In Puranic annals, there are two epochal encounters that are clear triumphs of the feminist among our ancient story-tellers. The first is the encounter between the deva-guru’s son Kach and the demon-guru’s daughter Devayani: when Kach, at the behest of his father Brahaspati, comes to learn from Sukra -- the preceptor of demons – the mritasanjivani stotra (magical hymn of resurrecting from the dead), which the war weary gods are in dire need of. Besmirched by the beauteous Devayani, Kach manages to captivate her blossoming love, responding to his earnest pleadings of passion. This goes on till the resentful demons kill the aspiring Kach. Egged on by Devayani, Kach is revived from death-bed by Sukra through an application of the very same hymn and an instant learner, Kach attempts to escape to the gods, armed with his new knowledge. Heaven knows no fury like the woman scorned and Devayani pulls herself to her full height, roundly condemning Kach to remain forever a mere carrier of knowledge, but never able to use it in practice.
The second encounter was the one between Arjuna, the middle Pandava -- during his years of remaining in penance as a mendicant recluse – and Chitrangada, the strapping young princess of Manipur, brought up as a fighter-warrior son-in-disguise by her doting father. Suddenly, taken in by the surging emotions of a damsel, she is aroused by Arjuna at the first sight of his immaculate masculinity. And equally suddenly, she finds herself grossly inadequate, facing rejection by the indifferent male, citing a vow of celibacy. A diffident Chitrangada moves the high heavens to secure Cupid’s blessings for donning a transient seductive role. Arjuna succumbs, but after a year of consummate ardour, is inquisitive enough to seek the “real” Chitrangada. They agree to marry, but now on equal terms.
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