The Write Circle Special with Devdutt Pattanaik

3 rd August 2021 – Prabha Khaitan Foundation organized a virtual session of the Write Circle with Devdutt Pattanaik. Introducing and welcoming the guests was Preeti Gill. Devdutt writes, illustrates and lectures on the relevance of mythology in modern times. Since 1996, he has written over 50 books and 1000. He even consults corporations on leadership and governance and tv channels on mythological serials. In conversation with him was Ehsaas woman of Udaipur, Ridhima Doshi.

He talks about his latest book in which he talks about the different kinds of marriages that have been talked about in the scriptures. He also says that in India, we think that marriage is a fixed institution and we are obsessed with the idea of marriage. Marriage is seen as the end of parental responsibility, whereas it is not and it becomes a milestone.

Talking about same sex marriage, he says that people believe that marriage is supposed to take place between a man and a woman but he doesn’t understand where this idea comes from. He says that history shows that marriage is very complex and he looked into the history and found that there are a lot of stories of men living together and even women but no rituals. He found that even in the older days, there were ideologies that say that the soul doesn’t have a gender and the body is only a cover. He has found Indian scriptures to be very fluid and open-minded.

Talking about the concepts of kalyug and satyug, he says that we don’t look at them objectively. The concept that the present time is worse than the past is ridiculous and life was never like that. The stories in Indian scriptures are poetry and not literal, it helps to explain the problems of life such as jealousy, greed, anger etc. He says that it is a very childish way of explaining that there was a time when everything was fine.

He says that concepts like patriarchy or feminism need not exist if people are self-aware. Just because a person has a male body doesn’t mean that he is better, or even a person with a fair complexion feels like he is better than a person with a darker complexion. He says that this is very foolish but that is how a society is formed. He says that when we talk about women in the scriptures, the stories that portray women as strong people are conveniently left out. Even in the TV serials today, if women are portrayed as strong the TRP goes down and therefore women are shown as weaker individuals. Since Devdutt has been consulting TV serials for over 10 years, he says that people love watching when a strong woman is portrayed as the evil in a show, but as soon as they show women who are strong, who take their own decisions, the TRP of the show falls.\

He talks about the tradition of roti beti and says that talking about it or believing it in the 21 st century is foul. He explains that roti means livelihood and gives a brief history of the concept and why it used to exist and how it affected the traditions of marriage. He believes that this concept is outdated and wishes that we move on from it.

He talks about the legal system that we have adopted from the Europeans and the British. In Judaism and Christianity, the God is the Judge which makes it a very legal system. In India, that is not the case and there is no concept of judgement. The Indian model has been very fluid and everything changes with time and we need to keep adapting and change with the time. Even though it does not happen at the right time, but that is how it should be.

He talks about the Indian rituals and says that they are like choreographed performances. He says that people want performances and drama, ceremonies were meant to remind a person that there is going to be a change their lives. The way Indians practice celebrating bodies, no other country in the world has the concept. It is an acceptance that the boy and girl are going undergo a huge change and something is going to change dramatically.