The Rape of Our Epics: Part 3

Read Parts 1 and 2.

After trying to force-fit Draupadi into the feminist mould, Nilanjana Roy sets her sights on Amba, Ambika and Ambalika in yet another extremely revealing paragraph.

Amba is, again, silenced in popular discussion, and yet her story remains both remarkable and disquieting — the woman who will even become a man in order to wreak revenge on the man who first abducts and then rejects her. There is nothing easy about her story, as anyone who has tried to rewrite the Mahabharata knows; or about the way in which we gloss over the sanctioned rapes of Ambika and Ambalika, one so afraid of the man who is in her bed that she shuts her eyes so as not to see him.

How? And who has silenced Amba in “popular discussion?” Phrases like this are always intriguing simply because they hang loose. There are a gazillion things that fall under “popular discussion.” How does one define something like “popular discussion?” What constitutes a “popular discussion?” Films? Books? Music? Politics? Art? Mahabharata? What? But this is precisely where the beauty lies: building a narrative without defining something.

Even if we set aside these definitional issues, Nilanjana gives us a very important hint as to where she comes from: the woman who will even become a man in order to wreak revenge on the man who first abducts and then rejects her. This is far more important that it seems. “the woman who will even become a man” sounds supremacist, even evil at a level—of course, apart from the fact that Amba is reborn a eunuch who is neither male nor female but Nilanjana has decided that a eunuch is a Male so I suppose we need to go by it. So think about it: a woman “who will even become a man” can also be interpreted—taking a leaf out of the Book of Nilanjana’s Interpretations—to mean that males are somehow inferior to females. Wait! It can also be interpreted to give us this equation: male=eunuch. Remember, this isn’t my interpretation; I’m merely following Nilanjana’s Tradition of Interpreting the Five Stories.

At which point, we encounter yet another factual error. Yes Bhishma abducts her. No. Bhishma doesn’t reject Amba. Actually, Nilanjana has gotten the sequence of events incorrect. After Amba confesses to Bhishma that she already loves Salva, it is Bhishma, the Amba-abductor who returns her to Salva. And it is Salva who rejects her. It is then that Amba proposes that Bhishma marry her. And it is then that Bhishma rejects her proposal because his conscience doesn’t allow him to break his vow of lifelong celibacy. Further, it is then that Amba immolates herself, swearing revenge against Bhishma.

Did Bhishma do right? No he didn’t. So what exactly is Bhishma’s position? Which is why I stress repeatedly: read the original. It is pretty clear that Bhishma was a blind adherent of tradition and orthodoxy if not possessed by a misguided sense of Dharma. It is this blindness that makes him abduct the three princesses. It is this blindness that makes him a mute spectator to Draupadi’s disrobing. It is this blindness that makes him tolerate every atrocity committed by the Kauravas. It is this blindness that makes him fight against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war. And in the end, it is the final consequence of this blindness that Krishna calls out in the Bhagavad Gita (11.34):

Dronanca Bhishmanca Jayadrathanca|
Karnam Tathaanyaanapi Yodhaveeraan||
Mayaa Hantaanstvam Jahi Maa Vyatishtitaa|
Yudhyasva Jetaaasi Saptanaan||

Slay Drona, Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna, and other great warriors who are already killed by Me|
Do not be distressed, fight, and you will surely conquer your enemies in battle.

This verse simply means that Krishna—God himself—had recognized that this was to be Bhishma’s ultimate for siding with Adharma (injustice, non-righteousness, etc) and that Arjuna’s duty was to merely put an end to Bhishma’s physical body.

And so what we have here is once more, the same feature: selective reading on the part of Nilanjana Roy. Perhaps one of the finest attributes of the Mahabharata is the fact that there’s no injustice that goes unpunished. And Bhishma is himself a towering illustration of this fact: he is unbeatable on the battlefield and yet he gives up his life voluntarily when he faces the reborn face of the injustice he had rendered ages ago. But to cherry-pick specific instances of injustices with the sole purpose of tailoring them to suit whatever fancy theory is the mark of a juvenile mind to say the least. 

