The monarch was young, handsome and brave. The hunting expedition had lasted for days now. He was tired, thirsty and hungry. All but a couple of his associates were long left behind. Though without fear, he stood with a sense of reverence before the sacred grounds of Rishi Kanva’s hermitage. It was inviolable. He dismissed even the reduced retinue at the entrance, before stepping in.
The quiet was conspicuous but soothing. The abode yonder seemed unoccupied. He moved closer and called aloud to announce his presence : What ho ! Anybody here ? But only the echo came back to strike his tentative heart. As he felt the desolate eeriness even more intensely, a beautiful maiden came out of the abode, simply attired but glowing with innocence and charm. She bade him welcome and received him with due respect, offering him a seat and water to wash. She introduced herself as Shakuntala, Rishi Kanva’s daughter, enquired about his health and peace, and engaged in such pleasantries as to enable him to settle his breath and find his comfort in strange surroundings.
The king was awe-struck with her unaffected elegance, when the maiden queried politely : How could the Hermitage serve you, O King ! I await your command.
Dushyanta : I have come to pay my respects to the venerated Rishi Kanwa. Tell me, O amiable and beautiful one, where has the illustrious Rishi gone ?
Sakuntala : My illustrious father has gone to fetch fruit for the hermitage alongwith the inmates. Wait but a moment and you wilt meet him when he arrives.
The king was glad for the opportunity to be with Shakuntala, in the Rishi’s absence. He beheld the maiden’s exceptional beauty, her sweet demeanour and cultured articulation, and the perfect symmetry of her form. Her flawlees features stood enhanced by freedom and humility in her speech. She looked the ascetic but he saw the bloom of her youth.
Dushyanta : Who are you, truly, O beautiful one ? Why are you in these woods ? You are gifted with such beauty and virtues. Whence have you come ? O charming one, you affect my heart deeply. I desire to learn all about you; therefore, tell me all.
Shakuntala smiled and addressed him with these words : O Dushyanta, I am the daughter of virtuous, wise and illustrious ascetic, Rishi Kanwa.
Dushmanta : The blessed Rishi is universally revered. It well known that decades of celibate austerity to rigorous vow and extended periods of withdrawal from senses during meditation has caused his seed to sublimate up from its base in the reproductive organ. Dharma himself may stray from his course but an ascetic of rigid vows, such as Rishi Kanva is, can never descend to sensory matters. Therefore, O thou of fairest complexion, how have you been born as his daughter ? It is a sincere doubt of mine that urgently needs to be dispelled.
Shakuntala : Hear, O king, what I have learnt regarding all that befell me of old and how I became the daughter of the Muni. It was narrated by the Rishi Kanva himself to another who had posed the same question.
Vishwamitra, of old, was engaged in austere-most of penances that alarmed Indra, the chief of the celestials. Indra thought that the mighty ascetic of blazing energy would, by his penance, hurl him down from his high seat in heaven. He summoned Menaka and told her, ‘Thou, O Menaka, art the first of celestial Apsaras. Therefore, amiable one, do me this service. Hear carefully : This great ascetic, Vishwamitra, like Sun in splendour, is engaged in the most severe of penances. I am afraid, if he succeeds at acquiring the merit in his quest, he might challenge my position as the head of all gods, and verily unseat me. Hence, O slender-waist, this is the task for you to accomplish. Go, tempt Vishwamitra away from his rapture, disrupt his one-pointed contemplation and penance, and frustrate his certain quest. Win him off his penance, beautiful one, by luring him with your beauty, youth, agreeableness, arts, smiles and speech.
Hearing all this, Menaka was alarmed and very unsure of herself. She respectfully gave voice to her doubt : O foremost among the gods, the illustrious Vishwamitra is a mighty ascetic and is already endued with great power. He is very short-tempered too. His energy, merit acquired of penance, and the wrath of a high-soul such as he leave me diffident and anxious of my own well-being. He made even the great Rishi Vasishtha suffer the unbearable pain of witnessing the premature death of his children. He it was who, though born a warrior, became a man of knowledge by virtue of his ascetic rigour. He created a deep river of his own power, for purposes of his ablutions. It was Viswamitra who, in anger, created a second world and numerous stars, and granted protection to royal sage, Matanga, later known as Trishanku, against your own wrath. I am frightened, O Indra, to approach him.
