1. What is prakarana? Answer with reference to Mrichhakatika.

Ans. According to book Natyashastra (chapter 20) there are ten kinds of plays where prakarana is one. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a prakarana play is one where a fictional situation is used as the plot of the play as opposed to some mythological stories. The prakarana play is an invention of the playwright as opposed to the adaptation of the plot from a pre-existing story. Mrichhakatika is an example of a prakarana play while Abhijanashakuntalam is an example of a play based on the adaptation of a mythological story.

The latter is known as a nataka.Prakarana is a play in five to ten acts. The theme is from the imagination of the author. The hero may be a Brahmin, a minister or a merchant devoted to dharma, artha and karma. The major sentiment is sringara. The heroine may be a respectable lady, a courtesan or the two combined. There is neither any divine intervention nor any royal luxury in the play. Prakarana is a realistic type of play which derives its theme from the society and the life of ordinary folk. The spectators get acquainted with the many problems that occur in the life of the ordinary people who form a major chunk of the society.

2. Why did Nati observe a fast?

Ans. Nati observed fast to get a handsome husband in the next world.

3. Why did Vasantasena keep her ornaments?

Ans. Vasantasena kept her ornaments with Charudutta to save them from being taken away by Sansthanaka. Another purpose that Vasantasena had in mind to keep her ornaments, was to visit Charudutta again.

4. Who according to the soothsayer will become king? What was his present occupation then?

Ans. According to the soothsayer Aryaka is going to become the future king. He is a herdsman.

5. How did Charudutta become poor?

Ans. Charudutta became poor due to his over-generous nature. He always lent money to his friends. The same friends never returned his money and Charudutta never asked for his money. Gradually he lost all his money like this.

6. Why according to Charudutta deathis better than poverty?

Ans. According to Charudutta poverty brings continuous and never ending sadness.Each day a new trouble breaks out. Death will come only once and finish off all woe. Hence, death is better than poverty.

7. Name some of the Gamblers in Mrichhakatika.

Ans. Some of the gamblers were Mathura, the Shampooer and another Gambler who is never named.

8. What news did Sharvilaka bring at the end of the play Mrichhakatika?

Ans. At the end of the play Sharvilaka brought the news that he has murdered the erstwhile king Palaka and has enthroned Aryaka as the new king. The new king has pardoned all the offences of Charudutta and had asked for his reprieve.

9. What does the image of the rampaging elephant represent in the play Avijanashakuntalam?

Ans. The image of the rampaging image can be understood in the following ways – 1. It could mean the disruption of the serene environment of the groves by an outside force. It symbolized how Dushyanta disturbs the moral and psychological serenity of Shakuntala. 2. The elephant could also be understood as an untamed force of nature which could be seen as a parallel to the image of Shakuntala as a force of nature.

10. Who found the ring and where was it found?

Ans. The finger ring was found by a fisherman while he was fishing in a river near Sakravatara.

11. Who were the escorts who came with Shakuntala to the royal palace of Dushyanta?

Ans. Earnagarava, aradvata were the persons who escorted Shakuntala to the king’s palace.

12. Who is Marica? What was the name of his consort?

Ans. Marica is the Prajapati or Primal Parent and Indra’s father. Aditi is the consort of Mârîca and mother of Indra, daughter of Dak?a.

13. Who was Sarvadamana?

Ans. Sarvadamana was the name of the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. He later became the emperor Bharata.

14. What was the name of the Chamberlain in the palace of Dushyanta?

Ans. The name of the chamberlain in Abhijanashakuntalam was Vetravati.

15. Where is Kanva’s hermitage located?

Ans. Kanva’s hermitage was situated in the penance grove.

5 Marks

1. Discuss the role of Anusuya and Priyambada in Avijanashakuntalam,

Ans. Anusuya and Priyambada could be regarded as the choric characters of the play. Like any choric characters they help in the advancement of the plot. They offer a lot of information about Shakuntala. For example it is Anusuyya who explains the birth of Shakuntala. They also help blossom the love between Dushyanta ans shakuntala. They play the typical role of the heroine’s aids in her love affair by acting as the go between the lover and the beloved.

