TWO GREAT MOTHERS OF THE MAHABARATA
Rukmini & Draupadi
What makes a woman a great mother? Many women have children, but that by itself does not necessarily make a woman a great mother. Some women never have children. All of us mother in various ways. We birth great service to the community, great ideas, great reforms, great careers, and do the right thing by living their life purposes. Some of us are homemakers. Some are leaders of nations. These great women often break stereotypes and do not do what is expected of them. They have the courage to say "no" to their relatives and friends in order to follow their life purposes, abilities, dreams and spiritual values. These inner aspects are allowed to shine.
One of my favorite mothers of the Mahabarata is Queen Rukmini. I just loved it when I first saw her in the Indian movie. She really lived the concept that woman has the right to choose her own husband. She did not accept the demands of her family that she marry Prince Shishupala for political reasons. Her brother, Rukmi, feared Emperor Jarasandra. Shishupala was a vassal of the emperor and an ally of Rukmi. Rukmini loved Lord Krishna and asked him to marry her. She wrote him a letter and explained the plans of her relatives and the situation which was brewing which confronted her. Krishna upheld her right to choose her own husband. He met her at the temple and she jumped into his chariot. He defeated her brother with the help of his brother, Balarama. She married Krishna at Dwarka. As Krishna said, "A woman has a right to choose her own husband!" She did have many children by Lord Krishna but her initial brave act was the thing which made her a truly great mother. I love this concept of women choosing their own husbands and marrying for love first. She did not settle for second best. She knew who she loved and acted on her right to do so. She is a great inspiration to me. She is a great mother because she did what was right not what was expected.
Another great mother of the Mahabarata, Draupadi, is the wife of the five Pandavas brothers--Arjuna, Yudhistra, Bheema, Nakul and Sahadev. She had five sons, one from each of her five husbands. Many people are familiar with the story of Yudhistra playing dice and chatteling off Draupadi like a piece of property. Duryodhan orders his son, Dusshasana, to drag her by her hair to the court and disrobe her in front of everyone. No one comes to her defense at first--neither The Elders nor her five husbands. She wastes no time telling the Elders off for their actions, demanding they step in and do justice. She distracts every one with a social ritual to buy time. Very smart woman. In her mind she calls for Krishna her only true beloved friend or Sakha. He is the only one who provides justice to her time and time again. He does not take the side of the five brothers. He tells Yudhistra, "Your wife is not a piece of property, not a piece of chattel. She is your life's companion." She stands up for herself despite the actions of others. This makes her a truly great mother who spoke the truth even when it was hard for others to take it. Krishna and Drapaudi are great role models because they speak the truth that people need to hear.
Both men and women need to speak up in these kind of situations and not tolerate this kind of behavior. I worked in a women's shelter and saw all too often the real-life reality of how women can be treated by their husbands and boyfriends. Many of these men believed they could do anything they wanted with these women. It started with psychological abuse and then got progressively more violent. Sadly, this was often learned behavior from their families of origin. I have always admired how each of these great individuals spoke their truth in these situations. Great mothers speak the truth like Drapaudi and Rukmini and do not do what is expected of them.
All great social change is based on truth being greater than tradition or what is expedient or expected. Gandhi spoke of this idea and called it truth force. This means you live the truth, not just talk about it. Many of these ideas came from the Gita, which is part of the Mahabarata. Being a great mother takes courage. These fore mothers were brave and great souls who paved the way for the upliftment of women even to this very day. We often hear about fore fathers, but we often do not honor fore mothers for their greatness and courage. Often at Yagnas we ask men to be MCs and take leadership roles, but we do not ask equally capable, articulate women as often to do these tasks. It is time we truly honor mothers in an equal way for their great abilities. Go, Mothers, Go! Happy Mother's Day!
JAI SHRI MOTHERS!
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