Menaka further asked : Tell me, O Indra, the means that should be adopted so that I may not be burnt by his wrath. He can burn the three worlds by his splendour and can, by a mere stamp of his foot, cause the earth to quake. He can sever the great Meru from the earth and hurl it to any distance. He can go round the ten points of the earth in a moment. How can a woman like me even touch such a one, who is full of ascetic virtues, like unto a blazing fire, and who has his passions in complete control ? His mouth is like a flaming inferno; the pupils of his eyes are like the Sun and the Moon; his tongue is like that of Death himself. How shall I, O chief of the celestials, a woman like me even touch him ? At the thought of his prowess Yama, Soma, the great Rishis, the Saddhyas, the Viswas, Valakhilyas, are terrified ! How can a woman like me gaze at him without alarm ?
But the first amongst celestial Apsaras submitted : Commanded by you, however, O king of the celestials, I shall somehow approach that Rishi. But, O chief of the gods, devise thou a plan whereby protected by you, I may safely move about the great ascetic. I think that when I begin to play before the Rishi, Marut (the god of wind) had better go there and rob me of my dress, and Manmatha (the god of love) must also, at your command, help me at the task. Let Marut, when it occasions, bear thither fragrance from the woods to tempt the Rishi. And Manmatha cause a pine in his vitality and a flutter in his heart on account of my presence.
Saying this and having obtained Indra’s assurance, Menaka went to the retreat of great sage Vishwamitra. She offered her respectful salutations to the Rishi and began her ever so subtle sensual sport, while engaging him on a walk in the woods around his abode. She was draped in a cloth white as the moon, which Marut soon caused to fly with a gush of wind. Abashed, she ran after her garment, to catch hold of it, and expressed her distress and annoyance at Marut when the garment continued to remain out of her reach.
Eyeing the sensual sport of the fullsome woman barely half clad, her dazzling beauty being played about by the breeze, exerting her fair limbs in distress, unmidful of the rise and fall of her soft breasts, Viswamitra was roused with sensual affection, causing his lust to gather like a ball of fire. Beholding her thus exposed, the sage saw her ageless and exceedingly handsome form, her perfectly endowed features, and was drawn enough to move up and put his arm about her waist in companionship. He kissed her on the neck, inviting intimacy, to which Menaka responded. They spent a long time in physical intimacy, sporting with each other, just as they pleased, as if time had stopped.
Menaka conceived through their conjugal bliss and delivered a daughter. She moved to the banks of the river Malini coursing along a valley of the charming mountains of Himavat, as her pregnancy advanced. She left the new-born on the bank of the river and went away, never to look back. Lying in that desolation abounding with carnivores and other ferocios animals, the infant was protected by scores of vultures, who stood guard around her.
Kanva narrated : Those vultures protected the daughter of Menaka. I went there to perform my ablutions and beheld the infant lying in solitude of the wilderness, surrounded by vultures. Bringing her hither as I would my own daughter, I raised her as such. Indeed, the maker of the body, the protector of life and the giver of food are fathers — all three, in their order, as the scriptures suggest. And because she was surrounded by Shakunts (birds), I named her Sakuntala. O Brahman, know that it is thus Sakuntala has become my daughter. And so does the faultless Shakuntala also regards me, as her father.
Shakuntala concluded her story to Dushyanta : This is what my father had narrated to the visiting Rishi, O king of men. It is thus how I am the daughter of Rishi Kanwa.
