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How does Shakuntala represent the feminine ideal of Indian women in Mahabharata, and when does she fall short of that ideal?

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There are two characteristics of Shakuntala and her story which render it all but inevitable that she should represent the ideal of Indian womanhood. The first is the significant role she plays in India's greatest epic, the Mahabharata. The importance of the Mahabharata in Hindu religion and culture makes it only natural that any heroic figure who features in it should serve as an archetype and a pattern. However, Shakuntala also appears in the works of many later Indian writers, the most celebrated being Kalidasa's play The Sign of Shakuntala. Although Shakuntala is very much the heroine of the play and is intended to be a focus for admiration and even veneration, Kalidasa altered her character considerably, focusing on her loyalty and gentleness rather than her strong will. The two versions of her character have different virtues and can therefore serve as models for differing ideals of Indian womanhood.

The Shakuntala of the Mahabharata is notable for her pride and strength of character. When...

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