Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Poet as Painter

S. Bhaskara Rao

Surampudi Bhaskara Rao

It is an acknowledged fact that ancient Sanskrit writers had afascination for fine arts and gave a significant place to them in their works through the characters, description and situations. To give a few instances, in KATHASARITSAGARA Udayana the Vatsaraja is depicted by Gunadhya as a great Vainik who could tame wild elephants by playing on his Veena called Ghoshavati. Bhasa and others also fall wed this tradition in their Vatsaraja plays. Bhavabhuti in his UTTARA RAMA CHARITRA gets to show to Sita several paintings done by a painter by name Arjuna depicting a number of episodes in Rama’s exile. Kalidasa in his MALAVIKAGNIMITRA makes dance the main theme. In VIKRAMORVASIYAM also he exploits group dances and folk songs very effectively. In his SHAKUNTALAM there are a number of descriptions which can be transferred to the canvas. Kalidasa making his hero, Dushyanta paint the portrait of Shakuntala is the point of focus in this article. Here we see Kalidasa, the poet, at his best as a painter, making the hero of the play a painter. A study of this sequence is a rewarding experience.

Dushyanta, the hero king, paints the portrait of Shakuntala after the recovery of the ring in great detail. The painting has to be studied in two parts. The painting brought by Chaturika that was done by Dushyanta when he met Shakuntala for the first time and the same picture yet to be completed by him.

King Dushyanta meets Shakuntala in Act I and falls in love with her at first sight. He marries her in Gandharva style in the III Act and presents her with his ring inscribed with his name. In the V Act when she meets him pregnant with his child he fails to recognise her (as a result of the curse of Durvasa) in the absence of the ring given to her by him when he first met her. He sends her away unceremoniously. In the VI Act the ring is recovered and he immediately remembers the past very clearly. He now repents and pines for Shakuntala and paints her portrait reproducing the beautiful features of Shakuntala. The painting is only half done.

When Dushyanta is in the company of Vidushaka, Chaturika, the maid, brings the painting done by the king in which there are three maidens. Sanumathi, the invisible nymph complexion of Shakuntala, is also present there. Vidushaka exclaims that the picture was very fine and delightful to view because of the idyllic scenery and the graceful posture of the lady standing near a tree. He feels that the painting was infused with feeling and emotion. He further states that his eye was travelling along the natural undulations of the scenic ground as well as the lovely bodily contours of the lady standing at the tree. He is enthralled at the three dimensional image created by the king in the picture.

The picture depicted Shakuntala looking tired. She was also panic - stricken as a bee was attacking her. She was trying to ward it off guarding her face with her open palm. At a distance the female bee was painted sitting on a flower as if waiting for her mate to go over to her so that she could suck honey from the flower in his company. Having painted the bee attacking Shakuntala, Dushyanta wanted it to leave her and go to his companion without frightening Shakuntala!

The painting was so realistic that Sanumathi, the invisible nymph companion of Shakuntala, feels as if her friend was standing right in front of her in flesh and blood. The king however does not feel satisfied with the painting. He is unhappy that he could not bring out the beauty of the munikanya in full. He feels that he succeeded in bringing out only suggestive line to some extent!

Vidushaka has a problem. He fails to identify Shakuntala among the three maidens in the picture, who were all equally beautiful, as he had not seen Shakuntala in the Ashram earlier. He is asked to guess who among the three women won the heart of the king. His eyes rest on the one standing near the mango tree with its tender shining leaves. Her flowing hair was collected and tied in a knot. Flowers which looked upwards were stuck in the knot. Her face glistened with moist sweat as she had just then watered the plants and she looked exhausted. The other two maidens did not match the beauty of the one near the tree. Vidushaka thought that the other two maidens were her friends.

When Dushyanta painted this picture it got along the line stained by sweat which trickled down his fingers. Shakuntala’s cheek got blotted by a teardrop, which fell from his eyes as he painted the picture in great agony. He now wants to complete the picture and set right the blots. When Chaturika tries to give the picture to Vidushaka before going to fetch the brushes and paints, Dushyanta prefers to hold the painting himself. Now Vidushaka wishes to know what other details Dushyanta wants to paint to complete it.

Dushyanta tells him that the river Malini has to be painted with a pair of swans, which merge with the sands. He wants to show the foothills of the Himalayas on the other side of the river with flocks of resting deer. On the ashram side of river a tree has to be painted with the bark garments hanging from the branches to dry. Under the tree he has to paint a pair of black antelopes in love, the female rubbing her left eye on the tip of the horn of the male. Vidushaka imagines that the king would also paint two or three bearded hermits to complete the hermitage ground. Dushyanta tells him that he had forgotten to paint the adornments of Shakuntala. Sanumathi guesses that the adornments will be befitting Shakuntala, the slender and graceful munikanya, leading the life of the hermitage. Dushyanta tells Vidushaka that he wants to paint a Sirisha flower on the ear of Shakuntala and draw the stalk of a lotus like the ray of autumnal moon between the full and rounded breasts of Shakuntala.

Which talented artist will not be tempted to complete this painting for Kalidasa and translate the poetic imagination, of the poet in pigments of colour on his canvas?

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: