Ancient Takes on Modern Issues?
Was Ancient India actually as straight laced as our later day patriarchial Dons would have us believe? Evidence mounts for the Nyets.
Cursory looks at the carved, sculpted décor of numerous ancient temples and edifices around the country show proud, confident women/goddesses leading a good life. The Kamasutra certainly adds to the belief. What of the Feminine Divinity that predates male gods in some ancient civilisations?
At what juncture did patriarchy overtake this evident celebration of the Feminine? It is difficult to set a date or to pinpoint a culprit. The movement was certainly invidious. Although there is no historical evidence of cavemen slinging cavewomen over the shoulders, as depicted in Western cartoons, thank Heavens discernible clues to our own much better past do exist.
It is the task of modern mythologists to brush away later day interpolations to such to arrive at the actual sequence of events logically … no mean task with so many centuries worth of suspect patriarchal and colonial impositions to examine against original texts, the Vedas, Valmiki Ramayana or Vyasa’ Mahabharata for authenticity.
Recent discussions on gender justice focus on apportioning blame between sexes, rather than hark back. In that context, let’s take a look at the age old L’affaire Tara and Chandra:
The lady was totally frustrated with her aged hubby Brihaspati. She chanced to meet Tara, contemporary and compatible; she decided to stay with him. Soon hubby dear, Brihaspati came to fetch her home, knowing full well that he couldn’t satisfy her needs. He had weighty support, Brahma and Indra. Tara only his common sense.
Result: a wordy battle in male ranks. As related by Mumbai mythologist, Utkarsh Patel, what is intriguing is that there is no discussion of emotion or love, nor of morality or reproach. “The text itself is bold, focussing on aspects of physical attraction and lovemaking skills as perceived by a woman.”
The crux of the issue, shorn of morality and duty, as enunciated by Chandra, was:
Can the Other Man be blamed if a woman wants to stay with him?
Would the family be actually happy, when only the husband happy despite his wife’s unhappiness?
The interventions of Indra and Brahma, both insisting that Chandra must go back to her husband, hit a pause with news of her pregnancy. She names Chandra as father and the latter promptly names the child Budh.
Here comes a twist:
As mythologist Utkarsh Patel relates the tale, while Brahma insists on Tara going home with Brihaspati, Tara’s word is accepted to establish fatherhood.
“Nowhere is Tara chastised or blamed, nor is she reprimanded for leaving her husband and living with another man. Her word is accepted to establish fatherhood.”
No lectures of morality or reproach? Could that happen today despite tests, FIRs and pontifications on the chastity of women and purity of races, blah-blah-blah?