DUSHYANTA, SAKUNTALA AND BHARATA
Janamejaya asked the chronicler, Vaishampayana, to tell him in a chronological order the careers of Puru, son of Yayati, and his successors who ran the administration in tune with the principles of dharma. Yayati belonged to the period of transition from the puritanical laws based on truth, satya, to the liberal laws based on dharma. The transition was over by the end of the Vedic era. Janamejaya wanted the senior member of the constitution bench (the Brahmanasreshta) to explain how Bharata became king (bypassing the former who too was a son of Dushyanta).
According to Vaishampayana, Puru, a rich and eminent king (raja-sreshta) governed the state (rajya) as an overlord (adipatya) on the same lines of dharma as his father, Yayati, did. He exercised military powers equal to Indra. Puru had three sons of whom Pravira, a great warrior later expanded his kingdom. Isvara and Raudrasva were the other two sons of Puru according to this account. Praviras son, Manasyu with his three generals (sons) brought the entire country surrounded by seas on all the four sides under his control.
Raudrasva was a gandharva warrior attached to the cadre of nobles known as Rudras. He had several sons by an apsaras. Contact with the Rudras seems to have made them be particular in performing sacrifices and get educated through hearing sermons and also master archery. The Rudras gave importance to ways of life based on the principles of dharma. They were not after wealth (artha) and pleasure (kama). Raudrasva might not have been the same as Purus son.
Among the many sons of Raudrasva, Anadrshti became the sole king of the commonalty (bhumi) and exercised powers equal to what Indra exercised over the nobles (devas). He was a scholar and also a powerful ruler. His son, Matinara, performed Rajasuya and Asvamedha sacrifices and secured immense authority over the vassals. He functioned within the provisions of the code based on the principles of dharma. Tamsu, son of Matinara, conquered several regions. Dushyanta was a son of Ilila, a son of Tamsu. Janamejaya was Dushyantas son by Lakshi. Bharata was born to Dushyanta by Sakuntala, the chronicler said. The greatness of the Bharatas was because of him.
According to this chronology, Nahusha, Yayati, Puru, Pravira and Manasyu ran the Puru line. Raudrasva, Anadrshti, Matinara, Tamsu, Ilila and Dushyanta preceded Bharata. Tamsu must have been a Druhyu and a contemporary of Puru and Dushyanta a contemporary of Manasyu. It is not sound to presume that each of these rulers exercised power for several decades and that each of them was the natural son of his predecessor. Most of them were prominent members of the oligarchy that took over power after the exit of the predecessor.
Dushyanta and the Plutocratic State
Janamejaya told the head (bhagavan) of the academy of jurists and intellectuals that he wanted to hear in detail about the birth and achievements of Bharata whom he deemed to be a great personage (mahatma). Then Vaishampayana, addressing him as a prominent leader of the Bharatas, began to dilate on the achievements of Dushyanta who he said continued the lineage of the Pauravas. Dushyanta, grandson of a Drhyu was at first the protector (rakshaka) of an island surrounded by sea on all four sides. It may be recalled that Yayati had despatched Drhyu to distant islands angered by his refusal to oblige his father by exchanging Yayatis age for his youth.
Dushyanta emerged as a conqueror of numerous islands located amidst rich coral reefs and also all the areas whose native population had accepted the scheme of four classes (varnas). Of course his conquests ended on the borders beyond which the aliens (mlecchas) lived. All the regions (desas), which had been divided into four zones, mountains, forests, moors and plains, came under his suzerainty. When Dushyanta was king none transgressed the code of classes (varnas). His was a plutocratic state, which did not permit any one to till the lands or operate mines independently. All the wealth of the land belonged to the state. The chronicler says that there was no sinner in his country. It was a rich and tough state.
Addressing Janamejaya as purushasreshta, a rich social leader of the plutocratic society, Vaishampayana said that when Dushyanta was the king of the different provinces (desas) the commoners (manushyas) followed the code based on dharma which permitted methods of earning both socio-cultural benefits (dharma) and economic (artha) gains. Unlike the people of the forests and mountains and the moors, (where tilling of lands and mining without the permission of the state were banned and which were outside agriculture), the commonalty of the plains was not brought under state control. It was governed by the code of dharma even on matters pertaining to economic activities. [The chronicler said that when Dushyanta ruled the country there was no fear of thieves or of starvation and disease. Of course this was the usual way of eulogising a king.] All the classes (varnas) obeyed the king and were satisfied in performing their duties as prescribed in the code without depending on the nobles (devas). The nobility had no control over the commonalty which was directly under the king.
Vaishampayana implied that this plutocrat-king banned cultivation and private mining in non-agricultural areas and exercised strict control over those areas. Their population had been brought under the scheme of four varnas. Both socio-cultural (dharma) and politico-economic (artha) codes were made applicable to those areas where entrepreneurs functioning with the permission of the king could become rich but not be owners of lands. The population of the agricultural plains too had been classified but they were autonomous and were governed by the codes of dharma. Dushyanta and the commonalty did not enjoy the support of the aristocracy. He ignored them and they too ignored him and his people. Dushyanta's was not an integrated society.
The plutocrats who had precious stones at their disposal could purchase the surplus of the agricultural produce from the commoners of the plains and were governed by codes different from those prevailing in the agrarian society of the plains. The pastoral society of the moors was under the jurisdiction of the commercial society of the plutocrats and the miners who were engaged by them. The aristocrats were isolated thereby. Agriculture was dependent on rains. Industry had not developed and hence waters of rivers could not be harnessed through dams.
The Brahmans, the jurists and teachers, were particular in fulfilling their duties (dharma). They followed the code based on truth (satya). Vaishampayana implied that though the commonalty and the other society of the plutocrats and proletariat followed the dharma codes, the social universes, which were not organised as settled communities followed the codes based on laws of nature, rta, the judiciary was tuned to the puritanical laws based on truth, satya.
In short, in the plutocratic state of Dushyanta, a Drhyu, agrarian economy was governed by dharma code while the pastoral economy, and industrial economy and trade were governed by both dharma and artha codes. There was a vast population which had no homes and no vocations and was governed by the laws of nature, rta, leading to intense struggle for existence and survival of the fittest. But the judiciary was puritanical and invoked economic and social laws based on truth (satya).
Young, handsome, valiant and strong Dushyanta had mastered all martial arts. He was equal to Vishnu in strength and to Surya (Vivasvan) in brightness (tejas). He was however not compared with Sakra Indra and Manu Vaivasvata the two other great personages of the last decades of the Vedic era. But the chronicler would contrast him with Sagara (his contemporary) in whom there were some undesirable traits. He compared Dushyanta with the earth (bhumi) in patience. Summing up Dushyantas governance Vaishampayana said that he kept the native peoples (jana) of both the town (pura) and the country (rashtra) happy. The concept of paura-janapada had come to stay.
Janamejaya told the head (bhagavan) of the academy who knew the principles of social philosophy and was an outstanding intellectual that he was eager to hear in detail the biography of Bharata who was lauded for his great intellect and about the birth of Sakuntala. He wanted to know how the warrior and prominent social leader (purushasreshta) of the other economic society obtained her. We would not attend to hyperboles and romanticism that have marked all narrations about the relationship between Dushyanta and Sakuntala.
Dushyanta accompanied by a huge contingent of troops left the town for the forest on his hunting expedition. He looked like an Indra who could stop the elephants of the army of the enemy. The hordes of the enemy did not dare to stand against this prominent plutocratic leader (purushareshta) who like the Vasus, a cadre of nobles, was an expert in unarmed duels. Vaishampayana implied that like Indra, Dushyanta controlled both the treasury and the army. He was however essentially a Vasu, rich landlord, and was not trained in arms. His was an economic state and not a military state and his untrained troops had to depend on their physical strength and wrestling to overcome their opponents.
On his way he was received and extolled by the jurists and scholars of the frontier society, brahmanasreshtas. When the king who was equal to Indra left the town on an elephant, the people of the city (pura) and the country (desa) who had been classified as Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras, followed him for some distance. Then he switched to a chariot whose speed and sound rattled the commoners of the plains (bhumi) and the nobles who lived in their towns on hilltops (svarga) and went with his men to a wildlife sanctuary in the uninhabited desert for hunting. They hunted deer and wild animals until they were exhausted. The elephants of the forest crushed many of the hunters drawn from the commonalty. Of course the king had the privilege to kill the lions with his arrows.
After hunting several animals, along with his troops and vehicles Dushyanta reached a grove located a few miles away from the town. It had been assigned for scholars especially in herbs (siddhas) and scouts (charanas). Dushyanta bypassed that grove and entered another while chasing a deer. After resting for a while in a dilapidated building near that grove the archer went ahead and entered a huge and pleasant grove with many tall abodes and beautiful gardens.
Groups of siddhas, charanas, gandharvas, apsarases, kimpurushas and kinnaras were spread over all the vast area of that large garden. These were social universes (jagats) whose members were constantly on the move. They lived happily as individuals and were not organised as clans (kulas) and settled communities (jatis) but they had their specific orientations. They had no place in towns and villages though they could enter them at will. While moving about in that grove admiring their happy movements Dushyanta saw an abode lit with the flames of its sacred fire, agnihotra.
Dushyanta who was already married and had a queen (rajalakshmi) entered that abode of yatis and valakhilyas who were celibates since birth, (individual) sages (rshis) and groups of sages. Yatis though they were grhasthas, householders, did not take part in nor were interested in worldly gains. Valakhilyas were scientists and technocrats rather than philosophers. To the sages the kings visit to their abode (asrama) on the banks of Malini was an honour.
