The king recognized his own ring, and he soon afterwards accepted Sakuntala and her son Bharata.

Kalidasa's drama of Sakuntala was the first translation made from Sanskrit into English. It excited great curiosity and gained much admiration when it appeared. There are several recensions of the text extant. The text has often been printed, and there are many translations into the languages of Europe . Professor Williams has published a beautifully illustrated translation.

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM