Evolution is often considered synonymous with betterment, as it should be. Reality of our world however, paints a starkly different picture, if the passage of time alone is the criterion for evolution. Are we to consider the human race more evolved today than it was a few thousand years ago? If the passage of time alone can be considered evolution, there would be little basis to explain the heinous crimes witnessed today; crimes that seem to have been alien to this culture centuries ago. The starkest amongst these are the crimes against women. Sadly, we have devolved into a chauvinistic culture where women are often devoid of a voice and are treated almost with disdain. We have been lead to believe that Bh\u0101rat\u012bya culture is innately patriarchal and that our scriptures cater to the notion of patriarchy. We are often fed as justification for the seemingly justified chastisement of Bh\u0101rat\u012bya culture, an incomplete understanding of scriptures and ancient texts. Little is known of the liberal but true nature of the culture, and more importantly, little of the liberality is validated by the orthodox who are hailed as the torchbearers of this culture. It is erroneous to claim that Bh\u0101rat\u012bya culture is innately patriarchal. The truth is that standards of unbiased neutrality and equity have fallen prey over the years. Changes in societal norms from the days of the V\u0101lm\u012bki R\u0101m\u0101ya\u1e47a to the days of the Mah\u0101bh\u0101rata can be cited as example of how perception of social mores have changed over time. For instance, remarriage of widows, women making offerings to manes, and even women worshipping the sacred fire are mentioned in the V\u0101lm\u012bki-r\u0101m\u0101ya\u1e47a, but not all these find mention in the later day Mah\u0101bh\u0101rata. With the further passage of time can be observed the forced immolation of brides in the name of sat\u012b, and the almost complete exclusion of women from religious rites. This merely suggests that patriarchy has percolated societal mores and therefore texts that are reflective of those ages; not that the original tradition either condones or encourages patriarchy. It suggests too that scriptural authority must be wielded with great care, and with the understanding of the great responsibility it entails. Misconstrued scriptural authority has been a weapon of choice, used to force women into submission under the pretext of cultural and religious rectitude. For instance, sections of society have quoted the Manusm\u1e5bti and not necessarily in the right light, to suggest that women in the Bh\u0101rat\u012bya tradition must not be afforded independence1. An artificial construct of a submissive and voiceless woman is thus painted, admonishing generations of what the \u201cquintessential Bh\u0101rat\u012bya woman\u201d is. The truth of the identity of a Bh\u0101rat\u012bya woman is far more complex that the picture painted. Here is an instance of yet another perspective offered by the tradition. The Mahabh\u0101rata describes a narrative related to a damsel called S\u0101vitr\u012b, who has come to be hailed by the tradition as a quintessential woman and wife. The refreshing aspect of S\u0101vitr\u012b is that she was neither docile nor dependent. She was on the other hand, the very definition of decisive, independent, intelligent, brave and self-assured woman. There was once a noble king of the Madra kingdom called A\u015bvapati. Unfortunately, the aged king was heirless. Desiring a child, he engaged in austere practices to propitiate Dev\u012b. At the end of eighteen years of arduous effort, Dev\u012b was supremely pleased with A\u015bvapati and blessed him with an exquisite daughter. Born as she was owing to the grace of Dev\u012b, she was named S\u0101vitr\u012b. S\u0101vitr\u012b grew to maidenhood and was a peer to goddess \u015ar\u012b. Awestruck by S\u0101vitri\u2019s splendor, no suitor saw it fit to woo her. Anxious that his