Rig Veda

Rishikas | Female Rishis In Vedanta Dharma | 101

In the following article, mathomathis would like to discuss on the topic called as: rishikas (female rishis) which is mentioned in the ancient text of vedanta dharma (vedic literature). The following article was been referred from the assam university library. The texts of the Vedic samhita allotted the space for women which is neither too narrow nor to wide. The compilation of the whole vedic Samhita is extended to a considerable period of time. Rigveda Sarfihita, the earliest production of Vedic Literature, is a text of more than ten thousand verses. In this voluminous text there is the mention of the name of a particular seer and the god. There are few names of women who visualised the hymn. The numbers of female Rishikas comes to about thirty. The Arsanukramani and the Brhaddevata enumerated in the Rigveda 414 seers have contributed on the wide range of its content. Among them the names of twenty seven Rsikas in the Rv and they are referred to as Brahmavadini. brahmavadini are those women who were well versed in the vedas and they did not enter into the domestic livelihood.

Visvavara: Visvavara belongs to Atri family and composed, the hymn 28 of 5th mandala the family book of the Atris of Rigveda. Her style of composing the hymns show the high position of women composers in the Rigvedic times. She was the most brilliant seer, whose hymn gives us a glimpse into the inner heart of a woman. Her scholarly talent place her in a high and respective place in vedic culture. We have not found such a high thought of feeling in other female seer’s composition as she did. She gave unrestrained expression of the intimate joys and sorrows of homely life. One of the verse reveals that ‘Visvavara after her marriage approaches the blazing sacrificial fire at dawn. With her face towards the east, offers oblations to the gods and prays for love and happiness in wedded life’.

The hymn 28 of the Vth book of Rigveda states the right to sacrifice or to perform the sacrifices was granted to the women folk. In this hymn Visvavara prays the God Agni (fire) to preserve in harmony the relationship of man and his wife. She also asked for granting profuse happiness and welfare. The verse records as ‘Repress, Agni our foes to ensure our exceeding prosperity may your riches ever be excellent, preserve in concord the relation of man and wife and overpower the energies of the hostile‘.” The hymn describes the domestic aspirations of a woman. The ambitions as depicted in this hymn, reminds limitations of a woman in society.

Apala: Apala belonged to the Atri family. Apala has been credited with a hymn 91 in the 8th book of Rigveda. Available evidence witnessed that, she was a married woman and abandoned by her husband, due to some skin diseases. The Apala sukta is generally considered as one of the popular hymn. The hymn is also counted among the so-called Itihasa-hymn, which are based on legends. Having the skin disease in her, which would not allow hair to grow on her body, she had devoted her life to meditation. The hymn describes the story of Atreyi Apala, which states how she met and worshiped Lord Indra to get rid of her disease.

The story is as follows: One day she went out to have bath, intending to make a some offering to Indra, and when she was returning she found some soma plants in her way to home. She gathered them and chew them with her teeth. Lord Indra was there and hearing the sound of her jaws, he thought it was the sound of some stones and appeared to her asking about the sound. She explained the reason of the sound, and Indra turned away. Then she uttered this hymn as stated below – ‘You who so from house to house; a hero bright in your splendour, drink this soma pressed by my teeth together with fried grains of barley and the karambha cakes.’ However, when she felt that, it was really Lord Indra, then she addressed the latter half of the third Verse as – ‘O soma, flow forth for Indra first slowly, then quickly.’ Then Indra became pleased and drank the juice of soma as she wished. She then proudly exclaimed a verse as – ‘May he (Indra) repeatedly make us very rich; often hated by our husband and forced to leave him.'”‘ This verse reflects the truth that some women were used to abandoned by their husband and live in their parent’s house. Indra then granted her a boon and she then chose as – ‘These three places do you cause them all to grow my father’s bald head, his barren field and my body.’ ^ Indra granted the three boons.

Ghosa: Ghosa belongs to the family of great seers. Her grandfather was Dirghatamas and her father was Kaksivat. Both the seers were composers of several hymns in praise of the Asvins. Among the women seers, Ghosa made the largest contribution. Two entire hymns of the tenth mandala of Rigveda, each containing 14 verses are assigned to Ghosa. On account of the white leprosy, she could not get married and grew old in her parents house. In a verse we find her praying ‘ Asvins’ as follows – ‘Here my invocations, AsVins, give me wealth as parents give to a son; before it come beyond the reach of a course that has no relatives; save me from that curse before it reach me‘ The seer, a daughter of mighty seer’ is equally mighty in her conception of divinity and the invocation of the Asvins. In the hymn she was praying for the remedies of her physical conditions as. ‘Attending upon you Asvins, leaders of rites, I Ghosa, the daughter of king Kaksivat, request you be present at my sacrifice.”° Due to unrestrained invocation to Asvins, they became pleased and cured her. Finally she got married with the great seer Kakshivan.