Priyambada stops Shakuntala from leaving the company of the king. They encourage Shakuntala to express her feelings for the king.More importantly it was Anusuyya and Priambada who encountered Rishi Durvasa when he was leaving in anger. It was they who persuaded him to reduce the curse. They did not however, tell Shakuntala the episode of Durvasa.

In doing so they increased the odds of Shakuntala. If they had told her then she could have had been more careful and had kept the signet ring more carefully. Technically speaking Priyambada acts as the counterfoil to Shakuntala because she is very talkative unlike Shakuntala. After all her name is Priyambada, the sweet talker. Anusuyya acts as the parallel of the heroine since she is more poised than Priyambada.

2. Discuss the significance of the prologue of Avijanashakuntalam.

Ans. A prologue informs the readers/audience about the main theme of the play/literary piece. It gives hints to the things that the audience is going to observe in the length of the play. It sets the ‘horizon of expectations’ (to borrow the term from Hans Robert Jauss, a prominent Reader Response theorist) for the audience. Thus, It often sets the setting of the plot.

A prologue tends to introduce the characters of the play as well. In the present play the prologue does the above mentioned things along with a number of other things as well. Through the prologue we come to know that the season mentioned in the play is that of summer. We also learn about a number of classical features of the play in the ancient times. We learn that before the play usually began there was a benediction of sorts that is bestowed upon the audience and the characters.

This ritual is still maintained in a number of cultural programmes in India. It could be said that the prologue gives time to the audience to settle down before the real action begins. We observe that in the prologue the director mentions the name of the play and the writer of the same. This could very well be the method though which the due recognition is given to the author of the play.

We have not been able to locate much written and registered mentions of the author so the recognition is woven in the fabric of the play itself. Finally, the tone of the entire play is set by the beautiful song sung by the actress. Through the song we enter into the world of the play becoming oblivious of our own surroundings.

3. Why does Vasantasena falls in love with a penniless man?

Ans. Vasantasena is a creature of charm, beauty and intelligence. In fact her name itself suggests Spring, the most beautiful of all seasons. The most fertile of all seasons. She truly is like spring which gives an aura of life to everything. For example, she gives the Shampooer ten golden pieces so that he could pay back his debts

. He also helps Charudutta as far as she can. Ultimately, she grants Charudutta his life when she appears in person to save her beloved’s life. Just like the season of love – spring, Vasantasena brings in the season of love and prosperity in the life of Charudutta. She herself is lovelorn for Charudutta and longs to become his wife.

In the end her heart’s desire comes true and she is granted the status of a ‘vadhu’ by the king Aryaka. Here however, a man grants permission to a woman. This seems to perpetuate the patriarchal hegemony that goes on without being explicitly detected.

Vasantasena is wealthy. This goes against her in many ways. First, Charudutta finds him incompetent to vie for the love of Vasanatsena. Secondly, Sansthanaka alleges that Charudutta had killed Vasantasena for her jewels. Yet she uses her wealth to do good only. She helps the poor with her money and doesn’t care about it at all. In fact she is so unmindful of her jewels that in order to placate Rohasena, she gives her jewels on his little clay cart.

She has a place which has seven courtrooms. Maitreya goes through them and praises them which reminds the place of the Pandavas themselves. Opposed to this picture of opulence is her generosity and humbleness. She yearns to become a woman without the tag of a courtesan. Her behaviour towards Rohasena shows the milk of love in her breast. When she meets Rohasena she cries out of joy for the little child.

4. Comment on the significance of the apparent death of Vasantasena.

Ans. Though Vasantasena has a lot of goodliness in her, she is passive like Charudutta. She doesn’t even try to resist her strangling by Sansthanaka. She does not even scream lest someone see her and she be found to be a helpless person. This exaggeration takes the character away from the plane of reality to the plane of ideal. Her character is subsumed under the duress of the necessities of the plot.She does not fight the villain head on.

She uses ploy which becomes of a heroine in a comedy. Just like Viola in The Twelfth Night (1602)Vasanatasena uses her feminine charms and disarming feminine weakness to get rid of Sansthanaka. The entire plot revolves round the stealing and finding of the jewels and things related to money. When in the beginning of the play Vasantasena runs away from Sanathanaka then she hides in the house of Charudutta and hands over the charge of the jewels to him.

Thus, as far as the plot of the love is concerned, the play begins in media res. Vasantasena is already in love with Charudutta. Charudutta too responds without any complications. The complications that occur are due to external factors. Yet these external factors are very well embedded in the plot structure of the play. Vasantasena wanted to be further associated with Charuduuta and thus she gives the jewels to him.

Sharvilaka steals the jewels from Charudutta’s house to buy the freedom of Madanika. Vasantasena feigns the ignorance of not having her jewels only to find another pretext to visit Charudutta. The complication in the plot arises out of the fact that she had visited Charudutta and mistakes his cart with that of Sansthanaka.

Finding her alone Sansthakana tries to kill her. It is here that one of the subplots impinges on the main plot. The Shampooer who had turned into a monk was once saved from harassment by Vasantasena. Vasanatasena paid the tengolden coins that he owed to a gambling master. That turned the Shampooer into a Buddhist monk. The Shampooer recognises Vasantasena and helps her out.

The prime villain of the play i.e. Sansthakana, was after Vasantasena since the beginning. When he could not get her love he decides to kill her and decides to blame Charudutta for the same. Though not out of his own volition, Vasantasena lands up in his trap and almost dies. Charudutta is made the scapegoat.

5. Elaborate on the theme of envy in Sabhaparva in Mahabharata.

Ans. Since Mahabharata claims that whatever is in Mahabharata is to be found everywhere and whatever isn’t found in it can’t be found elsewhere, we find the universal theme of envy in it which is to be found everywhere in the world. Envy is one of the most potent human emotions. It is envy that is behind the destruction of the Kuru clan and many other who follow the path of envy.

The prime source of envy of the Kuaravas in general and Duryodhana in particular against the Pandavas was their prosperity inspite of their apparent disadvantageous position vis-à-vis the Kuaravas. Since the very beginning of their interactions the Kauravas hated the Pandavas which could be ascribed to sibling rivalry. The Kauravas hatched many a plans to kill the Panadvas or to harm them in significant ways but the Pandavas were always victorious.

When the Pandavas under the leadership of Yudhisthira built their palace with the help of Maya then the envy of Duryodhana increased tenfold. It was his envy that led to the war of the Kurukshetra and the demise of the Kuru clan. The palace was so splendid that it attracted the attention of even the gods. Perhaps it attracted the censure of a nemesis like god/goddess who envious of the prosperity of the humans wanted to sow the seeds of disharmony through Duryodhana.

Duryodhana while speaking to his father states that it was the dharma of the Kshatriya to be jealous of his peers otherwise there will be no progress for the king. If that is true then it is also true that one should keep one’s emotions in check, specially a king. The theme of envy is also symbolized by the fire that razed Maya’s forest. The external fire was very well symbolized by the internal fire that burned in the hearts of the Kauravas against the Pandavas.

Broad Questions, 10 Marks

1. Comment on the role and character of Krishna following the book of ‘The Assembly Hall’ of Mahabharata.

Ans. Krishna enters the story of the Mahabharata at the very end of Adiparva. The Krishna shown in Mahabharta has no resemblance at all to the flute-playing lover of milkmaids, the divine child, or the miracle-worker of later tradition. Though he says in the Gita that he had no ambition or objective at all, yet he had, in reality, many political and personal goals to attain.