As for Ambika and Ambalika, we need to begin with Nilanjana’s renewed display of intellectual dishonesty on her blog. In her tailpiece to her Business Standard article, she mentions the practice of Niyoga. However, she shrewdly terms Niyoga as “forced sex” by attributing it to some “reading” of the Mahabharata.

But what does the record say?

Niyoga was a perfectly acceptable social practice for continuing a lineage whereby the husband—who cannot impregnate his wife because of impotency or whatever other reason—gives consent to his wife to have sex with another man for the express purpose of bearing a child. The sexual relation with the other man would stop as soon as the wife became pregnant. The child born thus was termed a Kshetraja (literally “born of the field,” meaning born of the mother). The practice of Niyoga existed in Rig Vedic times (see for example, Mantra 10, Sutra 10) and is also held valid by Manu Smriti (IX.59-63) as an emergency/extreme measure. The same Manu Smriti also condemns Niyoga in IX.64-68 in cases where Niyoga is used as an excuse to satisfy lust.

So one really wonders why Nilanjana Roy chooses to only read the “reading” that informs her that Niyoga implies forced sex.

Like she does with Niyoga, Nilanjana also conceals the fact that different kinds of bride-taking existed in the time of Mahabharata. The most well-known method is Swayamvara. The lesser-known method happens to be abduction. This method also had a caveat: if the bride-to-be had already lost her heart to another man, such abduction was illegal and punishable. Now, the foremost examples of taking brides by abduction include Arjuna who abducted Subhadra, and Krishna, who abducted Rukmini.  And so, when Bhishma abducted the three princesses, he was merely following the accepted norms of bride-taking in his time. Which is why he returned Amba to Salva when he learnt that she had already accepted Salva as her husband in her heart. This issue was absent in the case of Ambika and Ambalika.

Yet, Bhishma’s mistake lies in the fact that he acted as an agent to secure brides for the weak and impotent Vichitravirya. Which is what led to the subsequent Niyoga by Veda Vyasa. Given the definition of Niyoga, it is clear that it occurred with the consent of everybody involved: the two princesses, Vichitravirya, Satyavati, and Vyasa. Given this, we wonder how Nilanjana Roy manages to characterize it as a “sanctioned rape.” Now, what exactly is a sanctioned rape? It can either be consensual sex or rape. There’s nothing like a middle ground or what’s that other favourite cliché? Ah! “shades of grey.” Unless Nilanjana implies that the social system back then said it was okay to rape women as long as that resulted in children. But that could well be the case because she declares in the very first sentence of her piece that our epics are full of violence and rape and by implication, the Delhi rapists take their lessons from this culture.

Oh! and I don’t need to be a feminist to condemn Bhishma’s ill-advised adventure of abduction just in the same way that I don’t need a feminist lens to empathize with Amba’s suffering.

Continued in Part 4

43 comments for “The Rape of Our Epics: Part 3

  1. September 19, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    also note down the usual strategy of generalising identities.. did amba revenged Bhishma or the entire male gender ? but these liberals would be happy to project every such incident as a fight b/w male and female gender.. its time that we have to expose such stupidity in their articles..

    People in our society are NOT identified merely as man and woman.. it is the relations that give identities to every person.. as father, mother, brother, sister, ..

    If a mother-in-law discriminates her daughter-in-law, these liberals would cry “Women being oppressed”.. should we argue based on such moronic logic?

  2. Amit
    February 7, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    amarshiam, if you still expect to be spoon-fed everything like a baby (instead of learning to read and use your grey cells), then perhaps you should ask your mother-father to do so.

  3. amarshiam
    February 7, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    @Amit
    You’re most welcome! As I said I do agree with some of the things you say.
    But since you don’t have the “koT-Te’s” (or ovaries to be fair) to articulate your views on why secularism isn’t the way to go I suppose you won’t mind when I “parrot”, secularism is great. :)

  4. Amit
    February 7, 2013 at 4:45 AM

    Thanks for validating my earlier comment. :D

  5. amarshiam
    February 7, 2013 at 3:40 AM

    @Amit

    Thanks but no thanks, “a” friendly advice or not, I think I can do without your simplistic brand of logic and ways of thinking.

    Does it confuse you that I agree with some of what you’re saying? Do you expect me to react like you do? – On principle discard everything that I say and be rude just because you disagree with some of what I say or disagree with what I stand for?

