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Draupadi and Sudeshna as depicted by Ravi Verma


The great epics of Hinduism are greatly credited for their lasting influence over many thousands of years on the culture and ideology of the Indian people. The instances of culture and tradition which are evident in households have been inculcated through years of imbibing scriptures. Right down from the way guests and elders are treated, to the choice of diet and clothing, it all comes down from the ideals woven deep into the minds of the readers.


As with most epics, the Indian tradition also upholds the place of the woman as a nurturer. The protection and worship of women deities and their significance reaches all spheres. Saraswati is known as the goddess of education. Lakshmi is worshipped as the goddess of wealth. Durga is known as the goddess who triumphs over evil, and has many names across India. Sita, from the Ramayana, is revered as a loyal wife, and so on. Many women have been featured with exceptionally divine attributes in Hinduism, and any insult caused to them resulted in earth-shaking punishment.


Draupadi Vastra Haran Draupadi Vastra Haran in the court Image source: wikimediawikimedia


While this reverence for the woman predominates the mindset of the people, there is also the underlying notion of patriarchy that rules the way this reverence is approached. Men are to be protectors of women's integrity, and are seen as more powerful despite her nurturing abilities. The men of today, who follow the scriptures closely, choose to ignore this aspect of their roles in society. Raping a woman is considered something not to be taken too seriously. For the past decade, this phenomenon has increased greatly, and women have been forced to turn to leading a life filled with fear and apprehension.

It comes down to how one reads between the lines. When there is an allusion to violence and punishment in the epics or the scriptures, it is to teach a moral lesson to the perpetrator of the crime. It does not bear precedent to attacking the integrity of women simply because it has been done before. The idea that men as protectors have complete authority over women is not at all what is written.

Teaching the accurate interpretation of the ideals and standards of living expected from followers of these traditions is imperative. Being able to correctly interpret the true reason behind the incidents in the scriptures is an essential part of achieving the wisdom present in them. If the world is to reflect on these teachings, looking at them through the lens of social issues won't help. Instead, reading them first, and then applying them to solve social menaces add more value to the morality of the texts. Revering the woman and then understanding the punishment accorded to the classical representatives of social evil in the epics and scriptures perhaps may end the debate of where this rape culture stems from in the first place.

Keywords: Woman, Myth, Worship, Rape culture


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