Exploring the Icons : Sita and Radha Sita and Radha are the two most popular icons of the Hindus. Sita is the ideal wife and Radha the symbol of unconditional love. Both have no existence except in relation to their men and each in her own way surrenders her entire self to love or duty or both towards them. Radha and Sita would on a superficial reading appear to be the very antithesis of feminism, being the embodiments of tradition. What is feminism? The simple dictionary meaning is advocacy or extended recognition of the claims of women. And what is tradition? It is an opinion or belief or custom handed down from the past. Is then, tradition opposed to modernity? If so, should Sita and Radha, be discarded as irrelevant in today’s context? Modernity Vidya Niwas Mishra has pointed out, that the word modernity is a very misused and abused term1. To be modern implies that every new fad or strange idea in vogue is to be followed . This inevitably leads to disillusionment because it creates a sense of meaninglessness. But modernity is really consciousness of a particular time without being circumscribed by it. To be modern is to be aware of our times and milieu and our relationship to them. Awareness is an ever-present process of cognition and that is why time and place may change but not awareness. To live in the present is not necessarily to be modern because then modernity becomes a fetish. The present can be so disturbing that one can escape it by talking about it as if it was already past or make it more tolerable by seeking another ‘present’. This is what happens with fads, which replace each other in quick succession. Modernity, then, is continuous awareness or consciousness of one’s milieu and society, the direction that it is taking and of one’s own capacity to deal with it. The medieval saints were not less modern in their own times. They uprooted old values and challenged established hierarchies but they did not advocate fragmentation. Rather they attempted to establish new harmonies. Often modernity is construed to simply imply loss of values but true modernity only recognizes that an accepted ‘value’ has become ‘valueless’, and wishes to free itself from it. This is not to be bereft of values. To be modern is to reexamine something in the context of one’s time and place. In the process, the thing being examined may be destroyed, or some part of it may be integrated with a new need or it can be discarded totally, or it can be completely accepted. However, such a reexamination has to be done by each individual himself according to his own particular circumstances while simultaneously keeping society in mind. Ideas concerning modernity came to us from the West and got opposed to tradition. The pain of modernity in India is due to the alienation caused by industrialization and urbanization. To bathe in the Ganges or go to Brindavan is not necessarily to be traditional. To be westernized is also not necessarily to be modern. Since modernity in the West was associated with rationalism, it does not mean that the historicity of Krishna or Radha has to be proved before believing in them otherwise one would be accused of blind faith or irrationality . The more significant question is whether they are living in the consciousness of the individual or society. Both the yokel and the educated man have their own world-view but both have to also comprehend each other. Brindavan cannot provide an escape from the stresses of modern society but can certainly aid in an attempt to understand one’s own self and society2.
It is possible to simultaneously see the pollution of Yamuna, the destruction of the forests on its banks, rapacious tourism, and also be enchanted by the eternal love play of Radha and Krishna. Both being valid, both must infuse one’s consciousness. The unlettered man who sees in Brindvan nothing but the eternal boy cowhered Krishna playing his flute on the sandy banks of Yamuna has to be made aware of the lettered man’s perception of Brindavan as a polluted backward city. At the same time, the lettered man must acquire the eyes of the unlettered and see the magic and romance of Brindvan. The inability to find a commonalty of ground between them is the pain of modernity in India.3 Similarly Rama and Sita live in the consciousness of every Hindu. Every village in India sings and recites the story of Rama and Sita. Strains of their song float even from the labour colonies of Indians wherever in the world they may be, whether in Singapore or in Bangkok. Even those who went as indentured labour to Fiji, Mauritius and the Caribbeans clung to Ramacharit Manas as a badge of their identity. It gave them solace through all their hardships, discriminatory disabilities, loneliness and isolation. Thus Hindu psyche is suffused with Rama and Sita. Every bride is exhorted to be a Sita and every mother sees Rama in her son4. What is the significance of Sita and Radha? Can women today relate to them in any way? Being part of both individual and societal psyches, attempts are made to interpret them again and again to become the dynamic voices of every new age voicing contemporary concerns, evolving, modifying and sanctifying values as they adapt to different time and place. It is, therefore, necessary to examine whether they are relevant for women in contemporary society, and also whether the values they embody have any significance for society as a whole. Modernity and Feminism The Ideas of modernity arose in the West because of forces unleashed by Reformation and Counter Reformation. They generated an absolute confidence in the power of reason to discover the truth of life and in the power of technology to alter social and cultural patterns. Simultaneously, Renaissance gave impetus to a humanist movement that too reinforced a belief in reason. Anything that could not be scientifically tested or verified was to be rejected. The aim was emancipatory and an attempt to liberate human beings from all arbitrary beliefs. It was felt that once human problems could be rationally analyzed, objective solutions could also be found. In such a world view, the past became the dark ages in which religion and faith had unleashed frightening primitive emotions and uncritical superstitions.5 Feminism became part of the progressive modernist agenda. Forces unleashed by Reformation, Renaissance, Humanism and then Enlightenment in the 17th and18th centuries, enthroned reason as the chief power by which man could understand the universe and improve his own condition. From Enlightenment arose Liberalism in which the central concern was equality under an artificial sovereign authority, whose power derived from the consent of the governed and an equal treatment of all citizens under law. The central political concern of the liberal tradition in dealing with the oppressed, whether it be the poor or women or any other underprivileged class was equal access. It was thought that social justice could be provided to such groups through education and adjustments in the existing laws and institutions. Therefore, liberalism emphasized democracy, equality under law and equality of opportunity in