Hearing the fascinating tale, King Dushyanta said : You spoke well, O princess, this that thou hast said ! Be my wife, O beautiful one ! What shall I do for thee ? Golden garlands, robes, ear-rings, white pearls, coins of great value, finest carpets, … from various countries. All these I shall present to you this very day. Let the whole of my kingdom be thine today, O charming one ! Come to me, shed the timidity, and join me through the wedding, O elegant maiden, in accord with Gandharva norm. O thou, of tapering thighs, of all forms of marriage rites, the Gandharva is considered the foremost.
Shakuntala heard the King and indicated consent, but with relative calm : O king, my father is presently away. Wait but a moment; he will bestow me on thee.
Dushyanta however was overcome with impatience and entreated : O beautiful and faultless one, I desire that you should be my life’s companion. Know thou that I exist for thee, and my heart is in thee. One is certainly one’s own friend, and one certainly may depend upon one’s own self. Therefore, according to the ordinance, you can certainly bestow thyself to me in a marriage duly ordained.
There are, in all, eight kinds of marriages. These are Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa, and Paisacha, the eighth. Manu, the son of the self-created, has spoken of the appropriateness of all these forms according to their order. Know, O faultless one, that the first four of these are fit for Brahmanas, and the first six for Kshatriyas. As regards kings, even the Rakshasa form is permissible. These are institutes of religion, and one should act according to them. The Gandharva and the Rakshasa form are consistent with the practices recommended for warriors and kings. You need not entertain the least fear.
O thou of fairest complexion, full of desire I am; so are you. Come, become my wife with vows appropriate to the Gandharva norm.
Sakuntala, having listened to the King’s ernest proposal, answered : If this be the sanctioned course, if indeed I am my own disposer, then hear, O foremost of the Purus, my terms to bethrothal … Promise truly to give me what I ask of you. The son that we shall be beget shall be thy heir-apparent. This, O king, is my fixed resolve. O Dushyanta, if you grant this, then let our union take place.
The monarch, without taking time to consider, at once said : It will be thus, O fair maiden. O you, of agreeable smiles, you will be with me in our capital city. I say this truly, O beautiful one, you deserve all this.
The first of the kings thus wedded Shakuntala, of graceful gait. They knew each other as husband and wife. And assuring her duly, he went away, saying, “I shall send for you, O thou of sweet smiles, to escort you to our palace !”
The king retraced his way homewards, thinking of Rishi Kanva : What will the illustrious sage say ? And he was still anxious when he entered his kingdom’s capital.
When Rishi Kanwa arrived at his abode, Shakuntala, from a sense of shame, did not go out to receive her father. That great ascetic, however, possessed of means to all knowledge, knew of events that had taken place in his absence. Indeed, beholding everything with his spiritual eye, the illustrious one was pleased and addressed her with these kind words, ‘Amiable one, what has been done by you today in secret, without waiting for my presence and consent – viz., intercourse with a man – has not stripped you of your virtue in the least. Indeed, union according to Gandharva norm, of a seeking woman with a man of sensual desire, without mantras of any kind, is the best for Kshatriyas. That best of men, Dushyanta, is a high soul and a virtuous man. You have, O Shakuntala, accepted him for your husband. The son that shall be born of you shall be mighty and illustrious in this world. And he shall have sway over the sea. And the forces of that illustrious king of kings, while he goes out against his foes, shall be irresistible.’
Shakuntala then approached her fatigued father and washed his feet. And taking down the load he had with him and placing the fruits in proper order, she told him, ‘It behoves thee to give thy grace to that Dushyanta, whom I have accepted for my husband, as well as to his ministers !’
Kanwa replied, ‘O you of fairest complexion, for your sake I am inclined to bless him. But receive from me, O blessed one, the boon that you now desire.’
Sakuntala, thereupon, moved by desire for Dushyant’s well-being, asked her father that the Paurava monarchs might ever be virtuous and never be deprived of their thrones.
