By Devakinanda Pasupuleti, MD
Ashtottaram 29) OṀ STRĪGAURAVABHŨMYAI NAMAH
ॐ स्त्रीगौरवभूम्यै नमः
(Sṫrī: Woman, female, lady; Gauravam: Respect, honor)
The only country which worships woman as a mother (mātrumurty, mātrudevata) and as a goddess in India. Swami Vivekānanda said ‘Whatever form it may be, the woman occupies the highest pedestal, and the only country that worships the dirt also in a motherly form is my country.’ It puts a woman as a mother on a high pedestal and worships her.
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If the estimate of the excellence of civilization and culture depends upon the degree of excellence of its women, then, the women of the Vedic age and the epic period prove it beyond all doubt. Vedānta has declared in unequivocal terms that man and woman are two aspects of one and the same divinity. In the Ṛigveda about thirty women sages like Viśvavāra, Apāla, and Ghosha Kākshivati have been mentioned as seers of hymns. Gargi and Maitreyi were mentioned in the Upanishads as seekers of Truth.
It is a matter of great pride and satisfaction that even during the dark middle ages, many eminent women like Ketalādevi, Nāyakādevi, Ahalyābai Holkar, and saints like Mīrābai appeared on the country’s horizon keeping the ancient spirit of India alive. With the advent of political freedom and reform movements within Hinduism, the condition and status of women have improved a lot. Over the centuries, the position and status of women have seen several changes.
After freedom during the Vedic and the epic ages, the insecurity brought about by the frequent foreign invasions by Muslims, Portuguese, Dutch, French and British, forced Hindu society to subject women to many restrictions including pre-puberty marriages. Horrible practices like polygamy and self-immolation were abolished totally and monogamy has been enforced after Independence.
In our wedding ceremonies, the mantras indicate that the woman is the sāmrajṇi (queen). In the Śhakuntala story of the Mahābhārata– Shri Vedavyāsa said that the man who insults a woman even with one vulgar word stays eternally in hell. A widower loses the right to perform sacred-rites like yajṇam, and Homam. He mentions the many positions, titles, and roles a woman plays in her husband’s life. She is responsible for her husband’s respect in society. He goes on about the special role a woman plays in a man’s life.
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In essence, everything a man enjoys is due to a woman- as a mother, wife, sister, friend, etc. Our Vedas say that for any difficulties a man faces, the only remedy is if his wife is next to him. This shows how strong our marriage relationship is. In Ramāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, women are portrayed as strong, brave, self-confident, wise, and loving.
The ancient and eternal ideal of perfect wifehood and perfect motherhood is still demonstrated by some Hindu women and they keep our land as- ‘Strīgaurava Bhūmi.’