education and employment. This implied faith in the ability of institutions to provide this equality of opportunity and access and that is why, in spite of phases of often very violent protest, it is a reform rather than a revolutionary movement. Both modernity and feminism clearly recognized that women had been traditionally oppressed. However, as long as the cottage industry and the family farm were the center of economic life of people, women could not be ignored in spite of their subservient position and social and legal inferiority as they played a vital economic role. Enlightenment paved the way for the establishment of capitalism, and democracy that led to far reaching economic changes in the 17th and 18th centuries that left middle class women with no clear role in society except that determined by men as mothers, daughters and wives. Therefore, an important liberal feminist agenda became how middle class women who were well educated and capable should put meaning into their lives. One way was to treat men and a woman equally as there was no essential difference between them. The liberal feminists achieved much – the right to vote, constitutional legal access to education and the professions, equality before law and greater economic parity in many areas. Although there is still a long way to go, several things that we take for granted today are because of the struggles of the liberal feminists. The modernist position did not touch the thorny issues of gender differences. These emerged in the radical feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s whose fundamental premise was that men imposed gender roles on women and manipulated them for their own purposes – economic, emotional and sexual. Family, according to them, was the site that reinforced gender differentiation and perpetuated women’s subservient position, hence, it had to be abolished. They advocated compulsory homosexuality, artificial modes of reproduction and transferring the responsibility of raising children to the state. Such solutions are not acceptable to most women themselves and can only create a perpetual battlefield for men and women detrimental to human society itself.6 In recent years there has been growing awareness among women that although huge strides have been taken in ameliorating their position some fundamental assumptions of these reform and revolutionary movements may be inaccurate because women are essentially different from men. They are not just biologically different but their basic natures are different as well and therefore their needs are different. Besides, the rationalist, and modernist, post modernist, feminist and radical feminist position are all spiritually empty, leaving a hunger that craves fulfillment. As Ramakant Rath’s Radha says of Krishna I knew there would be a day when you would stop speaking, stop smiling stop recognizing us stop finding your way about towns and villages you had lived in for years,
stop remembering our fearless transgressions of history 7 (65) But would it really make “the road to death less infested with terror” after a little rebellion a little reordering of the world a little spilling of blood (65) If not, can spirituality provide an answer both to women and to society? Or, do women hold the key to a new age, which demands a feminization of thought, the enthronement of ‘woman-values’ if there is to be peace and harmony on earth. After all for the Sufis, God is a woman and for the Hindus, the underlying creative principle and energy sustaining the universe is a feminine one of the Devi or the Shakti. Women, then, have to first try and understand themselves as women, whether through feminist therapy, education or spirituality that brings them in touch with the idea of the Great Goddess or by any other method. There is also a feminist position that since women are different from men in vital respects, the pursuit of equal rights for them has in some important ways, become a male agenda. Revival of interest in spirituality has given rise to another opinion that feminism has failed to extinguish spiritual aspirations and longings’ in spite of its radical advocacy for rationalism raising the question of how spiritual rebirth can be channeled into social and political action which will ease the continuing oppression of women in many traditional areas8. The Great Goddess The question arises what is the status of women in societies where there is goddess worship. In the Western religious traditions, the male imaged deity reflects a patriarchal or male dominated society but this does not mean that the status of women is very high or that women are dominant in societies where goddesses figure prominently in religion. Rather, they can be and have been conveniently exploited in the name of religion and spiritualism. There is no positive relationship between a goddess-centered and female controlled religion on the one hand and a high status for women or sexual egalitarianism on the other. Hindu Society for example is overwhelmingly patriarchal. Its defining structures relate males to males and women find their place in society by their associations with the men9. In the realm of religion, however, women as devi Shakti is dominant. The Hindu trinity consists of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh or Shiva of whom the most prominent are Vishnu and Shiva. Their worshippers are known as Vaishnavites and Shaivites. Some have removed Brahma from the trinity and replaced him with Devi. However, the Goddess or Devi. cannot really be substituted in the Trinity as she is Shakti, the energy without whom the gods cannot function. She reigns as no male can because she is the overarching force that connects and communicates. She is the warp to the woof, the soul of relation. She makes the world organism live, speak and love. Without her the ciphers in dharma’s complex equation would remain inert. She gives them life by connecting them. She mediates and consorts10.
