GROUND REALITY AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
T.V.Bharathi Lakshmi.,Lecturer in English
Women Today and Literature
Behind every successful man there is a strong woman
Abstract: Women is the source of energy of her family and hence the backbone of the country. But from time immemorial she has been searching for identity. Her struggle for identity begins from the mother’s womb and continues till her death. A woman is confined to the four walls in the name of tradition. Overcoming the barriers the present day woman is successful in her respective career. Women today proved themselves that they are more capable than men in all respects. They are not just spectators but partners and coworkers and are not inferior to man in rank or performance in anyway. This is true in the field of literature too. Women writers have started questioning the prominent old patriarchal domination. They are no longer puppets in the hands of man. They have shown their worth in the field of literature both qualitatively and quantitatively and are showing it even today without any hurdle.
It is a known fact that the existence of man on earth is not possible without a woman. The precious gift of God on earth is ‘Woman’. She is compared to the beautiful form of nature. She is fragile, sensitive and innocent. She plays a prominent role in every phase of life of man. But man never realized her importance in his life. On considering characteristics of woman, man has been suppressing her and so she is confined to the four walls in the name of tradition. She has become the victim of suffering and from time immemorial she has been searching for her identity in the patriarchal society Indian society was crippled in the mind that a woman is not worthy of education. He considers himself as superior and almighty. He considers the girl child as a liability because of the prevalent dowry system in the society. The baby girl does not have security even in the mother’s womb. The recent statistics prove that even a baby girl who successfully comes from the mother’s womb has no security because of the ill-mannered male society.
Women in Ancient India:
Historical evidences and the scriptures indicate that Indian woman enjoyed a comparatively high status during the early Vedic period i.e. from 2000 B.C. to 1000 B.C. The Aryans, who were mostly busy fighting wars, regarded woman as useful and productive members of the society. The condition of Vedic Women was good. Women also enjoyed religious status like that of men, especially in Vedic initiation and studies. The Rig Veda had rendered the highest social status to qualified women of those days. But status of woman has fallen in the later Vedic period because they were not enjoying equal rights and privileges with men. Though the woman participated in their family ceremonies with men but they only played a role as a silent observer not an active participant. In the post Vedic period women were discriminated on the ground of education. The child marriages, emphasis on physical chastity of woman and their unquestioned obedience are the factors that lead to the deterioration of women. In the early Vedic period the position of women is not retained. Women can select their husbands through a process called ‘Swayamwara’ but most of the women had to lead an unhappy married life. A widow was expected to burn herself on the funeral pyre of her husband which would make her ‘Sati’. The roots of Hindu religion are in Aryan society of patriarchal system. According to the Hindu religion woman is considered powerful and at the same time she is considered to be under the protection of father during childhood, under the protection of husband during youth and under the protection of son during old age. If the woman loses her property right she also lost independence and became lifelong dependent on male dominated society. In the golden age of Aryans woman were learned, free and highly cultured.
Women in Aryan civilization wrote Sanskrit plays and verses, excelled in music, painting and other fine arts. It clearly shows that our kings were aware of woman education and even they were also interested to educate their children without any discrimination in the gender. Unlike in the ancient Indian period, the position and status of woman in the Mughal period was not quite high. Purdah and child marriage had become common. Due to early marriage there were number of widows but not allowed to marry again but polygamy was accepted among the rich. So the overall position of women in Mughal period is very low. However the position of women is not stable throughout the ancient period. The position of women may be stable in the medieval period.
Women in Medieval India:
Medieval India was not women’s age and it is considered to be the ‘Dark Age’ for them. Medieval India saw many foreign conquests, which resulted in the decline of the status of women. When Muslims invaded India they brought their culture with them. They believe that woman was the only property of her father, brother and her husband and she does not have any will of her own. This idea crept into the minds of the Indians and they began to treat their own women in the same way. As polygamy was a norm of the invaders they picked up any women they wanted and so in order to protect them woman started wearing ‘Purdah’. They began to think that the birth of a girl is inauspicious and the birth of a son is considered auspicious. The most powerful trend of medieval Indian literature between 1000 and 1800 A.D. is devotional (Bhakti) poetry which dominates almost all the major languages of the country. India’s middle ages brought about a very rich tradition of devotional literature of remarkable merit which scatters all the superstitious assumption of a dark period of India’s history.
Women have been writing in India since 1000 BC. Women are portrayed as secondary characters as per literary history is concerned. Even the great myths of Indian literature portray woman that as pathetic creature. Women writings have taken its form with the Bhakti songs in the Medieval India. They have written about their experience and male literature dealt with heavy themes. So priority was given to male literature. During the 18th century these factors lead led to the decline of women literature. In the 19th century women actively participated in India’s reform movement against the British rule. Women grabbed the opportunity of coming out and began their career in the field of literature. The main themes of the women writers are country’s freedom struggle. Indian literary history has many authorized women writers. The writers proved themselves that they can compete equally with men. The female writers are Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Das, Mamta Kalia, Melanie Silgardo, Imtiaz Dharker, Smita Agarwal, Sujatha Bhatt, and Tara Patel who became popular through their writings. The themes they dealt with are frustrate desire, the disappointment of living in the male-dominating society. The progress was slow but steady. Women gained their recognition and were seen in the literature produced during this time. If we analyze their writings one could not find any inferiority. They stand equal to men in all the spheres which are observed in the women today and literature.