There was no word from Dushyanta in the following weeks and months, and years. The sage Rishi Kanva remained calm and Shakuntala got occupied with her womb that gradually swelled in time. In due course, she brought forth a boy of wondrous vitality, much to her father’s joy. And when the child was three years old, he became in splendour like the rising sun, remarkably handsome and magnanimous, and strong. And that first of virtuous men, Kanwa, caused all the rites of custom to be performed in respect of that intelligent child, thriving with days. The boy was gifted with pearly teeth and shining locks, and was capable of battling the fiercest of animals. He had auspicious signs on his palm, a broad forehead, and his beauty and strength was a source of much happiness to Shakuntala.
Like unto a celestial child in splendour, Bharata grow up rapidly. When only six years of age, he was endued with such great strength that he used to seize lions and tigers, bears and buffaloes, and elephants, and chain them to the trees around the hermitage. He rode some of them and pursued others in sport. Seeing his prowess, the inmates at Kanwa’s asylum called him Sarvadamana, the subduer of all. And the Rishi, marking his extraordinary acts, told Sakuntala that the time had come for his installation as the heir-apparent.
Beholding the strength of the boy, Kanwa commanded his disciples : Bear ye without delay this Sakuntala with her son from this abode to that of her husband, blessed with every auspicious sign. Women should not live long in the houses of their parents or maternal relations. Such residence is destructive of their reputation, their good conduct, their virtue. Therefore, delay not in bearing her hence.
The Rishi’s disciples proceeded towards the city, Hastinapura, with Sakuntala and her son at the head of their retinue. And she, taking with her that boy of celestial beauty, endued with eyes like lotus petals, left the woods where she had lived all her life and had first met her husband, Dushyanta. Having approached the king, in his own palace, her sage escorts introduced her and the boy to him, as his own duly wedded wife and their begotten son. Thereupon, the Rishi’s disciples took leave and returned to the hermitage.
And Sakuntala, paying her respects to the King, announced : This is thy son, O king ! Let him be installed as thy heir-apparent. O king, this child, like unto a celestial, has been begotten by thee upon me. Therefore, O best of men, fulfil now the promise you made to me. Call to mind, O thou of great good fortune, the agreement thou had made on the occasion of our union in the hermitage of my father, Rishi Kanwa.
Hearing her words and remembering everything, the king said : I do not remember anything. Who art thou, O wicked woman in ascetic guise ? I do not remember having any connection with you in spiritual, sensual or financial respect. Go or stay, or do as you please.
Thus addressed by Dushyanta, the fair-coloured innocent one became abashed. Grief deprived her of consciousness and she stood for a time like an wooden post. Soon, however, her eyes became red like copper and her lips began to quiver. And the glances she now and then cast upon the king seemed to burn the latter. Her rising wrath however, and the fire of her asceticism, she extinguished within herself by an extraordinary effort.
Collecting her thoughts in a moment, her heart possessed with sorrow and rage, she thus addressed her lord in anger, looking at him : Knowing everything, O Monarch, how do you issue words as inferiors do ? How do you say that you do not know me and our bethrothal, and your promise ? Your heart is witness to the truth or falsehood of this matter. Therefore, O King, speak truly without degrading thyself. He, who being one but representing himself as another, is a coward and like a thief, a robber of his own self. Of what sin is he not capable ? You think that you alone has knowledge of your deed. But know you not that the Ancient, Omniscient Narayana lives in your heart ? He knows all your sin, and you sin in His presence. He that sins thinks that none observes him. But he is observed by the gods and by Him, who resides in every heart.
The Sun, the Moon, the Air, the Fire, the Earth, the Sky, Water, the heart, Yama, the day, the night, both twilights, and Dharma, all witness the acts of man. Yama, the son of Surya, takes no account of the sins of him with whom Narayana, the witness of all acts, is gratified. But he, with whom Narayana is displeased, is tortured for his sins by Yama. Him who degrades himself by representing his self falsely, the gods never bless. Even his own soul blesses him not. I am a wife devoted to my husband. I have come of my own accord, it is true. But do not, on that account, treat me with disrespect. I am your wife and, therefore, deserve to be treated respectfully. Will you not treat me so, because I have come hither of my own accord ? In the presence of so many, why do you treat me like an common woman ?
