Glossary

GLOSSARY

This glossary allows one to see sacred books and stories in their historical context and does not claim to be an encyclopedic entry.

ATHARVA VEDA:The texts grouped under the name of “Atharva Veda” belong to the four Vedas. They are often called the fourth Veda because they are quite controversial by Hindus, even rejected by the Jains and Buddhists. These texts speak of poisons, “medicine”, according to a different approach from that of Ayurvedic medicine and look more like magic. […]

The Mother by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

It is the Mother who created the universe. The Father was just a witness to the whole show. It is she who works out the whole thing. It is She who makes it beautiful, so that He sees the show and becomes the Spectator, because She loves Her creation. The Father wants it to be such‘that He should be able to love it. He’s a perfectionist. He wants everything to be perfect. But a mother accepts the child as it is because it is her own creation. […]

Mrs. Kamladevi Chattopadhya (1903-1988)

Kamla Devi was a child widow who broke the caste bonds and remarried the brother of Mr. Naidu. This courageous lady was the first woman to contest for elections for the legislative assembly of Madras in 1920.
During the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 Kamla Devi openly prepared salt and sold it, even in the High Court premises. When she was taken to the court for trial she invited the magistrate to buy salt and started selling it in the court room. […]

Mrs. Sarojini Naidu

Bengal has always been the land of great poets, writers, dramatists, intellectuals, artists, musicians, patriots and freedom fighters. Ftabindra Nath Tagore wrote many songs in its glory describing it as ‘Sonar bangIa’ – golden Bengal. Its people are traditionally devoted to the worship of the Goddess have inherited a vibrant culture that has preserved the sensitivity to the vibrations of the Spirit. Whenever the sanctity of the Spirit has been defiled the Bengali people called out the battle cry and fought undaunted by against all adversity. […]

Cornelia Karuna Salve

A woman’s chastity is the axis of the social order. lt is the foundation, the Shri Ganesha, upon which the social structure rests, and it is jealously guarded. A man is protected and strengthened by his wife’s chastity, but he is made vulnerable and weakened by her deceit. The husband’s welfare rests on the strong and chaste foundation of the ‘Gruha Laxmi’ principle in the wife. An insult to a woman is taken as an injury to the collective womanhood; […]

Rani Padmini

Before departing for war it was customary for the warriors to seek the blessings of the elders. The wife would put vermillion mark on the forehead of the husband and propitiate auspicious blessings for his success. The weapons were also worshipped, the sword was charged with prayers for success. The husband was entreated to save the honour of the clan. “Do not think of your family but of saving your honour. Remember to die well is to live forever”. […]

Tarabai (A.D. 1675-1761)

When all the Maratha forces were vanquished and demoralised, the seventeen year old Queen Tara Bai jumped into the forefront and thwarted the Muslim invasion.
During the seven years following the death of her husband Rajaram, the younger son of Shivaji, she bravely led the Maratha forces, moving from fort to fort and displaying a rare military genius. To this day the people of Kolhapur take great pride in their tigress Queen, who by dint of her courage did not allow the mighty Emperor Aurangzeb to impose Moghal rule in the Deccan. […]

Jijabai (A.D. 1594-1674)

India is a vast subcontinent with diverse features and a variety of climates but historically and spiritually the country was always considered as one nation. From antiquity, perhaps from the all penxading collective consciousness, the realisation. of a common Mother dawned. As the population grew, the family unit broadened to clans and then to tribes; but the consciousness of the common Mother of the Universe continued to remain the binding force. The love of the Primordial Mother manifested in the worship of the Mother Goddess. […]

Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi

The ruins of the ancient palaces of India tell tales of unbelievable honour, beauty and sacrifice. Each stone of the Jhansi fort is a monument to glory. Indian historians paid rich tribute to their Queen saying that even the soil of Jhansi is sanctified by the heroic sacrifice of the martyrs; let us pay homage to it.
When the Maratha Chief of Jhansi died without leaving an heir, his widow Bani Lakshmi Bai was not permitted by the British Governor-General to adopt a successor. […]

Nur Jahan Begum

In the solitary tombs of lndia’s vast countryside lie the remains of many great women,Queens and Princesses. An unpretentious, and neglected tomb near Lahore bears ahumble inscription.
“On the grave of us poor people
No roses bloom, no nightingales sing
No friendly lamp dispels the gloom,
The lark and the moth may
Thus he saved the agony of love”.
This was the last will and testament of the Empress Nur Jahan.
At the moment of death she was completely surrendered to God. […]

Queen Mother Mayanalla

The splendid monuments of Gujarat speak volumes of their builder Queen Mayanalla. When her husband, King Karna I died in 1094, she took over the reins of administration and brought up her minor son to be a great King. She was a benevolent Queen and worked tirelessly for the welfare of the people. She is renowned for building two famous lakes.
Queen Mayanalla was a just Queen, a true Rajalaxmi. While devoted to her people she never exerted the pressure of her royal authority on anyone. […]

Rani Durgavati

Each Rajput clan takes pride in the heroic deeds of their ancestors. The memory of gallant ancestors inspires them to great heights. The people of Gondwana in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh recall with pride their accomplished Queen Durgavati.
A woman of tremendous determination and wisdom, she ruled as a regent for her minor son. She was an able administrator. Under her reign, trade, agriculture and commerce flourished. She was a good shot and it was her custom that if a tiger made an appearance she would not drink water untill she had shot him. […]

