Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala and said, 'Since I first saw you....I knew....I knew that you were the one...my queen!' The king looked at Shakuntala with love-filled eyes. 'Please accept my proposal....' The king saw that Shakuntala was not entirely convinced. He hurriedly continued, '...My whole kingdom is yours my queen! Please marry me!'
Shakuntala looked shy and troubled at the same time. She looked at the King and spoke, 'King Dushyanta, I am flattered that you feel that way about me, but please....could you wait for a some more time....My father, the great sage Kanva is on the way home. After he comes home, talk with him, after that I would happily marry you....please!'
Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala with a smile, 'You are obviously Sage Kanva's darling! The apple of his eye! Seriously you do not think he would object to anything that you have done by your own liking....' Dushyanta continued passionately, 'There is a form of marriage called as 'gandharva marriage'. Kings and warriors are allowed to perform this marriage....By this system, they are allowed to choose their own spouse....You may be brought up in a hermitage as the daughter of a sage, but you are the daughter of a great king....I think you can definitely get married by this method....Please say yes!'
Shakuntala looked troubled. She knew that what the king said made sense. But still she felt uncomfortable.....But the words of the king came back again....She looked at the king with her beautiful eyes and slowly nodded her head, 'King! What you say is true!...I think I can get married to you by the gandharva ritual....' The king looked at Shakuntala with happy eyes and was about to hug her when she held up her hands, 'Listen to me my king! If you marry me now, I will ask you a boon...I wish that the child born to us should be the monarch after you....Only if you agree to this, will I accept your marriage proposal!'
Shakuntala looked very firmly at the king. The king almost burst out laughing. 'Is that all my queen! I promise that the child born to us would rule after me! That is a warrior's promise and I will never go back on it....'
Shakuntala looked at Dushyanta and smiled. She turned to her friends. 'My friends! Go and find all the things necessary for performing a simple marriage ceremony...immediately! You will find everything in the ashrama!' Her friends nodded and they raced to find the things necessary for the marriage.
So there in the midst of the beautiful hermitage, by the flowing Malini, the king married Shakuntala........
King Dushyanta was now however a worried man. In the spur of the minute, he had married the daughter of a rishi. Adopted daughter thought she may be, she was still his daughter. He had married her without the permission of the sage. What would the sage say? He would be angry that he had done such a thing.... Dushyanta knew enough about sages and realized the power that sages wielded by the power of their penance. Greater men than him have been reduced to less that nothing because of the curse of the sages....King Dushyanta was now in a full scale panic. No! I must not be here, when the sage comes back....I have to get away from here....If I don't, the sage would curse me....
Thinking this, King Dushyanta went to Shakuntala. 'Shakuntala! I have to get back to the affairs of the kingdom! I had come to the neighbouring village because some wild animals had attacked it. It was during the chase that I came here, my queen!' Shakuntala looked at Dushyanta and waited for him to continue, 'To fulfill the duty to my people, I have to leave and go back to the village!'
Shakuntala looked a little perturbed when King Dushyanta spoke again, 'Don't worry, my queen!' Dushyanta fervently nodded his head to himself, 'I will come back and take you back to the kingdom, on a royal palanquin. You will come back to your home, like a queen! My people would see and accept you as their queen!'
Shakuntala looked at the king and slowly nodded her head, 'Go ahead King! I realize that you have many duties as a king! I will not stop you from that...Come back and take me to the kingdom...I will wait for you!'
King Dushyanta nodded his head and mounted on his chariot and drove off with his army. His mind in a turmoil....What would the sage do....
After Dushyanta had left, Shakuntala was worried. Now the full force of what she had done dawned on her. She had married a king, without her father's permission. What would her father say?
Sage Kanva came back to the hermitage after collecting the fruits from the forest. As he was walking, he remembered the youthful face of his daughter. She would come and embrace him and welcome him....Kanva was a rishi, but he still enjoyed the intelligence, youthfulness, curiosity and creativity of his daughter.
