From Saraswati To Draupadi: Depiction Of Powerful Women In Mythology

women in mythology
Women In Mythology: Whether Saraswati or Draupadi, even these powerful mythological characters had to fight for their rights. On the Women Writer’s Fest by SheThePeopleTV, authors, Kavita Kane and Ira Mukhoty joined in the conversation about women in mythology.

In mythology, we often tend to sing the valours of men who conquer cities with violence and forget the women’s side of the story. Even though women generously populate our mythological stories, there were hardly any retelling of these stories from a feminine perspective till some time back.

What got you into Mythology?

Kavita Kane answering the question said that coming from an all-women family herself, she unconsciously looked at the world from an extremely women-centric perspective. She said that “Yes, when I started writing a novel, I knew I was going to write it in the mythology genre. As more than a genre, mythology fascinated me as a subject.”

Works of mythology like the epics are palpable and dynamic even now – Kavita Kane

“We hear the mythological stories through men. They are men’s stories. We talk about war, violence and men with valour, ” added Kane talking about the characters in mythology. Kane then said that the only two women respected in mythology are Sita and Draupadi.

She shared her personal experience and said that she was more interested in Urmila than Sita.

Ira Mukhoty answering the same question said, “I have two daughters and they were directly the reason why I started writing.” She added, that “we write the books that we would want to read ourselves.” In her book, the Song of Draupadi Draupadi is the anchor of the  story but there are about ten women like Ganga, Satyavati, Kunti, Gandhari and others around her who share their perspectives.

Saraswati, the balance between a woman and goddess?

Kane who recently published Saraswati’s Gift said, “I started the book as Sarawasti as a river.” Kane added that though, Saraswati is the part of the Tridevi or the trio of goddesses of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati, she is slightly side-lined. Hence, though as readers, we know about her, how much of a person do we know her story?

Kane further added, “I have always seen a single photograph of her. She was a solitary goddess unlike Lakshmi Narayan or Shiv-Parvati.” Kane also raised crucial questions like “How many of us do we know that Saraswati discounted marriage and motherhood?”

On Sita

Mukhoty while talking about Sita said, “Women as role models are presented to us in a very goddess-like avatar which is very difficult for regular women and girls to aspire to be. I wanted to challenge the idea that to be the perfect woman, you must abide by so many constraints. In fact, the Sita presented to us is actually whitewashed and portrayed to be an extremely obedient and submissive woman.”

Mukhoty further said that “Sita is the one who is so popular, you know people would name their daughters as Sita, not Draupadi. And this is something that struck me that you know why would people not name their daughters as Draupadi. Probably because we all know about her as a goddess but wouldn’t offer her as a role model. Hence, what I have presented in my work is opposite to the classical notion of Sita.”

Mukhoty also said, “I wanted to know what happens when we don’t abide by the very strict patriarchal norms of what it means to be a woman and a wife.

On Saraswati discounting marriage and motherhood

Kavita Kane talking about women in mythology said that goddesses represent the humanisation of various abstract values of human life.  Parvati represents power, Lakshmi represents fortune and Saraswati represents knowledge in the concept of Tridevi. And unlike Parvati who is the epitome of motherhood, Saraswati is pretty firm that she doesn’t believe in the concept of marriage and love.

I wanted to know what happens when we don’t abide by the very strict patriarchal norms of what it means to be a woman and a wife. -Ira Mukhoty

She added that what Saraswati is trying to say that it is more important to love yourself as an individual and love your own work and unless you don’t do that, you wouldn’t be positive to the society and the people around you. I think the whole thing about Saraswati boils down to individual work.

Who do you think are the most misinterpreted women characters in Indian mythology?

Kavita Kane said, “Most of them, including Sita and Draupadi. Understanding these two exceptional women who are unlike each other is often neglected. I think besides Sita, Ahilya, is the biggest victim of patriarchy where her story has been completely distorted.”

“I think women characters are beyond misinterpreted and it’s because of the socio-political situation then or now. Another political strong person is Tara, Wali and Sugriv’s wife, who is the reason why the Vanar become a part of Ram’s army. Hence, if you look at all these women then I think they have been misinterpreted because of social pressure and our own ignorance,” added Kavita Kane.