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Chapter 2: The Encounter

Chapter 2: The Encounter


The monarch, Dushmanta, proceeded to the hermitage of the Rishi Kanwa, accompanied by his retinue. As he approached the entrance, he left his entourage behind, entering the abode alone. The Rishi was nowhere to be found, and an eerie silence greeted him. He called out loudly, “What ho, who is here?” The only response was the echo of his own voice.


Suddenly, a beautiful maiden emerged from the Rishi’s abode. Her features were as lovely as Sri, the goddess of beauty, and her ascetic attire belied her radiant appearance. The king was taken aback by her beauty and charm. She introduced herself with a smile, “I am the daughter of the Rishi Kanwa. Welcome, O King.”


The maiden’s black eyes sparkled as she received the king with respect, offering him a seat, water to wash his feet, and Arghya, a ceremonial offering. She inquired about his health and peace, and the king, in turn, asked about the Rishi’s whereabouts. The maiden replied that her father had gone to fetch fruit and would return soon.


As the king waited, he couldn’t help but notice the maiden’s captivating beauty, her sweet smiles, and her faultless features. Her ascetic penances and humility only added to her allure. The king, smitten, asked her to tell him about herself, and she responded with a smile.


“I am Sakuntala, the daughter of the virtuous Rishi Kanwa. My father has gone to fetch fruit, and he will return soon.” The king’s curiosity was piqued, and he pressed her for more information.


“O beautiful one, gifted with so much beauty and virtue, how have you come into the woods? You have stolen my heart with one glance. I desire to learn all about you,” the king said, his words laced with admiration.


Sakuntala, unfazed by the king’s forwardness, replied, “I am the daughter of the Rishi Kanwa, a virtuous and wise ascetic.”


The king’s curiosity deepened, and he asked, “The universally-worshipped Rishi Kanwa, renowned for his rigid vows, cannot be thy father. How is it that thou hast been born as his daughter?”


Sakuntala’s smile hinted at a fascinating tale, and she began to recount her story. “Hear, O King, what I have learned regarding all that befell me of old and how I became the daughter of the Muni.”


The king leaned in, entranced by the maiden’s words.


“Viswamitra, a powerful Rishi, once alarmed Indra, the chief of the celestials, with his austerest penances. Indra, fearing Viswamitra might usurp his throne, commanded Menaka, a celestial Apsara, to tempt the Rishi and disrupt his penances. Menaka, hesitant at first, eventually agreed to undertake the task.”


Sakuntala’s eyes sparkled as she continued her tale.


“Menaka, with the aid of Marut, the god of wind, and Manmatha, the god of love, set out to tempt Viswamitra. She entered the Rishi’s retreat, sporting before him, and Marut stole her garments, leaving her bashful and annoyed. Viswamitra, witnessing her beauty, was overcome with lust and invited her to stay with him. They spent a long time together, and I, Sakuntala, was born of their union.”


The king listened, entranced, as Sakuntala spoke of her parents’ union.


“Menaka, ashamed of her actions, abandoned me on the banks of the river Malini, in the heart of the Himalayas. My father, Kanwa, discovered me, surrounded by vultures, who protected me from harm. He took me in, and I have come to regard him as my father.”


The king’s eyes widened as he absorbed the tale, his fascination with the maiden growing with each passing moment. Sakuntala’s story was a testament to the power of love and desire, even among the gods and Rishis.





Status: Ongoing Type: Native Language: Hindi
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient Indian literature, the other being the Ramayana. It is an epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes. The Mahabharata consists of over 100,000 shlokas or over 200,000 individual verse lines (each shloka is a couplet), and long prose passages. It is a text of immense importance in Indian culture and philosophy, and is revered as a sacred scripture.


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