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A woman's sacrifice

Prashneel R Goundar
Friday, December 01, 2017

THIS article is written in light of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, as designated by the United Nations General Assembly.

In the Hindu epics, women are equally important as men.

In the Ramayana, Seeta's role dominates all other women. It's the same in the Mahabharata where Mother Kunti's (mother of Pandavas) and Queen Draupadi's (wife of Pandavas) roles overshadow that of others.

The acts they were subjected to, the suffering they had to endure gives strength to and motivates individuals to always have patience. Their sacrifices are too many to account for and so we turn to the plight of Draupadi in this article.

Yudhishthira (one of Draupadi's five husbands) had vowed not to say no or refuse anyone, also not to speak harshly for 13 years to avoid any violence or enmity between him and his kinsmen as foretold by the sage, Vyasa.

Therefore, when he was invited to play a game of dice by Duryodhana (Dhritarashtra's eldest son), he could not turn down the invitation even though he was warned of the destruction it would cause.

Having waged his every possession, Yudhishthira lost everything including his four brothers; Bhima, Arjuna, Sahadeva and Nakula along with himself.

His last possession, his wife Draupadi the daughter of King Drupada, was waged and also lost. This implied Draupadi was now the property of Duryodhana who ordered his younger brother, Dushasana to bring forth Draupadi to the assembly hall of men as their slave. Draupadi's beauty admired by gods and mortals alike as her radiant face shone explicitly for worship.

Dushasana rushed into the inner apartments of Dhritarashtra queen's chambers and caught hold of Draupadi's hair. He dragged her, kicked her all the way to the assembly hall. The Pandavas could only watch in misery as they all were Duryodhana's slaves.

Her cries agonised the entire hall especially the elders such as Vidura, Bhishma, Dronacharya and Kripacharya.

Draupadi turned to them and lamented: "How could the elders give consent to King Yudhishthira to put me at stake when he had already lost his freedom?"

The assembly watched the helpless Draupadi dragged and humiliated by Dushasana.

She wailed: "If you have loved and revered the mothers who bore you and gave you suck, if the honour of wife or sister or daughter has been dear to you, if you believe in God and dharma, forsake me not in this horror more cruel than death."

Duryodhana would not let anyone heed her words and ordered Dushasana to take the clothes of the Pandavas and undress Draupadi in front of everyone. Even before Dushasana could approach the five brothers, they took off their upper garments to follow the path of honour.

Without wasting any time, Dushasana went towards Draupadi to commit the heinous, taking off her sari in public.

Let's put ourselves in Draupadi's place. The horror she was going through is beyond imagination.

She prayed to Lord Sri Krishna, the supreme personality of godhead for refuge.

"O Lord of the world, God whom I adore and trust, abandon me not in this dire plight. You are my sole refuge, protect me."

Her plight was crueller than death. However, God's mercy is greater than anything in this universe. When Dushasana was pulling off her garments, it seemed fresh garments began to clothe her.

Dushasana tried, in vain, to undress her and put her to shame as fatigue had taken over his body. Thus, Sri Krishna saved Draupadi from this heinous act.

Points for reflection

Draupadi's plight is not str­an­ge in society as women still continue with their daily struggles.

A married woman has to leave her parents' house and move to a new place. For years she stays with her parents, in comfort with her siblings but then has to leave to be with her husband.

Her grooming is questioned from time to time in her new home. She has to adjust to a different lifestyle, a new setting where seemingly unnecessary rules have to be followed.

Only women experience the pain of childbirth, the miracle of birth. This is what distinguishes a mother from a father's love. The two shouldn't be compared but it's integral that a mother's love be given prominence.

After all, important lessons while still in her lap. Therefore, men need to take care of women through simple tasks; washing their dishes after eating or doing the laundry and ironing clothes too. Even cleaning the vegetables, peeling the potatoes or chopping the onions allow women to relax a bit.

Working women, at 5pm, rush home to cook for her family, ensuring dinner is prepared on time so no one sleeps on an empty stomach. It's the same for women who stay at home, they ensure dinner is ready.

I recall an incident a few years ago when I was headed for home.

A lady was trying to get on the bus and she said to the boy in front of her: "Son, please give me a chance to get on the bus. I need to get home and cook too." It was said with grace and a smile resulting in everyone smiling and she got on safely.

Often, women have to stand when the bus is full. The fortunate are offered a seat by some kindhearted men.

It's quite usual for newly-wed­ded women to sacrifice their dreams, especially if their husband is not understanding. It is also common to find a husband who has excelled but in the same household, the wife has spent years looking after the family and has to keep her dreams alive in her children, perhaps. It does not imply she is envious of her husband's achievement, not at all but the crux of the matter is what about her individual identity?

Men are fond of suppressing women using a dictatorial and authoritative tone. Women contribute extraordinarily in bringing up families but the tone used to address them or ask them for things in the house is often devilish.

This needs to be condemned and rectified by individuals as mothers, wives, and daughters deserve better for the years of dedication.

Draupadi pleads with Dushasana and Duryodhana for the honour of the ladies in their lives; mother, daughter and wife. This should reminder individuals of he proud status of women in this universe.

Several years ago while pursuing my postgraduate studies, a lecturer explained the concept of conversation with equals. Her example was she not daring to talk to cleaners but stick to talking with academics only. That hurt me deeply because the lecturer did not know my background.

My mother started as a cleaner at a hospital in 1996 when I was in primary school. She worked determinedly to bring up her three children while looking after her household.

Not once did we feel embarrassed with her line of work. Why should we? She was not stealing but performing her duties with diligence and sincerity, characteristics she instilled in us.

I often wish that lecturer could have seen how my mother cleaned up after patients, and the values we learnt from her. She has worked at the hospital for over 21 years during which she was promoted to the laundry.

One day, she was loading laundry into the machine and there was a half-eaten apple in the clothes. How disrespectful as well as ungrateful people are towards cleaners, I thought.

Thankfully, I do not live a life like that as an academic. At work, I am friendly with all whether they are cleaners, canteen staff, groundsmen and so on. It has only come to me through the challenges my mother has lived through which I am overtly boastful of.

It is hoped this article challenges the way individuals behave towards women taking into consideration the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which was marked last Saturday, November 25.

* Prashneel R Goundar is the author of In Simple Words (2017) and has published more than 35 scholarly articles, book reviews, critical essays, book chapters. The views expressed are his and not of this newspaper or his employer. For comments please email

* The article is an extract taken from the writer's book to be published in 2018.

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