What is the summary of the poem "I Am the Daughter of the Land of Dravida"?

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"I Am the Daughter of the Land of Dravida" can be read as a feminist critique of the traditional male-centered views within Indian society that have regarded women as inferior and treated them unequally. Women's traditional roles as mother, lover, queen, and goddess have been ascribed to them by men and are thus fantastical mis-characterizations. The poem presents an emboldening new telling of the historical roles and places of women in India.

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In this poem, Amrita Pritam inserts herself as the subjective narrator in order to explain the eternal nature and historic roles of womanhood. “Dravida,” as in the poem’s title and refrain at the end of each stanza, is an old Sanskrit word meaning “wealth, strength, or valor.” Pritam suggests that these virtues are her birthright as a “daughter” of her “land” and are thus essential qualities of all Indian women. The poem was originally written in Hindi and makes repeated reference to figures from Hindu mythology, as the narrative was intended as a message of liberation and empowerment to women and as a corrective to traditionally sexist male attitudes throughout the Indian subcontinent.

In the first stanza Pritam tells us that she embodies two female aspects: Kam-kanya, the daughter of love, and Kal-kanya, the daughter of death. As such, women have played two traditional roles, first as creator and loving nurturer, then as the destroyer of wickedness and immorality.

In the second stanza, the poet explains the four stages a woman’s life passes through: childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. According to Prita, sometimes a woman is a goddess worshipped in a temple, sometimes she lives a life of luxury in a palace, and sometimes she is a prostitute living in a slum. The female body throughout history resides in all those places, performing all those functions.

The final stanza is concerned with woman's varying status in society. Sometimes a women gets to wear the “red veil” of honor and is welcomed and respected. But society also forces her to wear the “black” of disgrace and dishonor, the idea being that such judgments are the privilege of men. It is only “from the depths of her own being” that a woman can truly emerge as herself.

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