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By Kālidāsa
Translated by Somadeva Vasudeva

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The play Shakúntala was one of the first examples of Indian literature to be seen in Europe, first translated into English, and then into German. It attracted considerable attention (from Goethe, among others) and, indeed, pained surprise that such a sophisticated art form could have developed without the rest of the world noticing. A good deal of that surprise will be revived by the hitherto untranslated Kashmirian recension. Shakúntala’s story is a leitmotiv that recurs in many works of Indian literature, from the Maha·bhárata to Buddhist narratives of the Buddha’s previous births as the bodhi·sattva, and culminating in the master Kali·dasa’s drama for the stage. Again and again, the virtuous lady is forgotten by her betrothed, the king Dushyánta, his memory having been erased through a curse, only to be refound thanks to a distinguishing signet ring discovered by a fisherman in the belly of one of his catch. The final act distills the essence of human forgiveness, in Shakúntala’s gracious release of her husband from his guilt. Already in the Maha·bhárata it is Bhárata, the son of the king and his queen, whose rule gives India its Sanskrit name: Bhárata.


Buffoon: (acting fatigue, sighing) I’ve had it! I’m sick of being a side-kick to this hunt-mad king... (Laughs with malice) And now, a pimple crowns the boil. Just yesterday, as I lagged behind, his majesty, chasing some antelope or other, entered a hermitage and was, by my ill fate, shown some ascetic’s daughter called Shakúntala.

419 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-8815-8  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-8815-7  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation

About the Translator

Somadeva Vasudeva is Assistant Professor in Sanskrit at Columbia University, New York. He has also translated Three Satires and The Quartet of Causeries (together with Csaba Dezső) for the CSL.