Hindu Goddesses and Divine Females
The Sanskrit word for human beings is manav, which comes from Hindu King Manu. The legend of Manu is similar to Noah, who saved the humanity in his ark. Manusmiriti, the most sanctified Hindu book of law, is ascribed to King Manu. In the book the wise king says, “The deities delight in places where women are revered, but where women are not revered all rites are fruitless. Where women of the family are miserable the family is soon destroyed.”
Though the Hindu society basically is patriarchal, the religious doctrines emphasize on matriarchy. The Vedas, that were believed to composed between 1200-1500 BCE mention about the Gods such as Indra, Som (Moon), Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire) but these all Gods worship Aditi, the Mother of all Gods. Uma, also called Parvati in Puran, is another Vedic Goddess. Rig Veda mentions about Eight Mother-Goddess called Asta Matrika.
Women are idealized as Goddesses in Hinduism. It is harder to say when a common woman becomes divine, but Hindu scriptures mention about lots of women Seers. They composed mantras in Vedas and discussed philosophical ideas in the Upanishads.
Women Seers in Hindu Religion
Gargi, also called Vidushi Gargi – literally, wise Gargi – is probably the most controversial women figure in Hindu Scriptures. According to the Upanishads she had participated in the philosophical debate in the Court of Janaka and defeated many savants of the time. It is even hinted that Yagyavalka, one of the three sages who devised Hindu book of laws called Yagyavalka Smriti, could not answer Gargi and he just said her to shut her mouth.
Divine Females in the Mahabharata
The heart of Hindu culture, tradition and religion lie in the epic Ramayana by Valmiki and Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharata. The Mahabharata, one of the oldest stories in the world, is also the longest at over one hundred thousand stanzas, about seven times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. According to the Hindu myth, the Ramayana which has 24,000 couplets divided into seven books is older than the Mahabharata, central events of the Mahabharata is ascribed to 1300 BCE. However, the present version of the Ramayana, literally romance of Rama, and the Mahabharata, epic of Bharata dynasty, is believed to be composed around 300 BCE.
Draupadi is one of the central characters in the Mahabharata. She was born out of sacrificial fire, and married to Pandavas, five sons of king Pandu. One of the reasons for the war between Pandavas and their cousins Kaurava was because they had humiliated her. In her idealized form she is taken as childhood friend of Lord Krishna. In her terrible form she is also symbolized as Bhairavi, consort of Bhairav, where Bhimsen, one of the five husbands of Draupadi is Bhairav. Though Draupadi is more human than divine, she is defied for her power to change the course of history. Draupadi-Bhimsen cult is very popular in Nepal.
Apart from Draupadi, there are other divine women in the Mahabharata. Satyavati is the matriarch. She is not only the mother of the poet Veda Vaysa, who composed the Mahabharata but also the mother of two brothers whose children fight in the epic war.
Divine Female in the Ramayana
Sita is the Divine Female in the Ramayana. Sita, personification of wifely allegiance and self-surrender, was married to Rama. When Vishnu took incarnation of Rama then Laksmi, consort of Vishnu, also took the form of Sita. She was a small child, when King Janka found in the furrow while he was plowing the farm (Literal meaning of Sita is furrow). So, Earth is said to be Sita’s mother. At the end of the story in the Ramayana, she asks Mother Earth to let her in, Earth Goddess opens her chest and then Sita vanishes into the cracks.
Sita, like the Mother Earth, is the perfect example of endurance. She accompanied Rama when he was banished from his kingdom for fourteen years. While in exile, she was abducted by demon king Ravana. After Rama killed Ravana, Sita had to go into the ordeal of fire to prove her purity. She was rejected and sent to the jungle by Rama when people began to talk about her chastity. However, throughout her life she maintained her devotion to Rama.