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Revisiting Abhijnanasakuntalam: Love, Lineage and Language in Kalidasa's Nataka

Saswati Sengupta (Editor) Deepika Tandon (Editor) Romila Thapar (Foroward)

Kalidasa’s Abhijnanasakuntalam has an iconic status in the history of Indian literatures. It is a tale of love found, forgotten and restored between Dushyanta, the hero king, and Sakuntala, an innocent maiden.

Bringing together linguists, literary critics, historians, Indologists and Sanskritists, Revisiting Abhijnanasakuntalam analyses the play as more than just a figment of imagination as a rich terrain for exploring links between culture, history and politics, as an interplay of memory, desire and languages. Divided into three sections, it focuses on the continuity as well as the change in the narrative of Sakuntala, locating it in contexts of class, caste, gender, patriarchy and monarchy.

The first section, The Biography of a Narrative, addresses the earliest appearance of the narrative in the epic Mahabharata, its best known form Abhijnanasakuntalam as naoaka, and William Jones’ Orientalist interpretation of the play. It also critically examines the varied representations of the play in diverse forms such as art, theatre and cinema.

Contrary to popular perception today that Sakuntala is the central protagonist of Abhijnanasakuntalam, the second section, ‘The Hero King’, addresses how and why Dushyanta is posited as the hero. It examines the representation of the king as the ideal in literature and its material reality in the context of the Gupta Period, the construction of kingship in different genres, and the politics of a courtly culture and patronage within which the articulation of the heroic king takes place.

The control of the womb is central to the reproduction of feudal and caste patriarchies. The third section, ‘Of Love, Marriage and Family’, deconstructs the politics of romantic love, marriage and motherhood in the play. The strategies of surveillance, regulation and control of sexuality by state and society as deployed in it are the focus of this section. The book thus looks into how the transactions within the play, whether dealing in love or land, through different languages, mark not only hierarchies of gender, caste and status, but also of spheres of influence and of knowledge.

A rich storehouse of diverse perspectives, this volume would be invaluable to students and scholars of literature, culture studies, history, linguistics, and performance studies.

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About the authors

Saswati Sengupta

Saswati Sengupta holds a PhD in "Kolam of Tamil Nadu" from the National Museum Institute under the Minstry of Culture in New Delhi, whereahe also completed her M.A. in History of Art Born in Chennai in 1975, Saswati Sengupta has travelled widely and lived in various places. Her early childhood was spent in Nigena from where she visited parts of Europe and Africa and later Southeast Asia. She completed her schooling in Chennai from where her flair for art took her to study design in Kala Bhavan at Visva Bharati University, Sabtiniketan and to Delhi for creative jewellery design under S. R. Schuoeder at Jewellery Prodpct Development Council In 1996 she received a research grant from the Nehru Trust under which she documented tribal Dokra bronzes in North East of India. She has published several articles in art journals and her poetic reflections in the from of personal diary titled Fragments was published in 2001. Dr. Saswati Sengupta continues to research, write and paint and her extubited her art works in Llit Kala Academy, New Delhi, Birla Academy of Art, Kolkata and at other venues an India.

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Romila Thapar

Romila Thapar was born in India in 1931 and comes from a Punjabi family, spending her early years in various parts of India. She took her first degree from Punjab University and her doctorate from London University. She was appointed to a Readership at Delhi University and subsequently to the Chair in Ancient Indian History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she is now Emeritus Professor in History. Romila Thapar is also an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and has been Visiting Professor at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania as well as the College de France in Paris. In 1983 she was elected General President of the Indian History Congress and in 1999 a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. Among her publications are Ashoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations, From Lineage to State, History and Beyond, Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories and Cultural Pasts: Essays on Indian History as well the children's book Indian Tales.

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Bibliographic information

Title Revisiting Abhijnanasakuntalam: Love, Lineage and Language in Kalidasa's Nataka
Format Hardcover
Date published: 15.11.2011
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English, Sanskrit
isbn 9788125044192
length xx+327p., Illustrations; Bibliography; Index; 23cm.