Some of these goals concerned his clan; some for the whole class of Kshatriytas and some were entirely personal. His reason for killing Kamsa was in part personal, and in part to liberate his clan from a despot. He had to protect his people from Jarasandha and also, after having given them security, he had to keep them security, he had to keep them together, repressing their internal feuds. Another of his objectives was to kill Jarasandha. This too, involved the dual purpose of personal revenge and the good of the Khastriya class.

Jarasandha had imprisoned one hundred reigning kings to sacrifice them. This was totally opposed to the Kshatriya code of those times and had upset the internal order of the class. That is why his destruction was essential for the good of the class. The killing of Shishupal was done to avert a catastrophe by this timely though ruthless deed. All the efforts of Krishna were on behalf of his family, the Yadavas, his friends the Pandavas, and the whole Kshatriya class.

He had, however, also a personal ambition. This ambition was to become a ‘Vasudeva’, a position approaching divin ity. The Krishna in the Mahabharata is definitely not a god, as depicted on later literature. He was, however, an extraordinary, and his great personal ambition was to be called Vasudeva.

In this philosophic outpouring of the first day, Krishna was Arjuna’s teacher and counsellor. But in the events that followed the death of Abhimanyu; Arjun’s son, Krishna revealed the depth of his affection for Arjuna. From the first day of the war to the last, Krishna had saved the Pandavas.

Krishna remains an elusive personality for various reasons. He worked, he thought intensely, he advised others, but we do not find him downcast or mourning because his actions, thought or advice did not bear fruit. Then,  He danced in joy, he killed in anger his own kinsmen as we are told in Mousalaparva, but we don’t find mourning even after the terrible end of his clan. He made arrangements that the old, the very young and the women be taken care of, and then met with his death.

This is what he would have called yoga, this clam, this non-involvement. This is why Krishna remains a figure for thought and search, but never touches one emotionally as do the other figures of the epic. It might have been for this reason that when art last he was made into a god, he became a god with the warmest human qualities: the naughty child, the playmate of simple cow herds, and the eternal lover of all the young woman of India.

2. What are the epic features of Mahabharata?

Ans. Though there is some dispute among critic regarding the fact whether Mahabharata is an epic or it is history, usually it is considered as an epic,One of the foremost characteristics of an epic is the depiction of war. The depiction of war is necessary because it shows the heroic tradition of an ancient society.

Throughout book II of the text there is no large scale war though it does show the conquest of many countries and kingdoms by the four Pandavas. In this conquest we found the Pnadavas fought their enemies valiantly. More importantly we find that the battle between Bhima and Jarasandha in which Jarasandha is killed is not fought very honestly. The trio – Krishna, Bhima and Arjuna enters the kingdom in disguise.

However, Bhima uses no unfair means to defeat Jarasandha. Other than the minor skirmish between Krishna and Sisupala there are no major battles fought. Now, if there is was there will be boasts as well. For example – in the dicing episode, Bhima makes certain boasts about as to how he will kill Duryodhana and Dussasana. Bhima says that he will kill Dussasana and drink his blood. He also says that he will break the thighs of Duryodhana.

In an epic not only are wars depicted but it is portrayed in a large scale. Not only is a war shown in a large scale but also every other aspects of description. In Mahabharata we not only find that the wars shown in Book II to be grand but also the other aspects of the society. For example – Rajasuyya Yajna, the palace built by the demon Maya and even the cloths and armours of the warriors.

The Mahabharata can be considered entirely to be a political document. The entire book II is filled with political intrigues. While Krishna intrigues with Pandavas to kill Jarasandha, Duryodhana intrigues with Shakuni to bring the downfall of the Pandavas. We have seen from the very beginning that the Kauravas were plotting against the Pandavas.

Like any other epic we find Mahabaharata to be full of digressions. For example the story Jarasandha’s birth or the story of Maya are not directly relevant to the plot of the epic.

