King Dushyant Finds Shakuntala Watering Trees, Hides Himself

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

While King Dushyant saunters about in the sanctuary of the hermitage of the sage Kanva, he hears the voices of three young women. Curious, he hides behind a thicket of trees to overhear their conversation. Peeping through a cluster of trees, king Dushyanta spots Shakuntala, a maiden endowed with heavenly charm and indescribable beauty accompanied by her two companions.

Overhearing their conversation, he realises that the beautiful lady is Shakuntala, the foster daughter of sage Kanva. The three women carry pots filled with water to irrigate the trees and plants of the sanctuary, a task which Shakuntala carries out with cheerful pleasure.

The painting weaves together the characters of the narrative with a clear visual structure. Within the airy spaces of the woodlands the artist has carefully situated the figures. King Dushyant is depicted as peeking out from between the trees, his strong gaze directed towards Shakuntala, who bends down gracefully to water a tree. Shakuntala’s two friends Anasuya and Priyamvada follow Shakuntala carrying small pots of water in their hands.

The diagonal line of Dushyant’s gaze is echoed by the position of the peacock aligned in the same direction towards Shakuntala. The sweeping curve of the hillock emerging from the top centre to the left also reiterates the line of gaze as well as accentuates and directs the gaze of the viewer at the two women accompanying Shakuntala.

The artist also skillfully uses colour to highlight and connect the two corners, by using the same shade of the tree under which Dushyant stands and the tree which Shakuntala waters. The distinctive colours of the water-pots makes them conspicuous and links the two spaces where they are placed - the space of the group of women carrying the pots and the space near Dushyant where these pots hang from the tree.

Following the Kangra idiom of the mid nineteenth century the artist depicts the characters with pale skin tone, mannered stances and stiff gestures. The profile of the women is rendered in an almost straight line from the forehead to the tip of the nose, and the hair is rendered as a mass of black rather than the individual delineation of strands of hair - these are also some of the stylistic idioms derived from the late Kangra phase of painting.

Despite the intricacy and fineness of detail, the painting has a stiff quality and lacks the freshness and liveliness of earlier Guler-Kangra idiom of the last decade of the eighteenth century.


  • Title: King Dushyant Finds Shakuntala Watering Trees, Hides Himself
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/50

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