I received Shakuntala: The Woman Wronged by Utkarsh Patel ss a review copy from the Publisher and would like to thank Rizwan Khan of Rupa Publications for the same.
The story of Shakuntala is well known—her upbringing in the ashram, her meeting with Dushyant, their marriage and subsequent separation due to a curse and their final joyous reunion. What is not so well known, however, is that the gentle, lovelorn Shakuntala immortalized by Kalidasa is very different from the original Shakuntala of the Mahabharata—a strong, fiery woman who stood up for her rights when she was spurned by her beloved.
In this thoughtful retelling of the story of Shakuntala, Utkarsh Patel brings to the fore the original heroine, the bold and beautiful daughter of Menaka and Vishwamitra who fights to get herself and her son the recognition they deserve. She does not surrender to anyone, not even the king of Hastinapur. Retold to suit the modern-day context, Shakuntala: The Woman Wronged is a must-read to understand one of the most powerful yet underrated female characters of the Mahabharata.
Narad Muni comes to Lord Indra’s darbar and tells him the story of King Kaushik who has decided to turn into a sage following a loss to Sage Vasishtha. This leaves Indira thinking and he uses all the natural forces to stop the king from meditating but the King is not dissuaded, and then he gets the idea to woo him sensually. He ropes in Apsara Menaka for the purpose and she agrees to help him albeit reluctantly. She had a task and she would do a good job about it.
She reaches the earth and woos King Kaushik and unknowingly falls in love with him and they have a daughter. Lord Indra has forgotten all about it until Narad Muni reminds him and poor Menaka has to leave her daughter and go back. The King says he has nothing to do with the baby and goes back to his meditation and the baby is left with Narad Muni who leaves her in the care of Sage Kanva and Gautami and she is named Shakuntala. Her friends, Anusuya and Priyamvada, and her doe, Mrigakshi, are her companions in the Ashram. When she is ten, her foster father tells her the facts about her birth and she adjusts to it and grows up to be an intelligent young girl and has arguments with her foster-father on what is right and what is wrong. All this while Menaka, who has a boon from Narad Muni to observe Shakuntala unwatched, sees her daughter grow up and King Kaushik still miffed by the deception has become Sage Vishwamitra.
Then the King of Hastinapur, Dushyant, comes to the forest with his friend for hunting and loses his way and meets Shakuntala. He wants to meet Sage Kanva, who has gone away from the Ashram for some important work, and thus starts to stay in the Ashram. Then the love story begins and Dushyant tells her that they can have a Gandharva vivaha as they are both Kshatriyas and she agrees on one condition and they get married. the he leaves her with the promise of returning to take her back.
Six years later, Shakuntala goes to Hastinapur to with her son, Sarvadaman so that the child gets his rights as the heir apparent?
Will Dushyant recognize and accept her?
Will Sarvadaman be accepted by the king?
What will she do?
Read on to find out more.
The book begins with and introduction to the story which mentions that this Shakuntala has been taken from Vyasa’s narration of Shakuntala. This is followed by an introduction to the characters which the reader would encounter in the book and the chapters are not numbers but names.
The characters have been developed beautifully. Though I remember reading the story in Amar Chitra Katha but the narration is excellent. The story moves from one scene to another with great fluency as a romantic fiction in ancient times. The only difference is that in this romance, we know a little about the antecedents of the protagonists before they are introduced to the reader. I loved the way in which the author has portrayed the romance between Shakuntala and Dushyant.
The scenes have been described beautifully especially the nature. There are many different interesting stories within the story. the relationship between Shakuntala and her foster father has been described very realistically.
The author has a way with words and I was impressed by the way he has worked around the theme. Not much of a mythology fan, I am greatly impressed by the book and shall highly recommend this book whether you love mythology or not.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in return for my honest review. I have NOT received any monetary compensation for the same.