Compare and contrast Sita and Draupadi.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both characters occupy a really powerful role in both the Ramayana and Mahabarata as well as in Indian Literature, in general.   Like so much with classical literature, there are raging complexities that lie underneath the supposedly simple surface.  Both women play vital roles in honor bound times and both have to endure a specific level of challenge because of this position.  Sita must battle through the elements in being Lord Rama’s wife while Draupadi finds challenges in being married to the five Pandavas.  As a result of their position, they have to endure something that could be perceived as humiliation and are proven to be above reproach.  Draupadi’s disrobing is a moment that would test the character of any person, but her commitment to Lord Krishna who responds with providing her with the sari that is endless is a testament to her faith.  Sita has to endure the abduction by Ravana and withstanding his horrendous advances only to come back to Ayodha and have to walk through the fire to prove her loyalty in order for the citizens to take her back as her matriarch.  Both of them are also considered to be avatars of Hindu divinity.  Sita is seen as a form of the Goddess Lakshmi, while Krishna refers to Draupadi as “his sister,” indicating that she is an avatar of the Goddess Parvati.  Both of them also challenge the male authority structures, but in different ways.  Draupadi questions why she is seen as something to be bartered in a wager, suggesting that the notion of womanhood, in general, is not something to be seen as objects.  Sita’s devotion to Lord Ram is the standard for all loyalty, yet she refuses to stand by him when she cannot be welcomed back to Ayodha with open and authentic reception, leaving him to be alone.  In the modern predicament, both of them are seen in some level of divergent lights.  Draupadi is seen as someone who forces men to acknowledge their own savagery and cruelty, as she does not fight back, but rather devotes herself to Krishna during the disrobing.  She stands tall and prays, almost achieving a transcendent quality that forces men to recognize the fact that she is literally beyond them.  While Sita is the epitome of devotion, I think that there is a tendency to dismiss her as the victim of patriarchy.  I feel that this is a misreading of her because she, like Lord Ram, is a product of the time period which curtailed everyone’s freedom.  The tendency to reduce her to this quality is one element that might cause her to be viewed in a different light than Draupadi.

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