The Rape of Our Epics: Part 1

Introduction

SitaNilanjana Roy’s Business Standard piece on Jan 08, 2013 entitled A woman alone in the forest is just the latest in what has become a much-lauded fad. A fad whose staple diet consists of a distorted reading of Indian epics, misinterpretations aplenty, sleights of hand, concealment, and open falsehood. We’ve seen the disastrous results of what happens when such untruths come to be accepted as truth—simply put, they multiply and over time gain such wide currency that even when the truth is pointed out, people simply dismiss it as propaganda or ranting or both. This problem is made worse in a country like India where the English media refuses to give voice to opposing and/or honest viewpoints.

Nilanjana Roy’s piece tries to do two things at the same time: it tries to pin the blame for that Delhi lady’s brutal rape on our epics and like a corollary of sorts, tries to show that “if you hurt the wrong woman, prepare for war.” Among others, a key message of her piece is the fact that our epics have fashioned the way Indians regard and treat women, which includes condoning rape.

Factual Errors and Falsification

However, an honest reading of our epics in fact yields the exact opposite conclusion: treat women badly, and you will suffer horribly. Which is why Nilanjana’s piece abandons honesty and indulges in the aforementioned techniques of deceit in plenty. Let’s examine them, one by one, starting with the very first sentence.

In times of trouble, turning to the great epics is always useful: their ancient bloodstained lines are reminders that we do not have a premium on violence, rape and corpses.

‘tis true, we need to turn to our epics in times of trouble: to seek solace, inspiration, and to learn lessons that are applicable to our own times. However, it’s interesting that Nilanjana chooses to see only bloodstained lines, violence, and rape in them instead of a wealth of learning, high philosophy, a harmonious worldview, a divine view of women, and a solid value system they contain and espouse.

There’s a reason our epics have stood the test of time: they deal with fundamental human impulses and aren’t written with any ideology or theory in mind. As such, they will remain relevant and revered as long as humankind exists notwithstanding however they are interpreted, notwithstanding how much mud is slung at them. Nilanjana herself accepts this albeit in a different, negative light while committing a factual blunder simultaneously:

Over the centuries, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have become India’s default epics, eclipsing the Rajatarangini, the Cilappatikkaram and other equally powerful legends in the mainstream imagination. While this is a loss…

One wonders on what basis Roy puts Rajatarangini and Silappadikaram in the same bracket as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Rajatarangini is a historical chronicle proper and not a legend while Silappadikaram is a longish poem written employing a metre that’s used in epic poetry. That alone doesn’t qualify it to be termed a legend at the same level as our epics. These are shocking, factual bloopers for a veteran Business Standard columnist.

Nilanjana omits the fact that Silappadikaram was written in Tamil limiting both its appeal and reach to non-Tamil parts of India. Indeed, Krishnadevaraya’s Amukta Malyada is still one of the most widely read long poems but it’s little known outside Andhra Pradesh. So is Kumaravyasa’s Karnata Bharata Kathamanjari, a classic that is still a blockbuster in terms of book and audio sales, research, and public recitation in Karnataka. The same goes for any celebrated literary work in regional languages in India. Besides, Silappadikaram was composed around the 6th Century (or maybe slightly later), and bears influences of and contains references to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It’s pretty clear that by the 6th Century both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata had already left indelible imprints on the Indian social, cultural, and civilizational consciousness. But going by the tone and tenor of the piece, it’s clear that Nilanajana is irked by the endurance of India’s only two epics because she characterizes the relatively less popular Rajatarangini and Silappadikaram as a “loss.” One wonders why. There have been dozens of translations of Rajatarangini so far because it is a proven primary source for studying the history and culture of Kashmir. Second, the enduring popularity of Silappadikaram is evidenced again by its innumerable translations, and its value as a source for studying Sangam Tamil politics, culture, language, and literature. Indeed, both Kannagi and Poompuhar have been superhits in Tamil cinema, a testimony to Silappadikaram’s sustained popularity. Given all this, we wonder where Nilanjana Roy’s “eclipse” and “loss” come from.

Do our Epics Contain Only Rape?

Nilanjana’s piece is chiefly concerned with how “both epics offer an insight into the way rape works in India.” In her own words,

Five stories of rape and sexual assault from the epics are particularly useful. The Ramayana has the abduction of Sita by Ravana, and, running parallel to it, the disfiguration of Surpanakha by Rama and Lakshmana — two atrocities, not one, that trigger a war. The Mahabharata has the public assault on Draupadi at its heart, the abduction and revenge of Amba, and the sanctioned rapes of Amba and Ambalika by Ved Vyasa…The tale most often cited in the aftermath of assaults on women, such as the tragedy of the young woman who died this December after being gang-raped and injured by six men, is Sita’s abduction. This is raised explicitly by pseudo-Hindus, usually as a warning to women to stay behind a Lakshman rekha, an arbitrarily drawn line of protection. It echoes the widespread views of many who blame women for being sexually assaulted, saying that they should not have gone out in public.

The first thing to notice here is the choice of words: “rape” and “sexual assault.” However, a reading of the primary texts reveals that none of the five stories that Nilanjana quotes have elements that come anywhere near what can be called “rape” and “sexual assault” as we shall see. Like I said, it’s clever word play so the question we need to ask is: how does Nilanjana Roy define “rape” and “sexual assault?” Without a clear answer to this, it’s easy write what she does.

