Mythology, marriage and virgins: The curious case of the five women

Why are five married women in Hindu mythology referred to as virgins? Find out at a fascinating lecture this evening

 Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara, Mandodaritatha /
Panchakanyasmaren-nityammahapatakanasaka //

It is believed that if one, especially a practising Hindu wife, chants the above Sanskrit hymn (more of an injunction) every morning, she will be redeemed of all sins. The reason: it extols five women — Ahalya, Tara, Mandodari, Draupadi and Kunti — from the Hindu epics, who were married but referred to as kanya or virgins, and together known as the Panchakanya (five virgins).

An image of Panchakanya that will be referenced in the lecture
An image of Panchakanya that will be referenced in the lecture

If you’re keen to learn more, head to ARTISANS’ this evening for a lecture titled Panchakanya — The Five Virgins. Mythologists and authors, Utkarsh Patel and Arundhuti Dasgupta Singhal, the co-founders of the Talking Myths Project, an online archive of traditional tales from the Indian sub-continent, will conduct the lecture.

An image of Panchakanya that will be used in the lecture
An image of Panchakanya that will be used in the lecture

“The shloka is a kind of a paradox. Panchakanya has been a topic of many debates and discussions in mythological forums and many questions were raised during our lecture series. So, we decided to curate it into a lecture to bring out the contradictory aspect of the ‘kanyas’. Some of the discussions could be a viewpoint not shared earlier, however, these will be the point of view of the speaker,” says Patel.

Arundhuti Dasgupta Singhal
Arundhuti Dasgupta Singhal

Meet the kanyas
Besides being eternal virgins, the five women are also bound by a thread of non-conformity, which separates them from the archetypical perfect Indian wife and makes their stories interesting. Those who’ve read the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, or followed its TV version, would be aware of Kunti and Draupadi.

Utkarsh Patel
Utkarsh Patel

While the former bore three children as boons, and invoked a mantra from a solar deity to bear Karna, Draupadi was the common wife of the five Pandavas. Meanwhile, Ahalya — cursed for infidelity, and brought into focus in an eponymous short by Sujoy Ghosh last year — Tara and Mandodari appear in Ramayana. “While some of the characters are well known, some like Tara and Mandodari are not. We will be presenting their unknown tales. Even for the other characters, we will not be presenting any of the known stories, but debate their roles. We will also unravel some lesser-known aspects of Ahalya and Draupadi,” concludes Patel.

On: Today, 6.30 pm
At: ARTISANS’, 52-56, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda.
Cost: Rs 500
Email: coordinator@

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