Week 3 Essay/Essay 1
Heckel 1 Annie Heckel Professor Harper LITR201 28 September 2014 Dear Professor Harper, I decided to write on the dharma in The Sakuntala and The Ramayana prompt because I found it very interesting how these two works use the concept in parallel but different ways. I wanted to try to articulate what those differences were in my paper. I did not have to choose what works to write on, but I did enjoy reading these two works. I think my essay is strong because it has a good thesis and I keep the focus of the essay on that thesis all the way through. I think that I also chose strong examples from both works to use as support. The area that I think may be weak i s in the analysis of my evidence, and I would like feedback on that. Did I explain the evidence well enough, or are there still some parts of it that need to be better explained? -Annie Heckel 2 Annie Heckel Professor Harper LITR201 28 September 2014 Love Over Al l: Love’s Triumph Over Dharma in The Sakuntala In Hindu culture and belief, th e idea of “dharma” or duty is an important concept that shapes the life of individuals on many levels. When viewed through the lens of an individual’s caste, it dictates what sorts of work that individual can do, as well as how the person must respond to others of higher or lower castes, something we see in The Sakuntala in the scene with the fisherman . In the individual’s personal life, dharma can require a person to respond in certain ways to family members or other members of society, as shown in the section of The Ramayana where King Dasaratha m ust grant Queen Kaikeyi’s request that he exile his beloved son Rama even though the exile is unfair and against Dasaratha’s wishes . When considering The Sakuntala and The Ramayana together, however, there are significant differences in the role that dharma plays in the story. Duty in the Sakuntala is more of backdrop in the setting of the story , an assumed quantity, and only when it is violated does it really become noticeable. Rat her than the emphasis being on dharma, as it is in The Ramayana , the main focus of The Sakuntala is on love, and dharma’s influence is secondary to the power of love. Early on in The Sakuntala , we do see dharma featured as a way to establish the main chara cters as upright and good people. Dushyanta’s acquiescence to the hermits’ requests, and deference to the hermits is an example of this (Kalidasa 379 -382) . Dushyanta’s honorable response to the hermits, who as priests are of a higher social status than Dus hyanta, can be seen Heckel 3 as a manifestation of dharma because it shows Dushyanta know s and respects his place in the caste system. This knowledge and respect of the caste system is also shown in Dushyanta’s wish that Sakuntala might be “sprung from a caste di fferent from that of the Head of the hermitage” (Kalidasa 384) ; cross -caste marriages are not considered appropriate, and Dushyanta hopes that dharma will not prevent their union. He knows that if Sakuntala is of the same caste as Kanwa, the head of the he rmitage, then Dushyanta, being of a different caste, cannot marry Sakuntala without violating social restrictions, something he is not willing to do. Another manifestation of dharma in The Sakuntala is shown through the importance of Sakuntala’s prop er observance of the rites of hospitality. Correct adherence to rites of hospitality is shown on p. 386, when Sakuntala and her attendants are careful to offer Dushyanta the appropriate greetings and actions of welcome. However, later on in the play, it is these same rites that become the ma in cause of conflict when they are not observed. Sakuntala is daydreaming of Dushyanta, and therefore the duty of respectful greeting owed to Durvasas is neglected, causing Durvasas to utter the curse that makes Dushyant a forget Sakuntala: He, even he of whom thou thinkest, he Shall think no more of thee; nor in his heart Retain thine image. Vainly shalt thou strive To waken his remembrance of the past; He shall disown thee, even as the sot, Roused from his midnight drunkenness, denies The words he uttered in his revellings. (Kalidasa 415) Durvasas’ curse here specifically focuses on the object of Sakuntala’s daydream — it is an “eye for an eye” kind of punishment that could be considered “instant karma ” for her neglect of duty. Heckel 4 Love has caused duty to be forgotten, so in order to enforce the importance of duty, love must be forgotten in turn. This “eye for an eye” curse for violating dharma might seem to indicate that duty is considered more important th an love since at this point in the play, neglect of duty causes love to be lost . Love, however, and the romantic relationship between Dushyanta and Sakuntala, triumph in the end; duty becomes just an agent used to add the conflict that drives the plot. In the conflict between love and duty, love ends up winning out ; Durvasas, being somewhat mollified by Priyamvada, is willing to provide a way for his curse to be broken, even though Sakuntala never actually rouses herself to greet him or beg forgiveness. In the Ramayana, by contrast, duty seems to be a much stronger theme; it is duty, not love, that drives the characters themselves the most, and duty will even interfere with the motivations driven by love, as is the case with Dasaratha’s constraint by dut y to Queen Kaikeyi when he is forced to exile his beloved son Rama. If duty were not paramount, Dasaratha would not give in to what he knows to be Kaikeyi’s jealousy — his love and respect for Rama would instead win. However, because Dasaratha has made an oa th to grant Kaikeyi’s request, he is forced by his duty to fulfill his word to do something repugnant to him and his love for his son. Similarly, the problems with Rama and Sita’s relationships after each time she has been kidnapped show this issue of duty winning over love. Where in a love -focused story we might expect that “love conquerors all” and Rama would have faith that Sita was pure, we instead see that Sita must fulfill the demands of duty and prove her purity. By contrast, in Sakuntala, love is the primary motivation, driver of action, and ideal. In the end, Sakuntala does not have to prove her purity; it is instead Dushyanta must prove his love, as we eavesdrop on his lamentations along with the nymph Sanumati in Act VI (Kalidasa 446 -460). Dushya nta’s lovesick behavior Heckel 5 and his subsequent obedience to the gods are what prove him worthy of recovering his lost wife and meeting his superhuman son. All in all, love is the focus in Sakuntala, and while dharma has a place, it is more as a backdrop than a s a central theme. When reading The Sakuntala in conjunction with The Ramayana , where dharma is the main theme, it is very clear how small a role dharma and karma play in the story of Dushyanta and Sakuntala. Though d uty drives the action of The Sakuntala and helps to show the audience what the characters are like , love is the main theme and the final triumphant force of the play . Heckel 6 Works Cited Kalidasa. The Sakuntala . Trans. Sir Monier Monier -Williams. World Literature Through the Renaissance . Ed. William Overton and Linda Silva. Vol. 2. Charles Town, WV: APUS E -Press, 2011. 375 -480. Web. 5 September 2011. Valmiki. The Ramayana . Trans. Romesh C. Dutt. World Literature Through the Renaissance . Ed. William Overton and Linda Silva. Vol. 2. Charles Town , WV: APUS E -Press, 2011. 323 -372. Web. 5 September 2011.