In mahabaharata we find the interference of gods and demons in the activities of the humans. For example – Krishna provided cloths to Draupadi when her honour was at stake. Similarly it was the demon Jara who saved Jarasandha.

The length of Mahabaharata is huge but book II itself is not that big. However, the book II also consists of approximately 2,387 verses (according to Vivek Debroy in his book The Mahabharata, 2011) talking about verses almost all scholars tell us that Mahabaharata was originally written as a poem. Since we are dealing with the second book we do not find any invocation to the god or the muses. Yet in the dicing scene we find Draupadi invoking the help of Krishna.

The reason as to why Mahabharata is often known as a history or Itihasan is because it tries to give us the true picture of the contemporary society. We find in the verses of the second book the following things – the correct way to rule a kingdom by king ( as told by Narada).

we learn about the procedure to become an emperor (by Rajasuya Yajna), we come to know about the condition of women in the society (through Draupadi). It is amazing to note that in Mahabaharata no one is idealized. All the characters come to us as humans with their mistakes and failures.
In this scene it is neither epic nor history, because in both, the heroes and the rulers are always idealized.

Thus, from the above discussion it becomes clear that Mahabaharata has a number of features that qualifies it as an epic but it also has certain qualities that make it unique.

3. Analyse Mrichhakatika as a comedy.

Ans. Before we analyse Mrichhakatika as a comedy let us try to define what a comedy is. Even before we must admit that as the Greeks had done there are hardly any such differences between the genres of the drama in ancient classical Indian system as per Natyashastra. Yet comedy or comic action was defined by Bharat Muni not as a genre but as component of natya itself.

The comic or hasyam could however, not be equated with comedy itself. Yet Mrichhakatika under the influence of western taxonomical duress have often been termed as a comedy. Therefore we will try to understand the qualities of comedy and try to analyse the play against their backdrop.

A comedy aims at correcting the mistakes that are to be found in the individuals and the society at large. The comedy usually aims to correct the ways of men/women by laughing out the follies that lie within them. They ridicule the very things that the individuals and the society hold in great importance. Hence in a comedy one of the chief devices of correction is laughter.

According to Aristotle, in comedy, actors should belong to the common run of the humanity. Kings and warriors should not be trifled with. The mistakes of the great are the harbingers of tragedies and cannot be compared with the follies of the common men/women. A comedy ends up in a happy reunion or marriage or both. Even if there are certain irritations in between they are soon resolved and a happy conclusion is arrived at.

Again, as our experience with Shakespearean comedies tells us they are mainly composed in prose, the same cannot be told about Mrichhakatika. The dialogues mainly comprise of poetry. Charudutta talks in poetry so does Vasantasena. In comedies whether western or eastern, minor characters uniformly provide the main fodder of laughter specially through farce. One of the chief features of a good comic performance comprises of the witty repartee of the characters specially the women.

Mrichhakatika presents common people in their rawest emotive expressions. The play qualifies the basic criteria of being a comedy. Here in this play we find the following – a merchant, an entertainer, a gambler, a shampooer (who turned into a monk), the brother-in-law of the king, judges, guards, thieves, and servant’s et al. Charudutta was a wealthy merchant who lost his wealth due to excessive empathy for his fellow people.

This person however, doesn’t learn from his mistakes and keeps on doing the same in spite of the lessons he had to learn. Yet it was his gregariousness that lead to his being known all over Ujjayni as a very good person. In a roundabout manner through the character of Charudutta we can find the circularity of things. Our doing and undoings often have the same sources. Charudutta’s actions do not invite any laughter what so ever among the audience other than his continues ranting about his poverty from dawn to dusk.

After all repetitiveness is one of the devices of comedy. Then comes Vasantasena who appears to be on the same plane as Charudutta in her magnanimity. We can’t laugh at her. Yet when she retaliates any other male characters we find the event amusing. We can use the following example -Charudatta: This house is not worthy of the trust.

Vasantasena: You mistake, sir! It is to men that treasures are entrusted, not to houses.

