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

Why I Think Draupadi’s Character Was More Complex Than Sita’s

You might probably be wondering why I am so bothered about the two of the greatest epics of all times when we are all dealing with a bigger problem of the pandemic. There are many characters in these epics, how can we possibly talk about all of them in one small blog? So, I am going to put a filter and talk about the actual warriors in the texts who never received much appreciation until now, when the world is changing: Sita and Draupadi.

Let’s take one at a time. Valmiki’s Ramayana is one of the most celebrated and sacred epics in the Hindu mythology. As the name suggests, we clearly have one hero, Ram. The epic glorifies Ram for his valour and bravery, he is absolutely heroic. The storyline, in the simplest way, goes like this: Sita is married to Ram and right after they get married, Ram is sent to exile for 14 years. Now, Ram, Laxman (Ram’s younger brother) and Sita leave the palace and go to live in a forest. Meanwhile, many things happen, but in the fourteenth year of their exile, Sita is abducted by the mighty villain, or the binary opposite of Ram, Ravana, the King of Lanka. Sita is now a damsel in distress and Ram takes it upon him to protect his wife and get her back to his kingdom from the evil Ravana.

And now, let’s just pause and question ourselves where the notion of a man protecting a woman comes from. Well, you already know the answer. But the real question is: does Sita really need saving? Was she nothing more than a sincere wife? Who was Sita anyway, and why did we never get to know more about her in the Ramayana? Why is she only remembered as a “pativrata (husband-worship)” and a figure whose footsteps should be followed by all the women? Why is only one part of her character glorified, celebrated and used as a weapon to enforce patriarchy?

Sita was the daughter of Goddess Earth and later adopted by King Janaka, who found her in a furrow. So, one thing is for sure, she was no ordinary girl. Being the daughter of Earth, she was as powerful as Ram. We know that the world is made up of four elements: Earth, water, air and fire. This gives her an edge because she was symbolic of fertility or vegetation, meaning that she harboured all the power to give “life to life”.

So now, coming back to my questions, had it not been Sita, Ram’s character would have never been so idealised. She compromised on all the values she held within to make Ram “Maryada Purushtam”. How, you ask? Imagine Ram without Sita. Imagine what would have happened had Sita retaliated, fought against Ravana and freed herself. Well, one thing I know would have happened certainly is that with the example of Sita, women would have understood that they do not need a man to protect or complete them and that they are equally powerful or, as we say these days, “aatma nirbhar (self- reliant)”.

What would the men do then? Because in order to be Ram, they need to be the protector. It was Sita who helped in the bildungsroman of Ram. He would have not escalated to such a status if his wife weren’t that meek and fragile. And for all I know, in Hindu tradition, the name ‘Sita’ is celebrated only because she was not promiscuous. So, whoever is named Sita is supposed to meet up to these pre-determined norms.

Now, you might consider it as another feminist notion of mine, but if you look further, it is about what it takes to be a hero. Most of the times, the one who carries bows and arrows isn’t the real warrior. Especially when you are reading the Ramayana from the male point of view, it is extremely hollow, one doesn’t ever know what is on the the other side of the mountain.

Now, I am going to move ahead with my favourite, Draupadi, who was also called Panchali. She was the one to take the high road. You know her as the proud, ill-mannered woman who got what she deserved when she made a joke on Duryodhana by saying, “A blind man’s son is a blind.” But I call her a woman who is dangerous in a good way, who is unforgiving to those who have wronged her, and who knows her way!

Draupadi rebukes her husbands, questions the morality of each and every one present in the court who was a mute witness of her “cheerharan (disrobing)”, which is why she is dangerous. She makes sense and asks questions that make men around her uncomfortable. She throws darts on their fragile male ego and nonchalantly questions their toxic masculinity. You might think that all these things make her a vamp, but instead, they make her one of the strongest, boldest characters in the Mahabharata.

Draupadi is fierce. She has made herself remembered unlike Sita, who was mute and always only supposed to be Ram’s wife. In a culture of polygamy, where only men or kings, to be precise, were supposed to have multiple wives, Draupadi easily handled five husbands. Which is why you will always see that nobody wants you to follow her footsteps. That would make you dangerous in the eyes of society, when you are supposed to be harmless, just like Sita.

I cannot help but draw a comparison between the, which is why I talked about Sita earlier because her character didn’t get enough space in the epic; we should have known more about her. We have so less information about her that either one can worship her for her chastity and sacrifices or one can view her as the quintessential element in building up of Ram’s character. But with Draupadi, you can have multiple dimensions to look upon. From her dominant nature to her tremendous confidence, you can never satisfy yourself completely by just reading one or two things about her. There is a craving to know her more.

At times, you can label her as the earliest epitome of feminism in Hindu mythology. Draupadi doesn’t need protection, her words are like poisonous arrows that can kill anybody who wrongs her. She speaks her mind unabashedly. Now, one thing if you must notice is that more or less, both Ram and the Pandavas fought for their respective wives. But the difference is that Ram fought the war for his wife, whereas Pandavas fought the war with their wife. This involvement, the sharing of space is what makes the Mahabharata more engrossing to a larger audience.

The fact that Draupadi has a voice not just within the closed walls of the bedroom but even politically in the court is itself an achievement, because in that time, women had no say in the political matters of the kingdom. While one can call Sita the queen, Draupadi was the empress.

Now, apart from the feminist view, what is also interesting is that the Ramayana happened in the Treta Yuga, which comes before the Dvapara Yuga (the Mahabharata). This is why the Ramayana is less confusing than the Mahabharata. The complexities of life and relationships have been spoken about more in the latter one. In fact, I like to look at it like this: the Ramayana apparently laid principles for life. There was no place for sin and one could always follow the path of redemption. But the Mahabharata starts where the Ramayana ends (not technically, of course), in the way that it shows what happens if you follow the principles mentioned in the Ramayana.

The practicality comes out. There is even a possibility of diversion when it comes to the plot of the Mahabharata, whereas the Ramayana is a strictly and tightly gripped plot in which there are less chances of open endings, although there is a lot to deconstruct there also.

You must be to comment.

More from Aditi Sharma

Similar Posts

By Anuj Dahiya

By Anjali joseph

By Subhajit Murmu

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