If we want to call ourselves a civilised society, we must understand that the position of women forms the cornerstone of a healthy and happy society.
It is only when she is respected as an individual and free to take her own decisions and live with dignity and grace can we hope to be called so. The Ramayana documents Ravana’s encounter with Vedavathi which speaks on the subject.
Once when Ravana was skirting around the Himalayas, he saw an exceptionally beautiful young Tapaswini. He tarried to have a conversation with her. He learned that the young lady was sage Kushadhwaja’s daughter. Many demigods sought her hand in marriage.
But, her father had wanted her to get married to Maha Vishnu. Shambhu, the demon king, who felt highly offended by the announcement, killed the young girl’s parents. Ever since, she lived an altruistic life, hoping to fulfil her father’s wish.
Ravana was very happy with the information. He tried to charm Vedavathi. When Vedavathi spurned him, he tried to violate her. The enraged maiden was aghast at the decadence of Ravana. She told him categorically that he would have to pay for his misdeed. She declared that she would be his nemesis in her next birth. Ravana grabbed her by the hair.
The damsel retaliated by cutting off her hair and immolating herself. Ravana exited from the scene remorselessly.
It is believed that Vedavathi was reborn as Sita and Ravana had to pay with his life for his ugly demeanour.
Vedavathi was no match to Ravana’s strength. Yet her goodness, dignity and resoluteness failed to impress Ravana. She had to destroy herself and garner her spiritual power to invoke retribution.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”
Every age has had its set of villains and heroes, its share of violence and injustice, if we want to break the pattern and usher in a happy new age, we must raise worthy men who know the worth of women and respect them accordingly.