The Goddess as Role Model

Sītā and Rādhā in Scripture and on Screen
  • Author:
  • Heidi Pauwels
  • Publisher: Oxford Scholarship Online
  • Date: 2008

This book seeks to understand the major mythological role models that mark the moral landscape of young Hindu women. Generally, the goddess Sita, faithful consort of the god Rama, is regarded as the most important positive role model for women. The case of Radha, Krishna’s clandestine lover, seems to challenge some of these norms. The book investigates in how far that holds true today. The focus is on the ways the goddesses cope with love. The first part looks at their falling in love, the way their weddings are arranged, and the significance of the wedding ceremonies. The second part looks at their married life, where they are faced with challenges. They come out of purdah to follow their beloved in hardship, and face the threat from “the other woman” and “the other man.” The book takes the case of Sita as main point of reference, but contrasts with comparable episodes from the stories of Radha or Krishna’s other consorts. The goddess as role model for the woman in love is just as relevant today as in the past, as is evident from the popularity of the televised mythological series Ramayan and Shri Krishna directed by Ramanand Sagar, and the many allusions to Sita and Radha in popular culture. The television series and popular recent and classical hit‐movies that use Sita and Radha tropes are analyzed through comparison with the ancient Sanskrit sources (Valmiki Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana) and medieval vernacular reworkings by devotional poets (Tulsidas, Surdas, Nanddas and Hariram Vyas).