• The Feminist Times

Feminist Retellings of Women in Indian Mythology

I will be honest, after reading Liberation of Sita by Volga and After

Kurukshetra by Mahasweta Devi, I could not find any better feminist

retelling of Indian Mythology. I have read many, but they all cater to

the same things with a slight, ignorable twist, which makes no sense,

and becomes, more or less, aggrandized. Three years ago, when I

finished reading these novellas, I was speechless- not only because of

its impact, but because how much Volga and Devi have said in less

than 100 pages.

I don't know how many of you have read Ramayana and

Mahabharata but I'm sure everyone is acquainted with the incident

of Sita’s abduction by Ravana and later Rama abandoning her for the

sake of ‘maryada’ and the society. Sita’s plight as a woman with no

fault and being exiled for not being chaste enough to sit beside Rama

as his queen is a known fact which society manipulates, or rather,

hides- calling it Sita’s fault for being what? A woman! Similarly, we

are acquainted with how women are doubly violated during wars,

and during one of the epic wars in history, we can understand the

vastness of their violation.

Volga has included three more women apart from Sita and Devi has

included five women who are sharing their stories after the war in

Kurukshetra is over. The three more women are Renuka Devi, Ahalya

and Urmila, who faced brutality of patriarchy too. If you have not

read the real stories of these three women, I suggest first read the

background about them and then perceive them through their own

perspectives. In After Kurukshetra, we see how how the women are

mourning the deaths of their male relatives-sons, brothers,

husbands, fathers, etc. And how the war led the lower caste women

to marginalisation, whereas some were dispossessed. They ask one

question, “Whose war is it?”


I believe that our history gives us lessons to remember and insights

to right the wrongs; Devi and Volga accosted this very idea in their

stories to show how men have been deciding women’s place in the

society, they mould it as they fit. I know there are many feminist

books we all have read but these two books have an extremely

mature way of confronting the wrongs in Indian mythology, one can

easily resonate with them and put themselves in their shoes. I have

stopped reading mythological retellings after these two books

because I don’t need any more perception on them, I have found the

rightly judged and written perspectives on the said genre.

After Kurukshetra is a collection of short stories wrapped in 50 pages

while The Liberation of Sita is a novella of 100 pages. Here lies the

genius of both the writers who were able to say so much in limited

pages and I would certainly call these two a classic. Read them and

share your experience with me, I am always up for a conversation on

books!


- Aayushi Jain


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