The VedAs are " the edifices of eternal knowledge ". They have timeless relevance to the practioners of Sri VisishtAdhvaitham and other darsanams based on Vedic Doctrines. There is a lot there that is absolutely relevant to our contemproary life .As such , the VedAs have "everlasting appeal and "applicability for all times and nations "for men , women and children as the fundamental units of the family .
VedAs take a humanistic approach to life . An individual's relation to his or her own family is dwelt at length in the VedAs . The relationship between man and woman , the parents and the children are taken very seriously by VedAs , since it ties in very closely wiht the health and well being of Society and the preservation of DharmA . The need to develop social consciousness with the family as an elemental unit of society is very important one taught by the Vedaas . Material civilization generates a lot of wealth , but is found wanting in social consciousness and a dharmic way of life strssing one's obligation to the different members of society .DharmA encompasses " the entire gamut of life ". Pursuit of a dhArmic way of life elaborated by Sruthis and SaasthrAs creates a sound infrastructure to build a sound and stable society that enjoys all the benefits of a higher order of civilization .
The MAN-TO-WOMAN relationship is one of the most important subject dealt with by the VedAs instructing us on how to build a sound and stable society , where righteousness prevails .VedAs show a keen interest in the unity of man and woman and spells out their duties , responsibuilities and rights .GeethAchAryan elaborates them further . They point out the important role of women in building a fair , stable and just scoiety .Satapatha BrahmaNA passage states unblushingly that only woman fulfills the purposes of human life . It extolls the divine aspect of women and declares that women are the embodiment of Sri Devi (SriyA vA yEthath rUpam yathA patnaya:).
The modern women may not be familiar with the high status given to women in our religious world and its scriptures. Contrary to the popular belief that VedAs deny freedom to women , it stresses the underlying duty and THE RIGHTS of WOMEN , while focusing on the stability of the family as a unit , which then strengthens the society .
It is in this context , Vedic thought gave ample room for a personal God to be conceived as divinty in male or female form .Vedic Gods like Ushas (dawn ) are adoringly saluted by the manthrams of Ushas sUktham in Rg Vedam .There are many Rishi pathnis and wives, who have been equally revered in PurANAs ( AnusUyA , Kausalya , Damayanthi , Saavithri et al).
Vedam describes the wife to be the best friend of the husband AT ALL TIMES. The Vedic obligations are recognized as SamAna (equally moving ) , since married men and women move freely in society in pursuit of their complimentary duties , VedAs and Manu Smruthi vividly describe the responsibilities of women in the house as yajamAnis . The importance of women in the economic aspect of the family is fully emphasized and asks men to give the women the responsibility of looking after the family budget .Similarly , maintianing family tradition and strengthening the spiritual affairs of the family is entrusted with the women . IN THE EYE OF THE VEDAS , WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUALLY IMPORTANT .
I will quote now verbatim from AgnihOthram Sri RaamAnuja TatachAr's monograph on the Eternal relevance of VedAs dealing with the role of women in Hindu Society :
" In the early years of marriage , love has a sexual importance. But with the advance of years, it mellows into a great attachment and affection . No one can disturb this mutual love. Marriage is not made for sexual purpose , BUT FOR A REAL UNITED LIFE .... The VedAs say that the wife is the only friend of her husband....Their comradeship is strengthened by day-to-day movements .She never claims superiority over her husband and she is never treated as inferior by her husband.She is the mistress of the house .... She is a real friend and closely follows her husband in the good and bad of domestic life and takes keen interest in his welfare.She also advises him at times. Smruthi following the direction given by the Vedas states clearly that it is the duty of a wife to correct the mistake of her husband " .SitA piraatti did just that in a famous pasage in Srimadh RaamAyaNam in Her conversation with HanumAn inAsOka Vanam.
AgnihOthram TatachAr swamy points out a special Vedic term : Purandhi and explains its significance . According to the VedAs , women are more intelligent than men (i.e) she is a purandhi.In AsvanEdhA , there is a prayer that women must be " purandhi". By that term , Women's superior intelligence is indicated. " According to the VedAs , Woman is a karma yogi . She does duty for duty's sake.She sacrifices her individual pleasure and pain and serves the family . The early life of all children depend on the care of the mother. She brings them up as intelligent and pious ones . The stability of her integrity is brought out in one MantrA , which points out that women are to be strong as a rock in the family so that the family can survive . Her integrity not only keeps the family in a high order , but it overcomes all enemies as well ".She is the queen of her husband's house .She maintains the customs and traditions of the house strictly , with vigilance .The house may be built by bricks and wood , but it is not the real house.In fact , the wife is only the real house. VedAs never confine a woman to the house.Many brilliant women have reached out with their husbands and attained a spiritual status equal to or higher than that of their husbands , who are revered as Manthra dhrushtAs of the various Veda Manthrams .
