Violation of Vedabati : Krittibas and reference links/material from internet
It was a small district town of West Bengal in 1950s... Suri. A seven years old child used to spend at least one hour every day, pouring on two big books he had received during his last birthday. A volume of Mahabharata by Kashiram Das and another of Ramayana by Krittibas. In early fifties, epics as cartoons were not so popular among children. Kafi Khan has just started his strip on Mahabharata in Sunday Jugantar.
The stories were fascinating. Ramayana ... as linear as Valmiki wanted it to be. Mahabharata .... very complex for a child. Search for Vishalyakarani, Arjuna's exploits and Karna's demise kept him intrigued. Within a few years, he would read 'Mahabharater Katha' by Buddhadeb Bose and 'Krishnacharitra' by Bankimchandra.
He decided : after retirement , he would return to these epics again.
And after 53 years, I did that when I started to work on Iconography of terra cotta panels of Bengal’s temples.
Recently,after I dusted and read 'Meghnaad Badh Kavya' to address a question of a friend from sulekha.com, I wrote my 2nd blog on a stigmatised character of our mythology: Tale of Soorpanakha.
One point is true about that Tale : this was when the roller-coaster journey to destruction of Ravana's regime and life started. Or did it start when Ravana violated Vedabati, daughter of sage Kusadhvaja ? A serious reader of Ramayana will very likely agree with me.
During the last week, I searched for Vedabati ,Ravana and Sita in Internet . I came across complex postulations about Sita's birth and that took my notice away for a while . Many story-writers of Ramayana, across countries and ages believed that Sita was the daughter of Ravana and/or Mandodari, Ravana's principal wife and daughter of RakshasaRaj Maya . One story says Ravana sneezed to give birth to her .Yet another says Mandodari conceived Sita after she wanted to commit suicide and took a potion of six ascetic's blood ,collected by Ravana, on the assumption that it was poison and conceived Sita.One point remains constant : Mandodari , after learning that the new born would be cause of Ravana's death, arranged to send the infant away to Mithila (in Nepal,currently known as Janakpur).She was abandoned in a field which Rishi Janaka was tilling in the month of Baishakh ( end-April, early-May).Rishi Janaka took the infant home and fathered her.
Then, I returned to my Krittibasi Ramayana for the best known story about Vedabati. It has a less-than-two-pages story of Vedabati. There is a painting too : Ravana pulling hair of Vedabati, a white dress covering her well-endowed curves , not the dear skin Krittibasa described to be her regular dress. Ravana's appearance does not evoke fear or repulsion....nowhere near the two images of Ravana created by Ravi Verma. Now, the story by Krittibas.
Vedabati portrayed as an attractive woman, Ravana ,a wimp
Ravana did not approach Vedabati in a hurry. He tried to win her over by courting her , pointed out the futility of trying to be Lord Vishnu's consort , then tried to gain her attention by taunting her and bragging about his strength (and very likely about his virility) before he violated her. Stories say he pulled her by her hair and only one source have used the ultimate word :'rape'. Ravana had strong ego, uncontrolled libido and a desire to possess. So, it is difficult to believe that he stopped at pulling her hair. This woman ,who led the life of an ascetic and was so engrossed in her dream of being Lord Vishnu's consort ,that she ignored the threat her earlier powerful suitor DemonKing Shambhu cast on her family (finally she had to suffer the tragedy of having her parents killed in retaliation for refusal to offer her hands to Raja Shambhu in marriage!) definitely found the act defiling not only her body but also her soul. According to Krittibas, she committed suicide in shame, with a vow of 're-incarnation for retribution' on her lips.
In the story I intend to write, (same as in that of Lord Srinivasa, a Tale of Vedabai well-known in South India) , she stays alive . That will appear in part II.
Reference to the story of Srinivasa is : http://www.indiadivine.org/articles/394/1/Srinivasa-Kalyanam/Page1.html.
Also, here is the story of Vedabati from Internet which uses the word 'rape' whereas other writers stopped at molestation and avoided writing about Ravana violating Vedabati sexually.
"Vedavati - Early life and Dedication to Vishnu
Vedavati is speculated to have been the spirit of Sita Devi, the wife of Rama in the epic Ramayana. Vedavati - Early Life. Vedavati is the daughter of Brahmarishi , who is the son of Brihaspati, Lord-Guru of the Devas, the Gods. Having spent his life chanting and studying the sacred Vedas, he names his daughter Vedavati, or Embodiment of the Vedas, born as the fruit of his bhakti and tapasya
Her father wants his child to have Lord Vishnu for a husband. He thus rejects many powerful kings and celestial beings who sought his daughter's hand. Outraged by his rejection, a powerful Daitya king Sambhu murders her parents in the middle of a moonless night.
Vedavati continues to live in the ashram of her parents, meditating night and day and performing a great tapasya to win Vishnu for her husband.
The Ramayana describes her as wearing the hide of a black antelope, her hair matted in a jata, like a rishi. She is inexpressibly beautiful, in the bloom of her youth, enhanced by her tapasya.
Violation and death
Ravana, the emperor of Lanka and the rakshasa race found Vedavati sitting in meditation and is captivated by her incredible beauty. After mocking her dedication to Vishnu and her penance, he attacks her and rapes her.
Her chastity and reputation destroyed, Vedavati immolates herself by building a pyre, while Ravana is watching with sick pleasure."
I , however,do not believe Ravana viewed the scene with sick pleasure. Ravana had high libido. A King of his physical and mental stature is expected to have high testosterone level. We have innumerable stories in our mythology and history about persons with characteristics of Ravana.In this case,I believe, if he had lost interest in Vedabati,he would have gone away after the act . Alternatively,if he felt a bond with Vedabati, he would have tried to stop her from self-destruction as she was a beauty Ravana cherished. Immolation of women till 19th century is found in every corner of Indian history and this subject should be on our collective conscience...... Ramayana's more well-known act chastity's test by fire being no exception!
Before I conclude ,I copy/paste material on Ravana's libido I found in the internet, touching upon the link between death of Vedabati and birth of Sita :
"Ravana - Violations of Women
Ravana's sexual prowess is important to note as it plays a critical part in his legacy and downfall. Even as a young man he shamelessly violates women, and blessed with awesome strength, becomes an immensely virile rakshasa. He is a master of tantric vidya, or magical sexual arts.
Although Ravana is married to Mandodari, the daughter of Asura Maya, he captures thousands of women from his conquests and maintains a harem of unparalleled size.
Ravana also violates Rambha, the queen of the Apsaras. He is thereby cursed that if he ever forces himself on a woman again, his heads will burst. This curse protects the chastity of Sita when she is his captive.
There is also a discussed prophesy in the Ramayana that Ravana had violated Vedavati, a young ascetic who was performing tapasya to win Vishnu as her husband. Ravana's actions cause Vedavati to immolate herself, but she pledges to return in another age to be his destruction. The Rishi Agastya explains that Vedavati was born as Sita, and she is the wife of Vishnu's Avatara, Rama, and the cause of Ravana's death."
Vedabati sacrifices herself in flaming fire.
PanchaRatna Temple, Dt Bankura,West Bengal