Vedic culture recognises and reveres Motherhood in all its forms and roles, something new age wokes can learn from
Mother’s Day like every year brings with it a whole lot of gifts, coupons, vouchers, discounts and “pampering sessions” for mothers. The lazy argument against this one-day celebration and commercialisation is how being a mother is a “full-time-round-the-year” job. The argument against it in Sanatan Dharma is a little bit finer. The West has turned the word (motherhood) into an industry. Mother’s Day, Soccer Mom, Power Mom, Stay at Home Mom. It’s like a badge or crown or a role to prove at all times. Sexed-up pregnancy shoots and videos, over-the-top baby showers, and “push presents” are all over social media nowadays. Superficial and tone-deaf to say the least—as we all know the journey of motherhood for most women is far from glamorous.
In Sanatan Dharma, on the other hand, motherhood is a far more sacred and revered subject. A mother is viewed more from the child’s eyes than her own. When you say the word Maa…it’s the love that the child feels for the mother, and the unconditional umbilical cord she feels back. The mother doesn’t feel proud of being able to care for her child, or feel a sense of accomplishment at balancing the various aspects of life—she just exists most naturally in the role. It’s something she comes into. And never leaves. Loving her child, as she knows best.
The over-glorification of a mom who can do it all—is a hyper feminist, Western concept. Here, the mother makes herself the focal point. Whereas in Sanatan Dharma, the child makes the mother the focal point
The over-glorification of a mom who can do it al—is a hyper feminist, Western concept. Here, the mother makes herself the focal point. Whereas in Sanatan Dharma, the child makes the mother the focal point. He makes her Maa. Maatrudevo bhava is the first line one learns when being initiated into knowledge, meaning mother is equal to God. Mother is the first teacher who lets the child know what the world is and their place in it. Isn’t it absolutely beautiful?
The Mother’s Name
Wokes today put a lot of premium on a child carrying the mother’s name, but it was always a part of Indian culture. For example, Arjuna in Mahabharata was often called “Partha” which means Pritha’s son (Kunti’s other name being Pritha). He was also called Kaunteya which referred to Pritha’s other name Kunti. It is mentioned in the Mahabharata that a person is protected by their mother. She is called “Dhatri” because she carries her children in her womb, “Janani” because she is the cause of their birth (not always the carrier, but the one who wants the child), “Amma” because she nurses their limbs, and “Sura” because she looks after her children. So motherhood is looked at as a lifelong process that begins in the womb, as the mother passes on her “Garbha Sanskar” or energy to the foetus and continues for lifetimes to come, as she becomes their guardian.
Sanatana Dharma also trains all men to consider women to be a form of the Divine Mother. The mother becomes your home. Your centre. Motherland—where you belong. For example, Manu Smriti mentions that mothers are superior to fathers and that they deserve more respect. Unlike in Western civilisations where women had no right over their children till a few centuries ago, women in the Vedic Culture had more rights compared to their husbands. A question from the Yaksha Prashnam chapter of the Mahabharata illustrates the importance given to a mother in the Vedic culture. The Yakshan asked Yudhishtir, ‘Name that which is heavier than Earth?’ Yudhishtir answered that a person’s mother is heavier than Earth. Heavy here refers to importance or respect. The Vedas also give permission to people to abandon their father if their father is immoral, unfit, or an alcoholic. However, a mother must be protected and worshipped at all times. During the Gaya Shradham, 1 Pindam is offered to a father, whereas 16 Pindams are offered to a mother, reflecting praise for every sacrifice she makes o raise her children.
Mother as Divinity and Shakti
Shakti, the creative and energetic force of the Divine, is described in Hindu scriptures as being a motherly Goddess, whose loving, nurturing, and sometimes fiercely protective qualities are integral to both the material and spiritual growth of every being.
Wokes today put a lot of premium on a child carrying the mother’s name, but it was always a part of Indian culture. For example, Arjuna in Mahabharata was often called “Partha” which means Pritha’s son (Kunti’s other name being Pritha)
While today it’s cool to say, there are no bad moms, or there are many kinds of mothers, all these aspects were always a part of Vedic culture. As such, the Vedas honour the feminine aspect of divinity and motherhood by recognising seven types of mothers who exist in the world, and the vital role they play in our lives.
Audau Mata (Biological Mother)
As the energetic force of the Divine creates, maintains, and transforms, the biological mother also creates, maintains, and transforms us into the best versions of ourselves. Beyond providing for our material needs, a mother is also considered one’s first guru, who cultivates our spiritual development. Through her thoughts (Garbha Sanskar) and actions, she makes indelible impressions upon the consciousness of a child, right from the womb, creating a spiritual foundation for life.
Guru Patni (the Guru’s wife)
As per the Vedic tradition, children at the age of five were customarily sent to a gurukul, where they received their worldly and spiritual education. Because this system often involved the students living in the home of the guru, away from their parents, the wife of the guru would become like a mother figure for the students.
Brahmani (wife of the sage)
In Vedic civilisation, sages were the philosophical leaders of society, acting as a spiritual compass for kings. Sometimes, however, sages had the tendency to be overly focused on the rituals recommended in the scriptures. Like a mother who reminds a father that the ultimate point of providing structure and discipline in a child’s life is to give him a happier life, the wife of a sage acted as a spiritual anchor to her husband, ensuring that he never lost sight of life’s true goal—that of the lightness of being.
Raj Patnika (Queen)
An ideal ruler in Vedic India was respected as a father to the citizens. Subsequently, the queen was viewed as a respected mother, who inspired the king to implement policies for the ultimate welfare of all.
Primarily centred around agrarian economies built on the harmonious relationship of man and cow, communities of ancient India viewed the cow with the utmost love and respect. Besides her intrinsically gentle nature, the cow’s milk enabled the making of numerous food and medicinal products and invoked an immense feeling of gratitude.
Caregivers like physicians, nurses, nannies, or extended family are also shown deep gratitude and can assume the role of a mother. Motherly energy, which takes great strength, time and sacrifice from any person was recognised and held in high regard.
Like a strong and magnanimous mother who generously gifts her children with abundance, mother earth also constantly gives and gives. She perseveres and toils and should be respected for maintaining the balance of creation at all times.
The Rig Ved Devi Sukta or Ratri Sukrta are the earliest references to a mother’s exalted status. She becomes mother nature (Mula Prakriti), who gives birth to all life forms and sustains and nourishes them through her body. She is revered even by the gods themselves in the mortal body, be it Sri Ram or Sri Krishna, and also puranic heroes, or Adi Shankaracharya, the establisher of Advaita, and yogis such as Swami Vivekananda.
When Swami Vivekananda called Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual experiences with The Mother as hallucinations, he did not try convincing him with any philosophical debate. He just went to the temple, came back and told Swamiji: “I have asked Mother. She says she is there, you are wrong.” This simple tale shows how the bond goes beyond faith to become a part of our collective consciousness.