    But if you are so convinced that secularism isn’t the way to go then tell us what your vision is for India? Tell us what rights you would like people of the other religions to have? Tell us how you expect to get there? And what you would like to happen to all those people of other religions if your dream of an India without secularism were to come true. I’m sure you’ve given this lots of thought!

    And if you are so quick to judge people and be bigoted against people based on their religion how then would you react when people are bigoted against you because of your skin colour? or because of the language you speak? or the state you are from? It’s a slippery slope. You don’t get to rationalize one sort of bigotry and then be all surprised when people start wanting to tear the country apart based on other sorts.

    If you don’t get that all human beings are individuals first, irrespective of religion, language, gender, and all the other features that people historically base their bigoted ideas around, then there isn’t much that can be said.

  6. Amit
    February 6, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    amarshiam, take this as a friendly advice – you really need to take a basic course in logic before jumping in to discuss an(y) issue and writing speeches – you can find many websites on the internet.

    Your hodge-podge of ideas with no causal or correlational link, and non sequitur comments make no sense at all and just show you in poor light. Not to mention your knowledge of history (like your parroting “secularism is great”) is really weak – please read sources other than your 10th class history books.

  7. amarshiam
    February 5, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    On Pragaash since it was brought up:

    From an recent article on the bbc (published 5th Feb):

    [Many others have leapt to the girls' defence, however. Support for a band which has broken with tradition has poured in from all over the state and elsewhere in India, where the story has been headline news.

    Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has promised police will investigate the threats and that the state will ensure their security.

    Meanwhile, a well-known Bollywood composer has also offered to help the band.

    "Please don't stop making music due to the fear of some random lunatics. It is our duty as custodians of our talent to reach people, and to sing stories of the human soul," Vishal Dadlani said in a post on their Facebook page.

    He offered to help the girls with travel and accommodation to Mumbai and pay for their "studio recording, releasing and promotion of an album of your music".]

  8. amarshiam
    February 5, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    @Amit – You have valid points here and in a number of other places. I don’t agree with everything you say… certainly not with how you respond… but do agree with some of your sentiments:

    “MR, and why is this fear not spoken when ACTUAL EVENTS of RoP intimidating writers, professors, police and film-makers take place in India? Why do these self-same liberals not say anything or do not protest when Kamal Hassan is forced to make cuts to his movie due to objections from RoP, or when Mian Hussain quietly withdrew his movie from circulation?”

    Are there double standards? If there are then I totally agree with you. From my understanding of MR’s views I would expect he would as well. (Apologies @MR for taking the liberty.) It’s a valid point. and that question must certainly be asked.

    But we must also ask were there any protests against the governments pressure to stop the video link which was proposed in place of Salman Rushdie attending the Jaipur Literation Festival? Were there? Do people speak out against such things? I would expect authors who have the audacity to say things like Mary Harper did (the quote that Sandeep left out) would also protest against intimidation of writers etc.

    “His idea was opposed by the noted journalist Mary Harper who said that scores of people were being amputated, mutilated and stoned by groups who’ve adopted Sharia as their identity.”.

    In response to Ashkar Ali Engineers “I’m a strong defender and fighter of Sharia because it has got a lot of human elements in it that society urgently needs,”

    I also think, like you, that there should be a common legal system for all Indians. But I also think that everyone should be allowed to interpret these areas in any way they like. That is the ideal situation. Freedom of expression. Freedom of thought as well. Which means that the Salman Rushdie’s of this world should also not be prevented from speaking at “the festival of political sissies” if he so wishes.

    But its going to be a while before we get there. Certainly tolerance for people who do express a different opinion is the way to go.

  9. amarshiam
    February 5, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    @MR

    “They are open to interpretations by individuals and not to be treated as cast in stone. So NR tries to find some answers to questions thrown by the Delhi rape – why are women treated as objects by men , what is the reason for brutal violence against women . And the answers she gleans – rape is sanctified in the epics , even the best intentioned men ( heroes) can indulge in violence etc can be considered as stretching but we cannot deny her the right to interpretation any which way she pleases.”

    Absolutely agree with you on this and I think a number of other people over here do as well.

