By Swami Harshananda
Rṣikā literally means ‘a woman ṛṣi or sage’.
The word ṛṣi means a person of intuitive knowledge and wisdom, especially a seer of Vedic hymn. Contrary to the general notion, a ṛṣi need not be a man only. There are as many as 27 ṛṣis mentioned in the Ṛgveda itself who were women.
Classification of Rṣikās
These 27 ṛṣis are called as ṛṣikās. They have been classified into three groups of nine persons each.
Rṣikās of First Group
The ṛṣikās of the first group are:
The ṛṣikās of the first group have just sung hymns of praise of the gods.
Rṣikās of Second Group
The following are the ṛṣikās of the second group:
The second group ṛṣikās have conversed with prominent ṛṣis and gods.
Rṣikās of Third Group
The third group comprises the following nine who have been specially designated as Brahmavādinīs:
The ṛṣikās of the third group have identified themselves with the deities and hence have praised themselves through the hymns. Thus they are not only the ṛṣis but also the devatās.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore