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IGNOU INDIAN CLASSICAL LITERATURE Important Questions And Answers For 2024

Q.1 Discuss the evocation of the vira (heroism) and the srngara (love) rasa in the play.

Indian classical literature is a treasure trove of emotions, with the nine rasas (emotional states) as articulated in the Natyashastra, the ancient Indian treatise on drama and performing arts, being central to its narratives. Among these, vira (heroism) and sringara (love) are particularly prominent, vividly capturing the essence of human experience. These rasas are skillfully interwoven into classical plays, creating stories that resonate deeply with audiences.


Vira Rasa:

Vira rasa embodies valor, courage, and the commitment to righteousness (dharma). In Indian classical literature, heroism transcends mere physical bravery to include moral and ethical strength, celebrating the human spirit's ability to confront challenges with determination and act honorably.

Classical plays like Kalidasa’s "Shakuntala," Bhavabhuti’s "Uttara-Ramacharita," and Bhasa’s "Urubhanga" exemplify vira rasa through their protagonists. These characters, often drawn from epic narratives like the Mahabharata and Ramayana, embody various dimensions of heroism. For instance, in "Uttara-Ramacharita," Bhavabhuti portrays Rama’s unwavering adherence to duty and righteousness despite personal suffering and moral dilemmas.

The heroes in these plays are portrayed not just as warriors, but as paragons of virtue and duty. Their heroism is depicted through grand, often poetic, dialogues that highlight their noble intentions and decisive actions. The exploration of their internal struggles and moral decisions adds depth to their heroism, making them relatable and admirable to the audience.

Themes of war, duty, and sacrifice often enhance the depiction of vira rasa. Scenes of battle, royal courts, and narratives of exile and return are designed to highlight the heroes' valor and steadfastness. These themes, intertwined with the philosophical concept of dharma, underscore the notion that true heroism aligns personal actions with universal ethical principles.


Sringara Rasa:

Sringara rasa, the sentiment of love, is celebrated extensively in Indian classical literature. It encompasses both romantic and aesthetic love, capturing emotions ranging from passionate longing to divine love. Sringara is often depicted through the dynamics of attraction, desire, separation, and union.

Classical plays like Kalidasa’s "Shakuntala," Bhavabhuti’s "Malatimadhava," and Jayadeva’s "Gita Govinda" are exquisite representations of sringara rasa. These works capture the subtleties of love, portraying it as a powerful, transformative force. In "Shakuntala," for example, the love story between Shakuntala and King Dushyanta unfolds with lyrical beauty, highlighting the intensity of their emotions and the eventual triumph of their love.

Lovers in these plays are depicted with a balance of passion and virtue. Their love is expressed through enchanting poetry, vivid imagery, and profound metaphors. The dialogues and monologues of the characters reveal their deepest feelings, creating an emotional tapestry that captivates the audience. Their experiences of longing, joy, despair, and reunion are crafted to evoke empathy and connection.

Themes associated with sringara rasa include the beauty of nature, the changing seasons, and the arts, which serve as metaphors for the lovers' emotions. The depiction of spring, with its blooming flowers and singing birds, often parallels the blossoming of love. The recurring motif of separation and reunion emphasizes the trials and ultimate endurance of love, reinforcing its purity and power.


Interplay of Vira and Sringara Rasa

In many classical plays, vira and sringara rasa coexist harmoniously, reflecting the multifaceted nature of human experience. The interplay of these rasas adds depth and complexity to the narrative, creating a rich emotional landscape. Heroes' valor is often juxtaposed with their capacity for deep love, revealing the dual aspects of their character.


Example from "Shakuntala"

Kalidasa’s "Shakuntala" serves as a quintessential example of this interplay. King Dushyanta is depicted as a valiant warrior and a just ruler, embodying vira rasa. His heroism is evident in his royal duties and commitment to righteousness. However, his love for Shakuntala showcases a tender, passionate side, illustrating sringara rasa. The seamless transition between heroism and romance enriches the narrative, providing a holistic portrayal of the protagonist.


