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Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review : 'Shakuntala : The Woman Wronged' by Utkarsh Patel

'Shakuntala : The Woman Wronged' by Utkarsh Patel, is probably one of the  more honest versions. Most of us know Shakuntala as a woman, who gave birth to Bharat and the reason for this was the whole thing with a forgetful husband and a coy wife. Shakuntala was the daughter of Menaka, an apsara and Sage Vishwamitra, who she must leave on being called back to Indra-lok.

We all have read Kalidas’s version. Kalidas was a wonderful poet, who wrote a comparatively romantic version of the events. And therefore the superiority of the man, and his misfortune due to which, he forgets all about his past events is highlighted.

But Maharishi Vyasa, the original writer wrote it a little differently. She is not the heroine of hugely popular Kalidas’ version of events. She is the modern woman, as per Sage Vyasa.

And this is the version, which this book follows. So, according to it, Shakuntala is adopted by Sage Kanva. Shakuntala grows up, listening to the entire story of her parents at age 10, in which she is told how and why she was abandoned, when she was just a baby. In spite of all that, she grows up to be a delightful and a pleasing child, who learns all the Vedas and is a knowledgeable young woman.

During one such time, when Sage Kanva is out on one of his tours, she comes into contact with King Dushyant of Hastinapur. Dushyant, who is struck on seeing the beautiful maiden, woos her for a few days, and even promises to marry her. Though, a little reluctant initially, Shakuntala agrees to marry Dushyant, as long as he promises her that her first born son is the heir apparent and the next king of Hastinapur.

The two enter into wedlock in the Gandharva style of marriage. This style does not require, either of the parents to be present at the wedding. Upon the wedding taking place, both of them announce it to all the folks of the hermitage, and Dushyant is happy to consummate the marriage. 

But, he has to leave early in the morning, telling Shakuntala that his friends and his subjects would be waiting for him. He does not mention anything of the past few days, to his friends and they make their way to Hastinapur.

Days turn into years and Shakuntala, is left with bringing up her son, Bharat. Shakuntala, who had never left the confines of her hermitage, is asked to take Bharat to Hastinapur. She agrees, and makes her way to the kingdom. 

Upon reaching Hastinapur, she manages to make her way into the king’s palace, and places Bharat before him. On hearing her out, Dushyant refuses any knowledge of the child or of him being his father.

At this point, Shakuntala takes it upon herself to remind Dushyant of his promise. It is her fierceness and her principles, which are meant to reach out to not just Dushyant but also his people. She stands up for her rights and holds him to his promises. She, at no point begs or kneels before the man, who calls himself king. She asserts her independence, which she even as a child had.

She manages to answer any questions, answers to gods, kings and people alike, and asserts her rights as a strong and independent woman, that she is. She fights for her rights and fights more so, for her son’s right to be the heir of the kingdom, which was originally promised to him.

I liked the book, as it chooses to show the assertiveness and independence, a modern woman has. I liked the style of writing, but one point which it lacks is the tendency, the author has to get carried away. He tends to go on and on, about a few unnecessary points, such as the chapter, ‘Time’ and also some other incidents in Narada’s stories and even Menaka’s. 

So, read this book to understand this  book, based on Sage Vyasa’s version, which seems so much better than it was told by Kalidas in his version of events. 

You can Buy the Book, right here