Reinventing Mythology with a Feminist Tilt

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“The Mahabharata is not the story of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The epic does not belong to the men of the Chandravanshis. This is the story of a fisherwoman, the story of Satya.” Aditya Venkat writes, in his revolutionary K Project.

Venkat and his K Project tell the story of Kalki, an arbiter of the apocalypse who arrives at the end of time to smite off the heads of sinners. “He [Kalki] will kill by the millions those thieves and rogues…” warns an Indian philosophy site.

In largely propagated Hindu mythology, this character is traditionally male. However in Venkat’s rendition, it is Satya–a normal girl–who fills the role. This shift of perspective makes the text not only unique but provocative, and downright inspiring. He hopes that through re-telling powerful stories through the eyes of overlooked female characters, K Project can “be a bridge for bringing about a change in the society.”

Venkat excitedly conveys his tale to BTRtoday: Satya grows up in a small village in India, an extremely intelligent youngster at the top of her class. She follows a respectable path, goes to the best schools, travels, lands a prestigious job as a banker overseas, then, “one day she awakens to the fact that she is the doombringer and she has to end the world,” explains Venkat.

The story is released in installments online by a website called Urban Girldom. Though Venkat is a man, the entirety of the staff at Urban Girldom are women, and the site caters to a young adult female audience.

K Project also has a Facebook page, where the content is promoted. It has already amassed more than 5,000 followers.

The story of Satya shows that mythology is malleable. Venkat takes a familiar tale and demonstrates that there is always room to expand, to grow and re-imagine. The result is a mythological web series highlighting narratives as old as time, yet told through the lens of unconventional characters.

While this particular iteration is certainly innovative, the act of telling a known story in an alternative way is a custom which goes hand-in-hand with mythology itself.

“Indian mythology is one of the oldest surviving things that has been passed on from generation to generation. It has been written and rewritten,” says Venkat. “The characters have changed over a period of time; they started out as stories, and they became epics, and epics then go on to become religion. It’s something that progresses.”

Through the development of mainstream Indian mythologies, the female characters were lost and overlooked along the way–sacrificed for the sake of highlighting their male counterparts. Venkat insists that there are very strong female characters who have been shunned and who have not been seen in a good light.

“Feminism is very prevalent across the mythology, but we have decided to ignore it in some way,” he says. “The mythology has ignored the stories of women, so we are trying to bring them back.”

His goal was to extract those lost lines and bring them to the forefront of the popular imagination.

Venkat explains that one of the main issues facing mythological stories is that modern women couldn’t identify with the female characters that were represented, and furthermore, they didn’t want to. The prominent storylines portrayed women as subordinate, at the beck and call of men, and essentially only existing to serve their husbands. The “perfect woman” portrayed through these narratives was not capable, empowered, or dynamic.

“Every place a woman has played a role, the only thing we have done as a society is dumb down the role to the level that we have glorified the man and we have forgotten about the protagonist of the woman,” says Venkat. “So our attempt is to try to bring forth those stories.”

Venkat believes that over time, the stories that we’re told impact our psychology. They inform the collective consciousness of a society. By continuing to promote stories in which women were flat and insignificant, Indian culture became complicit in teaching subliminal misogyny. K Project is a step towards rectifying that.

K Project exemplifies Venkat’s conception of the term feminism: he is simply treating female characters as he would if they were men. He grants them autonomy, power, and spirit galore. He explains that feminism is simply about equality and treating other human beings as the same.

However, not everybody is happy with Venkat’s decision to re-represent these stories. There are those who’ve urged him to tell more orthodox versions of the myths. In the beginning, even his own mother was apprehensive, suggesting that there might be those who wouldn’t be open to the ideas. She didn’t know if it would be safe.

It turns out his mother was right–Venkat was met with scrutiny by some, but that didn’t deter him from pursuing such an important project.

“There have been haters, there’s no doubt about it,” he admits. “Some said it was sacrilegious, that it was heresy, but it really doesn’t bother me much.”

Telling old stories in a new light is a powerful form for transforming hearts and minds. By creating a mythology with a feminist tilt, K Project takes an important step towards inspiring societal change regarding deeply entrenched, damaging perceptions about women.