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Valmiki’s Ramayana Shows Hinduism’s Inherent Misogyny and Sexism

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Sage Valmiki, the author of Ramayana, portrays the epic in the soul of Rama himself. Tulsidas, notwithstanding, is excessively obsessed with saving Rama’s image, so that whatever he feels to be inconvenient to Rama’s ethical character, he has scrapped. Tulsidas has expelled from the Ramayana everything that may stain Rama’s image. He is not a realist. You might get disturbed by many components of Valmiki’s account since some the occasions revolving around Rama and Sita will defy your beliefs.

In ancient India, it was a custom that when a princess was to be married, every one of the kings who wanted to marry her would be asked to perform a task. The princess would acknowledge the king who could perform the task and marry him as her better half. One princess, Sita, was to be married. Every one of the kings was welcome; including Rama and Ravana. It was sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the task was so difficult that maybe only Ravana would have the capacity to perform it.

There was a huge bow of the Hindu god Shiva, so substantial that you couldn’t even move it, and the task was to lift it up and break it into two pieces with your bare hands. Numerous kings attempted but they couldn’t even lift it up – forget breaking it. Ravana was a compelling lord – physically a man of steel, while Rama was a young man. So, the only way for Ram to win was to remove Ravana from the opposition, which was done by spreading a rumour which claimed that his golden kingdom Lanka was set ablaze and he had to rush back. By the time he was back, Sita was already married to Rama.

Rama couldn’t have defeated Ravana ever in his life. He won only because he was guided by Ravana’s treacherous brother Vibhishana. Moreover, Vibhishana was also rewarded very well for what he did. Rama made him the king of Lanka. It is evident that Rama couldn’t have ever defeated Ravana without Vibhishana. Vibhishana has been one of greatest traitors ever born. Surprisingly, no follower of Rama likes to hear that his god sought the help of a traitor.

Just imagine, what would have happened if Ravana would have won the battle? Vibhishana would have been punished and his name would have become a derogatory term for centuries to come. But since Rama won the battle, that too because of Vibhishana’s treachery, he became a hero for everyone. People are often disillusioned that Ravana was too proud of himself. No, he was not. The tussle between Rama and Ravana didn’t begin after the abduction of Sita; it had already begun the day Ravana was tricked at the swayamvar. In a way, Ravana was not responsible for any of the awful consequences which occurred in Ramayana. A very kind hearted and a pious man, he ignored that the woman who could have been his partner was snatched away from him, but as a responsible and caring brother, he wouldn’t have sat quietly if a stranger slashed his sister’s nose.

I don’t advocate that abduction of a woman can be justified but the way Ravana treated Sita at Lanka was something which even Rama couldn’t do in his entire life. Sita was provided with all services and facilities during her three years in Lanka. She wasn’t dumped into some forest or dungeon, but made to stay in a beautiful place called Ashok Vatika. Ravana was a man of dignity. While he kept Sita in his kingdom, even the thought of touching her never came to his mind. Anyway, he shouldn’t have touched her, he sought revenge from Rama, not Sita.

It was Rama who mistreated Sita but not Ravana. The question of Sita’s performing agni pariksha (test of fire) shouldn’t have come to Rama’s mind. A person who doesn’t trust his better half can’t claim that he loves her. The question of mistrust can only arise in absence of love. If there’s love, there’s trust, faith and respect too.

Let’s assume that asking Sita to perform the agni pariksha was the right decision since she stayed in the kingdom of another king for three consecutive years. But didn’t Rama also stay away from his wife for the same period of time? Shouldn’t he have also performed agni pariksha himself? Both could have gone through that cruel torture together.

Sita did perform the agni pariksha and proved that she was loyal to her husband but Rama wasn’t satisfied even with that. Ravana could have been a much better husband than Rama. Even after the completion of her agni pariksha, Rama sent her to exile on a rumour spread by a washerman. Is there anything left to say now? The people have blindfolded themselves, they have lost all sense of rationality, they know that all of this is true, but they don’t have the courage to accept this version of Rama.

Frankly speaking, I don’t find any negative trait in the figure of Ravana. He was a pious Brahmin and a man of principles. I find Rama to be a more cunning figure. Awarding a kingdom made up of gold to a traitor is awarding treason and betrayal. Moreover, there’s a character in Valmiki’s Ramayana called Shambuka. Rama got him beheaded just because he, being a Shudra, heard and performed the Vedic mantras of rishis (sages).

