Post No.7570

Date uploaded in London – 13 February 2020

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Many women were regarded as Rishis or seers, i.e. composers of hymns and some of the hymns in the Rig Samhita were attributed to women. Twenty such hymn composing ladies are named in Sarvanukramanika ( List of poetesses and poets).

Lopaamudraa , Apaalaa, Vishwawaraa, Sikataa, Nivaavari, and Ghoshaa are some of the famous women whose names have been preserved in Vedic literature.

The grounds for such high literary attainments were prepared by education in childhood. The girls, like boys, underwent Upanayana ceremony ( sacred initiation) at an early age. That this was the usual practice, and continued even in later ages , is proved by many interesting evidences. We are told in the Atharva Samhita, 11-5-18, that ‘by Vedic studentship a girl wins a young husband’. This shows that high education was regarded as a necessary accomplishment for being well placed in life. Even in later Vedic age we hear of two classes of educated women,

1.Sadyowaahaas, who prosecuted their studies till their marriage,

2.Brahmavaadinis, who did not marry and pursued their studies throughout life.

It is interesting to note in this connection that the list of great Vedic teachers to whom tribute of respect had to be paid at the time of Brahmayajna, includes the names of some ladies, viz. Gaargi Vaachaknavi, Vadavaa Praatitheyi, Sulabhaa Maitreyi ( see Ashwalaayana Grihya Sutra 3-4-4). These evidences to which others may be added, show that the highest education, including Vedic studies was open equally to men and women, and many ladies distinguished themselves not only as Vedic scholars but also as great philosophers, debaters and teachers.

It may be stated without any hesitation that the general position and status of Indian women in the Vedic age was much higher than in any other ancient society that we know of, those of Greece and Rome not excluded. It is hardly necessary to point out that the picture is an ideal one, and cannot be regarded as universally true of all women.

But sons were preferred to daughters because of the funeral ceremony which could be done only by men.

Source book –  Great Women of India, Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Almora, Himalayas, year 1953 (with my inputs from Tamil literature )

Xxx Subham xxx

Vedic Hindu women, Greek women and Parsi women (Post No.7559)

Compiled by London Swaminathan

Post No.7559

Date uploaded in London – 10 February 2020

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Ramesh Chandra Majumdhar, Former Vice Chancellor of Dacca University compares the status of women in different countries in his article in the ‘Great Women of India’ volume , published in 1953 by the Advaita Ashrama . It is very interesting that Vedic Hindu women enjoyed more freedom whereas other women were under strict control. But we must remember Rig Vedic society existed before 1500 BCE, where as  Homer’s Greek , Avesta of Parsis belong to 8th century  BCE. But he shows how the status of women in Vedic society also deteriorated after the Upanishadic age.

Here is what he says,

“The high ideal of a married life— involving life long faith, devotion and love between the husband and wife — is nobly expressed in the marriage hymn 10-85 of the Rig Veda.  Casual references thorough out the Samhita, indicate that the society was really inspired by such an ideal, and we already see before us a picture of insoluble partnership, in life and death, which has ever characterised the relation between husband and wife in Hindu society, and has almost become proverbial.

Nevertheless, without distracting from this high ideal in the least, it must be confessed that, the weakness of human nature must have occasionally led to moral lapses even in those days, as also in later days. Indeed, there are ample references to such a state of things not only in the Rig Veda Samhita but also in later Vedic literature. It would be a miracle if it were not so. There are certain hymns which seem to look upon the existence of a paramour as nothing abnormal than a common occurrence or an ordinary event. But the hymns of the Rig Veda make it clear that moral lapses on the part of women were not treated so severely as in later days and more or less the same standard was applied in this respect to both men and women.

As all this might be quite shocking to our moral sensibilities and ideas of female virtues, it is necessary to point out the prevalence of a similar state of things in the Hellenistic world of Homeric days. The compulsory infidelity of a wife as a prisoner of war was openly recognised, and in no way reprehended. The noblest and fairest women, whether married or not, of a captured town normally became the concubines of the victors, but such a fate was in no sense a dishonour to the Greek lady of which she need afterwards be ashamed. This callous attitude might have been reflected its influence upon cases of voluntary sin, and so they came to be regarded with much indulgence. So also the open concubines allowed to married men often allowed a plea for retaliation and a justification in the case of crime.

The same reasons might also have operated in ancient India. In any case, ideas in ancient India, as in ancient Greece, were very different from those of modern times, when we rate personal purity of a woman so highly that the loss of it by misfortune is hardly less excused by society than its abandonment through passion.

A widow marrying husband‘s brother is also in the Vedas. The remarriage of a widow to husband’s brother was a very common practice among the Jews and other ancient nations .

