What quality of the maiden brings me back to a jungle hermitage again and again? Is it her exceptional beauty comparable to the celestial or the polite but firm manner or the refined articulation unexpected of a woman in the forest? True her shape is perfect, her feature is flawless. But her beauty is enhanced by the ideal blend of confidence and humility in her expression. She is an ascetic in the forest whose splendid youth bloomed to the fullest extent.

Why only me – didn’t she attract all those pet birds and deer with her gentle care and soft touch? Her friends told me how she keeps herself busy in taking care of the shelterless ones. I want a share of her generous love. My heart sobs like a begger’s waiting for alms before a wealthy merchants home.

With my wild intense desire burning me from inside, I reach near her hut at dawn. Most of the hermitage dwellers stay busy with their studies or work early in the morning – this is best time to be with her alone.

She comes out of the hut. As simple and charming as before, glowing even before the golden morning light approaches. The generous beauty welcomes me courteously. She brings me a grass seat from her tiny hut, then fetches me water to wash my feet – more I look at her more the grace in her movements astonishes me. Today she enquires about my well being, my stay in the forest tent. Her elegance is inherited, I must say – daughter of a human, especially those brought in this kind of modest hermitage cannot have chance to learn this eloquence. No princess on earth could provide such a comfort to a king in the outlandish forest environment. I hear her pleasant voice, “How could the Hermitage serve you, King! I await your command.”

“You words drench my heart like sweet nectar flowing down from a high mountain, my Lady of the forest! Not only your exquisite beauty is fascinating, the tale you told me that day is equally heart rendering. You became my dream, O princess! Princess is the title you deserve. I propose you to be my wife, my beautiful lady! Tell me what shall I do for you? Which gift from me would suit you the most? This tree-bark attire does not suit you. Your divine body deserves most expensive silk of my country. Why adorn yourself with garlands made of forest flowers? Let me bring baskets of gold jewelry, exclusive ear-rings, and white pearls. You steps should fall on the finest carpets instead of this muddy forest floor. Let me admire your lotus feet.” – How else shall I express my desire to this graceful but inexperienced forest girl?

But why is she still silent? She looks at the ground as if she tries to ignore my existence here. How is it possible that King Dusmanta’s expensive gift basket cannot win the heart of a lady? Or a girl brought up in the jungle hermitage does not know the difference between silk and tree-bark, jewelry and forest flowers? I think I have to tell her more, “My charming lady, be the queen of a powerful king. Reign on the whole kingdom instead of this hermitage. Do not remain hesitant. Let your elegant beauty join my craving soul through marriage. Come to me shedding your shyness, let me adore you gorgeous thighs, let me be yours today!” – I feel my voice getting chocked.

I see her movements. She lifts her face towards me, her large deer-like eyes looking straight at mine. Her sober voice gives her first consent: “As you wish, my King! My father is away at present you know. Wait but a moment. Let him come back and bestow me on your hands.”

She does not know that the impatience of a king cannot be subdued. I want my treat right now. I would plead till she accepts the pleasing moments I am offering her. “My beautiful lady! Both your body and mind are flawless. Please fulfill my desire to get you as my life’s companion. I came here for you, and you are sitting in the core of my heart. As you are grown in up in a hermitage where people gain infinite knowledge, I guess you have earned knowledge that nourishes humans though their course of life. One person is the best friend of oneself. You do not have any other friend better than yourself. Therefore, you are the one who can certainly bestow yourself to me in a marriage duly ordained.”

I try to explain her more, “You might have known there are eight kinds of marriages, namely Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa, and Paisacha. Manu, the son of the almighty upholds the appropriateness of all these forms according to place and time. The first four of these are suitable only for Brahmanas, and the first six for Kshatriyas. Being a Kshatriya, I may take you through a Rakshasa form of marriage. Though both Gandharva and Rakshasa are most suitable for warriors and kings, dharma of a King tells me not to take you by force. You need not entertain least fear from your King. But your King wishes you to know how frustratingly he is yearning for your love. Full of desire I am, my Lady! I see the colour of same desire in your unblemished body too. Come let us face the fear of unprecedented love undaunted. Accept my love being my wife with vows appropriate to the Gandharva marriage. Let your passionate King fulfill your desire.”

She listens to me with undivided attention. She seems moved by my earnest request. Taking a small pause, she answers, “If this is the course we have to follow to fulfill love, and if I am the person who would decide for myself, then please listen to me, My King! O chief of the Purus, if indeed we are marrying following Gandhava rituals, I have terms to betrothal. Promise me what I ask from you as the prospective queen of yours. The son you are going to gift me shall be your heir-apparent. This is my resolution you have to grant, My King, before our union takes place.”

Siva, Siva! She is interested in the throne, not in my handsome body? Does she ever look at my majestic face, my intriguing moustache, royal grandeur, the precious stones adorning my neck and hands and arms? Am I the scion of the great Chandra, so undesirable? Didn’t she find any of my passionate words impressive enough to fall in love with me? Or she proves herself to be the daughter of a heavenly nymph with an wolf’s heart who indulges herself in the game of love with non-human motive? Isn’t Love only a route to secure their divine desire of grabbing power and territories? Isn’t their cobweb of Love is weaved only to attract submission of the mortals? I have submitted myself, cannot even take time to consider, even if I have to pay an exorbitant price for confessing my love to her.

At once I say, “As you wish, My Lady! There is nothing else than your pleasant smile I crave for in this world. You deserve all what you want. Soon I will take you to my capital to fulfill my duty of the mortal husband. I promise you to make our son the successor of the illustrious dynasty of Chandras. Let us quench our thirst of love keeping the gods of ten quarters as witness. Let Agni bless our union to flourish our burning love to the fullest extent. Let our passion take form of a son in your womb, Sakuntala.”

I embrace her like an elephant maddened by the pain of love. I take her lips in mine like a hungry honey bee drinking nectar sitting on a sweet flower. I enter her hut to lose myself to the nymph-like beauty on this earth.
To be cont.