KRISHNA Tarangam

A Political and Sciences Website


Shakuntala, first woman to fight for justice and win

Shakuntala and Dushyant episode has been detailed as a romantic event by many great writers with a sensuous beginning, a tragic middle and a happy end. I salute their literary contribution. 
However, in the Mahabharata, Rishi Vaishampayan details the episode with deep physiological, psychological, moral and spiritual messages. Right from her birth to entering into a sexual union with King Dushyant and to claiming the right of her son in the court of Dushyant, Shakuntala’s arguments are full of messages for modern men and women. She is not a weak and sensuous pack of emotions, but a dynamic, disciplined and powerful woman who knows what she is doing. I think what is required today is to understand the episode as detailed by Ved Vyas and retold by Rishi Vaishampayan. There is no better interpretation than what they have already done. 
What’s the story?
Shakuntala is the daughter of rishi Vishwamitra and astral maid Maneka. Maneka meets Vishwamitra under Indra’s command to drag the latter away from his spiritual practices as his growing power is a threat to astral king Indra. Maneka shudders at the thought and tells Indra that she cannot get it done as she fears Vishwamitra’s blazing power will consume her. However, she says she will make an attempt only when Indra commands the air to support her. Finally, Vishwamitra is attracted to Maneka and Shakuntala is born of that union. Maneka, leaves her daughter near River Malini,  returns to her astral world after the job is over. Shakuntas (birds with long wings) save the beautiful little girl from hawks, eagles and wild animals. Rishi Kanva spots her sleeping among the birds as he comes out of the river after bath. Kanva understands every animal’s language and gathers that the birds want him to raise the child as his daughter. The birds give him the details of her birth too. Kanva takes her to his ashrama and raises her as his own daughter.  He gives her the name Shakuntala, which describes the event of her birth as शकुन्तान् लाति रक्षकत्वेन् गृह्णाति इति शकुन्तला—the one who is received from protecting Shakuntaas is called Shakuntala.
Shakuntala soon grows into a beautiful young woman in Rishi Kanva’s ashrama. King Dushyant strays into the ashrama during a hunting trip and meets Shakuntala. He falls in love with her and proposes her then and there after introduction. He comes to know that she has a royal strain and proposes her for marriage. The great warrior and wise king is just willing to do anything to have a union with her and he says it—भार्या मे भव सुश्रोणि ब्रूहि करवाणि ते. This means become my wife, tell me what do I do for you. He tells her that she should agree for Gaandharva marriage with him as that is allowed for him, the royal king, as per the (then) law. Gaandharva marriage is one of the eight kinds of nuptial knots allowed by the Manu Gaandharva marriage is performed without mantras and witnesses. However, Shakuntala deals with the situation wisely and says she cannot do it without the consent of her father, as doing so will bring disrepute to her father and guru Rishi Kanva. She tells him to wait till her father returns and ask her hand from him then.
However, King Dushyant is insistent and argues in favour of Gaandharva marriage. Finally, Shakuntala agrees on a condition that the son born of them will be the king after him. The king agrees and assures her after the union that he will return and take her to his kingdom with honour and respect.  But, it doesn’t happen and a son is born, who is named Shatrudaman. Now Rishi Kanva asks her to visit King Dushyant and ask for her rights, which he cannot deny. She takes Shatrudaman along and meets the king in the court. However, the king refuses to recognise her and recall their marriage. He humiliates her in the court. Instead of getting hurt, she gives Ddushyant a piece of her mind with anger and dignity. What she tells him reveals how the power of truth works and how it gets things done. First, she uses pure knowledge to remind him of the consequences of what he is doing. But, out of royal arrogance, he remains adamant and asks her to leave the court with her son. Here Shakuntala gives a blow to his arrogance by revealing to him her superior lineage and abilities.
Finally, the entire courtroom is convinced and the king accepts her. But, just know her side of argument to know how the power of truth and the power of honest woman work. Is it an easy thing to rebut a king right in his court?
Shakuntala’s power punch
When Dushyant insists on Gaandharva marriage, Shakuntala doesn't let go her reason even for a moment. Dushyant is charmed by her beauty and splendour, but Shakuntala is not charmed by the king who himself is very handsome and powerful. He says words which can shake any woman off her wows. But Shakuntala's responses are firmly rooted in reason and discretion. She doesn't move even if he says --
त्वदर्थे मां स्थितं विद्धि त्वद्गतं हि मनो मम।  I am here for just you. My mind can’t think anything but you (you control my mind now ). 
She instead says---
अमन्यमाना राजेन्द्र पितरं मे तपस्वनिम्।
अधर्मेण हि धर्मिष्ठ कथं वरमुपास्महे।।
O king, you know the laws very well. But I cannot take any step which brings disrepute to my ascetic father by unlawfully accepting you as my husband.  She tells him the power of a rishi is greater than that of a king, indirectly telling the king what will happen if he pursues with his insistence as a mighty king and forces her into submission. She says----


