inside stories

Yayati Complex

“The psychoanalyst Freud proposed the theory of the Oedipus complex based on the Greek myths to explain the human need to compete with the father for the mother’s affection. The son always triumphs over the father and is consequently consumed by guilt. Indian psychoanalysts believe that this concept is inadequate in the Indian context, where the tendency is for the son to submit to the father and be revered for it. They have proposed the theory of the Yayati complex instead where the father demands and secures a sacrifice from the son (Yayati was a character in the Indian epic Mahabharata). In the Greek worldview, dominated by the Oedipus complex, it is the next generation which inherits society. While in the Indian worldview, dominated by the Yayati complex, it’s the older generation which always dominates society — explaining the stranglehold of tradition over modernity in Indian society.”

Excerpt from Jaya – An illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik.