Blessings and Curses

How do blessings and curses play a role in the events that take place?

After finishing reading the play, I have realized that it is not so much about love as it is the fated birth of Sakuntala and the King’s child. Although it seems they are in love by their own free will and that is what then causes the events of the play, that is not true. In the beginning, we can recall the king being stopped by an ascetic man who asks him not to shoot a deer. The king agrees, resulting in the man blessing him with a child who is destined to rule. Any event that happens after this, is only a result of this blessing. Their lives are already set in stone. This is later proven when Sanumati is spying on the king but refrains from interfering because she has

“overhead great Indra’s queen, as she was consoling Sakuntala, say that the gods themselves, wanting their share of the ancestral offerings, will manoeuvre matters so that her husband will soon greet his lawful wife” (86).

 I question if the king had not received this blessing, would the rest of the play even happen. 

How do the animals act as symbols in the play?

There are multiple references and comparisons to animals throughout the play. I believe each has a purpose and a symbol. The first animal mentioned is a deer. The play opens up with the king hunting a deer. Like in many other literary pieces, this animal represents innocence. This scene is important because it shows the king chasing after this innocent creature. We know Sakuntala is also meant to be pure because of how young she is. The connection to the deer is made when the king says

“or will she live forever among these hinds, Doe-eyed among her beloved does?” (17).

This symbolizes the chase between the powerful king and the innocent Sakuntala. Another animal mentioned a couple of times is a bee. This animal is meant to symbolize attraction and love. The first mention of the bee is in Act 1 when one flies out of the jasmine and attacks Sakuntala. The king says to himself

 “Ah, honey-maker, fanned by her lashes, you brush her tender lids, or hover in her ear, murmuring a secret that is yours alone… and so you win her, while I am stalled, in supposition” (14).

The king is jealous that the bee was able to be so close to her. Later, in Act 6, the king looks at a painting he had made of Sakuntala. The king tells the bee in the painting not to hurt Sakuntala, again reinforcing his jealousy. 

2 thoughts on “Blessings and Curses

  1. The role of nature in this play has always really interested me. The comparison of Sakuntala to a deer–or the deer as a symbol of Sakuntala’s innocence–is yet another example of this. And it’s seen so clearly in the beginning, as the king pursues a deer initially, but then pursues Sakuntala when his pursuit of the deer is interrupted.

  2. Why oh why is deer hunting a symbol for romance??? This is a pretty global trope, by the way. It brings together archery (love at first sight), gender inequality (hunter and hunted), patriarchy (men cultivating women like they cultivate hunting grounds…hunting grounds were often thought of as a royal prerogative in Europe, not sure about India), the implied ‘animality’ of women (less rational than men!), and on and on.

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