Scriptures – How fair to the fair sex

It was for the first time that I was attending Sunderkand Paath being held at my friend’s place. I was trying to catch up with the ladies as they recited the couplets from the scripture. I could hardly understand anything from the rendition but for one couple that caught my attention, “Dhol, gavaar shudra, pashu, nari, yeh sab taran ke adhikari.” (Animals, uncivilized, low castes, animals and women need to be reprimanded). I was aghast, not because I was hearing the verse for the first time but because it was being recited, unmindful of its meaning, with such a fervour. I felt restless. As soon as the paath was over, I whispered into my friend’s ears if she grasped the meaning of the couplet. She was cool about it and laughed it away but I was disturbed and shaken. I found the verse downright disgusting and demeaning, fit to be expunged from the holy text.

I wondered about the status of women in our scriptures- as a goddess (super human) to be worshipped but as a human to be rebuked. There are quotes affirming women’s dignity in the ancient Hindu text. “Yatr naryasto pojyantay, ramantay tatr devta” (where women are provided a place of honour, gods reside in that household), but at the same time there are many derogatory comments against women in the Manusmrti. There are verses that are full of prejudice and hatred against women. Like all major religions Hinduism is predominantly male dominated. Since these were always men who wrote holy books and ancient scriptures, women have been discriminated against.

The bias against women is not limited to Hinduism; Gautam renounced the world in search of truth and became Buddha, the enlightened one, leaving behind his young wife with a small son. He is revered but no one talks about the suffering and yearnings of a young wife when she was left alone in the prime of her youth.

Lord Ram is worshipped and hailed as Maryada purushottam, an ideal man but he had been grossly unfair to his wife. Sita, a devoted wife, who renounced all the luxuries to accompany her husband in exile, was abandoned by lord Ram. It was just a remark from someone among his subject that he left his dutiful, loving wife to prove his greatness as if she was an object without any feelings or emotions, his personal possession to be sacrificed. What was her fault? She had been kidnapped. Just imagine her ordeal .She was subjected to Agni Pariksha (fire test) to prove her chastity. This reminds me of a soulful rendition in Amar Prem picturized on the veteran actor Rajesh Khanna “…Sita bhi yahan badnam hui ……..” (If a woman like Sita got a bad name, then it is futile to talk about the fate of other women…)

Beside other factors, the influence of Ramayan and ancient texts may be a reason why India treats its women so badly. India’s phenomenal epic has epically failed its women, failed to give her the position of equality. In fact, the men folk are fed with the legends of male superiority right from the childhood itself. This narcissistic mindset is ingrained so deeply in male psyche that gender violence-both psychological and physical – is every day and endemic in India.

This mindset needs to change. The bias must be corrected. Not drawing laxman Rekha for boys and giving them unbridled freedom is precarious. An upbringing based on gender equality is the need of the hour. We, as mothers, will be failing in our duty if we do not inculcate the right values among the boys– the respect for the opposite sex.


Published in Chandigarh Tribune on July 5, 2018

26 Replies to “Scriptures – How fair to the fair sex”

  1. inferiority complex !!
    there is lot of confusion. Our scriputres at one place worship the women and give her the highest position in the society and at some other place compare her with animals.
    .Choice is yours

  2. Rama I fully endorse your sentiments and admire the way you pick up a thread of life to juxtapose it with some higher frame. To travel innocuously amidst the layers of time, is not an easy task which you perform with expertise.
    At the same time, we’ve to acknowledge the fact that meanings are always contextual and bound by socio-cultural milieu ( I must repeat that I also find the lines referred by you as basically unfair in their premise).

  3. Vidula thank you so much for your appreciation and encouragement. I have not been a student of literature; don’t know the nuances of the language yet if I am able to write , it is because of the guidance and support of my friends from the English department. I must thank you Vidula for your valuable inputs and motivation.

  4. You have picked up a very relevant topic Rama and I agree with Vidula that these issues are contextualised.
    Recently I read Sita Ramayana by Devdutt Patnaik. He has come out with the philosophy behind each incident. I really enjoyed it except when he Ram sends away his pregnant wife. His explanation was that the king can never be wrong. Nobody should be able to raise a finger at the king and his family. I just don’t agree.
    But most of my friends didn’t read it . They just could not handle these mythological stories.

  5. Hats off to you Alka ! You are so well read . I have a limited knowledge , perhaps that is the reason I keep raising questions.

  6. Rama u hv written so well about the comparison of women with dhol gavar shuder and animals…I totally appreciate yr views but according to me everything has two aspects in the the same time when we worship the women as goddess (women with all postive qualities powers and divinity)in the society,the other side some women with negative qualities ill mentality and feeling of jealous and inferiority should be treated as dhol gavar etc .. etc..And same thing follows with with positive qualities are treated as god and with negative qualities are treated as devil…so we can’t intercepted according to one couple …Not only that time but nowadays when the some women are occupying higher positions in the society some are playing very negative roles in families as well as in the society…I don’t know how should be they treated…dear these are my views….

    1. Meenu , in a way you are right but my objection to the couplet stemmed from more generalised implication of the verse which talks about women in general not vicious women in particular.
      And Meenu you are the friend in the episode.Good, you always are so positive.

  7. It’s true that women are not dealt fairly all over the world women are compared with animals and uneducated uncouth illitrae person . prose writers or poets live in same society and ofcourse litterture is mirror of society , but in the same Ramayan kuashlaya is so powerful ,she refuses Creator of creation to accept as her son unless He does not come as a crying helpless child and He obeys . Look at the power of mother Sita . In Lanka Sita was never forced ipon but proposed by mighty Raven
    ,Gargi and maitree of Vadikkal were respected as their counterparts. In our religion Shakti is Durga , intellect is with Saraswati and finance is with Luxmi Sita ,being a loving wife of the just king Rama had to follow the rule and regulations of the time.Moreover with passing of time spices are added here and there,may be in. Ramayan too, in the reference of women .Moreover Ramayan is a mythological narrations whereas sometime we find authencity of history lacking.

  8. Some where down the line, women is responsible for condition of other women. In many families, as on date, when a baby girl is born, women in the family feel more bad. I have seen that mostly men bother less. It is a responsibility of our generation to make a change. Let us treat our daughter in law the same way we treat our daughter.

  9. Narcissistic mindset ingrained in Indian man ‘s psyche that gender violence both physical & psychological is everyday endemic in India I totally agree with your viewpoint and unbridled freedom of boys should be stopped to eradicate the social evils of the society. I am so happy that you had the guts to challenge the questionable sacred scriptures of ours

    1. Thanks Mrs Chopra. Hardly my guts but definitely sharing my views.You are right gender bias is ingrained in Indian psyche.

  10. I really go with you as far as the representing the fate of the women as reflected in our mythology
    But don’t u think that even the modern and well educated men of the internet age like to read these verses and follow it in real practice whenever they want to demoralise a women who outshine them at work place or try to act as real boss of the house whenever their are conflicts at home and the tragedy is that most of the times they try to prove themselves right by hook and crook
    Mindset will never change 🤪

    1. Yeah , that is the tragedy.Men always try to dominate and assert their superiority , especially at home.
      Difficult to change the mindset!But I do feel, there is coming about a positive change in the attitude of men , though slow. The present generation is more considerate and empathetic towards women than the previous generation of men .

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