(Article contributed by Sankeertana Dantuluri)
There is this African saying: “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” Because Indian mythology was written exclusively by men, their point of view will always favour the male protagonists [Gods, in this case]. Here are some of the characters famous for the wrong reasons.
1. Ahalya: Ahalya is Maharshi Gautama’s wife and she is mostly known as the stone that was brought back to life by Rama when his feet touched her. This is interesting, but she was turned into a rock by her husband who was mad at Indra for taking his human form to have a sexual encounter with Ahalya. Because he cannot very well punish the king of Gods, he punished his wife who was innocent. So very uncool.
2. Sita: Sita is always know as the epitome of grace, patience, forgiveness. She is earth’s daughter and she inherits her patience, but there is a limit to everything. So, if you want to remember Sita, remember her by the way she lived alone in a forest without a husband, while being pregnant. Remember her for knowing when to leave and remember her for the way she left.
3. Draupadi: When someone says her name, all that comes to mind is the infamous Vastrapaharanam. Maybe, for fun, let us stop doing that. Think of Draupathi as a symbol for hypocrisy in Mahabharatham, because how is it okay to use a human woman as as stakes while gambling? How is it okay in the eyes of Dharmaraju, the epitome of justice, that his wife was being stripped naked in front of everyone? Also, just because Kunti said share it without knowing what ‘it’ is, she is supposed to accept five husbands instead of just the one she loved?
4. Savitri: Known for her encounter with Yama and the way she brought her husband back to life with her will and smarts, there is much more to her story than being the ‘Ideal Wife’. When young she travelled all over her kingdom in search of a perfect husband, instead of letting her father choose one. She fell in love with a poor prince and married him, even after knowing that he’d die within a year. One should take heed of her determination and ironclad will.
5. Kali: Even though she looks scary and dark, she is called the mother goddess as she treats her worshippers her own children. She is mostly associated with animal sacrifices and dark powers, but there is more beauty to her than darkness. She is fierce both in appearance and execution. And the fact that lord Shiva himself had to throw himself at her feet to stop her from destroying everything shows her anger and power.
6. Surpanaka: After Ravana, she is the reason why Ramayana happened. She has been shown as this ugly monster who caused the epic battle between Rama and Ravana. Well, there is another way of seeing at things. Surpanaka liked Rama and wanted to marry him. He refused and told her to go after Lakshmana. Instead of just rejecting her, Lakshmana makes fun of her and not just that, he also cuts her nose off, which symbolically suggests the death of her pride. What she did after that is revenge and for some reason I do not find it hard to side with her.
There is always two sides to a story and it is important to decide who is evil and who isn’t after going through both sides. Maybe because men wrote the stories, there is only mention of a Ideal wife and never a mention of Ideal husband. I understand that there is great knowledge and life lessons in Mahabharatha and Geeta, but I still have to think twice before introducing Indian mythology to my children.
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