Mahabharata, one of the greatest Indian epics is often referred to as an example of righteousness and what happens between the good and the evil and the consequences. Here are some of the women characters in the epic who were modern in their thinking and actions. They did not flinch ones before raising their voices against patriarchy.
Here are some of the women characters in the epic who were modern in their thinking and actions. They did not flinch ones before raising their voices against patriarchy.
Ganga was the first wife of King Shantanu. He was mesmerized by her beauty and proposed her for marriage. However, she accepted his proposal on three conditions – he will not ask where is she from, he should never question her actions irrespective of whether they are good or bad and he should stand by her no matter what. If he breaches any of these conditions then she will leave him no matter what. She was one woman who put forth her own conditions before marrying.
Satyavati was the second queen of King Shantanu. She realized that she cannot have an heir to the throne after her sons had died. She decided to get the widows Ambika and Ambalika have a sexual intercourse with sage Vyasya in order to get an heir.
Amba was the eldest princess and the daughter of king of Kashi who fell in love with Salva, the king of Saubala and during her swayamwara she decided to put varmala in his neck. However, she was kidnapped by bhishma along with her two younger sisters Ambika and Ambalika to marry them to his newphew, Vichitravirya. In a royal and extremely patriarchal society a princess dared to fall in love with a king is something which was certainly not common during that age.
Kunti was way ahead of her time. Bearing a child before marriage was as good as blasphemy during that period. This son was Karna, whose father was the Sun God. However, fearing the shame and dishonor that she and her family will have to bear she puts the baby in a basket and flows the basket in the river.
Gandhari was the woman who chose to blindfold herself to share the pain of being blind as her husband, Dhritarashtra. Due to this decision, she had acquired power and knowledge. It was said that her gaze was extremely powerful and she had called for her first born son Duryodhana to come in the natural form during the war of Kurukshetra so that she could remove the blindfold and see him and protect him from any harm. In another instance, she saw the toe of Yudhishthir from a little gap of her blindfold and it was charred because she was angry at him for hurting her sons.
Draupadi or Panchala was another woman who defied the norms of the society during that time. Though one couldn’t say that she was the common wife of the Pandavas, because nobody asked what she felt about the decision. But she questioned an entire assembly of men about the righteousness when Dusshasana was trying to strip her in public.
Hidimbi was a rakshasi who was attracted to Bhima. She wanted to marry him, but Bhima wanted to have a combat and kill her brother Hidimb. Hidimbi tricked her brother and Bhima ultimately killed him. She knew what she wanted and he was determined to get it anyhow. In an age where self-sacrificing women were the epitome of women, Hidimbi set an example that it is not wrong to want things for yourself.
Similar to Hidimbi who wanted to get what she wanted, Ulupi was the Naga princess who was infatuated by Arjuna and wanted him at any cost. She caused Arjuna to be abducted and put forth the proposal.
Urvashi was the celestial maiden in the court of Indra, who wanted Arjuna. She tried to seduce him, but when he refused her proposal, she got angry and cursed him that he would lose his manhood. Later, Indra mellowed down the curse to losing his manhood only for a year. Urvashi was unafraid of confronting her desires and frankly put forth her proposal.
Subhadra was the sister of Krishna and Balarama who chose Duryodhana as her husband and life partner. Unfortunately, she was kidnapped by Arjuna. However, in an alternative story she was actually in love with Arjuna and in order to avoid getting married to Duryodhana she was abducted by Arjuna. Subhadra asserted her choice and wanted to get that choice.
Uttaraa was daughter of King Virata, at whose court the Pandavas spent a year in concealment during their exile. She was sister of Prince Uttar. Uttaraa was widowed at a very young age when Abhimanyu was killed in the Kurukshetra war. When Abhimanyu died, Uttaraa tried to burn herself on the pyre of Abhimanyu, but Krishna stopped her from doing so, informing her of her pregnancy. At Last stage of War Ashwathama decided that if he could not end the Pandavas, he would end their lineage. He fired the weapon at Uttaraa’s womb, attacking the fœtus form of Parikshit. Krishna intervened and revived the stillborn baby, giving Parikshit his name.