Nilanjana Roy characterizes the five stories as such because she employs that other classic trick: imposing the morals and values of today to a period in the ancient past, a classic illustration of Seneca’s “What once were vices are manners now.” What Roy also tries to do is hold the views of a few “pseudo-Hindus” as representative of most (“widespread views”) Hindus. Indeed, if that were true, we need to look at the number of women in urban India who step “out in public” to go to work. That number as Nilanjana knows, is quite high. Doesn’t that mean the menfolk in the family of these women are okay with their women crossing the Lakshman Rekha? Do these men fall under Nilanjana’s “pseudo-Hindus” and “widespread views” category? If not, exactly who are these “pseudo-Hindus?” If not, exactly how widespread is “widespread?” Also, what about those Hindu men who regard women as worthy of worship, a conception higher than respect? Are they also pseudo-Hindus because the same epics have shaped this view of women in them?

Justice to Sita

But before we go there, we need to look at how Nilanjana characterizes Sita.

Sita, though, is not a passive victim, as Namita Gokhale, Arshia Sattar and others argue. Ms Gokhale points out that Sita is the first single mother. Ms Sattar sees Sita as a woman who exercises complex choices, leaving a marriage where she is no longer treated with respect. (This episode, Sita’s rejection of Rama and her building of a life without him, is seldom raised by guardians of the purity of Indian women.)

As we see, she doesn’t characterize Sita but borrows the misguided opinions of Namita Gokhale and Arshia Sattar. In other words, can we conclude that Nilanjana has no original opinion of Sita?

Now, what exactly are Namita and Arshia’s credentials to hold forth on Sita? Because an honest, objective reading of the Ramayana does not yield the characterization they have put forth. Of all the things I’ve read about Sita, characterizing her as a single mother is both the funniest and the most ridiculous one. One wonders if Namita Gokhale time-travelled, toured all of India in Sita’s era, did a census of all mothers and found that Sita was the first single mother. Needless, like Roy, Gokhale too tries to retrofit today’s social and moral notions to the past. Which is why it is quite illuminating to examine this paragraph at length.

The sentence “leaving a marriage where she’s no longer treated with respect,” is pretty revealing. Let’s see what the primary source, the Uttara Ramayana says, in the sequence of events. Rama in his position as a king—and not as a husband—first abandons a pregnant Sita in the forest. By Arshia and Roy’s reasoning, this means Rama did “leave the marriage” first. If that’s true, was he treated with disrespect by Sita, following the same reasoning? Then the sage Valmiki takes her to his hermitage. Lava and Kusha are soon born. Now, by Namita Gokhale’s reasoning, this supposedly makes Sita the “first single mother.” And then, after the lapse of much time, Rama and Sita meet each other whereupon Rama asks her to get back with him. She rejects him and reverts to her mother, the Mother Earth, which means she leaves her mortal life. This in turn means that Nilanjana’s claim that “building a life without [Rama]” is false.

And so, in the final reckoning, we get the following when we stick to their reasoning: by the time Rama and Sita meet again, it is Rama who has already “[leave] the marriage,” Sita is already a “single mother,” and she leaves the mortal world, leaving no scope for, as Nilanjana claims, “building a life without [Rama].”

In other words, Namitha Gokhale, Arshia Sattar, and Nilanjana Roy, have all falsified the epic so that it fits into their tailored conclusions about Sita. The truth is that Sita, throughout the Ramayana, has no word of reproach for Rama. The truth is that Sita encouraged her children to learn, sing, and disseminate Ramayana. Would she do this if she had felt that Rama treated her with disrespect? Would she do this if she had rejected Rama?

The truth also is that Nilanjana Roy et al are obsessed with delivering justice to Sita in whom they see as the first/earliest Indian (?) Woman to be wronged by Man. This is less about Sita than it is about Woman and it comes straight from a juvenile strand of feminism that holds Man to be the oppressor of women till Eternity. Anything is fair game according to this strand: epics, novels, poems, movies, even porn. A Nation of Victims is a classic that brilliantly explains how this phenomenon works. And so, Justice to Sita at any cost, even if it means falsifying the Ramayana, even if it means reading the Ramayana selectively, and even if it means indulging in intellectual dishonesty.

An honest reading of the original Ramayana reveals that Sita held Rama in the highest esteem throughout the epic. Consider this: Rama lived in a time where polygamy was socially accepted. Indeed, Rama’s father had himself taken three wives. Despite this, Rama married just one woman. He discouraged her from accompanying him on exile. But when that failed, and throughout the period that she was in exile with him, he protected her, pampered her, and treated her like a baby. After Ravana abducted her, Rama made it his life’s mission to get her back, and pined for her every moment. He didn’t as much as look at any other woman. Indeed, the verses in which he describes his life without Sita are heart rending and must be made mandatory reading for any man who wants to learn how to treat his wife. Equally, Cantos 25—40 of Sundara Kanda show exactly how highly she regards Rama, and how intensely she loves him.

Even if we ignore all this, what does the fact that Rama kills a hugely powerful king and destroys his empire in order to rescue his wife tell us about Rama? What does the fact that mere monkeys formed an army and staked their lives to quell  this powerful king who had coveted another man’s wife tell us? What value system does this impart to us? More importantly, what does that tell us about a culture which continues to emulate him as the ideal man, king, and husband—a culture that includes millions of men who emulate him thus?

