By Shobhit Agarwal:
There are innumerable causes given to reason the current plight of women in the Indian society. You discuss this topic with 10 different people and they will come up with 10 different theories. However, whatever be the true cause, the one thing which all of us can form a common consensus on is the fact that society’s interpretation of women as just a ‘home-maker’ is deeply flawed.
Somehow, it is consciously or unconsciously bred in our mind that at the end of the day, all those degrees and PhDs notwithstanding, the ultimate goal of an Indian woman’s life is to attain mastery in household chores and execute them to the best off her abilities. To put it in the kindest of words, such a mindset is nothing but naïve, screams ignorance and is obsolete and out-of-sync with today’s times.
So what exactly is the root cause of such an ecosystem, where women are perceived the way they are? The answer to this question lies in the manuscripts of mythological sagas that were written thousands of years ago. For all those who didn’t get it, I am talking about the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The immediate question that comes to mind is what has the Ramayana and the Mahabharata got to do with the way women are treated today? I say everything. And I am not making baseless claims and will justify my reasoning.
Ask yourselves – What are the female characters that come to your minds when you think of the Ramayana and Mahabharata? Sita, Draupadi, Gandhari, Surpanakha, Kaikeyi. Chances are that these are the immediate names that will crop up in the minds of majority. Now, let us get into the character sketch of each one of them.
Sita is portrayed as the devoted wife, who gives up all the worldly comforts to support her husband Ram. After coming back from exile, she willingly gives the test of Agnipariksha when her loyalty towards her Swami is questioned, in order to demonstrate her purity.
Draupadi is the queen of the Pandavas, who is lost by the eldest Pandav, Yudishthir (who ironically is the ‘wisest’ man in the kingdom) in a game of gambling and has to bear the ignominy of a Cheerharan, in front of a whole assembly of men, which she accepts as her fate.
Gandhari is the dedicated wife of Dhritarashtrya, who in spite of having perfect eyesight, decides to go blindfold throughout her life only because her husband is blind.
Surpanakha is the damsel who gets her nose and ears chopped off by Laxman, as a result of which, her brother Ravan kidnaps Sita and thus ensues the whole battle of Lanka.
Finally Kaikeyi is the step-mother, who forces her husband to send his eldest son, the heir apparent to the throne to 14 years of exile to allow her own son become the king. And she does all of it after being brainwashed by her maid, Manthara.
We see that in all these portrayal, women are shown as the dedicated, devoted wife or as the weak, helpless female in distress or as the wicked, spoiled sister or as the evil step-mother. The men in these sagas are equally tainted yet somehow; they have managed to rise to the ranks of Gods and Lords over the centuries.
Now here comes the alarming part – these sagas, with such untoward and limited portrayal of women, have been the education source for scores and scores of generations. Such has been their impact that they have become synonymous with our country’s folklore and heritage. When the DNA itself contains such unflattering and bounded perception of women, it is obvious that the body will be marred by viruses that only work towards exaggerating the same.
It is high time we move on from these obsolete sagas and develop a more modern and relatable perception of women. It is time to move on from Sita and Draupadi to Kiran Bedi and Saina Nehwal. ‘The development and advancement of any country can be gauged by the status enjoyed by the women in the society.’ If our country has to become a superpower in the truest sense, than the way society views its women has to change. The sooner the society realises that its development is going to be possible only when its women have as equal a role in its functioning as its men, only then will there be any progress. And Indian women, on their part, have to shed the tag of being ‘abla naari’ and ‘home-makers’ to rise and become ‘world-changers’.[box bg="#fdf78c" color="#000"]About the author: Shobhit Agarwal is the author of the book – ‘Ordered Cheese Delivered Chalk – My Kota Safari‘. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]