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Giving The Oft Overlooked Women Of Mythology A Voice – Kavita Kané Tells Us Why She Writes About Them

Posted: January 24, 2020

Right from Surpankha to Ahalya to Urmila, Kavita Kané has written about these ‘neglected’ women of mythology simply because they deserve a voice too!

I must have been seven or eight when I remember going to my grandmother and asking her very seriously about Laxman’s wife. And what happens to her when he goes to exile with Ram and Sita.

We had just been watching Ramayana that aired on TV and my uncle had also just gotten married. So, in my head, every adult male needed an adult female partner. (I was SEVEN and obviously had no concept of homosexuality) Nonetheless, my grandmother explained, very patiently that she existed, and she stayed back in the palace with the other brothers.

And that was the end of that, at least for the time being. I did have numerous questions but was distracted. Life continued the way we knew it, till the day, I found ‘Sita’s Sister’ on a bookshelf.

The title intrigued me, and I started reading the book. It opened my eyes to a whole new world, a world, I never thought would be opened. The book answered a number of questions I had, and I was spellbound.

Neglected but not easy to ignore!

Year after that, I finally had the opportunity to talk to the author of Sita’s Sister, Kavita Kané and ask her questions about it. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who wondered what happened to Laxman’s wife!

Her books span across all the epics ever written and give you a perspective of women often overlooked. Right from Urmila to Surpankha to Menaka to Ahalya, all these women are the heroines of her stories.

“These are women who are often overlooked and neglected. Urmila for instance is the most overlooked character in the epic. All we know of Menaka is that she was an apsara who seduced rishi Vishwamitra.

They deserve a voice too!

“Surpanakha as we know is the ugly sister of Ravan whose nose got cut off. Satyavati is hardly known though she is one of the most political and powerful woman in the Mahabharat. Ahalya again is the woman who was cursed to turn to rock to be redeemed by Rama. All these women are minor characters, sometimes just mere mentions. But once the spotlight is on them, we get to see them, not a glimpse but in full glare. They are seen, given a voice, ask questions and demand an answer providing the alternative perspective to the same narrative,” Kavita says on writing about these women.

While Draupadi may be getting a lot of attention and spotlight, that she rightly deserves, there definitely are moments when your mind wanders and wonders why no one ever thought of writing about Karna’s wife. Wasn’t she also an integral part of the Mahabharata? Or about the sacrifices Urmila (Laxman’s wife) went through while her husband went on an exile with his elder brother and wife!

She was complex, not just negative

Since we were little, we were told Surpankha is Ravana’s ugly sister sent to seduce Ram so Ravana could win. She has her nose chopped off, goes to her brother and that’s all we hear of her. Surpankha is always the antagonist with no particular depth in every retelling of the Ramayana. And that is what makes her one of the most complex characters Kavita wrote.

The other, she says is Ahalya. “Ahalya probably is one of the most complex characters though often seen in her limiting stereotype as a devoted wife or the adulteress. I was intrigued by the invisible greys in her character.”

As for her favourite character, without thinking twice, she says it was Urmila. For the bond between the four sisters was strong as it was beautiful. And wasn’t sisterhood truly the theme of the Ramayana?

Survivors then, survivors now

I did wonder how each of these women would’ve survived in today’s world. They definitely would’ve stood their ground and been the strong ladies they were. They were the “survivors of their times.”

While reading about mythology is fascinating, writing mythology is something of a challenge. And how does one develop an inkling towards writing mythology? Says Kavita, “Mythology provides a canvas for contemporary issues.  Mythology is not some collection of old tales as so carelessly assumed about gods and goddesses but Man, and his  follies and fallacies which serve as lessons to the reader. But for the eras, nothing much has changed, has it?”

Here’s where she will be!

If Kavita Kané’s words have made you want to hear her speak more about her books, you are in luck! For she will be speaking at this year’s Orange Flower Festival in Mumbai on January 25!

Orange Flower Festival 2020 is the annual event brought to you by Women’s Web. An event where women come together and roar for a change and have a ton of fun with it. A daylong fest in Mumbai, our speaker list is amazing, with men and women who’re wonderful as they are great!

What’s more, we have a poetry slam, a comic performance and an art installation too! Why wait when you can book your tickets right here!

Picture credits: YouTube

Reader, writer and currently an Associate Editor at Women's Web, I survive on coffee

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