Sita and Radha The Devi takes many forms. As Sri, she is the consort of Vishnu and manifests on earth as Sita and Radha the wife and beloved respectively of Rama and Krishna both avatars of Vishnu in the Treta and Dwapar yugas. Sita has always been worshipped as the idea wife of Rama but Radha was only established in the 12th C by Jaideva in Gita Govinda and then became a cult figure in the Vaishnavite movement in Bengal. Radha’s origins, unlike the royal origins of Sita, are humble11. Since Radha and Sita form an integral part of societal psyche in India, they serve as complex inexhaustible symbols raising issues and providing insights for each new generation. Unlike independent goddesses like Santoshi Mata, they can only be discussed in relation to the men they are associated with, hence each generation reads into them questions pertaining to man-woman relations societal norms and their impact on individuals. K.Srinivas Iyengar’s Sita and others like Ahalya and Lopamudra voice concerns about men’s behavior towards women and their position in society and family. Bitter about Indra’s treachery and the injustice of her own consequent suffering Ahalya sees the degradation of manwoman relationship, women enslaved and female children cast out as unwanted. From Shakti and Grace woman becomes an object and possession. Past the long milleniums of chequered terrestrial history, I see the degraded, demoralized toy, sport, game, fun, footstool, slave: a consumerist piece of merchandise to be bought, got, bartered, sold, used, misused, abused, or left long unused and callously cast away woman, woman, placed on a pedestal one moment, then ignobly herded with a hundred other victims in the gilded gynaeceum!12 ( Sitayana: Ahalya’s Outburst 112-114)
Lopamudra sees men and women riven apart and women socialized into being concerned with just trivialities like jewellery and adornment. Raised with do’s and don’ts, their only destiny is to “Marry at the proper time, bear children” and “don’t presume to question.” From the very birth a boy get privileged treatment and is trained to b a warrior while the women for home “entrapped in the male’s net/of pride, passion and lust”. Valmiki’s Sita, held up as the ideal Hindu wife, however, has a profounder significance. In Vedic literature she is a fertility goddess of the fields worshipped by the farmers. She is also Rama’s shakti the energy that inspires him into action, the source of his power as King. She is born from a fresh furrow while Janak is ploughing the field emphasizing
the role of the king as a provider. The word `Sita’ literally means a `furrow’ as in a ploughed field. Just as her birth is unusual, so is her death. At the end of the epic, she does not actually die but reenters the earth borne upon a throne sent up by her mother, Madhavi Dharani, “Earth, the Upholder.”13 K. Srinivasa Iyengar takes both these features in his retelling of Ramayana as Sitayana or the story of Sita but also gives her a special education and upbringing in keeping with the extraordinary special mission that she has come to fulfil on earth. She embodies in herself, Grace, Compassion. Peace, Purity and Endurance, the values required for the redemption of the earth from strife and hatred. In the Dandaka forest when Rama and Lakshmana undertake to rid it of the Rakshasas to enable the Rishis to pray in peace, she cautions them that launching a crusade against those who have done no injury to them, would amount to causeless violence that would degrade the soul resulting in the loss of inner poise and enlightenment. The unnatural austerities practised in some ashramas are repulsive to her because it is only passion, pride or perversity that drives these fanatic ascetics and not the love of God. It is nothing but ascetic exhibitionism and is really a rejection of Divine blessings rather than a grateful acceptance of them. Even the war between Rama and Ravana, which would deliver her from Lanka, revolts her in its cruelty And yet this passion this spite, this hatred and the million million deaths: her woman’s heart of compassion rebelled against the ethos of war ( Sitayana: Alternating Fortunes, 377) In the face of victory, too Sita is concerned about “the tens of thousands/of mothers, sisters, daughters,/and most of all, the wretched wives now left/to stew in their misery.” (War and Peace, 5) Also, she questions the very basis of war. Is it fair, she asks, that “the sins of fathers should be/visited on their children, and of Kings/on the blameless citizens?” (War and Peace, 19 ) she prevents Hanumana from killing the ogresses who had tortured her by saying …..even evil isn’t to be met by evil,--only by good; as for these guilty ones, is there any who has never done a wrong? ( Sitayana : Rejection of Sita, 102) Srinivas Iyengar portrays Rama as churlish and contemptible in his rejection of Sita. Sita, too, does not submit as the docile, hapless, weeping wife. Rather she upbraids Rama by telling him You are famed as the heroic hero, yet you deploy the crudeness of speech of one of the commonest kind to a female of his sort ( Sitayana :Sita’s Fire-Baptism,156) Rama cannot “condemn all womankind/just because a few are flawed”.( Sitayana : Sita’s Fire Baptism, 157) She points out that she can hardly be blamed if ‘a villain seized’ her“by force.” (
