Shakuntala is the heroine of a great love story told in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. She was the daughter of a wise man named Vishvamitra and the nymph Menaka, who abandoned her in the forest as an infant. A hermit who lived in the woods found the child and raised her as his daughter.
One day, King Dushyanta was hunting and stopped at the hermit's home. When the king saw Shakuntala, he fell in love with her and the two were married. The king returned to his palace and Shakuntala stayed behind. She soon gave birth to a son, Bharata.
epic long poem about legendary or historical Heroes, written in a grand style
nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful
Some time later, Shakuntala took the boy to the palace to meet his father. However, Dushyanta did not recognize her. As the mother and child stood before the king, a voice from heaven told him that the boy was indeed his son. Prompted by the voice, Dushyanta remembered Shakuntala, proclaimed her to be his
* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.
queen, and named Bharata the heir to his throne. Bharata became the ancestor of the two great families that are featured in the Mahabharata.
In some versions of the legend, Dushyanta failed to recognize Shakuntala because she had lost a ring he had given her; he accepted her whe n the ring was found. The Indian playwright Kālidāsa based his most famous drama on the story.