The main characters who evoke laughter thorough their actions and speech are – Maitrya (Vidushaka), Samsthanaka (Sakara) and other minor characters. They create the force of laughter in the comedy. Samsthanaka’s replacement of /sh/ for /s/ is really funny but as usual only for a first few scenes after which it’s loses its power to make us laugh. His misnomers are equally hilarious, for example –

But Ravana forced Kunti to his will; (Act I) Or his foolish bravados – Sansthanaka. Women ! I kill hundreds of ’em. I’m a brave man. (Act I)

Or his confused synaesthesia – Sansthanaka. I hear the shmell of her garlands, but my nose is shtuffed so full of darkness that I don’t shee the shound of her jewels very clearly. (Act I)

add to the farcial aspect of the play but when we compare the imbecile with the enormous act of attempting to murder Vasantasena we are aghast with the surprise.

Maitreya’s constant bickering with Charudutta and other characters are a potent source of fun. With Charudutta Maitreya’s realtion is that of a master and his fool respectively. Just like the Shakesperean Fool, Maitreya tries to bring Charudutta to reason. However, we can safely that the court jester or fool was not something that did not exist in Indian systems. Akbar had his Birbal, and Raja Krishnachandra had Gopal Bhar.

During the course of the play, the people who are rectified are – Sharvilaka who turns from a thief to a revolutionary, a shampooer turns into a monk, and a courtier turns into a revolutionary as well. We do not however find Sansthanaka to be cured of his evil. All round positivity exudes from the play where we find the rise of good people like Charudutta and Aryaka from humbleness to prosperity. We also find Vasantasena finding her heart’s desire.

After many trials and tribulations the lovers are united in the end in happy re-union and marriage. Importantly, unlike the spirit exposed in the play The Merchant of Venice (first performed 1605), where the spirit of forgiveness was completely forgone, Charudutta forgives Sansthanaka. The true spirit of comedy hence emanates from this event alone where true resolution is maintained quite in the spirit of Buddhism that pervades the historic-religious atmosphere of the milieu then.

Hence we can say that Mrichhakatika is a comedy is one of the subtlest but truest of forms.

4. Comment on the character of Charudutta in the play Mrichhakatika.

Ans. The characters of the play are living men and women. Even when the type makes no strong appeal to western minds, as in the case of Charudutta, the character lives, in a sense in which Dushyanta or even rama can hardly be said to live. Shudraka’s men are better individualized than his women; this fact alone differentiates him sharply from other Indian dramatists. He draws on every class of society, from the high-souled Brahman to the executioner and the housemaid.

Dr. Ryder rightly remarks, “Mrichhakatikam displays admirably three characteristic of its author, his variety, his skill in drawing to characters and his humour.” Sudraka was well versed in the art of characterization. Here he has given all sorts of chapters, high and low and they are undoubtedly living men and women.

They represent different walks of life. They belonged to different classes and profession of the society. The real interest of this poetic drama lives in its very varied world of characters. There is a wide range of characters such as the Brahmin hero like Charudutta, Vadusaka like Maitreya, villain like Sansthanaka and a revolutionary like Aryaka and Sharvilaka.

The hero Charudutta is the Buddhist beu-ideal of manhood, “A tree of life to them whose sorrows grows, Beneath its fruit of virtue bending low.”

Charudutta is a hero of the ‘Dhirodat’ type. He is very handsome. He loses almost the whole of his fortune by giving away vast sums in charity. Now He is fond of music and extremely sympathetic towards other, even to the thief who breaks into his house. He cares for his good name above everything else and is prepared to stand by truth at any cost. Madanika compares him to moon. Candanika describes him a ‘gunarvinda’.

The judge treats him with great respect. For Candalas, he is ‘gunratnanidhi’. And last, Vasantasena the most beautiful courtesan in Ujjayni fall deeply in love with him in spite of his poverty. Excess of charity makes him poor. On account of his poverty, his house has lost its former beauty and lustre, but his own personality is integral as before.