    “I think Sandeep has done a good job in counter arguments but the tone is sanctimonious – I get the feeling that he ( and his supporters ) would like nothing better than to shut up the likes of NR / secularists forever.”

    I do not think secularists (“sickularists” as some people seem to spell the word over here) are very popular in extreme right wing circles. They certainly don’t want to hear about and would not tolerate such interpretations.

    “And they seem outraged at NR’s and amarshaim’s even harboring such views ( blasphemy ? ) In fact that is one of the unspoken fears of the liberal/secular class – will freedom of expression get short shrift once Hindutva ideologues come to power ? What will be the difference between Hindutva and RoP going forward?”

    It is a valid concern. Certainly the growing intolerance of different viewpoints and the very emotionally charged outbursts reminds me of RoP followers and the way they react. The key words “What will be” are important though… it’s the future we are worried about. We are not there yet.
    We need to openly voice our opinions. Let people also notice that there are some who have different view points and don’t echo the “‘Kudos’ Sandeep” point of view and foam and froth at the mouth at the smallest hint of such views.

    It’s important for people to call them out on their ideologies. Ask them to openly describe their vision for India and how they propose to get there. And what would happen to all the non-hindus. What rights would they have? Where would they go?

  10. RSM
    February 5, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    “cannot deny her the right to interpretation any which way she pleases.”

    Standard straw man argument! Can’t refute an argument so create a fictitious one. Her right to interpretation is not being denied – her interpretation is being criticized. You seem to stand for NR’s freedom to peddle BS but not for Sandeep’s right to refute. Besides you if exercise your right and interpret Sita’s abduction by Ravan as an act of a pious man purely driven by respect, an act to be emulated by future generations, you shouldn’t hide behind ‘right to interpret’ when you get pilloried!

  11. nash
    February 5, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Amit

    “in case of Calcutta Quran petition, there need to be curbs on freedom of expression, ”

    This, by far, the most crucial observation you have made.The full import of that judgement is going to last on generations to come.The very surviving of Democracy is going to be doubtful considering the outcome of that judgement.

  12. Amit
    February 5, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    MR,

    BTW, how’s Pragaash doing? Was it a Hindutva group that forced them to stop playing?

    How many liberals criticized – in no uncertain terms – the mufti who called for a ban on the all-girl band? Did Barkha Dutt rail against the Green terror?

    Get ready for more such incidents in India as adherents of RoP increase in numbers – from Kashmir (“Pragaash”) to Kanyakumari (“Vishwaroopam”).

  13. Amit
    February 5, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    MR wrote:
    “rape is sanctified in the epics , even the best intentioned men ( heroes) can indulge in violence etc can be considered as stretching but we cannot deny her the right to interpretation any which way she pleases. ”

    Where exactly is it written in Ramayan or Mahabharat that leads you or anyone to believe that “rape is sanctified”?

    And why is “indulging in violence” to right a wrong or to protect oneself from harm, wrong? Perhaps those who believe in such an asinine idea that “all violence is wrong” need to go visit the hospital in Ranchi.

    BTW, no one has denied her the right to her interpretation – but if she brings her interpretation in public sphere instead of keeping it private, then she has to open up her interpretation to scrutiny and criticism.

    Also, not all interpretations are the same – by that logic, you will place the same importance on interpretation by an inmate of any asylum as you will one by a scholar.

  14. Amit
    February 5, 2013 at 2:31 AM

    MR wrote:

    “In fact that is one of the unspoken fears of the liberal/secular class – will freedom of expression get short shrift once Hindutva ideologues come to power ? What will be the difference between Hindutva and RoP going forward ?”

    MR, and why is this fear not spoken when ACTUAL EVENTS of RoP intimidating writers, professors, police and film-makers take place in India? Why do these self-same liberals not say anything or do not protest when Kamal Hassan is forced to make cuts to his movie due to objections from RoP, or when Mian Hussain quietly withdrew his movie from circulation?

    And who enables this fear as well as the chance of “Hindutva giving short shrift to freedom of expression” as you put it? It’s liberals who *selectively* protest against curbs on free speech and behave in a hypocritical manner. It’s the Indian Constitution which places conditions on free speech, and the judges who interpret it capriciously (in case of MF Hussain, he has the right to draw anything, in case of Calcutta Quran petition, there need to be curbs on freedom of expression, and in case of Ashis Nandy, he needs to be careful of his ideas) – where exactly do you see a consistent application of a principle or a right? Of course, other groups will start taking advantage of such incidents once they notice the double-standards.

