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DharmaIts Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative$
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Alf Hiltebeitel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195394238

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394238.001.0001

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Draupadī and Sītā

Draupadī and Sītā

Dharmapatnīs of Two Different Kinds

(p.481) 10 Draupadī and Sītā

Alf Hiltebeitel

Oxford University Press

This chapter comes back to women's dharma: now depicted not so much through maternal generations as in its enactment by each epic's chief heroine. Rather than being portrayed biographically, the heroine appears episodically. She is introduced through brief and indirect glimpses of her scenes of birth, youth, and marriage, and emerges centrally only in her handling of each epic's decisive crisis, which involves specifically her violation: Draupadī's hairpulling and disrobing at the Mahābhārata dice match and Sītā's abduction. Focusing on Draupadī and Sītā as dharmapatnīs or “legal wives” brings into relief what each makes of her svadharma, and of a woman's dharma in crisis, exile, and especially in Sītā's case, captivity. In both cases, the heroine intimates a perception of being the pawn and victim of a divine plan beyond her own devising.

Keywords:   Draupadī, Sītā, dharmapatnī, dice match, disrobing, abduction, captivity, svadharma, divine plan

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