Shakuntala Returning to Her Cottage with a Heavy Heart, While Dushyant Watches his Beloved Depart

UnknownMid 19th Century

National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

Shakuntala follows her foster mother, the ascetic Gautami, with great hesitation, and her feet ponderous in her reluctance.

With Gautami near her, Shakuntala is unable to convey her feelings to Dushyant directly and she bids her farewell to the creepers, birds and trees of the bower, conveying her reluctant departure from the grove: “Bower of creepers, refuge from my torment, I say goodbye until our joy can be renewed...”

As she follows Gautami, she rues that her fear and bashfulness inhibited her and bound her from following the passions of her heart when her desire was within reach. She now suffers from the torment of separation and regret.

Dushyant, completely hidden behind a thicket of trees, is despondent at the prospect of his beloved leaving so soon, and quietly watches the departing figures. Gautami leads the way, turning her head back to ascertain whether Shakuntala is safely following her. Shakuntala, meanwhile pensively but dutifully follows Gautami.

While Gautami is conspicuously attired in orange hues that grab the attention of the viewer, the artist ensures that attention of the viewer is also directed at Shakuntala. Despite being portrayed in duller hues of mauve, through Shakuntala’s bent form, bowed head and downward glance echoed by the sloping curve of the mountain whose dark outline flows near her bent profile, and the clumps of the leaves whose curvature, is reiterated in the forward bend of her head, lead the viewer’s eye on to her person.

As Dushyant watches the two women departing, the three figures form a triangular configuration tied together by a system of gazes that lend dynamism to the composition.

Here again, as in the last three folios, the artist uses the same background of the vast panorama with exactly the same placing of the trees, only changing the position of the birds perched on different trees or flying across, or altering the poses, attitudes and positions of the main figures in the folio to recount the narrative. This visual strategy imparts the background with a quality of a stage set, bestowing a sense of immediacy to the narrative.

The artist wonderfully balances broad areas colour with subtle shading and detail. In a delightful sense of patterning for instance, he contrasts the broad leafy trees with tiny delicate birds perched on its branches or swooping about. If he is comfortable in rendering broad-leafed banana-like trees on the right, he also skillfully renders the delicate floral blossoms or the intricate radiating leaves of a lush tree next to it.


  • Title: Shakuntala Returning to Her Cottage with a Heavy Heart, While Dushyant Watches his Beloved Depart
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Mid 19th Century
  • Physical Dimensions: 33 x 37 cm
  • Style: Nalagarh / Hindur
  • Accession Number: 89.503/23

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