Draupadi: Indian Feminist Art Exhibition

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An Installation By Camelliasuman

The year 2012 came to a morbid end with the Delhi Gang Rape Case that shook people in the capital, the country and the world. While people may never be able to erase the memory of the incident itself, it is important to remember and analyse the aftermath.

The Delhi Rape Case occurred on Dec. 16 last year and since then people around the country and women’s groups around the world have been fighting for the security of women around the world (India especially since it was ground zero).

Protests  were rampant all over the country, Delhi in particular, and these only increased once the victim lost her life battling her severe injuries on the  Dec. 31 Had you been in Delhi at the time, you would have seen just how angry the youth was and till what extent they were willing to go. Candle marches were organized to pray and pay respect to “Nirbhaya” and no answer from the government was good enough. Chief Minister Sheila Dixit was booed off the scene when she came to pay her respects and news channels around the country were showcasing the youth’s  voice.

It’s been four months, and the fight is still on.

Recently I attended the India Fashion Summit organized by the Indian Federation For Fashion Development. The theme of the summit was women empowerment and designers showcased their lines on and off the ramp. But the show stopper was an installation by artist Camelliasuman.

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After having a brief chat with the artist, here’s what I gathered.

The installation was a depiction of the age old story of The Mahabharata; the epic tale that most people today see as the reason for the current state of women in India.

For those of you who do not know, The Mahabharata is an ancient Sanskrit text which holds religious, devotional and philosophical teachings that we hold in high regard even today; much like the ancient Greek poem, The Iliad.

Now, the reason why The Mahabharata is important here is because Draupadi (the female protagonist) was humiliated in the middle of the court when Duryodhana and Dushasana tried to strip her in public. However, they were not able to do so because Lord Krishna protected Draupadi’s honour by constantly increasing the length of her sari.

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So, as one can see, the incident itself is shameful and humiliating towards women, but what most people forget is that The Mahabharata needs to be read as a text that imparts knowledge. The story of Draupadi is like any other story that provides you with a moral in the end.

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What the artist’s installation at the summit failed to capture is the underlying moral and importance of Draupadi’s tragic fate. Just like the Christian belief that Jesus sacrificed himself to save mankind from damnation, Draupadi too embraced her fate to save women from being subjugated to such humiliation.

While the installation itself was creative, it did not jump right at you. With a painting in the background of the Pandavas, Draupadi and other characters, one saw a style that was quite similar to what one sees in Madhubani paintings; the depiction of a scene from an ancient text, where the characters itself were painted in an animated fashion.

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In front of the painting lay a giant trunk that was covered with newspaper clippings of incidents, from across the country, where women were ill-treated, humiliated and discriminated against. The trunk was left open and in it was a woman covered in an untied sari. Her face hidden, alta on her feet, wearing a sari that was white and red. The woman looked helpless, beaten, and accepting of her fate.

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Sure the concept was grand and even accurate to a certain extent, but my disagreement was on the grounds of portrayal. After the Delhi Rape Case, women around the country need to see the power that comes with being a woman, and boon that it really is. The Mahabharata and Draupadi’s humiliation needs to be taught in all schools and colleges as a tale of warning, one that empowers women and frightens men.

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While this installation was only the unveiling of an entire series of pieces that the artist has created (based on the theme of women empowerment), I do hope that his other pieces portray women in a different light. One that can inspire women around the country and motivate them to continue fighting the injustice.

Aishwarya Dravid

Image Courtesy [Aishwarya Dravid]