The names of the women Rishis (RishikAs or Lady seers ) are etched in the annals of the Veda manthrams .None of the Rishis or the Rishi pathnis are recognized as the composers of the Veda manthrAs , but as samhithAkarthAs , who assisted in the collection of the Veda manthrams thru the power to "see " them as manthra dhrushtAs . Angirasa , Gautama , VasishtA , ViswAmithrA , Bhrugu , Athri , Marici , KasyapA , AgasthyA and BharadhvAjaa belong to the rich set of Rishis in this category . Every Veda manthram has a Rishi or RishikA , Chandas and DevathA . We invoke them prior to the recitaion of the individual mathrAs of the different VedAs . Each of these Rishis have a distinguished wife well versed in scholarship , AchAram and anushtAnam . These rishikAs or Lady Seers took an important part in SamaadhikaraNam . YajnavalkyA's wife and her tight questioning of her husband gave birth to a great Upanishad . There are abundant reference to the RishikAs in the Tenth Canto of Rg Vedam besides the other Cantos .
LopamudhrA is one such RishikA as the wife of AgasthyA , known for his command over Sanskrit and Tamil. The meaning of the word "LopamudhrA " is one , who is totaly absorbed in herself (i-e)., she is one of the BrahmavAdhini RshikAs.Two manthrAs of the Rg Vedam ( Canto I.179.1-2) are attributed to her .
RoamasA the wife of SvanyA , VisvavArA belonging to the Athri family , AangirasI Sarasvathi of Angirasa family , ApAlA of the Athri family , YamI Vaivasvathi , SraddhA , Vasukra pathni , GhOshA , SooryA , IndrANi , Urvasi , Sarama , Joohu , VagAmbhruNi and PoulOmi Sachi are well known RshikAs , who are revered and are associated with individual Rg Veda ManthrAs .
Sri Vaishnavite households have had such exemplary Women , who quietly served as the living examples of these Vedic Values and cherished them as their kula dhanams . Some of them are ANDAL ( the mother of ParAsara Bhattar and the wife of KuratthAzhwAn ) , Devaki Piratti ,the spiritually advanced ( jn~Adhikai) daughter of ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi ., She was a disciple of AchArya RaamAnujA .The incident assoicated with the 18th Thituppaavai is linked to her . At the time of her father's ascent to Parama padham , her father asked his daughter as to what she was thinking about . She replied with all sincerity that she was thinking about her father ataining Sathgathi due to his assoication with HER ACHARYA , Sri RaamAnujA .That is the measure of Her AchArya Bhakthi. The joyous father blessed her with AchArya RaamAnujA's ancient vigraham obtained by Naathamuni from NammAzhwAr before RaamAnujA's birth . That mUrthy was worshipped in turn by UyyakkonDAr, MaNaRkkAL nampi ,AlawandhAr . The grateful father asked his daughterr to give that vigraham to his Sishyan, Sri RaamAnujA . This is the quality of relationship between the anuvrutthi prasannAcchAryar like ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi and the KrupAmAthra PrasannAcchAr like Sri RaamAnujA . One of the links here is thru the Bhagavathai , Devaki Pirratti . AthtuZhAi , the daughter of Periya Nampi was another example of this illustrious Sri VaishNavite women .
The five AchAryAs of Sri RaamAnujA - Periya nampi , ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi , ThirumAlai AanDaan , Periya Thirumalai nampi , ThirukkOshtiyUr nampi ,Thiruvaranga PerumAn Araiyar --recognized AchArya RaamAnuja , their disciple as their own UttAraka AchAryan and entrusted their brothers , sons and DAUGHTERS as his sishyAs .Devaki PirAtti and ANDAL belong to this group of exemplary women . Sri VaishNava kulam grew out of such dedicated , modest, spiritually rigorous women , who were like kalankarai viLakku ( lighthouses ).
The WIVES AND DAUGHTERS of the men of the ten branches of KaimkaryaparALs assigned by AchAryA RaamAnujA for Sri RanganaathA's daily kaimkaryam were also shining lights in their own rights .
