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Character Sketch of Shakuntala

Shakuntala is the lead heroine of Kalidasa’s play AbhijnanaSakuntalam. She is a beautiful maiden who lives in the hermitage of sage Kanva. She was born to the great sage Vishwamitra and an Apsara named Menaka. However, she was handed over to sage Kanva soon after her birth. She lives amidst the beautiful greenery and tends to the animals and plants in the hermitage. She waters the plants along with her two best friends Priyamvada and Anasuya.

Shakuntala is a woman rooted to the nature. She derives patience and tolerance from nature. She is captivated by King Duhsanta’s presence and feels attracted to him. When she learns that the king has similar feelings for her too, they marry in the forest itself. Soon Duhsanta returns back to the capital, leaving Shakuntala alone in the forest. This is the time of testing of her patience. Shakuntala gets distracted from the worldly affairs and devotes her time in the thoughts of her husband. Shakuntala is completely smitten in love, and fails to attend to sage Durvasa. As a result of this she incurs a curse, which takes away Duhsanta’s memory about their marriage.

Later, Duhsanta refuses to accept her as his wife under the influence of the curse. Her bold character is prevalent in this scene. when the high priest offers her to stay in the palace until her child is born, she refuses the offer and instead asks the Gods to take her back. This shows her sense of self respect and dignity, where she doesn’t let anyone pity her. Shakuntala might love Duhsanta beyond any limit, but she also knows to maintain her dignity.

Years later when Duhsanta gets back his memory of Shakuntala he breaks down in guilt. When he meets her in Marica’s Hermitage along with their child Bharat, he begs her to forgive him and return with him. Shakuntala then forgives Duhsanta of every pain he caused to her. Shakuntala has always loved Duhsanta immensely. Therefore she was able to forgive him, since there was no fault of Duhsanta, but of the curse. It is said that forgiveness is an act of bravery, and Shakuntala proves it.

Shakuntala portrays the role of common women in the society who are often crushed by the patriarchy. Her life has been a pathetic one, but it only made her stronger. Shakuntala gradually developed from being an innocent young maiden to a bold and dignified woman.

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