By Nithin Sridhar
An article that was published recently asserts that the Hindu religion promotes a culture of rape in the Indian society.
The article contends that the Hindu religion is to be squarely blamed for various crimes that have recently been committed against women. It tries to support its claims through selective incidents from the Itihaasas and Puraanas.
However, even a casual reading of the article will show how only selective portions of the incidents have been quoted to depict Hindu religion in a bad light.
The article takes up the incident of Krishna stealing the garments of unmarried gopis (young girls) and offers the following commentary upon it: “He did so to tease them and for the pleasure of watching the beauty of their naked bodies. We hang miniature paintings of the same act in our homes proudly. The young men who grow up seeing this, or listening to the story told in an amused tone are bound to not find such an act abhorrent.”
So, the article is indirectly trying to blame Krishna, for the present issues of sexual recklessness, eve-teasing, and rape.
But the author of the article conveniently forgets to state that, Krishna was merely a baalaka- a child during this episode. So, how can a child take pleasure in watching the beauty of girl’s naked bodies?
Also, Krishna was no ordinary child. He was a Poorna Avatara– a complete incarnation of God, who was aware of his divinity from the time of his birth itself. Therefore, any association of mundane lust with Krishna who was God himself, and who gave us Bhagavad Gita is meaningless and may point towards deliberate mischief.
Another major incident that the article takes up towards the end is that of demoness Surpunaka. The article states, “This is the cultural environment that shapes the lives of most people in India. So it’s natural that what gods do influences us much more than the moral lesson at the end. Now consider this: we have gods who, for instance, have cut the nose and ear lobes of a woman who approached them professing her love (Lakshman is depicted as having done this to Shurpanakha), and yet we adore him and see him as a symbol of loyalty, sacrifice and righteous indignation.”
So, the article is indirectly accusing Rama and Lakshmana as being the cause behind the mindset that takes pleasure in committing violence against women.
Again, the author does not mention the fact that Surpanaka was about to kill Sita, when Rama asked Lakshmana to get hold of Surpunaka and cut off her ears and nose. So the blame of violence against women is definitely not on Rama or Lakshmana.
The author (of the article) writes that Surpanaka was professing her love but conveniently forgets the fact that Surpanaka was not ready to be a junior wife or co-wife of Rama. She wanted to kill Sita and take her place.
Therefore, if the incident shows anything, it is that a loving husband was protecting his wife and a loving brother was protecting his brother and sister-in-law.
The article further mentions Indra as being a mythological hero who is praised for his acts of killing, drinking, and fornicating with multiple women. But it does not add that the same mythologies also depict how Indra was cursed by Gauthama Rishi for adultery.
The article doesn’t leave out Buddha either. Buddha has been criticized for taking renunciation, without considering the fact that, due to his intense vairagyam (dispassion), he would not have been able to fulfill his conjugal duties to his wife or fatherly duties to his child even if he had not left the palace.
The article clearly appears to be consciously targeting Hindu religion and reflecting it in poor light by somehow connecting the ills of present society with Hindu puranams and histories.
Hindu religion has given women a very high status. Manu Smriti (3.56) says: “Gods become elated where women are worshiped, and where women are disrespected, there no worship is successful”.
Manu Smriti further states that people who inflict sorrow and trouble women will ultimately face sorrowful fate themselves.
Various Smriti’s, including that of Manu, impose strict punishments for rape, harassment, eve-teasing or any other form of violence against women.
All this clearly manifests that there is no culture of rape in the Hindu religion. Instead, women are recognized as the most important aspect of human society. The status of women is not just that of equal standing with regard to men but, in fact, higher than them. As far as the Hindu religion is concerned, women are to be adored, loved, respected, and worshiped.
Itihaasa: Literally “as it happened” i.e. history which is recorded by an eye-witness.
Puraanam: Literally “of ancient times” i.e. records of the past that have been passed down from past.