It’s that time of the year when some ‘intellectuals’ will start questioning our ancient customs and rituals, indicating how we were and still are a patriarchal society. These people will show their ‘sympathy’ for the womenfolk and say that irrespective of how strong a woman might be, in our society they have to be protected by the menfolk.
They will quote for sure, ManuSmriti, and insist that it was an unbroken rule that women had to be protected by their fathers or brothers or their husbands, which definitely meant that they were treated badly right from ancient times till today, in Bharat. And the biggest example of this is ‘Raksha Bandhan’.
A bit about the history of Raksha Bandhan – Usually 3 stories are retold to remind us of how this festival started…
INDRA & SACHI : Sachi was Indra’s wife and once when Indra was about to go to war with the Asuras, Sachi tied a thread around Indra’s wrist, to protect him. As a result, Indra escaped being fatally injured and in fact won that war.
SRI KRISHNA & DRAUPADI : When Sri Krishna set off the Sudarshan Chakra to kill Shishupala, He hurt His little finger. To stop the blood flow, Draupadi tore off the edge of her upper garment & wrapped it around Sri Krishna’s finger. Sri Krishna promised to protect her in future & He kept the promise during Vastraharan, when He sent endless reams of cloth to protect her modesty.
YAMA & YAMI : Yami or Yamuna was Yama’s sister. After a long period of time when Yama goes to meet his sister Yami, she welcomes him with a lot of love and sumptuous dishes to eat. Yama is so moved that he blesses that anyone with a Rakhee or holy thread around his hand, will escape the clutches of death.
The second round of stories told are those of Rani Karnavati tying a Rakhee around Humayun’s wrist, to ask for his help to save her husband & of the wife of King Alexander tying the Rakhee to King Porus, asking to him to not kill her husband in battle. Neither of these stories have a recorded history.
In all these stories, the women come across as practical, strong and caring women. Nowhere are they begging for protection for themselves. When and how the narrative of Raksha Bandhan changed to protection of sisters who were weak, is something that is a mystery.
In all probability, the narrative of protection of sisters must have come into existence with the Rapist, Marauding Islamist invaders, who used women as just a physical entity for satisfying their lust. In desperation, families and especially daughters, must have hoped and expected the menfolk to protect them from the pillaging enemy hordes. To link this desperation to ancient Bharatiya culture and rituals, is plain distortion of the narrative. If anything, the women were always the strength of the families, with their silent prayers for the well-being of their families.
The fact is that now our ‘intellectuals’ are distorting these customs to purposefully show that women are disrespected in Bharatiya customs, since they have to compulsorily find a equivalent narrative to Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam. In both these Abrahamic religions, women are treated as a part of man – a weaker part and one who needs protection. Traditionally, they never gave any rights to women for education or self-improvement. They were always treated as sexual objects alone who were to be used only for satisfying lust or procreation.
Hindu Dharma always treated women as Shakti & she had every right to get herself educated and earn a living too (even Acharya Chanakya supports this). It was only after invasions and the interpolation of Abrahamic culture into our Sanatan culture that our society changed so drastically. One example of this is the wearing of the ‘ghunghat’ to cover the face from strangers. Over a period of time, this became rigid and slowly, women were prevented from enjoying the freedom that they had in earlier years.
In Abrahamic cultures, women could not be intelligent, Gods or receiver of holy teachings. Contrast this to our Rishikas whose verses are part of our Rig Veda too (the oldest Veda).
The ‘intellectuals’ who speak bad about our rituals like Raksha Bandhan or Karva Chauth are in fact APOLOGISTS, who have to forcibly bring down and speak badly about our Hindu Dharma to bring it down to the level of Abrahamic religions.
Also, in this time and day, is it wrong for women to expect men to protect women? Fighting for women’s rights or showing women’s strength should not mean emasculating men. Why shouldn’t the men be a party to protecting anyone? In fact, encouraging sibling love in a family (as during Raksha Bandhan) is one way to ensure a healthy society. In any case, isn’t a Raksha Bandhan way better than training the men to go in for ‘Love Jihad’ and conversion of girls to their (the men’s) religion after marriage?