Raja Ravi Verma’s Shakuntala depicts the lovelorn Shakuntala, an Indian epical character in the most precise form of emotion that the scene embodies. The painting is the pictorial representation of a section from act one of Abhijnanasakuntalam by Kalidasa.
“Sakuntala: See, my foot has been pricked by the needle-like points of fresh blades of Kusa-grass, and my bark-garment is caught in the twigs of this amaranth bush. Wait for me a while I free myself.
Then she follows her friends, gazing at the king all the time.
Created in 1898 with the medium being oil on canvas, Raja Ravi Verma’s academic realistic style of painting distinguished him from others and produced well-deserved recognition in the field of Indian art during the presence of Indian aristocracy including the Royals. His art was available to all hence the availability led to a massive democratization of art making it an important piece of literature as we continually see and witness in our studies
The painting brings in front of you the scene in its very live form where the thorn symbolizes Shringār Rasa, Even though Dusyaant is missing from the picture but the thorn is merely enough to take all the attention away from Sakuntala even in his absence. So, this makes one question the purpose of the portrayal of women in the picture. Is it only for their feminine beauty? Or are they just support actors for the protagonist that here would be Dusyaant.
If one sees the painting from the perspective of gender then Mandakini*, Prof. Ila Gupta, and Prof. Pashupati Jha have very well tried to make literati’s aware of the gender factor via their essay entitled “Gender and space in the paintings of Raja Ravi Verma and Amrita Sher-Gill”, where they while drawing the comparison also point towards the lack of feminine conversation and representation in the painting. “The space of these paintings is occupied with male-dominated hegemony”.
The arguments over the painting are necessary to put forward as it changes the way we look at art. If put in a more precise way looking at art with feminist discourse.
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Written By: Aakansha Dassi
Editor ad Team Lead: Ashutosh Sharma
Sources for the article:
- Kalidasa – The Loom of Time, (Translated and edited by Chandra Rajan)
- Image Credits: https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/57f0b8c859cc68fe6a908fb7/1568544190190-8I6MJRPGC0PUPIEJJXAG/shakuntala-by-raja-ravi-varma-famous-indian-art-handmade-oil-painting-on-canvas.jpg?format=1000w