The Greatness of Women apart from their Beauty


A video clip sent by a male friend in Australia set me thinking at this time when the country wound down in its cities and came alive in villages. And that got me surmising that the national New Year festivities are mostly carried out by women. Consider these facts and you will agree.

Both the Tamil and Sinhalese woman gets ready early for the April festivities. I speak here of rural and poorer urban homes. The rich woman of Colombo, if she can be bothered, will go to Lakpahana or a P&S outlet and buy a couple of kavuns ‘just for the table’. Her idea is Nuwara Eliya or any other high end get-away. The rural woman on the other hand has to get her house cleaned, rice pounded, treacle bought, new clothes sewn (or bought) and presents for relatives readied well in advance. The older woman has to get set to cater for the return of her children to the family home for at least five days. Shops and kades bar their entrances so provisions have to be stored; unusual for the less financially able.

Someone might counter my premise by saying the man does the slaving and earning. Yes, he does but the careful spending and making it go far is the more arduous. Also, women now are co-breadwinners; oft times the sole steady earner for a household. Many homes are also headed by single mothers; thus my great admiration for the ordinary woman of Sri Lanka.

The video clip

Romanian Mihaela Noroc, aged 33, world-renowned photographer whose work is shown primarily through her social media projects on Facebook and Instagram, is also apparently an admirer of women. In her recent publication The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits she publicizes this fact though her main attention is on the beauty of women from all over the world. Mihaela travelled four years to fifty countries: east and west, rich and developing, and camera-captured women in all their infinite variety. The video clip sent me featured some of the portraits in her book: an amputee who wants to enter the Para-Olympics; a dusky south Indian in her gorgeous sari; two young girls who want to change Africa; an aged woman from Guatemala and a light eyed mature woman from Afghanistan. Mihaela listened to hundreds of stories, some of which are in her book.

The pictures carry slogans: ‘You are beautiful just the way you are’ which reminded me of a recent wedding when among all the beauty-saloned young women, the most striking to me was one who said she applied her simple makeup. Today, unfortunately, all brides turn out the same – backless blouse, buxom squeezed in bosom, same arched eyebrows and cupid lips! Where has natural beauty gone to? The money of course flows into the salon owners.

Other legends that accompany the photographs are: ‘To celebrate diversity of the world’; ‘No bands of race, colour or trends’; ‘In our time of hate and violence, we need love, acceptance and tolerance.’ ’More than ever before our world needs the atlas of beauty because we are all part of the same family’.

Glimpses of women of

the long ago past

It is Easter Sunday as you read this. To me the most poignant and beautiful of Gospel women is Mary Magdalene, Mary of Magdala, born in Magdala, Israel, and Jewish, of questionable repute until she met Jesus. She is now a saint. According to the four canonical gospels, Mary traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The vigil she held as Jesus suffered on the cross was with Mary his mother and another woman. The gospels differ on those who discovered the empty crypt three days after the crucifixion. The Gospel according to St Luke has several women including Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdala and an angel. The gospel according to St John (not counted in the synoptic Gospels) has Mary of Magdala going alone and finding the sepulcher empty. Jesus resurrected appeared: "Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.’" (ref: Internet)

Dan Brown voices a controversial supposition in his Da Vinci Code that Mary Magdalene is featured next to Jesus Christ in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper and was married to him. In the picture the figure on Jesus’ right is much smaller than the Apostles. We have seen or know of the superb 1970 rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice - Jesus Christ Superstar  which had its Broadway debut in 1971. The story is based on the Gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life, beginning with the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. "It depicts political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus that are not present in the Bible. The work’s depiction offers a free interpretation of the psychology of Jesus and other characters." In it, Mary Magdalene sings of her emotional entanglement: I don’t know how to love him

An even earlier

wonderful woman

Vesak will soon be upon us. It is the commemoration of the three major events in the Buddha’s life, but in his life, Princess Yashodara is intrinsically interwoven; poignantly and acceptably. She was not given her due place in the story of Prince Siddhartha as we heard it long ago. What we were told was that in the night following the birth of his son whom he named Rahula, Siddhartha stole away from the palace. False. He had told his father King Suddhodana and foster mother Prajapathi Gotami and his wife that he would leave the palace to seek the truth of samsaric existence and whether its unsatisfactoriness could be circumvented. Yashodara, having been his life’s partner in several births since the time of Deepankara Buddha, also knew what was in store for her. Her sacrifice and his was for the greater good of humanity for all time.

Prof Sunil Ariyaratne with intelligence, understanding and care, made a beautiful film on the life of Yashodara titled Bimba Devi hewath Yashodara which gave her her due place in the story of the Buddha. He showed us a radiant 16 year old winning the heart of the Prince of the Sakyan clan; their happy marriage but her knowing full well there was dissatisfaction with royal life within her husband. She makes like sacrifices when she hears of the suffering undergone by the ascetic Siddhartha Gautama. When he visits his home a couple of months after attaining Buddhahood, she waits in her palace for him to come to her, which the Buddha does. She sends her son to follow him, knowing full well be may take him away as he did his half brother, Nanda.

Prof Ariyaratne’s film starts with her, now a nun in the Order started by Prajapathi Gotami, knowing her death is near, walking to where the Buddha resides. While travelling, her voice narrates the scenes on screen: the story of the Buddha from her view, knowing him not only during the nine years of their marriage but from many previous lives where too she was his wife.

A great character trait

I come to the present to state that apart from the face and figure beauty of any woman is the radiance of her nature. Thus her beauty matures and is more striking as experience etches her face, not only with laugh lines but furrows left by travails undergone. Why suffering? Most women have much to contend with; maybe an irresponsible, licentious, alcoholic, abusive husband. She has to care for her children, sometimes on her own. She has to veer away from abuse, gossip, harassment, indifference and discrimination. She may have to pass from the control of her father to her husband to her son. She sacrifices constantly subsuming her needs to those of parents, in-laws, husband and children.

But there is steel within. Consider those who take centre stage like Eleanor Roosevelt and our own Sirima Bandaranaike. Think of the majesty and steadfastness of Queen Elizabeth II. Here is a woman in love with her prince but in the name of the country, willing to ignore his lapses. The incident of his partying with Profumo with Christine Keeler present is specifically shown in the Netflix film The Crown. The young Queen is depicted devastated but forgives her husband who, on his knees, tells her he promised her father to care for her and that he has done.

Consider our own women who have suffered and risen from the civil war, insurrections, the tsunami and droughts and floods. Just look at widows, how they take their lives in hand and move on fulfilling responsibilities to their dependents until they are free of burdens.

Bless all women is all I can say to end this praise of members of the so called weaker sex; a complete misnomer!

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