# Day 228 ( The self cannot be gendered)

It’s a line i came across while reading a wonderful rendition of our ancient mythological epic Ramayana from the eyes of Urmila ~ Laxman’s wife, and perhaps the most overlooked character from that tale. Purists may debate the accuracy of some depictions but the book remains a feminists delight. However, to come to that sentence that lingered in my mind ~ “The self cannot be gendered.” In the book the King of Mithila, Janak is said to have brought up the four girls in his house on this premise believing that it was more important to bring up one’s progeny as exemplary human beings rather than just beget a son. They say it was a lesson he had learnt from Sulabha, a scholar and a fiery intellectual. Even the other magnum opus, The Mahabharata, mentions how she had once won a debate with the philosopher king. Janak had used patriarchal arguments to try and criticise her unconventional behaviour. In retaliation she had successfully established on the basis of the ancient Vedic principles that there is no essential difference between a man and a woman; for as her own example had proved, a woman may achieve spiritual salvation by the same means as a man. To quote from the book, Sulabha tells the king…
“You King Janak, are the king of Videha, which means ‘beyond the body’ and yet as a king of such a land you cannot look beyond my body and read my mind,” she reprimanded him gently, and went on to add, “the mind is the deity, the body just a temple to accommodate the mind. And it is the mind which is the great leveller, the great egalitarian truth, for it rests in both man and woman. There is no essential difference between them. Each sees the world differently not because of the gender but because of the mind. And each mind needs to search for knowledge and to expand. Enrich the mind and that is wisdom. That is Veda.”
Popular debates, or for that matter even scholarly works, in our country have not paid sufficient attention to unmarried learned women in our ancient texts. From our school history textbooks, i remember two names perfunctorily mentioned as great women sages of the Vedic period (dating to around 1500-1600 BC) Gargi and Maitreyi. Sociologists believe that somewhere down the ages, around the 1st Century BC, the predominance of the masculine principle was established in our culture by that most studied ancient legal text ~ ’Manusmriti’. It was one of the first Sanskrit texts translated during the British rule and used to formulate the Hindu law by our colonial rulers. Surprisingly, in almost all cultures of the world the Medieval Ages saw the decline of the feminine. Women came to be objectified, their intellect neglected and forgotten. Perhaps we need more King Janaks to espouse this cause ~ “The self cannot be gendered”


About sunsur81

A gatherer of thoughts...exploring myths,metaphors and expressions of life...
This entry was posted in 365 Days Blog-roll, Indian Accents, Thought snippets and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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