The Fairer Side of the Epic

Dr. Sucheta Paranjpe

Who is the nayak of Mahabharata? Some would say Arjun, some would say Krinshna, some Yudhishtir and some Karna. If asked, who is the nayika of Mahabharata, the unanimous answer would be, Draupadi. The epic with one lakh verses and multiple layers of stories has a definitive heroine but not a hero.

Renowned Linguist, Academician and Sanskrit Scholar Dr. Sucheta Paranjpe presented a distinctive talk on Mahabharata and its women at Gyaan Adab Centre. The evening left the audience enthralled with Dr. Paranje’s take on women’s amazing life sketches, their remarkable sagacity, startling truths and the embarrassing human behaviour revealed in Mahabharat.

In the epic tale of Mahabharat, it was the women who defined and redefined power and influence. They were seen as both positive and negative, associated with prosperity and destruction. Dr. Sucheta Paranjpe, in the interactive talk, shared the stories of Mahabharat from a woman’s perspective and how they were considered as the repositories and voices of Kshatriya tradition. She spoke about the critical edition of Mahabharat which enjoys the status of one of the most prestigious and appreciated editorial work of the world.

Paranjpe pointed out that each female character in the was deceived or cheated in some or the other way, but this did not mean they were victims, they found a way to carve their respective identities despite the circumstances. Kunti was married off to Pandu without her consent, Draupadi ended up with five husbands without a choice, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika were under the impression that Bhishma had broken his vow of celibacy and would marry them till he drove them in a chariot to be married off to Vichitravirya and Gandhari who travelled all the way from Gandhara (the modern Kandahar) got to know on the eve of her wedding that her husband was blind. However all these women evolve as strong characters.

Paranjpe also questioned the lack of mention of women characters like daughters and wives of various characters unless they played a significant part in the story. Draupadi’s mother, is mentioned only thrice in the original epic and almost absent in all the retellings. Karna’s wife is not mentioned at all in the original epic. She also reiterated that Interestingly, Draupadi, Kunti, Madri, Gandhari have no name of their own. Their names have been derived from the names of their fathers or the kingdoms they ruled. This reflects the lack of personal identity of women in the said period.

Gyaan Adab, living up to its promise of giving the best of literary activities to the audience, saw an overwhelming response to the program. The talk also focused on the lives of Kunti, Ghandhari, Draupadi, Madri and Satyavati.

The audience is deeply engrossed in the talk
Mr. Randhir Khare introduces Dr. Sucheta Paranjpe
Dr. Sucheta Paranjpe talks about the women in Mahabharata
Nityaasha Foundation