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya (who had conducted the infamous sarpayajna) that the rich and valiant king, Dushyanta, saw the abode of Kanva on the naturally beautiful banks of that river frequented by wild animals and great sarpas. These animals and sarpas felt secure and were not a threat to one another. The forest abode of Kanva on the banks of Malini looked like that of the two sages, Nara and Narayana located on the banks of Ganga. Dushyanta (a plutocrat by orientation) entered the grove and garden, which was rich like that of Chaitraratha, a Kubera, the plutocrat (yaksha) who exercised jurisdiction over the rich resources of the forests and mountains.
Dushyanta left behind his troops outside the grove telling them that he was proceeding to visit the sage Kanva who was shining brilliantly with his knowledge of Brahma and who had no trait of aggressiveness, rajas. Kanva was born in the Kashyapa gotra. He shared the orientations that marked Kashyapas societal approach. He had given up his wealth and traits of a king (rajan) and through his wealth of endeavour (tapas) become a scholar-cum-jurist (brahma). Kanva was Dushyantas uncle. Dushyanta was a king who for the commoners (manushyas) of the plains had the status of a charismatic and benevolent chief, Isvara. Normally the Isvaras had their seats in the forests and in forts near the towns and villages and were held in esteem by the population on the social periphery.
The rules of the abode of the sage required that no one should enter it with arms and in the paraphernalia of the king. Dushyanta left his crown and weapons outside and accompanied by his political guides (purohitas) and ministers entered the abode, which looked like the high academy of the intellectuals and jurists, Brahmaloka. Dushyanta, an eminent social leader (purushasreshta) witnessed the sacrifices performed there and listened to the Rgvedic hymns recited. Kanva was one of the major contributors to the Rgvedic anthology. The later annotator adds that he listened to the other Vedas and its ancillaries too. Experts in Atharva Veda were prominent among the sages present. The experts in Samaveda were offering sacrifices (yajna) to the discrete individuals (bhutas) of the social periphery where the asrama was located.
The later annotator says that the sages were experts in different sciences like etymology, phonetics, abstract reasoning (nyaya), knowledge of the self, principles of social laws (mimamsa), statements of different types, exemptions and special connotations (vaiseshika), the code pertaining to the fourth stage of life (mokshadharma), wrangling and establishing indisputable final positions (siddhanta), grammar, prosody etc. Some of these fields of study were developed only during the early post-Vedic era.
The annotator notes that the academy had experts in astronomy, economy (artha) and economic activities and their traits, languages of birds and men of the forests. There were scholars who based their stands on descriptive works (epics and sagas) and others who were experts in social control (lokayata). The later annotator says that the Rajasreshta, a plutocratic king witnessing the temple worship conducted by Brahmans felt as though he was in Brahmaloka. To be precise, the scholars were engaged in sanctifying the hall meant for the nobles (devas). The judges who were intellectuals had high regard for the aristocrats. According to the chronicler, Kashyapa had recommended this arrangement by which the nobles were present and were honoured when the scholars conducted their proceedings.
Dushyanta then entered alone Kanvas thatched hut but was annoyed to note that the sage was not present there. He was however received in a befitting manner by a young girl who was dressed like a sage (rshi). She asked him his purpose in visiting the holy abode of the great sage (maharshi, who was also a legislator). Dushyanta was impressed by the flawless and beautiful girl, who received him with honour. Dushyanta introduced himself as the son of the famous Rajarshi, Ilila. He declared that he had come to pay his respects to the highly experienced maharshi, Kanva and asked her where that head (bhagavan) of the academy had gone. Sakuntala told him that her father had gone out to fetch fruits and asked him to await his return.
Sakuntala and Visalaksha: Kshatriya Aristocratic Orientations
Dushyanta then told her that he was attracted by her beauty and wanted to know who she was and why she was in the grove. He said that he was born in the Puru lineage of Rajarshis (that is, scholars-cum-rulers who functioned under the Rajarshi constitution) and offered to marry her. He claimed that he never thought of girls who were not Kshatriyas, whether they were daughters of sages or belonged to lower or higher strata. He claimed that he was one who controlled his mind. He felt that she must be a Kshatriya girl as he had formed that opinion about her from her conduct. He would never try to think of a Brahman girl (as his wife).
He asked her to love him who loved her. He offered her a position as his queen. She should not think that he had any low intent. The chronicler hints that Sakuntala was known also as Visalakshi, one with wide eyes and as a follower of the school of Visalaksha, a socio-political thinker who upheld the interests and orientations of the Kshatriya aristocracy. She told the king that Kanva who was known for his high endeavour (tapas) and had definite thinking (chitta) and knew the code of dharma and was a great personage (mahatma) and the head (bhagavan) of the academy treated her as his daughter. Sakuntala told Dushyanta that she was not free to decide and act (svatantra) in matters pertaining to her. Kanva was her master and father. Dushyanta should tell him about his purpose and seek his permission.
It was not proper to do anything that was prohibited, she said. Dushyanta knew that on the issue of genetics Kanva was strict. [It is not sound to interpret that Kanva was particular about not letting his semen fall.] The Vedic official (devata) in charge of dharma might deviate from the code of conduct but Kanva, the disciplinarian, would not. Dushyanta wanted to know how she came to be a daughter born to Kanva. He asked her to remove his doubts.
Sakuntala would tell him what Kanva had told a sage about how she became his daughter. Indra who feared that Visvamitra might pull him down from his position deputed the talented apsaras, Menaka, to distract the sage and disturb his efforts (tapas). Menaka hesitated, as she knew about the anger of Visvamitra who had separated Vasishta from his sons. Though born in a Kshatriya community by his merit Visvamitra had become a Brahmana. He had created the huge river known now among the commonalty as Kausiki from a small fount useful only for bathing. He had named it as Bara to indicate that the river was always full.
Though easily irascible, Visvamitra was a liberal and officiated at the sacrifice, yajna, performed by an outcast, chandala. He was an enigma. He was unhappy with the then socio-economic class of Vaisyas, na-kshatras and created a new one of his vision. [This has later been taken to indicate a group of five stars.] Rajarshi Matanka who had once saved his wife later became Visvamitras protg, Trisanku. Visvamitra gave asylum to Trisanku against Vasishta.
Visvamitra was a Rajarshi, a political chieftain who followed the provisions of the Rajarshi constitution, which placed the powers of the judiciary in the hands of the scholar-king. But Vasishta was a Brahmarshi, a sage who was entitled to interpret the constitution, Brahma, which subordinated the executive and political power to the judiciary.
The nobles (devas) did not approve of the steps taken by Visvamitra in his capacity as Rajarshi to legalise the gifts offered by the person outcast by Vasishta, the Brahmarshi, in accordance with the provisions of the socio-political constitution. They destroyed the tools that the outcast used in his sacrifice. The highly powerful and independent ruler, Visvamitra, made new instruments and continued the rites. He also despatched Trisanku to the exclusive enclave (svarga) of the autonomous nobles (devas). Menaka was hence afraid of approaching Visvamitra and distracting his attention. He would burn her if she dared to touch him.
As Rajarshi, Visvamitra had the powers of Agni, the civil judge who directed the social world of the commoners (manushyas), and also those of Surya and Chandra (Soma), who directed the two social worlds, the nobility (devas) and the frontier society of the forests and mountains (antariksham). He had also the powers of Yama, the powerful magistrate who could pronounce even death sentence for serious offences.
Menaka told Indra that even the chief magistrate (Yama) and the great intellectual (Soma) and the legislators (maharshis) and the perfect sages (saddhyas) and all the nobles (devas) and also the masters of scientific knowledge (valakhilyas) trembled before Visvamitra. Indra should suggest a way to protect her if she went on their mission. She wanted the help of Vayu (wind) and Manmatha (an aromatic herb, the god of Eros) and Indra provided them. Then she went to the abode of Visvamitra. Thus Kanva told the inquisitive sage the events behind the circumstances that preceded Sakuntalas birth. (Ch.92 Adiparva)
The union between Menaka, an apsaras, and Rajarshi Visvamitra resulted in the birth of Sakuntala whom her mother left behind near the banks of Malini on the Himalayan slopes and went to the enclave of the nobles. Kanva saw the child protected from the wild animals by the birds, that is, by forestmen who bred birds. He learnt that she was the child of his friend, Visvamitra, who had left for his abode on the banks of Kausiki. They expected Kanva to be compassionate and bring up that child. As he had saved her life and brought her up, Kanva was her father. Visvamitra was her genetic father. As birds of the uninhabited forest protected her, Kanva named her as Sakuntala. Kanva declared her to be his daughter and Sakuntala thought of him as her father. She had not seen her genetic father. She thus told Dushyanta how she became Kanvas daughter.
Kshatriyas and Gandharva-Apsara Orientations: Rights of Women
Dushyanta was convinced that Sakuntala was a Kshatriya girl and proposed to marry her by the gandharva type of marriage, as it was the best for Kshatriyas. As a plutocratic king he offered her golden ornaments and precious stones and pearls and clothes and hides of different types received from different towns and also (the wealth of) his kingdom. But Sakuntala did not want to annoy her father. She preferred that he should give her away in marriage as for her the father was the authority and the chief official (devata, god in common parlance). She would accept as her husband the person to whom he gave her.
