The names Ramayana and Mahabharata for me are not just synonymous with good and the evil, right and wrong, god and devil but makes me nostalgic because I have heard stories from these epics while growing up. My grandmother used to narrate all of these stories with such fondness and a charm that I can never forget those. It was my grandmother's stories which made me curious to know more about these epics and the characters. However, ever since childhood there were two characters that have fascinated me and those are Draupadi and Sita. The reason for the same was how these two women have changed the entire course of history. Sita and Draupadi are actually the reason for why these epics were written in the first place! So, here am I drawing parallels between two women who have changed the entire course of our history and how!
Both Draupadi and Sita are princesses, both have an unnatural birth and have supernatural powers but a major difference is that Sita is born out off earth whereas Draupadi is born out of fire and therefore we have characteristic differences. Sita was found accidentally by her father, Janak, the king of Videha, whereas Draupadi was created for the sole purpose of destroying the Kuru dynasty and the purpose of their life and the way they are raised makes them who they are but a similarity they have is that mothers hardly play a role in their upbringing and it seems like they are their father's daughters: Drupad's Draupadi and Janak's Janaki.
When we talk about Sita the image that comes to mind is that of a subservient, feminine, docile, kind, self-sacrificial woman. The reason for this can be how she is portrayed in Valmiki's 'Ramayana' and the belief that Sita sprang from a furrow and was also referred to as 'Bhumija'. Whenever I have heard stories about Sita written by traditional storytellers especially, the fact that she was kind hearted, good natured and was 'the ideal wife' never escaped me. The fact that she was subdued and had to suffer so much and yet she never spoke up made me question.
Whereas when we talk about Draupadi the image that comes to mind is that of a bold, fierce woman who speaks up when she is wronged. She is an outspoken, formidable woman who inspires fear in her abusers and those who have wronged her. There have been times that I have been told to not be like Draupadi, because she was the harbinger of destruction, to not be fierce and bold like her and not have the kind of wrath she had but those very qualities are what have made Draupadi one of my favourite feminist characters
The fact that Sita never swears vengeance on her abuser but displays an unwaverung faith and confidence in her husband took me back to the age old notion of 'man protecting woman' but when she shows her resilience by going back to earth it is then that one feels she stands for every women out there. However, Draupadi screams vengeance on her perpetrators but she doubts her husbands but the fact that she is a woman who won't let her words go in vain makes the listener/reader kind of sure that she will avenge what has been done to her.
It is interesting to note that the traditional storytellers looked upon Sita as a subservient, docile, the 'ideal' wife' and a silent victim whereas they portray Draupadi as a fierce, demanding heroine who becomes a force of destruction because of her wrath. This idea is slightly uncomfortable and it's only since the past few decades that we have re-tellings of these great epics by modern writers that the paradigm is changing and the transition is interesting to notice. However, you cannot read the retellings before you have read the actual story so you should read Ramayana and Mahabharta to have your own understanding of these characters and understand these parallels better!
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