Friday, 11 December 2015

Rishikas or Women Rishis - Ancient Vedic



The Rig Veda is the only scripture in which the Divine Truths are revealed to women sages and in which hymns describing these revelations, like those by the woman sageVak Ambrini find a prominent place in the Rig Veda Samhita . There are more than thirty women sages in RV with specific hymns associated with them. There are numerous hymns in the Rig Veda indicating the high status given to women in vedic society. The Rig Veda states that the lady should her own husband and the marriage hymn states that the daughter-in-law should be treated as a queen, samrajni, by all the family members especially the mother-in-law, husband, father-in-law. The bride was exhorted to address the assembly:

It is noteworthy that in the Vedic literature although a woman's prime role is portrayed as a wife only, yet several other aspects of feminine form are also suggested by various names and epithets used to denote a woman. It is quite interesting to derive the exact meaning of these words because it may help in giving a better idea of different roles of woman in home and in society. For instance, a woman as wife is denoted by three words; jayajani and patni. Of these, jaya is the woman who gives birth to one's progeny, jani is the mother of children and patni is the co-partner in the religious duties.

R.V. - Rig Veda, Y.V. - Yajur Veda, S.Y.V - Sukla Yajur Veda, K.Y.V - Krishna Yajur Veda, S.V. - Sama Veda, A.V. - Atharva Veda.


1.Aditi, because she is not dependent (Nirukta, 4/22)
2.Aghnyā, for she is not to be hurt (Y.V. 8/43)
3.Bŗhatī, for she is large hearted (Y.V. 11/64)
4.Chandrā, because she is happy (Y.V. 8/43)
5.Devakāmā, since she is pious. (A.V. 14/1/47)
6.Devī, since she is divine (A.V. 14/1/45, Y.V. 4/23)
7.Dhruvā, for she is firm (Y.V. 11/64) ā
8.Havyā, because she is worthy of invocation (Y.V. 8/43)
9.Idā, for she is worship able (Y.V. 8/43)
10.Jyotā, because she is illuminating, bright (Y.V. 8/43)
11.Kāmyā, because she is lovable (Y.V. 8/43)
12.Kshamā, for she is tolerant/indulgent /patient (A.V. 12/1/29)
13.Mahī, since she is great (Y.V. 8/43)
14.Menā, because she deserves respect (Nirukta 3/21/2)
15.Nārī, for she is not inimical to anyone (A.V. 14/1/59)
16.Purandhih, for she is munificent, liberal (Y.V. 22/22)
17.Rantā, because she is lovely (Y.V. 8/43)
18.ŗtāvarī, ŗtachit, for she is the preserver / forester of truth (R.V.2/41/18)
19.Sanjayā, since she is victorious (R.V. 10/159/3)
20.Sarasvatī, since she is scholarly (Y.V. 20/84)
21.Simhī, since she is courageous (Y.V. 5/12)
22.Shivā, for she is benevolent (A.V. 14/1/64)
23.Shivatamā, since she is the noblest (R.V. 10/85/37)
24.Strī, since she is modest (R.V. 8/33/9, Nirukta 3/21/2)
25.Subhagā, because she is fortunate (Y.V. 8/43)
26.Subhdhā, for she is knowledgeable (A.V. 14/2.75)
27.Sumangalī, since she is auspicious (A.V. 14/2/26)
28.Sushevā, for she is pleasant (A.V. 14/2/26)
29.Suvarchā, since she is splendid (A.V. 14/4/47)
30.Suyamā, since she is self - disciplined. (A.V. 14/2/18)
31.Syonā, for she is noble (A.V. 14/2/27)
32.Vīriņī, since she is mother of brave sons (R.V. 10/86/9, 10)
33.Vishrutā, since she is learned (Y.V. 8/43)
34.Yashasvatī, for she is glorious (R.V. 1.79.1)
35.Yoşhā, because she is intermingled with man, she is not separate (Nirukta 3/15/1)




