Diversity and Inclusion are two valuable pillars of successful management. It not only ensures equal rights to all the potential choices, but also brings a lot of creativity, different viewpoints, and shared knowledge to the table.
These principles of Diversity and Inclusion are not just restricted to corporate organizations, but every form of management to ever exist in human history. To give you a peek into the importance of Diversity and Inclusion from a different perspective, let us take a look at the Hindu Mythological Epic, Mahabharata!
There is a popular character in the Mahabharata, named Shikhandi, with a very interesting story.
First, let us go to the time before Shikhandi was born. There were three sisters, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. They were the daughters of the King of Kashi. Later in their life, Prince Bheeshma abducted them from their Swayamvara (An event where a princess would choose her groom) to punish the King of Kashi for not inviting Bheeshma’s kingdom for the event. Bheeshma then left the sisters, to present them as brides for his brother Vichitravirya.
Of the three sisters, Amba was in love with another man named Salva. The custom of Kshatriyas(Warriors) stated that one could not take a woman who loved another. Hence, Bheeshma allowed her to go back to Salva and marry him.
This decision would result in chaos for Amba. Salva rejected Amba as he was spiteful of losing in combat with Bheeshma. So she went back to Hastinapura, to Bheeshma but the crown prince wanted nothing with her. She demanded Bheeshma to marry her, but he had taken an oath ofto celibacy never marry.
“When you took the vow to never marry a woman, what gave you the right to abduct me if you did not intend to marry me?” She then pleaded with the people of the court to help her, but no one stood up against Bheeshma. Parashurama, Bheeshma’s mentor, tried to help Amba but failed to defeat his own pupil.
Amba left the palace and lived in a forest, surviving only on water and air. In the end, Shiva, the destroyer, came to give Amba a boon. Amba wished to be reborn as a man and to defeat Bheeshma. Shiva granted her the boon and said that she would keep retain her memories in her next life.
Amba was reborn in the same era (of the Kurukshetra) to King Drupad. However, she was born as a girl, not a boy. Some stories say that a heavenly voice asked Drupad to bring her up as a boy. She was named Shikhandini and was brought up as a boy, called Shikhandi. He was taught combat and different battle formations.
Shikhandi had no problem being a boy. But he faced a lot of hate for being a transgender. People discriminated against him and ridiculed him by calling him a girl. They denied him in the court, saying that it was not a place for confused women. Chauvinism was a common occurrence then.
On the battlefield too, Shikhandi faced such ridicule. His opponents refused to fight with him. Their reason was that they would bring dishonour on their name by fighting a woman.
This shows the mentality of people of that age. They worshipped a female war goddess (Durga) but refused to fight a woman.
Bheeshma too, who knew that Shikhandi was Amba reincarnate, avoided fighting with him. Shikhandi finally comes along with Arjuna on the 10th day of the war. Some say that this was the only day that Shikhandi was spotted on the battlefield (as he was a “woman”).
Other variations say that he took part in the war from the first day.
Arjuna knew what was about to happen, and shot arrow after arrow at Bheeshma from the back. It weakened Bheeshma, and he lay on a bed of arrows for the rest of the war. Shikhandi was disappointed that he could not kill Bheeshma*. But he was happy, as he had fulfilled his desire of defeating Bheeshma in combat.
*Bheeshma had a boon that he could choose when he wanted to die.
Finally, Shikhandi was killed by Ashwatthama on the 18th day of the war. Thus ends the tragic story of Shikhandi.
So in the end, what parallels can we draw from this? Let’s list out a few points and ponder upon them.
- Amba went back to the man she loved but ended up being sent back due to the male ego that was hurt in a battle by the man who abducted his lover.
- Amba pleaded everyone in the court of Hastinapur to be included as one among them, but she wasn’t supported by anyone.
- Even after being born as Shikhandi, and transforming into a highly skilled fearsome warrior, she wasn’t treated right.
- She was ridiculed by the people, no warrior would be ready to battle him for his gender, got rejected from the court for being a Queer, and she was sidelined and was denied many opportunities that were rightfully his.
- And biggest of all, the only way out of injustice according to Amba, was to pray and wish she was born as a Man is her next birth.
The times have changed, but the mentality is still pretty much the same. Many people are denied opportunities in modern times based on their caste, background, skin colour, gender, and many non-sensible reasons.
Diversity and Inclusion should be a base for any management constitution that has a growth vision. By omitting even a single group of people, an organization is losing on a big chunk of skill, talent, and commitment that the person could’ve brought to the table had he been included.
So take a small bite of wisdom from our older generation. Ensure diversity around you and include them without any discrimination or bias. This will broaden your world, your ideas, your thought process, and open a whole new door of opportunities that you didn’t know existed.
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