Student Question

What is the relationship between nature and humans in Abhijnanasakuntalam?

Quick answer:

The relationship between nature and human in Abhijnanasakuntalam is very intimate. To a considerable extent, the natural world reflects the inner states of the main characters. In particular, nature reflects the emotions, such as Shakuntala's deep desires. There's something almost romantic about the attachment that she develops towards the trees she tends at the hermitage.

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There's something decidedly proto-Romantic about the relationship between nature and humans in Abhijnanasakuntalam. Throughout the play, a close, intimate connection can be observed between the two that suggests the hidden unity of the cosmos, which is such an important component of Hindu belief. Far from the modern attitude towards nature, which sees the environment as an object of exploitation and control, the traditional Hindu attitude toward nature is one of respect and almost familial affection.

We can observe this attitude in Shakuntala's loving tenderness towards the trees that she takes care of at the hermitage. These trees are more than just features of the natural world; they are a part of Shakuntala, just as, according to traditional Hindu teachings, she is a part of them. As they are both part of the same cosmos, they live entirely in harmony with one another.

More than that, the trees, in common with the natural world as it is depicted in the play, form the outward expression of interior emotional states. Shakuntala's favorite jasmine tree, known as Light of the Forest, takes on a symbolic role, representing as it does the love that she will soon develop for King Dushyanta. The joyous natural union between the jasmine and the mango tree has much the same effect, hinting at the romantic connection that will soon develop between the young, innocent maiden and the more worldly monarch.

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