Sacontalá with Dushmanta, in a car, pursuing an antelope…

Shakuntala writes to the king
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma from Wiki

Kalidasa was thought to be in India ~2000 years ago. And while I always knew the story around the play, I had never read it. I got reminded of it once when I was reading theories of Kashmiri historians who claimed Kalidasa was their own (there are three Kalidasas and where he from is only a matter of speculation and there are several other claims as well…). It’s always fascinating to have authors with unknown mysterious backgrounds. Anyhow, so I thought about the play again as I was hearing of the movie on Raja Ravi Verma, who had painted a great deal inspired by the play (exquisitely).

I tried re learning Sanskrit a couple of years back, but gave it up as the Sandhi got beyond comfort and I would’ve needed a teacher to continue. Anyhow so I couldn’t read the Sanskrit version. William Jones had the first English translation, and the e-version available on the net has Jones start act one, scene one, in these exact words:

“Dushmanta, in a car, pursuing an antelope, with a bow and quiver, attended by his Charioteer”

I quickly decided to get a Hindi version to avoid thinking why Dushmanta (and not yanta) had a car so far back in time, even if he was the king of Hastinapur (about a 100 kms north east of present day Delhi- in UP). Though in general it’s a wonderful read. It’s amazing how pure and simplified things are, adversity or not. The sad part of course is like ma says, we read the story, not the words, which hold so much more meaning once you read the original. Though to imagine, how drawn she was when she pretended her clothes were stuck in the thorns was beautiful even in a translation. While of course they both knew they weren’t, stuck. Also, I think they were ahead of their times really to abstractly, if not scientifically (for that I’d never know) to think the trees, animals and the environment spoke and had feelings too.

I am now planning to read the English version completely as well sometime. Makes me almost exotically wish for more time, there’s so much wealth in this literature.

Here’s the story on Wiki.

Also, given how Roman-Sanskrit translations must’ve been tough for the visiting foreigners to pronounce, I found this particularly long and exhaustive description on how to read their names- which are written differently by most people who’ve translated. It really helps thus if you read it in Hindi quickly 🙂

Dushyanta_ must therefore be pronounced as if written _Dooshyunta_. The long vowel _a_ is pronounced like the _a_ in _last, cart. ‘Sakuntala’ has been spelt ‘[S’]akoontala,’ the _u_ of [S’]akuntala being pronounced like the _u_ in the English word _rule_  or the _u_ in _gun, sun. The vowel _a_ must invariably be pronounced with a dull sound, like the _a_ in _organ_,

8 comments
  1. Upasna,

    It is such a pity that original soul of a story gets changed with each translation. The words used by author have own impact. But it is also not possible to read everything in original language. So we have to be happy with what we get.

    Take care

  2. to be fair on him a chariot of war or was called a car (per Wiki too!) just that our images of cars are different 😉

  3. I know the story although i haven’t read it… Reading translations feels good only if they truly capture the essence of the original.. Otherwise it leaves you wondering about how they had cars so long back!

  4. I always read the words more than the story .. and then try to explain them to people … and then people who appreciate it … are amused by my interpretations and others just write my off as over analytical! 🙂 So I guess your Ma, might like me! *big.grin*

    ♡ from © tanvii.com

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