In Manusmriti it is said: “Women are worthy of worship. They are the fate of the household, the lamp of enlightenment for all in the household. They bring solace to the family and are an integral part of dharmic life. Even heaven is under the control of women. The gods reside in those households where women are worshipped and in households where women are slighted all efforts at improvement go in vain.” (Manusmriti 3-56). "It is hard to imagine that the same Manu who wrote this passage would write the passages denigrating women in other parts of the Manusmriti. Indeed, since it is supposed to guide the conduct of Hindu society the Manusmriti would be a natural candidate for distortion – by the pundits to serve their narrow selfish ends and by the colonial powers to denigrate Hindu culture and society. This practice continues to this day."The famous verse from one of the Hindu scriptures say, “Matru devo bhavah” – Revere your mother as God. We see a lot of people showing respect to their mother, but still so many times they seem not to understand the importance of motherhood. They show respect to their mother, but if she is treated like a slave by their father's family, they will say it's ok, since it is their "culture". Actually, it is not rare to see no real respect... Besides, if a man, for example, really understands the importance of the mother and the motherhood, he will respect also the mother of his own children, otherwise, it is just a hypocrisy. The person who really respects his/her mother due to the understanding of her importance, will respect also all the other mothers and all the other women. It is also not difficult to find in India men who respect their mother and is ready to do anything for her and defend her rights, but they don't seem to have any problem in considering that their wife's mother doesn’t have any of these same rights or just don’t have any rights at all, since for some people only the man's family matters. This way, the worshiping of mother and motherhood become just a way for man to reinforce the dominance of their own family using the so-called importance of their mother.

"It is important to note that when God is worshipped as ‘Divine Couple’ by Hindus, the name of the feminine typically precedes that of masculine. For instance, we say that we are worshipping ‘Sita-Ram’, ‘Radhe-Shyam’, ‘Uma-Mahesh’ or ‘Shri Vishnu’ and so on." In this case again, it doesn't seem that men are more important than women... Nowadays it is common to see hindu couples walking on the street, the man walking in the front and women walking after them, just like muslims. That is not practical for women’s protection and has no relation with the hindu culture. We even have descriptions of Parvati seated on Siva’s lap when he was giving darshan. In several other parts of the scriptures it is described some divine couple and we have the man and the woman coming side by side. And also in this example about the way we say the names of the divinities, the female comes first. So what’s the sense in a wife walking after her husband in the streets?
“The VedAs point out the important role of women in building a fair, stable and just society ." Unfortunately, even that statement is so many times misused. We can listen to people saying that women are so good and strong, so superior to men, and that they have such an important role in keeping the family together, etc, that they have to tolerate everything!
"Satapatha BrahmaNA passage states unblushingly that only woman fulfills the purposes of human life. It extols the divine aspect of women and declares that women are the embodiment of Sri Devi (SriyA vA yEthath rUpam yathA patnaya:). The modern women may not be familiar with the high status given to women in our religious world and its scriptures. Contrary to the popular belief that VedAs deny freedom to women, it stresses the underlying duty and THE RIGHTS of WOMEN , while focusing on the stability of the family as a unit , which then strengthens the society.The Vedic obligations are recognized as SamAna (equally moving ) , since married men and women move freely in society in pursuit of their complimentary duties.


There are numerous hymns in the Rig Veda indicating the high status accorded to women in the vedic society. RV (10.27.12) explicitly states that the practice of a lady choosing her own husband was in vogue. The hymn (10.85), the marriage hymn, explicitly states that the daughter-in-law should be treated as a queen, sāmrajni, by all the family members especially the mother-in-law, husband, father-in-law. See the box below where the bride was exhorted to address the assembly;
10.85.26: . . . . Become the house-hold's mistress; Ruler of the home, you will address the religious assembly.
To be asked to address the assembly was regarded as an honour by most of the sages. Thus the statement that, "women were oppressed in Hindu society even from the vedic times'', made orally and in popular writings by some moderns is nothing but patent falsehood. Some of the quotations given by these critics are from the period of the sūtra books which are dated more than two thousand years later than the Rig Veda. Naturally these critics suppress quotations which speak of the high status of women in the society of Rig Vedic period and the period of Upanishads.
Even today, some orthodox persons deny the right of chanting the Veda to women. However, they cannot cite any authoritative scripture to support their views. Any book in Sanskrit cannot be accepted as a scripture or divine revelation. When the famous poet, Sanskrit scholar and spiritual savant, Vāsishta Gaņapati Muni, the foremost disciple of Sri Ramaņa Maharshi, challenged these orthodox persons to provide evidence to support their claims, no evidence was forth coming.