Sitayana : Sita’s Fire – Baptism, 158) It is nothing but Rama’s “green eye” because of which he will be remembered, Not as the Archer who split Shiva’s Bow and won Vaidehi for wife but as the yokel that cast out a Pearl you’ll now live in history (Sita ‘s Fire Baptism, 162) She warns him that for his this one aberration, he “will be held up to opprobrium/for all ages to come” obscuring “all his countless acts of valor and incoming righteousness”. Sitayana : Sita’s Fire – Baptism 169-170) Not only that, his act of rejecting his “lawful loyal wife” will in all future time set the pattern of vulgar, selfish, prideful, one-sided, pitiless desecration of supportless womankind. ( Sitayana : Sita’s Fire – Baptism, 171) She reminds him that she is Janaka’s daughter and her “immaculate advent was the gift/of the hallowed Earth-Mother”. (Sita’s Fire Baptism, 166) Also that she has been schooled and trained by the Rishipatnis. Proudly Sita takes the test of fire to come out unscathed. But what is chastity? Tara, who is now living with her husband’s killer raises the question of why a man should be left untainted while a woman is punished. should the male of the species having already gored the Unfallen, still defame the crucified? ( Sitayana : A Round of Visits 494) For male-female relationship have to be governed by “a shifting, elastic/evolutionary ethic, changing/with the changing times and mores”. Often the body cannot be protected but the “quintessential mark” is the “purity of mind and heart and soul” ( Sitayana : A Round of visits 490-491 ) How can a woman be punished because of the lechery of a man. Because a lecher is unscrupulous – albeit a king or a god! – and seizes or forces a hapless one, shall we consign her to bell” ( Sitayana :A Round of visits, 492) Similarly Mandodari, who had tried her best to dissuade Ravana from the path of war, points to the destructiveness of Man’s “pride, ambition, self-righteousness’ while Woman’s love—a mother’s, wife’s, or sister’s a daughter’s any woman’s—
by its own law fosters and sustains life, but the Male always assails ( Sitayana : Air journey to Ayodhya 217) Sita, as the embodiment of purity, love peace and compassion has come to earth to fulfil a mission. Her sanctifying power exceeds even that of Ganga. She has “come to humankind as a power,/a penance and a promise”. (Sityana : Apprenticeship in Kingcraft, 168) Sita, Sita, my tired old eyes yet see you framed in infinity: you’re come to humankind as a power, a penance and a promise. as on earth, “Knowledge/hastens, but wisdom lingers; /hence the endless need for humility/ and the reliance on Grace”. (Sitayana : Apprenticeship in Kingcraft, 167) Sita herself gathers the strength to face her ordeal in the Simsupa grove by realizing that she has come to earth to establish peace. She had left “ her sphere of Peace in response/to the human cry, and taken the plunge/into manifestation”. Tara points out that Rama may be “our Saviour – spirit” but “the greater role” is Sita’s “as Rama’s conscience and soul”. ( A Round of Visits 503504) . Even Kausalya tells Sita that it is Not Rama’s prowess, nor his bowmanship either, but the fire of your purity and pain destroyed the Rakshasa King ( Sitayana : Mothers and Sisters 387) Sita has brought about a harmony between the animal, the Rakshasa and the manava spheres through her famale virtues of peace, harmony and love. If Sita has no identity without Rama, Rama too cannot sustain “his mystic redeemer role/when divorced from the soul of his being,/the immaculate Sita.” Similarly Radha is Krishna’s hladini Shakti, the energy of joy itself and that which causes joy in others. If Sita is the embodiment of duty and chastity, Radha is love that permeates the entire creation and without which no life is possible. It is the substratum that sustains all life. If Krishna is the creator of the entire universe then creation is nothing but the eternal love play of Radha and Krishna. As Dharmvir Bharti’s Kanupriya tells Krishna : Love, on the phenomenal plane implies duality, a relationship between the lover and the beloved. Radha’s name consists of two syllables—Ra Dha—; when reversed it becomes –Dha Ra—or the stream that connects the human and the divine in a single liquid medium submerging them in a world of Lila or divine play. Love, at its best, is bhakti or devotion. There can be no relationship between the lover and the beloved unless the two approach each other. A similar relationship exists between the devotee and the object of devotion. A devotee cannot experience the bliss of Krishna unless
Krishna descends to reveal himself and become accessible. There must be, simultaneously, an upward movement on the part of the devotee through sincere longing and aspiration 15. Human love takes many forms but its intensest tensest expression is in the love of man and woman. It provides a more complete union than found in other modes as between two friends, parent child, or master servant. True amorous love joins the two at the same level of intense mutual satisfaction but being finite and of this world it cannot lead to infinite and eternal bliss towards which human quest tends
. When devotion or bhakti blossoms into the highest state of love, there is further intensification of feeling. It may seem strange that Radha’s love for Krishna which is the peak of both love and devotion should be presented in terms that are not acceptable in the secular realm ethics, that is, it is love outside marriage. In fact Radha is married to someone else but energies of love cannot be constrained by socio-ethical norms. Besides, love acquires greater intensity when one’s all has to be staked on it.16 Ramakant Rath’s Radha is acutely aware that all social impediments have to give way once Krishna calls You pulled down, with lightning and with earthquake, all my carefully constructed conditions, and asked me to give up all fear and become what I have always longed to be (16) Radha tried to ignore the call of love and seek refuge behind the mundane routines of life because knew that once Krishna touched her she would “consent” and “cease speaking” She is fully aware of the consequences of her illicit love I know, as soon as day breaks,I will suffer very great calumny. Relations, with grim faces and clenched teeth would have assembled at the front and rear doors.(49) When her husband came to know the truth, he “dragged” her “by the hair/and knocked” her “her head against the wall.” For her, however, “the immorality” “they imagine” is a petty issue. Confident of the truth of her love Krishna, she is filled with a quiet determination and courage. She will wait an eternity to unite with him. She proudly proclaims : The day people said I was am unfaithful wife I became Radha, the first and the best among women in love.(51) Radha not only distinguishes herself from a wife but rejects that role and asserts the supremacy of her positions. Krishna once slipped a ring on her finger. She took it out at once and returned it saying
