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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing From The Archive

Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories

Book: Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories
Written by: Romila Thapar (English)
Published by: Columbia University Press, 1999

In this book, historian Romila Thapar explores different narratives of the figure of Shakuntala. The author follows the transformation of Shakuntala, from an autonomous assertive figure in the Mahabharata to the quintessential submissive woman in Kalidasa’s play, Abhijnanashakuntalam and through readings of several Indian and European texts, including versions of the Mahabharata and eighteenth-century katha in Braj. Thapar brings into the discourse the various commentaries on this material analyzing the nuanced links between culture, history, and gender. She demonstrates that reading Shakuntala in varied historical contexts is not only a way to interpret the representation of the “woman” in India through the centuries, but “becomes an appropriate entry point for looking at facets of the history of that time.”

“A popular theme becomes multi-layered because of its varying forms: perhaps some of the many pasts which contributed to its present form can be prised apart. The present selects items from the past which are used to invent or refashion what comes to be called a ‘tradition’. These are generally items which the present finds attractive and which legitimize its various codes of behavior and belief. The making of a tradition becomes yet another dialogue with the past. It is often a perceived past which contributes to the construction of history, although in effect it may well derive from the perspectives of the present.” (Pg.4)

Sakuntala- Texts, Readings, Histories-converted