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Sakuntala: Shakuntala Was The Daughter Of Most Powerful Rishi Vishwamitra And Menaka


Shakuntala is the mother of Emperor Bharata and the wife of Dushyanta (Sanskrit: akuntal; Tibetan: ). Her story is told in the Adi Parva, the first of the Mahabharata’s eighteen sections, and has been dramatized by a number of authors. The most well-known example is Kalidasa’s play Abhijnakuntala (The Sign of Shakuntala), which is a dramatization of the Adi Parva.

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Versions Of Sakuntala

Shakuntala’s life has two distinctly different stories. The first version is the one that is described in the Mahabharata, one of the two important Hindu epics generally credited to the sage Vyasa. The poet Kalidasa, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries CE, adapted this tale into a play.

Birth Of Sakuntala

Vishvamitra once began to meditate in order to become a Brahmarshi. Indra was alarmed by the rigor of his penance. Vishvamitra might be interested in his throne, he worried. Indra sent the apsara Menaka to lure him out of his penance in order to end it. Menaka found Vishwamitra in a state of meditation and began to woo him. Due to Vishvamitra’s inability to restrain his lust and desire, his penance was broken. Over the course of their brief living arrangement, Vishvamitra and Menaka had a daughter.

Later on, Vishvamitra understood that all of those were Indra’s ruses. He came to the conclusion that he needed to restrain his emotions. Before departing for heaven, Vishvamitra left Menaka, who then abandoned the child close to Rishi Kanva’s hermitage.

Upbringing, Sakuntala

In his hermitage, two babies were discovered by Rishi Kanva, surrounded by Shakunta (Sanskrit: akunta) birds. So he gave the infant Shakuntala (Sanskrit: ), which means Shakunta-protected.

Kanva says the following in the Mahabharata’s Adi Parva.

In the wilderness’s isolation, Akuntas surrounded her.
I have given her the name Shakuntala (Shakunta-protected) as a result.

He gave the child the name Pramati, and later Pramati himself became an acharya.

Marriage with Dushyanta

Shakuntala and King Dushyanta first came into contact while the king and his army were passing through the forest. He had used his weapon to wound a male deer, which he was after. Following the Gandharva system of marriage, Shakuntala and Dushyanta were united in marriage after falling in love. Dushyanta promised his wife that he would bring Shakuntala to his palace as queen by giving her his personal royal ring before departing for his kingdom.

Durvasa’s curse

Shakuntala was frequently sidetracked by her daydreams and frequently spent a lot of time daydreaming about her new husband. When a significant rishi named Durvasa visited the ashrama one day, Shakuntala failed to give him a proper welcome because she was preoccupied with Dushyanta. Shakuntala’s dream partner would completely forget about her, the rishi cursed, infuriated by this slight. One of Shakuntala’s friends quickly gave him the explanation of her friend’s diversion as he stormed off in a rage. The rishi modified his curse after realizing that his extreme wrath was unjustified, saying that the person who had forgotten Shakuntala would remember everything again if she showed him a personal token that had been given to her.

Journey to Hastinapura

Shakuntala eventually left for the capital city with her foster father and some of her companions after some time had passed and she began to wonder why Dushyanta had not come back for her. They had to take a canoe ferry across a river on the way, and Shakuntala ran her fingers through the water, drawn in by the river’s deep blue color. She didn’t even notice that her ring—Dushyanta’s ring—had come off.

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When Shakuntala arrived at Dushyanta’s court, she was shocked and hurt when her husband failed to recognize her or recall anything about her. Although she attempted to remind him that she was his wife, Dushyanta was unable to identify her without the ring. She went back to the forests in humiliation, picked up her son, and made her own settlement in a remote area of the forest. She spent her days in this location as her son Bharata grew older. Bharata, who was only ever around wild animals, grew up to be a strong young man and developed a hobby out of opening tigers’ and lions’ mouths and counting their teeth.

Reunion with Dushyanta

Meanwhile, a fisherman was shocked to discover a royal ring inside the stomach of a fish he had caught. As soon as Dushyanta saw his ring in the palace, memories of his beautiful bride came flooding back to him because he recognized the royal seal on it. When he finally made it to her father’s ashram, he found that she had left and immediately set out to find her.

In the process of searching further into the forest for his wife, he unexpectedly came across a young boy counting the teeth of a lion whose mouth had been pry open by the boy. The boy was greeted by the king, who was astounded by the boy’s bravery and fortitude. When the boy responded that he was Bharata, the son of King Dushyanta, he caught him off guard. The family got back together when the boy took him to Shakuntala.


Another version of the story has Shakuntala’s mother Menaka taking her to Heaven where she gave birth to Bharata after Dushyanta failed to recognize her. Dushyanta was compelled to fight alongside the devas, from which he triumphed. His reward was to be reunited with his wife and son. In his dream, a young boy was seen counting a lion’s teeth. He was missing his kavacha, or armband and armor.

The devas told Dushyanta that Bharata’s mother or father were the only ones who could tie it back on his arm. It was tied successfully on his arm by Dushyanta. Bharata brought the confused king to his mother Shakuntala and informed her that this man claimed to be his father. Shakuntala then informed Bharata that the king was really his father. As a result of their reunion in Heaven, the family left to rule for many years prior to the birth of the Pandava.

FAQs: Sakuntala

Who is Sakuntala in Ramayana?

Sakuntala (Sanskrit: Śakuntalā, Tibetan: བྱ་ལེན་མའི་ཟློ་གར) is the wife of Dushyanta and the mother of Emperor Bharata.

What is the story of the Sakuntala?

Abandoned at birth by her parents, Sakuntala is reared in the secluded hermitage of the sage Kaṇva, and grows up a comely but innocent maiden. While Kaṇva and the other elders of the hermitage are away on a pilgrimage, Duṣyanta, king of Hastināpura, comes hunting in the forest.

Who is Dushyanta and Sakuntala?

Dushyanta (Sanskrit: दुष्यन्त, romanized: Duṣyanta) is a king of the Chandravamsha (Lunar) dynasty featured in Hindu literature. He is the husband of Sakuntala and the father of Bharata. He appears in the Mahabharata and in Kalidasa’s play, Abhijnanashakuntalam ( c. 300 CE).

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