Intelligent, brave, competent and just, these super women with their indomitable spirit had complete faith in themselves and the change they were capable of bringing in the society. They not only broke the glass ceiling but continued to be the role model for generations to come
TARA in the Ramayana is the queen of Kishkindha,wife of Monkey King Bali. She rightly advised Bali not to battle with Sugreeva as she was aware of the latter’s alliance with Sri Ram. Bali ignored her advice and was slayed by Sri Ram. On his death bed Bali admitted that Tara’s advice never goes in vain and asked his brother to follow her advice unquestioningly. She was also instrumental in reconciling Sri Ram with Sugreeva after pacifying Lakshman, who was about to destroy Kishkindha in revenge for Sugreeva’s perceived treachery. She reminded Lakshman that without an ally like Sugreeva, Sri Ram could not defeat the powerful Ravan.
MANDODARI defies the stereotype that a universal scorn of a group based on its predominant behaviour can undermine the greatness of a person. Extremely pious , she knew that Sri Ram was Lord Visnu incarnate and tried convincing Ravan to release Sita. Once Mandodari even grabbed Ravan’s arm when he drew his sword in a fit of fury to kill Sita who kept refusing to marry him. Worshipped as one of the Panchakanyas, it is believed that reciting Mandodari’s name washes away all sins. She has also been equated to water, ‘turbulent on the surface and deep in her spiritual quest’.
SULABHA Mahabharata portrays Sulabha as a learned scholar who won a debate with the philosopher king Janaka, in the presence of eminent Brahmin scholars. Her victory justified her own choices in life to wander the world alone and remain unmarried. Contradicting both scholarly and popular wisdom which subscribed to the idea that the primary path to emancipation for a Hindu women is devotion to to her husband, Sulabha logically established that there was no essential difference between man and women. She was a beacon to prove men and woman could attain moksha by following the same path.
AKKA MAHADEVI debated with learned men of her era to prove that every soul, irrespective of gender , has a right to explore and reach the divine.She gave up her social position and travelled throughout the region, singing praises of Lord Shiva and recording her journey in vachanas. During the 12th century , a period of strife and political uncertainty in Karnataka, she contributed immensely in the Veerashaiva Bhakti Movement by composing 430 vachanas.She was given the honorific title of ‘Akka’ by Veerashaiva saints for her contribution to spiritual discussions held at the ‘ Anubhava Mantapa’.
VISAKHA was never blinded by her prosperity. Once, she had left her valuable jewelled peacock crown and dress at Buddha’s monastery. But feeling that something left in a monastery should not be taken back, she presented it to Lord Buddha, who did not accept it. Visakha then used her crown and dress to raise ninety million Kahapanas and built the Pubbarama Monastery where Buddha spent six monsoons. Later, she became the chief female follower of Buddha and was often chosen to settle disputes between Bhikkhunis. It is believed that some of the rules for Bhikkhunis were laid down based on her suggestions.
KANNAGI’S husband fell in love with a dancer and spent all his wealth on his mistress. Eventually he realised his mistake and returned to Kannagi. He tried to recoup his wealth by selling Kannagi’s anklet to the king of Madurai who mistook it for a stolen anklet of the queen and beheaded him. Kannagi set out to prove her husband’s innocence to the king and in the state of fury cursed that the entire city would burn.Due to her utmost chastity, her curse became a reality resulting in severe destruction. At the behest of Goddess Meenakshi , she calmed down and later attained salvation.
SITA in Valmiki’s Ramayan does not typically represent Vedic stri dharma. To begin with, she chooses her own husband in a competitive swayamvar. Again, after Kaikeyi’s intervention, when Sri Ram goes to 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 Sri Ram is governed by love for him, rather than obedience to his orders .She shows her determination and independence throughout the years in the forest. Even when she is her abducted by Ravan she doesn’t give in to Ravan’s will.
SAVITRI, who is mentioned among godly women, took Satyavan as her husband knowing fully well that he would not live long. When he was left with only four days to live, she undertook a vow to defeat death. On the fourth day Satyavan died, with Yamraj (the God of Death) walking away with his vitality. Savitri walked after Yamraj. As they were walking, one behind the other, a conversation ensued. Yamraj was very much impressed by the gentle behaviour of Savitri, her wisdom, her single-minded devotion to her husband. Pleased, he granted her a boon. Savitri asked for the well-being of both her father’s and her husband’s families and compelled Yamraj to return the vitality of Satyavan.
DRAUPADI when Arjun won her hand at a swayamvar, she was never ready to compromise on either her rights as a daughter-in-law or even on the rights of the Pandavas and remained ever ready to fight back or avenge high-handedness and injustice meted out to her and them. Draupadi had unconditional faith in Sri Krishna, who came to her rescue while she was being disrobed by the Kauravas. Following an exile in the jungle, Draupadi, with a view to fulfill her vow (to tie her untied hair only after washing them with the blood of Dushasn) and to punish all those who had perpetrated the offence against her, nurtured the fire of revenge burning in her heart, in the hearts and minds of Pandavas.The glow of Draupadi’s lustrous prototype of womanhood will always be a source of inspiration for the women of Bharat.