Some Eminent Women of Ancient India

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  • Topic: Krishna, Jhansi, Varanasi
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  • Published : March 27, 2012
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1. Gargi
Gargi, the wise and learned daughter of Rishi (sage) Vachaknu, was known as Brahmavadini because of her having the knowledge of Brahma-vidya. She participated in a debate with the knower of Brahma, Yajnavalkya in the Yajnasala ( place for sacrifices ) of King Janaka. We get in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad a dialogue between Gargi and Yajnavalkya. Thus it is evident that in ancient India, women used to obtain knowledge of many sciences and disciplines. They also used to participate in public functions and take part in intellectual debates. There used to be no ban of any sort in the field of knowledge, this is established very clearly from the account of Gargi's life. 2. Sita

Sita in the Valmiki Ramayana is not exactly representative for Vedic stridaharma. To begin with, she chooses her own husband in a competitive svayamvara, only the strongest and the smartest prince will do. Again, after Kaikeyi's intervention, when Rama goes into forest exile, she insists on accompanying him. Sita's strength and self-possession are apparent. She is dutiful, indeed, but she has to argue her case in order to do what she knows is right. She is not an obedient servant to a godlike husband; she has a will of her own and her relationship to Rama is governed by love for him, rather than obedience to his orders. She shows her determination and independence throughout the years in the forest; her insistences that Rama get the gold-spotted deer and her command that Laksmana come to his rescue, eventually leads to her abduction by Ravana. She shows self-control and she doesn't give in to Ravanna's will. On being freed, she defends herself whole-heartedly against Rama's accusations. She is far from passive. It is in the context of this "dwelling in another man's house" that Vedic regulations for women are invoked and popular sentiment demands an ordeal to prove her purity. This strength of character has not gone unnoticed by Indian women, who have found much in her to applaud. Despite being commonly held up as a paragon of the submissiveness, obedience, and loyalty that many men would like to see in their wives, women have often taken other lessons from her behavior. To many Hindu women, she is a great heroine, not just a goddess. Sita is a unique ideal of fidelity and chastity. She had to undergo unbearable trial and tribulations throughout her life but with the power of her unshakable fidelity and dedication to her husband she bore all the difficulties of life with fortitude and she, along with her husband, smilingly enjoyed the hardships of life in jungle. The rakshas king Ravana failed to lower her morale or weaken her moral strength. It was through the ordeal of fire that Sita proved and established her virtue and stainlessness of her character. With the injury of the time of exile ( Vanavasa ) when Sri Rama as the king, in order to satisfy some of his subjects, banished Sita, she remained in the hermitage of Rishi Valmiki. The very fact that Rama and Sita are always mentioned in one breath endows Sita with equality: whatever status Rama occupies, this will also be Sita's. If he is king, she will be queen, if he is god, she will become his goddess. However, she is queen and goddess on her own merit, not because of Rama's grace. 3. Savitri

She, who is mentioned among the great chaste and faithful godly women, took Satyavan as her husband knowing fully well that he would not live long. When only four days of his age were remaining she undertook a vow to defeat death. On the fourth day Satyavan died with Yamaraja ( The god of death ) walking away with his vitality. Savitri walked pursuing Yamaraja. As they were walking one behind the other, on the way there occured a ' question-answer ' between them. Yamaraja was very much impressed by the gentle behaviour of Savitri, her wisdom, her one pointed devotion ( dedication ) to her husband. Getting pleased he asked Savitri to ask for boons. Savitri asked for such boons which helped...
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