The later annotator makes her draw attention to the declaration that when a child a woman is protected by her father, in youth by her brother-in-law and in old age by her son. It was this declaration that required a married woman depend on her brother-in-law when her husband was away for battle or trade. The gandharva-apsara culture did not make the woman depend on her husband and required her to treat her husbands brother as her noble guardian (deva) and this close relation between the two has come to be honoured in several sections of the society down the ages. This orientation led to the legitimising of sex between the woman and her brother-in-law, an apsara orientation and the practice of niyoga.
This gandharva code prevented the girl from acting on her own accord (svatantra), a right enjoyed by the consorts of nobles (devas) and by the apsarases. She had to be under the watchful eyes of her brother before her marriage and her brother-in-law after her marriage when her husband was away. The dharmasastra accepted the mother as guardian of the unmarried girl, the husband as the guardian of the young wife and the son as the guardian of the aged mother and declared that a woman should never act independently. The practice to which Sakuntala drew attention was in vogue before dharmasastra was codified.
While Dushyanta claimed that Kanva was calm by nature, Sakuntala who held Kanva to be a Brahman feared to incense him by doing anything without his permission. The annotator says that anger is the weapon that the unarmed Brahman (judge) wields. The Brahmans destroy their enemies by anger even as Indra destroyed the asuras by his vajra (the spine given by Dadhichi). The king burns the guilty through his power to punish (danda) even as the civil judge (Agni) uses the flame (when one has to take oath) and the general (Surya) uses the arrows hot like the rays of the sun.
While the king could inflict corporal punishment on the disobedient subject, the civil judge could require the suspected perjurer to undergo the ordeal of fire and the general of the army as court martial could challenge the coward who fled the scene of battle to undergo deep scorching to prove his endurance. The judge (Brahmana) who presided over the constitution bench indicted the guilty, only by pronouncing angry words. Kanva was such a judge who was superior to the king and the civil judge and the general of the army and was more feared. Hence Sakuntala would not accept Dushyantas proposal.
Dushyanta knew Kanva and asserted that he would not get angry. He urged her to realise that one was ones own kin (bandhu, brother) and one had to depend on oneself and that according to the dharma code she was eligible to gift herself to another as svayamdatta, that is, choose to give herself to her lover, a version of personally selecting ones groom, svayamvara. The later annotator refers to the eight types of marriages mentioned in the dharmasastra, brahma, daiva, arsha, prajapatya, asura, gandharva, rakshasa and paisaca. He draws attention to which of these Svayambhuva Manu had lauded as dharma marriages. Brahmans were to treat the first four as the best and the Kshatriyas the first six.
On the eight types of Marriages
Kings could resort to rakshasa marriage. It was in fact tokenism calling upon them to protect the women who could not protect themselves and who did not have guardians. It however later emerged as marriage by conquest, a step taken by rakshasas, rebel militants, who resorted to kidnapping girls with intent to have sex with them. Vaisyas and Shudras could resort to Asura marriage. It was sale and purchase of girls and was despicable.
Only the first four, brahma, daiva, arsha and prajapatya and gandharva were considered as dharma marriages during the times of Manu Svayambhuva for they did not involve economic considerations or coercion or deception. Asura (purchase) and paisaca (deception) types of marriages were against dharma. Some later annotators were misled.
The pre-Svayambhuva society banned paisaca marriage for all classes and prescribed brahma, daiva, arsha and prajapatya for the Brahmans, Gandharva and Rakshasa for the Kshatriyas and Asura type for the other commoners, Vaisyas and Shudras. Dushyanta indicated that while he was entitled to forcibly carry Sakuntala away, he preferred to marry her by gandharva marriage, that is, with mutual consent.
She then told the rich Paurava king that if what he said was the path prescribed by dharma and if she was free (svatantra) to give herself in marriage (svayamdatta) he should promise to grant her what she asked for. This would be under the middle Vedic laws based on truth (satya), that is, commitment once made should be never retracted. The new laws based on dharma were not as intransigent on this issue as the old laws based on satya were.
Sakuntala demanded under the provisions of the laws based on satya that Dushyanta should declare that the son (Bharata), born to her by him would be his immediate successor as crown prince. [In Ramayana, Kaikeyi demanded a similar right, that her son (Bharata) would be the immediate successor of Dasaratha.] If this condition were to be fulfilled her marriage with him was possible, she said. Dushyanta did not hesitate to give her word that her son would succeed him. He would take her to his capital in due course in a befitting way, he said. They stayed together without any rites performed to solemnise the marriage. [Later annotators have claimed that rites were performed in secrecy.]
Dushyanta and the laws based on Satya and Dharma
Dushyanta left her assuring her that he would soon arrange to take her, in a formal way, with all honour to the capital. He did commit himself on the basis of the laws based on truth (satya), which were still in force, according to Sakuntala. He gave the impression that he had accepted the princess as his wife. He left after again embracing her assuring her that he would act in conformity with the socio-cultural laws based on dharma pertaining to his status as a rajanya. It was a period of transition from the laws based on satya and personal commitment to the laws, dharma, based on social obligations and social status. He left without staying back to apologise to Kanva.
Addressing him as Bharatasreshta, the chronicler told Janamejaya who ironically could only succeed Bharata though elder to him, that Sakuntala who had conquered her senses and organs used her right to act independently (svatantra) and thereby slipped from her personal duties (svadharma) realised her error and became afraid. Kanva guessed what had happened and asked her to narrate the facts. Kanva found that Dushyanta had not acted against the provisions of dharma governing his status and obligations. He also held that her union as a princess with a king was not wrong. He agreed that gandharva union was the best for Kshatriyas. [The later annotator adds that Kanva was under the impression that the marital rites had been gone through.]
Kanva held her husband, Dushyanta to be the best among social leaders (uttama purusha) and a great personage (mahatma) and as one interested in dharma. He prophesied that a famous and great son would be born to her and that he would rule the entire land (bhumi) surrounded by the seas. When that great emperor, chakravarti, and her son advanced against his enemies his army would never be blocked; it would have easy passage and there would be no need to resort to battles to subdue them. He regretted that he had delayed her marriage but added that Sakuntala had not sinned in choosing her spouse.
Sakuntala hoped that King Dushyanta, an uttama purusha whom she had accepted as her husband, would marry her in the presence of the nobles (devas). She requested Kanva to bless him and his ministers and help in ensuring that he continued to be devoted to dharma and did not err in governance. Kanva agreed and directed her not to depart from her vow to be true to her husband. (Ch.94 Adiparva)
Three years (to be rational, three months) passed and Sakuntala was bearing a child and yet no messenger from Dushyanta arrived at Kanvas abode. As suggested by Kanva, the wives of the sages advised her to deliver the child. They pointed out that one had to honour the words of ones father. An early annotator notes that Vishnu was honoured as the Vedic official (devata) who directed the activities of the nobles (devas). This might have been a reference to one Vishnuchakra who held the position of Indra and was said to have hauled up some followers of Bhrgu for being in possession of secret wealth. Vishnu referred to, might have belonged to a social cadre that was lower in rank to the cultural aristocracy of the core society of the agro-pastoral plains, but could lead and direct them.
The Brahmans acted according to the direction given by the official (devata) designated as Agni and by the Veda. This official too must have similarly belonged to a lower cadre of intellectuals and directed the activities of the commonalty. The two officials, Agni and Indra exercised considerable influence in the polity during the tenures of Dushyanta and Bharata.
But in the social polities like the one that Dushyanta headed where acquisition of wealth without strenuous work was valued these officials were drawn from a closed oligarchy surrounding the king rather than from the ranks which upheld the prestige of an impartial aristocracy and abided by the suggestions of a sagacious council of intellectuals. The form proposed by the Atharvan constitution was retained but the spirit was lost as the officials could not be bold and independent. The two officials might have been both brothers of Dushyanta. [The later annotator who has failed to appreciate this situation comments that a woman has to act as her brother-in-law directed.]
The latter was in the status of an official (devata) occupying the position of civil judge (Agni). The (native) people (jana) had to obey the instructions of the jurist (Brahman) who interpreted the constitution and was a Vedic official, devata. As her father and head (bhagavan) of the academy had instructed that she should deliver the child at the due time she should not postpone the delivery. Sakuntala agreed and delivered the child at the proper time.
The poet-chronicler then describes how the nobles (devas) and apsarases and sages residing in Kanvas academy welcomed the birth of the new powerful and liberal emperor. That child grew up in the forest while Dushyanta who was afraid of the sage, Kanva, did not invite Sakuntala to his palace. The child (Bharata) was known as Sarvadamana as he tamed all wild animals and wild men of the forests. The sage arranged for his education in the Vedas and in all types of arms and martial arts as he attained the age of twelve. (Ch.95 Adiparva)
Brahmarshi Kanva, a sage (rshi) who knew the provisions of the constitution, Brahma, noted that it was the proper time to get Sakuntalas son installed as crown prince and directed her to escort her son to Dushyanta. Kanva told her that he had already approved her marriage and had advised her to follow the vow to abide by the instructions of her husband. This vow also required her to attend on him which she could not as he had failed to take her to his place.
By her disciplined conduct she had become eligible to enter the punyalokas, that is, the cadres like vidyadharas, charanas, tapasas, chakshus, siddhas, gandharvas and apsarases whose members were either unmarried or lived alone though they had their lovers and spouses. On completion of the twelve-year period of penance and austerity associated with the concept of tapas Sakuntala would be entitled to join the commonalty (manushyaloka) and obtain huge wealth, Kanva said.
