Gautami Asks Shakuntala to Return With Her to the Hermitage, Dushyant Watches them Hidden Behind the Trees

UnknownMid 18th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

As dusk fades in and night would soon fall, Gautami asks Shakuntala to leave the bower and proceed to the hermitage and rest in her own hut. Reluctant to leave her alone as Shakuntala is indisposed, Gautami waits for Shakuntala to get down from the stone slab on which she was resting to accompany her to the hermitage.

Although wishing to continue her tryst with Dushyant, Shakuntala is left with no other option but to obey the elderly sage, and she descends the cooling stone slab with great reluctance. Gautami, anxious about Shakuntala due to her frail health, holds the cup of holy water in her hand and looks behind towards Shakuntala, waiting for her to slowly descend the stone slab. Dushyant, meanwhile, hiding behind a grove of trees watches Shakuntala leaving the bower.

The artist amplifies Shakuntala’s reluctance by depicting her in a pose and attitude revealing her hesitation as she gets down from the stone slab. Her bent head, her pose of half getting down half remaining on the slab, clasping the slab with both her hands aptly conveys her disinclination to leave the bower.

Gautami, a little further ahead, turns back her head to gaze at Shakuntala, afraid that she may be too frail to walk, and ascertains whether Shakuntala is able to follow her.

Dushyant is crouched behind a thick tree trunk, the direction of his face marking an invisible line of action towards the departing Gautami. This straight line of action that connects the figures of Gautami and Dushyant is also aided by the directional flight of the little white bird that swoops down towards Dushayant. Through the direction of the faces and the gazes, the artist weaves the three figures into a triangular arrangement that clearly reflects the anxieties, thoughts and dilemmas of the protagonists.

The exuberant foliage and the landscape do much to relieve the static and stiff stances of the figures. The lush patterning of the leaves that fan out at the bottom, and the outlines of the trees echo in the flowing contours of the distant hills that spread out at the top. The artist engages in a wide repertoire of scenic elements and contrasts the greens with barren trunks of trees bereft of leaves on the left and a clump of rocks that loom into a towering presence on the right.


  • Title: Gautami Asks Shakuntala to Return With Her to the Hermitage, Dushyant Watches them Hidden Behind the Trees
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 18th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/24

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