Example from the Mahabharata

In the Mahabharata, characters like Arjuna and Krishna exemplify the synthesis of vira and sringara rasa. Arjuna’s heroism is legendary, depicted in numerous battles and his unwavering commitment to dharma. Simultaneously, his love for Subhadra and Draupadi reveals his emotional depth and capacity for affection. Krishna, as both a divine hero and a lover, epitomizes the blending of these rasas, particularly in episodes involving Radha and the gopis, where divine love and valor merge beautifully.

Literary Devices

The evocation of vira and sringara rasa in classical plays is achieved through various literary devices. Similes, metaphors, and hyperboles enhance the emotional impact. In sringara, metaphors related to nature and beauty are common, while in vira, similes comparing heroes to majestic animals or powerful forces of nature amplify their valor.

Poetic Forms

Poetic forms such as shlokas (verses) and prabandhas (long poetic compositions) add a lyrical quality to the depiction of these rasas. The rhythmic cadence of poetry embellishes the narrative and elevates the emotional resonance, making the experiences of heroism and love more vivid and poignant.

Visual and Aesthetic Elements

In performances, visual and aesthetic elements play a crucial role in evoking the desired rasas. Costumes, makeup, and stage design reflect the emotional tone of scenes. The use of color, lighting, and props further accentuates the moods, enhancing the audience's emotional engagement.


Q.2 Abhijana Shakuntalam is a dramatisation of the conflicts of the private and the public and of desire and duty. Discuss


Kalidasa's play "Abhijnana Shakuntalam," often translated as "The Recognition of Shakuntala," is a cornerstone of Indian classical literature. It is celebrated not only for its poetic beauty and emotional depth but also for its profound exploration of human conflicts. Central to the narrative are the tensions between private and public lives, and the dichotomy of desire and duty. Through the story of Shakuntala and King Dushyanta, Kalidasa weaves a complex tapestry of love, responsibility, and societal obligations.


The Conflict of Private and Public Lives

Shakuntala’s life begins in the private, idyllic setting of the hermitage, where she lives a simple, secluded life. This environment is deeply personal and intimate, governed by the rhythms of nature and the spiritual pursuits of the sages. Her interactions are limited to the close-knit community of the hermitage, and her world is defined by tranquility and innocence.


Dushyanta's Public Role

In contrast, King Dushyanta’s life is entrenched in the public sphere. As a monarch, his duties extend beyond personal desires to encompass the welfare of his kingdom. His actions are constantly scrutinized by his subjects, advisors, and the broader socio-political environment. The demands of kingship require him to prioritize duty and governance over personal inclinations.

The love story between Shakuntala and Dushyanta brings the private and public spheres into direct conflict. Their romance blossoms in the secluded hermitage, away from the prying eyes of the court and the burdens of governance. However, their union is not merely a private affair; it has significant public implications, especially when Shakuntala enters the palace, pregnant with Dushyanta’s child. The transition from the private to the public domain is fraught with challenges, as the purity of their love is tested by the harsh realities of court politics and societal expectations.

The curse that causes Dushyanta to forget Shakuntala epitomizes the clash between the private and public. When Dushyanta fails to recognize Shakuntala upon her arrival at the palace, it underscores the vulnerability of private love in the face of public duties and external influences. The king's amnesia serves as a metaphor for the disconnect that can arise when personal relationships are overshadowed by public responsibilities.


The Dichotomy of Desire and Duty

Desire is a central theme in "Abhijnana Shakuntalam," driving the actions of both Shakuntala and Dushyanta. Their mutual attraction is immediate and intense, transcending the boundaries of their respective worlds. This desire, however, is not merely physical; it is also an emotional and spiritual connection that promises to bridge the gap between their different spheres.

