Mythology is unreal, it is fantastic and it is just story telling for momentary entertainment. It is just to sugar coat some lessons that are purported to be conveyed; it hides the intentions of the myth tellers.
There is , however, another very real side to mythological tales. So many of them get rooted in the deep consciousness of the individual as well as the collective mind. Every culture, every society and every people have myths handed down to them, which have become markers for current behaviour.
And in lots of societies, most of the our social practices and beliefs are the insights from the myth of that culture or land. But often with changing times somewhere the real insights get lost especially when the cultural beliefs of those times are different from the cultural beliefs of the story in the myth and hence then new insights are purported from the same story.
And in this journey, we ignore facts, history, science and pragmatism to construct alternate truths—perceived truths— and suddenly what was not the myth has become a living reality of many a social practices.
The myths of Sati and Savitri can be objectively analysed in this context. Indian women have been told since time immemorial to become like Sati-Savirti. To be loyal, to be dedicated, to follow the husband’s wishes as ‘dharma’, to silently merge into his family and to bear all with a fortitude and smile. Over time this myth has become a reality in the minds of many and has moulded real life responses of so many men and women. This myth of Sati and Savitri has many put many a woman at a disadvantage and stifled their energies.
The myth has become reality. But, was this the myth that was handed down? This needs a deeper examination.
Sati was the daughter of Daksha, who requested the God’s for a daughter. Her father educated her well. When the time to choose her mate came, she went against the wishes of the father to marry Shiva. Sati was a powerful woman—Adi Shakti and with immense power of her own. Sati was an accomplished ‘yogini’. She was devoted to Shiva but Shiva was equally devoted to her: it was an equal relationship. She had the charm and the intellect to bring Shiva from ascetic isolation to active participation in the world. She virtually forced Shiva to marry her with her focus on winning his heart, she was highly determined. Sati was fierce when angry and she just did not tolerate the way her own father heaped abuses on Shiva, she reacted very strongly. She was fearless in expressing all her emotions. Not only this, Shiva and Sati were equal partners in love and she partook of all tantric love practices with Shiva as an equal partner. Sati was independent:she even brought forth her son, Ganesha because she wanted to.
Is this a woman who was docile, blindly obedient and obsequious?
Lets look at Savitri.
Again we notice the same phenomenon. Her father requested God Savitar for a daughter ( thus, her name). Savitri was pure and powerful in purity and intellect;it is said in the myth that no man was willing to marry Savitri because of her inherent power and intellect. In her case, we notice an added aspect that her father was with her in her choice of husband. Not only this, he educated her well. Savitri chose Satyavan even going against the advise of Narada that he would die within a year. Her determination was evident from early on. When she loved, she loved. She started living with Satyavan in the forest the life of poverty which his parents and he had willingly embraced. But, Satyavan loved her equally, again we see it was not an unequal relationship. Savitri’s determination to save her husband’s life is legendary. But the same was her determination in marrying him as per her choice. Savitri was a brilliant mind, a bright lateral thinker and this is so clearly shown in her dialogue with Yama and the deft way in which she was able to mentally create her way with Yama.
Is Savitri or Sati, a regular mentally stymied woman who can have no decision or no determination of her own? A silent sufferer?
In both cases, we also see another common thread, an important thread. The father’s of both ( even at that time) specifically asked for a daughter, educated them well and stood by them in their choice of husband.
Isnt the real meaning of sati savitri is just the opposite of what we are made to believe…
This is the real myth. What has unfortunately become real is actually ‘mythology’. Have we really understood the insights and lessons from our mythology? Where did the real meaning of these insights got lost and why did we allow it .The reality is different in the minds of the myth teller. He was trying to convey a real story and a powerful insight but due to our selective perception of choosing what we want, we have chosen only those parts of the myth which are convenient to current practices or were convenient to create new practices and thus the distorted myth of Sati and Savitri was born, which was indeed very distant from the insights evolving from the real stories of these 2 women.The ancestors had the correct inspiration but somewhere we diluted it to suppress the energies of the woman. The archetypes of Sati and Savitri certainly were strong and capable women.
So, Isnt it time we re interpret our mythology and understand the meaning it was really meant to profess ..
By Deepti and Rajeev Pant
Design Researcher & Storyteller