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Of the 407 sages of the Rig Veda, few are women.“Many rishis were women. Indeed several of them authored many of the slokas in the Vedas. For instance in the Rigveda there is a list of women rishis. Some of these names are: Ghoshsha, Godha, Vishwawra, Apala, Upanishad, Brahmjaya, Aditi, Indrani, Sarma, Romsha, Urvashi, Lopamudra, Yami, Shashwati, Sri, Laksha and many others. In the Vedic period women were free to enter into brahmacharya just as men and become sannyasins. There is mention in the Mahabharata of many such sannyasins. For example, Shrutavati, a daughter of Rishi Bhardwaj remained a brahmacharini all her life and entered into deep study of the Vedas. Shrimati, a daughter of Mahatma Shandilya, led a similar life. This was not confined to sannyasins. Sulabha was an authority on the Vedas and entered into Vedic arguments with King Janaka (Janaka is like a title and there are known to be 19 such with the father of Goddess Sita being one of them). Even married women were known to be acknowledged authorities on the Vedas. There are many such examples and it is not possible to mention all of them. My only intention here is to indicate that men and women were granted equal rights in such matters. God provided the knowledge of the Vedas in the hearts of women just as He did in the case of men. How can God who is the embodiment of kindness, just and fair discriminate between man and woman among his own children?”*“Every Veda manthram has a Rishi or RishikA , Chandas and DevathA . We invoke them prior to the recitaion of the individual mathrAs of the different VedAs . Each of these Rishis have a distinguished wife well versed in scholarship , AchAram and anushtAnam . These rishikAs or Lady Seers took an important part in SamaadhikaraNam . YajnavalkyA's wife and her tight questioning of her husband gave birth to a great Upanishad . There are abundant reference to the RishikAs in the Tenth Canto of Rg Vedam besides the other Cantos . LopamudhrA is one such RishikA as the wife of AgasthyA , known for his command over Sanskrit and Tamil. The meaning of the word "LopamudhrA " is one , who is totaly absorbed in herself (i-e)., she is one of the BrahmavAdhini RshikAs.Two manthrAs of the Rg Vedam ( Canto I.179.1-2) are attributed to her .
RoamasA the wife of SvanyA , VisvavArA belonging to the Athri family , AangirasI Sarasvathi of Angirasa family , ApAlA of the Athri family , YamI Vaivasvathi , SraddhA , Vasukra pathni , GhOshA , SooryA , IndrANi , Urvasi , Sarama , Joohu , VagAmbhruNi and PoulOmi Sachi are well known RshikAs , who are revered and are associated with individual Rg Veda ManthrAs .” Sri Vaishnavite households have had such exemplary Women , who quietly served as the living examples of these Vedic Values and cherished them as their kula dhanams .”


Women rishis (rshika) in the Rig Veda Samhita

(one or more mantra was revealed to each rshika)
VerseRishika
4.18Aditi
10.72Aditirdakshayani
8.91Apala atreyi
10.86Indrani
10.85Urvashi
10.134Godha
10.39, 10.40Gosha Kakshivati
10.109Juhurbramhajaya
10.184Tvashta Garbhakarta
10.107Dakshina Prajapatya
10.154Yami
10.10Yami Vaivasvati
10.127Ratrirbharadvaji
1.171Lopamudra
10.28Vasukrapatni
10.125Vagambhrni
5.28Vishvavara Atreyi
8.1Sashvatyangirasi
10.151Shradhda Kamayani
10.159Shachi Paulomi
10.189Sarparajni
9.86Sikata Nivavari
10.85Surya Savitri
1.126Romasha
10.108Sarama Devashuni
9.104Shikhandinyava Psarasau Kashyapan
10.142Jarita Sharngah
8.71Suditirangirasah
10.153Indra Mataro
(The list is not exhaustive)