“ So you think I am a wife?” He said nothing He closed his eyes and buried his face in my bosom His sigh, I knew, made my whole lifetime beautiful (62) Radha considers her love superior because it has no element of seeking anything for herself from it as a wife’s love does. It is love absolute and eternal beyond the exigencies of time and space or the life and death of the physical body. That is why after Krishna’s death she declares Don’t count me among your widows, or among those who carry your body in procession. (103) His body is far away but she is his eternal bride. The vermillion in the parting of her “glows brighter than ever” She wears “the bride’s heavy silk/and gold”. Krishna is now wholly hers, no longer “anyone’s father, son, husband” but “the pure naughtiness” of their “ last night together .”( 103) Poem after poem shows Radha in such complete surrender and union that she becomes Krishnamaya: I saw nothing else, not even the river, not even the boat The sky became invisible, and I didn’t know if the sun, the moon and the stars existed. Him alone I saw Wherever I turned I saw him and nothing else Unknown to me, the whole succession of my births and deaths had dissolved (28) Or, I thought there would be a night at the end of several nights when the sky as usual would be filled with stars but I would have disappeared (31) But if Radha is nothing without Krishna, there is no Krishna without Radha. “Let’s be clear about this,” says Radha that if everything is an illusion,
why then do you rush into my arms try to pull away my clothes,. and join your lips to mine? (39) He seems to slip away from her claimed by the world of war and power but not quite. He returns again and again to her leaving his battlefields and throne quietly, “in the night,/ as though I have held back for you/something that is yours.” Finally their union is complete: I did not know who—you or I—wore peacock feathers on the head or played on the flute. In the consciousness of oneness, neither you nor I existed.(48) Avatars The question arises why do Sita and Radha both manifestations of Sri, appear as wife and beloved of Rama and Krishna respectively, both of whom are considered the avatars of Vishnu. An avatara, according to Sri Aurobindo comes when “a special work is to be done and in crises of evolution”. He is “one who is conscious of the presence and the power of the Divine born in him or descended into him and governing from within his will and life and action”.17 Rama belongs to the Tretayuga that come after Satyuga. It was called the silver age and vice was introduced at this time. Krishna belongs to the Dwaparyuga; or rather he marks the end of it and the beginning of Kaliyuga. Rama’s purpose, Sri Aurobindo explains, was to establish Ramrajya, or to provide a model for the future of an order proper to the sattwic civilized human being who governs his life by reason, the finer emotions, morality and moral ideals such as truth, obedience, co-operation and harmony, the sense of domestic and public order proper to establish this in a world still occupied by the anarchic forces, the vanara and the rakshasa, the animal mind and the turbulence that ensues when satisfaction of the lower passions becomes the aim of life 18. He was not perfect but represented the sattwic man—a faithful husband, a loving and obedient son, a tender and perfect brother, father, friend. His purpose was to establish things on which the social idea and its stability depend--—truth and honour, the sense of Dharma, public spirit and sense of social order. To this he sacrificed his personal rights as the king elect and spent fourteen of the best years of his life in the forest. To his public spirit and sense of his public order he sacrificed his own happiness and domestic life and that of Sita 19. Krishna, on the other hand, opened the possibility of overmind with its two sides of realization-- static and dynamic. He led by the normal course of evolution. The next normal step after Rama is not a featureless absolute but the movement towards the Supermind. The descent of Krishna would mean that of the overmind or the Godhead preparing, though not itself actually,through the descent of the supermind and ananda. The overmind, according to Sri Aurobindo, is the intermediary between Ignorance and the Supermind consciousness. It is “a protective double, a screen of dissimilar similarity through which Supermind can act indirectly on an Ignorance whose darkness could not bear or receive the direct impact of a supreme Light”. The overmind derives from the Supermind. It knows the essential truth but uses the selfdeterminations without being limited by them. Thus, the world becomes many while retaining an essential underlying unity both being a part of the One Reality21. Krishna is Anandmaya. He supports evolution through the overmind leading towards Ananda. His life demonstrates that all morality is a convention. Man cannot live without conventions, mental and moral, otherwise
