These days it seems to have become fashionable to associate freedom and equality of women with English education. We hear ignorant comments about how women in Indian History were held in lower esteem than men.
Nothing is farther than the truth. The Eternal-Dharma from its beginning has held women in high esteem. History is full of examples of great women scholars of the Ved. The texts have numerous stories about Indian Queens fighting alongside their husbands in major battles. The women of Mahaa-Bhaarat, for example, are noted for their independence and aggressive defense of their rights.
We thought it might be helpful to share a lovely but sad verse on this topic. First the background.
Last week we wrote about the birth of Raghu, the son of Emperor Dileep. Raghu became the greatest emperor of that era. Besides his military victories, his administration and generosity were of the highest calibre. This is why the Ikshvaku dynasty was renamed as Raghu-Vamsha or the Dynasty of Raghu. Raghu had one son named Aja.
At that time, King Bhoja of Vidharbha had arranged the स्वयंवर of his exquisitely beautiful daughter Indumati. The स्वयंवर or Svayam-Var (roughly ceremony for husband selection) was a common royal custom. The Svayam-Var of a young princess would be announced. All interested young princes would attend the function. Each would be seated in a large hall. The young princess would then go around, meet each prince and choose the one she liked best. In some celebrated cases, a contest or a test of prowess would be held to determine the best suitor.
In her Svayam-Var, Indumati met the major kings of that era, King Parantap of Magadha, King of Anga and others. But she could not find anyone acceptable. Some were not handsome enough while the others were not as smart. She simply did not like anyone.
Then her entourage came to the seat of Aja, the great prince of Raghu-Vamsha. Indumati’s main companion described the greatness of Aja, She finally said that Aja was the perfect man for Indumati. Indumati married Aja in a lavish ceremony. The son of Aja & Indumati was Dasha-Ratha, famed in history as the Father of Shri Ram.
Unfortunately Indumati died at a young age with a heart attack. Kali-Das describes what Aja said whhe lost Indumati:
Gruhini Sachivah Sakhi Mithaha
You were the head of my home, you were my chief counsel, between us you were my best friend,
प्रिय शिष्या ललिते कला विधौ
Priya Shishyaa Lalite KalaVidhau
You were my favorite student companion of the fine arts
करुणा विमुखेन मृतुउ ना
Karuna Vimukhen Mrutuuna
The heartless death,
हरता त्वं वद किम न मे हृतम
Harataa Tvam Vad Kim Na Me Hrutam
When he snatched you, tell me didn’t he snatch everything of mine
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