Sakontala, Or, The Fatal Ring, 1807
Sir William Jones (1746-94) arrived in Calcutta to take up his post as High Court judge in 1783. In 1784 he founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal and its journal Asiatic Researches. Already acquainted with 27 languages, Jones embarked on the study of Sanskrit, translating a number of classic works of which Sakontala was the most famous. First published in 1789, it was reprinted three times before appearing in the 1807 edition of Jones's works, from which this facsimile is taken.
Kalidasa, or Calidas, wrote in the fourth or fifth century AD. The play tells of a King who, hunting in the forest, finds the beautiful, consecrated maiden Sakontala, weds her, and returns to his palace. There he forgets her, even when she appears in person, visibly enceinte. A ring that he has given her proves her identity, but not until after a lengthy penance can husband and wife be reunited. Serene, contemplative, Sakontala is a sort of Hindu Winter's Tale, in which humans, semi-divinities and the gods themselves sport in an enchanted landscape.
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