Shakuntala: A Character Sketch

Kavi Kulguru Kalidasa is the greatest playwright and poet of Ancient India. He is the archetype for Sanskrit literary world. His Abhigyan Shakuntalam, a play, is appreciated in the entire world. This play is a play about a beautiful damsel named Shakuntala. She is at the centre of the play. The entire play revolves round this character.

Shakuntala is a unique creation of Kalidasa. She is the daughter of sage Vishwamitra and Menaka. She lives in the hermitage of the sage Kanva. Kalidasa presents her as an embodiment of innate chastity, beauty, grace, Indian womanhood, patience and sacrifice. She is simple and innocent. She is an ideal woman like Sita and Savitri.

In this play Shakuntala is so beautiful that Dushyanta 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 exclaimes: ‘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 is not only beautiful but she is skillful and argumentative. She is a pillar of strength and patience too. Her skill of argument can be enjoyed in the play when she is in the court. She tells Dushyanta that she is his wife. She is pregnant. But when the king does not recognize her, she tries to show the ring which was missing. Then she reminds him of the simple forest scene with the fawn. She continues to prove her his wife. Though Dushyanta does not recognize her but she through her argument, verbal skills and emotional appeal puts him in a painful and pensive mood. Even though Dushyanta does not recognize her, she is not angry at all. She is stunned only. She does not say even a harsh word. It shows the strength of her patience and forbearance.

Nature plays significant role in her life. She is a child of nature. She has been brought up in the lap of nature. She enjoyed the pure life of nature as its child. Her kinship with nature is evident from her name itself. When she takes birth she is protected and looked after by Sakunta bird. She is as tender and loving as the Mother Nature. The entire hermitage feels sorrowful at her departure. The deer leave grazing grass and Peacocks stop dancing.

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

Shakuntala is a fantastic creation of Kalidasa. She throughout is ideal. The real strength of this character lies in her deep and powerful emotions.


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