The Write Circle, an initiative of the Prabha Khaitan Foundation presented by Shree Cement Limited, has strived to bring the best literary experiences to the forefront in the midst of this pandemic. On August 3, the team hosted a closed-door session on Zoom which had author Devdutt Pattanaik speaking about his latest book Marriage: 100 Stories Around India’s Favourite Ritual to Ehsaas woman of Udaipur, Riddhima Doshi.
An author who writes, illustrates and lectures on the relevance of mythology in recent times, Pattnaik has always offered a pertinent and logical outlook towards every ailment of modern society. His books include Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik, Hanuman’s Ramayan, Dharma Artha Kama Moksha: 40 Insights into Happiness, My Gita, Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata and Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You, to name a few of the many titles he has written.
Drawing examples from marriages as seen in Vedic texts, his latest book is a deep dive into the cultural diversity in this fantastic ritual that has evolved over time to suit modern needs. “From Asura vivah where you buy a wife to a Rakshasa vivah where you abduct a wife to Gandharva vivah which we now call a love marriage to Dev vivah where the daughter is given as a gift to a worthy son-in-law or a Rishi vivah or even Pisaach vivah which is the most unfortunate of them, based on rape –– this book contains all the various forms of marriages that take place in society,” began Pattanaik at this hour-long session which, was filled to the brim with knowledge and erudition signature to the author.
A thought that perhaps recurs as a theme in this book is the union of souls that is a marriage that drives away from the gender normativity of recent times. “Does that mean ancient literature had a more liberal view of same-sex marriages than modern India,” asked Doshi, the host for the evening. “I have previously written about how religions can be an ally in same-sex relationships where an entire chapter was devoted to the topic of how to conduct a same-sex marriage. History shows us that marriage is very complex,” he answered while talking about the stories that he unearthed while studying this subject.
While he found stories of same-sex relationships and even polygamous ones, there were no rituals in place for the same. The scriptures have always maintained that the soul is predominant and the body is just a medium for the soul. Gender is a social construct and all the feelings that we have stemmed from the soul. “It is then you realise how comfortable the ancient world was with the idea of fluidity. Rituals are a performance at the end of the day for people to share your happiness. The ultimate truth is just being together,” he reiterated.
Breaking myths and defying society-inculcated norms, like the goodness of Satyug and the evils of Kalyug, his openness to ideas and concepts are enlightening because of their deep-rootedness to definite studying of the scriptures.
There is very little room for debate when he is able to contextualise every banal and non-inclusive argument that arises in society in our times. The entire session was a reinforcement of the complexity of marriage which is never dependent on emotions alone. There are myriad reasons why people choose to get married and if we were to learn anything from our scriptures, it would be ‘acceptance’.
“Pattanaik’s session was an insightful one! He shared his insights on matters related to mythology and responded to questions in detail. The best thing about the session was how casually in a matter-of-fact way he narrates stories from Indian mythology and tradition and connects them with the present,” said Manisha Jain, branding and communication chief, Prabha Khaitan Foundation. The session can be found on PFK’s YouTube page and definitely makes for an intriguing watch, as it always is with Pattanaik!