he feels himself lost in the rolling sea of anarchic forces of the vital nature. Only by rising above the mind can we really get beyond conventions. Krishna was able to do it because he was not a mental human being but an overmental godhead acting freely out of a greater consciousness than man’s. Rama was not that. He was the avatara of the sattwic mind—mental, emotional, moral— and he followed the Dharma of the age and race22. Krishna consciousness is the experience of the union of the soul with god. To experience Krishna as a friend, lover, guide, teacher, master or still more is to have one’s whole consciousness changed by the contact. Since Rama came to establish a sattwic moral order in the tretayuga and Krishna to go beyond conventional morality in the dwaparyuga, Sri comes as Sita the dutiful wife in the case of Rama and Radha the eternal beloved in the case of Krishna. They are the shaktis without whom no creation is possible. This concept is embodied in that of Ardhanarishwara, the Lord whose right half is male and the left female. Since the Ardhanarishwara is a complete form of both male and female in perfect balance, no creation is possible as there is no desire. Hence for creation it has to divide itself to become God and Goddess, Shiva and Shakti, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha23. Ardhanarishwara itself does not engage in procreation of mortals but is an expression of the non-dual, the primordial union beyond categories of form and gender, the bliss of samadhi in which no difference is made between one thing or another and from which all existence flows. Ardhanarishwara is both sensuous and passive hinting at resolution, harmony and balance. The Absolute is by nature blissful, but enjoyment implies both subjective and objective poles, the enjoyer and that which is to be enjoyed. Without this duality there can be no joy. A single non dual being effulgent with absolute bliss cannot enjoy itself just as sugar cannot taste its own sweetness. Hence, the absolutely blissful one ,for the manifestation of its eternal enjoyment must necessarily polarize its singularity into `he’ and `she.’ Non-dual in essence, it has to become dual in function 24. Some Pointers : A study of Sita and Radha points to certain characteristics that women have as women. A woman’s path is the path of devotion love and endurance. This does not mean that men cannot go on that path but that when a man wants to do so, his emotional state has to be that of a beloved’s as was that of Chaitanya’s or Rama Krishna Paramhansa. To become feminine has a spiritual meaning; it is to become receptive. A male is aggressive. A woman is the receiver, the acceptor. She is the womb that receives, accepts and absorbs. She does not attack. The path of devotion is one of acceptance, it is feminine. It is to receive and accept god within, with devotion and unconditional surrender. It is to become a womb for god. This is a state mind in which the plupical gender becomes irrelevant. To be a devotee is to have the emotions of a beloved. That is why all religious emphasize virtues that are characteristically and traditionally feminine. Mahavir would say Ahimsa, Buddha, compassion, Christ love. These male and female characteristics can be explained scientifically.
To be a woman is to be stable and calm. This does not mean that all men are aggressive and that all women are calm but we are talking of the ultimate significance of being a man and a woman. However, feminists are fighting a battle for the same rights as men. Therefore, they have to use the tools of men – aggressiveness, restlessness, noisiness belligerence - and hence they acquire the ‘male’ characteristics. It is a psychological truth that we become similar to what we fight. Two adversaries become alike and dependent on each other’s existence. These are not value judgments as both restlessness and calm have their own repercussions. The characteristics of men are useful from the worldly point of view. It drives them to war, inventions, travels, new discoveries. Women often appear to lag behind in the outer world because their strength is inner life, self containment and contentment. . But men pay the price of their disturbance, restlessness, and obsession. Woman remain at peace. So, if achievements are to be made in the outside world, the male virtues are needed, but for the exploration of the world within, the feminine virtues are required. If a man has to undertake the inward journey, he has to develop the woman within. Scientific Evidence : Being is one, the world is many and between the two is the divided mind, the dual mind. It is just like a big tree with an ancient trunk. The trunk is one and the tree divides into two main branches. From these two main branches, many subsidiary branches arise. The being is like the trunk of the tree – one, non dual. The mind is the first bifurcation where the tree divides into two - becomes dual, dialectical; thesis and antithesis, man and woman, yin and yang, day and night. So all the dualities in the world lie basically in the duality of the mind. Below the duality there is the oneness of being, call it what you will God, nirvana, Salvation or moksha. Since the mind is dual whatever is seen through it becomes two. The brain is divided into two spheres: the right and the left. The right is joined with the left hand the left with the right. The right hemisphere is inventive, illogical, irrational, poetic, imaginative, romantic, mythical, religious. The left is logical, rational, mathematical, scientific, calculative. These two hemispheres are in constant conflict. The basic politics of the world, therefore, is within. . The society belongs to the right handers that is the left hemisphere, the rationalists. Only 10% children are left handed, that is those whose right hemisphere is more developed. They are basically irrational, intuitive, non mathematical. Society tries to force them to become right handed. This is not only a question of hands but of politics. The primitive societies are more intuitive than the developed ones. The intuitive cannot compete with the world of reason in society 25. . Hence men have ruled over women for centuries although they have paid the price of lack of ease resulting in stresses and tensions. However, women cannot remain always subservient, hence they are now rebelling but their tools are necessarily similar to men’s – argumentativeness, aggressiveness, obsessive ness. This aggressiveness is evident in women’s liberation movements all over the world. In the process, faculties of intuition and grace are lost. They may succeed in overthrowing the male rule but the feminine qualities will not replace the male characteristics because it is finally the male characteristics that have brought success.
