We have faced challenges to find resources to better introduce Indian mythological stories to our twin daughters. I have written about this in introducing Hindu mythology to children.
It occurred to us that Surendrapuri could be a nice option for familiarizing Indian mythological stories to B +ve and O +ve. Surendrapuri terms itself as India’s first mythological theme park. It is a complete spiritual and mythological museum, where one can relive the ancient Indian epics. (Source: Surendrapuri Website).
We visited Surendrapuri on 22nd March 2019. It was a good experience for the girls to see the beautiful sculptures and statues depicting the stories that they love listening about. However, for us, the questions persisted that have been lingering in our minds and became even more puzzling.
This has been a troubling factor for my wife and me in Indian mythological stories. Invariably, there will be demons and there will be Gods and Goddesses going after these demons and killing them. I understand that the concept of Good wins over Evil has to be explained to children. However, there can be different ways to interpret and present this aspect rather than the gory visual depiction.
Surendrapuri was no different in this aspect. There were a number of statues showing Goddesses holding a skull of the demon in one of their multiple hands. Invariably, the girls would ask about the statue and what the Goddess was holding in one of her hands and the other hands, which would predominantly be an assortment of weapons.
At least for me, it is a complicated affair to explain these portrayals to four and half-year-olds.
Representation of women in Indian mythological stories
Either a woman will be a Goddess hunting down demons or it will be Goddess Lakshmi sitting at the feet of Lord Vishnu. There is nowhere in between for the women in Indian mythological stories.
Girls know about the childhood stories of Rama and Krishna. However, apart from her birth, there are no stories available for Sita. Similarly, after Krishna leaves Vrindavan, Radha gets left out from the narrative. All the Goddesses – Kali, Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi have no childhood stories and they directly enter the story as adults. The same goes for Draupadi, apart from her birth story.
Girls wanted to know more about the female characters at Surendrapuri. It was not possible as Surendrapuri, of course, made no changes to the age-old narrative of Indian mythological stories.
Girls get introduced to gender stereotypes in the Indian context as an add-on to Indian mythological stories. Their initiation to this impression continued at Surendrapuri.
We skipped the entire portion at Surendrapuri for Mahabharata. I agree that Mahabharata has lots of application in our practical life but I am unable to decide on the age to introduce it to our daughters.
Right from the birth of Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidur to birth of Kauravas and Pandavas to Duryodhana trying to poison Bhima even as kids, I am not able to understand how to introduce it to children. For that matter, even the story of Ekalavya.
Surendrapuri presents all the events of Mahabharata, but we were not up to the mark to do justice to it.
The flowing Ganga, Bakasura, Aghasura
This was one aspect of experiential mythology that got the imagination of O +ve and B +ve going full steam at Surendrapuri.
They have put clean water in a closed space to depict Ganga originating from Kailas. The girls had a grand time splashing in the water pool and they understood the concept of Ganga.
Similarly, Surendrapuri has walk-in sculptures of Bakasura, Aghasura, the Snake Kingdom of Vasuki and few others. This was nice to experience first-hand for the girls. It is clear that whenever the girls have a sensorial experience with their own selves, they tend to remember for a long time.
The missing personal bond / connect with the Gods and Goddesses
For whatever reason, the Indian Gods and Goddesses are not allowed to mingle freely with their worshippers, leave aside taking a snap with their deities. Surendrapuri is no exception in this regard.
I felt that along with larger than life sculptures and statues of Gods and Goddesses if Surendrapuri could have some statues with whom the children could have their snaps and touch them, it would have been a memory of extended time for them.
Surendrapuri, as a concept, has been nicely executed. It is a worthwhile experience to see the stories in a visual form of sculptures and statues.
Surendrapuri did not answer our conceptual doubts, some of them mentioned above, about introducing Indian mythological stories to our daughters.
The search continues for another account of Indian mythological stories.