King Dushyanta leaving the hermitage with his army

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

Although the text of Kalidasa’s play Abhijnanam Shakuntalam does not include a scene where the royal entourage of King Dushyant leaves the hermitage for the palace, the artist presents us with a folio depicting the departure of the king from the hermitage.

In the foreground, King Dushyant is clearly visible under a jewel-encrusted gold howdah with cloth hangings, riding a chariot pulled by a team of richly caparisoned white horses. He is rendered hierarchically larger in scale than all the other figures of the procession. His entourage, consisting of his courtiers, guards and army, follows his train mostly on foot and are depicted as leaving the hermitage.

In the foreground, the pomp and splendour of Dushyant’s court and its extravagance are displayed through the procession. The sumptuous grandeur of the court contrasts with the earthy simplicity of the ascetic lifestyle. The jewels and the expensive textiles that adorn the body of the courtiers and the King, painted in bright colours of royal blue, vibrant pink, mauves and striking orange, contrast with the simple clothing of the ascetics depicted in the middle right of the painting. One elderly sage wears only a leopard skin around his waist, his matted locks disarrayed in careless abandon. He sits cross-legged on a deer skin in deep conversation with another sage - the only one from the group of ascetics who covers his upper body with presumably a coarse shawl. The young ascetic with his back turned towards us is shown wearing only a simple loincloth and he attempts to stoke the fire to cook up a simple meal.

The faces of the ascetics are depicted with individuality in contrast to the courtiers whose faces are rendered with generalised facial types - many of whose faces resemble the face of the king himself.

The vibrancy of colour used in depicting the participants of the procession is matched in the verdant greens of the forest. Depicted in the top centre occupying a visually prominent focus in the painting is a simple thatched hut nestled amidst a grove of banana plantains where the beautiful Shakuntala lives, conspicuously absent in the painting.

In the far distance rolling hills pan out, dotted with young pine trees. Above the undulating hillocks a tiny stretch of clear azure blue sky completes the panorama.


  • Title: King Dushyanta leaving the hermitage with his army
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/47

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