The character of Dushyanta plays the most important role in the play Abhijnana Sakuntalam along with Shakuntala. Dushyanta is the king of Hastinapur, a poweful ruler who is favored by his subjects. Dushyanta’s character contains all the qualities that are looked for in heroes of a Sanskrit play. Dushyanta is a brave ruler, who loves hunting as a leisure.
Once while returning from his hunting expedition, king Dushyanta reaches the hermitage of the great sage Kanva, which is located in the midst of a dense forest. In the forest, he meets Shakuntala, the beautiful heroine of the play. Dushyanta instantly falls in deep love with Shakuntala, being enchanted by her beauty. He proposes to the maiden and they marry in the hermitage itself. Being deeply in love, Dushyanta decides to marry her in the Gandharva mode of marriage. However, soon after the marriage, he leaves for his kingdom, leavinng Shakuntala in the hermitage. But with the passage of time, Shakuntala incurs a curse which makes Dushyanta forget everything about her. As a result, he fails to recognize his wife Shakuntala in the court. Years later, the king gets his memory back, when he sees the ring that he gave to Shakuntala as a token of their love. Just when he remembers everything back, he breaks down in guilt and shame for all the harassment he did to his beloved wife in his court. Later, he suceeds in reuniting with Shakuntala and also meets his child Bharat in the hermitage of Marica.
Dushyanta has a brilliant personality that perfectly suits the depiction of a Nayaka in a Sanskrit Indian play. His bravery is known to all. His subjects are happy under his rule, as he is a man of quality. Dushyanta’s nobility can be seen when the hermits stop him from killing a deer. Instead of feeling the sense of rage, Dushyanta shows utter respect for the hermits and drops his weapons. As a follower of Dharma, Dushyanta is able to understand the pain he had caused to the nature through his act of hunting, and regrets his actions. Dushyanta’s power doesn’t take over his humanity, and this is a striking quality of the hero. Another majestic quality of Dushyanta is that he decided to marry Shakuntala. As a king with power, he could have enjoyed his love at any price. His great love can be seen again when he remembers everything about Shakuntala in the later years. He breaks down and regrets of all his actions against Shakuntala.
Dushyanta is a king of great power who is invited by Lord Indra to the Heaven to fight the demons. This tells us a lot about his strength and valor. While returning from heaven, he sees an extraordinary child playing with a lion cub, and feels attracted towards him. Later he realizes that the child is indeed his son Bharat. He begs to Shakuntala for forgiveness when he meets her in Marica’s hermitage. Dushyanta’s great love gets a happy ending when Shakuntala agrees to forgive him and they happily return back to the palace.