The artist embarks upon another vignette of rural life, as he interprets the scene in Kalidasa’s narrative where Shakuntala is adorned by her friends on the eve of her departure for the palace at Hastinapur as King Dushyant’s bride.
Shakuntala, in the painter’s version, is surrounded by a group of women lifted straight from any village in the hills, as they share Shakuntala’s joyous moments, celebrating the happy event, adorning her and extending their advice on her married life.
In the backdrop of Shakuntala’s hut, the women gather around, as she sits amidst them, her eyes downcast. Her friend Priyamvada bears a tray with little containers of the cosmetics and stands at the open entrance of the porch on the right.
Some individualization of features distinguishes the women from each other, although an elderly woman is significantly delineated – her face heavily lined, she is dressed in a plain white saree, and stares ahead with an expression of pensive brooding. She is rather obviously presented as a contrast to Shakuntala - her wizened face juxtaposed as contrast to the beauty of Shakuntala, the lineaments on her face recall her wise experience of her age opposed to Shakuntala’s youthful innocence and optimism. Her dark skin colour and her white garments possibly mark her as a widow, in contrast with the pale skin and the fiery reds worn by the young bride. The pensiveness of the old woman is also echoed in Shakuntala’s countenance, as she seems to be enveloped by the crowd, yet far away deeply engrossed in unpleasant thoughts.
This foreboding is also echoed in the environment. While the hermitage is set in a lush verdant setting, a barren tree, conspicuous in the foreground, rises up twisted and gnarled, and on its bare branches is perched a little brown owl that looks in the direction of the gathered women; both the owl and the barren tree considered as ill omens of misfortune in many parts in the Indian subcontinent.