The story of Shakuntala and Dushyant is a well-known story from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The tale is primarily found in the epic’s subsidiary text, the “Shakuntala,” authored by the ancient Indian sage and playwright Kalidasa.
Shakuntala was the daughter of the sage Vishwamitra and the apsara Menaka. Shakuntala spent her days in the hermitage of her foster father, Sage Kanva, who raised her with great love and care. One day, while Shakuntala was collecting flowers in the forest, she encountered King Dushyant, who had been hunting in the same area. The moment their eyes met, they fell deeply in love. Dushyant was captivated by Shakuntala’s beauty and her gentle demeanor. They spent time together, sharing stories and getting to know each other, and soon, they were married in a private ceremony in the forest. Before returning to his kingdom, Dushyant gave Shakuntala a special ring as a token of his love and promised to return for her once he had informed his ministers about their union. He told her to wait for him in the hermitage.
Days turned into weeks, and Shakuntala waited patiently for her beloved Dushyant, but he did not return. She often spent her time daydreaming about her husband and singing songs of love. Her devotion and love for Dushyant were so deep that they caught the attention of the sage Durvasa. Sage Durvasa, known for his unpredictable temper, arrived at the hermitage while Shakuntala was lost in her thoughts of Dushyant. Unfortunately, she did not notice his arrival, and her unintentional neglect angered the sage. In his wrath, Durvasa cursed Shakuntala, declaring that the person she was thinking about would forget her completely. Shakuntala was devastated by the curse and tearfully pleaded with the sage to forgive her. Moved by her sincere remorse, Durvasa modified the curse, stating that her beloved would remember her upon seeing the ring he had given her.
Time passed, and Shakuntala gave birth to a son named Bharata. Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Dushyant, a conspiracy was brewing to prevent his return to Shakuntala. The king’s minister, a conniving man named Sharadvan, plotted to keep Dushyant away from his wife. Eventually, Dushyant’s memory of Shakuntala and their marriage was erased as a result of the curse. He returned to his kingdom and carried on with his royal duties, completely forgetting about Shakuntala and their son. Years later, a fisherman found Shakuntala’s lost ring inside a fish he had caught and brought it to King Dushyant. When Dushyant saw the ring, his memories of Shakuntala came flooding back. He realized his mistake and longed to reunite with his wife and son. Dushyant set out for the hermitage to find Shakuntala, and there, he was joyfully reunited with his beloved wife and met his son, Bharata. The family was happily reunited, and Dushyant acknowledged his responsibility as a husband and father.
The story of Shakuntala and Dushyant is a timeless tale of love, separation, and eventual reunion, celebrated for its portrayal of the enduring power of true love and the importance of honoring one’s commitments.