Yet what are the only things that people like Nilanjana Roy find in the epic? Stains of blood, violence, rape, sexual assaults, dead bodies, and the supposed injustice meted out to Sita by Rama. What does that tell you about how the minds of the Justice-Deliverers-to-Sita work?

Be that however it may, given all these facts, the real point is that Nilanjana Roy fails to show us how Sita’s abduction by Ravana and her abandonment by Rama qualify as “rape” and/or “sexual assault,” which is what her piece sets out to do among other things.

Continued in Part 2

49 comments for “The Rape of Our Epics: Part 1

  1. sita
    April 25, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Let me put it in your own words sandeep,One wonders if you have time-traveled, toured all of India and stayed with Rama the entire period and saw him pining for sita “Every moment” and all of your views here just attack someone Else’s blog, do you have any opinion that you can form yourself or just good at verbal bashing someone?
    and just like how all religious/ spiritual well-known books have been misinterpreted and re-written for some people’s convenience, it is very possible that these books were also colored.
    Rama fought to bring sita back, but some versions will tell you that it was to pacify his own ego as a strong king because the minute he saved sita, he questioned her purity, and you say he pined and whined for her, wouldn’t he already have known that when he was trying to save her or is it that he gets sudden illumination after he destroys lankha? :/

  2. S
    February 3, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Good post……….I think most people who write about our epics haven’t the faintest idea of Valmiki Ramayana and conveniently duck under the excuse, ” but there are many versions”. All the early versions in vernacular languages were based on Valmiki Ramayana, lest we forget.

  3. January 25, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    @Ramalakshmi

    You raised a good question. I also wondered why Sita tolerated the indecent talk of Ravana before giving him alms. The explanation is that Ravana was in the guise of a mendicant, #parivraajaka#, as per Valmiki’s original text. In ancient India they enjoyed respect and privileges and there are accounts of their free-flowing conversations with ladies who come out to give alms. For more, read (if you are interested) my blog post “The Abduction Of Seeta”.

    -Vasu-

  4. January 24, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Your respect for women shines through in your very tasteful tweets about Nilanjana and her husband. If we should not hear moral lectures from you, then who? Jai Shri Ram!

  5. January 23, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    -There is lakshman Rekha, when ravana taunts sita”Dharamalopan karishyasi”(you have wantonly crossed the line of dharam and posing as chaste).at the fortress were he first took her before placing her in Ashok Vatika.
    -Sita was 34, married for more than a decade,when at Dhandakaranya she was abducted,not any young girl of 16
    -She offers Ravana fruits and nuts after Ravana, in the garb of Sanyasi,praises her breasts and thighs to be beautiful.Would any married woman offer fruits and nuts to any Sanyasi, if he praises her bodily parts?She seems to be childlike in her innocence.But would others agree with that?
    -Sita is supposed to have played with Rudra’s bow in her childhood.
    She is supposed to be the Veera sulka(prize-catch for bravery).Rama had to prove his valour, to win her hand.
    -Nothing came free to Rama.He earned it.’Ramo Aklishta Karamana’ means, Ram of unwearied action.
    -As a Kshatriya princess, why did she not use her nails and teeth to claw at Ravana?
    When she had time and presence of mind to tear her upper garment, bind her jewels into them and throw it to the Rishya mukh vanars like Sugreeva, why did she not try to jump from the pushpaka vimana?
    -Her conduct as a married woman is very puzzling.
    That is why citizens of Ayodhya wanted more proof of her chastity.
    -Her intention was pure, but evidence was against her.Today, we know the importance of circumstantial evidence.
    Therefore, it was absolutely justifiable for the Maryada Pusushottam to send her to a life of austerity.Since doubts were cast on her, he asked her to stand and prove it.
    -After 12 years. her sons were restored to Rama.
    And since she was not the sort to stand public scrutiny of taking oaths and oaths,she went into bosom of earth.
    It was a win win situation.Both Sita and rama acted according to their given strengths.Sita was perfect house wife, but uncautious at critical times and Rama was a great leader and warrior.Each played their roles very well.
    -But for emulation, we should follow Rama and sympathise with Sita.

    • Raghuvir Singh Rathaur
      January 25, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      We forget that Ram and sita were incarnations of Lord Vishnu and Mahalaxmi. Their whole purpose of incarnating was distructions of Rakshasas including Ravana. All the situations were created so that they could kill Ravana with full moral justification.

  6. The Profane
    January 23, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    As they say in Calculus, let us start from the first principles. To all the comments above, and to Mr. Sandeep I have a position. This seems to have been missed all along by all irrespective of Nilanjana’s contention or Sandeep’s counterpoint, and we need to first get a grasp of the following:

    What is the Sanskrit term for rape? How many times is it used in the Mahabharata? Is it used in the specific context of the cases mentioned by Nilanjana? Can she prove her point by citing chapter and verse? If no, will she apologize for deception?