Sraddha: Sraddha, the goddess of faith belongs to the family of Kama. She is, so recognized as Sraddha kamayani, Sraddha is credited with the hymn 151 of the Xth book of the Rigveda, of which she herself is the deity. Sraddha is also known as the symbolical representative of the yearning in the heart for the gods. All offerings and processes of sacrifice must be accompanied with faith. If there is no faith, in the offering or in the prayer, the mechanical chanting of the mantra is of no avail; hence Sraddha; the rishika’s points out: Through Sraddha Agni is kindled by sraddha in oblation offered with our praise we glorify sraddha. All those who perform sacrifice draw sraddha the goddess faith for strength of their prayers to gods. She can be pleased only by constant yearning of the heart. In another verse we find the goddess Sraddha is prayed to endow the worshipper with their wished boons.

Indrani: Indrani, who is the beautiful wife of Lord Indra, is honoured as rishikas as well as goddess of the Rigveda. She is the speaker of the stanzas 2,4,7,9,10,15,18,22, and 23 in the hymn 86 of the Tenth book, entitled the jealous wife’s spell’ which she uttered while digging out a herb by which her co-wife will be killed. The whole hymn depicts the charms and magic of destroying the co wives. We again find Indrani as a rsika of the hymn 146 of the Xth book of the Rigveda. The very ideal of an Aryan wife has been brought out in the verse 6 of hymn 86 of the Xth book, declared by Indrani; ‘There is no woman more amiable than I am; none who bears fairer sons than I ; none with more ardour offers all her beauty to lord’s embrace‘. Such an ideal in practice as one embodied in the above lines, nowhere can be found. In this passage we find a total negation of the self on the part of a woman for the man she adores. Such kind of conjugal love is a great characteristic of an Aryan household of Rig vedic civilization.

Mandhata: The female seer Mandhata has made her contribution in Rigveda by composing some verses. She composed the first five verses of the hymn 134 of the Xth Mandala. In the hymn, she made an eulogy to Lord Indra. There is nothing remarkable in these verses, except the eulogies of God Indra and the Visvadevas. One of the verse, runs as follows – ‘you, Indra, who fill both heaven and earth (with light) like the dawn – the divine Progenitors has given birth to you. The mightily of the mighty gods. The sovereign of man ; the auspicious Progenitress has given you birth.

Vak: Vak was the daughter of the renown seer Ambhrina. Hence, she was identified as Ambhrini Vak. Vak is the composer of the most remarkable hymn known as Devisukta which occurs in the Tenth Mandala of the Rv, 125. In the hymn 125 of the Xth Mandala we find her as female seer as well as the female deity of the hymn in which she emphatically expresses the idea of the unity of the universe. In this hymn Vak comprehended in a pantheistic mood, her unity with the universe as the source and regulating spirit of every worldly beings. Vak is compared to a wife who dwells in the inner chamber of the house. ‘In a verse we find her praising herself as ‘I am the sovereign queen, the collectress of treasurers, cognizant (of the supreme Being), the chief of objects of worship ;as such the gods have put me in many places, abiding in manifold conditions, entering into numerous (forms),‘ It has been described that, her dwelling is in the ocean where from she extends over all existing creatures and touches even the far off heaven.

So mighty in her grandeur she appears from beyond the heaven and earth. Describing her nature she has cited a verse as ‘He who eats food eats through me; he who sees; who breathes, hears, what is spoken, does so through me ; those who are ignorant of me perish ; hear you have hearing. I tell that which is deserving of belief’

Lopamudra: This female Rishikas was a member of the family of Atri. But she has been founded as addressing Rati, the goddess of carnal desires. The first two verses of the hymn 179 of the 1st Mandala of Rik Samhita is composed by Lopamudra. In the hymn she expressed her desire as – ‘Many years have I been serving you diligently, both day and night, and through mornings, bringing on old age; decay now impairs the beauty of my limbs; what therefore, is now to be done; let husbands approach their wives.‘ In the two verses, she has been found praying for the couple to approach each other.

Saci Paulomi: Saci Paulomi is another female Rishikas and goddess as well as. The hymn 159 of the Xth book of Rigveda is credited with Saci Paulomi. The hymn has its remarkable lyrical beauty. Literally, this hymn is regarded as a song of exultation by Saci over her rival wives; there in she triumphs over her success, which made her supreme over her rivals. In a verse we find her as winner of her rivals. The verse runs thus – ‘Triumphant, I conquered these my rivals so that I might rule this hero and his people.’ In a verse we found her Praising her children as – ‘My sons are the destroyers of my enemies, my daughter is an empress ; and I am victorious, my fame is most precious to my husband.’

Wife of Vasukra: It has been observed that among the female seers, many of them hailed from the family of Atri. Though other’s female seer’s name have not distinctly mentioned. But their contribution makes the numbering the name of the female rishikas more. Some of them are known by their husband’s name. Such as a female rishikas who was known by her husband’s name Vasukra. The anonymous wife of Vasukra is credited with the first stanza of the hymn 28 of the tenth mandala. She composed the hymn by Praising God Indra. Her husband is the seer of a part of this hymn. Another lady character is the sister of Agastya, whose name was not known. She contributes a single stanza of the hymn 60:6 of Xth book of the Rv. The real part of which is assigned to her sons, the Gaupayanas. She is the independent seer of the 6th stanza of the hymn 60.

Surya: In Rigveda we find Surya as a rishika and a goddess as well. The hymn 85 of the Xth book of Rigveda is credited with the name of Surya. The hymn consists of 47 verses loosely strung together. This hymn is also known as wedding hymn. Surya has been described as the typical Aryan bride and her wedding hymn 85 of the Xth book may be quoted and analysed to show the various rites in the wedding ceremony. A verse of this hymn has beautifully describes the blessings which offered to the bride, as reflecting in this lines as ‘Abide here together; may you never be separated; live together all your lives, sporting with sons and grandsons, happy in your own home‘ Moreover, in another verse we come across a beautiful description of the bridal procession of Surya to her husband’s dwelling as – ‘Surya’s bridal procession which Savita dispatched had advanced ; the oxen are whipped along in the Magha; She is borne (to her husband’s house) in the Arjuni (constellations)‘. It has noticed that the whole hymn contains a traditional set of verse which were ascribed to Surya on her wedding. To add the excellency on the description of her bridal procession a verse has cited as – ‘Mind was her chariot and heaven was the covering, the two shining orbs were the oxen when Surya went to her husband’s dwelling‘ The hymn contains the rites of Hindu marriage in which the bridegroom has to uttered the mantras during the wedding ceremony as reflected in this verse – I take your hand for good fortune, that you may attain old age with me as your husband; the gods Bhaga, Aryaman, Savita Purandhi have given to me, that I may be the master of a household.

Yami Vaivasvati: Yami Vaivasvati is another rishikas, who compose the hymn 154 of the Xth mandala of the Rigveda. In the hymn we find her asking to the god Bhavabrtta as: ‘To those who through penance are unassailable by sin to those who through penance have gone to heaven, to those who have performed abundant penance, do you repair.’

Romasa: Romasa is a rsika and a goddess as well. She is known as the wife of Bhavya. In stanza 7 of the hymn 126 of the 1st mandala of Rgveda, we find her as female rishika and in the stanza 6 of same hymn we find her as a goddess. She has been praised by her husband in one verse as – ‘She, who when her desires are assented to, clings as tenaciously as a female weasel, and who is ripe for enjoyment, yields me infinite delight. On which she replied as – ‘Approach me, deem me not immature; I am covered with dawn like a eve of the Gandharins

Indramata: In the hymn 153 of the Xth Mandala of Rv, we find Indra’s mother as rishika. One of the verse cited as followings – ‘Desirous of fulfilling their functions, (the mothers of Indra) approaching, worship him as soon as bom, and enjoy together with male progeny.’

Nodh: Nodha is a female rsika of Rigveda. The hymn 88 of the 8th Mandala has assigned to Nodha. In which we find her praising Indra as ‘The vast firm mountains cannot stop you Indra, Whatever wealth you would give to a worshipper such as I none can hinder you therein.’

Ghodha: Ghodha is a female rishikas of Rigveda. She has been known by composing a verse of the hymn, 134 of the Xth book of the Rigveda. The verse runs thus – ‘O Gods, we never injure you, we never inflict annoyance on you, we follow the teaching of the mantra, we take hold of you at this sacrifice with wings and arms‘.

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