Shakuntala and the Ring of Recognition: A Study in Indian Aesthetics

Ishita Banerjee


The ancient Indian practice of dramaturgy as proposed and promoted by Bharata primarily deals with an urge of delivering a sense of poetry through four kinds of representation - imitation by speech, by costume, by gesture, and by psychic change. This sense of poetry is accomplished through a proportionate mingling of the eight Rasa finally leading to a sublimity of bliss. In this paper I would endeavor to uphold an analysis of the rasa sutra and how it brings out the core essence of Indian aesthetics by presenting an elaborate study of Kalidasa’s ‘Shakuntala and the Ring of Recognition’. In this respect I would also try to locate the inherent difference between the Indian and Western ideologies as reflected through their dramatic projections. While the Western front thrives on an exclusionary method in order to achieve an absolute knowledge of objective reality, the Indians believe in an all-embracing passion of love that cleanses the individual from all the egotistic limitations and prepares him to get dissolved into the supreme celebration of harmonious bliss. In contrary to the Western world view which isolates the erring individual from the mainstream of society, the ancient Indian dramaturgy focuses on the ignition and gradual attainment of sainthood in the sinner and believes that every soul, however tainted it can be, actually belongs to the nirguna paramatma and finally merges into it. Thus Kalidasa’s Dusyanta is not an evil protagonist who disowns his pregnant wife but he is merely shrouded in illusion (maya) which temporarily overshadows his consciousness. The subjective realization of the rasa sheds this curtain from his eyes and paves the way for a self-realization (anagnorisis) leading to the communion of two souls.

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