“A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.”
For as long as one can remember, we’ve heard people say “oh, but ladies don’t raise their voice”, “you shan’t interfere where men talk” or “good girls keep their opinions to themselves”. Some may object that society is changing and more families are teaching their girls to grow into strong, independent women, which is wonderful, but we all know the truth: it is a male-dominated society. Was. Has been. For a plethora of time.
Despite that, women are growing. We are learning to spread our wings and soar high. They say the best way to inspire is through examples, why don’t we look at some lesser known, headstrong women from our mythology that left patriarchy biting their nails?
Wife of Bhim, the first woman to be married into the Pandava household, Hidimba was born a ‘rakshasi’. Neither she, nor her son Ghatotkacha were allowed to accommodate the palace and spent all their lives in the forest. During the Kurukshetra war, Ghatotkacha was killed and Hidimba was left with nobody by her side. Confronting Krishna with rage, she didn’t curse him but forgave him for ‘putra hatya’ (murder of offspring). Krishna was overwhelmed and stated that she had surpassed all men by that one act. She’s worshipped above all male deities in Kullu Manali. Worthy and how!
She was the fourth wife of Arjun, the princess of Manipur. She was unlike any princess of her time. Skilled in warfare and weaponry, she was said to be a complete tomboy- which is what made Arjun come all the way from Hastinapur to marry her. Tells you, you shouldn’t change to be accepted. You’ll be valued for who you are.
The third wife of Arjun, Ulupi was a snake princess. What’s more interesting is that Arjun didn’t want to marry her initially, until she abducted and forced him (not on gunpoint), to marry her. She later trained Chitrangada’s son Babruvahan in archery only for him to defeat Arjun! Totally badass.
Moving to the older epic, Mandodari was Ravan’s wife and the queen of Lanka. In spite of the fact that Ravan had brought home ‘another woman’, she didn’t feel threatened and even persuaded Ravan to let Sita live in peace at the Ashok Vaatika. Women supporting women?
The daughter of Janaka, sister to Sita and wife to Lakshmana, Urmila is known by many salutations. What people forget, is her will power. No one took her to the exile, so she stayed back and waited for her husband for 14 years. Not only that, she was the sole person to oppose Rama’s decision of sending Sita away to the forest. Obdurate? Obdurate.
Perhaps among the oldest examples of how women dominated the ‘workplace’, Gargi was sage Vachaknu’s extremely intelligent daughter, well versed in Vedas. Such was her brilliance, that she was called ‘Brahmavadini’ with the wisdom of Brahma Vidya. She was one of the Nav Ratnas of King Janaka’s court and is said to have composed a few verses of the Rig Veda. Awe-struck, aren’t we all?
Women have conquered any arena they’ve set foot in. Against all odds have they won- time and again. If anything, our mythical literature proves so. It’s time to look up to such phenomenal women and be a ‘phenomenally phenomenal woman’ ourselves.
Written by: Shriya Singh Rawat