Curious about Shakuntala’s feelings towards him, King Dushyanta Hides Behind the Trees

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

Looking for Shakuntala, Dushyant to his utter surprise finds her languishing upon a stone slab strewn with flowers, shaded by a bower of trees near the cooling waters of the river Malini, attended by her two friends Priyamvada and Anasuya.

Dushyant, perturbed about Shakuntala’s condition, and anxious to know more about the reason for her ill-health, hides behind a grove to trees to overhear the conversation of Shakuntala and her friends.

Shakuntala, unsure and unaware of King Dushyant’s love towards her, is stricken with feelings of unrequited love, her ardent desire and love-sickness cause her to go into a decline. Her friends Anasuya and Priyamvada, unaware of the real cause of her malady, believe her to be suffering from heatstroke. Perturbed at her condition, her friends attempt to ease her discomfiture by fanning her with lotus leaves and applying a cooling paste of sandalwood to soothe her.

As the news of Shakuntala’s affliction reaches the sages of the hermitage, they, worried about her, especially as her foster father Sage Kanva is away from the hermitage, send a young sage boy to enquire about the cause of her ailment.

Here the artist renders the scene with a certain rustic vigour rather than the exuberant paradisiacal settling as described in the text. As Shakuntala sits upon a stone slab, her pose dejected, she however fails to resemble the delicate pining beauty of Kalidasa’s play who simply wastes away. Instead of the charming lotus leaves that her friends use to fan her, as described in the text by Kalidasa, her companions in the paintings fan her with an ordinary strip of a cloth and a hand fan fashioned in a manner that would have been used by the women in the villages. The exuberant bower made up of lush with blossoming trees bent with their weight and the creepers and shrubs described by Kalidasa in his play, is turned by the artist into a neat parterre of flowering shrubs surrounding the stone slab, which the artist renders with meticulous detail.

The artist emphasizes a realistic setting, by placing the lying Shakuntala next to her little hut. Tall stately pine trees loom large rendered with veristic precision. The artist clearly prefers a realistic landscape setting as the artist has probably witnessed in the actual environs of the hills around Nalagarh, rather than imagining an otherworldly scape of the romantic trysts as imagined by Kalidasa.


  • Title: Curious about Shakuntala’s feelings towards him, King Dushyanta Hides Behind the Trees
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/32

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