Women will use the same male characteristics that have brought them to power, to remain in power. You become, in the final analysis, similar to your enemy. Thus superficial changes take place but the underlying conflicts remains the same. Hence the politics between the two parts of the mind must be resolved first. They have to become one, the meeting of the male and female of the yin and yang, the logic and the illogic has to take place. As long as there is imbalance between the left and the rights parts of the brain, there will be conflict between men and women. They will enter into relationships again and again as natural attraction will prevent them from remaining apart but they will not be able to unite. Since the inner fight has not been resolved, it leads to a great paradox. The most beautiful thing on earth is love and yet nothing can create a greater hell While dominant left hemisphere leads to a successful worldly life, and a dominant right hemisphere to a greater interest in inner peace, blissfulness rather than material things, it is also important to remember that all great discoveries come from the right hemisphere, the intuitive hemisphere. It is a common experience that when the rational exhausts itself in trying to solve a problem and gives up an answer emerges and it is usually in the form of a gut feeling, a hunch. It is the intuitive mind, the right hemisphere at work. The drama of Creation and the different characteristics of men and women can also be explained through genetics. It is startlingly at variance with the Christian mythology according to which the male produces the seed that is incubated by the female making her merely a weak and empty vessel until the male bestows his fertility upon her. Biblically, the male as Adam was supposed to be the original form that was created and then the female, Eve , the Creator’s afterthought to enable Adam to beget children and be his companion. The scientific evidence is exactly the opposite. The female is the first form of life and the only form likely to survive. Hindu mythology is consonance with this. The sexual form of an individual is determined by sex chromosomes. For mammals, two X chromosomes are present in females and one X and one Y in males. Originally, there were only X chromosomes and the Y chromosome was added by the evolutionary process millions of years ago to create a male form distinct from a female one. When the XY chromosome foetus is in the womb, it undergoes two surges of hormonal activity that result in a fully formed XY individual. These chemical fluxes do not occur in the development of the female, the XX individual. The first set of hormones stops the full formation of female sexual characteristics that otherwise would develop because of the X chromosome on the Y chromosome. The male never loses the female structures and characteristics that he starts out with and the male reproductive organs are only the modifications and adaptation of the female ones. The Y chromosome is subsidiary to the X chromosome because human embryos with a single sex chromosome can develop if there is an X chromosome. If a fertilized cell has no X chromosome and only has a Y chromosome, the embryo will self-destruct. Thus, the Y chromosome does not have resources for human development, male or female; only the X does. This is because only the X chromosome and not the Y is loaded with important genes that are required for muscle development, blood clotting, color vision and even the gene that makes a boy respond to the macho hormone testosterone.
Every woman has two X chromosomes, one each from the father and mother. Any mismatch between X and Y chromosomes in males causes problems especially if the X chromosome has a defective gene on it. Also, a defective gene on the Y chromosome too cannot be countered by the X chromosome. Hence more men suffer from genetic disorders that women since the Y chromosome cannot counter the defective gene either on X or on itself. The Y chromosome is comically small compared to the X chromosome. It has only about 35 million base pairs of DNA compared to about 200 million on X. It also has only one gene of significance that which activates the male development. Hence, while the Y chromosome is essential for the formation of the male, it is by itself not sufficient for the development of a human embryo. The question arises why is the Y chromosome so puny as compared to the X chromosome. According to widely accepted theories, the X and Y chromosomes started out nearly identical as they are even today in some fish, differing only at the point where the key sex-determining genes are located. Once the Y chromosome got associated only with the male sex, by evolutionary process, the X and Y chromosomes became more different over time. Usually two chromosomes are lined up in parallel pairs during meiosis before separating. At this time they undergo recombination swapping genetics information. This ensures that new genetic combinations take place and the damaged gene can become gradually recessive. Hence, there are fewer malformations in the females who have only X chromosomes. However, in males, as X and Y have become very different, recombination of genes is not possible, one damaged gene on the Y cannot be repaired. Since the Y chromosome passes down from the father to the son, the genetic disorders get inherited in the males alone from generation to generation. Unable to combine, the genes on the Y chromosome will gradually be damaged by mutation and their functions will be taken over by genes on other chromosomes. Eventually whole segments of Y chromosome filled with damaged and inactive genes will be lost resulting in smaller and smaller chromosome finally left with nothing but the sex determining gene. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, the Y chromosome can be lost altogether and the male will be XO, O signifying the absence of a second chromosome. The female will remain XX. This was tested by the Bill Rice on thirty-five generations of mice and found to be correct26. Further, it has also been proved that the male transfers half of the DNA necessary for the full functioning of the nuclear DNA of the cells that will become a new individual of its species. That is the only contribution that the male makes to the physical conception of this new life. It is a vital contribution but that of the female is far greater. She not only provides the remaining half of the nuclear DNA. She also builds into the egg several structures, processes and chemicals into the egg which it is impossible for the male parent to do. The mother’s cell provides mitochondria, ribosomes and their associated RNA’s, disease fighting chemicals and immune globulins. The most important of these are the mitochondria because they contain DNA that provide the efficiency for other chemical reactions. Only the mitochondria can produce more mitochondria because they contain DNA that provides the efficiency for other chemical reactions, and mitochondrie are essential for every human cell. Hence it is the material from the mother’s cell that provides protection from disease, allows, the embryo to grow and reproduce the disease fighting structure in all the other cells of the human which it is impossible for the male nuclear
material transferred at the time of conception to do. Hence the only mitochondria a human being will ever have come from the mother27. Conclusion : Therefore, it would be valid to conclude that the basis and origin of human life is female and it is from the female that nourishment and nurturing come. Also, the female is sturdier then the male and also embodies in herself characteristics necessary for peace and harmony in the world. The whole art then, is how to function from the feminine part of the mind because the feminine is joined to the whole. The male is aggressive, constantly in struggle. The feminine is constantly in surrender, in deep trust. Hence the feminine body is so beautiful, so round. There is a deep trust and a deep harmony with nature. A woman lives in deep surrender; a man is constantly fighting, trying to reach somewhere. A woman is happy, not trying to reach anywhere. Hence a change is required but a change more and more towards the right hemisphere; to become more and more feminine, more and more loving, surrendering, trusting, more and more close to the whole. God himself would have to be ‘feminized’ as Radha says to Krishna: “You, I have no doubt, are God but your reign will begin millennium after your death, after the kingship of the present God expires; after the sun, whose hands and legs are in bondage and who rises everyday over a smiling world , sets for the last time; after the stars, rejecting the supplication of swords and daggers, come down to the flowers whose separation they found unbearable; and after water lilies destroyed long ago, begin to bloom. You would then stand, having conquered the whole world, near a lake in moonlight.(79) Or, Sita’s Grace will never fail” “this impassioned yet suffering Earth” ( Sitayana : Her Grace Abiding, 929) as
The Earth never tires or stoles or despairs, For the pulses of Sita’s Heart of compassion sustain and foster Our evolving Life Divine. (Sitayana : Her Grace Abiding, 940).