Contrasting with the personal desires of the protagonists is the concept of duty. For Shakuntala, duty initially revolves around her responsibilities within the hermitage, adhering to the principles and disciplines of her upbringing. For Dushyanta, duty encompasses the broader responsibilities of kingship, including justice, governance, and the well-being of his subjects.


The Marriage and its Consequences

The secret marriage between Shakuntala and Dushyanta represents a convergence of desire and duty. While their union fulfills their personal desires, it also complicates their duties. Shakuntala's duty shifts from the hermitage to her role as a queen and mother, while Dushyanta’s duty extends to acknowledging and integrating his new family into the royal lineage.

The ring given by Dushyanta to Shakuntala serves as a powerful symbol of the conflict between desire and duty. When Shakuntala loses the ring, it not only leads to Dushyanta's failure to recognize her but also symbolizes the fragile nature of personal bonds in the face of societal duties. The eventual rediscovery of the ring and Dushyanta’s subsequent recognition of Shakuntala signify the reconciliation of personal desire with public duty.

The resolution of the play, where Dushyanta and Shakuntala are reunited, represents the ultimate reconciliation of desire and duty. Dushyanta’s acceptance of Shakuntala and their son Bharata reaffirms his commitment to both his personal desires and his public duties. The harmonious ending suggests that while desire and duty may conflict, they can also coexist and complement each other when balanced with wisdom and compassion.


Broader Implications

Kalidasa’s treatment of these conflicts is not merely a narrative device but also an exploration of deeper philosophical and ethical questions. The play reflects the Indian ethos of balancing personal happiness with societal obligations, a theme that resonates with the broader concepts of dharma (duty) and artha (purpose).

"Abhijnana Shakuntalam" also mirrors the social norms and expectations of its time. The tension between private desires and public duties reflects the societal pressures faced by individuals, particularly those in positions of power. The play critiques and yet upholds the importance of societal values, suggesting a nuanced approach to understanding and fulfilling one’s roles.

The conflicts portrayed in "Abhijnana Shakuntalam" remain relevant today, as individuals continue to navigate the delicate balance between personal desires and professional or societal responsibilities. The play’s exploration of these themes offers timeless insights into the human condition, making it a perennial favorite in both literary and theatrical traditions.


Q.3 Discuss the rejection and recognition scene in the play.

Kalidasa's "Abhijnana Shakuntala" is a seminal work in Indian classical literature, renowned for its poetic elegance and profound exploration of human emotions. Central to the narrative are the pivotal scenes of rejection and recognition, which not only drive the plot but also illuminate the complex interplay of love, memory, and destiny. These scenes are critical in shaping the characters’ development and the thematic depth of the play.


Shakuntala’s Background

Shakuntala, the foster daughter of the sage Kanva, lives a serene life in the hermitage, surrounded by nature and spiritual pursuits. Her world is disrupted when she meets King Dushyanta, who is enchanted by her beauty and grace. Their love blossoms swiftly, culminating in a Gandharva marriage—a form of wedding that is consensual but lacks the formalities typically observed in societal marriages.

The rejection scene is precipitated by a curse placed on Shakuntala by the sage Durvasa. Offended by Shakuntala's distracted behavior, Durvasa curses her, saying that the person she is thinking of will forget her. This curse is a critical plot device that sets the stage for the subsequent drama. Despite her friends' pleas, Durvasa modifies the curse, stating that the memory will be restored upon the presentation of a significant token, the ring Dushyanta had given Shakuntala.


Shakuntala's Arrival at the Palace

Shakuntala, now pregnant and escorted by her friends from the hermitage, arrives at Dushyanta's court. This journey itself is significant, symbolizing her transition from the secluded, spiritual world of the hermitage to the public, political sphere of the royal court. The anticipation and hope in Shakuntala’s heart are palpable as she approaches Dushyanta, expecting a warm welcome and recognition.


