This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Vivashwan Singh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

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

More from Vivashwan Singh

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.

You must be to comment.
  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.


    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… 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 ?

More from Vivashwan Singh

Similar Posts

By Room to Read

By S N

By Sofia Babu

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below