Saviour of Worthy Women?!

Indian Mythology, Mahabharata 10 Comments


Published 1st September, 2013 in the Mid-Day

A friend very close to me was very upset after she read an article in a popular weekly where a member of the parliament, a lady, stated that women should not expect Krishna to save them as he did Draupadi, as they are not as spiritually evolved as Draupadi. I found the alleged statement amusing – a rather creative reading of Indian mythology.

Lets revisit the story of Draupadi – a woman with five husbands (the Pandavas), she is wagered and lost in a game of dice. She is dragged out of her chambers violently by the winners (the Kauravas) who plan to disrobe her. She begs for mercy and help. No one comes to her rescue. Then magically, as the cloth she is covered in is being yanked away, it extends on its own. A miracle, thanks to Krishna.

It is easy to see the story as a ‘saviour’ myth: Krishna rescues the helpless Draupadi. It is easy to see this story as a ‘worthiness’ myth: if you are as worthy as Draupadi, Krishna will come and save you. So essentially if no one saves you and if you get raped, it means you are not as worthy as Draupadi. Such creative interpretations are a doubly whammy for a woman is raped – first she is raped, and then she is told that is spiritually unworthy. Such interpretations can be rather distasteful, especially for a rape survivor.

This combination of saviour myth and worthiness myth can be traced to early evangelical activity of many (not all) missionaries and gurus. The modus operandi is to make people feel ashamed of themselves, make them feel inferior and unclean. Then the pastor/guru offers salvation by asking the victim to take refuge in them as they are the sole representatives of the divine saviour.

Reading the story of Krishna in Christian terms is not new. Many people have tried to equate Krishna with Christ. This was popular in the early 20th century as Hindus sought validation from the British rulers. Later, it was used by many Indian gurus to resolve the conflict experienced by their followers in the West who felt they had to choose between Christ (inherited faith) and Krishna (explored faith).

But Christ comes from a linear mythic paradigm, where you have only one life to be saved. Krishna comes from a cyclic mythic paradigm, where you live many times, where you need to understand why you are reborn. So such correlations are rather forced. Each paradigm has its own value and need not be compared with each other.

Krishna’s act of ‘saving’ Draupadi must be correlated with Krishna’s previous lives: as Parashuram he beheads his mother, Renuka, who desires another man and as Ram he rejects his wife, Sita, simply because her reputation is tarnished. All three – Krishna, Parashuram and Ram – are avatars of Vishnu, the preserver. If, as Krishna he saves a woman, as Parashuram he punishes a woman for a mere slip and as Ram he treats a woman unfairly for no fault of hers, why did the sages construct this complex narrative?

Perhaps because the sages saw Renuka, Sita and Draupadi as the Goddess, the earth: humans will try to disrobe her (like Kauravas) or bear mute witness (like Pandavas), punish her (like Parashuram), reject her (like Ram) or try to save her (like Krishna). But what we often forget is that she is quite capable of shrugging her shoulders at the shortcomings of humanity and regenerating herself on her own.

  • Hemant Naidu

    Superb !!!

  • Saritha Hegde

    She is not….she has had enough. Its time Humanity started being a little more humane towards the womb or earth. To be possesed and destroyed is not what both are for.

    • vz1377

      The Earth will regenerate itself after its so called “destruction” by humans, as it did so many times in the past, in its life of billions of years. It is the human race which will be destroyed in the bargain. Again that is nothing unfamiliar to Earth. Thousands of species have come and have gone or became extinct. Human beings will be one more item in that list. To suggest that we should be humane towards the Earth so that it survives is mere hubris of humans. I think we are already past the tipping point and it is only a matter of time (may be a couple of centuries) before we are wiped out from the face of the earth.

      • Saritha Hegde

        That my friend is absolutely true and I cannot but agree with you and that too is natural. However when it comes to day to day life until we are here and are engaged as you and i are, my objection lies in the fact that “strong” adjectives are thrust on us women. I refuse to accept that.

        • Unchained Melody

          What ‘strong’ adjectives are you referring to? I ask out of genuine curiosity.

      • Unchained Melody

        So much spite and nastiness in your words. Are you concerned with abusing humans or trying to reform them?

  • revan kalekar

    The Guru far from making a desciple feel ashamed, after accepting him as he is takes him to the perfection.
    Indian history is full of such enlightning Guru Shishya stories.
    Putting the word Guru & Pasror together in the similar context as in the article is utterly illogical and shows an attempt on the Author’s part to shirk from mentioning only Pastor.

  • suresh nair

    Only when we study vedanta, does one learn and start understanding infiniteness. Devdutt, you make a good point

  • candy

    well said!

  • Shaily Chaudhary

    One question … Pandavs were all judged for all their actions. Were they not punished for not protecting their wife from getting disrobed in the court? They broke their promise of protecting her all the time.