After witnessing the reality, I can’t believe that a person like Rama could be an incarnation of god. An incarnation of god cannot differentiate between a Brahmin and a Shudra. A god who discriminates between his own children is not a god. If he was so concerned with the rumours about his wife in Ayodhya, he should have accompanied his pregnant wife in her exile too. He had anyway spent 14 years in exile with her. But his throne seemed more important than his wife. I failed to witness any existence of god-like in character of Rama.

Patriarchy and misogyny are unquestionably at the foundation of what occurred in Bangalore on 31st December 2016. The establishments of this patriarchy can be found in the Hindu religion. Nearly 80% of the Indian population regard themselves as Hindus and swing to the religion as a guiding spirit and a source of enlightenment. Unfortunately, the ancient stories of the Hindu gods are the height of misogyny are prove that there hasn’t been any place for women in the Hindu society. My critique of Rama is enough to prove what I’m saying. I may sound like a traitor to some people who believe in the idea of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’, but I would like to remind them that our freedom fighters gave up their lives fighting for a secular India, not for a Hindu Rashtra.

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  1. Udeepta Chakravarty

    Thank you for bringing into perspective an alternative interpretation of the text. Such counter narratives are important in subverting hegemonic knowledge. However, I would caution against a generalized use of concepts like patriarchy and misogyny. These terms cannot be uniformly applied to contexts across space and time. The historicity of a text and the historic context of story require due attention before the story is analyzed retrospectively. Furthermore, no religion has inherent properties. Religion is at its core a social process and cannot have an existence without the social dimension. Hinduism is itself a heterogeneous religion, and the heterogeneity stems largely due to the continually transforming social dimension.

  2. Ankit Kumar

    I did’t find it worthy to be read. By the way, I have read Ramayana and Ashok vatika was not a palace….neither did Ravana caress sita ; rather he sent demons to make sita submit to his wishes.

  3. Adarsh chatra

    Poorly written article. Author doesn’t have proper understanding of the text. Quantity is there but not scholarly article.

    1. Rajat Rawat

      Then why don’t you enlighten us with your real interpretation if you are so learned on the topic .People like you are the base of problem, not agreeing with another’s opinion just because it doesn’t match with yours and denying any other such claims simply on the fact that they are not right. Its almost hilarious to see such irrationality.If you don’t agree, provide your side of the evidence, if you cant provide evidence kindly stop propagating your dogma.

    2. Anushka Srivastava

      I appreciate that you’ve a different view and that you’ve invested enough time to read and interpret the greatest indian epic ever, but wouldn’t it be better if you read it in the light of that era. And no I do not support Agni pariksha or any other form of woman oppression.

  4. Anushka Srivastava

    Ravana- a better husband than Rama? The same Ravana who abducted someone else’s wife only for revenge for his sister, when he already had a few wives at home? Yes Sita had to undergo agni pariksha but she was Rama’s one and only wife all his life. He practiced monogamy while your much better husband Ravana had a number of women to his pleasure. It was Sita’s charisma and aura that he couldn’t get what he wanted.

  5. Anushka Srivastava

    And considering your article, if a kidnapper treats the abducted properly, giving her all the facilities, keeping her in a clean place, so to say, he becomes an ideal man for her? And that too against her husband who treated her with respect all her life? Agni pariksha was done not to quench Rama’s doubts but to answer the society they lived in. Why are you even comparing that society to the present one? What is the use anyway? Theirs was a well knit society and had different rules for women. Ours is a different, much more developed society. It’s like comparing Homer and any modern day author, attacking Homer’s style of writing or his idea or concept of heroism.

  6. ONLINE STUDY

    Yes I fully agree with this article. Each and every line of your article is logical and rational. I am born Hindu but I can say there is inherent misogyny in Hinduism. Deep rooted son preference is seen in Dashraths desire for sons. Even Rama himself hlis shown with two sons. No place for sisters ? Daughters ? If Rama was Lord he could have changed people’s minds by some. Why he made his wife suffer to satisfy the society ? Is there no duty of Ram towards sita why that poor lady has to undergo so much ordeal first fourteen years canvas then abduction then agni pariksha then again banishment at Forest where she gives birth and at the end get burried inside earth…..wow this is Rama’s justice for the lady who remained committed to him alone. He might have been ideal son or ruler but ideal husaband ?? Naah !!
    And for those who say it was different times and different society then ….I ask u why we still have to worship him or follow him when we have a different society and morality now ? Why you people don’t want to wake up to sanity and want to remian cuccouned in your complacence that everything was good and rosy about ram and ramayana ?

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