If you want to understand how to become better allies to people with disabilities, then join us at Embracing All Abilities: Including People with Disabilities at Work.

Why Are The Pancha Kanyas Holding A Conference In Swargalok?

“The Five Virgins in Swargalok?” asked Indra, the King of the Gods. “My Lord, don’t you think we are rather behind the humans on earth,” she continued, “For one day let Swargalok buzz with words like #metoo, consent, empowerment.”

“The Five Virgins in Swargalok? The Pancha Kanyas in Swargalok?” asked Indra, the King of the Gods, aghast as he saw his wife Sachi giving him a mysterious smile.

“My Lord, don’t you think we are rather behind the humans on earth,” she said, still dazzling him with her smile.  “For one day let Swargalok buzz with words like #metoo, consent, empowerment.”

“Ah! All that is fine,” said Indra exasperated.

“But they are the Five Virgins?” Asked Indra aghast, he still shuddered to think of Ahalya’s husband the Sage Gautama’s curse.

“I think I’d rather again hide inside the lotus stalk grown in the lake as I did when I killed Vrita and suffered the sin of Brahmanicide and never come back.” he said rather angrily. But Sachi instead of getting worried and all worked up walked away breezily, leaving him to admire her divine beauty.

Even Urvashi, Menaka and Ramba the Apasaras in heaven were excited and in a different mood all together.

“A dance performance for the Pancha Kanyas”, said Urvashi excitedly.

“And I am so tired of dancing the same steps which cater only to the male gaze,” said Menaka.

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

“And that too sometimes to distract off the sages from their tapas which gets us into nothing but more trouble only to face their wrath and curses,” said Rambha somewhat angrily.

***

The conference of Pancha Kanyas begins

At last the long awaited day came, beginning with a resounding welcome dance performance by the Apasaras. Each Kanya looked gorgeous, Draupadi dazzled, Ahalya looked ethereal, Kunti walked in with a regal poise about her, Tara looked lovely and Mandodari though melancholy looked beautiful.

The host, Sachi, wife of Devraj Indra, heartily welcomed the Panch Kanyas the Five Virgins to Swargalok.

Sachi: Lovely ladies, please take your seats, and thank you all for coming. Devas, Devis, Apsaras , Gandharvas — all present here, we are all eager to hear from the Pancha Kanyas themselves.

About their life and struggles in the context of feminism which is rocking earth I mean Martyalok.   Let me begin with the gorgeous Draupadi former queen of Hastina and Indraprastha. Draupadi, what are your views on women’s liberation?

Draupadi: Thank you, Sachi — for inviting me, but coming to your question, let me say when I was on earth things in my time definitely had gone for the worse.

When the great lady Damayanti had her Swayamvar she chose her husband Nala even rejecting the gods, but in our time Swayamvar became a farce  where women could do nothing but wait for a man to save them.

It all changed with the Swayamvar of the Kashi sisters of course and I don’t have to say one of my husband staked me at dice and lost and then just imagine— the elders at the Kuru assembly they couldn’t even answer whether I was won or lost as I was dragged into the open court during my menstruation.

Sachi:  Ahalya your comments on the subject of discussion.

Ahalya: Let me first respond to Draupadi’s situation in the dice gamble. I think the Kuru assembly did not understand what you were saying, Panchali.  I mean that you— a woman, could be unwon and free even if your husband was a slave.  The authority of the husband, that is the only law they know.

Sachi:  Kunti do you want to respond to Ahalya.

Kunti: The authority of the husband if you say I followed all my life, slept with the gods and bore sons, but Pandu threw it all in an instant overcome by lust.  It was I who struggled to keep my husband’s name alive, left as a lone widow to fight for my son’s rights to the throne.

Druapadi : And my husbands never looked back when I fell at the gates of swarga never mind that during the dice game I had to liberate them by the three boons.

Ahalya: And Sachi then when the authority of the husband and the god /lover comes into conflict that happened with Tara remember the story of Tara, Brihaspati and Soma and even me.

My husband punished me to be ostracized and how surprising I had no say in my punishment and no say in my redemption.

Standing up to injustice is admirable

Sachi: Mandodari you have been so quiet for a long time. Do you want to join in Mandodari?

Mandodari : Great ladies, I think I don’t deserve to be counted with you, for I could not stop my husband from the unrighteous action of abducting Sita.  It was my love for him that till this day I mourn him, but I have no control over my heart I cannot hate him.

Tara: But you were never enslaved by the authority of the husband Mandodari. You never supported his wrong doing, censured him and gave him proper advice. We all admire you very much, dear, you very much deserve to be among us.

Ahalya : That’s well said, Tara.

Sachi: Kunti what about Stridharma the vow of obedience to not only the husband but the father.

Kunti: I have realized that righteous action goes beyond being wife, mother, and daughter. All my life I took pride in the vows of obedience of Stridharma, and thus I lost my firstborn.

Sachi: Kunti has said something really important that women need to be seen beyond the subservient roles of wife daughter and mother as humans at par with men.

Mandodari: Tara is a perfect example of righteous action beyond being only wife she acted in the interest of the Kingdom and the Vanaras and diplomatically calmed Lakshmana when he was about to kill Sugriva enraged that he had not fulfilled his promise.

Sachi:  Draupadi is there something you want to comment on?

Draupadi : I, a hundred percent agree with you Mandodari. We didn’t have words like consent, #metoo, empowerment, but still we tried to set examples.

Sachi: Kunti what about that word called consent?

Kunti: I think consent is the right word that we need. When I told Surya to go back, he refused, he should have understood that no meant no.

Draupadi: One thing we haven’t discussed great ladies is virginity.

Sachi:  Yes, of course, go on.

Kunti:  I asked Surya to renew my virginity, but then when Pandu wanted I had to bear sons by Niyoga with the gods who were not my husbands.

Sachi: So what you are saying is that in the end, women and their bodies end up being the properties of the husband.

Kunti: Yes, I should say so.

Draupadi: Take my case that I would be a virgin after cohabiting with each of my husbands for a year, I mean that that was pretty unrealistic.

Even Sakha Krishna said to Arjuna that the body is like a piece of cloth which we eventually discard, so I think true purity is in the mind. Then why such rules for women?

Sachi Host: Your comments, Tara?

Tara: What is important is purity of mind and righteous action, fearlessness, perseverance and self – confidence. These are qualities that any man or woman should aspire and endeavour, irrespective of gender.

Sachi:  That is an important point we have come  to at the close of the discussion, Tara, but I am afraid we will have to leave it right there for now. We hope to be back with many more such discussions soon.

Pancha Kanyas destroyer of sins

Thank you once again to all the Pancha Kanyas for coming. Devas, Devis, Apasaras and Gandharvas that were the five virgins  for  you giving their views of equality, consent, and women’s liberation.

So before signing off let me remind viewers of the  the sloka that says, “Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari. One should forever remember the Pancha Kanyas who are the destroyers of great sins.”

Inspired from : After ‘Sati Interview’ by Ningombam Sanatombi translated by Kundo Yumnam.

Image source:  Ravi Verma Press, edited on CanvaPro

Comments

About the Author

Tapti Bose

Tapti Bose is interested in writing on issues that concern women particularly women's legal studies and women's literature. read more...

7 Posts | 4,719 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

Women Leaders in Communications Discuss The Responsible 5G Revolution We Need

""
All Categories