Remember Pandu, Vidur and Dhrithrashtra from Mahabharata? Even the fates of heroes were sealed by how their mothers took it. This is how influential a woman is! Before a child is even born, it is the mother who influences her child’s life.
Rewinding and going to the times of Mahabharata, the status of women then and the role they played in that mighty war is noteworthy. Women used to be free in that time and that was pretty much evident from the polyandrous practice of those days; the well known example being that of Draupadi.
Women played ‘n’ number of roles and took the responsibility of carving and assessing the human behavior. They were the ones who acted as warriors and defended themselves for gaining justice. They were the ones who kept the culture intact. They were the priestesses who pursued religious goals. They were the mothers who nurtured children and yes, they were the ascetics, healers, farmers, who took up the responsibility to shape the future of the Human Race. Starting from Satyavati to Uttara, all took control of their lives and fought for the patriarchal oppressions of the Indian society.
The heroic deeds of four stalwarts from the epic are what we are going to talk about here. Gandhari, Kunti, Draupadi and Amba/Shikhandi- the Heroines of Mahabharata! For them, a ‘vow’ was a ‘vow’, and the words that once were said, never took a back-seat. All three of them protested against exploitation in their own way.
She is the model of female propriety. She was forced to marry Dhritrashtra and was the mother of mighty Kauravas. She blindfolded herself whole life like her husband. Was her going blind a symbol of love and devotion towards her husband? Was it just to become equal to her husband? No! I think her act of blindfolding was metaphorical more than physical. Did she try to oppose her forced marriage? The answer is surely debatable. Few of them would say that it was a self sacrifice and obedience of hers towards the patriarchal subordination while some would feel that her blindness blinded the others. What a mother would have felt seeing her sons’ wrong doings? She blindfolded herself for her dark future. In a way, she wielded power through her sightless eyes.
She was admired and respected by everyone including the Pandavas. She was a rational thinker and at times even king Dhritrashtra took her sound advice. She had also urged the king to check their son’s coward acts but her voice was not heard and the result of that is we know- the mighty war. In fact she did not bless her princes before the Kurukshetra war as she believed that Dharma would triumph.
She is the model of maternal heroism. She yearned for a mother’s love in her childhood but was a very good mother herself to Pandavas. Little Kunti was left adrift and unguided as she had none to share her anxieties and fears. This precisely can be proved when as a child out of inquisitiveness she used the mantra given by Durvasa and was blessed with a son- Karna. After a while she married Pandu, had five sons (two of Madri) and then her poverty stricken life began- after Pandu’s death. She fought against all odds and protected her sons. Kunti possessed the wisdom to teach her sons the true sense of power and give a foresight to build alliances later. Opposite to Gandhari, Kunti got her gift in the obedience of her sons. This is a tribute to motherhood.
She alone had fought for her child’s right to get education equally as Kauravas. In a jiffy, we can say that she was a valiant and wise woman who was always hurt and disappointed in love. In spite of the difficulties she had faced throughout her life, she never left her stridharma which points out towards her stubborn and rule oriented attitude and life. She stood by the side of her in laws till end.
She is the model of an empowered woman. She was born from fire and so called as Yajnaseni. She was the biggest victim of patriarchy since birth, as her father (King Dhrupad) had asked for her complicated life and that she was a load to him. Draupadi was the most beautiful and attractive woman of that era. But she was all this and much more. She was born with a purpose of re-establishing Dharma by destructing the Kauravas. She was the wife of five husbands- Pandavas and had served each of them equally.
In the game of dice, she stood for herself in front of all the stalwarts and elderly people including Bhishma and Vidur. She asked them few questions which were left unanswered. She does not collapse but challenge the concept of Dharma when her husbands lose her in the game. She even questioned her eldest husband Yudhishthira about how he could alone take stake of her life while four others are there. Draupadi also mentions that wife is not a property to be sold off to anyone. If this was not enough, she rescued her husbands as well and fulfilled her stridharma. She is seen as the suppressed lady in a male dominant society because of her looks and intelligence while at times a provocateur of the mighty war. She needs to be heard even today!
She is the model of a valiant warrior. Born as Amba and about to marry king Salva, she was later not accepted by him due to Bhishma. She fought with god and took a vow to be the reason of Bhishma’s death. Later when she took birth as Shikhandini to rage against Bhishma, she proved her mettle by being the very reason o Bhishma’s death. She had strength to fight against the brave warriors like Bhishma, lord Parshuram and god Mahadev himself. One must accept that this is the true essence of bravery and she was a lady who fought against three powerful males!
We need more and more number of such brave ladies today in the 21st century to fight patriarchy. The one very important message which we get from the above mentioned ladies is – They fought for their rights and equality, and not for the extra status like what today’s radical feminists are asking for. They did justice to their Stridharma but raised their eyebrows against injustice. They fought for it blindly, silently and bravely. But can we do it today, is the question we need to ask ourselves.
Hats off to such ladies then, today and forever!!