    You are falling into the same trap as amarshiam did – raising a bogey of some future potential of Hindutva doing bad things while ignoring the CURRENT FACTS of Islam curbing freedom of speech, which is already happening. That’s called cowardice – plain and simple, and let’s not use any other fancy terms for such behavior.

    And the essay by NR is ignorant and dishonest – anyone with even a basic knowledge of epics knows that. As did almost all of the comments on the Economist website where her essay was published. The problem is that people like NR will not change their interpretation even after shown the error of their logic and interpretation.

    Sure, she’s entitled to her version of the epics, but why should that version be given attention, primacy and a place in the public space when it’s shown to be blatantly mischievous, dishonest and/or shoddy? Surely you’re not suggesting that any and all interpretations of epics are equally meaningful and have the same validity, more so when the writer makes factual errors in her description of epics.

    BTW, all Sandeep did was tweet and write some blog-posts – how is that comparable to, or same as what happened to Kamal Hassan or Ashis Nandy or Salman Rushdie is beyond me and is not supported by any facts on the ground.

  15. MR
    February 1, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    Guys

    You are reading and putting words into NR’s mouth which were not intended I am sure. My take on
    NR’s essay is – epics are there for individuals to interpret and make sense of their current predicament. They are open to interpretations by individuals and not to be treated as cast in stone. So NR tries to find some answers to questions thrown by the Delhi rape – why are women treated as objects by men , what is the reason for brutal violence against women . And the answers she gleans – rape is sanctified in the epics , even the best intentioned men ( heroes) can indulge in violence etc can be considered as stretching but we cannot deny her the right to interpretation any which way she pleases. I think Sandeep has done a good job in counter arguments but the tone is sanctimonious – I get the feeling that he ( and his supporters ) would like nothing better than to shut up the likes of NR / secularists forever . And they seem outraged at NR’s and amarshaim’s even harboring such views ( blasphemy ? ) In fact that is one of the unspoken fears of the liberal/secular class – will freedom of expression get short shrift once Hindutva ideologues come to power ? What will be the difference between Hindutva and RoP going forward ?

    Thanks
    MR

  16. Anil
    January 29, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    before it was decided that ambika and ambalika were to have children through niyoga method, vedavyasa had asked ambika and ambalika to recite some hymns/mantra so that they can face him when he shows his urga/fearsome roopa and just by vision they were pregnated , when amba got scared pandu was born and ambika closed her eyes and duryodhana was born. Then satyavathi requested vedavyas for eligible king for Bharatha varsha, vedavyas agreed but this time Ambika sent her slave who had darshan of vedavyas with lot of devotion so great vidura was born…

    VEDAVYASA was god who wrote brahma sutras and divided vedas ..Roy is nothing but putani

  17. January 19, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    Kudos!! got to know many things.

  18. January 18, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    Sandeep,

    AFAIK, Vichitraveerya was not impotent and week. He rather died of excessive sensual indulgences.

    -Vasu-

  19. SCC
    January 18, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    @ Ganpathy. You are right. When considering against the enormous cost that war imposes, their decision would have been correct. Personal and family insults are not above the general well being of the society. You swallow your pride and hurt and move on. This shows the Pandavas in even better light. Finally, when the war was declared and the Pandavas were forced in to it, they fought against all odds.
    The moral of the story is personal feelings, ego, pride and comfort is something which should be sacrificied by those who are in position of authority.

  20. January 18, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    If some liberals want to believe that rapists carry pocket sized editions of Ramayana and Mahabharata with them and refer to it during the act, then they should allow others to judge their intellect.

