Early Life of Dushyanta
According to the Mahabharata, Dushyanta was the son of Ilina and Rathantara who is said to ruled directly or through his governors, from Gandhara (present day Kandahar in Afghanistan and the Gandhara valley in Pakistan) to the Vindhyas and beyond, and from Sindhu, (present day Pakistan) to Vanga. He was the king of Hastinapur and ancestor of the Kuru Dynasty.
Legends of Dushyanta
The legend of the mighty king Dushyanta is an exciting story from the epic Mahabharata, which the great ancient poet Kalidasa retold in his eternal play Abhijnanashakuntalam. According to the myths, King Dushyanta met Shakuntala while on a hunting journey. They fell in love with each other at first sight and Shakuntala married the king in a ceremony of Gandharva in the absence of her father. When the time came for Dushyanta to return to his palace, he promised to send a representative to lead her to his palace. He gave her a ring as a caring remembrance.
One day when sage Durvasa stopped at her hut for welcome, Shakuntala failed to pay attention to him. Durvasa then turned back and cursed her. Durvasa cursed her by saying that whose thoughts had engrossed her would not remember her any longer. On the request of her friends, Durvasa relented and added a condition to his curse. He said that the person could only remember Shakuntala if she produce some important reminder. With the time no one from the palace came to bring back her. Her father sent her to the royal court for their reunion, as she was pregnant with Dushyantas child. Meanwhile, Shakuntalas ring accidentally dropped into the river and lost while travelling.
When Shakuntala presented herself before the king, Dushyanta, under the spell of the curse, failed to recognize her as his wife. She appealed the gods for her help. The spell was broken when a fisherman found the ring in the stomach of a fish. Dushyanta then suffered from a deep feeling of guilt and prejudice. Shakuntala forgave Dushyanta and they were reunited blissfully. She gave birth to a male child who was called Bharat, after whom India got its name.
Dushyanta as a King
Dushyanta in Abhijnanasakuntalam, the hero of Kalidasa is a perfect king. He is compared with gods and is shown as equal to Indra in heroism. Dushyanta has all the qualities of a Dhiroddhata Nayaka who should be firm and brave, consequently serious, merciful, not given to self-pride, not show off, determined and devoid of ego. He was a great warrior and an expert of art. His graces were immense and his decent form has been described at numerous places in the play. Dushyanta was a devotee of Dharma.