Devdutt Pattanaik’s Stree 360 Degrees, zeroes in on women from different scriptures

t2 had a tete-a-tete with the passionate mythologist who is exploring women beyond the definition of patriarchy and feminism

Farah Khatoon Published 15.06.24, 07:38 AM
Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt Pattanaik Pictures: Audible Original

Every time Devdutt Pattanaik comes up with a new release, he makes sure we are enriched, with his characters, stories and context. His latest audiobook on Audible Original, Stree 360 Degrees, opens up our horizon by introducing us to a gamut of strong female characters from across the scriptures. t2 had a tete-a-tete with the passionate mythologist who is exploring women beyond the definition of patriarchy and feminism. Excerpts.

Before the audio series, Stree 360 Degrees, you had released your book Sati Savitri. How different are the two?


Audible Original Stree 360 Degrees is looking at women from a 360-degree point of view. It just tells stories about women from different scriptures and different ways in which women can be looked at. Sati Savitri is a very different book. It deals very specifically with the question that ‘Are there feminist stories found in Indian lore?’. Women are not just about feminism and patriarchy. There’s much more to women, and that is what I’m exploring in Stree 360 Degrees.

Remember, it’s 360°. So, we’re not just talking about heroines. We’re also talking about villains, we are talking about submissive women, defiant women, good women, bad women, rich women, poor women, and that is the whole idea. (It’s) very different from a narrow framework of patriarchy and feminism, which is the point of the book. The book is part two of the Shikhandi book, which was written a few years ago.

Your previous books have already talked about a lot of strong women in mythology. How is this different?

Many of my mythological books do refer to strong women. There are strong women in the Ramayana, in Mahabharata, but that’s not all there is, right? How many people know the stories of the women in the Rig Veda? We don’t know the stories of the Harappan women, but can we get an idea or an insight into Harappan women through the art and architecture?

What about Usha, who chose her own husband? Do we have stories of Surpanakha? What are the stories of the Yoginis, Matrikas? These are things that are scattered across our scriptures, but I’ve put them together. I want to write Vedic stories, Puranic stories, Tantric stories, Buddhist stories, Jain stories, which normally people don’t talk about.

It is sad that we think that strong women are found only in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. They also exist in Buddhist literature, Jain literature, tribal literature, Harappan art and architecture, and I want people to know about all of them. Why should we only learn stories of men, by men, for men, and treat women as second-class citizens?

Tell us about any woman from the Puranas who gives you strength and suggest one for today’s generation to follow.

I do not look outside for strength, and I don’t think anyone should. Stories inspire us, but ultimately our inspirations come from within, there is atma within, and the atma within has no gender.

You are continuously researching and updating your knowledge of Indian mythology, any new story or information that you arrived at while working on Stree 360 Degrees?

You’re right, I continuously research and update my knowledge of mythology because there’s so much to learn, so much to know. For example, I did not realise there were so many stories about women in the Rig Veda that nobody talks about. Stories of Lopamudra, stories of Urvashi, and how these stories transform over time, how they are retold today, and I want to put them all together in an interesting way so that young people can enjoy this audiobook.

Is the content only available in English? Or other languages as well?

Stree 360 Degrees is mostly in English, with a few Hindi words thrown in, but it’s right now only available in English.

We are sure you have already decided on your next book. Can you give us a sneak peek into it?

I write several books simultaneously in different formats, so really difficult to say what is my next project. I research several books, some of which are going to come out in five years, 10 years in line. Every day I do different things. There is no particular book I am going to write and know for sure until it is done.

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