  21. ganapathy
    January 18, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    @scc there would have been no war nor revenge if duryodhan agreed for giving 5 villages. the angry bheem was silent to the agreement of 13 years vanvas and deception after the insult of draupadi

  22. g
    January 18, 2013 at 2:55 AM

    @ ganapathy: Ambika and Ambalika gave their full consent to a child by Vyasa. To say that they weere forced to do so because he was not a good looking jock is to make of them shallow and superficial teeny-boppers of the pink chaddi brigade. Yes, it was extremely important for them to produce heirs, but how do you conclude from that that all Hindu women were “child bearing machines”? This claim is false even in the instance that you have yourself cited, for if Ambika and Ambalika were child bearing machines then where are all the scores of other children that these women produced? It would have been easy to get Vyasa to keep making babies. The fact that they had only one child each gives the lie to your weird claim. Furthermore, your usage of the term “sexual deal” goes some way in demonstrating your own tendency of the modern mind to be obsessed with the base physical act. Vidura, in the Mahabharata, was an ascetic who had conquered the sex-impulse and the act of procreation itself, the MBharata states, resulted from the use of his Yogic powers. The sex play is only a product of your own perverse obsession with physical intercourse. Finally the most important function of a monarchy was self-perpetuation. It was for this reason that the king married several wives to produce heirs and queens refrained from marrying other kings, for in the latter case it would be as good as a takeover of one kingdom by another. What this has to do with females as baby making machines is anybody’s guess. Certainly it was not the case that the queen would, like a queen bee, continue to have to produce babies after the death of her king. So here again your sweeping generalizations are revealed as pure hostile fabrication.

  23. SCC
    January 18, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    @ Ganpathy. You forgot that Mahabharat had a character called Kunti.
    Mahabharata is an epic where nothing has been brushed underneath the carpet. There is no character who is either black or white unlike the heroes of today’s film. The heroes in our epic do not carry the white man’s burden. The characters have been shown in multicolour. They are unlike Nehru and Gandhiji whose are failings as a husband, leader and parent are never discussed. There are more potraits of Nehru and Gandhi in public offices than that of Ram and Krishna. I think as per your line of reasoning, the faults which exist today in our society should ideally be laid on the doorsteps of these two worthies. You may have your reason for finding fault with the epics, I find none and in any case, I find it difficult to fault the epics for the crime against women and the marginalised. For me, the most touching moments in the Mahabharata is when Bheem rips open Dushasan chest to collect blood for washing Draupadi’s hair and thereafter crushing Duryodhan’s thigh’s to avenge Draupadi’s insult. If such punishments were meted out to eve teasers and molesters by the victim or by her father, husband brother or the society, I doubt if rapes would take place. Finally, rather than discussing the differences between different types of sexual assaults and thereafter extrapolating the reasoning to explain crimes against women and marginalised sections of the society please do a bheem act on one of the many rapist who have been let off by a system (devised by enlightened, progressive and secular people) which is supposed to be far more superior to the system which existed during Mahabharat times.

  24. ganapathy
    January 17, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    @nash epics are moral lessons which dictate/guide what a women should do.she should silently agree to the orders even when it involves sex whether its a queen or a servant.
    how did vidhurs mother enter into the sexual deal for a child who would be king.it was because of her caste and profession.she had no choice. the queens too have no choice and pleasure or companionship has no role.she is just a child bearing machine. a king losing his queen will marry a dozen to get a heir but a queen will have no choice to remain a widow too if no heir exists and has to silently endure the ugliest and we have people getting angry when questions are raised about this abuse of women

  25. nash
    January 17, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    ganapathy

    i know you are blaming something and make an issue of it.That issue i would like to understand.
    So can you be more explanatory on that issue.I understand you are trying to impress your moral principles on the incident or the issue you have raised is at variance with your principles.I am asking what is the principle you are calling forth to judge this incident.once again may i know what is sexual assault and divine sexual assault?

  26. ganapathy
    January 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    @nash what has the niyogam method of getting heirs got to do with the servant maid.the queen refuses to meet the sage when given a second chance and sends her servant instead of her.what niyogam is this
    the all knowing sage who has taken the appearance of ugly to perform the duty with only ?noble intentions have no qualms in abusing the servant and giving a heir to her.what is this act -a divine sexual assault

  27. Grand Mariner
    January 17, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Ms Roy is on the India Ink blog on the New York Times website. Plenty of other “secular progressives” from india congregate there as well. Manu Joseph was an early one. If any of you are regular readers of NYT, you may have noticed that it has become a regular critic of Indian society for being backward, reactionary and feudal. The changes are percolating into America at large. People in the US used to associate India with pretty temples, bollywood and software – now they ask me about why all the women get raped, and they say indian (read “hindu”) culture is to blame for everything from patriarchy to imbalanced sex ratios.
    Whether they are right or wrong is not the issue – the problem is that our dirty linen is being washed in public.