Women Today and literature:
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world Albert Einstein
Indian women began playing a significant role for the development of the nation. Women who were considered to be the masters in the art of home making are now masters to shape the country. The freedom struggle of India had opened new horizon for womanhood in India. The year 1995, was declared as the International Year for Women throughout the world to make them aware of their status and place in society. The most important names in the category of women is Mrs. Indira Gandhi, served as Prime Minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest serving Indian prime minister. The first woman President of India is Mrs Pratibha Devisingh Patil. The present woman defense Minister is Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman after Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Some of the notable and outstanding women who set examples for others are Mother Teresa, Kalpana Chawla, Kiran Bedi, Sarojini Naidu, etc.. The modern Indian women have honed their skills and jumped into a battlefield of life fighting against social evils and cultural clutches.
The beginning of the new era of modern Indian literatures may be said to ignite in the late nineteenth century. Reformers supported female education in India, believing that social evils could be eliminated through the education of the women. Women education is very important for the country to develop. They are the weapons who yield positive impact on the Indian society through their contribution at home and professional fields. They are the reason of improved economy in the country as well as society. An educated woman has capability to handle personal and professional life. By educating a man, only a man can be educated however educating a woman, whole country can be educated. Lack of women education weakens the powerful part of the society. Women should have full rights for the education and should not be treated as inferior to men.
Indian women writers gave a new dimension to the Indian literature. Contemporary writers like, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande, Shobha De, Kamla Markandaya, Ruth Prawar, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Arundhati Roy etc. have challenged for the transformation of women’s position in the society. Rise of nationalism is favorable for the women writers to speak about the domination in the society. Ghandhiji said that there should not be any gender discrimination and a woman is an incarnation of sacrifice. The idea of Ghandhiji spread in the country and many common women came out to join in the national struggle for freedom. There emerged a champion of freedom who encouraged the rights of women and was determined to give women their place in the society. He abolished sati and encouraged in favor of widow remarriage. The impact of the English Literature reflected in the regional literatures of the subcontinent introducing several important changes in women’s personal and professional life. Some of the famous Indian female authors in English like Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, Anita Desai, and Shashi Deshpande gave rise to the emergence of feminism in India.
The novels of 1950s and 1960s deal with the themes of tradition – modernity and rural – urban. The period witnessed writers like Nayantara Sahgal, Manohar Malgonkar, Anita Desai, Bhabani Bhattacharya, Kamala Markandaya dealt with the new themes like women’s self-awareness. The novels of 1970 are woman-centered and increasingly become the public opinion of the new dynamic Indian woman. Kamala Markandaya’s Two Virgins (1973) are good examples of female protagonists struggle for control over their lives. The novels of 1980 saw a maturity in the use of language, style and technique. Jumpha Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies deal with human relationships. Shashi Deshpande and Anita Desai both write on middle class family. Shashi Deshpande’s novel ‘The Dark Holds No Terror’ and Anita Desai’s ‘Where shall we go this summer plumb’ the depths of female psyche in the characters of Sarita and Sita. The 1990s produced novels which focused on today’s women of Modern India and leaves it to us to guess whether there is a change in the status of women in the society. Many women writers have written novels of magic realism, social realism and regional fiction. The novels of 2000 show a lot of variety in genre and themes. Some of the major themes of contemporary women writers are feminism, sex, identity crisis, alienation and loneliness.
The Indian literary scenario after 1980 is typically postmodern in all walks of life as it has been with the rest of the world. In the Postmodern novels of 1980s, there are different modes of narrative techniques and important themes are social realism, mythical realism, historical romance, magical realism, buildungsroman, etc. Some of the postmodern writers are discussed.
The Postmodern writers are Arundhati Roy is a writer cum political activist. Her God of Small Things (1997) won Man Booker prize for the 1998. She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award (2006), and a national award by India’s Academy of Letters for her collection of essays on contemporary issues.
Githa Hariharan’s first novel ‘The Thousand Faces of Night’ won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize in 1993.
Sashi Deshpande is another award winning postmodern Indian novelist. She has authored nine novels till date. They are ‘The Dark Holds No Terror’ (1980), which explains the futility of a women’s marriage and the realization that she need not be a dependent on her husband. ‘That Long Silence’ (1980) won Sahitya Akademi and brought Padma Shri Award in 2009 to the author.
Shobhaa De is a freelance writer, columnist and novelist. Her novels are ‘Second thoughts’ (1996), ‘Starry Nights’ (1989), and ‘Socialite Evenings’ (1989).
Preeti Shenoy is among the best-selling authors in India. Her second book ‘Life is What you Make it’ become famous and the bestselling book of 2011 in India and her third book ‘Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake’ which was released in February 2012 is the top five best-selling Indian fiction of 2012.
Kiran Desai is an Indian author. Her novel ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ won the 2006 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award. In January 2015 India’s leading business publication ‘The Economic Times’ listed her as one of the most influential global Indian women.
One cannot imagine life without woman on earth. But she is suppressed and ill-treated in the society. Man should be the bread winner of the family. He believes that she is capable of doing the household work and so she is confined to the four walls in the name of tradition. She has been struggling for her existence and searching for identity from time immemorial in the male dominating society. They cannot bear the discrimination any longer and broke the shackles of injustice. Women proved that their knowledge is not limited to the four walls and excelled themselves keeping sky as the limit for the improvement of their career. They proved that they can manage both the personal and professional life. They entered all the fields to prove that they are equal to men, perhaps more talented. She is successful in all the fields. She entered the field of literature in which she found her identity through her writings. She excelled her journey of life and became an inspiration for men who neglected her. The attitude of the person should change then there will definitely be a change in the society regarding women.
1. Voice of Women in Indian English Literature
www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol. 21 Issue8
2. Role of Women in Society
3. Modern Indian Women Writers
4. Women Education in India Essay
5. Major themes of Indian Women writers
6. Indian Postmodern English Novels: A Diachronic Survey