Parutthik Kollai AmmAl , Kongup PirAtti(AchArya RaamAnujA's sishyai ) , Vangipuratthu Aacchi ( the disciple of AlawanadAr) , Ammangi ( ThirukkaNNapuram Nampi ? )are other shining examples of illustrious Sri Vaishnava Bhagavathais , who spread the darsanam of Sri RaamAnujA .Ammangi , another disciple of AlavandhAr is the one , who instructed AchArya RaamAnuja with the five pointers of proper code of conduct for a Sri Vaishnava Achaarya as she (?)learnt it from her own Acharya , Alavandar . These five codes of conduct are deep in meaning and are like aphorisms for us to reflect as well even today .The most merciful AchArya , Sri RaamAnujA was very receptive to great Bhaagavathais and their upadEsa vAkhyams as well . His respect for his AchArya pathnis is legendary .
Our most merciful AchArya Sri RaamAnuja was visiting at one time ThirukkOLur , the birth place of Madhura Kavi AzhwAr . He met a young girl there , who came to offer her praNAmams and entered into a conversation with her. He was so delighted with this girl's divya Prabhandha Jn~Anam that he blessed her and her family . Our AchAryAs follow that way of life and care equally for the spiritual well being of our men , WOMEN and theentire family .
Lit from those lamps ,our women persevere joyously with the steady diffusion / dissemination process by personal code of condiuct and serve as the Sheet Anchor for our SampradhAyam . They tend to their other duties and continue today at India and the distant households in America through the efforts of the organizers of NaamA Sathsangams at Dallas , Denver , Singapore and elsewhere .
Here are selected Rg Veda manthrams that came our way thru the intercession of great RishikAs or the women manthra drushtAs .
The first and formost set of manthrAs of Rg Vedam from this perspective are the manthrams housed in the 10th Canto of Rg Vedam dealing with the Marriage Ceremony .Sri VilliputthuR ANDAL transformed them into Sundara Tamil in Her NaacchiyAr Thirumozhi ( VaraNamAyiram Paasurams ).
The manthra dhrashtA of Rg Vedam 's 10th canto , soktham 85most appropriately is a Rishi pathni by the name Saavithri SooryA .This 85th Sooktham has 47 manthrams , number of which are used in the different phases of Hindu Marriage Ceremony .
I will focus on these important manthrAs first which houses the prayer and the vision of the RishikA as revealed to her as instructions from the Veda Purushan .
The first manthram of 10.85 is a profound one :
satyEnOtthabbhithA Bhumi: SooryENOtthbhithA Dhyau: R+thEnAdhithyasthishtanthi divi sOmO adhi sritha: Rg Vedam : X.85.1
(Meaning ) : Our Earth is upheld by truth , heaven is upheld by the Sun ; the solar regions are supported by the eteranl laws (r+tham ) ; the elixir of divine love reigns supreme in heaven .
The 27th manthram distills the thoughts housed in the previous posting of this two part series :
iha priyam prajayA --- vadhAta: Rg Vedam : X.85.27
(Meaning ) : In this new family of your husband , May you be happy and prosperous along with your offsprings .Be watchful over your domestic duties in this house. May you unite your person with with your lord,your husband ; thus may you both , growing in age together , manage your household affairs according to gruhasthAsrama rules .
Rg Vedam : X.85.33
SumangalIriyam VadhUrimAm samEtha pasyatha SoubhAgyamasya dhathvAyathasthAm vi parEtana
(Meaning ) ; Blessed indeed is this bride ; come one , come all of you ; meet , behold and bless her. Convey to her your feliciations and then RETURN to your homes .
Rg Vedam : X.36
GrubhNAmi --dEvA :
(Meaning ) ; I accept your hand for good fortune , that you attain old age with me as your husband. Our Lord of grace , cosmic orders , creation and wisdom has given you ( purandhi) to me that I may be the yajamaanan of a household to practise our assigned dharmAs .
Rg Vedam X.85.42
May you both reside here together ; may you both never be separated; may you live together all your lives sporting with sons and grandsons ; and thus rejoice in your own home .
Rg Vedam X.85.43
May the supreme power grant us progeny , may the ordainer unite us together until old age . May that protector free us from evils , may you the bride enter your husband's household and be the bringer of prosperity to our bipeds and quadrupeds .
Rg Veda manthram : X.85.44
O Bride ! May you never look your husband with an evil eye ; never be hostile to him ; be tender to animals (sivA pasubhya:) ; may you ever be amiable and cheeful ; may you fufill one of your roles as the mother of brave children , loving to the divine powers , be the grantor of happiness , and usher prosperity to our bipeds and quadrupeds ( dhvipadhE sam chathushpadhE ).
Rg Veda manthram : X.85.45
O Generous Lord ! Make the bride blessed with children ! Make her blessed with fortune ! give her ten sons ; and then her husband becomes the eleventh one(son ) (dasAsyAm puthrAn dEhi pathimEkAdasam krudhi ).
