It is a commonly held (mis)conception that women are borne to serve men. While this utterly patriarchal thought is prevalent everywhere around the globe, certainly in India, the portrayal of this thought can be seen in its dire extremity. However, no matter how much the khap panchayats and the other patriarchal institutions brag about the traditional docility of women, we’ve some great exceptions that prove to be antithesis of such thoughts. Some of those great women from the great treasure trove of Hindu mythology are given below—
There couldn’t have been anyone better to start this listicle with other than Ma Durga—the invincible one. Legend has it that when all the Lords couldn’t no way slay the demon Mahishashur, Maata Adiparashakti was born in the form of Ma Durga.
She was the one to kill Mahishashur and restore the Earth and the Heaven once again from evil and wrongness.
6. Gargi Vachaknavi
In an arena, which only greatest of all patriarchs had been a part of, she had not only made a position for herself, but excelled therein as well. In Vedic Literature, she has been bestowed with the accolade of being one of the greatest natural philosophers.
In fact, she had even challenged the great sage Yajnavalya on matters related to the soul or aatma. She was also one of the navratnas in the court of King Janaka. She is also the author of the famous Gargi Samhita.
The most beautiful apsara or nymph in Lord Indra’s court, Urvashi was an epitome of desire and beauty. In fact, her name comes from two Sanskrit words, Uras meaning “heart”, and Vashi means “one who controls”. She was perhaps the only woman who bore her sexuality with pride and courage, not submitting in front anyone.
In fact, to have her sole chance of staying as and living the life of mortals, she even stayed in with and married an already married king. Her love story with King Pururavas is indeed worth telling!
She dared to fall in love with a king who would forget her just as a passing fancy. Yet she wouldn’t think twice before risking her honor for that person to the extent of bearing his child without having taken wedding vows publicly.
However, when the same person would question her chastity, keeping submissive and passive wouldn’t be her demeanor anymore. Hence, Shakuntala turns out to be an ideal woman, who is not only a great lover, but also a dignified woman.
Yes, she is looked upon as the “ideal woman” by the patriarchs of Hinduism. She is regarded as someone who left all her lavishness and wealth just to stand by her husband during troubled times, to the extent of leaving everything and making deep jungles her home for 14 long years.
However, she’s here in this list for being one person who had the power to put even Ram, the most perfect one, to shame. Yes, she underwent the agnipariksha to prove her chastity, but, after proving so, she never returned to the man who never trusted her. Finally, when he apologized, she quietly went back to her mother, the earth.
She submissively obeyed her mother-in-law when the latter, unknowingly, asked her to be the wife of all her five sons. But, when her husband lost her in a challenger, and she was dragged for vastraharan, she didn’t remain submissive and quiet.
Instead, she demanded a revenge—a revenge that marked an end to the whole Kaurava dynasty. Had she not demanded justice and revenge, perhaps our whole Mahabharata would not have been written.
This list would have been empty without Her—the Goddess of Empowerment and Shakti. Prayed in numerous avatars, Ma Kali is the benevolent creator who, along with Shiva, created the whole Universe.
However, she’s just not the Creator—she is the preserver as well as the destroyer. She’s prayed as the divine Mother as well as the divine Wrath. And, it is for this specific reason that this list would have been absolutely nothing without Her.