Three extraordinary women and their narratives. Jabala, Maitreyi and Shandili have been written before the Christian Era (BCE). My dear ones when I read these legends, I was so pleased that I felt that I must share these stories.
Jabala and her son
It is from the ancient Vedic text, Chhandayoga Upanishad. Satyakama Jabala was a Vedic sage. In order to become a brahmachari, he had to know who his father was. He was raised by his mother Jabala a single parent. The seer, he went to see said that it was essential for him to know who know the forbears of his lineage were as his wisdom could only be imparted to the high born. Satyakama went to his mother, Jabala and asked her who his father was. She proudly said that she did not know, as she had many lovers. He should tell his teacher that he was Jabala’s son and then was accepted.
He was asked to look after four hundred cows and to return when they became a thousand. Since there is always a story within a story, Satyakama held a conversation with a bull, a fire, a swan and a diver bird. They symbolize Vayu, Agni, Aditya and Prana. Satyakama learnt from these creatures that the form of Brahman is in everything. Brahman was in all directions, north, south, east and west. Brahman was in the world bodies which were earth, atmosphere, sky and ocean. He was in the sources of light which were fire, sun, moon and lightning. Brahman was man’s breath, eyes, ear and mind. He reported back to the sage with the thousand cows and the knowledge of the ultimate truth. He named a Vedic school after his mother. It is known as the Jabala Upanishad. Now see, he kept his mother’s name. She was a fearless woman.
Maitreyi knew her mind
Maitreyi was a woman who wanted to learn the secret of life. She became the second wife of Yajnavalkya as she thought that it would then be easier for her to establish the teacher and student relationship. After a while, Yajnavalkya wished to renounce the world and he told both his wives that he would leave his wealth for them. Maitreyi asked him if she would become immortal if she was given all the wealth of the world. Yajnavalkya said that wealth could not be traded for immortality.
His first wife, Katyayani took her share. Maitreyi then said that she would also renounce her wealth in the quest of enlightenment. Yajnavalkya thought that it would be too much for her and expressed his doubts. Maitreyi’s response was that since he had renounced her, he had no claim on her actions. She then went on to seek enlightenment. She is called the wise one and is recognised as a philosopher. Yajnavalkya is credited with authorship of the Shatpatha Brahmana (including the Brihadarankya Upanishad). She knew what she wanted most in life.
Never humiliate a woman
Shandili was a sage. She had practiced severe austerities. She had a beautiful hermitage and was known for her hospitality. Sage Galava and his mount Garuda (Vishnu’s mount) were travelling on a mission of finding eight hundred horses with a tinge of black on their tail. These horses were to be offered to Rishi Vishwamitra.
It was a monumental task and Garuda had offered to help him. Sage Galava and Garuda halted at the ashram. Shandili was very hospitable and offered them food which was spiritually pure through her Yagnas. They were rested and went to sleep soundly. Garuda found when he opened his eyes that his golden, heavenly wings had been cut and he was unable to move.
Galava was stunned and asked Garuda how this had come to pass. Garuda replied that he had just thought that Shandili’s place was with the Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in the heavens. He had imagined that he had given the highest honour to the Sage and felt that he could free her and take her to the heavenly abode. Garuda realised his error and he fell at Shandili’s feet.
Shandili was very pleased with Garuda’s humility. She granted his wings back to him, and then she said that he had humiliated her. She never forgot a humiliation, appreciated his concern and the effect the tapasyas had on her looks. He must now remember that no women can be demeaned. She was an independent rishi, who had self-evolved and she was where she was by her choice.
This story establishes a wrong at the level of thought. It demonstrates the mistakes made by arrogant men. Finally, it does not respect what a woman wants.
What is our take away. Be yourself. Be conscientious. Be aware of your potential. Be fearless. Be focused and follow your objective. We will always have the blessings of Brahman.
Aim Hrim Klim