    Mr. Sandeep is right when he says that we are trying to impose 21st century values on to the life and times of Rama

  7. ramgun
    January 20, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    Excellent post again, Sandeep. The most important observation is that these morons specialise in retro-fitting today’s Western morals into ancient Indian times and epics set in those times. When even today there is no consensus on ‘universal values’ (even if they exist), such a pathetic attempt by the like of Ms Roy can only be interpreted as a perverse crude attempt to malign our epics and culture

  8. Raghuvir Singh Rathaur
    January 18, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    The three ladies referenced by you are pseudo-intellectuals who have never read the unabridged authentic versions of our epics. You have rightly taken them to task. Ladies like this thrive on creating controversy. Ravan never raped Sita.He carried a curse of a sage that if he tried to molest an unwilling female, his head will break in 100 pieces.

  9. Sarvesh
    January 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    @ganapaty Ahilya was no ordinary woman. Although Indra came disguised as sage , she recognized him to be Indra and still agreed to have intercourse. That is clear as per Valmiki Rmanyan.

    It is important to go through books about which we are trying to debate.

  10. anil
    January 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    You have to read MahaBharata Tatparya NirNaya of Acharya Madhva with commentary of Bannanje Govindacharya.. where it is given that Ravana abducted duplicate sita formed of vedavathi, indra … and real sita was taken by rudra to kailasa … in fact this vedavathi was relieved from ravana and rama rightly rejected her as she is not sita … and when this vedavathi jumped to agni, 2 sitas came and rama promised to marry one of them – vedavathi during srinivasa avathara because in rama avathara he is eka patni vrathastha…” i might be wrong at places” but this what the gist is …when will these devils understand complexities and mysticism of Indian philosophy

  11. ganapathy
    January 18, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    why is ahaliga punished for no fault of hers when she mistook the god indra who came in disguise as her husband while queens who send their servants in disguise/take part in niyogam escape punishment.the varna of women is the reason for punishment. can we have epics/stories of brahmin women taking part in niyogam
    what is ahaligas fault in being deceived by indra and why was she punished for that when great vedvyasa gets deceived by the queen and both escape punishment

  12. S
    January 17, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    I want to know if Nilanjana Roy is a relative of Prannoy James Roy and his niece Suzanne Arundhati Roy.

  13. January 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Brilliantly written Sandeep!!! People like Nilanjana with no depth in thought or a deep understanding of the epics make her writing empty and pseudo written to please – I dont know who and dont want to presume!!

    Should we think of her as a ASS who has no clue or a misguided individual who has applied her limited intelligence to a epic with so many layers that she could nt even cross the first layer too!!!

  14. Amit
    January 16, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    “But, no, he cannot be a role model when it comes to how a man should treat a wife, and I could see that as a child, when my grandmother first read me Ramayana.”

    Damyanti, no one is forcing you to accept Lord Ram as a model of good husband. The story is to illustrate that when one takes on a role of a public servant, one needs to have very high scruples, and one’s duty supersedes one’s relationships, and when there’s a conflict between different roles, then one has to sacrifice personal relationships at the altar of duty.

    So, for example, a minister like Mufti Mohammad Sayed would have put his duty first and above his role as a father, and not compromised with the terrorists, or not used his power as a minister to free his daughter. To me, Lord Ram’s life is meant to be emulated by our leaders (as best as they can) so that they are uncompromising and principled in their conduct, and don’t allow even a hint of any misconduct to fall on their acts. Look around you and you will find unscrupulous and corrupt ministers and leaders, who are shameless in their conduct and don’t even think twice about using their power for their personal gains. Unfortunately, when a society and its public servants abrogate ideals like Lord Ram’s, no good can come of it.

    There’s one movie I can think of which illustrate this principle somewhat – “Shakti” – where a principled police inspector refuses to compromise with the criminals, and it costs him his relationship with his son.

    When you take that context into account, then perhaps you can start seeing Lord Ram’s life and conduct differently, instead of selectively looking at Ramayan through your crazy feminist theories.

    Besides, you should know better – it’s Shiv-Parvati who are offered as ideal husband-wife, and Lord Shiv as the ideal husband, not Lord Ram.

  15. Perspectives
    January 15, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    @Damyanti and Anonymous…After my endless debated with myself and others, i have reached a state where I believe that Ramayana is a ‘ Manual” for a King, Husband, wife , Son, Brother etc etc and the perspectives and the “Karma” or ‘the stand’ they take in different situations! Rama had a choice to stay in the palace and have fun being the prince,, he decided to obey the Kaikeyee and keep his fathers promise so a “Dutiful Son”! Bharatha and Lakshmana did the best that could be done by ‘Brothers” and Sita followed “Patni Dharma”…rama followed husbans “dharma” and rescued wife from the Mighty Ravana. The conflict arised when he had to choose between “Rajya Dharma” and ” Pati Dharma” and he choose “Rajya Dharma” to his personal life! As a woman I feel for Sita but if you see it from current situation, I feel wish our politicians learn lessons from Rama and treat it as a manual for a poletician ! COUNTRY COMES FIRST DAMN IT! Current day politicians are milking India and their positions for “Roti, kapda and makaan” and it is not enough greed continues and they are arranging ‘Roti, kapda etc for their future generations too! Tell me what if he had supported his wife and gone to the forest or kept her in the palace then the likely’Perspectives’ would be a stupid, henpecked husband, Hopeless king….etc etc etc…Anyways! One should see the larger picture! “Karma Siddhantha” …Following duties with clear conscience and not worrying too much about the end result has been a model that has been emphasized in Hindu philosophies…

  16. SCC
    January 15, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    For a single Ram, there are a millions of other husbands who are corrupt, do not do their duties, leave their parents in the lurch, betray the people below them and the country at times all in the cause of their family. They are the ideal family man as far as Damyanti is concerned.
    No wonder not many man and his wife are worshipped. A bucket whatever it’s size can never measure the water in the ocean. Damyanti should instead devote her energy in studying the life of Prohpet Mohammad. Maybe she can find her ideal husband in him.

