To make an inquiry about the physical autonomy of women and challenge the perspectives we have towards virginity and purity through the stories of
the Panchakanyas.

The Women on Top is a graphic novel which questions the true meanings behind the word virginity, purity and a woman’s pride through the context of the Panchakanyas. They are 5 female characters from the Hindu Mythology, where Pancha refers to the number five and Kanyas can be construed as virgins. Ahalya, Tara, Mandodhari, Kunti and Draupadi are anything but virgins since they have engaged in sexual relations with more than one man in the course of their life.

In a society where a woman’s purity and virtue is judged based on her sexual relations and the state of her hymen, worshipping characters like the Panchakanyas raised questions in my mind about the term virginity itself.


VCSB ‘17



As a part of my thesis project in Undergraduate studies I was working in the course named Unburdening Myths. During this period of six months, we explored richer and newer ways of storytelling by deep diving into Indian mythology and epics.

Virginity is a rather shocking word in most of the Indian households, where conversations about sex, physical or emotional intimacy and relationships are a rare sight. Very few girls get a real ‘sex talk’ from their parents since it is considered unnecessary, and thus begins the journey of almost every teenage girl, which is filled with shyness towards her sexuality combined with confusion about the concept of virginity.

I was keen on encouraging women to make their own decisions about their body and understand that true virginity lies in their power to make their own decisions and having the courage to take responsibility for it. I want to motivate my audience to inculcate this quality of questioning different notions that have been passed down for generations without being challenged.

I had a strong intention to make this a part of routine conversions and not shy away from teaching the younger ones to be more comfortable with their sexuality and body.

The story starts with a hypothetical situation where the five ladies are enjoying their evening at a lake. Here they engage in a conversation that reveals details about their own lives. Using a combination of an ‘inside and outside’ perspective gives the reader an insight into the character’s mind as well as the outsider’s perspective on the same situation. Hence the reader is exposed to reactions and perspectives to the same events, only this time not from a male perpsective.

Taking inspiration from Indian miniature paintings, I developed one-eyed human figures which seemed static and neutral in nature but the postures and context they were in gave them a unique character.