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Diwali: Epitomising Women Empowerment

Diwali: Epitomising Women Empowerment

Sentinel Digital Desk

Pallavi Borgohain

Indian festivals are often associated with women power. Devi Durga is just another form of Shakti which embodies the women power. Lakshmi, Sarwaswati, Durga all personifies one or the other attributes of the women power and their freedom. All the festivals celebrated represent victory of good over the evil.

The festival of Lights, Diwali, also represents the victory of good over evil. The Hindus throughout the world celebrate this festival to remember the victory of Lord Rama, the incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu over Ravana, the King of Lanka. During the celebrations, the story of Ramayana is retold where Prince Rama, who obeyed his father and left his kingdom to live in exile for 14 years. And during this exile, his wife Sita was kidnapped by the fearsome king Ravana. Later on, Rama defeats Ravana and rescues his wife, Sita. Diwali, triumphantly celebrates the return of their favourite prince to the kingdom, Ayodhya after a long time with his wife Sita. In a way it is a cautionary tale about a leader who has caused the destruction of his own kingdom by refusing to admit his mistake. Diwali marks the day that Prince Rama triumphantly returns to his kingdom of Ayodhya with his wife, Sita.

However, Diwali does not only celebrate the victory of a powerful king with another. It reminds us about an unrevealed story of suffering of a woman and that of a woman standing up for herself. In a way, it is about the woman who refuses to suffer any more indignities after years of having her character questioned. If we analyse different aspects of the struggle of Sita, we find that Diwali is more than a story about victory of one king above the other but it is the story and celebration of that strong women who takes all efforts not to submit before a stranger. It is something that all women can relate with their lives.

Be it Sati, Savitri or Draupadi, the Hindu culture has countless deities which they shaped in such a way that every contemporary women can relate to them one way or the other. Most of the stories emphasise good overcoming ignorance (evil). The deities are sacred characters who personify values and talks of complex characters and ideologies that we should follow. We develop a kind of liking to this deities and relate ourselves to any one of them. They become a part of our live consciously and unconsciously. Here in Ramayana, Sita not only exemplified the sacrifice and suffering of women but also she personified the modern empowered women who single-handedly raised her well balanced children.

Thus, Diwali marks the celebration of the empowered women who despite suffering was courageous enough to build up a unique identity for herself. In a way, Sita is is inseparable from the average Indian woman's psyche. At every stage of an Indian woman's life, her name is invoked. Perhaps the epic has evoked new feelings and helped in shaping and reshaping the entire Indian culture. Further, certain aspects of her character are negatively interpreted. These negative depictions of Sita actually negates the positive, empowering archetype of Sita. The constant negative messaging makes her acceptance difficult for the educated, urban Sitas of the modern day.

Though the name of Sita is associated with an image of a chaste woman or the 'Ideal Woman, she is often negatively interpreted where she is shown as victimized and oppressed. She remained faithful to her husband, obeyed him, served her in-laws, yielded to parental authority, and generally did her duty whether she wanted to or not. Above all she had to prove her innocence and raise her children alone. That is where we can identify the empowered Sita.

However if we analyse, Sita was an embodiment of the modern liberated women who lived a complex but honoured life as the wife of Rama. It is a very similar state to the life of modern women, where women though liberated and empowered financially, socially, they are still the victims of the archetypal patriarch. She seems to be the outspoken, liberated modern women who freely expressed herself and like every woman, a victim of temptation who was tempted by the golden deer. She represented the modern women who speaks straight forward, who loved her husband and served the family. However she did not get allured by the glamour and material objects of her abductor's palace. She never submitted to Ravana's wishes and tried to maintain her chastity. Like every woman, she faced an angry and suspicious husband, tried to appease him, reconciled her marriage but despite everything she had to accept separation. However, the empowerment lies in the fact that she raised well-balanced children as a single mother, and then moved on. Though written thousand years ago, Sita suffered the same adversities of unofficial divorce. Her greatness stands out for her ability to remain true to her principles in spite of terrors and temptations. However, remaining in her principles she lived a dignified life.

Thus, Sita represents the actual empowered woman of India. In a way, Diwali is not about celebrating the victory of Rama over Ravana, but epitomising the women power, empowering Sita, who despite all adversities could retain her chastity. She lived a liberated life and at any cost, she performed her duty as a mother. Even today the role of women as a mother is the most cherished freedom a women enjoys.

Diwali is not just a festival of lights, where good triumphs over evil; it represents the empowered and tolerant Sita who overcome all adversities of life and remained an icon of virtues all throughout generations. For the empowered woman, Diwali is a moment to cherish women empowerment — the liberated self of women.

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