I am certainly not crying in the wilderness. Do you hear me ? But if you refuse to do what I supplicate you for, O Dushyanta, this very moment your head shall burst into a hundred pieces ! The husband entering the womb of the wife comes out himself in the form of the son. Therefore is the wife called by those versed in the Vedas as Jaya – she of whom one is born. And the son that is so born unto persons cognisant of Vedic Mantras rescues the spirits of our deceased ancestors. And because the son rescues the ancestors from the hell called Put, therefore, has he been called by the Self-create himself as Puttra – the rescuer from Put. By a son one conquers the three worlds. By a son’s son, one enjoys eternity. And by a grandson’s son, great-grand-fathers enjoy everlasting happiness.
She is a true wife who is skilful in household affairs. She is a true wife who has borne a son. She is a true wife whose heart is devoted to her lord. She is a true wife who knows none but her lord. The wife is a man’s half. The wife is the first of friends. The wife is the root of religion, profit, and desire. The wife is the root of salvation. They that have wives can live by Dharma, in their togetherness. They that have wives can lead households, which collectively constitute our community in truth. They that have wives have the means to be cheerful. They that have wives can achieve good fortune. Wives of sweet speech are friends on occasions of joy. They are as fathers on occasions of religious acts. They are mothers in sickness and woe. Even in the deep woods, to a traveller, a wife is his refreshment and solace. He that has a wife is trusted by all.
A wife, therefore, is one’s most valuable possession. Even when the husband, leaving this world, goeth into the region of Yama, it is the devoted wife that accompanies him thither. If she goes before, she waits for the husband. But if the husband goes before, the chaste wife follows him close. For these reasons, O king, does marriage exist. The husband enjoys the companionship of the wife, both in this and in the other worlds. It has been said by the learned that one is himself born as one’s son. Therefore, a man whose wife has borne a son should look upon her as his mother. Beholding the face of the son one has begotten upon his wife, like his own face in a mirror, one feels as happy as a virtuous man, while departing from this world.
Men scorched by mental grief, or suffering under bodily pain, feel as much refreshed in the companionship of their wives as a perspiring person in a cool bath. No man, even in anger, should ever do anything that is disagreeable to his wife, seeing that happiness, joy, and virtue – everything depends on the wife. A wife is the sacred field in which the husband is born himself. Even Rishis cannot create creatures without women. What happiness is greater than what the father feels when the son runs towards him and, even though his body be covered with dust, clasps the man’s limbs with his little hands ? Why then do you treat with indifference such a son, who has approached you himself and who casts wistful glances towards you for climbing up your knees ? Even ants support their own eggs without destroying them; then why should not you, a virtuous man that you are, support your own child ? The touch of soft sandal paste, of women, of (cool) water is not so agreeable as the touch of one’s own infant son locked in one’s embrace.
As a Brahmana is the foremost of all bipeds, a cow, the foremost of all quadrupeds, a protector, the foremost of all superiors, so is the son the foremost of all objects, agreeable to the touch. Let, therefore, this handsome child touch you in embrace. There is nothing in the world more agreeable to touch than the embrace of one’s son. O chastiser of foes, I have brought forth this child capable of dispelling all your sorrows, after bearing him in my womb for full three years. O monarch, of Puru’s race, ‘He shall perform a hundred horse-sacrifices’ – these were the words uttered from the sky when I was in the lying-in room. Indeed, men in places remote from their homes take up others’ children on their laps and, reminded of their own, feel great happiness.
You know that Brahmanas repeat these Vedic mantras on the occasion of the consecrating rites of infancy : Thou art born, O son, of my body ! Thou art sprung from my heart. Thou art myself in the form of a son. Live thou to a hundred years ! My life dependeth on thee, and the continuation of my race too, on thee. Therefore, O son, live thou in great happiness to a hundred years.
