Sukanya in her playful spirit peered curiously inside the anthill and saw in it two red glowing fireflies. Amazed she tried to pierce them with a stick to know more about those strange looking things, but in her mischief she failed to hear those feeble groans of a mediating man whose eyes were hurt. She sprinted away light-heartedly back to the comforts of her palace. But Rishi was furious and cursed the kingdom causing turmoil all around. Sharyati, the king and father of princess Sukanya found out the cause of this misfortune soon and immediately rushed to forest to make amends with the Rishi.
While, all the Bhrigus, the descendants of the Angirasas, were away, Chyavana with senile body was living in his Ashram and in his deep penances he was covered head to toe with anthill. King Sharyati pleaded forgiveness but Rishi expressed a condition, he demanded his beautiful daughter as a wife for himself. Though hesitant, King Sharyati made a decision of accepting old Rishi’s condition and in the name of his kingly duties he sacrificed his daughter by getting her married and leaving her alone to look after an old, decrepit man. That day in a deep dark forest, under the roof of a humble Ashram, a young girl’s tender heart was broken and all her dreams and passions were shattered, making her suddenly age many years ahead and transforming her into a woman whose eyes reflected several unfulfilled desires and anguish. She felt the pain of finding herself broken which was much more than the blood that had seeped earlier from the wounded eyes of Chyavana Rishi.
Sukanya was living a life of monotony, her days commenced with cleaning and feeding her dormant husband lost in his penance and nights were spent awake trying hard to shut the voices echoing in her mind rising from her body and heart making her long for the love which she never experienced. But on one fateful day, the fresh & radiant sun rays brought an end to all of it. While bathing in a river, she saw two handsome men standing on its banks and both of them were identical to each other like mirror images. A smile of seduction was writ large on their beautiful face. They were Ashvin Kumars, the twin gods and they had a proposal for her. Sukanya was dumbstruck when Ashvin Kumars asked her to marry them and quietly made haste towards the ashram. Next day she narrated this to her husband and he asked her to follow a plan. At the behest of her husband, Sukanya met Ashvin Kumars again next day and laid down a condition of making her husband young again so that she can make an unbiased choice among three men. The twin gods happily agreed and all three men took bath in the lake and came out with the same youthful divine exterior. Each of them requested Sukanya to be his bride, but she identified Chyavana basis the hint he gave her and selected only her husband. In gratitude, Chyavana assured Ashvin Kumars that he will ensure that the they get shares of the sacrificial offerings. Thus Sukanya continued to live her life in the embraces of her now youthful husband.
The story appears to have a happy ending and you might be filled with empathy and joy for a woman who was finally bestowed with love of a young, attractive husband. But a closer look to this entire scenario would reveal how all of it took place only at the cost of Sukanya herself while old Rishi comes across as a perfect opportunist. Was the child-like Sukanya’s unintentional mistake due to her sheer curiosity so grave that she had to compensate for it with her youth? And was it the entitlement of her husband Chyavana Rishi to make his wife’s beauty as bait for restoring his own youthful life?
So a perfect ending of this tale has lot of intrinsic imperfections of deranged sentiments. The notions which existed in ancient era and the traces of which can be seen in contemporary times too arise from the muddle of patriarchal society wherein the physical appearance of a man hardly mattered to anybody but the beauty of a woman was essential. No matter how unattractive a man is, he believes having a beautiful wife is his prerogative and she can be showed off as his trophy. The female protagonist of this story is shown following only the footsteps of men around her and not able to make any decisions for her own. Her choice of selecting her husband again from the three handsome men is indicator of the norms of fidelity stressed only for women.
This story connotes few key questions significant for a man and woman relationship: How can beauty be a criterion for the love a woman deserves and is it possible to quantify the magnanimity of a female beauty only by her physical exterior? If men will raise this to self and society and introspect on it, the mere posing of these questions would carry the hope for perfect happy love story ending.