An examination of how Europeans projected their own cultural needs upon India, this study reveals the forces that caused an important Sanskrit text to be distorted in translation, criticism, and adaptation, and isolates the linguistic errors and cultural distortions that can be grouped into trends and patterns. The influences of German and French romanticism receive considerable attention. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
The play Shakuntala was one of the first examples of Indian literature to be read in translation in Europe. Shakuntala's story is a leitmotiv that recurs in many works of Indian literature and culminates in the master Kali-dasa's drama for the stage. The virtuous heroine is forgotten by her betrothed, the king Dushyanta, only to be refound thanks to a distinguishing signet ring discovered by a fisherman in the belly of one of his catch. The final act distills the essence of human forgiveness, in Shakuntala's gracious release of her husband from his guilt.
The figure of Sakuntala appears in many forms throughout South Asian literature, most famously in the Mahabharata and in Kalidisa's fourth-century Sanskrit play, Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection. In these two texts, Sakuntala undergoes a critical transformation, relinquishing her assertiveness and autonomy to become the quintessentially submissive woman, revealing much about the performance of Hindu femininity that would come to dominate South Asian culture. Through a careful analysis of sections from Sakuntala and their various iterations in different contexts, Romila Thapar explores the interactions between literature and history, culture and gender, that frame the development of this canonical figure, as well as a distinct conception of female identity.