  17. Madhu
    January 15, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Sandeep I have a question.
    Is Polyandry as common as Polygamy in ancient times?

  18. Hindu_Woman
    January 15, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Damyanti, I do not think you have read Valmaki Ramayana. Nowhere in Valmaki Ramayana (and I think Sandeep is referring here to Valmiki Ramayana) Rama shoves Sita into burning pyre. Valmiki Ramayana clearly distinguishes between Rama the King and Rama the Husband. While Rama the Husband is very glad to find Sita back, it is Rama the King who says that she will not be acceptable to his subjects. Even so, at this point the ghost of Dasharatha appears and begs forgiveness from Sita for the conduct of his son. All the Gods from heaven, who are watching his episode, exhort Rama not to behave in such a fashion, reminding him that he is God incarnate (To which Rama replies that he knows himself only as a mortal, and has all the weaknesses of a mortal). At this point, Sita herself decides to immolate herself, only to be brought out by the God of fire unscathed. Even if one finds fault with Rama, needless to say that women with right conduct were greeted with high regard.

  19. January 15, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    @ Damayanti
    Of all the comments here, yours was comprehensive, coherent and completely wrong.

    Which is why I am replying to it
    “Ramayana was written over the ages, and has many versions.”
    Wrong. All other versions are re-tellings of Valmiki’s original.
    “Rama, despite all his pining, shoved Sita into a burning pyre, and abandoned her at the first occasion she came between him and his kingdom. ”

    Wrong. He didn’t shove anyone into a burning pyre. The agni-pravesham was Sita’s self-imposed decision. She never came between him and his kingdom. She could have continued as the queen of Ayodhya and no-one would have really objected. The single citizen simply let loose an ill-considered comment, no more, and had no power to place Sita between the kingdom and Rama

    “He could have jumped into the fire with her as part of his belief in her purity, and also left the kingdom with her and joined and ashram when he heard the dhobi say whatever.”

    His place was to fulfil his duty as a king. Continuing on as king was fulfilment of duty and no more.

    “While Sita’s virtue is extolled when she decides to follow him, why no word of censure when he abandons her?”

    If you take care to read properly, strong words of censure come from Lakshmana himself, when asked to escort Sita to the forest.

    “Sita praises Ram throughout, yes, but isn’t she a creation of patriarchy where a woman is supposed to keep on praising men to her dying breath no matter what a man does to her? The writers came from a patriarchal setup where the man could do no wrong, and the woman was always made to suffer for her ‘apparent’ faults. And the only escape left to her is death!”

    Your perception entirely. Not rooted in factual basis.

    “If Ram is anyone’s concept of an ideal man, I have only my deepest sympathies for them.”

    Thanks.

    “But, no, he cannot be a role model when it comes to how a man should treat a wife, and I could see that as a child, when my grandmother first read me Ramayana.”

    You really should have paid more attention to your grandmother.

  20. nash
    January 15, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    damayanthi and anonymous

    For all the various versions of ramayana..
    this happened in common
    “Rama, despite all his pining, shoved Sita into a burning pyre,….”

    and yet no burns,what happened?
    what did you people miss?

    yeow take me to true insight.

  21. January 15, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Why not trace our tendency to blame the victim on having Mahatma Gandhi has the Father of our Nation, he did say that a woman attracts a rapist by being impure. And also that she should try and kill herself with her will power (something worse than what Asaram Bapu said ).

    People will go back to Rama who lived 2000 years ago, but won’t go back to the misogynist mahatma who lived only 60 years ago.

  22. January 15, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    When people get on the defensive and prevent comparisons between Sachin Tendulkar / Viv Richard, Gavaskar and Bradman, SRK and Amitabh, Dravid / Vishwanath, AR Rahman and MS Viswanathan, how silly is it to compare Sri Ram’s action in todays’ Femina’s editorial standards? We dont even compare our actions, achievements, thoug-process to that of our parents, as we appreciate the generation-gap. But, Sri Ram, who walked on this earth some 7564 generations ago, where bow and arrow was used, is a fair game for everyone from Karunanidhi to Kavita? Go fly kite, you guys.

  23. Rama
    January 15, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Great article as usual Sandeep.
    Here is another view. Damyanti. read it from top to bottom.
    http://indiawires.com/17649/news/national/why-do-they-blame-the-victim-of-rape/

  24. CC
    January 15, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    Another great post Sandeep.

    This is not the first time that half-wits have written articles degrading the epics. Everytime there’s something in the news about women being treated badly, comparisons to Sita pop up and these modern feminists start spewing nonsense. The very fact that these women (Sita, Draupadi) are powerful characters in these epics should tell these half-wits that women were on equal footing with men in that age.

    Damyanti, perhaps Sita is too complex a character for you to understand. Start with Mary and Ayesha, maybe you’ll identify more with them.

  25. anonymous
    January 14, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Agree with Damyanti – But, no, he cannot be a role model when it comes to how a man should treat a wife

  26. January 14, 2013 at 6:51 PM

    Please find here a thorough defence of Sri Rama’s actions in the Ramayana here:

    http://www.docstoc.com/docs/78041026/In-Defence-of-Sri-Rama

  27. Rajarshi
    January 14, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    Lovely piece. Someone commented -”Sita praises Ram throughout, yes, but isn’t she a creation of patriarchy where a woman is supposed to keep on praising men to her dying breath no matter what a man does to her?”

    If one starts with the assumption that the whole text is a creation of patriarchy and biased thus, why should the original piece, whose rebuttal this happens to be, start with saying “In times of trouble, turning to the great epics”?

    Clearly, double standards at it’s lowest best. If anything, such puerile arguments must be send to Nilanjana Roy, rather than this blog.

  28. Indian
    January 14, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Wasn’t Uttara Kanda a later addition and not in the original Valmiki Ramayana? A couple of books on Valmiki Ramayana that I read ended with Rama and Sita living happily ever after.

  29. January 14, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    Only those Hindus who understand that both Sri.Ram & His Consort Seetha (as are Lord Krishna , Sri.Hanuman etc) are Avataras comprehend Ramayana flawlessly.

    This phrase lakshman rekha does not exist at all in the original Valmiki Ramayanam.

    Why only Seetha even Vaali who is slain by Lord Ram has only words of praise for Sri.Ram.
    Yet even today we find many half baked people discussing the same Vaali vatham etc in pattimandrams in Tamil Nadu.

  30. January 14, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    In one of Swami Vivekananda’s talks at Pasadena, California, he gives a summary of the Ramayana to his audience. I’ve captured that narrative in my blog (see below)
    http://www.ulaar.com/2013/01/03/understanding-rama-sita-conundrum-swami-vivekananda/

    My key takeaway from Swami V’s narrative is that Rama held his duty (as king) much higher than his love/filiality towards Sita. Against that social milieu/context, the fact that he refuses to remarry (at the time of Ashwamedha yagna) and immediately plunges into Sarayu to rejoin Sita (after it’s revealed that his ‘earthly’ mission is over — at least provides some data points for his love for Sita.

    Vishy

  31. Chandra
    January 14, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    This Shoorpanakha episode being quoted as an instance of atrocity is rather amusing. I would love to get some perspective on this.

    Consider this:
    A man sees a woman, becomes brimfully consumed by lust for her, approaches her and almost immediately proposes that the woman marry him right away because he’s so full of ‘love’ for her. The woman spurns him away in good humour while explaining with clarity and conviction that she’s already married, is against her own self-imposed ‘dharma’ to marry another man and is therefore NOT interested in his proposal. She advises that he seek elsewhere. And it’s all the more dramatic that this happens right in the presence of her (passive)husband. The lustful man now takes extreme umbrage to this, mocks and derides her husband in caustic and vile language and referring to his physique quips, “Of what use is this man to you?”. He then eventually attempts to eliminate the husband so that he can have the wife and savor her all for himself.
    What should or would the woman do? How should the lustful man be treated?

    Now as a little exercise, let’s do a role-play and interchange the genders too though in this age of gender-equality, gender should not really matter. Or, should it? let’s see..
    Replace the lust-filled man with Shoorpanakha, the passive husband with Sita and the (good?) wife with Rama.
    What’s your narrative now? Could Nilanjana Roy please explain where the atrocity part is?

  32. manish
    January 14, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Sandeep
    You have been doing a wonderful job.
    But i still doubt that Ms Roy is ever going to acknowledge that she was wrong.
    They are brought up in their thinking so as to interpret things from their own lense.
    Objectivity, simply put, is never going to be their cup of tea.

  33. som
    January 14, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    It’s about time US and rest of the world citizens recalled that their only significant enemy is the British Empire.
    Once that tie is broken, primarily financially, the prospects for progress and harmony will be back on the agenda.

  34. January 14, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    This is the British imperial plan. Behind the local militias and jihadis are the kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which fund, arm, and direct the mayhem. But the Saudis and Qataris are themselves not “independent” forces, but integral and controlled assets of the British Empire, which is determined to create the conditions where it can maintain its global financial dominance, as well as to set off the most massive depopulation the world has ever seen, achieving the monarchy’s wish for reduction of the world population from the current 7 billion, to something like 1 billion.
    The British Empire is determined to use its historical control over radical and royal currents in the Islamic world – emphatically including its control of what is called al-Qaeda – to stir up more than 1 billion Muslims into a bloody conflict that could destroy civilization itself.
    As FAR AS HINDU OR HINDUISM IS CONCERNED THEY WOULD FEEL ASHAMED BY READING
    BOOKS RELATED TO THEIR CULTURE PUBLISHED BY ENGLISH MEDIA WHICH IS CONTROLLED
    BY IMPERIAL POWERS SUCH AS ROTHSCHILD.

  35. January 14, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Ramayana was written over the ages, and has many versions.

