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Wednesday wisdom - Power of the powerless

I grew up listening and reading stories of Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata. Thanks also to the producers Ramānanda Sāgar and B. R. Choprā for having produced the epics. I remember elders used to tell that Sitā and Draupadi are the ‘Pati vratā’. Though never understood the meaning.

Sitā came from Dharti (earth). She is considered the daughter of the earth. She was found by her adoptive father Rajā Janaka. An epitome of sacrifice and purity, there are many verses of Sitā’s life. Sitā went with her husband Rāma for 14 years of vanvās (exile), went through agni Parīkṣā (an ordeal of fire) to prove her chastity, was a single mother to her sons Luv and Kush. So powerful is she that in the end when she could not bear the cruelties of the world and the blame of her husband Rāma that she calls to her mother earth and returns to the womb of the mother.

Draupadi came from Agni (fire). She is the daughter of King Drupada, the wife of Pāndavas. She is powerful being the daughter of fire. Yet, she had to suffer 13 years of exile. She also had to suffer the ordeal of Dushāsana’s attempt to disrobe her in front of a gathering. She then calls Śrī Krishṇā to save her from the plight.

The two most powerful women have a lot to tell. Few questions come to mind.

  • Sitā and Draupadi were both powerful. They were the daughters of Dharti and Agni. Daughters born with immense power. In spite of all the power, wonder they felt helpless and powerless whether it was Rāvaṇa or Dushāsana.

  • Did their power vanish or were they conditioned not to use their power in front of men and societal atrocities? If powerful women such as Sitā and Draupadi can fall prey to traps then what to say of the ladies who are vulnerable.

  • Wonder why they required the support of Rāma or Krishṇa to save them from the clutches of men.

  • How the epics portray women, that they can make them lame and societal pressures can crush them, this is the way society conditions the women for generations.

  • If so powerful were they, why could not Sitā and Draupadi use their powers to defend themselves, why did they feel the need of men to save them or were they not aware of their powers.

Such questions remain unanswered. In the end, one realizes, Men wrote both the epics. Maharshi Vālmiki wrote Rāmāyana and Veda Vyās wrote Māhabhārata.

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