After the Agni-Parikrama Shakuntala Seeks her Foster Father’s Blessings

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

After Shakuntala has circumambulated the sacrificial fire, she is depicted by the artist seeking the blessings of her foster father, the sage Kanva. Dressed in her bridal finery, her hands folded, her figure slightly bowed in an attitude of reverence and supplication, she receives the benediction of the old sage, who wishes for Shakuntala’s unblemished happiness in her married life, for a life of loving companionship with her husband and the welfare and prosperity of her husband’s family, state and people.

In the little clearing beyond the boundary of the little hut, the ritual fires continue to blaze, and soft wisps of smoke rise up in waves.

Shakuntala’s companions sit under a tree with broad palm like leaves, her friend Priyamvada and her foster mother Gautami keenly listen to the old sage, their gazes attentive on him, while her other friend Anasuya distractedly looks at the figure of Shakuntala her thoughts elsewhere.

Sage Kanva sits casually relaxed upon a deer skin sitting cross legged, his body leaning slightly on one arm resting on the deer skin. The artist renders the benign persona of the old sage, his frailty, and the pious simplicity writ large on his face, with consummate skill. The old sage is depicted with a slight smile lighting his face, seemingly satisfied that Shakuntala has been suitably matched in her choice of husband. The sacred mark of the yellow tilak on his forehead imparts a soft radiance to his face. The creased network of wrinkles criss-crossing his face reveal his wisdom and experience as do his white hues of his hair. The pearly whiteness of his hair and beard and the tufts of hair on his torso contrast with his dark skin colour. His puny frame and the frail bones, musculature loose with old age are depicted skillfully.

Shakuntala’s pale colour, youthful looks and the fiery hues of the red saree and the red lac dye she wears on her hands provide a contrast to the sage.

Encircling the figures is a ring of the stones piled one on top of another marking the boundary of the hermitage. The artist renders the perspective in a manner that makes it not receding into space but depicted from a bird’s-eye view - almost rendered from the top, and presenting a substantially oblique view of the courtyard. In contrast, the hut and the figures are placed at right angles to the picture plane and the objects placed on the porch are painted in a manner that they recede into space.


  • Title: After the Agni-Parikrama Shakuntala Seeks her Foster Father’s Blessings
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur

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