He, this son of yours, has sprung from your body, a second being of yourself ! Behold thyself in your son, as thou beholdest your image in a clear lake. As the sacrificial fire is kindled from the domestic one, so has this one sprung from thee. Though one, you have divided yourself.
In course of hunting, while engaged in pursuit of a deer, I was approached by you, O king. I who was then a virgin in the asylum of my father. Urvasi, Purvachitti, Sahajanya, Menaka, Viswachi and Ghritachi, these are the six foremost of Apsaras. Amongst them again, Menaka, born of Brahman, is the first. Descending from heaven on Earth, after intercourse with Viswamitra, she gave birth to me. That celebrated Apsara, Menaka, brought me forth in a valley of Himavat. Bereft of all affection, she went away, cast me there as if I were the child of somebody else. What sinful act did I do, of old, in some other life that I was in infancy cast away by my parents and at present am cast away by you ! Put away by you, I am ready to return to the refuge of my father. But it behoves you not to cast off this child who is your own.
Dushmanta : O Sakuntala, I do not know having begot upon you this son. Women generally speak untruths. Who shall believe your word ? Destitute of all affection, the lewd Menaka is your mother, and she cast you off on the surface of the Himavat, as one throws away flowers offered to gods, after the worship is over. Thy father too, of the Kshatriya race, the lustful Viswamitra, who was tempted to become a Brahmana, is destitute of all affection. However, Menaka is the first of Apsaras, and thy father also is the first of Rishis. Being their daughter, why do you speak like a lewd woman ? Thy words deserve no credit. Are you not ashamed to utter such lies, especially before me ?
Go hence, O wicked woman in ascetic guise. Where is that foremost of great Rishis ? Where is that Apsara Menaka ? And why are you, low as you are, in the guise of an ascetic ? Your child too is grown up. You say he is a boy, but he is very strong. How has he soon grown like a Sal sprout ? You are of low birth and you speak like a lewd woman. Lustfully have you been begotten by Menaka. O woman of ascetic guise, all that you say is quite unknown to me. I don’t know you. Go withersoever you choose.
Sakuntala : You see, O king, the fault of others, even though they be as small as a mustard seed. But you notice not thy own faults even though they be as large as the Bilwa fruit. Menaka is one of the celestials. Indeed, Menaka is reckoned as the first of celestials. My birth, therefore, O Dushyanta, is far higher than yours. You walk upon the earth, O king, but I roam the skies ! Behold, the difference between ourselves is as that between the mountain Meru and a mustard seed !
Behold my power, O king ! I can repair to the abodes of Indra, Kuvera, Yama, and Varuna ! The saying is true which I shall refer to before you, O sinless one ! I refer to it as an example and not from evil motives. Therefore, it behoves you to pardon me after you have heard it.
An ugly person considers himself more handsome than others until he sees his own face in the mirror. He that is really handsome never taunts anybody. And he that always talks evil becometh a reviler. And as the swine always look for dirt and filth even in the midst of a garden of flowers, so the wicked always choose evil out of even the good that others speak. However those that are wise, on hearing the speech of others that has a mix of both good and evil, accept only what is good, like swan that always extracts milk, though it be mixed with water. As the honest are always pained at speaking ill of others, so do the wicked always rejoice in doing the same. As the honest always feel pleasure in showing regard for the old, so do the wicked always take delight in aspersing the good. The honest are happy in not seeking faults. The wicked are happy in seeking them in others. The wicked ever speak ill of the honest. But the latter never injure the former, even if injured by them.
What can be more ridiculous in the world than that those that are themselves wicked should represent the really honest as wicked ? When even atheists are annoyed with those that have fallen from truth and virtue and who are really like angry snakes of virulent poison, what shall I say of myself who am nurtured in faith? He that having begotten a son who is his own image, regards him not, never attains to the worlds he covets, and verily the gods destroy his good fortune and possessions. The Pitris have said that the son continues the race and extends the lineage and is, therefore, the best of all religious acts. Therefore, none should abandon a son.