  28. nash
    January 17, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    ganapathy

    if you can explain what sexual assault is?

    where you have questioned like this

    “can this be called sexual assault”

    there will be an answer

  29. g
    January 17, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    @ Dear Sandeep: I hope to see a similar brilliant critique from you of Gurcharan Das’s book “The difficulty of being good” which gives a highly distorted picture of the Mahabharata, in particular of Krishna’s role in it. This book is being sold in all bookstores here in the U.S. and I’m sure that is the case in India as well, and elsewhere. The glowing reviews for this book by alienated Hindus on Amazon is a pathetic sight to behold and a testament to the extent of the illusion-ment of the Hindu mind by western indoctrination.

  30. K.P.
    January 17, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    This shameless exploitation of an innocent woman’s heinous suffering to promote their anti-Hindu agendas has to rank near the top of the greatest hits of such people’s despicable activities. They really have no shame. Not to mention they don’t have the basic capability to “debate” Epics so far above their intellectual pay grade they should be prosecuted for theft. Forget about even the most basic logic and reasoning, let alone the deeper philosophical interpretations that such morons (may of whom have soiled us with their rabid splutterings on here) are fundamentally incapable of approaching, even had they the basic honesty and decency to try.

    We have seen time and time again that they have a pathological aversion to reason, basic facts and *genuine* courtesy (the kind that doesn’t involve cynically slandering the things Hindus hold most dear and then crying like a small child when insulted in return). They will resort to misdirection, strawmen, ad hominem attacks and even violence – ANYTHING but the facts at hand. The classic behaviour of poor excuses for human beings that don’t have a leg to stand on but want to steal yours.

    The apparent ubiquity of such rakshasas disguised as humans truly emphasises just how deeply entrenched in Kali Yuga we are.

  31. ganapathy
    January 17, 2013 at 12:53 AM

    there exist far more serious sexual offences than those quoted as both the elite left and right see only heroes and heroines.
    vyasa is called to help the queens get sons after the death of visithraveerya and refusal of bhishma.He comes with a very ugly face making the queens close her eyes resulting in getting a blind son dridarashtra /getting a pale son pandu as she becomes pale on seeing vyasa.
    can this be called sexual assault
    the icing of the cake is the second chance offered due to the blind son and the assaulted queen refuses that chance and sends her maid instead.
    will the above act fall under sexual assault. the all knowing sage doesnt hesitate to impregnate her too resulting in vidhura.
    the birth of dridarashtra,pandu and vidhura are testimonies of exploitation of women and absolute assault on low caste women who never had a choice and had to obey silently

  32. CC
    January 16, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Ashish, whichever version you read, the basic premise of the Mahabharatha is the same. You do bad things, you pay. Bhishma and the Kauravas lost. The evil doers were vanquished. What’s your problem with understanding the moral of the story?

  33. CC
    January 16, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    DD,

    I haven’t read the tweets and part 4 is not yet out. Insulting the epics and publishing blatant lies is far worse and I will not be holding my breath for Nilanjana to crawl out of her morally bankrupt world. Being a little bit brash or calling half-wits names is hardly reason to doubt the sincerity of the post. I don’t get why these pseudo-feminists rush to psychoanalyze Sita and Draupadi whenever there are highly publicized atrocities against women. They fight against these epics being taught in schools in the name of secularism and then form half-baked opinions and insult Rama when they learn how to type.

  34. RSM
    January 16, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    “No where did I find it mentioned if Ambika and Ambalika gave their consent for niyoga with Vyasa.”

    Nowhere will you find that Ambika and Ambalika refused to give their consent for niyoga either. If you say rape happened, the burden of proof is on you.

  35. ashish
    January 16, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Hello!

    I have not read the Mahabharat in the original, however have read many versions, in Marathi and English. No where did I find it mentioned if Ambika and Ambalika gave their consent for niyoga with Vyasa. I am sure you will agree that such a consent, even if not given by those women, could have been easily forced.

