On a basic level of meaning the song just implies the movement of bees around the crest of the sirisa flower which are worn by women. Nati gives an erotic note to this where the bee represents a passionate lover kissing his beloved. Structure of Sanskrit drama is identified in five stages, called Avasthas or states of mind in plot movement. The five Avasthas are “Aarambh or the beginning, Yatna or the effort (to bring out the rasa), Prapthyasha or the prospect, Niyatapti or the removal of obstacles, Phalagam which refers to obtaining the desired result” (Sanskrit drama – introduction). In Sakuntalam the linearity of this structure can be traced.
Aarambh or the beginning is the Nandi or the invocation and the subsequent prologue, Yatna is to be seen at the point where Dusyanta and Sakuntala falls in love and their romance intertwined in the sentiments of sringara, both vipralambha and samyoga, Prapthyasha could consist of the events beginning from Sakuntala’s separation from Dusyanta, including the curse of Durvasav until Niyapati which comprises the straightening out of all the conflicts faced by the hero and the heroine. Finally Phalagam is the happy ending of the play which is the possible reunion of the major characters.
The microcosmic world created by the dramatist includes the semi dramatic world- Purvaranga, comprises the music, performance, dance followed by the Nandi and Prastavana and the completely dramatic world i.e.; the play proper. There is thus a transition of the audience from the world of everyday reality to a dramatic world of the play proper. This is accomplished with the introduction of music and dance, the invocation or Nandi and the hinting within the Nandi through the speeches of the sutradhara and other minor characters.
The play proper is meta-drama with reference to the prastavana or prologue. The concept of meta –drama or play within a play gives rise to the idea of the multiple roles of the sutradhara. In Sakuntalam, the sutradhara is the stage director as well as the creator and he holds the thread of the play and the action by doubling his identity as the director and the hero. In Sakuntalam, Dusyanta is the alter ego of the Sutradhara.
Dusyanta, a king of the lunar race, happens to see sakuntala in the course of his hunting expedition and falls in love with her at first sight itself. This leads to their marriage according to the gandhrava rites. The story then proceeds to Dushyanta’s life as a king oblivious of the existence of his son. Sakuntala, who is cursed by sage durvasa, goes to the king but Dusyanta is unable to recognize her. Later however, the king remembers everything at the sight of the signet ring that he had given her. The play ends on a happy note of a possible reunion of the hero and the heroine.
Kalidasa has however made a few additions to the story of sakuntala in the Mahabharata. The simple and quite unromantic account in the Mahabharata, is transformed thus. In the Mahabharata, sakuntala herself narrates the history of her birth to the king and their marriage is not a problem to them. Kalidasa created two characters, Anasuya and Priyamvada to make this entire situation more romantic and charming.
The innocent and simple life of sakuntala and her maidens and the frankness of their minds are presented at the very beginning of the play proper to enhance the beauty of the play. Another deviation from the original is that sakuntala agrees to marry Dusyanta in the gandharva form of marriage on the condition that the son born to them should be recognized as the heir to his throne. Yet kalidasa with his imaginative genius weaves a tale so beautiful that the original is almost forgotten. “The curse of the sage Durvasas, the loss of the ring in the tirtha, and the consequent forgetfulness of the king are all a result of kalidasa’s creative excellence.” (Kale 47) The last two acts are purely original though.
Apart from the deviations and the structural implications like the Nandi and the prasthavana, other features of Sanskrit drama are clearly exemplified in Sakuntalam. Temporary union, separation and reunion are typical of Sanskrit plays. The first three acts of Sakuntalam could be associated with temporary union. The hunting expedition, the invitation of the hermits to Dusyanta for keeping guard in the hermitage for a few days and the love followed by the consummation of it are the three events in “ascending” order found in the first three acts. (Kale 50)
Then the descent begins. The separation of the lovers and the consequent curse and loss of memory constitutes the misery of the characters. The curse of Durvasas which becomes the main reason for the separation happens in the fourth act. It develops throughout the fifth and the sixth act where there is a culmination of the pain in separation. This end when the story reaches a high point in the seventh act, where Dusyanta goes up to heaven to regain sakuntala.
According to M.R Kale, Sakuntalam does not appear to have been written with the strictest attention to all canons of Sanskrit dramaturgy; only the main lines as laid down by Bharata and other old writers, have been followed. There is the benediction (Nandi) and the Bharatavakya as in the other plays. At the end of the prelude, Dusyanta who is a hero of the Dhirodatta class begins the play. Their union in marriage is the focus and the whole plot is to be rallied towards achieving this goal.
On a general note, Sakuntalam is said to be the most widely read work of Kalidasa, like Raghuvamsa. It is a love drama belonging to the class of Rupakas which is known as ‘Nataka’. It is said to be highly elegant in language and style and consists of beautiful similes and comparisons. “The metres are fairly shorter and musical.” ( Kale 53) The solid proof of the plays superior nature in its language and story is the very fact that it has been translated into various languages across the globe invariable of the limitations it might face in terms of tradition and culture reflected in the plot. The play however is indicative of the various conventions of Sanskrit drama and the structure of Sanskrit drama is more or less followed showing justice to the story in Vyasa Mahabharata.
Primary source – Ed.by. B. Stoler Miller. Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection. Kalidasa. Secondary source – Thapar. Romila. Sakuntala Texts, Readings, Histories.Columbia University Press.New Delhi, 1999. Print. M. R. Kale. The Abhinjanasakuntalam of Kalidasa.Motilal Banarsidass.Delhi.1969.Print.