Rani Chennamma

“My last wish is to be born again in this land, to fight against the British and drive them away from this sacredland.”
Ranl Chennamma has been described as the morning star of India’s freedom struggle. Although Queen of the small state of Kittur, on the Pune-Bangalore highway, she was the first ruler to defy and overcome the mighty British Empire. She loved her land and people and no sacrifice was sufficient in their sewice.
Her dramatic first encounter with her husband Raja Mallasarja Desai has been described in numerous folk songs. […]

Ahalyabai

The Marathas were known for their honour and valour. The name of Malhararao Holkar shines in the Maratha annals for his courage and bravery. When he was only eight years of age a cobra spread its hood to protect his slumber. This auspicious event foretold of great events to come. But Malhararao was not so lucky with his vagabondson who became a constant source of concern. Once when Malhararao was returning to Pune from his tour of North India, […]

Queen Chinnammaji (A.D. 1661)

It was not unusual for Indian Queens to administer the kingdom during their husband’s reign. Queen Chinnammaji was a woman of such extraordinary administrative skill and genius that her husband entrusted the reins of the Government to her hands. When he passed away in A.D. 1677, she ruled wisely and justly for another twenty-five years.
In the face of impending danger she sheltered Shivaji’s son, Rajaram, who was being pursued by the army of Aurangzeb. She repulsed the Moghul army and totally routed it. […]

Dhatri Panna

The spirit of sacrifice of Indian women is beyond record. Each tale of sacrifice is more breathtaking than the other. So many lives have been sacrificed at the altar of Bharat Mata, Mother India, that even the soil of Bharat is worthy of worship. Nobility in women does not depend upon race, but upon ideals. It is the outcome of their dharmic way of life.
After the death of Maharana Sanga of Mewar, his two sons succeeded him. […]

Muktabai

Maharashtra has always been the land of Saints and Sages. Its history and culture is so closely intenrvoven with spirituality that it is difficult to separate it. It is a saga of human ascent and the endeavour of the men of God to establish the rule of Dharma. Even the country songs and bhajans narrate the spiritual history of the land. A popular abhanga (devotional song), sung often in the Pune district, records the meeting of Muktabai with Saint Namadev in the Shrine of Vitthala at Pandharpur. […]

Sukanya

Years of hard penance and deep meditation had reduced the body of sage Chayavana to a skeleton. Even his body was buried in an ant hill. One day Princess Sukanya, who was merry making in the forest, spied two gem like objects shining through that ant hill. Aroused by curiosity she poked a sharp thorn into the shining object and inadvertently pierced the eyes of the sage Chyavana, turning him blind.
The Sage exploded and threatened to cast a terrible curse on the Princess unless she married him and shared his hermitage. […]

Shabari

Beyond the Vindhya mountains in the Dandaka forest there dwelt the great Sage Matanga. Disciples from all over the country flocked to his hermitage to serve him and learn from him. Some distance away from the hermitage was the small hut of an ignorant tribal woman Shabari. Shabari yearned to serve the great Sage, but she dared not approach him due to her low caste. She would satisfy her devotion by silently cleaning his path and sprinkling water on it. […]

Vidura (Mahabharata Period)

For the person who is large-hearted the whole universe is her family. In a large heart there is a place for everyone. There are instances of many such large hearted Queens in India who always held the interest of their subjects above themselves and their family. Women are brought up with an attitude to regard the welfare of others as their own welfare, especially that of the collective. She cannot think otherwise for this gives her the greatest satisfaction. […]

Savitri

In the month of Jyaishtha (May-June), orthodox Hindu wives fast for three days to imbibe the virtues of the ideal wife Savitri.
Being the only child of King Ashwapati, Princess Savitri was brought up amidst indulgent luxury and the seeking for education. She was extremely wise and compassionate and the people loved her dearly. When she came of age her father sent her on a long journey with permission to choose a worthy husband. The princess was greatly attracted by places of pilgrimage and the hermitages of saints. […]

Women in Ancient India

From the Rig-Vedic age women were equal partners with men in all spheres. Women studied both the apara and para vidya, the physical and metaphysical knowledge, and became great scholars, seers and teachers. When Yajnavalkya wanted to divide his property between his two wives, Katyayani and Maitreyi, the latter declined to accept saying, “What should l do with all the worldly wealth through which l cannot gain immortality”. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Women of royal households received military training. […]

Introduction

Indian history lives in folklore. On the lips of country ballads which immortalise the indomitable spirit of its great women, each vale proudly recalls soul stirring deeds of heroic women. Each ancient palace echoes the honour and bravery of some daring Queen. Indeed, the greatness of Indian culture does not arise from its breathtaking miniatures, intricate hand carvings, fine inlay work, dazzling architecture, magnificent temples and mosques, superb classical music or the vedic texts, but from the dignity and sacrifice of woman who built Indian civilization into the greatest culture of the world. […]

Foreword

 
India is vast, made up of many different regions, peoples, cultures and religions that geography, climate and history have shaped, but India is first and foremost a single nation, because it believes since antiquity in the existence of a universal Mother. This faith has often manifested itself in a love for the Motherland and in a glorification of the housewife. The author has chosen to present 19 short stories about these great female figures who have acted on the path of Indian thought and instilled respect for women. […]

Dedicated to Her Holiness Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
Mother of all the mothers
Motherhood is the highest thing.
Any race which does not have superior mothers cannot exist.
Any race which does not have mothers of great quality cannot exist.
The mothers have to look after the preservation, not only of their own children,
but of the whole race, of the whole nation.
It is a very important thing. Wherever the mothers have failed, the nations have failed.
If the mothers themselves are selfish, […]