Dushyanta’s Amnesia

When Shakuntala stands before Dushyanta, he is unable to recognize her due to Durvasa’s curse. Dushyanta’s amnesia is not just a plot twist but also a commentary on the fragility of human relationships and the influence of external forces. His inability to remember Shakuntala, despite the clear evidence of her pregnancy and her recounting of their union, highlights the tension between memory and identity.

The rejection is emotionally devastating for Shakuntala. Her despair is compounded by her vulnerable condition and the stark contrast between her expectations and reality. Kalidasa masterfully depicts her anguish through her dialogues and the reactions of those around her. The public nature of her humiliation adds to her suffering, as she is forced to defend her honor in a court that doubts her integrity.


Dushyanta’s Dilemma

Dushyanta’s rejection of Shakuntala is not without its own complexity. Despite his initial forgetfulness, he is portrayed as a just and compassionate king. His inability to recognize Shakuntala and his subsequent doubts about her story reflect his internal conflict. He is torn between his royal duties, which demand skepticism and caution, and his innate sense of empathy and justice.


Shakuntala’s Exile

Following the rejection, Shakuntala’s life takes a tragic turn. She is abandoned by her companions and left to wander, reflecting the desolation and isolation she feels. This period of exile is crucial for her character development, as it symbolizes her struggle and resilience. Her journey through the wilderness, ending at the ashram of the sage Maricha, marks a transformative phase where she grapples with her fate and identity.

The ring given by Dushyanta, which Shakuntala loses during her journey, plays a pivotal role in the recognition scene. Its loss and eventual recovery symbolize the themes of memory and recognition. The ring, once found by a fisherman and presented to Dushyanta, serves as the catalyst for the king’s recollection of his past with Shakuntala. This object bridges the gap between the past and the present, the forgotten and the remembered.


Rediscovery of the Ring

The turning point comes when a fisherman finds the ring and presents it to Dushyanta. The king’s sudden flood of memories upon seeing the ring is a moment of profound realization. This scene underscores the importance of tokens and symbols in human relationships and memory. The ring acts as a tangible link to the past, triggering a cascade of emotions and recollections.


Dushyanta’s Remorse

Dushyanta’s recognition of Shakuntala is accompanied by intense remorse. His earlier rejection and the pain it caused Shakuntala weigh heavily on him. Kalidasa portrays this remorse with great sensitivity, showing Dushyanta’s deep regret and his desire to atone for his actions. His reaction is not just one of personal sorrow but also of a king who has failed in his duties towards someone who trusted him.


The Search for Shakuntala

Determined to find and reunite with Shakuntala, Dushyanta embarks on a quest that takes him to the hermitage of the sage Maricha. This journey is symbolic of his penance and his commitment to rectifying his mistake. It reflects his transformation from a forgetful, duty-bound king to a devoted lover seeking redemption.

The recognition scene reaches its climax when Dushyanta and Shakuntala are finally reunited. Their meeting is imbued with a mixture of joy, sorrow, and forgiveness. Kalidasa’s portrayal of this reunion is marked by its emotional intensity and poetic beauty. The reconciliation not only resolves the personal conflict between the characters but also restores the moral and cosmic order disrupted by the curse.


Love and Memory

The rejection and recognition scenes in "Abhijnana Shakuntala" highlight the interplay between love and memory. The curse that causes Dushyanta to forget Shakuntala and the subsequent recovery of his memories emphasize the fragility and resilience of love. Memory serves as a crucial link in maintaining the integrity of relationships, and its restoration signifies the triumph of love over external adversities.


Duty and Compassion

Dushyanta’s journey from rejection to recognition reflects the tension between duty and compassion. His initial rejection of Shakuntala, driven by his kingly duties, contrasts with his later actions motivated by love and remorse. This evolution underscores the need for balance between public responsibilities and personal emotions. It suggests that true leadership and justice encompass empathy and moral courage.