daughter was of marriageable age and yet unwed, A\u015bvapati urged S\u0101vitr\u012b to seek a suitable husband for herself. He instructed her to set out in the world and find the ideal man. Having traversed many a land amount the royal chariot in search of an ideal husband, S\u0101vitr\u012b returned to Madra in due course. She entered the palace to find her father in the company of sage N\u0101rada. She offered her salutations to A\u015bvapati and N\u0101rada and related that she had accepted Satyav\u0101n, the son of the blind and unjustly ousted king Dyumatsena, as her husband. N\u0101rada was deeply saddened by S\u0101vitr\u012b\u2019s words, for Satyav\u0101n, though noble, handsome and wise, was destined to die in exactly a year from that day. Distressed, A\u015bvapati tried to convince S\u0101vitr\u012b to choose a different suitor. S\u0101vitr\u012b however, was resolute. She stated, \u092e\u0928\u0938\u093e \u0928\u093f\u0936\u094d\u091a\u092f\u0902 \u0915\u0943\u0924\u094d\u0935\u093e \u0924\u0924\u094b \u0935\u093e\u091a\u093e\u092d\u093f\u0927\u0940\u092f\u0924\u0947\u0964 \u0915\u094d\u0930\u093f\u092f\u0924\u0947 \u0915\u0930\u094d\u092e\u0923\u093e \u092a\u0936\u094d\u091a\u093e\u0924\u094d\u092a\u094d\u0930\u092e\u093e\u0923\u0902 \u092e\u0947 \u092e\u0928\u0938\u094d\u0924\u0924\u0903\u0965 manas\u0101 ni\u015bcaya\u1e41 k\u1e5btv\u0101 tato v\u0101c\u0101bhidh\u012byate| kriyate karma\u1e47\u0101 pa\u015bc\u0101tpram\u0101\u1e47a\u1e41 me manastata\u1e25|| One decides, professes and only then acts. My mind bears witness to this (Deeds shall hence inadvertently follow my resolution to wed Satyav\u0101n). Vanaparv\u0101, 278.27 N\u0101rada said to the king, \u2018your daughter cannot be persuaded into acting against her resolution, king. Moreover, there is none more virtuous than Satyav\u0101n. This marriage hence has my blessings.\u2019 Assured thus, A\u015bvapati gave S\u0101vitr\u012b in marriage to Satyav\u0101n. Although she arrived at the forest dressed in the finery of a royal bride, S\u0101vitr\u012b donned modest clothing and settled into a forest-life with grace and humility. She delighted her husband and parents-in-law with her nobility and derived happiness from her simple marital life. Yet, the imminent death of Satyav\u0101n loomed large over her head. Three days prior to the fateful day, S\u0101vitr\u012b undertook an arduous observance. She decided to fast for three continuous days. Concerned for S\u0101vitr\u012b, Dyumatsena tried to dissuade her from the arduous observance, but was met with S\u0101vitr\u012b\u2019s steely resolve. She stated, \u0928 \u0915\u093e\u0930\u094d\u092f\u0938\u094d\u0924\u093e\u0924 \u0938\u0928\u094d\u0924\u093e\u092a\u0903 \u092a\u093e\u0930\u092f\u093f\u0937\u094d\u092f\u093e\u092e\u094d\u092f\u0939\u0902 \u0935\u094d\u0930\u0924\u092e\u094d\u0964 \u0935\u094d\u092f\u0935\u0938\u093e\u092f\u0915\u0943\u0924\u0902 \u0939\u0940\u0926\u0902 \u0935\u094d\u092f\u0935\u0938\u093e\u092f\u0936\u094d\u091a \u0915\u093e\u0930\u0923\u092e\u094d\u0965 na k\u0101ryast\u0101ta sant\u0101pa\u1e25 p\u0101rayi\u1e63y\u0101myaha\u1e41 vratam| vyavas\u0101yak\u1e5bta\u1e41 h\u012bda\u1e41 vyavas\u0101ya\u015bca k\u0101ra\u1e47am|| Worry not, father; I shall indeed complete the observance. I am resolved to complete the vow, and resolution is the basis for (the successful completion of) any vow. Vanaparv\u0101, 280.6 S\u0101vitr\u012b rose the fateful morning, completed her ablutions, worshipped the sacred fire and followed her husband into the forest much against his admonishments. Reconciled, Satyav\u0101n lead the way, showing S\u0101vitr\u012b the beauty of the forest. He was oblivious to the imminent catastrophe. The day progressed with Satyav\u0101n gathering fruits and tubers, and chopping down tree-branches. Satyav\u0101n soon complained of faintness and desired to nap. S\u0101vitr\u012b lay his head upon her lap and watched vigilantly as Satyav\u0101n tried to