    Rama, despite all his pining, shoved Sita into a burning pyre, and abandoned her at the first occasion she came between him and his kingdom. He could have jumped into the fire with her as part of his belief in her purity, and also left the kingdom with her and joined and ashram when he heard the dhobi say whatever.

    That would have set a true example, where men an women are equal. While Sita’s virtue is extolled when she decides to follow him, why no word of censure when he abandons her?

    Sita praises Ram throughout, yes, but isn’t she a creation of patriarchy where a woman is supposed to keep on praising men to her dying breath no matter what a man does to her? The writers came from a patriarchal setup where the man could do no wrong, and the woman was always made to suffer for her ‘apparent’ faults. And the only escape left to her is death!

    If Ram is anyone’s concept of an ideal man, I have only my deepest sympathies for them.

    Ramayana is a religious epic, and as such deserves respect, but respect cannot be blind. I like Rama’s values of honesty, courage during adversity, kindness to all beings, whether human or animal, devotion to parents and so on.

    But, no, he cannot be a role model when it comes to how a man should treat a wife, and I could see that as a child, when my grandmother first read me Ramayana.

  36. January 14, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    There is no reference of ‘Lakshman Rekha’ in original Valmiki Ramayana’. This rekha is an invention of the cowbelt patriarchy. Even Tulasidasa does not have this rekha in Aranya Kanda !

  37. R. D. Choudhary,
    January 14, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    I think with certainty by reading Niranjanas article that her upbringing has not been smooth and She might have undergone the trauma of rape and horror and trying to find the root cause in an insane way. A distorted and disturbed mind can not search truth. A person with distorted mind saw cow dung paste on a wall and He exclaimed! ” Oh! How a Cow can climb on the wall and defecate like this?” He went on researching on it and assumed that Cow must have climbed on the wall. But the next level of doubt came in his mind and that was the straight line in which he saw the cow dung paste on the wall. He was under bewilderment and went on creating new hypothesis to please his so called creative mind and the truth of the episode is too simple to give any description.
    Because we have learnt compassion and forgiveness we tolerate blasphemy. Otherwise even a mad and perverted kind like the author applies some mind in not writing about Prophet because he or she fears the ” electric shock” that she may have to withstand thereafter. This is one reason such authors take path of least resistance in writing false , imaginative and insinuating articles without fear. They are to be thanked at least for recognising the compassionate and forgiving nature of the community before imagining dirty and perverted view of sacred, timeless literatures of one community and attributing all wrongs of the society on those epics.
    The cause of the rape of the Delhi student was simply due to absence of stringent law, delayed course of justice and the overall insensitivity of police in enforcing needed vigil and timely response to registration of case and speedy treatment of victims. But some authors look upon it in the most complicated way like the person interpreting Cow Dung pastes on a wall. In the process our sacred scriptures are dragged into unnecessary controversy and attempt is made to create confusion and controversy. I will not be surprised if some vested interests are there in inciting such mad authors to spread venoms through their writings based on pure disorderly mental fantasy.
    Again with compassionate and forbearing attitude we should pray sincerely for such personality of distorted mind to enter into Bhakti and real love inspite of the torture experienced by them physically and mentally in their lives and try to become sane. Contradicting them will look loke defending something which has withstood the taste of time for thousands of years.
    Also I would suggest more retrospection and contemplation for the editors mostly young who allow such piece of absurdity to be in their newspapers/ journals in the name of fundamental right.
    Lastly I would appeal all political fraternity belonging to different faiths not to allow distorted and defaming articles on any religion, group or community in the interest of public peace and harmony for which they have been assigned by the public to govern and not indulge in politics always.

  38. Akilesh Yadav
    January 14, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    Why this pseudo secularist never spoke about Pedophile Prophet who raped 9 year old kid.

  39. January 14, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    Good rebuttal Sandeep ji

  40. Jooske
    January 14, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Here is a summary for those who do not want to read the long version.

    It is not the epics that are as fault but the fault of what happended lies in how India is governed,primarily by the congress government which has been in government for all but 5 years since independence.

    New laws won’t solve India’s rape epidemic, by: Ramesh Thakur, The Australian, January 10, 2013

    THE pack-rape and murder of a 23-year old woman in Delhi is not rooted in local culture. The blame for India’s rape epidemic lies in the corruption of public life and the decay of institutions. Successive governments are culpable but have yet to be held criminally accountable.
    A new feudal system is being created as the political process is captured by an increasingly narrow and self-perpetuating ruling class that collaborates with the bureaucracy and police as agents of the predator state. Rape based on structural violence occurs when the powerful misuse their position to rape the powerless. This happens both in cities and in villages; it is not a phenomenon restricted just to urban centres.
    The problem of rape, especially against the poor, outcaste and tribal women, is not recent. There have been enough high-profile cases that a government with a social conscience would have acted decisively by now.
    Public policy failings have produced the world’s biggest pool of poor, sick, starving and illiterate. Institutional failures of governance mean their suffering is aggravated.
    The glib call to name a tough new law after the victim will import American custom that is alien and offensive to the British-based Indian legal tradition. India suffers from too many laws which sow confusion, provide perverse incentives for police and judicial corruption, and foster and embed a disrespect for the principle of the rule of law.
    Creating special courts for speedy trials of rape cases with toughened conditions for defendants will mean some victims will get swifter justice. But it will impose even further delays on other cases. It will also mean more people will threaten or file false cases as a convenient tool of extortion against political opponents, social rivals, wealthy neighbours, rejected suitors and so on.
    Police and judges will find yet another tool to extract bribes from all sides.