Manu has said that there are five kinds of sons : those begotten by one’s self upon his own wife, those obtained (as gift) from others, those purchased for a consideration, those reared with affection and those begotten upon other women than wedded wives. Sons support the religion and achievements of men, enhance their joys, and rescue deceased ancestors from hell. It behoves you not, therefore, O tiger among kings, to abandon a son who is such. Therefore, O lord of earth, cherish your own self, truth, and virtue by cherishing thy son. O lion among monarchs, it behoves you not to support this deceitfulness.
The dedication of a tank is more meritorious than that of a hundred wells. A sacrifice again is more meritorious than the dedication of a tank. A son is more meritorious than a sacrifice. Truth is more meritorious than a hundred sons. A hundred horse-sacrifices had once been weighed against Truth, and Truth was found to be heavier. Truth, I ween, may be equal to the study of the entire Vedas and ablutions in all holy places. There is no virtue equal to Truth; there is nothing superior to Truth. O King, Truth is God himself; Truth is the highest vow.
Therefore, violate not thy pledge, O monarch ! Let Truth and you remain united. If you place no credit in my words, I shall of my own accord go hence. Indeed, thy companionship should be avoided. But hear, O Dushyanta, when you are gone, this son of mine shall rule the whole earth, surrounded by the four seas and adorned with the king of the mountains.
Having spoken to the monarch in this wise, Sakuntala left his presence. Whereupon, a voice from the skies, emanating from no visible shape, spoke unto Dushyanta as he sat surrounded by his occasional and household priests, his preceptors and ministers : The mother is but the sheath of flesh; the son sprung from the father is the father himself. Therefore, O Dushyanta, cherish thy son, and insult not Sakuntala. O best of men, the son, who is but a form of one’s own seed, rescues the ancestors from the region of Yama. Thou art the progenitor of this boy. Sakuntala has spoken the truth. The husband, dividing his body in twain, is born of his wife in the form of son. Therefore, O Dushyanta, cherish thy son born of Sakuntala. To live by forsaking one’s living son is a great misfortune. Therefore, O thou of Puru’s race, cherish thy high-souled son born of Sakuntala. And because this child is to be cherished by you even at our word, therefore shall thy son be known by the name of Bharata – the cherished.
Hearing these words uttered by dwellers in heaven, the monarch of Puru’s race became overjoyed and spoke as follows unto his priests and ministers, ‘Hear ye these words uttered by the celestial messenger ? I myself know this one to be my son. If I had taken him as my son on the strength of Sakuntala’s words alone, my people would have been suspicious and my son also would not have been regarded as pure.’
The monarch then, seeing the purity of his son established by the celestial messenger, became exceedingly glad. And he took unto him that son with joy. The king with a joyous heart performed all those rites upon his son that a father should perform. He smelt his child’s head and hugged him with affection. The Brahmanas began to utter blessings upon him and bards began to applaud him.The monarch then experienced the great delight that one feels at the touch of one’s son.
And Dushyanta also received that wife of his with affection. He told her these words, pacifying her affectionately, ‘O goddess, my union with you took place privately. Therefore, I was thinking of how best to establish thy purity. My people might think that we were only lustfully united and not as husband and wife, and therefore this son who I would have installed as my heir apparent would only have been regarded as one of impure birth. And dearest, every hard word thou hast uttered in thy anger have I forgiven thee. Thou art my dearest !’
And the royal sage Dushyanta, having spoken thus unto his dear wife, received her with offerings of perfume, food, and drink. And king Dushyanta, then, bestowed the name of Bharata upon his child, and formally installed him as the heir apparent. And the famous and bright wheels of Bharata’s car, invincible and like unto the wheels of the cars owned by the gods, traversed every region, filling the entire earth with their rattle. That monarch of great prowess was known as Chakravarti and Sarvabhauma.
Rishi Kanwa was himself the chief priest at the sacrifices he performed.