assuage his fatigue. At the ordained moment, S\u0101vitr\u012b beheld standing before her, a form of blinding effulgence. She placed Satyav\u0101n\u2019s head upon the floor, approached the divine being and asked him who he was. On being informed that he was Lord Yama, the lord of death, she asked him why he hadn\u2019t sent his emissaries and had appeared in person instead. Yama responded that she was able to behold him owing to her virtues and that he had arrived here to escort Satyav\u0101n owing to Satyav\u0101n\u2019s virtues. He then drew out Satyav\u0101n\u2019s life-essence, the size of a thumb, bound it with his noose and began dragging it along. S\u0101vitr\u012b resolutely followed Yama, as he headed south. Despite repeatedly urged by Yama to turn back, S\u0101vitri persisted. She said to Yama sweetly, \u2018it is said that one becomes a friend by waking seven steps with another. I thus consider you a friend and wish to tell you this. It isn\u2019t adherence to any one order of life2 that is redeeming. Dharma alone is redeeming.\u2019 Pleased with her perseverance and erudition, Yama granted her a boon that was anything other than the life of her husband. S\u0101vitr\u012b requested that the lost eyesight of her father-in-law be restored. S\u0101vitr\u012b followed Yama along further and pleased him yet again, with her eloquence and resilience. Granted yet another boon by him, S\u0101vitr\u012b sought that the lost kingdom of her father-in-law be restored. Following Yama further, S\u0101vitr\u012b traversed long and won the grace of Yama. Granted yet another boon, the dutiful daughter sought that her father be blessed with sons. S\u0101vitr\u012b persisted on along, fighting fatigue and despair. She said to Yama, \u2018it is kindness alone that inspires confidence. It is for this reason that the entire world responds to the saintly.\u2019 Yama was supremely pleased with S\u0101vitr\u012b\u2019s perspective and understanding of dharma. Overwhelmed, he bestowed yet another boon upon her. Urged to seek a boon, S\u0101vitr\u012b responded cleverly, \u2018may I beget from the loins of Satyav\u0101n, a hundred virtuous son.\u2019 Yama responded, \u2018so be it. May no further fatigue assail you. Turn back now. You have already come too far.\u2019 Said S\u0101vitr\u012b humbly but boldly, \u2018the boon you have bestowed upon me requires for my husband to live. Return him to life, lord, so that your boon may be true.\u2019 Won over by S\u0101vitr\u012b\u2019s persistence, loyalty, courage, eloquence, erudition and astuteness, Yama returned Satyav\u0101n to life. M\u0101rka\u1e47\u1e0deya, who narrated this anecdote to Yudhi\u1e63\u1e6dhira, concluded, \u090f\u0935\u092e\u093e\u0924\u094d\u092e\u093e \u092a\u093f\u0924\u093e \u092e\u093e\u0924\u093e \u0936\u094d\u0935\u0936\u094d\u0930\u0942\u0903 \u0936\u094d\u0935\u0936\u0941\u0930 \u090f\u0935 \u091a\u0964 \u092d\u0930\u094d\u0924\u0941\u0903 \u0915\u0941\u0932\u0902 \u091a \u0938\u093e\u0935\u093f\u0924\u094d\u0930\u094d\u092f\u093e \u0938\u0930\u094d\u0935\u0902 \u0915\u0943\u091a\u094d\u091b\u094d\u0930\u093e\u0924\u094d\u0938\u092e\u0941\u0926\u094d\u0927\u0943\u0924\u092e\u094d\u092e\u094d\u0965 evam\u0101tm\u0101 pit\u0101 m\u0101t\u0101 \u015bva\u015br\u016b\u1e25 \u015bva\u015bura eva ca| bhartu\u1e25 kula\u1e41 ca s\u0101vitry\u0101 sarva\u1e41 k\u1e5bcchr\u0101tsamuddh\u1e5btamm|| Thus, S\u0101vitr\u012b redeemed herself, her father, mother, mother-in-law, father-in-law, why, verily the entire lineage of her husband! Vanaparv\u0101, 283.15 Most interestingly, an observance inspired by this exceptional character, S\u0101vitr\u012b, is observed in the Southern states of India every year, specifically Tamil Nadu. Women observe a fast the entire day and pray to S\u0101vitr\u012b to reflect her courage and resilience in fighting for what she loved dearly. The tradition thus cannot be blamed for patriarchy, only the limited understanding of the tradition.