Monday, May 14, 2012

Draupadi, Polyandry, and a Palace of Illusions

I have never been too greatly disturbed by the moral/ethical issues of Indian Mythology. Perhaps because I was not brought up in a strict framework of religious life or too many rituals. Yet the major Indian epics, regarded by many as Holy Books, contain many examples of hair splitting where ethics are concerned. And, maybe more stridently post-colonialism, we are made aware that, possibly, these tales laid the ground for what we perceive as the degraded condition of Indian women, for one thing and among others. Examples of such mind sets abound and such exercises are greatly applauded.

Mark, for example, we are exhorted, how Rama, one of the foremost icons of Hinduism, treats the woman he loves. And, proceed these spoilsports, what about Draupadi? 

Rama fought a mighty battle to wrench his beloved wife, Sita, from the arms of the captor only to cast her away from him forever on the basis of a poisonous murmur: can a woman remain chaste who has been another's captive for so long? 

And even before this heart wrenching betrayal, she is made to walk through fire to prove her chastity. 

Well, these do not disturb me for two reasons.

Firstly, it is a tale - a grand story of love. The best love stories seldom end well. And this tragic twist fits well into the machinations that go into concocting an ageless legend.

Secondly, Rama, as ruler, has no right to a private life. The demands of the people must come before the desires of his heart. Keeping as consort a woman, whom the public views askance, lowers his credibility as ruler. 

Few truly great people have had exemplary family lives and we lose respect for many in power who use their positions to placate family members.

Now, as for Draupadi, I'm in no way pulled into the issue as the only way it has been presented to me is thus: her having five husbands!

Why is polyandry so distressing to some, to many, in fact, to more than those disturbed by polygamy?

I should think that a woman is a more complex psychological and biological being than a man and that, therefore, it would take at least five partners to meet the many aspects of her personality: one who is a good provider, one who is humorous, one who is sensitive, one who is dashing, and one who is in tune with her spiritual side, for example.

To my father, the tale was a symbolism of the Mind and the Five Senses.

Be that as it may, I look forwards to reviewing how the tale of this Princess with Five Husbands is dealt with in the Palace of Illusions.

I'm doubly drawn to this novel as I have often, even very recently, been enchanted by that marvellous palace of the Pandavas.  

Mighty stories like the Mahabharata are like palaces of illusions. They reflect you. If you have a paucity of mind you will see only so much. If your mind is richer you will see more.