Endnotes : 1. Vidya Niwas Mishra, “ Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 1982, p.21. 2. Ibid,p.22 3. See also, A.N.Dhar, “Sri Krishna and the Way Koausa.org./Patrika/Krishna.html. 4. Ibid., p.22-23. 5. Vidya Niwas Mishra, pp.25-26
6. J.M.Domingues, “Dialectics and Modernity, Autonomy and Solidarity” Sociological Research Online, 1997 Vol.2, no.4, http: // www.socresonline.org.uk/2/4/1.html.
1. Ian Johston, “Basic Historical Issues in Feminism : An Introduction to the Second Sex”, pp.1-3. http: //www/mala.bc.ca/ johnstoi/introser/beanvoir. htm. 2. Ramakanta Rath, Sri Radha, Har-Anand Publications, 1996. All quotations are taken from this text. The numbers in brackets indicate the page number. 3. Ian Johnston, “Basic Historical Issues in Feminism : An Introduction to The Second Sex,” pp.15-18. 4. David Kinsley, The Goddesses Mirror: Visions of the Divine from East and West, Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, A Division of Indian Books Centre, 1995, pp.xvi – xvii 5. Charlotte Vandeville, “Krishna Gopala, Radha, and the Great Goddess,” The Divine Consort : Radha and the Goddesses of India; John Stratton Heurley & Donna Marie hueft.ed. p.1 6. For a detailed study on Radha and her origins, see Sumante Banerjee, Appropriation of a Folk-Heroine: Radha in medieval Bengali Vaishnante Culture, Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1993. 7. All quotations are from K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar, Sitayana, Madaras : Samata Books, 1987. 8. Cornelia Dimmitt, “Sita: Mother Goddess and Sakti” The Divine Consort: Radha and The Goddesses of India, John Stratten Hawley and Donna Marie Wulff ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsi Das, 1984, opt.1995, pp.210-211. See also, David Kinsley, The Gooddesses’ Mirror, pp.91-110. 1. Dr. Dharmvir Bharti, Kanupriya, Delhi: Bhartiya Gyanpath, 1972., p.44. 2. Sri Aurobindo, A Practical Guide to Integral Yoga, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1955, opt. 1998, p.291. 3. Shrivasta Goswami, “Radha: The Play and Perfection of Rasa,” The Divine Consort, Hayley and Wulffe ed. Pp.82-83. 4. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part I, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995, pp.401; 406. See also G.de Purucker , “On Avataras,” pp.1-7, http.// www. theosophy – mw. Org./theosnow/teachers/te-gdp p.htm. 5. Sri Aurobindo, Greatness of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, rpt. From All India Magazine, May, 1989, a monthly magazine of Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1989, pp.29-29. 6. Ibid.,p.29. 7. Ibid.,p.24. 8. Jyoti and Prem Sobel, The Hierarchy of minds : The Mind Levels, A Compilation from the Works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1984, pp.136-137. 9. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part I, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1958, rpt. 1995, pp.401-402.. 10. Kalinath,” Ardhanarishwar – the god who is half woman,” p.1 http.//www.phhine.ndirect.co.uk/archives/tt.ardhanarishvara.htm.
1. Ibid.,pp.1-3 2. The Latest Knowledge about the Right and the Left Hemispheres of the Brain,” http://www. love-or-money.org/literature/brain.htm.pp.1-4. See also, “Left and Right sides of the Brain,” http.// members,. Ozemail. Com.an/caveman/creative/Brain/lrbrain.htm.pp.1-3. 3. Mansourch Garahi,” Adam and Eve in the Garden of Edm: The seeds of Male Domination,” life//C./WINDOWS/DESKTOP/ adam.htm. 4. See also, “Whitter the Y” Discover Magazine, February 1995, pp.36-41, life.//C/WINDOWS/DESKTOP/y.htm. pp.1-3. 5. “An unfinished Story About the Genesis of Maleness Y,” life: /C./WINDOWS/DESKTOP/3.HTM. 6. Ginnet Oquendo& Kandyce McGill, “What is the Y chromosome” Life.//C./WINDOWS/DESKTOP/ychromosome.htm. 7. “The Female: First Form and Source of Life” life.//C\WINDOWS\DESKTOP\tfirst. htm.,p.2.