Author’s life and works :
Avigyanamshakuntalam is authored by the ancient Indian Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. Among the all time best poets and dramatists of Sanskrit literature the name of Kalidasa would appear in the very first. His excellence in literature not only is due to his great skill in portraying situations and stories but also in presenting a perfect social picture of the time and places he belonged to. However, critics are in debate regarding his proper age: to some he might have been born somewhere between 4th and 5th century CE, but again there is a small hint that he may also be around 3 to 4 centuries elder. This confusion has risen due to his description of the court of king Vikramaditya of Ujjain.
Now there had been a legendary king in that name who ruled India around 1st century BCE and had his kingdom in Ujjain itself. But again historians have found several other kings of later period sharing the same name and Ujjain being the kingdom of many of them too. However, most accepted doctrine is that Chandragupta II is the actual king under whose reign Kalidasa had flourished and this king had also adopted the title of Vikramaditya in around 4th century CE.
Kalidasa’s meticulous description of the city of Ujjain and some other parts of nearby places in North India make us believe that his birth place and most active writings were in this place itself. However, there remains a doubt too, as according to some historians like Lakshi Dhar Kalla Kalidasa has left ample evidences in his writing of being well acquainted with very unique places and vegetations of Kashmir region, thereby leading to another theory that calls him an ancestor of the Kashmiri pundits.
The themes of Kalidasa’s writings were mainly stories from the great Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and texts of the Purana. His famous plays are Malavikagnimitram, Avigyanamshakuntalam, Vikramorvasiyam. He had singlehandedly composed two epics: Raghuvamsa and Kumarsambhaba.
However, it is told that his genius was not an inborn quality in him; rather he was born as a highly amateurish and idiotic fellow. Once he had fallen from a tree because he was cutting a branch of it while sitting at the wrong end of the same branch. Seeing this citizen of the kingdom had an evil idea to get him married with the excessively proud princess of the kingdom. While this trick was finally exposed Kalidasa was vehemently abused and thrown away from princess’ palace. Then while contemplating suicide some miraculous thought had sprung up in his mind and he allowed himself to be involved in intense study of the ancient scriptures and all other philosophical texts.
In ancient Indian Sanskrit literature the impact of Kalidasa was so heavy that his name became a popular title to be adopted by several of the poets of posterity. Historical evidences show as much as nine poets of the later generations who were popularly known by the name of Kalidasa in their respective periphery. Even in today’s world his dramas are enacted with high precision and dedication and his poems are read with due honour.
The play depicts the arrival of Dushyanta to the penance grove and his subsequent discovery of Shakuntala and his falling in love with her. Shakuntala reciprocates the love which they climax in their marriage and consummation. Dushyanta returns to his palace for his royal duties with the promise to return to Shakuntala giving her a ring as a memento. One day while Shakuntala is deeply lost in the memories of Dushyanata, Durvasa calls her for paying him hospitalities. After repeated calling when Shakuntala doesn’t respond he curses her that the person about whom she is thinking will forget her.
Her two friends rush to persuade the rishi to take back the curse. The rishi gives a way out – that the curse will be broken if the person concerned is shown some memento given by him. When Shakuntala pregnant with the king’s child goes to Dushyanta’s palace, he forgets her under the curse of The rishi. When Shakuntala tries to show him the ring she realizes that it has fallen off. She goes away insulted from the court only to be rescued by a supernatural occurrence. The ring is found on a fisherman.
On the suspicion of theft he is taken to the king who remembers everything seeing the same. Love sick and repentant the king wastes away only to be lead by another supernatural occurrence to the asharama where Shakuntala and his son are found by him.