Instead of indicting Dushyanta, Kanva gave the king the benefit of doubt and advised her to go and please the king in her own interest and delight in her son being installed as crown prince. Approaching the high officials (devatas), the elders, the kings and the husbands, voluntarily instead of being summoned was always advantageous, Kanva pointed out. He ordered her to do what he wished to be done. He told his sons son (pautra) about Dushyanta, an emperor of the lunar group and of the Puru lineage. [Dushyanta was Kanvas brothers son and hence Sarvadamana was equal to Kanvas sons son.]
Bharata inherits the Paurava Kingdom
Kanva told the boy that his mother, Sakuntala, was that kings queen and that she wanted to go to her husband and that he would salute the king and obtain the paurava kingdom. He should function under his father who was a king of kings. Bharata would obtain the kingdom that belonged to his fathers father (Ilila). That was the natural law, Kanva said. He advised the boy to think of him when he obtained that kingdom. Ilila was a member of a Druhyu oligarchy headed by Tamsu. The lands of the central region and the capital of Yayati had been given to Puru while the Druhyus were sent to lands beyond the seas. Ilila and Dushyanta had expanded their kingdom and Ilila secured the Puru lands. As crown prince, Sarvadamana (Bharata) would come into possession of those lands.
Kanva did not envisage Bharata coming into possession of the rich islands beyond the seas, which belonged to Ilila and which Dushyanta had inherited or the other lands that Dushyanta had acquired by conquest. Kanva asserted that Sarvadamana was born in the Puru lineage. Sarvadamana seems to have had reservations about accepting Sakuntala as his mother and Dushyanta as his father.
He had grown up as an orphan under the care of the Brahmarshi who had been to him father as well as mother. He did not want to leave the hermitage and suggested that Sakuntala might go alone to her husband, as she desired. Instead of playing with wild animals he would be attending on the sage, obeying him and studying Vedas. Sakuntala was disturbed; she was happy that her father had permitted her to meet Dushyanta and be reunited with him; but she was pained that her son disowned his mother.
Sakuntala felt that her son was deliberately disobeying her. She pointed out that the elite (mahajana) of the janapada suffer because one of them commits a sin. She wondered whether Dushyanta had become persona non grata with the elite of his state because of his violation of the code of conduct. Sarvadamana who was engaged in taming the wild animals had not only begun to disobey her but had also annoyed the sage by disturbing the life of the forest animals and men. She interpreted that she and her son were hence being sent away. She would not go to Dushyanta or seek her sons interests and would instead stay back to serve the great sage who knew the tendencies of the soul. Kanva pitied her and again impressed on her that she should meet Dushyanta.
The annotator of the later times makes Kanva extol the vow that the wife took to be true to and obey her husband. Such a sincere wife pleased the head of the family who was ordinarily elder to her husband and who had the status of a noble (deva) and controlled the finances and wealth of the family and would grant her what she asked for. He would also aid her even without her seeking aid (anugraha) and remove her difficulties. [It was not meant that gods came to their rescue.] Such wives receive gifts from their husbands too and gain the merit (punya) attached to loyalty, obedience and service. Hence Kanva exhorted Sakuntala to go and serve the king (raja).
He told Sarvadamana that the latter was his daughters son and Ililas sons son and that there was no stain in his birth. [The annotator implies that if Sakuntala was Kanvas daughter and Dushyanta his son, it would be a marriage between sister and brother and that was against rules. But Sakuntala was his foster daughter and Dushyanta was his brothers son. Hence the above objection is ruled out.] The fact was Sakuntala loved her husband though she adduced arguments to avoid meeting him. So her son should escort her to her husband.
Addressing him as a Paurava Kanva said that he was capable of leading a group of sages to Dushyantas place. He asked some of his disciples to accompany Sakuntala and her son. Kanva was of the view that if married women lived amidst their relatives for a long period it would affect their reputation, discipline and duty (dharma) adversely. [This is a later-day orientation presented as Kanvas view.] Sarvadamana while agreeing to treat Sakuntala as his mother would however refer to Dushyanta not as father but as king though Kanva asked him to go to his father. As she asked her foster-father to pardon her for her mistakes Kanva was moved to tears because he had feelings like a commoner (manushya) though he was a sage (rshi) who was expected to be stoical.
Kanva told his disciples who were to escort Sakuntala that she was born and brought up in the forest and she was ignorant of the route. They should follow the road to the house of the kshatriya (Dushyanta). He told those disciples who were Brahmans, that Pratishtana where once Pururavas who was a co-parcener (dayada) of Sarvadamana (Bharata, son of Sakuntala) lived with Urvasi was eight miles from his abode. That rich agrarian-cum-forest city was on the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna. It was an important market centre.
According to the chronicler of the later times Indra had constructed that fortified city for Budha, son of Ila. [Some early chronicles have treated Ila as an apsaras and Budha as a vidyadhara and Pururavas, a gandharva, as their son.] This chronicler claims that the people of this city who were assigned to different classes (varnas) were particular in adhering to their respective duties (dharma) and that that city had many scholars who were eager to conquer svargaloka, that is, were eager to enter the intellectual aristocracy which had a status equal to the cultural aristocracy of the nobles headed by Indra.
Kanva's disciples accompanied by Sakuntala and her son reached the centrally located royal palace and entered its main hall where the king, a Rajarshi, sat surrounded by jurists (Brahmans), administrators (Kshatriyas) and ministers and lauded by the chroniclers (sutas), rich and powerful rural chieftains (magadhas) and courtiers (vantis). The king was sitting in comfort having ended his session of hearing and settling economic disputes (vyavahara). The omens were good and the disciples told Sakuntala that she would become queen and her son the crown prince that day itself.
The chronicler then dilates on the impressions that Sakuntala and her son and the unkempt disciples of Kanva created in the minds of the citizens who had assembled there. Of course the conduct of Sakuntala and her son impressed the people. But the criticisms, by some fools among the people of the city of the disciples of Kanva made them blame themselves for not having heeded to that sages counsel that they should not enter the city. The sages who had given up all attachments had no work in the city, which had plenty of bad people. So they turned back leaving behind Sakuntala and her son.
As the sages left, Sakuntala and her son went towards the royal palace, with several admirers following them. Both bowed their heads to the king who was impressed by the shy mother and promised to extend her any help that she sought. Addressing Dushyanta as a maharaja (a ruler who was also a judge) and an uttama purusha (outstanding personage), she requested him to listen to what she said. She introduced her son as one born to him and told him that he was required to install that boy as crown prince. She asked him to act according to the promise he had given her in the abode of the sage, Kanva, when he had union with her. She asked him to recall that pledge.
Bharata's Claims and Dushyanta's Resistance
The chronicler told Janamejaya that Dushyanta who was caught in enjoyment with other women had forgotten her and her son. [Does he imply that Dushyanta had been informed about his son soon after his birth?] He did recognise Sakuntala and was delighted to see his son but did not wish to acknowledge them as his wife and son. The King told her that he did not remember to have been united with her and that he did not have unwanted affairs with women. He asserted that he was not associated with her in any of the three aspects of life, dharma, artha and kama. He did not remember having been united with her by any of these types of marriages. She might go or stay or state what else she wanted from him. He left it to her further course of action.
Sakuntala got angry at that dismissal but would not accept it silently. She told the king that though he knew the truth he spoke like a petty commoner who did not fear losing his reputation. His conscience knew that what he said was untrue and a lie. He was insulting his inner conscience that was a good witness to what had happened. One who displays his mind in a way different from its real form is like a thief who steals his own property and who is hence guilty of all sins, she said.
She put forth her arguments using the steps that led to first recognition and then acknowledgement of the truth by the accused, who pretended having not remembered the act of his union with her. He thought that she was alone and had no witness. He did not know the first personage who was present in his mind but was hidden. He was committing a sin in the presence of that witness when he denied having been united with her.
Sadpurushas and Satyavratas
Dushyanta belonged to the times when the puritanical laws based on truth, satya, were yet in force though the generous laws of dharma had come to be acknowledged as useful in securing justice. Sadpurushas were respected personages who had given up speaking untruth and most of them had emerged from lower ranks of the society. They were not entitled to take oath that they were speaking truth, as they had not studied in formal schools. They were not dvijas (twiceborn) who were required to take the pledge to abide by truth (satyavrata) but were yet respected as na-asatyas. Their evidences were as valid as those of the educated who had as satyavratas taken the pledge to speak truth on all occasions. The laws of dharma brought the sadpurushas most of whom were on par with uneducated na-asatyas on par with those who had taken the oath to speak the truth at all costs. Adherence to these laws helps an abjurer of falsehood and does not harm him.
The chronicler was dilating on this issue in Janamejayas court in the presence of eminent jurists on the enigmas involved in the Dushyanta-Sakuntala dialogue. A sinner thinks that none knows that he has sinned. But the nobles (devas) and the great soul (paramatma), which is within him but is invisible and yet controls his actions from within him, have seen what he has done. Neither polytheism nor pantheism was meant here. The conduct of the commoner was under the constant supervision of the Vedic officials designated as Surya, Chandra, Vayu, Agni, Akasa, Prthvi, Apa, Manas, Yama and Dharma who all had the status of devatas and who functioned during day and night and also during dawn and at dusk.
