Radha & Sita: Interesting Book, What's Our Take?

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Posted: 2010-12-10T13:58:09Z
Hi guys Hug So as some of you know I had been busy busy working on term papers for college over the past two weeks. In the course of doing research on the academic journal sites (jstor, google scholar, etc), I was also looking for articles that might be of our interest, and I sure did find one!! By entering our mytho makers' names as search terms I found this book by Heidi Pauwels, an Oxford scholar who specializes in South Asian Studies and Hinduism. The book is called "The Goddess as a Role Model: Sita and Radha in Scripture and on Screen", and in her own words, her thesis is as follows (credit to the "search inside this book" preview on Amazon which can be read by clicking on those words here - http://www.amazon.com/Goddess-Role-Model-Scripture-Screen/dp/0195369904#reader_0195369904):

Basically, she uses ancient Sanskrit texts (Valmiki Ramayan and the Bhaagvatam), Medieval Bhakti poetry (mostly the works of Tulsidas, Surdas, Nanddas, Hariram Vyas), and most extensively, our fav telly mythos (RS Ramayan and Shri Krishna, as well as BRC Mahabharat) to explore the social/worldly messages (specifically those relating to courtship and marital relationships) that the characters of Sita Maa and Radharani have come to represent at different times for different audiences. Do read either that Amazon preview, this google one I'm about to give, or the full version if you somehow get a hold of it and share your views please:  http://books.google.com/books?id=BSRXu4pcyCsC&lpg=PP1&dq=goddess%20as%20role%20model%20radha%20sita&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=goddess%20as%20role%20model%20radha%20sita&f=false

Here, you can read a detailed (but since it's a review, subjective) summary of what the book's about: http://www.iias.nl/files/IIAS_NL52_33.pdf

A particularly thought-provoking aspect of her project was how she highlighted specific instances when RS and BRC deviated from their primary sources and what message they were trying to promote or sidestep by doing so. Specific instances that I can recall from skimming the preview include the several of the wedding scenes in Ramayan. For example Maharaj Janak recites the Valmiki Ramayan word for word in the Kanyadaan scene regarding the bride's vows, but the groom's vows (which get equal attention in VR and are quite progressive in terms of mutual respect between man and wife and his duties towards her) are not spoken of at all during the ceremony. She reads this and similar instances during which women's duties are discussed as more regressive than the source material. Though she likes the monogamy vow scene as a sweet touch and appreciates its devotional significance as God returning the love of a devotee, the social implication she sees is that a woman's love and dedication to her husband and his family are depicted as rigid requirements because they are featured in the actual ceremony, while the monogamy vow makes a man's love and respect look more voluntary and subjective and so he is further empowered (unlike Valmikiji who wrote about it as a duty that went both ways). Her analysis of RS's portrayal of the Gopi vastraharan leela as a childhood prank rather than showing it back to back with the Raas leela as the Bhaagvat Puraan does leads to a similar sort of conclusion. And for a sampling of her interpretation of BRC's Mahabharat, around page 127-129 she engages in a very in-depth analysis of "Jai Jai Janani Shri Ganesh Ki", the prayer Rukmini sings to Gauri Maa before Shri Krishna comes to get her, and comes to the conclusion that the reasons she articulates for wanting to join Shri Krishna are patriarchal and again emphasize her "naari dharm" over the more liberal romanticism that the source, Swami Nanddas's poetry from the 15th-16th century, attributes to her character.

These are only a couple of examples, the entire book is 500 pages worth of such detailed analysis which, though I don't agree with the conclusions, I certainly applaud for being so thorough and systematic and, moreover, being about what they're about LOL Other than introducing you guys to the book and getting to know your reactions to it, I also started this thread so we could have the same discussion amongst ourselves: Are Radha and Sita to be interpreted solely for devotional significance or should we also look at them as role models in a social/worldly context? And if so, what messages do we get out of them in that sense? If they are different from those that the author derived, can we counter any of the individual comparisons she made between the serials and their sources and interpret them in a different way to draw conclusions of our own?

Really looking forward to what you guys have to say Big smile
Edited by lola610 - 2010-12-10T14:12:55Z
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Posted: 2010-12-10T15:29:58Z
Wow, first of all di, I would like to say a thousand thank yous for posting something like this. I don't think I will be able to get my hands on the book, but it really is something to think about. Radharani and Sita Maa have been basically known for their naari dharm throughout history. They are examples for women today and great in their devotion for God. Serving god doesn't actually make them subservient to him, because it is mentioned that the goddesses were the Parmatma's shaktii, a part of him.
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Posted: 2010-12-10T20:10:25Z

RESBig smile

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