Rg Vedam X.85.46
Be a soverign to your father-in-law ; be a queen to your mother-in-law ; be a queen to your husband's sister, be a queen to your husnad's brothers ( SamrA~Jni svasurE bhava ; samrA~jni svasravam bhava; nanAndhAri samra~jni bhava;samrA~jni adhi dEvrushu )
Rg Vedam X.85. 47
" May the entire assembly of the invited guests unite the hearts of both of us ; may we be calm and united like the mixed waters .May we be united like the vital breaths ; may both of us be in unison like the Creator and His creation ; may we be one like the preceptor and his disciple; may we be loving to each other ! "
B .Indrasnusha Vasukra-pathni Sooktham
Another illustrious RishikA is Vasukrapathni , who has given us Rg Vedam X.28.1, 6 , 8, 10 and 11).
The First manthram is set as the invocation of the Goddess of Dawn (to her supreme Lord) in a symbolic way :
(Meaning ):Now all other divine forces except You (including the Sun ) have arrived , but You , the Soverign Lord , my sire-in-law has not arrived ; may Thou accept my oblations of parched grains and the elixir(SomA) and return home fully satisfied . (Rg Vedam X.28.1)
The 1oth and the 11th manthrams are glorious tributes to the power of Gayathri by this RishikA :
" The gloriously shining Self( sEshi) is thirsty for the divine elixir , as a thirsty buffalo for water. For this , Yajamaanan , the sEsha soul , invokes Gayathri metre , which becomes a she-hawk and fastens her claw in the divine realm , just as a lioness confined in a cage places one foot over the other (X.85.10).
Gayathri without difficulty , brings the divine elixir , which is enjoyed by the Self , and whatever is left over is shared by the sense organs . With the help of this elixir , the enemies (the aasura svabhAvam ) are retaliated and finally destroyed " (X.85.11).
C.RishikA ApAlA : A Human Prayer
The Fourth manthram of Rg Vedam 8.91 is symbolic and humorous at the same time .There is a lot of legend going with this .Apala is a maiden- Rishika desirous of marrying the beautiful prince SomA and the 7th manthram of this Sooktham is used in Hindu marriages even today during mangala snanaam for the bride for ceremonila cleansing .Here we will focus on the Fourth manthram of X.91.
Rg Vedam VIII.91.4 : Dream & Prayer of a Wedding-ready Maiden
Kuvicchath kuvith karath-- samgamAmahE
(Meaning ): May the Lord of illustrious lustre and glory bless us (the family)to be powerful . May He make us( the family and the future husband)) wealthier repeatedly . may He support us and work for us (in our favor). may he unite me with my (future ) husband , who has been indifferent (as a courter ) , unconcerned and unfriendly with me so far !
D.RishikA VisvavarA , Agni DEvathA , Four Metres
This Lady Seer is a great poet as well . She sets her Six manthrAs of Rg Vedam Canto 5.28 in four differnet metres( Tr+shtup, JagathI , Anushtup and GayathrI chandas ).
The name VisvavarA according to Sayana (Vedic commentator: Saayana Bhaashyam ) relates to one who repels all sins . She belongs also to the family of Sage Athri . She is conducting a Vedic ceremony , which we would think today would have been the domain of the male seers . Not so ! She is invoked with the Ladle in hand transporting the Soma rasam .So much goes for the legend about woman's subdued/inferior role in YaaagAs .She specifically prays for the concordance of realtions between men and women through their complimentary roles to perform assigned tasks ( the opposite of male chauvinism !).
We will study the first two manthrams of X.28 here .
Rg Vedam : X.28.1(Tr+shtup metre)
SammiddhO agnir dhivi-- havishA gruthAchI
(Meaning ) : The incomparable glories of the revered Lord , when enkindled spreads its lustre throughout the firmamnet , and shines far and wide and transforms itself into the supreme light of divine intelligence . Eastward the ladle ! Let knowledge that repels all sins and worries proceed to advance ! Let that diffusion of knowledge honor the nature's bounties with reverence and oblations !
Rg Vedam X.28.2: JagathI metre
SamidhyamAnO amruthasya rAjasi-dhatta ithputhra:
(Meaning ): O Revered Lord ! Whilst your glory is eulogized , You are recognized as the king of immortals . You take total care of the offerer of the havis (oblation ) for his well being. He , whom You favor , acquires universal wealth ; he sets before You , O Lord , the gifts that (Your) guests may claim .
NamO Veda NaarAyaNAya , Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri SadagOpan