Commoners and the Vedic Officials, Dharma and Yama
If the soul of the individual (jivatma), which is in his heart and which is witness to all his acts is satisfied he is cleared of his guilt by Yama, son of Vivasvan. Every social body had an inner controller who watched the activities of every one of its members. If he absolved the individual who was suspected of having done a wrong act, the state official, yama, did not feel it necessary to interfere. This was the stand that the legal system took during the period of transition from the laws based on satya to the laws based on dharma. He was not required to go through the rigmarole of citing evidences for and against him and weighing them.
The magistrate, Yama, warns the commoner who is bad and who acknowledges that he has done an act not satisfying his inner conscience, that is, the inner controller of the individuals of the social body against doing that act again. [Yama was not god of death.]
The nobles (devas) who constituted the appellate court during the later Vedic times did not help one who of his own accord, disparaged his conscience, his inner soul (atma) and presented a contrary picture of what he had in his mind, that is, his purpose. Sakuntala warned the king that he stood to lose the goodwill of the nobles by giving a distorted version of his association with her. Dushyanta had hinted that it was Sakuntala who had voluntarily asked for sex with him. She took serious objection to this distortion as she had behaved according to the oath of loyalty to one who had accepted her as his wife and had refrained from thinking about any other man during his long absence. She had come voluntarily as a wife and he had not respected that. Why was he treating her in that assembly as a helpless vagrant? She was not pleading in a lonely place.
Dushyanta and Protection of the House of Nobles
She warned that if he did not fulfil her request his head would break into pieces. The chronicler meant that he would lose the protection of the house of nobles that was superior to him. The nobles unable to act unanimously might take diverse views. The later annotator then dilates on the status of the wife and the benefits accruing from having an offspring. This orientation has become an integral part of the social laws of the post-Vedic times. It is not likely that Sakuntala who as a Kshatriya was capable of defending herself advanced all the arguments presented in this section.
Statuses and Rights of Married Women: Jaya and Bharya
She had married Dushyanta in accordance with gandharva marriage which law approved only if both parents of the girl and both parents of the boy gave it ex-post-facto approval. The concept that a man is reborn when he enters the womb of his wife has come to stay. As he is so born, the legislators who knew the earlier history of the society, that is, the recorded precedents and the sages called the wife jaya. The duly married person, purusha, that is, a husband who does his duties in accordance with the provisions of the socio-economic code, should have an offspring who would help his forefathers to swim across the river of liabilities and social debts. Not only should that head of the family have an offspring but that offspring too should have such a recognised offspring born of his wife.
The socio-cultural constitution of the Vedic times, Brahma, described a person who saved the ancestors from the whirlpool, put, as putra. One wins the support of the cadres known as punyaloka, the virtuous people, when he has a son. His wealth is declared to be immune from attachment by the state for want of an approved successor. It becomes permanent property that none of the successors or other kinsmen could sponge on after the birth of a grandson, the sons son grants this immunity to him. Such immunity is called happiness, ananda.
The socio-economic code, dharma, of the transitional period defined the term bharya as wife who bore her husbands child. She had to be well versed in domestic duties and have an issue. She had to love her husband as her life. She had to be chaste. She was considered to be an equal partner of her husband. She was an excellent companion.
Accepted social values (dharma), economic means and wealth (artha) and sexual pleasure (kama), the three purposes (artha) that a man as the head of the family (as a purusha) pursues are because of his wife. The code would insist on the fulfilment of all the three requisites to entitle the woman to the status of a wife. Else, she might be a guide or a partner in economic activities or but a concubine. Only a woman who had the qualifications needed for being called bharya entitled her husband to exercise civic and economic rights. Widowers and bachelors could not exercise those rights. Also, men whose wives were sterile were deprived of these rights.
Only those men who had wives could be householders (grhasthas). This rule led to remarriage by men on the death of their wives. Only they had legal immunities against being pulled up for vagrancy. Only they were entitled to own wealth and property. A wife who utters sweet words is a friend in privacy. In social, cultural and religious (dharma) acts she guides like a father. In difficulties she comforts like a mother. While walking along, even if it were in forests, she is a solace to her husband. The code claimed that only one who had a wife could be trusted. Hence she is the main support for a husband. Sakuntala indirectly cautioned Dushyanta against disowning her lest he should have to forgo all his civic and economic rights and be declared incompetent to head the state as a successor to Puru.
Gandharva Marriage as Dharma Marriage
Dushyanta and Sakuntala had entered into gandharva marriage, voluntary union of adults who had reached the prescribed age of consent. As dharma marriage, that is, as it was permitted by dharmasastra, it could not be retracted on, even if it had been entered into in haste or without full awareness of the implications of the compact entered into.
When the husband is alive (and even when he is dead) only the wife recognised by socio-economic laws and has the responsibility for the birth and nurture of the issue by that husband and has taken the vow to remain true to him stays beside him even in difficulties and acts according to his wishes. The wife who predeceases the husband awaits in the other world the arrival of her husband, according to this orientation. The wife whose husband predeceases her follows the discipline of being true to her husband, (pativratadharma) even after his death. These rules were incorporated later in the code of social laws (dharmasastra).
The chronicler notes that Sakuntala was aware of the relations that were to prevail between husband and wife. The husband had access to his wife when they were both in the social world of commonalty. When they were to move to another social world (paraloka) either of the two might be the first to do so. In the present social world she is meant to nurture (meet the requirements of) the body. To a person who proceeds to a higher social world (svargaloka) she is like food he takes along for eating when necessary. In other words he could not exploit her for sex and procreation when he moved along with her to a higher social rank. This was the implication of the expression, panigraha.
As the son is the father reborn, a husband should treat the mother of his son as equivalent to his mother. He could not have sex with her without her permission. Preferably he should cease to copulate with his wife after the birth of his first son. For all, the son is ones own self, atma. The traits that are found in the father are found in the son too. The good or bad behaviour and deeds that are found in the son are those that are inherited from the father. The chronicler does not attribute to the nurture given by mothers (who are chaste) the shortcomings in their sons. A father sees in his son procreated on his wife his own reflection as he sees in a mirror and feels delight even as one who has meritorious deeds to his credit attains as he rises to the cultural aristocracy (svargaloka).
Women who act like chaste wives but carry the foetus of other men in their wombs destroy the fame and purity of the clans of their husbands and they too land in horrible ghettoes (naraka, place meant for fallen men and women). Some persons (native-born, jana) treated as theirs the sons procreated on their wives by other persons who did not belong to the local area (parapurusha). The laws blamed the husbands for failure to guard the chastity of their wives and required them to treat those children as theirs. The chronicler treated the bastards as the enemies of their fathers. They would hate their fathers and disobey them and the duped father too would hate them. This was then the easy way to determine whether the son born was truly ones own. Sakuntala pointed out to Dushyanta that a father would not hate his son and a son would not hate his genetic father for the son is a father reborn.
Dushyanta and Sakuntala had lived apart from each other for over twelve years. She points out how some of the local-born persons (jana) who might be suffering from grief and diseases seek comfort in the company of their wives. Some husbands might have travelled abroad and return weak and in rags. They feel as much delight in their reunion with their wives as the poor do when they gain wealth. An intelligent person, finding that his comfort, happiness and dharma are in his wife (bharya) should not speak any word that she does not like though she may say harsh words.
The chronicler adds that the Vedas say that wife is ones half. She protects his wealth, offspring, body, worldly life, dharma and his future place in the cultural aristocracy (svarga) and association with sages and ancestors (pitrs). The chronicler was drawing attention to the later Vedic orientation by which the commoners through the institution of sacrifice (yajna) contributed one fourth of their earnings to the maintenance of the three non-earning sectors of the core society, nobles, sages and elders (devas, rshis and pitrs). The chaste women are like the land where the men are reborn and continue their lineages and hence the husbands never give them up.
Status as Noble (Deva) not inherited
Even the sages cannot have offspring without women. The very cadre of sages will cease to exist if they do not have sons to be trained as their successors. But the cadre of nobles does not have the capacity to recreate itself. In other words, an aristocrat could not depend on inbreeding to continue his lineage. The new nobles have to be recruited from the upper crust of the commonalty, known as visvedevas or have wives and produce sons by them even as commoners do.
Intellectuals in all the social worlds who know everything have to use the services of women to create new cadres. Sakuntala pointed out that there was nothing better than the son after falling down on the ground rise up and with soil all over the body and embrace his fathers body. Though Dushyanta was a father who would hug and comfort his son he did not support his son who was standing close and eagerly glancing at him. Even the ants do not neglect their eggs. Why did he alone not support his son born to her and take him up in his arms?
The pleasure, which one obtains from the touch of his son, is far more than what one can get from hugging a woman, she said. She requested Dushyanta to allow his handsome son to touch him. She cited: Among commoners, the Brahman is the best and among the quadrupeds the cow is the best and among those who may be revered the teacher is the best; the best among those that are sweet to touch is the son.
Addressing him as Rajasreshta, a rich plutocratic king and praising him as a Vira (a group of nobles belonging to the Rudras, a traditional group of nobles who were associated with the people of the forests) Sakuntala told him that his son too had been brought up as a Vira. He was born three years after their first meeting and a long period of secret courtship and was meant to remove his grief of being sonless till then. As she had ordered the boy to accompany her he had come there and was awaiting the kings invitation to come closer to him and be accepted. She told the king that it had been prophesied at the time of the birth of that boy born in the Puru lineage that he would perform a hundred asvamedha sacrifices to honour his conquests and a rajasuya sacrifice to establish his status as an emperor and other sacrifices.
