Rama – The Fantasy of Indian Women
The reason why Vishnu has more stories in Hindu mythology is because of a belief that Vishnu took birth at least ten times in Earth to finish one or the other mission to save Earth. One such incarnation of Vishnu was Lord Rama, the son of a King, who was exiled to forest by his evil stepmother.
Rama had one and only wife, Sita. The legend says that Rama was never attracted to anyone but his wife. This makes him as the sole contender for the title of The Man-of-dreams of today’s woman.
Do you know that every married/committed man feels a pang of guilt after a few seconds of watching a beautiful girl on the road? That pang of guilt is because of this expectation and his inability to live up to the expectation of being Rama-like.
Asking a man to be like Rama, to be attracted only to his wife, is considered appropriate in today’s world. However, it is considered totally inappropriate when one asks the wife to go with her husband and live in a desert, forest or a remote village, like Sita did. Any subtle hint towards the wife to accompany her husband to a remote place where he goes to seek employment, is taken as a symbol of oppression.
The society wants all men to be like Rama. But, the society does not care if all women are not Sitas. And, if anyone finds fault with women because they are so non-Sita, he is booked under domestic violence act in India. This is a classic example to explain why the society has accepted change in the gender role of women but has forced men not to deviate from their said gender roles for centuries.
How many men have you seen in your life, who work in a far-off place and send money to their family periodically? What stopped these men from bringing their wives with them? They did not bring their wives because they accepted the fact that their wives are not Sita, in the sense that they did not accompany them in their exile, and they were absolutely fine with it. In other words, they were trying to play the role of protector of their wives and ended up being alone, without any moral support and physical intimacy.
A male toils in a far-off land without appreciation, while his wife and children are well-off. Their human, moral and intimacy needs are taken care of because of the male’s toiling. In order to keep him motivated, his wife would tell him to earn more, driving the male towards his burn-down. Typically, such males die early due to burn-down and the wealth earned by these men are enjoyed by their wife and family. This man generally does not get to enjoy even a single piece of his earnings.
Ramayana – A Story of Protectors
If you look at the story of Ramayana, almost all the famous male characters ended up being protectors of Sita or some other women. Anyone reading or listening to Ramayana would certainly think that being a protector is a bare minimum quality of a man, in order to be called man enough. Let us take a look at the incidents that led to Sita’s kidnap.
Ravana planned the kidnap of Sita to avenge the woes of his sister Surpanakha at the hands of Rama and Lakshmana. Here, the emotion behind avenging is to prove himself as a worthy protector of his sister.
Ravana sent Maricha as a golden deer, seeing which Sita asked Rama to bring it to her. Rama had to play the role of provider now. Since another protector, Lakshmana was there with Sita, he decided to play the role of provider and left the place, leaving Sita in the protection of Lakshmana.Now, Lakshmana played the role of protector of Sita.
When Maricha tricked both Lakshmana and Sita by crying in Rama’s voice, Sita wanted the better protector, her husband, to be protected by. So, in spite of warnings by Lakshmana, Sita forced him to go in search of Rama and to protect him.
However, Lakshmana was not allowed to leave Sita just like that. That would question his protector role. So, he drew the magical Lakshman Rekha, a protective line that prevents people from entering the house (but allows exits) and asked Sita not to come out of the house any time.
Ravana came to Sita’s house in the form of a beggar and Sita crossed the Lakshman Rekha despite the warnings of Lakshmana. In short, Sita was not only aggressive, controlling and panicked, but stupid also.
Ravana captured Sita and started towards Lanka, his kingdom. On the way, Ravana was stopped by another protector, an old were-vulture called Jatayu. Jatayu lost his life in his attempts to protect Sita.
In one incident, Hanuman, a messenger of Rama, offered to carry Sita back to Rama all by himself, which Sita refused. He also offered to protect Sita at this stage.
Was Ravana a Protector of Sita too?
Now you would say that Ravana did not play the role of protector, right? Actually, he did. Ravana wanted to marry Sita. He imprisoned her in the Ashoka grove. He did not forcefully marry Sita. Ravana was waiting for her approval and until then, Sita was left in the company of women from his clan. In short, Ravana was protecting her from Rama’s search party and was a gentleman by not forcefully making love to Sita. Now tell me, wasn’t he playing the role of protector?
Why did Ramayana Have So Many Protectors?
Ramayana had so many protectors because its author and target audience lived in a society with traditional gender roles. A man’s role and a woman’s role were clearly defined in the society. A man was supposed to be a protector and provider whereas a woman had to take care of the household.
Is the same applicable to today? No. In today’s world, prescribing any gender role to a woman amounts to domestic violence and/or sexism and oppression. However, the society expects the age-old Ramayana based gender roles to be strictly performed by each and every male.
How would everyone feel if every woman in the world had free access to private jets and all males were given access to only a bullock cart? At least, the bullock cart moves. The gender roles of males do not move at all.
The man/woman who expects and forces the qualities of Rama in a man is the worst enemy to all males. In fact, the person who tries to judge a common man by Rama’s standards is the most sexist person.
In addition to all these, ridiculing a man as not-man-enough if he is not like Rama, promotes Protector Syndrome, which is the root-cause of most of the cold-blooded violence in this country.
Picture Credit: Ashley Van Haeften/Flickr