The play also delves into the theme of fate and its inexorable influence on human lives. The curse and the eventual rediscovery of the ring are manifestations of fate’s role in shaping the characters' destinies. Despite the characters’ efforts, they are often at the mercy of forces beyond their control. This acknowledgment of fate adds a layer of philosophical depth to the narrative, reflecting the ancient Indian worldview of karma and dharma.


The recognition scene is also a narrative of redemption and forgiveness. Dushyanta’s remorse and his quest to find Shakuntala highlight his journey towards redemption. Shakuntala’s acceptance of Dushyanta, despite her suffering, embodies the theme of forgiveness. This resolution emphasizes the healing power of love and the possibility of renewal and reconciliation.


Literary and Dramatic Techniques

Kalidasa employs rich symbolism and imagery to enhance the emotional and thematic depth of the rejection and recognition scenes. The ring, as a symbol of memory and fidelity, is central to the narrative. Nature imagery, such as the blooming of flowers and the changing seasons, mirrors the characters’ emotional states and the progression of the plot.

The play’s poetic dialogue elevates the emotional intensity of these scenes. Kalidasa’s use of Sanskrit verse imbues the characters’ expressions with lyrical beauty and philosophical resonance. The dialogues between Shakuntala and Dushyanta are crafted with exquisite sensitivity, capturing the nuances of their emotions and the profundity of their experiences.

The rejection and recognition scenes are meticulously structured to maximize dramatic impact. The gradual buildup of tension, the unexpected twists, and the eventual resolution create a compelling narrative arc. The juxtaposition of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, keeps the audience engaged and emotionally invested in the characters’ journeys.


Impact on the Audience

The rejection and recognition scenes evoke a wide range of emotions in the audience. The pain of Shakuntala’s rejection, the suspense of the lost ring, and the joy of the final reunion create an emotional rollercoaster. Kalidasa’s skillful storytelling ensures that the audience remains deeply engaged with the characters’ fates.

These scenes also prompt the audience to reflect on moral and philosophical questions. The play’s exploration of duty, love, memory, and fate invites viewers to contemplate their own lives and relationships. The themes of redemption and forgiveness resonate on a personal and societal level, offering timeless insights into the human condition.

"Abhijnana Shakuntala" -  holds a significant place in Indian cultural heritage. The rejection and recognition scenes, with their emotional and thematic richness, contribute to the play’s enduring appeal. They reflect the values and aesthetics of ancient Indian literature, showcasing the intricate blend of poetry, drama, and philosophy.



Kalidasa’s "Abhijnana Shakuntala" is a masterful exploration of the conflicts and reconciliations inherent in human relationships. The scenes of rejection and recognition are central to the play’s narrative and thematic structure. Through the poignant story of Shakuntala and Dushyanta, Kalidasa delves into the complexities of love, memory, duty, and fate. These scenes, rich in symbolism and emotional depth, continue to captivate audiences and offer profound insights into the timeless themes of human existence. The play remains a testament to the enduring power of classical literature to evoke, enlighten, and inspire.



Q.4 What is the relevance of the curse and the ring in the play?

Q.5 Duhsanta leaves his kingly authority behind when he enters the Hermitage. Do you agree?

Q.6 Does Karna believe in the cause of Duryodhana? If not, then why does he continue his alliance with him? Elaborate.

Q.7 What is Karna’s view of Krsna? Comment

Q.8 How do you visualise Sakara as an example of characterisation? Elaborate.

Q.9 Critically analyse the theme of instability in Mrichchhatika

Q.10 What purpose does the prologue serve in Mrichchakatika?

Q.11 Attempt a comparison between the use of metaphors and suggestions in Sanskrit aesthetics and in Tamil poetics.

Q.12 Examine the politics of gender, relations and the patriarchal authority of the King in the epic.

Q.13 Analyse the character of Kannagi as the woman protagonist of the epic.

Q.14 Write a brief essay on the cult of Pattini.

Q.15 Discuss the idea of justice in Cilappatikaran.


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