Dyarchy of Father and Son
The chronicler presented through Sakuntalas appeal to Dushyanta to accept her son as his, another aspect of the relation between father and son that has come to characterise the social orientation instituted by the end of the Vedic era. In the social world of the commoners it is noticed that the parents who had gone to other towns on their return delight in taking up in their hands the children left behind them and caressing them. Brahmans (who followed the Atharvaveda) while casting and reading out the horoscope of the young children cited from the Vedas a statement. It implied that the son was born of every one of the organs of the father and that the son was indeed the father himself and the latter blessed him to live for a hundred years and that as his soul was with that child the lineage of that child should continue forever.
According to the adage what was one became two. The son is another man (purusha) who has evolved from a man (purusha). The chronicler introduces the concept of the three domestic fires and their implications, which had their origin amongst the middle class who were moving from the nomadic way of life of gandharvas to that of the settled communities of commoners to explain how one lit stick was used to light another stick. Sakuntala claimed that his monarchy had to end giving way to diarchy. He had been made into two with the birth of the crown prince.
She asked Dushyanta to recall how he happened to reach the abode of Kanva while chasing a deer and obtained her who was then a virgin. Urvasi, Purvacitti, Sahajanya, Menaka, Visvasi and Krtasi were six famous apsarases. Of them Menaka was born to the high official, Brahma. The nobles (svargaloka) prevailed on her to go to the social world of commoners (bhumi) and entice Visvamitra. Sakuntala told Dushyanta and his assembly that she was born to Menaka by Visvamitra. Visvamitras ancestor, Kusa was a rich ruler.
Rajarshi as Agni, Second Civil Judge
Kusa was a Rajarshi and also an additional civil judge. The post of a second Agni was created by the constitution, Brahma. This official was in charge of implementing the social laws, dharma. During the middle Vedic period when the laws based on satya were in force, the chief of the council of scholars was designated as Agni and was made civil judge having jurisdiction over the commonalty.
When the laws based on dharma came into force, the king if he was a Rajarshi could function also as the head of the council of scholars and civil judge. Kusas successor, Kusanabha, was a powerful ruler and yet he followed the above arrangement, the king ensuring implementation of social laws (dharma) that were however to be within the ambit of the Atharvan constitution, Brahma. Kusas was a soft state. Kusanabhas was a tough one. Visvamitras father, Gadhi, was Kusanabhas son. Sakuntala thus traced the Kshatriya lineage of her father and her birth and how Kanva found her and brought her up.
She recalled to Dushyanta how he had stayed with her seeking the advantages indicated in the three purposes, dharma, artha and kama and had requested her to give an offspring who would continue his lineage. He had taken her hands (panigraha) according to the rites prescribed for gandharva marriage. Neither Kanva nor Visvamitra had given her away as a virgin, kanyadana (a procedure valid only under Brahma and Arsha marriages). This does not mean that she was not a virgin when Dushyanta married her. The term, kanya implied that the girl had not yet attained the age of consent (three years after puberty). Only after she had attained that age she had married him by gandharva marriage.
Sakuntala declared that she was seeking his protection in the interests of her academy (kula) and in the name of her chastity and discipline and also under the provisions of the laws of ethics based on truth (satya) and the social laws (dharma). It is improper to interpret that Sakuntala acknowledged that she followed the apsaras way of life of her mother (that is), providing pleasure to men of her choice. She told Dushyanta it wont behove him to pledge to do a particular act and then falsify it.
King as Guardian (Natha) of the Unguarded
He was the chief (natha) of the social world (loka), the expanded commonalty that covered plains, periphery, rivers, moors and forests. He should not keep back his duties (dharma) as natha and reject her who had come as one who had him alone as her husband and was flawless. The chronicler makes her assert that unlike the apsarases she was not polyandrous. She followed the discipline of monogamy. She rued that she must have committed some sin in the previous birth that led to her being abandoned on her birth by her parents and then by her husband. Now she would return to her forest abode but leave behind her child. She requested the king not to abandon Bharata.
But Dushyanta refused to acknowledge Bharata as the boy born of him and refused to believe what she said, alleging that all women were given to lying. She was a shameless daughter of a sage, he charged. He refused to believe that she was the daughter of the great sage, Visvamitra by an apsaras, Menaka. He refused to believe that the boy who had grown up into a powerful well-built youth could be the son of a delicate girl like her. He accused her of being lowborn and of being a prostitute. The annotator makes Dushyanta talk ill of women. They were all given to lust and were unchaste and yielded to men who were not their husbands.
He accused Menaka of having been a prostitute and Visvamitra as a pitiless Kshatriya who wanted to become a Brahmana and one who was given to lust. He refused to treat Menaka as a lady who belonged to the nobility who exercising her right, of her own accord gave birth to the girl, Sakuntala, by Visvamitra. He thought that the people (jana) spoke ill of Sakuntalas birth. He might treat Menaka only as the best among apsarases and her father only as a great sage (maharshi) implying that the latter was not a Brahmarshi, only as a scholar entitled to be a legislator and not one who could be a member of the constitution bench.
Why did she then speak like a prostitute? Her birth was low and her nurture too seemed to have been low, he charged. He refused to believe that Kanva had brought her up. He was angry that she had dared to tell all these to the king. He dismissed her saying that she might go wherever she wanted to. She might receive whatever clothes and ornaments she desired, he said.
Sakuntala would not take the insult and curt dismissal lying down. She told the king that he saw the minor weaknesses of others but failed to notice the major drawbacks in his own career and lineage. She pointed out to him that her mother, Menaka, lived amidst nobles and that they respected her way of life. Sakuntala claimed that her descent was superior to his. While he moved about only among the commoners (bhumi) and did not have access to the nobility (devas) she moved about in the higher open space (akasa) as a free intellectual.
Sakuntala and the three Vedic officials, Kubera, Yama and Varuna
Sakuntala claimed that she had access to the abodes of Indra, the chief of the house of nobles and also to that of Kubera, the head of the plutocrats. She could also visit Yama, the chief magistrate and Varuna, the ombudsman who settled disputes on privileges of the different social cadres. She hinted that she might take recourse to higher political, legal and constitutional avenues to obtain justice. She pointed out to Dushyanta that his co-parcener, Ayu, was born to Pururavas by Urvasi, an apsaras. Many great sages and Kshatriya warriors were born to apsarases. The sages did not cease to be respected because they did not know who their mothers were or because their mothers were lowborn.
She told the king that the popular statement (janavakhya) she was drawing attention to would make him realise his error. One who is ugly thinks that he is more handsome than others until he sees his face in the mirror. A handsome person does not speak ill of others. In this world of commoners one who uses bad words is reckoned as a clown. Evil persons delight in abusing others. The chronicler comments that an atheist (nastika) fears the codes of truth (satya) and the social laws (dharma) as he fears an enraged worker (sarpa).
The chronicler was reminding Janamejaya how the positivist thinker (astika) made the former fear the wrath of the injured proletariat by citing the puritanical laws of the middle Vedic period based on ethics and truth (satya) as well as the later Vedic liberal laws based on dharma. The positivist thinker (astika) will certainly not violate those laws. The nobles (devas) would destroy the security of one who abuses ones own son.
The period of decline (kali) comes over to those who do not help others, to liars, to the impure, to the atheists and to those who have deviated from good practices. It does not affect those who act according to the rules of dharma. He points out that an idiot absorbs among the good and bad suggestions given by others only the bad ones while an intelligent person absorbs only the good ones. One who is not clear in his intellect selects only those traits of others that are compatible with his. Some who have no self-restraint are jealous of the fame of others and unable to follow them, speak ill of them. An upright man regrets abusing others while a scoundrel delights in abusing others.
The impious are keen on criticising others while the gentle and pious (sadhu) take care not to criticise others. Even as a pious person (sadpurusha) gets satisfaction in respecting the great, the ignorant and impious get satisfaction in abusing the upright. The fools notice the flaws in others while they are unaware of their own. Hence when they are to be condemned by others they condemn others. Nothing is more disparaging than the evil people in this social world (loka) abusing the upright as evil persons. Sakuntala asserted that one (the king) was bound to suffer if he inflicted severe mental torture on the people (jana). She refuted his claim that the people were laughing at her and her son when they were proceeding to the royal palace.
Dharma and Different Types of Sons
The elders (pitrs) who had retired to the forest treated the son as the root from which the future generations of the clan grew up. They might have given up all the duties (dharma) that were prescribed for one in the householder (grhastha) stage of life but were advised not to give up their sons. Sakuntala would not take a narrow outlook on the issue who was entitled to be a son. She cited the views of Manu (Svayambhuva) on this issue. Besides those sons born to ones wife, the father had to accept the orphans (who had no guardians) that he had come across, the adopted ones, the protgs brought up by him, the purchased ones and those born to him and unmarried girls as his sons. All these six types of sons had a share in the property of their father by the dayabhaga system. There were six types who did not have a share in this property. [This might have been a later interpolation.]
