Jatayu – the symbol of women safety

We have recorded the episodes of OMG Yeh Mera India because it gives us a glimpse of several extraordinary achievements of ordinary Indians and very interesting locations to visit. The episode that we watched a few days back, showcased the world’s largest bird sculpture at Kollam, Kerala.

Jatayu Earth’s Centre

The background – All those who know the epic Ramayana will know about Ravana abducting Sita. As Ravana is taking Goddess Sita in his pushpak vimana to Lanka, Jatayu, an old divine vulture tries to stop him. Ravana cuts off one of his wings in the ensuing battle. Jatayu falls on the hills that are in modern day Kerala. When Lord Ram comes there in search of Sita, Jatayu narrates the whole incident and gives the first clue to the whereabouts of Goddess Sita, before dying. Lord Ram then performs his last rites and sets out towards Lanka to free Sita.

Jatayu Earth’s Centre, is a sculpture of the one-winged Jatayu on top of Jatayupara, built at an altitude of 1000 feet. It is 200 feet long, 150 feet wide and 70 feet tall. It has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest bird sculpture in the world !

The sculptor is Mr. Rajiv Aanchal, and according to him “Jatayu may be the first mythical bird who laid down his life to save the honour of a woman.” Hence he wants this Jatayu sculpture of his to be taken as a symbol of women empowerment.

Today being International Women’s Day, its interesting to think about our Indian epics and how they treated women. Ramayana has Queen Kaikeyi as the warrior queen and Sita as the strong, pain-bearing patient Mother Earth. When Lord Ram keeps asking Sita to prove her chastity, she simply returns to her Mother’s home (Earth) rather than proving her innocence. Maa Sita is a single mother who raises strong, yet caring boys, Luv and Kush. Not one to mope about how life is full of strife, she is one strong, self-empowered lady.

Mahabharata has my favourite Draupadi. Managing five husbands without divorcing any and being strong willed, feisty and having the gumption to ask difficult questions to great sages, she is truly a woman who lives life on a large canvas. Clearly she is Lord Krishna’s friend and not a sister or cousin or any other relative … A man and a woman can be “just friends” too. In today’s world we scoff at polygamy and in those times, polyandry, polygamy, monogamy, LGBTQ and every kind of relationship structure and sexual orientation was acceptable. An evolved society indeed. Mahabharata, the longest poem in the world does capture life in all its glory and has answers for nearly any situation you come across. Nestled within the 100,000 verses is the unparalleled Bhagavad Gita – with answers to every question a seeker might have.

In both these epics, women got to choose their husbands and mistreating a woman was socially unacceptable. We don’t hear of “sati”, we don’t hear of child marriages nor do we hear of dowry deaths in any of these epics. All these anti-women practices are of recent origin and thankfully some of them are gone.

Just contrast the above with three pieces of information from today’s world – one, with Elizabeth Warren pulling out, the next US President will also be a “man” … the modern world’s greatest country has been unable to vote a woman into the highest office in 200 years, chew on that. Two, the two largest religions practised in the world don’t have a female God or a female religious leader whose words will be followed by men. Three, in the land of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, we are struggling to hang the rapists of Nirbhaya.

How can we truly empower women ? Just set her free, give her wings and don’t waste money and time on setting aside “one” day of the year to celebrate her while clipping her wings, muzzling her voice for the rest of the 364 days. Get it ?!

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