As Sage Kanva entered the hermitage, however today nothing happened....His daughter did not come running towards him....he looked around and saw that most of the work in the hermitage had not been done. Sage Kanva was surprised....His daughter had never lapsed in any of her duties so far. What had happened? He hurried inside the hermitage and saw his daughter seated on the mat not even looking up at him...
Finally when Shakuntala looked up at the sage, the sage saw a kaleidoscope of emotions in her eyes....Shyness, fear, love...Sage Kanva was surprised. He had never seen his daughter like this...
Shakuntala for her part was afraid to talk. She was afraid that she had disappointed her father...Mutely she took out some refreshments and listlessly offered it to her father. Her father looked at her kindly, ‘Shakuntala! What is wrong? Please tell me...’ Shakuntala’s hands shook as she burst out crying at the kind words of her father...She did not deserve to have such a good man as her father. He was being so nice to her and she had broken his trust...
Shakuntala laid her head on her father’s lap. He lovingly caressed Shakuntala’s head patiently waiting for Shakuntala to tell him. He could have of course used the powers of his meditation and sensed everything that had happened here. But he wanted the story out of Shakuntala. So he waited.
Between sobs, Shakuntala told him the whole story, ‘Father...father! King Dushyanta had come here, when you were away...’ Shakuntala fearfully looked at her feet afraid to meet Sage Kanva’s eyes, ‘...We... we were married by the gandharva ritual...!’
Shakuntala waited for her father to yell at her or start shouting at her. Whatever Shakuntala had expected her father to do it was not this...Sage Kanva laughed. He looked at her daughter’s tear stained face and laughed, ‘Why were you afraid of telling me this?’ The sage asked her genuinely surprised.
Shakuntala looked at her father bewildered and surprised, unable to understand, ‘You may be brought up in a hermitage, but you are a princess...a daughter of king and an apsara! You chose a good and just king as your husband! Why should I feel wrong about that? In fact it is for precisely this purpose that the ‘gandharva marriage’existed...And you have also made sure that all the ceremonies of the marriage were carried out...So no...! I am not angry at all. In fact I am very happy. You have chosen a good man for yourself. For this, I will grant you any boon you wish my child. Anything..’
Shakuntala broke out crying, feeling hilarious. Finally after all the turmoil in her heart had subsided she felt peaceful and looked at her father, ‘Father! If you wish me to ask a boon, then I ask you that you forgive my husband and accept him wholly...’
Sage Kanva laughed at the childish boon of Shakuntala but he realized that the boon would make Shakuntala stronger. ‘I promise you that I have no ill feeling towards your husband! I wish only good things for him and now that you are his queen, that will always be so..’
Soon Shakuntala had a son by name Sarvadhaman. When Sarvadhaman was born, it is said that the Gods rained flowers on the child. Lord Indra the king of the Devas himself came to see Shakuntala. Lord Indra looked at Sarvadhaman with pride and spoke to Shakuntala, ‘Your son is no ordinary mortal, Shakuntala! He is born to be an emperor!’ Shakuntala glowed with pride as Indra continued, ‘You are the mother of an emperor!’
Sarvadhaman grew up in the forest hermitage under the guidance of Sage Kanva. He thought of Sage Kanva as his father. Even as a child Sarvadhaman knew no fear. He would fight wild animals with his bare hands. It was said that Sarvadhaman would keep the mouth of a lion open with his own hands to count the number of teeth of the lion!
Sage Kanva taught the child Vedas and the scriptures. He even taught him the art of warfare and diplomacy. Sarvadhaman learnt all of this very easily, almost effortlessly...
But Dushyanta never came back. He had gone back to his kingdom and had never come back...It was as if he had forgotten all about Shakuntala...
But Sage Kanva was not blind to his daughter. He realized that Shakuntala was hurt and angry. The man she had loved and broken her heart...But Sage Kanva realized that the only way for Shakuntala to gain her rightful place was to send Shakuntala to Dushyanta.