The proverb ‘Proverb is a crime’ has proved to be true in his case. Sakara feels jealous of him and says, “Poor Charudutta can Attarct Vasantasena, why not I?” if Charudutta were rich, Sansthanaka might not have become his rival.

Most of the important events develop round his character. For example, he indirectly plays a very important part in the political revolution. Most of the political leaders have high regard for him. Sansthanaka strangles Vasantasena. Sansthanaka’s companion the courtier, is so much confused that he ultimately joins the party of Shavalika and Aryaka.

Shavalika comes into contact with Charudutta and vasantasena through madanika. He is deeply impressed by Charudutta’s generosity. The courtier has also high regard for him. The political leader, Aryaka also firmly believes that Charudutta has played an important part in saving his life. Chandanaka , a military officer is so much impressed by Charudutta that he does not arrest Aryaka lest he hurts Charudutta’s feelings. Charudutta’s death sentence works like a spark to the already gathering fuel of revolution.

His passiveness to love is also illusive. Though he himself does not show any impatience characteristic of lovers, he is always ready to take any risk for the safety of his beloved. Maitreya, tries to divert him from the love of a courtesan. At this time Charudutta’s answer is, “Friend, stop all your comment. I am bound to my age. A horse tires to run fast, but his physical weakness does not help him to do so.

In the same way, man’s restless mind may move here and tthere, but at last it will return to the heart. This woman could be won with money only. She is deserted by me because money has deserted me.” He uses these devices only to deceive Maitreya. Charudutta is a man of strong self-confidence.

Maitreya tells him that Vasantasena is going top demand from him something more than her ornaments. He coolly replies, “let her come. She will return fully satisfied.” Dr. De rightly remarks, “The most outstanding feature of character is his deep love for Vasantasena.” Keith also observes, “He loves Vasantasena with affection free from all mere passion.”

Some critics find Charudutta as a passive character. They ask, “Does Charudutta deserve to be hero of this play? Somehow they are justified. At first sight, it seems that he fails to control the situation. He becomes a fatalist and helplessly accepts the authority of the ruthless fate upon him. But when we go deeper in this character, he proves himself in the centre of all events in the play.

6. Comment on the Character and role of Shakuntala in Avijanashakuntalam.

Ans. It is important to note that the title does not have Dhusyanta in it but Shakuntala. Thus, emphasizing on the role of the female protagonist. However, we must remember that it was Dhusyanta that forgot Shakuntala and not the other way round. Thus even if the name of Shakuntala features, she is not the subject of the action but only the passive recipient of the mnemonic fault of the king.

Yet naming a probable tragedy on the name of female protagonist could not be seen even in the renaissance but in the ancient Indian culture. Shakuntala is the life-breath of the play. She is one of the best creations of Kalidasa. Then, She embodies everything that the idea of life and poetry could ever incorporate. She becomes the love interest of Dushyanta. Her character portrays the fact that a woman could change the trajectory of a man’s life. Dushyanta leaves hunting.

He lets go of the desire to hurt and is hurt himself by the shafts of Kamadeva. Shakuntala incorporates the refined picture of the rasa – Shringara. She also displays the rasa Karunya when we find her being insulted by the king. She is thus poetry reincarnate. Seen from the eco critical angle she is untouched nature which however is ready to mate and thus grow. After all Shakuntala is born and brought up in the midst of natural surroundings. Dushyanta could be regarded as a curious human who touches and helps her proliferate.

Yet like any other human he does not recognise his responsibilities towards something that he enjoyed once. We humans often go to enjoy a pristine natural place only to clutter it with our wastes and destroys the pristine nature of that place. We ‘forget to take the responsibilities of our actions. Here we can argue that the king was under the influence of the curse and hence forgot Shakuntala but we can say that in the real world, we are often cursed by our own selfishness or inefficiency towards our responsibilities to the nature we desire to enjoy.

