"Yuganta" by Irawati Karve is a novel that has caught my fancy recently. For an avid lover of fantasy fiction, me reading this book is a highly unlikely event. But on some strong recommendations I did start reading this book which is nothing but a critique on Mahabharata and its central characters... My tryst with Mahabharata was when on Sundays at10:00 a.m. in distant past, B R Chopra's Mahabharat was aired on Doordarshan. For me, it was a great epic battle and a great way to spend time with family.
But after reading this book, I must say there are so many dimensions to this epic - ones which I would have not even thought of, had it not been for this book... There are so many things I did not know, so many things that I just assumed... Inorder to glorify the Gods, Kshatriyas etc., there was so much editing done to our scriptures that it went farther and farther from being logical and we continued to blindly follow it.
Everyone would agree that this epic is all about MEN! But what is strange is that in our land where so many goddesses had existed by then, our religous scriptures do not give any power their women characters. Their role was sort of restricted to be shadowed by their husbands. The more glorious the husband, the stronger the woman. They had no say in any matter, their feelings never got voiced and their opinions NEVER got considered... Examples of this complete disregard are strewn all over the book.
Which woman in right senses will agree to be married to 5 men at the same time (there is this "boon" that Draupadi was given where she could live with one Pandava for one year and when she went to the next one she would still be a virgin - I have many objections on this "boon" but thats another topic in itself). Which woman will agree to give Agni-Pariksha and yet, Seeta gave one and then was asked to give another one for Ayodhya subjects. Which woman will blindfold her eyes when she gets tricked into marrying a blind person and yet, Gandhari did so. Kunti's life was a compromise in itself. And the list goes on...
But the most surprising part is when in these scriptures, you find the sutradhar (narrator) hinting at how these women were predominantly responsible for the great wars. How Seeta was the cause of Ramayana and Draupadi that of Mahabharata... Isn't it ironical, that these seemingly "powerless women" caused the 2 biggest wars in the history. While discussing with one of my friends, I couldnt help but wonder what if these gals had powers - like that of Kali, Lakshmi! Would the scriptures have turned out with a similar ending?
If you analyse these blames assuming that our "Gods" aren't impervious and impregnable, logic will prevail and you will see that these charges can be dropped.
Ram came to Lanka for war to rescue Seeta but the reason of the war was Ravana's desire for her. Mahabharata was supposedly staged to avenge Draupadi's humiliation in the court (under the aegis of "Dharma") thereby making her the cause. Gambling was organized to win back everything that Pandavas had earned while they were the kings of Indraprastha (rivalry and jealousy between Kauravas and Pandavas is well known to justify this cause). But according to the way it is narrated, gambling was supposed to be a ploy of Duryodhana to get back at Draupadi for laughing at him in Mayasabha. He wanted to insult her in public like she did to him.
If this indeed were the case, Duryodhan had to forsee (an improbable thing) the following:
1. Pandavas will lose money (which he could have assumed given Shakuni's prowess)
2. They would go ahead and bet land, palace and army
3. Then they will still go ahead and bet themselves
4. Finally, they wont still learn from this and would bet Draupadi
This looks like a very circuituous route to get back at her. And if this isnt plausible, then clearly she cant be the cause of the war.
All this discussion now seems rather out of place, doesn't it? The thing is, I got sensitised to these observations only after reading this book. Thanks to critical works like these, I actually questioned some of our religious writings.
But it is alarming, that the 2 oldest Hindu scriptures, Bhagwad Gita (which is the second largest widely read book following the Bible) and Ramayana give this treatment to women. A treatment which is logically erroneous!!!
Knowledge is power but such critical works are unlikely to reach the scale that these scriptures have attained. Isn't it worrisome that people will grow up always assuming that women caused these wars???