Śakuntalā

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Sakuntala, ZakuntalA, shakuntalaa


Śakuntalā

The origins of the well-known legend of Śakuntalā based on which the great poet Kālidāsa (2nd century B. C.) wrote his immortal drama Abhijñāna-śākuntalam lie in the Mahābhārata (Ādiparva, Chapters 68-74) as also the Padmapurāna (Svarga-khanda).

She was born to Menakā (a nymph) from Viśvāmitra, to wreck whose austerities Indra, the king of the gods, had sent her. However, as both the parents abandoned her, the śakunta birds (ravens) took care of her, thereby getting her the name Śakuntalā.

The sage Kaṇva who found the abandoned baby, carried her to his own hermitage and brought her up as his foster daughter.

When she had grown into a beautiful young woman, Duṣyanta, the king of the lunar race happened to visit Kaṇva’s hermitage. They fell in love with each other and married according to the gāndharva rites. (See VIVĀHA for details.) The same was approved by the sage Kaṇva who came to know about it later.

In course of time Śakuntalā gave birth to a heroic child whose strength and valour astonished everyone. He was named Sarvadamana as also Bharata.

Later, when Śakuntalā went with Bharata and the disciples of the sage Kaṇva to Duṣyanta to live with him, he hesitated to accept her. At the intervention

of an ākāśavāṇi (a celestial message from an unseen god), he accepted her as his

queen and coronated Bharata as the crown-prince. The name Bhāratavarṣa or Bhārata for India and the lineage of Bharatavamśa started from him.

There is a slight deviation in the story as given by Kālidāsa. Due to a curse of the sage Durvāsa who was once ignored by Śakuntalā, Duṣyanta could not recognise her. However, when the signet ring he had given to her was accidentally lost but miraculously recovered and shown to him, he remembered everything and gracefully accepted her.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

OLD CONTENT

Śakuntalā The origins of the well-known legend of Śakuntalā based on which the great poet Kālidāsa (2nd century B. C.) wrote his immortal drama Abhijñāna-śākuntalam lie in the Mahābhārata (Ādiparva, Chapters 68-74) as also the Padmapurāna (Svarga- khanda). She was born to Menakā (a nymph) from Viśvāmitra, to wreck whose austeri¬ties Indra, the king of the gods, had sent her. However, as both the parents aban¬doned her, the śakunta birds (ravens) took care of her, thereby getting her the name Śakuntalā. The sage Kaṇva who found the abandoned baby, carried her to his own hermitage and brought her up as his foster daughter. When she had grown into a beautiful young woman, Duṣyanta, the king of the lunar race happened to visit Kaṇva’s hermitage. They fell in love with each other and married according to the gāndharva rites. (See VIVĀHA for details.) The same was approved by the sage Kaṇva who came to know about it later. In course of time Śakuntalā gave birth to a heroic child whose strength and valour astonished everyone. He was named Sarvadamana as also Bharata. Later, when Śakuntalā went with Bharata and the disciples of the sage Kaṇva to Duṣyanta to live with him, he hesitated to accept her. At the intervention of an ākāśavāṇi (a celestial message from an unseen god), he accepted her as his queen and coronated Bharata as the crown-prince. The name Bhāratavarṣa or Bhārata for India and the lineage of Bharatavariiśa started from him. There is a slight deviation in the story as given by Kālidāsa. Due to a curse of the sage Durvāsa who was once ignored by Sakuntalā, Duṣyanta could not recog¬nise her. However, when the signet ring he had given to her was accidentally lost but miraculously recovered and shown to him, he remembered everything and gracefully accepted her.