Conscience, Truth and Social Laws: Atma, Satya, Dharma
The annotator says that the commoners (manushyas) are made to adhere to the prescribed social laws (dharma) and feel delighted when sons are born to them and they rescue the elders (pitrs) from hell (naraka). Sakuntala exhorted the king not to abandon his son. He should protect his son and also truth (satya), that is, the word he had given her. Sakuntala pointed out that there could be no conflict among pursuit of personal (atma) interests, adherence to truth (satya) and performing ones social duties (dharma). He should not utter lies. She told the king that it was his duty to protect his soul, that is, his inner conscience (atma) and also the laws based on truth (satya) and the social laws (dharma). As a brave king, he should not resort to deception.
Then the annotator extols adherence to truth. It is far superior to performing a thousand asvamedha sacrifices. There is no socio-religious duty (dharma) that is equal to adherence to truth (satya), he says. There is no achievement that is superior to truth and no sin worse than non-adherence to truth (asatya). Sakuntala explained to those persons who would dilate on the minute differences in the two sets of laws, satya and dharma, that adherence to truth (satya) was a great social duty (dharma). She told the king that giving a pledge was more binding than the declaration to stand by truth. All pledges were made binding and violation of them or non-fulfilment of them was punishable. They were politico-economic treaties and sanctions would follow if they were broken. Breach of mere solemn declaration to adhere to truth did not invite such sanctions.
Sakuntala advised the king not to lose the advantages that he stood to gain through the pledge. It was an essential ingredient of a treaty of friendship that a valuable pledge was mentioned in the document. She advised him to ensure that the clause of friendship was in accordance with the laws based on truth (satya). The union between the king, Dushyanta and Sakuntala was not contracted under the provisions of gandharva marriage, which could be ordinarily retracted by a charge of non-fulfilment of sexual pleasure and companionship. It was made binding by her promise to present to him an offspring who would be his worthy successor and his promise that that son would be installed as the crown prince.
He had to not only accept that son for his own spiritual benefit but also fulfil her expectations about that son. She pointed out to the king who was on trial in his public court that the plea that one had forgotten what he had done or said would not stand the test in legal proceedings. He would be deemed to be a liar. Forgetting was a major offence.
She said that his inner conscience knew what the truth was and what was not. Hence he should rely on the social laws (dharma) applicable to his roles as a husband, father and king and deliberate on what was in his interests and what was not. Only one who does not deceive by lust, rage and hatred his foes and friends, is the best social leader (uttamapurusha). If it was untrue that he had sex with her and if he did not believe what she said she was ready to go back to her abode (in the forest). A person like him had no qualities of friendship.
If he had doubts about that lad being his son he could arrive at a decision after consulting the intellectuals (buddhi) in his court. The court in those days took into account similarity in personal factors like conduct, voice, memory, truthfulness, chasteness, education, valour, fearlessness, views and physical signs, hair arrangement and gait while determining whose the child was. As there was a similarity that boy was a reflection extracted from his body. She appealed to him not to abandon that boy who addressed him plaintively as father.
Dushyanta warned against antagonising Bharata
Her son might not have been offered the donkeys milk to indicate that he would be brought up as a prince. But he was brought up on the tigers milk, she reminded him. Donkeys were domesticated animals while tigers were not. Dushyanta was being warned against antagonising his son. This son would rule the entire continent surrounded by the four seas without Dushyantas presence. She told him that Indra, the head of the assembly of nobles, had told her that her son would become a chakravarti, head of a confederation of states. She asserted that this declaration would not go waste.
Sakuntala told the king that she had (while coming to his court) requested envoys from the nobles (devas) to stand as witness to this pronouncement. They had not till then committed themselves to her about saying anything true or false. They would settle the issue on the basis of the provisions of the constitution of the confederation of states that they had envisaged, she implied. They would not permit their objective to be frustrated. There was a hidden threat that Dushyanta might be deposed to install that lad as Chakravarti-designate. She would not stay to influence the nobles or their envoys. She would return with her son to the forest as an unfortunate woman.
Dyarchy of Dushyanta and Bharata, Father and Son
Dushyanta was being surrounded by his supporters among whom were priests (rtviks) who looked after the rituals and formalities of the state, political counsellors (purohitas), teachers (acaryas) and ministers. He heard the voice from the open space (akasa) of a person who was not member of any social group (asariri), which told him that the mother (that is, her womb) was like a leather-bag and that the son belonged to the father who had procreated him. The voice pronounced the lad to be Dushyantas son and advised the father to accept him. It pronounced that Sakuntala was speaking the truth and that every organ of the son was directly received from the father and thus the son was born.
The voice implied that every organ of the state of Dushyanta would become the corresponding organ of the state of his son. In other words, a son inherited in toto and intact and directly, the state of his father under the rules of hereditary monarchy. It was not so in the case of successor governments under other forms of rule, whether diarchy or oligarchy or where the younger brother succeeded the general or some one else was elected to succeed. The voice hinted that Dushyanta who belonged to the Puru lineage was not a direct descendant of Puru. It interpreted that the central authority (atma) who represented him was known as Dushyanta-putra, the son of Dushyanta.
He had gifted the seed and he was reborn as his son. It was his duty to protect that son. He had to revere and not disrespect Sakuntala who had kept her vow to be true to her husband. Dushyanta had disparaged the entire female sex. The voice proclaimed that woman was an incomparably pure object according to Dharmasastra. The annotator of the later times takes pains to remove the impression that the socio-cultural codes were biased against women.
As the voice of the unseen interpreter of social laws said that Bharata was Dushyantas son by Sakuntala, the nobles (devas) who sat on all sides of the hall told the king that the lad was born of him and that he should not reject Sakuntala. The son lifted from the level of despicable men (naraka) the one who sowed his seed. Dushyanta was the genetic father of that lad, the nobles declared.
The wife gives birth to her husband as he sows his seed in her. The son is the cause of the father even as the father is the cause of the son. The nobles accepted the argument that the man divides himself into two and begets his other half on his wife. They exhorted the king to accept Sakuntalas son. That lad was a great boon and wealth (aisvarya) and should not be lost. He should protect his son who was his soul. The nobles pronounced that Sakuntalas son was a great person (mahatma) and belonged to the Puru lineage. As Dushyanta had to bear the responsibility of protecting that boy both on his own accord and under their orders, he should name that boy as Bharata. The glory accruing from Bharata would be known as Bharati and his clan would be called Bharata and his successors as well as his predecessors would be known as Bharatas. The nobles also declared Sakuntala as a pativrata, one true to her husband.
As the sages (rshis) who had only pure endeavour (tapas) as their wealth endorsed the declaration of the nobles (devas), the king rose from his throne to offer homage to the nobles. There had been a rift between the king and the nobles and the sages bridged it. He asked his counsellors (purohitas) and ministers to listen to what the envoy of the nobles and sages said. He too recognised that lad as his son. If he had accepted the lad only because Sakuntala had said so the people (jana) would have had doubts and that lad would not have been accepted as his son. Dushyanta was trying to defend his initial unwillingness to accept Bharata as his son. Then he invited that lad and performed the rituals as a father to rename him as Bharata.
He honoured his wife, Sakuntala, too properly according to social laws (dharma). He explained why he hesitated earlier to accept her as his wife. The natives (jana) of the plains had not known the relation between Dushyanta and Sakuntala and now the rites were gone through again in their presence, he explained. He had while disparaging her referred to what had happened before their marriage. As she was a lady (stri) who was ordinarily inaccessible, the social world (loka) of commoners were likely to doubt the veracity of her claim that she had married him by gandharva marriage with no formal rites like kanyadana which were to be witnessed by nobles, sages and elders. He had quizzed her in order to remove their doubts, Dushyanta claimed.
Varnasrama Dharma and New Orientations
He acknowledged that she belonged (like her mother, Menaka) to the social world of nobles (devas). Ladies (devis) of the households of nobles (devas) were free to act, free to give themselves to the spouses of their choice. Dushyanta knew that the adoption of the new social laws, varnashrama dharma, had introduced several imperceptible changes in the social orientations which not all the people of the janapada were aware of. The natives of the janapada who had been brought under the orientations of the four classes (varnas), Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras would be able to appreciate the concept of monogamy and the orientation, pativratadharma. A married woman has to remain true to her husband forever irrespective of the changes in their fortunes and in respective social statuses. He told her that their son had been accepted as the one who would get the state (rajyam) (after him).
She would be the first of the queens, he declared. He had borne her unkind words, as she loved him. So she too should bear his harsh and improper words and lies about her, he pleaded. Women fulfilled their duties by their husbands, pativratadharma, by forgiving the errors of the latter. Then he introduced her and Bharata to his mother, Ratantari. Both Ratantari and Dushyanta would refer to Sakuntala as Visalakshi, one with wide eyes. It indicates that she belonged to the cultural aristocracy, which had a wide outlook on all social issues and was a follower of the great socio-political grammarian, Visalaksha.
Bharadvaja was the political counsellor of Bharata. Pisuna who was his contemporary was the finance minister of Dushyanta. He was known for his miserliness. The chronicler notes that Dushyanta handed over the responsibility of administration of the state to Bharata and retired.
Dushyanta, Bharata, Bhumanyu, Suhotra, Ajamida
The chronicler told Janamejaya that Bharata succeeded Dushyanta in the proper order. Bharata was the son of Sakuntala who had the status of a peeress, devi, and was hence superior to Dushyantas other wives. Bharatas political transactions were pure and were fit to be approved by the cultural aristocracy (devas). They never met with defeat and were highly lauded by the commoners, the native people (jana) of his primary state. Bharata conquered the feudal lords (asuras) and made them his subordinates. He functioned in accordance with the socio-cultural laws (dharma) that the gentle and pious (sadhus) followed. This powerful king became more famous than all others as a chakravarti (head of the confederation of states) and isvara (charismatic benevolent ruler) of all the agro-pastoral plains (bhumi).