He spoke to her, ‘Shakuntala! It is time for you to go to your husband!’ Shakuntala looked at Sage Kanva as if she had been electrocuted. She looked angrily at Sage Kanva. ‘I don’t want to go to him! Why should I? He does not even remember...’ Shakuntala choked down a sob unable to go on.
Sage Kanva looked at Shakuntala and looked at her steadily, ‘You love him! You will have to go to him! If not for yourself, then atleast go for your son! He is meant to be an emperor! He will properly be brought up there in the palace and learn the things that a king should learn!’
Shakuntala was fuming but deep down she realized that her father was asking her to go because that was what would make her happy….
The next day Sage Kanva spoke with Sarvadhaman when Shakuntala was nearby, ‘Both of you would be leaving for King Dushyanta’s kingdom. Your mother has to go back to her husband...You will have to accompany her..’
The little boy frowned, ‘If she wants to go, she can go...’ The boy said pointing at Shakuntala. ‘I am not leaving my home.’
Sage Kanva told him gently, ‘That will be your home from now on...’
The boy looked at him suspiciously, ‘You are sending me away because of my latest antics, isn’t it? If you do not like what I did to that tiger, I will not do it...’ The young boy said it so earnestly and Sage Kanva felt a tear in his eye. ‘I will not do anything you don’t like, but please don’t send me away...’
Sage Kanva looked at the young face and realized that life without his grandson and daughter would be very difficult. But then he knew what he had to do and he also knew that it had to be done. He looked at the little boy and said with amused eyes, ‘If you don’t like it there, you can come back here, anytime...’
The young boy’s face broke open into a beautiful smile, ‘Promise?’ He asked. The sage nodded his head happily.
With tears in his eyes, Sage Kanwa bid goodbye to his daughter and his grandson. He sent some people of his hermitage along with Shakuntala and Sarvadhaman, to properly present the story to King Dushyant...
As they reached the kingdom, the people looked at the coming group of people with wonder. A beautiful woman with sad eyes was clutching the hands of a majestic and brave boy surrounded by people from the ashrama. Who were these people? What did they want?
The people had never seen people from hermitages before. They pointed at them. Some jeered...some sneered...some talked...The only person who found all this exciting was Sarvadhaman. The other people accompanying Shakuntala were annoyed. They turned to Shakuntala, ‘Shakuntala! We will not come with you after this!’
Shakuntala looked frightened as she gripped their hands, ‘Why? Please...Please do not leave me here alone...Please...’
The hermitage people smiled. ‘Shakuntala! Your father is sure that you can handle whatever happens...We are also sure that you can handle anything...We have observed all the omens on the way. They are very good omens! Go ahead and talk to the king! But from here on, your journey is alone...’
Shakuntala looked at her friends and feeling a little scared tightly held the hands of Sarvadhaman. I am his mother and I have come here for him...She realized. It was at that minute that Shakuntala felt strong and powerful. She nodded to her friends who turned back from the capital streets.
Once her friends had left, Shakuntala clutched Sarvadhaman’s hands and led him towards the king’s court. As she walked the people gawked at her. Never before had the people seen such a beautiful woman...The boy who was with her looked majestic and brave...
‘She looks like Goddess Shree...’
‘I think she is not from earth...She must be an apsara...’
‘Look at the boy! He looks like he can rip apart a tiger with his own hands...’
‘Oh my God! This boy resembles our King Dushyanta! Who are these two people?...’
The people followed Shakuntala all the way to the King’s court. The whispers almost broke her resolve. Shakuntala wanted to turn and run away. Only the thought of Sarvadhaman kept her moving ahead.
She entered the court and from far saw Dushyanta sitting on the throne, proud and regal, like Lord Indra. Shakuntala also felt unhappy, her wounds opened suddenly...Why had this man forgotten all about her?
Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala and realizing that she had come to the court, with a boy, he said, ‘Who are you? What brings you here?’
Shakuntala felt like the words had pierced her. She spoke quietly to Sarvadhaman, ‘Son! Go and salute your father, the king!’
