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Patriarchal Hegemony and Gender Roles in Select Revisionist Texts

*Vidya Shetty

Research Scholar (Ph.D)

 

**Dr. Payel Dutta Chowdhury

Professor & Director

School of Arts & Humanities

REVA University, Bengaluru, KN

 

ABSTRACT

 

For ages we have been reading epics and stories that glorify patriarchal dominance and biased gender roles over the very existence of some of the strongest women in mythology in the hands of male dominated writing.  Whether Valmiki or Veda Vyasa have portrayed some of these valiant women and their sacrifices in life to safeguard the honour of their families as something that is expected from them and to be taken for granted. Women have been projected to be inferior in status and in power in these larger and powerful families be it the Raghukul or the Pandavas and Kuru family. The Ramayana and The Mahabharata for instance has grown to layers of interpretation in the hands of recent revisionist writers; be it the voices of Sita, Draupadi or even that of Kunti and Amba.  These were the voices that were given very little weighting in the writings of the earlier writers.  Kunti’s distress in being brought up as a princess, lived as a princess, but lived in the shadow of her father and his name Kuntibhoj or Amba whose feelings were given very little importance, be it by her father, her lover or the greatest character of the Epic-Bhishma. Writers like Devdutt Pattanaik present the character of Sita and Draupadi, tracing their early days of being a daughter of well known and powerful kings like Janaka and Drupad, without allowing the original tale to go through too many revision from the original version or tale.  However, writers like Amish Tripathi, Volga and Pratibha Ray, Sita and Draupadi take a different stand and a variant perspective of these very same characters.  Thus, revisionist texts like Amish, does not hesitate to present Sita as a warrior and the minister of Mithila or Pratibha Ray projects Draupadi as one who is weary of cooking for Bhima or is threatened constantly by the presence of the different husbands and their preferences that she has to adapt herself to, admires Karna as a warrior and equal to Karna, as the oldest but rejected son of her mother-in-law,  has a soft corner for Krishna and does not hesitate to oppose her mother-in-law when it comes to her pride and esteem being hurt. While Sita and Draupadi are central characters to these Epics, other smaller characters like that of Bhanumathi, th wife of Duryodhana is given no importance, her feelings for her husband, his misdeeds and her affection and friendship with Karna is paid no relevance in the entire epic.  Likewise are the feelings of Urmila, the sister to Draupadi, who is the only one who objects to Rama who accepts exile and later banishes her given no significance in the pen of the earlier writers.  The feelings of Ahalya and the agony of Shanta, surfaces only in the writings of Volga and Devdutt Pattanaik.  Very few are even aware of their lives, their contribution and sacrifice in the earlier versions of these Epics. Ahalya, silently but stoically opposes the judgement of society and her husband in protest for what she felt was wrong done to her. Shanta refuses to go back to the palace even though her mother and brothers come to meet her.  The treatment of these characters in the hands of the earlier writers proves the existence and pre-dominance of patriarchal hegemony in varied ways.  This paper is an attempt to study the feminist strands in the stories of Sita and Draupadi and their connect with the lesser known women like Ahalya and Shanta in select revisionist texts, while exploring the common strands of gender inequality and patriarchal subordination that they are subjected to. This paper studies the different phases in the lives of the most popular women characters like Sita and Draupadi as compared with the lives of the lesser known and felt for characters like Shanta and Ahalya and traces the pattern that they follow as women who go through various phases of their lives right from their birth, to their upbringing and marriage, their lives before marriage, their abduction and humiliation in the hands of society, their banishment and rejection and their ultimate effort towards freedom, reaction and fight against some of the prevalent practices of society.

 

Keywords: feminism, patriarchy, gender, birth, marriage, abduction, exile, anticipation, rescue, freedom

 

journal of english

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2017-11-06T10:15:53+00:00
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