King Dushyant Despondent Upon his Separation from Shakuntala

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

Alone after the departure of Shakuntala and Gautami, Dushyant comes out of his hiding and sits alone on the stone slab that cooled the ailing Shakuntala, as she had sat there only a short while ago. Ensconced by the grove of trees, Dushyant continues to stay in the lush bower, reminiscing about his time spent with Shakuntala and pondering over his unfulfilled desires lamenting the obstacles in their path.

Trying to recreate the presence of Shakuntala, Kalidasa’s text describes him tracing her presence in the “flowers her body pressed on the bench of stone, the letter (that) her nails inscribed on the lotus leaf, the lotus-fiber bracelet that slipped from her wrist”, his eyes “prisoners in this empty house of reeds”.

In the painting, however, the artist depicts no such memorabilia, as there is no scattering of flowers on the stone slab, no lotus leaf that Shakuntala inscribed with her nails or flower woven bracelet that is left behind.

The intimate space of the bower, which a short while ago was a sphere for the amorous play of Dushyant and Shakuntala, has now turned into a retreat for Dushyant’s secret solitude. An ambience of soulful quietness envelops the scene. Dushyant has put down his weapons and clasps his shield in a gesture of forlorn despondency at his separation from his beloved. His head bowed, his pensive downward gaze he presents a picture of weary dejection depicted in a conventional pose for portraying separated lovers.

The stance expresses a visual vocabulary, an expressive device that conveys a profound grief upon the separation of the beloved. The stillness of the forest is reverberated in the vast expanse of mountains ridges that stretch across. Only the fluttering of the wings of the birds breaks the silence. High over the mountains, striated white strips of clouds glow against the blue sky. Engulfed by a profusion of the exuberant foliage, Dushyant’s abject loneliness presents a contrast to its abundance.

The dried up tree that looms in the foreground traces the arch of Dushyant’s drooping back, metaphorically echoing his grief at his separation from Shakuntala. A bird that sits on its twisted branches echoes the solitude of Dushyant. The sun has set and darkness shall soon shroud the forest, amplifying Dushyant’s solitude.


  • Title: King Dushyant Despondent Upon his Separation from Shakuntala
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/22

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