01 (Sakuntala) The Hunting Expedition

The chariot of the King,
Dushyanta, was chasing,
In the deep forest, a deer,
That ran away fast, in fear.

The ground was rough.
It was a task so tough
For him to keep pace
And continue his chase.

“Why, Oh Charioteer,
We cannot see the deer,
Despite our quick chase
Behind it, so close? ”

“Oh King, here I found
This uneven level ground,
So, tightly the reins I held
To slacken the chariot’s speed.”

“Why can’t you go faster?
Loosen the reins, better.
So, we can trace the deer.
It must be somewhere here.”

He loosened his tight grip,
And drew his long whip.
The steeds then galloped
And picked up top speed.

It was like the chariot
Flying on the air fast,
Raising high the dust
To the blue-sky-height.

Amidst the rattling noise,
There came up a voice,
“Oh king, don’t kill this.
To hermitage, it belongs.”

“Use not your skill
Innocent ones to kill.
Use your sharp weapon,
For their very protection.”

Hearing this, the chariot,
Came to a screeching halt.
The king saw a young hermit
Running towards him fast.

The deer had its narrow
Escape from his arrow,
As he withdrew his aim
And didn’t do any harm.

“Oh king, you’re so noble.
To spare this innocent animal.
You’ll be blessed with a son,
Universally, the most popular one.”

“Now, we’re going out,
Dried sticks, to collect
A few, here and there,
For our sacrificial fire.”

“Yonder, Kanva, the sage
Has a peaceful hermitage,
Just near the Malini River.
You can take rest there.”

“The hospitality you deserve,
There, you’ll certainly receive.
The religious rites you’ll watch,
There, humanity, they’ll teach.”

The King asked them,
“Is the Sage at home? ”
As he was too eager
To meet him, that hour.

“No King, his daughter,
Sakuntala, stays there.
She does these duties,
Of honouring all guests.”

“To Somathirtha, he went
To appease her ill-fate, ”
They replied like this,
And left that place.

The king left the chariot,
At a distance, to meet
Sakuntala, the daughter,
After a bath in the river.

by Rajaram Ramachandran

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