Three women from our sacred literature have always stood out: the beautiful pativrata Sita; the fiery, vengeful Draupadi, who engendered a catastrophic 18-day war between brothers; and Radha, the beautiful and equal partner of Krishna who remained the ‘other’ woman. As a woman growing up in metropolitan India, having the luxury of going to one of the finest public schools in Lutyens’ Delhi—the Convent of Jesus and Mary, and enjoying the privilege of the inner circles of the rich and famous, backed by the intellectual rigour of the ‘kathasaritasagar’ of Indian culture, I am today questioning the stereotypical sketches of these three icons of Indian womanhood.
I am surprised at the growing marginalisation of the consorts of male gods in our sacred literature, and the growth of strident, patriarchal tropes of Ram. Earlier, Jai Siya Ram was the common greeting. Now it is Jai Sri Ram. But where is Radhey Radhey? Why is Sita relegated to anonymity and Draupadi being removed from the syllabi of University of Delhi? This set me thinking about how I view these three icons of feminine power from our sacred literature.