The names of the women Rishis( Lady seers ) are etched in the annals of the Veda manthrams .None of the Rishis or the Rishi pathnis are recognized as the composers of the Veda manthrAs , but as samhithAkarthAs , who assisted in the collection of the Veda manthrams thru the power to "see " them as manthra dhrushtAs . Angirasa , Gautama , VasishtA , ViswAmithrA , Bhrugu , Athri , Marici , KasyapA , AgasthyA and BharadhvAjaa belong to the rich set of Rishis in this category . Every Veda manthram has a Rishi or RishikA , Chandas and DevathA . We invoke them prior to the recitaion of the individual mathrAs of the different VedAs . Each of these Rishis have a distinguished wife well versed in scholarship , AchAram and anushtAnam . These rishikAs or Lady Seers took an important part in SamaadhikaraNam . YajnavalkyA's wife and her tight questioning of her husband gave birth to a great Upanishad . There are abundant reference to the RishikAs in the Tenth Canto of Rg Vedam besides the other Cantos .
LopamudhrA is one such RishikA as the wife of AgasthyA , known for his command over Sanskrit and Tamil. The meaning of the word "LopamudhrA " is one , who is totaly absorbed in herself (i-e)., she is one of the BrahmavAdhini RshikAs.Two manthrAs of the Rg Vedam ( Canto I.179.1-2) are attributed to her . RoamasA the wife of SvanyA , VisvavArA belonging to the Athri family , AangirasI Sarasvathi of Angirasa family , ApAlA of the Athri family , YamI Vaivasvathi , SraddhA , Vasukra pathni , GhOshA , SooryA , IndrANi , Urvasi , Sarama , Joohu , VagAmbhruNi and PoulOmi Sachi are well known RshikAs , who are revered and are associated with individual Rg Veda ManthrAs . Sri Vaishnavite households have had such exemplary Women , who quietly served as the living examples of these Vedic Values and cherished them as their kula dhanams . Some of them are ANDAL ( the mother of ParAsara Bhattar and the wife of KuratthAzhwAn ) , Devaki Piratti ,the spiritually advanced ( jn~Adhikai) daughter of ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi ., She was a disciple of AchArya RaamAnujA .The incident assoicated with the 18th Thituppaavai is linked to her . At the time of her father's ascent to Parama padham , her father asked his daughter as to what she was thinking about . She replied with all sincerity that she was thinking about her father ataining Sathgathi due to his assoication with HER ACHARYA , Sri RaamAnujA .That is the measure of Her AchArya Bhakthi. The joyous father blessed her with AchArya RaamAnujA's ancient vigraham obtained by Naathamuni from NammAzhwAr before RaamAnujA's birth . That mUrthy was worshipped in turn by UyyakkonDAr, MaNaRkkAL nampi ,AlawandhAr . The grateful father asked his daughterr to give that vigraham to his Sishyan, Sri RaamAnujA . This is the quality of relationship between the anuvrutthi prasannAcchAryar like ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi and the KrupAmAthra PrasannAcchAr like Sri RaamAnujA . One of the links here is thru the Bhagavathai , Devaki Pirratti . AthtuZhAi , the daughter of Periya Nampi was another example of this illustrious Sri VaishNavite women . The five AchAryAs of Sri RaamAnujA - Periya nampi , ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi , ThirumAlai AanDaan , Periya Thirumalai nampi , ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi ,Thiruvaranga PerumAn Araiyar --recognized AchArya RaamAnuja , their disciple as their own UttAraka AchAryan and entrusted their brothers , sons and DAUGHTERS as his sishyAs .Devaki PirAtti and ANDAL belong to this group of exemplary women . Sri VaishNava kulam grew out of such dedicated , modest, spiritually rigorous women , who were like kalankarai viLakku ( lighthouses ). The WIVES AND DAUGHTERS of the men of the ten branches of KaimkaryaparALs assigned by AchAryA RaamAnujA for Sri RanganaathA's daily kaimkaryam were also shining lights in their own rights . Parutthik Kollai AmmAl , Kongup PirAtti(AchArya RaamAnujA's sishyai ) , Vangipuratthu Aacchi ( the disciple of AlawanadAr) , Ammangi ( ThirukkaNNapuram Nampi ? )are other shining examples of illustrious Sri Vaishnava Bhagavathais , who spread the darsanam of Sri RaamAnujA .Ammangi , another disciple of AlavandhAr is the one , who instructed AchArya RaamAnuja with the five pointers of proper code of conduct for a Sri Vaishnava Achaarya as she (?)learnt it from her own Acharya , Alavandar . These five codes of conduct are deep in meaning and are like aphorisms for us to reflect as well even today .The most merciful AchArya , Sri RaamAnujA was very receptive to great Bhaagavathais and their upadEsa vAkhyams as well . His respect for his AchArya pathnis is legendary . Our most merciful AchArya Sri RaamAnuja was visiting at one time ThirukkOLur , the birth place of Madhura Kavi AzhwAr . He met a young girl there , who came to offer her praNAmams and entered into a conversation with her. He was so delighted with this girl's divya Prabhandha Jn~Anam that he blessed her and her family . Our AchAryAs follow that way of life and care equally for the spiritual well being of our men , WOMEN and theentire family . Lit from those lamps ,our women persevere joyously with the steady diffusion / dissemination process by personal code of condiuct and serve as the Sheet Anchor for our SampradhAyam . They tend to their other duties and continue today at India and the distant households in America through the efforts of the organizers of NaamA Sathsangams at Dallas , Denver , Singapore and elsewhere . Here are selected Rg Veda manthrams that came our way thru the intercession of great RishikAs or the women manthra drushtAs . The first and formost set of manthrAs of Rg Vedam from this perspective are the manthrams housed in the 10th Canto of Rg Vedam dealing with the Marriage Ceremony .Sri VilliputthuR ANDAL transformed them into Sundara Tamil in Her NaacchiyAr Thirumozhi ( VaraNamAyiram Paasurams ). The manthra dhrashtA of Rg Vedam 's 10th canto , soktham 85most appropriately is a Rishi pathni by the name Saavithri SooryA .This 85th Sooktham has 47 manthrams , number of which are used in the different phases of Hindu Marriage Ceremony . I will focus on these important manthrAs first which houses the prayer and the vision of the RishikA as revealed to her as instructions from the Veda Purushan .


More to Come Soon.