Dushyanta is the king of Hastinapur and he belongs to the dynasty of Pururavas, the kings from lunar origin. He was regarded as the “sage king” or “rajarshi”. He inherits a great tradition of service and sacrifice from his royal ancestors. When he enters the hermitage of sage! Kanva, he finds himself in a different world. His movement is from vira-rasa to sringara-rasa, from the world of material reality to the ideal world of beauty and spiritual values. He has been on a hunting trip and his chase of a deer brings him to the threshold of the kingdom of innocence. The experience of eros by Shakuntala enables her to hear the songs of experience. Her innocence proves to be her major weakness and she falls a prey to the amorous moves of Dushyanta.
The hunting by Dushyanta has symbolic connotations- both literally and symbolically. The hunt can be seen as “a metaphor of courtly love : pursuit, contesting emotions and ultimately submission the play is seen as focusing on the tension between kama and dharma, desire and duty, manifest in the relation between the two dominant rasas of sringara-rasa and vira-rasa, the erotic and the heroic.”! Hunting by a king is also akin to going to a battlefield.
When Dushyanta sees the beautiful daughter of Menaka, he is struck by the arrows of Cupid. Dushyanta has been in the role of a predator and Shakuntala is viewed as an easy prey. Then opening part of the play presents Shakuntala as a prey and meek but later she is transformed into a powerful character. Now Dushyanta is the seeker. She has gone to the Hemkoot mountain with her mother where a son is born to her. He is the heir to the state of Hastinapur. When Dushyanta remembers of Shakuntala on getting the ring, he is filled with a sense of remorse.
Now Dushyanta comes to know that the supernatural intervention (curse by Durvasa) has been the cause of their separation. Shakuntala symbolises Nature and innocence whereas Dushyanta stands for culture and the masculine principle. The relationship between Dushyanta and Shakuntala, the feminine and the masculine principle, nature and culture, provides a state of tension in the play.
Dushyanta Character Analysis
Dushyanta has been very conscious of his duties as a ksatriya king. When he learns that Shakuntala is the daughter of a kshtriya, he is satisfied. He is a brave king, known for his valour and courage. Even gods in heaven seek his assistance in their battle with the demons. He is a man of extraordinary capabilities.
As an administrator, Dushyanta is very successful and popular. He also defends the hermitages from demons in his kingdom. Apart from this he is also a skilful lover who wins over his beloved tactfully. But in the course of the play, Dushyanta, the character, has not been allowed to develop because of the writer’s plan. The role of the curse and the signet ring become the decisive factors in the life of Dushyanta and his sense of discrimination (Logos) is eclipsed by them. The two motifs of the curse and the ring make the story psychologically convicing and exonerate the king of his wrongs done to Shakuntala.
As a king, Dushyanta reflects the virtues of a legendary hero. He is no ordinary king but one who mingles with gods and fights the demons. He is almost equal to Lord Indra, the head of gods in courage and valour. He is a descendent from the famous Puru lineage. He has been presented as a kind king, a romantic lover as well as a warrior. He is also a patron of fine arts. He possesses an impressive personality and that is why, a chaste girl like Shakuntala cannot resist the temptation of falling in love with him. Though Shakuntala has been brought up in an ashram yet the attraction, of Dushyanta is irresistible.
Dushyanta has learnt how to be a successful ruler. He follows the path of Dharma. Though he is fond of hunting yet he is aware of the necessity to safeguard the tranquil environment of the hermitage. As a king, he has to protect Dharma. He is called a living embodiment of Dharma. Even gods in heaven acknowledge his superiority and often he assists them in fighting against the forces of darkness. He is highly respectful to sages and hermits. People in his kingdom show a regard to him. In Act I, when he falls in love with Shakuntala, he exercises restraint over his passions. But the moment he comes to know about her parents, he decides to marry her. He is a sincere companion too.
Duhysanta represents a universe that is completely opposite to that of Shakuntala. His world is materialistic, demanding tangible proof and social sanction. His actions are no different than actions of Rama who succumbed to the demands of his countrymen and asked his wife to prove her sexual “cleanliness” and chastity. Morality is of two kinds: exemplary and conventional. Duhysanta fails to rise to the level of exemplary morality, something which sets an example. He finds comfort in conventional morality, a more mundane and mediocre.
Like other great kings, Dushyanta acts as the patron of fine arts and artists. He himself is a fine artist. As a connoisseur of arts, he paints a life-sized portrait of Shakuntala. While portraying the characters of Dushyanta and Shakuntala, Kalidasa has made use of Sringara rasa and also that of Viraha. Dushyanta never loses his calm “in this heroic romance called Abhijnanasakuntalam. He has been presented as a wonderful and an expert lover who marries a chaste girl through the Gandharva form of marriage. It is only for a short period that he forgets her, that too under the spell of the curse. Through the portrayal of this character, Kalidasa shows the traits of the classical hero as illustrated in the Natya Shashtra.