Like Indra, the king of the nobles (devas), Bharata performed several sacrifices. [The nobles were no longer mere recipients of the offerings made by the commoners at their sacrifices (yajnas). They too sacrificed what they had earned to the deserving persons.] He honoured Kanva (his guardian and foster-father) by granting him the status of Prajapati, chief of the people on par with Daksha. He conquered all the petty rulers of the Ganga-Yamuna basin and performed hundreds of asvamedha sacrifices on the banks of Ganga, Yamuna and (eastern?) Sarasvati.
Bharata begot sons by women of high social status but he did not approve of them and hence the mothers killed their sons, the chronicler says. Begetting these sons became a waste. This does not speak high of Bharata. Addressing Janamejaya as Bharata, the chronicler said that Bharata performed great sacrifices, yajnas, under the guidance of Bharadvaja, a great sage (maharshi) and legislator, and the son of a rich landlord was selected as his son. He was named Bhumanyu. Bharadvaja, it is noticed in Kautilyan Arthasastra would not hesitate to get the rebellious princes killed secretly.
Bharata installed Bhumanyu as crown prince. Bhumanyu however does not seem to have succeeded Bharata as king. Bhumanyu was senior to Bharata and was selected to guide the destiny of the new empire built up by Bharata. He did not belong to any royal family. On Bhumanyus death, his eldest son too was overlooked and his son by Pushkarani, Suhotra, became emperor. To be precise, Suhotra headed an oligarchy of five chieftains with Suhotra ruling from the capital and the other the four provinces around it. This was a typical federal state of the Vedic times. He took over the countries of former rulers.
It is implied that wherever the post of king fell vacant Suhotra stepped in as conqueror and annexed it and performed rajasuya and asvamedha sacrifices to legitimise such annexation. Though his empire was claimed to be a vast one extending up to the seas it was primarily a rich state exploiting its vast human resources (manushyas) for its military ventures. Suhotra governed the subjects (prajas) of his expanded state on the basis of the provisions of the social code, dharma. Those were times when the practice of yajnas, had become popular and attracted the masses.
The masses were kept together by their devotion to the local benevolent chieftains, isvaras, who had a status equal to the gentle nobles (devas) and held their sessions in open halls that later were hallowed as abodes of gods (devalaya). Suhotra was a protg of the soft speaking, Ikshvaku of the solar group of kings. [He married Ikshvakus daughter.] Ikshvaku was a protg of Manu Vaivasvata and according to Krshna was trained in Rajayoga, methods of political administration prescribed by the Rajarshi constitution.
Ajamida, a Rajarshi
Ajamida, a famous Rajarshi, was the eldest of the three sons of Suhotra. In such triumvirates, the king was assisted by the two others oneof whom looked after the affairs of the nobility and the other those of the commonalty from their positions as Indra and Brhaspati respectively. In the Rajarshi constitution, the Rajarshi who headed the state had to follow the guidance that the Rajapurohita gave. The latter was like Brhaspati an expert in the socio-political constitution described in Atharvaveda (Brahma). Indra headed the eight member ministry. Ajamida must have accepted the proto-Rajarshi constitution with the king being guided by two equally powerful officials, Indra and Brhaspati, as recommended by Bharadvaja.
Bhumanyu, Suhotra and Ajamida were not Bharatas successors. They were considerably senior to Bharata but the chroniclers described them as Bharatas. Ajamida had six sons, Riksha, Janana, Rushi, Dushyanta, Parameshti and Jahnu. They must have been his vassals, rather than his sons. The rulers of Panchala followed the system of oligarchy whose members had equal status. They owed allegiance to Dushyanta and Parameshti. The Kusikas, of whom Gadhi and Visvamitra were well known, owed allegiance to Jahnu. Dushyantas marriage with Sakuntala, a daughter of Visvamitra should have weakened the position of Jahnu. The highly charismatic chieftain, Parameshti, might have been Bharata.
Samvarana and Bharata
Samvarana, the son of Riksha, was a coparcener of Bharata, as Riksha and Dushyanta were brothers. Janamejaya and Bharata were both sons of Dushyanta. Vaishampayana brought these facts of history to the notice of Janamejaya and his guides. It was heard that when Samvarana was placed in charge of the commonalty (bhumi), the country was afflicted by drought and famine and death by starvation and disease. The enemy armies defeated Ajamidas governors who were later described as Bharatas. The Panchalas under the leadership of Bharata appear to have asserted their independence and led a huge army with all four wings, (cavalry, chariots, elephants and infantry) to defeat Samvarana. Samvarana, son of Riksha, fled his country with his wife, daughters, ministers and friends. Samvarana and his men formed a branch of Bharatas. They went westward and lived in the bushes beside the river Sindhu. Then they moved to a mountain-fort in Sindhudesa.
Samvarana sought the support and guidance of the sage Vasishta who happened to come to his country and accepted him as Rajapurohita. Vasishta recognised Samvarana as the successor of Puru and as the chakravarti, emperor over all Kshatriyas. This challenged the authority claimed by his cousin, Bharata who had Bharadvaja as his Rajapurohita. Bharata enjoyed the support of his mothers father Visvamitra. All these three sages were members of the council of seven sages convened by Manu Vaivasvata. They were also major contributors to the Rgvedic anthology. Vasishta escorted triumphant Samvarana to Hastinapura where Bharata had his capital before he retired as a sullen man disappointed in his sons and required to step down for want of a son who would fit in as a worthy successor.
Samvarana, Tapati and Kuru
Samvarana subjugated many rulers and made them pay tributes to him. Samvarana had married the princess of Tapati, a daughter of Surya Samvarni (a contemporary of Manu Vaivasvata) who became a Manu with his headquarters in the Western Ghats, the region of the setting sun. Manu Vaivasvata had his headquarters in Gaya in the east.
Kuru founded Kurukshetra in the midst of the woods of Kurujangala. The chronicler praised Kuru as a pious man who by his endeavour converted Kurukshetra into Dharmakshetra, a place where people followed the ethics advocated by dharmasastra. According to earlier chroniclers, Janamejaya and four others were sons of Kuru. Political alliance with Janamejaya, brother of Bharata, and other vassals of Bharata led to Kuru increasing his influence. Parikshit was Kurus grandson (?) by Avikshit (also known as Asvavan), a general who had not seen defeat. According to this description Janamejaya was Parikshits uncle which is not likely. The chronicles mentioned Janamejaya and seven others as famous generals.
The eight-member oligarchy, Dhrtarashtra and Janamejaya
Parikshits five sons were all theoreticians, experts in socio-cultural code, dharmasastra and in political policy, rajaniti. Dhrtarashtra was the eldest son of Janamejaya and Pandu was next to him. Bahlika and five others were junior to them. They too were experts in dharmasastra and rajaniti. It may be inferred that these six were not involved in the struggles for power. Like Parikshit (a descendant of Kuru), Janamejaya (a stepbrother of Bharata and cousin of Samvarana) did not come to the throne till far later. These chronicles give the impression that Dhrtarashtra who was younger than Janamejaya was installed as king as he headed an oligarchy of eight members. He was assisted by a group of eight members of whom Hasti was one. [It is not sound to infer that there were many persons with the same name, Parikshit, Janamejaya, Dhrtarashtra and Pandu.]
According to these chronicles, Dhrtarashtra and Pandu (who were passed on as the sons of Vichitravirya, an impotent son of Santanu), were in fact members of the oligarchy that supported the claims of Janamejaya, son of Dushyanta, against Parikshit, grandson of Samvarana with the lineage of Bharata not taking roots. Janamejaya, Samvarana and Bharata were contemporaries. They were senior to Dhrtarashtra, Pandu and Kuru. Dhrtarashtra had three sons of whom Pradipa was popular among the commoners. Dharmanetra and Sunetra must have assisted this blind ruler. Pradipa could not have been a grandson of Riksha (son of Ajamida). Pradipa and the other two assistants of Dhrtarashtra must have been administering the country on behalf of the blind ruler, Dhrtarashtra. He was definitely not a son of Dhrtarashtra.
Pratipa must have been a contemporary of Bhagiratha. Lakshi, wife of Dushyanta and mother of Janamejaya was a daughter of Bhagiratha. Ganga, another daughter of Bhagiratha was the wife of Santanu and mother of Bhishma. Pratipa had three sons, Devapi, Santanu and Bahlika. Of these Bahlika joined Dhrtarashtras oligarchy. One of the chronicles holds that Santanu and Bahlika inherited Pratipas kingdom and Devapi went to the forest on voluntary exile. A reappraisal of the chronology is necessary. It is not helpful to leave the enigmas unsolved.
Vaishampayana told Janamejaya (who had taken over the kingdom after Parikshits death) that many kings born in the Bharata lineage were great generals and were like nobles (devas) and equivalent to Brahma, that is intellectual aristocrats and jurists. Janamejaya too could be head of the state, a legislator and a judge in his status as a maharaja. His lineage was traced to Pururavas and his predecessors were highly experienced persons. The chronicler told him how Sakuntalas son, Bharata, performed numerous sacrifices and financed and honoured the Brahmans (jurists) and bestowed huge wealth on his guide, Kanva.