Śakuntalā has oftentimes been adapted and translated in order to conform with the demands of the people. Prevailing genres and cultural aspects were added to the play each time, allowing for the insertion of contemporary dynamics or themes. Contrasting individuals, both affluent and poor, would modify plot points, as well as characters themselves, providing historians with unique manifestations of the same play. The Braj version (1716) of the play Śakuntalā preserved the longevity of the text, while also providing a modern twist to Kalidasa’s version (300-400 CE). Nawāz Kaveṡvara retold the drama in the vernacular, as a mixture between the Mahabharata version and the Kalidasa version, and in a manner that incorporated the prevailing style of the local poetry. Individuals such as Kaveṡvara would prevent Śakuntalā from fading away into the distant past, by once again making it a part of the present.
In 1716, a nobleman, after returning from a successful campaign, asked a well-known poet of the period named Nawāz Kaveṡvara to translate Śakuntalā into “Braj-ki-boli.” This was the language of the common people, allowing everyone to read this classic play for themselves. Originally only the wealthy, such as the members of the Mughal Court, were able to enjoy such old writings like Śakuntalā (Thapar 90). It was now that the play could truly grow in popularity as it could not be picked up and read by most people. The character, Śakuntalā, daughter of Vishvamitra and Menka, would be engraved into the minds of the people. This would allow a variety of individuals with different points of view to analyze the Śakuntalā. Some would side with her independent nature, while others would see her simply as a woman that was standing out of line. The concepts of India’s past were lost to the people, but Nawāz Kaveṡvara’s Śakuntalā would embody, and share, many of those ideas.
The Braj version of Śakuntalā borrowed elements from both the epic version (400-600 BCE) and Kalidasa version that came before it. The first known version of Śakuntalā can be found in the Mahabharata, and narrated by Vaisampayana. Here, women in the patriarchal system are depicted as being strong and autonomous. They were considered to be an important part of the society, and were thus allowed to argue for their rights. The people of the period placed Śakuntalā on a high pedestal, giving her power and independence (Thapar 15). Unlike most other societies, women like Śakuntalā had the opportunity to make something of themselves. Women were not the inferior individuals that would come about in future communities.
In the Kalidasa version, the story of the Śakuntalā would be transformed into an emotional play, significantly different from its predecessors. Here one finds a Śakuntalā who is far more shy, talking through her friends the first time she meets Dushyanta. She also becomes very passive, as well as submissive to the will of the King. Śakuntalā’s...