King Dusyanta is out hunting with his charioteer in a forest. Just when he is about to shoot a deer with his arrow a voice is heard, which forbids the king to shoot an animal in the sacred grounds of a hermitage. The king obeys and is invited to visit the ascetic hermitage led by the patriarch Kanva. There the king meets a beautiful girl, Shakuntala, Kanva’s foster daughter. They immediately fall in love and engage in a secret marriage. The king must see to his duties of fighting against the demons that are disturbing the hermitage. Then it is time for him to return to his palace and his other wives. But before he goes, he gives a ring to Shakuntala as a token of his love and their secret union.
Shakuntala is in love and absentmindedly neglects her duty to be hospitable when a short-tempered ascetic, Durvasas, visits the hermitage. Durvasas is secretly angry and imposes a curse: Shakuntala’s object of love will forget her until she is able to show him a token of recognition. Shakuntala, who is now visibly pregnant, bids farewell to her foster father, the hermitage, and her friends, and heads for the king’s palace with her small group of escorts. But on the way, while washing her hands in a pond, she loses the ring the king gave her.
At the palace Shakuntala and her escorts meet the king. Because of Durvasa’s curse he does not recognise Shakuntala. When she tries to show the king the ring, the token of their union, she realises that she has lost it. This makes the king even more suspicious, while Shakuntala feels deeply humiliated. Suddenly, Shakuntala is spirited away by her semi-divine mother, the heavenly nymph Menaka.
Although the king still does not recognise Shakuntala, he feels strangely sorrowful. One day the ring is found by two fishermen in the belly of a fish and taken to King Dusyanta, who immediately regains his memory. He is filled with remorse. How could he have forgotten his beloved wife and their son? Again it is time for Dusyanta to see to his royal duties. God Indra’s charioteer asks him to lead an attack on a demon army that is on its way.
Six years later the king returns with his flying chariot from the war against the demons. He takes rest in a heavenly hermitage. There he happens to see an exceptional boy playing. Strange feelings fill his heart and he gradually understands that the boy is his own son, who, according to a prophecy, will one day be the world emperor. Dusyanta meets Shakuntala and finally they are reunited and blessed by gods. Thus they are ready to return to earth and Dusyanta’s palace.