All the people in the court were dumbstruck. The woman was the wife of the King? How could that be? Dushyanta looked at Sarvadhaman who had saluted him.
‘Father? What lie is this? Who are you?’ Dushyanta said angrily staring at Shakuntala.
Shakuntala looked at Dushyanta, ‘King! I am Shakuntala, the daughter of Sage Vishwamitra and the apsara Menaka! I am the adopted daughter of Sage Kanva! You met me in my hermitage, when you were driving away wild animals from our neighbouring village! There you married me by gandharva ritual! This is the son we have! You promised me that the child born to us would be the monarch after you! I have come here to make sure you keep your promise...’ Shakuntala wanted to also say that ‘You promised to bring me to your kingdom in a manner befitting a queen!’ But she held her tongue.
Dushyanta looked at Shakuntala and said, ‘I married you? What lies are this? I don’t remember any such thing...You are making up stories...’
The people looked at Shakuntala, who stood in the centre of the court poised and perfect, her eyes smoldering. Every one of them was thinking...This woman does not seem like she is lying...Then what is happening here...Who is this woman...The people again pointed at her and started talking.
Shakuntala was past caring. She was not here to fight for her rights as the queen to this man. She was here to give Sarvadhaman his right to rule. She was here as a mother...
She looked at Dushyanta with angry eyes, ‘Lying is equal to killing...How can you even commit such a crime without blinking?...Don’t you feel ashamed of denying being the father of such a noble boy? Just look at him...How can you deny being his father or how can you deny being married to me?’
The court now stirred restlessly looking at Shakuntala, more and more convinced that she was speaking the truth. Shakuntala continued, ‘I came here to the great King Dushyanta from the line of the Puraravas, thinking you were just and truthful...I don’t care whether you deny our relationship or not...but remember this and remember this well! I have been a faithful wife to you and you alone for all these years! With my power...’ Shakuntala said looking around the court, ‘I can destroy this court and your kingdom and bring it down to nothing...’ The people looked fearfully at Dushyanta who himself looked a little pale. Shakuntala continued, ‘It is not like I have no home of my own! I will be welcomed back in Sage Kanva’s hermitage like a queen! And also know this, my son...’ Shakuntala said pointing at Sarvadhaman with pride, ‘...is destined to be a great emperor!’ Shakuntala’s eyes looked ready to shoot fire as she continued, ‘This was told to me none other than Lord Indra, himself! I will raise him to be an emperor either with or without your help!’
Everyone in the court looked a little shaken. None of them had any doubts in the words of the lady. Shakuntala clutched Sarvadhaman’s hands and turned back without even looking back. She had not even crossed the hall, when the entire court was filled with a heavenly voice, ‘Dushyanta! Shankuntala speaks the truth! As a Kuru king, it was your duty to speak the truth. Call your wife back and accept her! Sarvadhaman is destined to be the greatest Kuru King ever. He will be called as ‘Bharatha’ henceforth’ [In Sanskrit ‘Bhara’ means honour and ‘tha’ means guard.]. The anger of a righteous woman can destroy countries…Apologize to her and bring her back now, before it was too late!’
Dushyanta looked at the people and at Shakuntala and smiled. He went near her and held her hands, ‘My Queen! I am sorry, but there was no other way!’
Shakuntala and all the people of the court looked bewildered as the king continued, ‘This was the only way I could make sure that the people believed that we really were married and that Bharatha is my son and has rights to the throne after me!’ He held Shakuntala and took her and Sarvadhaman back to the throne, ‘Now people would never question the rule of Bharatha! I am sorry, my queen, if my words hurt you! I am very sorry indeed!’
Shakuntala realizing that it was all a ploy readily forgave her husband and lived as his queen…
True to the prophecy, Bharatha ruled the kingdom after Dushyanta. Bharatha was a brilliant ruler, kind and compassionate….He ruled almost the whole of India…that is the reason India is called as Bharat even now….
From the Mahabharatha