Shakuntala has been derived from the Sanskrit word meaning bird. It lends more credibility to our argument when we find that the very name of the character is associated with an object of nature. She is as passive as nature itself is. She hardly protests when Dushyanta fails to recognise her thus displaying one of the general characteristics of nature. Nature in classical as well as romantic literature has been projected as passive and calm beyond measure. We can also analyse the plight of Shakuntala from the feminist perspective.

It is obvious that what Dushyanata does to her is basically a patriarchal rejection of the ‘other’ by the ‘self’. However, she was cursed by Durvasa (the sound of ‘Du’ is common between Dushyanata and Durvasa, which might make us think that they have more in common than just their initial sounds of their names!) for not responding to her ‘calls’! Was Durvasa playing yet another patriarchal role in desiring to be obeyed by Shakuntala? Could be.

Yet her own father i.e. Vishwamitra disowns her after mating with her mother Menaka. Menaka does the same anyway. Her son could have had the same fate if the dues-ex-machina hadn’t interfered and reconciled here with her husband. Thus through the peril of Shakuntala we can understand that it takes the meddling of the supernatural to make a man remember his wife and child.

It was convenient for the king to forget and equally painful for Shakuntala to prove her honesty. Thus even through the title we can understand the force of patriarchy upon such institutions of social importance as marriage. Further when the king realizes that Sarvadamana is his own blood and that Shakuntala is his wedded wife then also it is interesting to note that it is his son to whom he is first introduced.

Thus in her beauty that is unsurpassed, in her trials which also seem to be unsurpassed she appears to us as a true Indian heroine in all her feminine glory.

7. Comment on the theme of love in Avijanashakuntakam.

Ans. Shakuntala is struck at the king’s appearance and readily falls in love with him. The king thinks of the possibility of his being a suitable suitor of Shakunatala. There is no shadow of doubt in the fact that the first scene of the play is a unique portrayal of scenic beauty and a serene, and calm ambience of Kanva’s hermitage. Again, the scene is also painted very beautifully with the colours of love at first sight.

When Dushyanta looks at Shakuntala he becomes completely enamoured by the beauty of Shakuntala and her composed nature that he immediately falls in love with her. We are reminded of the famous line by Christopher Marlowe: “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?”

The play presents a tale of love which on one side is innocent, chaste, unsophisticated and romantic, and on the other artful, frail, insidious and unimaginative. It strikes a note which is profoundly serene and immeasurably entertaining, but is at the same time oppressively tragic and inexpressibly tearful.

Nowhere has love been portrayed in such attractive and repulsive colours. Love appears to be nothing but a shocking and painful contradiction in this drama. Just at the time when love desires to fulfil its destined purpose, it meets with a calamitous accident from which even it is later fortunate escape does not enable it to rise to its natural altitude and secure its original position.

It appears as if love, wearing its best apparel and laurels, is lustily on its way to the Court of Spring to display its full majesty, when unexpectedly it falls into a catastrophe, with all its clothes spoiled, flowers crushed and face disfigured, so that even its subsequent recovery does not restore it to its primitive charm.

Again It is really tragic to find in this story that love has to go to knock at its own door and fails to get a spontaneous response, and when somehow the response comes, all its warmth, enthusiasm and spontaneity appear to have vanished.

It is important to note that while the play deals with the theme of love primarily love takes a back seat when patriarchal rules and regulations come into force as opposed to the idea of love. Shakuntala had to prove that she was Dushyanta’s wedded wife. Love itself was not enough to make Dushyanta remember her. The message that came across is that, love kneels before the curse of a bad tempered Rishi.

Love is regarded as an elemental force of nature which becomes subservient to the anger of the ‘Purusha’. There is more than just the reputation of Shakuntala at stake here. The entire idea of the nature and its force seems to be weaker than the restrictive forces of society and the anger of the patriarch. The disciples of Kanva warns the audience that marriages made outside the authority of the society based on the promise of love are bound to fail.



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