Dushyanta was a great Indian king depicted in classical Indian mythology as a handsome man, a great warrior, and the founder of the Puarav dynasty. His son, Emperor Bharat, went on to father the Indian nation. In Dushyanta’s culture, males were expected to be brave warriors. They expressed their sexuality explicitly and, at times, appeared untruthful (Puchner 116).
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Dushyanta’s male culture
In the myth, we come across Dushyanta who is described as a hunter accompanied by his powerful army, while pursuing deer in the great forest. The king and companions pass through dense forests, rocky hillocks, and expansive deserts. Meanwhile, the son of Dushyanta is taught how to use weapons by his grandfather to grow up as a formidable hunter and warrior. Before the family re-unites, father and son, unknown to each other, engage in a fierce battle as a result of an argument over who has killed a boar they both have been hunting for.
Considering that fact of Dushyanta’s untruthfulness, it reveals as he forgets about his wife, Shakuntala, when he returns to his kingdom. This is attributable to a curse passed upon him. He promises his wife to come back to her. However, he leaves her in the forest. As time goes by, Shakuntala seeks for and finally finds Dushyanta.
But he denies his promises and rejects her as an imposter. As the curse wears off, and he is presented with the signet ring that he gave his wife upon their secret marriage, he sets out to find her. The myth ends with Dushyanta explaining his falsehood and claiming that he just wanted to test his wife’s fidelity.
In this story, males explicitly express their sexual desires (Doniger 58). Dushyanta instantly falls in love with Shakuntala upon seeing her. He has a great passion for her and manages to persuade the girl to marry him immediately because he cannot wait any further.
Without the presence or blessings of guardians, they perform a private marriage ceremony on their own and spend pleasant moments together. Soon after the king left his bride and returned to his kingdom, Shakuntala finds out that she is pregnant though she also turns out to be forgotten by her husband.
Odyssey’s male culture
In Greek mythology, Odysseus was the king of the island kingdom of Ithaca, described as a hero, a warrior, known for his treachery and resourcefulness due to his wit. Just the same as in Indian culture, in Greek culture, males are portrayed as warriors, and society leaders, witty and unfaithful (Puchner 210).
Odysseus fought heroically in the Trojan Warand, which Greece won due to his strategic idea to build the Trojan horse. He fought Hector, killed Rhesus, and wrestled Ajax. On his way back to Ithaca from Troy, he encounters calamities that last for ten years.
During his dangerous adventures, his bravery often comes to the forefront. For instance, he single-handedly blinds the Cyclops, overcomes Scylla (the six-headed monster), Charybdis (the whirlpool), and the Sirens. On his return home, he slaughters those who have threatened his wife.
As a leader, Odysseus leads the Greek warriors to victory during the Trojan War. He always volunteers to champion the course for his country. He is known as a diplomat always entrusted with the tasks that call for persuasion, e.g., to convince Achilles to join the Trojan War as well as encourage Agamemnon not to give up when he is discouraged by the fact that their great Greek army has suffered too much losses.
His wit is described in many occasions throughout the poem. He feigns lunacy so as not to fight in the battle of Troy. He alone gains victory for Greece in the Trojan War by devising the Trojan horse. He tricks Achilles out of revealing his disguise as a woman, thereby compelling him to join Greek army in the Trojan War. In all the calamities that he has suffered during the ten years following the Trojan victory, he emerges victorious due to his wit, e.g., by telling Cyclops that his name is ‘nobody’ in order to escape from him.
Greek culture pardoned male unfaithfulness (Doniger 116). While being captured by the nymph, Calypso, Odysseus agrees to be her lover. Moreover, the males who came to his house assumed Odysseus to be dead, following his ten year absence, so that they attempted to woo Penelope though they found it normal to sleep with the servant women of Odysseus’ house, meanwhile.
Purpose of Dushyanta’s journeys
In both the Indian and Greek mythologies, the two characters go through a journey in their lives. Dushyanta travels through thick forests, rocky landscapes and expansive deserts before he meets Shakuntala in the hermitage. This can be seen as a test imparted to males by the society and culture. Dushyanta has to demonstrate perseverance, bravery and his skills as a warrior in going through the difficult terrain (Doniger 89). His journey is one big test culminated in reward of finding a wife.
The king’s journey back to his kingdom results in his wife’s love-sickness. Her troubled heart and absent-mindedness appear to be the cause of the curse that makes Dushyanta forget her. Dushyanta travels back to the forest for the last time in order to seek for his wife. Thus he meets his son and is reunited with his wife. However, the price paid by Shakuntala and their son, Bharat, is not worth Dushyanta’s second journey because he left his wife heartbroken and forgot about Shakuntala.
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As a result, she bears Bharat and raises him on her own. Being strangers to each other, father and son fight against each other before realizing their relationship. All these could have been avoided if Dushyanta did not abandon his wife and went back together to his kingdom.
Purpose of Odysseus’ journey
Odysseus’ ten years’ journey from Troy to Ithaca is the hallmark of Greek mythology. During that time, he encounters the wrath of his antagonists (mainly presented in the god Poseidon), defeats mythical creatures and suffers shipwrecks. Even though he is a great warrior, he realizes that he cannot single-handedly overcome these calamities.
Often, he has to rely on his crewmen, as seen in the accident when they team up to blind Cyclops. In some cases, goddess Athena offers him divine help in order to escape the wrath of Poseidon by seeking Zeus’ favor to protect Odysseus. In some circumstances, there seems to be no escape, like when he encounters Circe and the nymph Calypso and is taken in capture.
However, Odysseus’ determination to emerge victorious from these trials is derived from the urge to return to his native home, Ithaca, and be reunited with his wife, Penelope and his son (Puchner 122). The price his family pays for this journey is not worth it either as they also suffer a lot living for twenty years thinking Odysseus is dead. They have to go through the abuse of the suitors, who even threaten to kill his son, in order to inherit his wealth.
Comparison of the men of the 21st century to Dushyanta and Odysseus
Comparing the 21st century’s men to the characters of Dushyanta and Odysseus, there is much resemblance in their determination to succeed. Dushyanta was determined to have Shankutala as his wife and had to use persuasion and promises to secure her hand in marriage.
He was determined to achieve his goals, regardless risk tarnishing his reputation as a king and a venerable warrior and leader in society. Today, men are still driven in their pursuit of their goals by determination, to avoid failure and to uphold their reputation in the society.
Odysseus was the king of Ithaca and, therefore, a leader. He did not want to take part in the Trojan War, but he was compelled to do it in order not to break his oath, and secondly as a service to his people. Men in leadership positions today – either at the family level or in social or political setting – strive to keep their word as they are expected by those for whom they play as role models.
Male culture in the mythologies under the study was not purely honorable. Unfaithfulness, treachery and falsehood were evident in these characters. Men of the 21st century are not different as there are cases of infidelity which considered as second nature. In order to get out of tricky situations, Odysseus often resorted to treachery. Dushyanta’s falsehood became apparent when he forgot about his wife upon his return to his kingdom and denied the promises he had made to her, thereby rejecting and humiliating her in public.
In seeking wealth and fame, one should learn from these mythologies. Strength, bravery, wit and perseverance are described as virtues in this path. Wealth and fame present one with prestige. The most important lesson to learn from this is that we should not be so blinded in the pursuit of wealth and fame in order not to forget about our families. After all, these heroes eventually returned home and reunited with their families as these were the things that really mattered .
Doniger, Wendy. Splitting the Difference:Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print.
Puchner, Martin. The Norton Anthology of World Literature:Beginnings to 1650. New York: W.W Norton, 2012. Print.