LOPAMUDRA &THE VEDAS
Rishika of the Rig & Yajur Vedas
The first time I heard about this great female sage was when I starting reading Daughters of the Goddess by Linda Johnsen. This great story about Lopamurda and her husband, Agastya Maitravaruni, was so wonderfully told to Linda by Pandit Rajamani Tigunait of India. She had been visiting the Sri Vidya temple when he told her this story. Her husband, Agastya, was considered on of the greatest sages of Hinduism. Sage Agastya wanted to find the greatest teacher of Sri Vidya, which is connected with Devi Mother. He heard of this great teacher and traveled many miles on foot to find him. When he finally got to the teacher's village, the teacher told him that he would not teach Agastya because there was an even greater teacher of Sri Vidya in Agastya's village. This guru was the founder of the tradition and guru to this teacher Agastya was speaking with. Agastya had many students and was puzzled about who this great guru was. The teacher finally told him that this guru lived in Agastya's own household. It finally dawned on Agastya who this great guru was. It was his own wife, Rishika Lopamudra. This story illustrates a great concept: you might be living with a great guru and not even realize it. He traveled so far only to discover his greatest teacher lived in his own house. There are numerous female gurus and yoginis in India, USA, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Some are well known and can be found on the internet, but many are local teachers only known in their own town or village. She was famous as a Master of Sri Vidya and the Goddess teachings. No teacher excelled her in Sri Vidya.
There are different stories about her origins according to different traditions and texts, but this story seems to be the most common one told. Agastya was a great sage who had supreme yogic powers. Most traditions of Hinduism agree he was one of the seven greatest sages of Hinduism. The title given to him is spatarsi because of his great yogic abilities. He was a Tamil scholar and an expert on Indian medicine. He originated many texts on medical topics. His abilities were so great that he was able to create a female baby by using animal parts and his own mind. This girl was given to the King of Vidarbha and she was educated in all great subjects. When she became an adult, Sage Agastya approached the king with a marriage proposal. He wanted to marry her and bring her to his household and ashram. She agreed to marry him and left the opulent palace and lived an austere life as his wife. After awhile she begged him to give her more wifely affection and they had a son named Dridhasyu who became a great poet. He was as intelligent as his parents.
She wrote a couple of stanzas in the Rig Veda about her call to Agastya to give her affection and love. She is one of the 30 Rishikas (female sages) mentioned in the Rig Veda. She is also well known for spreading, along with her husband, the reciting or chanting of the thousand names of the Divine Mother. She wrote a hymn in the Rig Veda. It is believed that the Kaveri River is an incarnation of her form. She lived with a sage who was also an expert in Nadi Astrology. Boopathi Kuligai, one of his medicinal potions, was so great that it had the power to resurrect and bring the dead back to life on Mother Earth. They were a dynamic scholarly couple for only great sages can marry other great sages.
Lopamudra, Garigi, Maiteyi and Ghosa are the four most prominent Rishikas of the Vedic period (1500 to 1200 BCE). Lopamudra is mentioned in the Giridhara Ramayan. Gargi, Maiteyi and Lopamurda were well known Rishikas of the Upanishads. These three lived during the era of King Janaka, Mother Sita and Sri Ram. All four of the sages contributed significantly to the practices and ideas of modern Hinduism. Often we do not honor our great fore mothers as much as our great fore fathers. This is very unfortunate. We hear about Valmiki, Vyas and Tulsidas, but we rarely hear about other Rishis and Rishikas who contributed to the modern ideas and practices of Hinduism. So far I have had the opportunity to present a theatrical katha on Gargi and in the future I plan on presenting the lives of the other three great female sages. They are very much a part of our history as Hindus. They were great teachers, writers, scholars and philosophers. Many female priests, teachers, gurus, yoginis and leaders owe much to the great efforts of these great Rishikas.
Yesterday I received a book in the mail entitled Rsikas of the Rgveda, written by Swamini Atmaprajnananda Saraswati who was in the financial trade and who later studied with a spiritual teacher by the name of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. She gave up her financial career and received a Masters and Ph.D. in Sanskrit. She teaches at conferences, is a Vedic scholar and is involved with community services of education and health. What a pleasant surprise to have such a book which in the author describes the contributions and lives of the Rishikas. From now on I will have a reference book when writing blogs on female sages. So happy to read the stories of these great role models and fore mothers!
JAI SHRI LOPAMUDRA! JAI SHRI AGASTYA! JAI SHRI VEDAS!