Women as Rishikas in the Vedas

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

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 sage Vak Ambrini find a prominent place in the Rig Veda Samhita [1]. 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 choose her own husband[2] 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[3]. 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 honor by most sages.

Epithets for women in the Vedas

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; jaya, jani 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.

Similarly woman are designated as:

Aditi 
because she is not dependent [4]
Aghnya 
for she is not to be hurt [5]
Brhati 
for she is large hearted [6]
Chandra 
because she is happy [7]
Devakama 
since she is pious. [8]
Devi 
since she is divine [9][10]
Dhruva 
for she is firm [11]
Havya 
because she is worthy of invocation [12]
Ida 
for she is worshippable [13]
Jyota 
because she is illuminating : bright [14]
Kamya 
because she is lovable [15]
Kshama 
for she is tolerant, indulgent, patient [16]
Mahi 
since she is great [17]
Mena 
because she deserves respect [18]
Nari 
for she is not inimical to anyone [19]
Purandhih 
for she is munificent, liberal [20]
Ranta 
because she is lovely [21]
rtavari 
rtachit, for she is the preserver, forester of truth [22]
Sanjaya 
since she is victorious [23]
Sarasvati 
since she is scholarly [24]
Simhi 
since she is courageous [25]
Shiva 
for she is benevolent [26]
Shivatama 
since she is the noblest [27]
Stri 
since she is modest [28],[29]
Subhaga 
because she is fortunate [30]
Subhdha 
for she is knowledgeable [31]
Sumangali 
since she is auspicious [32]
Susheva 
for she is pleasant [33]
Suvarcha 
since she is splendid [34]
Suyama 
since she is self - disciplined. [35]
Syona 
for she is noble [36]
Virini 
since she is mother of brave sons [37]
Vishruta 
since she is learned [38]
Yashasvati 
for she is glorious [39]
Yosha 
because she is intermingled with man, she is not separate [40]

Women rshis (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)

Notes

  1. Indian Feminism in Vedic perspective, by Shashi Prabha Kumar Reader, Univ. of Delhi, Delhi 110007; Journal of Indian studies, Vol. 1, 1998
  2. Most of this article was taken from "Vedah.com"

References

  1. Rig Veda, 10.125
  2. Rig Veda, 10.27.12
  3. Rig Veda 10.85
  4. Nirukta, 4.22
  5. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  6. Yajur Veda, 11.64
  7. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  8. Atharva Veda, 14.1.47
  9. Atharva Veda, 14.1.45
  10. Yajur Veda, 4.23
  11. Yajur Veda, 11.64
  12. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  13. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  14. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  15. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  16. Atharva Veda, 12.1.29
  17. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  18. Nirukta, 3.21.2
  19. Atharva Veda, 14.1.59
  20. Yajur Veda, 22.22
  21. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  22. Rig Veda, 2.41.18
  23. Rig Veda, 10.159.3
  24. Yajur Veda, 20.84
  25. Yajur Veda, 5.12
  26. Atharva Veda, 14.1.64
  27. Rig Veda, 10.85.37
  28. Rig Veda, 8.33.9
  29. Nirukta 3.21.2
  30. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  31. Atharva Veda, 14.2.75
  32. Atharva Veda, 14.2.26
  33. Atharva Veda, 14.2.26
  34. Atharva Veda, 14.4.47
  35. Atharva Veda, 14.2.18
  36. Atharva Veda, 14.2.27
  37. Rig Veda, 10.86.9, 10.86.10
  38. Yajur Veda, 8.43
  39. Rig Veda, 1.79.1
  40. Nirukta 3.15.1