Role of Shakuntala In Kalidasa’s Abhijnanashakuntalam | Character Sketch of Shakuntala

Introduction

            “Shakuntala”, the heroine of Kalidasa ‘Abhijnanashakuntalam’ is one of the most powerful and admirable Characters. She has all the essential qualities that a heroine should have. She has been presented as an ideal woman like Savitri and Sati. Kalidasa presents Shakuntala as an embodiment of innate Chastity, beauty, grace, Indian womanhood, patience, and Sacrifice. She is simple and innocent. She is also referred to as the ‘Child of Nature’.

About The Birth of Shakuntala

            Shakuntala was born as the daughter of Sage Vishwamitra and an Apsara named Menka. But soon after being abandoned by her mother, she is looked after by ‘Shakunta’ birds. Sage Kanva finds her in the protection of the birds. Later Shakuntala lives in the hermitage of Sage Kanva.

Shakuntala as a Child of Nature

            Shakuntala is a woman rooted in nature, she lives amidst the beautiful greenery and tends to the animals and plants in the hermitage. She waters, the plants along with her two best friends Priyamvada and Ansuya. She derives patience and Tolerance from nature. The entire hermitage feels sorrowful at her departure. The deer have left grazing grass and Peacocks stop dancing.

About The Beauty Of Shakuntala

            Shakuntala is so beautiful that Dusyanta at first sight is attracted to her. He hides himself behind trees to enjoy the sweetness of her voice. He is so impressed by her beauty that he exclaims:

“A flower no one has smelled
a bud no fingers have plucked
an uncut jewel, honey untested
unbroken fruits of holy deeds
I don’t know who is destined
to enjoy her flawless beauty.

Shakuntala As A Devoted Wife

            Kalidasa in his play gives a heart-moving picture of a devoted wife. She is pining for separation. Though she is the daughter of an Apsara she does not keep any other person in mind except Dushyanta. She is an ideal wife.

Shakuntala’s Patience, Self-respect And Dignity

            Shakuntala is Captivated by King Dushyanta’s presence and feels attracted to him. When she learns that the king has similar feelings for her too, they marry in the forest itself. Soon Dushyant returns to the capital, leaving Shakuntala alone in the forest. This is the time to test her patience.

            Shakuntala gets distracted from worldly affairs and devotes her time to the thoughts of her husband. Shakuntala is completely smitten with love and fails to attend to sage Durvasa. As a result, she incurs a curse, which takes away Dushyanta’s memory of their marriage.

            Later, Dushyanta refuses to accept her as his wife under the curse’s influence. Her bold character is prevalent in this scene. When the high priest offers her to stay in the palace until her child is born, she refuses the offer. This shows her self-respect and dignity, where she doesn’t let anyone pity her. Shakuntala might love Dushyanta beyond any limit, but she also knows how to maintain her dignity. She does not beg but rather gives an impassioned and rational speech:

“O great king, even though you do
recognize me, why do you Say I
do not know you? You speak
Thus carelessly as another
lowborn villain might speak.”

            Years later when Dushyanta gets back his memory of Shakuntala he breaks down in guilt. He begs her to forgive him and return with him. Shakuntala then forgives Dushyanta for every pain he caused her. It is said that forgiveness is like an act of Bravery and Shakuntala proves it.

Conclusion

            Thus “Shakuntala” plays a significant role in Kalidasa’sAbhijnanashakuntalam’ play. She portrays the role of common women in society who are often crushed by the patriarchy. Her life has been a pathetic one, but it only made her stronger. Shakuntala gradually developed from being an innocent young maiden to a bold and dignified woman.

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