Gathering together fifteen papers presented at a two-day international conference at Miranda House (University of Delhi) in January 2010, Revisiting Abhijnanasakuntalam presents a richly fascinating follow-up to Romila Thapar’s ground-breaking 1999 study first published in New Delhi by Kali for Women, Shakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories. Grouped together under three headings—‘The Biography of a Narrative,’ ‘The Hero King,’ and ‘Of Love, Marriage and Family’—the collection taken as a whole ‘focuses on the continuity as well as the change in the narrative of Shakuntala and Dushyanta and the interface between literature and social contexts’ (p. 13). Contributors range from well-known Sanskritists examining primary sources to historians of performance, visual arts, and gender studies; Revisiting Abhijnanasakuntalam thus offers a diverse, complex, and finely detailed portrait of the enduring legacy of Kalidasa’s play, its antecedents, and its echoes and reiterations in the colonial and postcolonial world. Space constraints unfortunately do not permit a sustained engagement with the arguments and details of each article; rather, the following review will sketch out the main contours of each section, noting particular points of interest.
January 2013, volume 1, No 1