    Professor Ramesh Thakur is director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Australian National University.

  41. Jooske
    January 14, 2013 at 6:16 AM

    Sandeep,you will like this article from an Australian academic of Indian decent?

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/world-commentary/new-laws-wont-solve-indias-rape-epidemic/story-e6frg6ux-1226550651542
    New laws won’t solve India’s rape epidemic
    • by: Ramesh Thakur
    THE pack-rape and murder of a 23-year old woman in Delhi is not rooted in local culture. The blame for India’s rape epidemic lies in the corruption of public life and the decay of institutions. Successive governments are culpable but have yet to be held criminally accountable.
    A new feudal system is being created as the political process is captured by an increasingly narrow and self-perpetuating ruling class that collaborates with the bureaucracy and police as agents of the predator state. Rape based on structural violence occurs when the powerful misuse their position to rape the powerless. This happens both in cities and in villages; it is not a phenomenon restricted just to urban centres.
    The problem of rape, especially against the poor, outcaste and tribal women, is not recent. There have been enough high-profile cases that a government with a social conscience would have acted decisively by now. But a response driven by the need to appease public emotions will risk being a bandaid rather than a root-and-branches reform solution.
    Public policy failings have produced the world’s biggest pool of poor, sick, starving and illiterate. Institutional failures of governance mean their suffering is aggravated.
    The glib call to name a tough new law after the victim will import American custom that is alien and offensive to the British-based Indian legal tradition. India suffers from too many laws which sow confusion, provide perverse incentives for police and judicial corruption, and foster and embed a disrespect for the principle of the rule of law.
    The bus in which the victim was assaulted for more than two hours was being run illegally, its tinted windows contravened a court order, it drove through many checkpoints, and the police failed to act on an earlier complaint of robbery that evening in the same bus.
    New legislation is not the solution to a lack of implementation. To improve governance in India a moratorium should be imposed on new laws while attention is given to enforcing existing ones pending their simplification and rationalisation. Fewer laws are easier to understand, simpler to interpret and implement.
    Many are demanding mandatory death sentences. Yet India lacks the courage of conviction either to abolish the death penalty on principle, or implement it firmly in practice. Afzal Guru, convicted of the terrorist attack on parliament in 2001, is yet to be hanged because the Congress government fears an electoral backlash from its Muslim vote-bank.
    In another example, a person was convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 for the rape and murder of a five-year old girl in 2001. In May last year, President Pratibha Patil – a woman – commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.
    The political class is increasingly inbred, criminal and out of touch with the changing nation. Analysis by Patrick French, author of India: A Country shows that of the 545 federal MPs, 156 have hereditary connections. Of women MPs, 70 per cent are in family politics. Every MP under 30, and 65 per cent of the 66 MPs in their 30s, has a family connection. Of Congress MPs in their 30s, 86 per cent inherited a family seat. And if the trend continues, almost all MPs will be hereditary.
    One fourth of MPs face criminal charges. They can only be debarred on conviction. Because they can bribe or otherwise indefinitely delay the court cases, in practice being implicated in serious crimes is no bar to being an MP for life.
    The pathology of politics as a family business for criminals is worse in state politics.
    India’s courts are clogged. In Maharashtra – the worst on this count – only 240,000 of the 3.1 million cases of people in prison or awaiting trial were settled last year. At current caseload settlement rates, India’s 15,000 judges (plus 3000 unfilled posts) will require more than 300 years just to clear the backlog of 30 million pending cases. Against India’s recommended norm of 50 judges per million population, it has 10. Public officials operate with colonial structures and mindsets, lording it over subjects instead of serving citizens. India’s bureaucrats are rated the most inefficient in Asia. The police are largely corrupt, inefficient and distrusted.
    Ruchika Girhotra, a 14-year old girl, was sexually molested by a powerful police officer in 1990. He rose to be the state’s top cop while she and her family were harassed and victimised for not dropping the case. She killed herself in 1993. Only in 2009 did justice finally catch up with the police officer, with a risible six-month sentence that saw him smirking as he left court on bail pending an appeal. What is especially dispiriting about this is just how many individuals and institutions that could and should have protected her went instead with the flow; and how instantly credible the sad saga is in modern India.
    Finally, there is the risk of perverse consequences. Legislative quotas for women merely feather the family nest by packing parliaments with the “bibi, beti and bahu” brigade (wives, daughters and daughters-in-law) when what is really needed is to open the doors to the talented young people of the new dynamic India who aspire to public office for serving a higher social purpose.
    Creating special courts for speedy trials of rape cases with toughened conditions for defendants will mean some victims will get swifter justice. But it will impose even further delays on other cases. It will also mean more people will threaten or file false cases as a convenient tool of extortion against political opponents, social rivals, wealthy neighbours, rejected suitors and so on. Police and judges will find yet another tool to extract bribes from all sides.

    Professor Ramesh Thakur is director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Australian National University.

  42. d2thdr
    January 14, 2013 at 4:46 AM

    Loved it Sandeep. If you get a chance please see rajiv dixits ram katha on you tube

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