Sakoontala or the Lost Ring eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 179 pages of information about Sakoontala or the Lost Ring.
Deluge.  The son of Dushyanta, by [S’]akoontala, was Bharata, from whom India is still called by the natives Bharata-varsha.  After him came Samvarana, Kuru, Santanu, Bhishma, and Vyasa.  The latter was the father of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, the quarrels of whose sons form the subject of the great Sanskrit epic poem called Maha-bharata, a poem with parts of which the audience would be familiar, and in which they would feel the greatest pride.  Indeed the whole story of [S’]akoontala is told in the Maha-bharata.  The pedigree of [S’]akoontala, the heroine of the drama, was no less interesting, and calculated to awaken the religious sympathies of Indian spectators.  She was the daughter of the celebrated Vi[s’]wamitra, a name associated with many remarkable circumstances in Hindu mythology and history.  His genealogy and the principal events of his life are narrated in the Ramayana, the first of the two epic poems which were to the Hindus what the Iliad and the Odyssey were to the Greeks.  He was originally of the regal caste; and, having raised himself to the rank of a Brahman by the length and rigour of his penance, he became the preceptor of Ramachandra, who was the hero of the Ramayana, and one of the incarnations of the god Vishnu.  With such an antecedent interest in the particulars of the story, the audience could not fail to bring a sharpened appetite, and a self-satisfied frame of mind, to the performance of the play.

Although in the following translation it has been thought expedient to conform to modern usage, by indicating at the head of each Act the scene in which it is laid, yet it is proper to apprise the English reader that in scenery and scenic apparatus the Hindu drama, must have been very defective.  No directions as to changes of scene are given in the original text of the play.  This is the more curious, as there are numerous stage directions, which prove that in respect of dresses and decorations the resources of the Indian theatre were sufficiently ample.

It is probable that a curtain suspended across the stage, and divided in the centre, answered all the purposes of scenes.  Behind the curtain was the space or room called nepathya, where the decorations were kept, where the actors attired themselves, and remained in readiness before entering the stage, and whither they withdrew on leaving it.  When an actor was to enter hurriedly, he was directed to do so ’with a toss of the curtain.’

The machinery and paraphernalia of the Indian theatre were also very limited, contrasting in this respect unfavourably with the ancient Greek theatre, which appears to have comprehended nearly all that modern ingenuity has devised.  Nevertheless, seats, thrones, weapons, and chariots, were certainly introduced, and as the intercourse between the inhabitants of heaven and earth was very frequent, it is not improbable that there may have been aerial contrivances to represent the chariots of celestial beings, as on the Greek stage.  It is plain, however, from the frequent occurrence of the word natayitwa, ‘gesticulating,’ ‘acting,’ that much had to be supplied by the imagination of the spectator, assisted by the gesticulations of the actors.

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Sakoontala or the Lost Ring from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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