- Interact With Art
by Raja Ravi Verma | 1894
The story of Shakuntala is a part of the epic Mahabharata. Shakuntala was the daughter of the sage, Vishwamitra, and the Apsara, Menaka who was sent by Indra to distract the sage from his meditation. They bore a child, who was left in the forest. Kanva Rishi found the child and named her Shakuntala. He took to the child as his own daughter and brought her up in his Ashram in the hills of Himalaya.
King Dushyanta had a chance meeting with Shakuntala while he was in the forest hunting a deer with his army. They fell in love and got married. However, Dushyanta had to return to his kingdom and gave her his royal ring as a promise that he will come back for her and take her with him.
Thereafter, Shakuntala spent most of her time dreaming about her husband and their future life together. One day, Durvasa came to the ashram and felt deeply offended when Shakuntala, lost in her thoughts, failed to acknowledge his presence and attend to him. Durvasa - known for his bad temper, cursed her saying she would be forgotten by the person she was dreaming of. While he was about to leave in fury, one of Shakuntala’s friends quickly explained the reason of Shakuntala’s lack of attention, followed by which Durvsa immediately regretted what he had said. Unable to reverse his curse, he altered it saying that she would be remembered as soon as she presented the token of love she was given by her beloved.
Years went by and Dushyanta did not come looking for her. Shakuntala then decided to venture to the kingdom accompanied by her father and friends to be rightfully given her place as Dushyanta’s wife. On their way, she was lured by the beauty of the river they were crossing and ran her fingers through the water, only to lose her ring in the process, without realizing it.
Upon their arrival in the kingdom, Dushyanta did not recognize Shakuntala since she did not have the ring he gave her. Heartbroken, Shakuntala went back to the forest and settled there with her son who, grew up to be a strong and fearless youth.
Meanwhile in the kingdom, a fisherman chanced upon the ring in a fish's belly and took it to the King, who upon looking at it, remembered all about Shakuntala and went to the forest to trace her. There he came across a boy counting a tiger’s teeth and impressed with his courage, asked his name. His surprise knew no bounds when the boy replied ‘Bharata, the son of King Dushyanta’. He was then taken to Shakuntala’s abode where the family was reunited.
Raja Ravi Verma’s work Shakuntala Patralekhan executed in the year 1894, captures Shakuntala in her dreamlike state writing a letter, on a leaf, to King Dushyanta. Lying across the lush green forest amongst her friends and a deer, the painting encapsulates her longing for her beloved. The oil on canvas work is hailed as an exemplary of Ravi Verma.
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