The Vedic word ‘Dampati’ used to denote jointly the husband and wife, etymologically means the joint owners of the house. The same idea is also contained in the Avesta (Of Parsis), but whereas the Avesta enjoins upon the wife strict obedience to her husband, the marriage ritual in the Rig Veda , and also in its fully developed form in the Grihya sutras, does not enjoin obedience upon the wife. This position of dignity was upheld by her participation in religious practices and sacrifices, which was regarded as the highest right and privilege in the society of those days.

The Samhita of the Rig Veda has fortunately preserved one particular hymn 10-85 which proves that not only the institution of  marriage but also the ideals which characterised it in India in later days were deeply rooted in the minds of men. Its interest, however, transcends the narrow bounds of India, as it is perhaps the oldest written document in the world which gives an ideal picture of the marriage system with all that it involves in a civilized society.

Comments on Vedic Women Poets (Post No.3923)

Compiled by London Swaminathan


Date: 19 May 2017


Time uploaded in London: 22-15


Post No. 3923


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VEDA SAMHITAS have at least twenty women poets (rsikas).  Prof. Rahurkar has shown, the names and contents of hymns, i.e .the nature of their prayers reveal the social background of their composers who thus become fairly representative of their society.


Ghosa was a maiden anxious to get married while Suryaa was the newly wedded wife. In Sasvati we have an affectionate and faithful wife. Indrani is a jealous wife while Romasa and Lopamudra are voluptuous women. Apala’s plea is moving, she is sick and abandoned by her husband. Visvavara is a happy and contented matron, while Aditi is a proud mother. Poor Godha was a modest and righteous woman. The nymph Urvasi, as her lover says has the heart of a hyena and Yami is eager to seduce her twin brother Yama. Thus no two women are exactly alike and together they offer glimpse into the feminine world in Vedic society.



Lopamudrs was the author of I- 179;

Apala Maitreyi of VIII-91

Yami of X -10

Vasukra’s wife X :28

Kaksivat Gbosa X 39-40;

Surya -X 85;

Urvasi of X 95

Vac, daughter of Ambhrna  X 125;

Brahma Jaya X 139;

Yami, daughter of Vivasvat X 145;

Indrani X: 145;

Sraddha Kamayani X: 151:

Paulomi Saci X 159.

From V G Rahurkar, “The Rsikas of flie Baveda” in Dandekar felicitation Volume


Also, Pouruchlila, Zarathustra’s daughter was a woman seer, the author of Gatha 53.




Most Intelligent Woman in the Ancient World

tamil penkal

A community’s development can be easily measured by the level of women’s education or status. If we take all the ancient cultures into account, India has a unique place in the world. Lot of countries gave women– education, freedom, right to inherit property, right to attend religious ceremonies and a status —several centuries after ‘India that is Bharat’ gave them.


Vedas and Sangam Tamil literature have the highest number of women poets (poetesses) in the world. It is amazing to see they were able to compose poems and attend assemblies. Gargi Vachaknavi was the only example one can quote for women’s education and freedom from the most ancient days. She was invited to attend an assembly of scholars to discuss philosophical matters. King Janaka of Videha convened the conference. It happened at least 3000 years ago. Even the foreign scholars, who always underestimate and underrate anything Indian, gave the date 800 BC for the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, where Gargi appears for the first time. Gargi, a great philosopher, not only attended the conference, but also challenged the most revered philosopher of the day, Yajnavalkya.


Thousand years later, the grand old dame of Sangam Tamil literature Avvaiyar appeared on the scene. She was able to attend the great assembly of the three most powerful kings of the Tamil speaking world– Chera, Choza and Pandya. The occasion was the great Rajasuya Yajnam done by Choza king Peru Nar Killi. She praised them for their unity and wished them long life. She was able to enter any palace without a permit or visit any country without a visa. Poets and ascetics had more rights than the diplomats of the modern world. They can challenge the kings in the assemblies and question their misbehaviour.


We have over 25 Vedic poetesses and over 25 Tamil Sangam poetesses. No culture in the world had so many poetesses 2000 years ago. It was a world dominated by men. Law giver Manu said that a community will be destroyed if women are not respected.

tamil kili

Indian women were so intelligent that they can easily solve knotty problems. A boy wanted to study Vedas. But he knew only his mother Jabala. When he went to the teacher he asked what was his Kulam, Gotra (clan and sub sects), names of parents etc. He replied truthfully that his mum asked him to give the mother’s name only as Jabala. The teacher was so impressed by his honesty, he took him immediately as his student. He gave the boy a new  name– Satyakama (one who seeks truth) Jabala.

Vedic and Sangam Tamil period women did not sing only about Gods and Kings. They sang about everything in the world. Women like Draupadi and Kannaki challenged the most powerful kings of the day. They vowed to destroy injustice and they did it. Women like Damayanti and Savitri fought for their husbands and won the cases. Sita and Mandodari, wives of rivals, were praised for their chastity. They will inspire women for generations to come.