    If those women could be abducted and married against everyone’s wishes, even if it was a ‘regular practice’, they could also be made to give a ‘consent’ in very similar ways. Who will write the opposite, if that would anger the all-powerful Bhishma?

    Swayamwara was meant to enable a woman to choose her man. Some of those, who we call Gods, chose to over ride that social practice. There is nothing to be proud about it.

    Bhishma clearly did a lot wrong, but when combined, all men did a whole lot worse. Bhishma abducted Amba, other men in the swayamwar could not protect her, and finally Shalya rejected her on false idea of ‘chastity’. No one stood for this self-respecting woman, that made her reject her own life, much like Sita did (as per ‘Uttar Ramayan’).

    All these behavior patterns are still very prevalent in today’s men, esp. the lack of trust, understanding and respect. That is a reason enough for a woman to write about it all.

    Finally, all we have now are interpretations of those events, facts were long lost in time. Nothing stops us from further interpretations.

  36. DD
    January 16, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    CC- What NIlanjana said was utterly ridiculous(and a bad opinion at best). That doesn’t mean one can hurl insults :) Appreciating Sandeep rebuttal is perfect, for he has written it brilliantly. But taking a moral stance on his behalf is not fair, neither is it Dharma :)
    As a certain Mr. Menon said “Unfortunately, the moment I saw that insult on twitter, I knew your weren’t any different from the rest. The fact that you try to justify it by saying you “purposely put out those tweets”, and that there was a reason behind it, is something that you’re doing post the event to address the minor outrage it caused on twitter. ”

    Oh and btw Sandeep has also been a vocal opponent of people who delete tweets.

  37. Amit
    January 16, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    “The most violent of the 6-pack attackers of the Delhi braveheart is a worthy from the hallowed minority community.”

    Since when did inconvenient little facts like these come in the way of presenting and believing in an amazing feminist theory of Hindu epics inspiring and condoning evil acts? ;-)
    Or maybe he was a lapsed Muslim who allowed himself to be influenced by his 5 Hindu buddies. See? It’s so easy to explain it away.

  38. Amit
    January 16, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    “How? And who has silenced Amba in “popular discussion?” Phrases like this are always intriguing simply because they hang loose. There are a gazillion things that fall under “popular discussion.” How does one define something like “popular discussion?” What constitutes a “popular discussion?” Films? Books? Music? Politics? Art? Mahabharata? What? But this is precisely where the beauty lies: building a narrative without defining something. ”

    It’s called mendacious wordsmithy, and projecting one’s fears/feelings/thoughts on to the general public in some kind of weird groupthink. The moment you start dissecting their words, it becomes clear how much lacuna and incoherence their expressed thoughts have. Of course, asking them to explain what they mean – like you did – will not elicit any response or explanation.

  39. sakkadai
    January 16, 2013 at 5:07 AM

    Hey Sandeep. Excellent post as usual. BTW could you please do a piece on a group of anti-nationals parading themselves in the guise of intellectuals and run a website called ‘Kafila’..there is a rogue called Shivam Vij who actually casts doubts on wether indian soldiers were beheaded and defends the pakistanis..would love to hear you take them apart..

  40. CC
    January 16, 2013 at 4:59 AM

    PK, if only you were waiting for Nilanjana to retract her lies and speak the truth.

  41. CC
    January 16, 2013 at 4:56 AM

    The most violent of the 6-pack attackers of the Delhi braveheart is a worthy from the hallowed minority community. What are the chances that Mahabharatha and Ramayana influenced his behavior? For that matter, what are the chances that any of the six animals who killed that young woman had read these epics and thought rapes were sanctioned by Hindu society? For all the mud being thrown at Bollywood movies, even an anti-hero does not resort to raping the heroine, the object of his unrequited love.

    Nilanjana is a half-wit pseudo-feminist who hates her own culture and peddles blatant lies in her article. Amba did get justice for being wronged. Why does that simple truth escape Nilanjana. Maybe her grandmother forgot to tell her that part of the story.

  42. PK
    January 16, 2013 at 2:48 AM

    Still waiting for the promised explanation for the insults you threw Roy’s way.

Leave a Comment