[INDOLOGY] Sexual Harassment

Shyam Ranganathan shyamr at yorku.ca
Mon Oct 17 18:31:09 UTC 2016

Hello all

Well, it's often struck me that many of the stories of Vishnu where 
Laksmi or some incarnation of her's is involved have elements of sexual 
harassment (or threat of sexual assault) with Vishnu coming to intervene 
on her side. The abduction of Sita is certainly one example, but so it 
seems to me would be the Varaha avatara. Krishna marrying Rukmani (by 
having to abduct her) is an example too. In the Venkateshwara story 
where Vishnu is kicked in the chest, Sri takes it as an affront to her 

The case of Narakasura seems different as in some presentations it is 
Satyabhama who has to release the captured women (though she arrives in 
battle with Krishna who faints I hear), but Krishna marries the freed 
women as a way of securing their independence. On this point it seemed 
to me that whenever Krishna married someone they were basically free to 
carry on their life as they choose (in the absence of further threat). 
(Rama's marriage to Sita seems almost the opposite.)

It's also struck me that the backdrop story of Vishnu's demon killing 
avataras that I grew up hearing--- of the four Kumaras who are barred 
from entering Vaikunta and subsequently curse the guards (forcing Vishnu 
to participate in their expiation)--- starts the ball rolling by calling 
out agism, as (I was told) they were not allowed to enter because they 
seemed to young. But what Vishnu has to endure with Sita as Rama is the 
absurdity of patriarchy (listening to elders etc.,), which is sexist 
too. The Krishna avatara seems to have gotten over that problem: he 
generally doesn't listen to authorities as Krishna, or at least he picks 
and chooses what authority to endorse, but he also liberally finds his 
partner everywhere in many forms (in contrast to Rama).

I'm no philologist, so I cannot cite chapter and verse (all of this 
largely from my memory raised in a Sri Vaishnava household), and I'm 
sure that the details of these stories will vary according to sources. 
But there does seem to be a strong theme in the Vishnu Laksmi stories 
about sexual freedom, and the threat posed by misogyny and patriarchy. 
Things go best for Laksmi and Vishnu when patriarchy and misogyny have 
no pull in their environment. Certainly, this generalizes for us all.

Best wishes,


Shyam Ranganathan

Department of Philosophy

York University, Toronto

On 17/10/2016 1:23 PM, Artur Karp wrote:
> > harrasment
> orthography, yes - being harassed by domestic problems, one tends to 
> forget the spelling rules.
> Artur K.
> 2016-10-17 19:18 GMT+02:00 Artur Karp <karp at uw.edu.pl 
> <mailto:karp at uw.edu.pl>>:
>     Dear All,
>     Should I understand that there are no traces, no mentions of
>     sexual harrasment in the entire - vast - corpus of
>     ancient/medieval Indian literature?
>     My thanks to Nagaraj Paturi - for his hint re.
>     Artur Karp (ret)
>     Uniwersytet Warszawski
>     Polska
>     2016-10-07 20:16 GMT+02:00 Nagaraj Paturi <nagarajpaturi at gmail.com
>     <mailto:nagarajpaturi at gmail.com>>:
>         I guess studies focussed on Draupadi's disrobing or Draupadi's
>         harassment by Keechaka must have dealt with the issue of
>         sexual harassment, though I do not have a ready bibliography.
>         On Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 7:51 PM, Artur Karp <karp at uw.edu.pl
>         <mailto:karp at uw.edu.pl>> wrote:
>             Dear All,
>             has the topic of sexual harassment been ever addressed
>             within South Asian Studies?
>             If not - why?
>             Artur Karp (ret.)
>             Uniwersytet Warszawski
>             Polska
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>         -- 
>         Nagaraj Paturi
>         Hyderabad, Telangana, INDIA.
>         Former Senior Professor of Cultural Studies
>         FLAME School of Communication and FLAME School of  Liberal
>         Education,
>         (Pune, Maharashtra, INDIA )
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