In Vedic days, women were teachers as well. Panini, the first and foremost grammarian in the world, explains the distinction between acaryaa and acaryani, upadhyayaa and updhyayini.


Manu, author of the great law book Manava Dharma Shastra, says,

‘’women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and bothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare. Manu 3-55

‘’Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards. Manu 3-56

Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. 3—57

The houses,  on which the female relations, not being duly honoured, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic’’ Manu 3-58

Hence men, who seek their own welfare, should always honour women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes and dainty food. 3-59


Sanskrit and Tamil literature even entered the magic or the superstitious world to show that chaste women can do miracles. They can bring fire and rain by their power. But women never abused their powers. Sita says to Hanuman, the first International ambassador, that she can burn the 14 worlds with her power, but she wanted her husband to take the credit of finishing the demon king Ravana of Sri Lanka.


Great poet Valluvar went one step further and says that any chaste woman has the power to make rain at her bidding (Kural 55)


Seeing Arundhati Star

Arundhati: Wife of great ascetic Vashista. Symbol of faithfulness, symbol of Indian womanhood and astral goddess in the Saptarishi Mandalam (Great Bear Constellation in the Northern Sky). Every Hindu must see the star on the First Night in the sky. She was the most praised woman on earth. 5000 year old Vedas and 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature praised her sky high.

tamil aru

Manu says

‘’Akshamala, a woman of the lowest birth, being united to Vashista and Sarangi (being united) to Mandapala became worthy of honour’’(4-23).Akshamala=Arundhati.


Sangam Tamil literature refers to Arundhati in several places: Ainkuru.442; Puram.122; Kali.2-21;pari 5-44, madu.610.

In the later days we have great women poetesses like Karaikal Ammaiyar,

Andal, Gangadevi , Mirabhai and Lalleswari.


Two thousand years ago Hindus believed in the same values from Kashmir to Kandy in Sri Lanka. This is another blow to the racists who advocated Aryan Dravidian Race Theory.


Here are the Lists of Vedic and Sangam Tamil Poetesses:

Aditi,  Apala, Dakshina, Gosha, Indrani ,Juhu, Kadru, Lopamudra, Ratri, Romasa,  Sasi, Sashvati, Sikandini kashyapi, Sraddha, Sarama, Sikta, Sudevi, Surya, Sarasvati, Ushas, Urvasi,Visvara, Visvruha, Vispala, Vakambhirini, Vachukra’s wife, Vac, Yami


From Sama Veda – Nodha, Agnishta basha, Sikatani vavari, Ganpayana,

Later day great women—

Gargi vachaknavi, Maitreyi, Nalayini, Savitri, Kaikeyi, Sita, Mandodari, Ahalya, Arundhati, Kunti, Draupadi. (Kaikeyi was a great driver. She rode the chariot when Dasaratha went to war with the demons and defeated them)


Tamil Poetesses

(Like Rig Vedic compiler Vyasa, Tamils also followed Vyasa’s technique of naming anonymous poets with abstract expressions. So we don’t know for sure how many poetesses were there in Vedic period or later. But poetesses were there, which is confirmed by later day mythologies. Slight change of spellings or some suffixes to names made enthusiasts to count more number of poetesses!! One surprising thing about Sangam Tamil names is most of them have prefixes like Sanskrit names Su=Nal. Lot of poetess’s names have this Nap or Nal prefix.


This shows ancient Indians followed the same method in naming. I have already written about the Sanskrit names among Sangam Tamil poets such as Valmiki, Damodaran, Markandeyan, Kamakshi, Kesavan, Mahadevan, Nagarajan,Paliyathan,Vishnu dasan, Kannadasan etc.


1.Avvaiyaar  2.Aadimanthiyaar 3.Anjil anjiyaar 4.Uunpiththai

5.Kaamakkanipsalaiyaar 6.Kaavarpendu 7.Kuramakal kuriyeyini

8.Maarpiththiyaar 9.Maasaaththiyaar 10.Nachchellaiyaar  11.Nakkannaiyaar

12.Nedumpalliyathai 13.Nalvellaiyaar 14.Nalveliyaar 15.Nanmullaiyaar  16.Nappasalaiyaar  17.Naagaiyaar 18.Paari makalir 19.Perungkoppendu

20.Peymakal ilaveyini 21.Ponmaniyaar 22.Ponmudiyaar  23.Puunkan uththiraiyaar 24.Pullaankanniyaar 25.Vennik kuyaththiyaar 26.Velli viithiyaar

27.Venpuuthiyaar 28.Kakkaipaadiniyaar.


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