अग्निर्दहति तेजोभि: सूर्यो दहति रश्मिभि:।
राजा दहति दण्डेन ब्राह्मणो मन्युना दहेत्।।
क्रोधितो मन्युना हन्ति वज्रपाणिरिवासुरान्।
Like fire burns everything down with its heat, the sun with its rays, the king by announcing burn-him-to-death punishment, but a rishi does it all with his anger alone. The anger of a rishi burns down negativity  like the electric weapon of lord Indra does.
Thereafter, lust-blinded king highlights how Gaandharva marriage is superior to other marriages.
 At his Shakuntala says if he thinks it is so then she can agree to his proposal only on one condition that the son born of them should be anointed the king after him. Dushyant agrees to it. A son is born. But, Dushyant refuses to accept him and her in the court and says she is lying. He even calls her mother a prostitute. It is here you get a glimpse of what Shakuntala is made of.
She stays firm and first makes Dushyant introspect through reason. She says —-
  • Your heart knows, O King, what is truth and what is not. It is good for you not to ignore your own heart. (because if you do, you will be ruined). अत्र ते हृदये वेद सत्यस्यैवानृतस्य च। कल्याणम् वद साक्ष्येण माऽऽत्मानमवमन्यथा:।।
  • If you think you were alone and (nobody saw you made love with me), then you are mistaken as Kanva (the rishi and my father) is present in every heart like the lord Almighty. He knows all your good and bad deeds. You know it and are still lying in his presence.
  • Man thinks that nobody is watching him committing an act, but he is mistaken as all the brilliant  entities and God Himself are witness to it. मन्यते पापं कृत्वा न कश्चिद् वेत्ति मामिति। विदन्ति चैनल देवाश्च यश्चैवान्तरपूरुष:।।
  • If you don’t listen to my honest and truthful reminders to you, your head will break into hundred pieces. This shows how self-respecting and how truth-respecting Shakuntala is.  यदि मे याचमानाया वचनं न करिष्यसि । दुषयन्त शतधा मूर्धा ततस्तेऽद्य स्फुटिष्यति।।
At this Dushyant humiliates her birth and calls her a child of a prostitute and a fallen rishi. He even says that all women are liars. Shakuntala now flares up and decides to demolish the king’s ego, with some real talk. 
She responds——
  • My mother Maneka is followed by even the gods. They respect her. Therefore, my birth is superior to yours.
  • O King! You can only walk on the earth. But, I can (by virtue of my higher parentage) walk in the space. Focus a bit and you will find that you are just a mustard seed and I, the highest Mount Meru. I can even travel to the astral kingdoms, but you can’t. (What makes you think that you are of great parentage?)
  • Forgive me, O King, but I will have to given a popular example to convey you the truth and not to humiliate you—that is —an ugly man considers himself very beautiful till he sees his face in the mirror. But, the moment, he sees the reality, he knows the difference, proving thereby that I am just a mirror for you and your stand. See and realise. विरूपो यावदादर्शे नात्मन: पश्यते मुखम्। मन्यते तावदातमानमन्येभ्यो रूपवत्तरम्।। यदा स्वमुखादर्शे विकृतं सोऽभिवीक्षते। तदान्तरम् विजानीते आत्मानं चेतरं ज्ञानं।।
In the end she gives out a final truth and says—-
  •    There is no better idea than adoption of the truth. There is nothing superior to truth and there is nothing more negative in the world than a lie and its justification. नास्ति सत्यसमो धर्मो न सत्याद् विद्यते परम्। न हि तीव्रतरं किंचिदनृतादिह विद्यते॥
  •   O King! Truth is the form of God and the highest law. Therefore, don’t leave your truthful promise. May truth be your companion! राजन् सत्यं परं ब्रह्म सत्यं च समय: पर:। सा त्याक्षी: समयं राजन् सत्यं संगतमस्त् ते॥
  • Stating the truth and wishing good for  her husband, Shakuntala turns around. And with her turnaround everything turns around. A better sense prevails on him, he listens to his heart’s voice as loud as if heard by all. He accepts Shakuntala and their son Shatrudaman. He later names his son Bharat.
  • Bharat is the name drawn from King Bharat. This is how the name of India is Bharat—the land of light—where truth prevails. भरताद् भारती कीर्तियेनेदं भारतं कुलम्। अपरे ये च पूर्वे वै भारता इति विश्रुता:॥
Takeaway: Like Shakuntala, we all should have the will to assert the truth. The rishi science says when you assert the truth, the heart of the liar hears the voice of the conscience first. But, if he/she ignores it, the blazing words of  truth burns down everything inside out. You may find it idealistic. But, look around and you will see that whenever truth has been asserted, its challengers have been taken care of either by natural laws or the law of the land. See how many liars are their in the jails! There is a great message for women too. Be fearless when it comes to stating the truth and your right even when the judge is the accused himself, as was in the case of Dushyant. The truth prevails as it stays deeper in the heart and  manifests inside outside in effect. 
Next: What is a wife's right according to Shakuntala?
Vivek Sharma

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How simple you make even complex things. Thanks...

;very nice and praisworthy

Jai ho!

Very true

Very true