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Updated on March 21, 2013

The Rishikas

We are living in the patriarchy, a hierarchical system based upon competition, inequality and the good ole' boy network. Now we are beginning to see that the matriarchy needs to come back. The matriarchy was and is an egalitarian system based upon cooperation, competence of skills, abilties and shared leadership based on a circle of common interests with different individuals switching leadership roles on a regular basis.

In ancient times there were female sages or wise women in many countries. In the Pagan European traditions, they were called crones, seers, herbalists and oracles. In the Christian tradition they were called the mystical saints and abbesses of convents like St. Theresa, St. Claire and Hildagard of Bingen. Jesus' grandmother, Anna, was a temple prophetess. Judy of the Essenes was thought to be one of Jesus' spiritual teachers. Mary Magdalene was called the Apostle of the Apostles. Her name means tower or magnificent, a title Jesus gave her. In the Native American traditions, the female chief, the oldest grandmother and medicine woman were the wise women of a tribe. In Judaism the wise women became judges, like Deborah, who helped settle disputes between families. Moses' sister, Miriam, was considered to be a prophetess.

In Hinduism, the most ancient major world religion, the wise women were called Rishikas (female sages). The male sages were called Rishis. With the terrible environmental mess of the oil spill, I think we could assemble the wise women of the world to solve the problem which seems to elude the wise men of the planet. It is so unfortunate that wisdom and intelligence were not used in placing the rig in the water in the first place.

Just how many Rishikas were there in ancient times? About 30 are named in the Rig Veda. They authored many passages in the Vedas. Vedas mean "knowledge" and it was a set of wisdom books and hymns in the Hindu tradition. It is believed the Early Vedic Rig Vedic Age was before 2000 B.C. to 1000 B.C. Some of these women who did not marry were called brahmavadinis and spent their waking hours studying the Vedas and doing religious rituals. A number of them were teachers, philosophers and sages. Some of the women called Rishikas were Lopamudra, Visvavara, Aditi, Romaha, Ghosha, Sikata, Brahmjaya, Nivavri, Laksha, Apala, Sri, Yami Vaivasvathi, Sraddah, Vasukra, Soorya, Indrani, Urvasi, Sarama, Joohu, Vagambhruni and Polomi Sachi. In the later Vedic Period (1000 B.C. to 600 B.C.), Gargi, Sulabha and Maitreyi were well known as teachers and philosophers. In the Mahabarata Arundhati, wife of great sage Vashishta, is mentioned. She is believed to have equalled her husband in scholarship. Shrutavani, also mentioned in the Mahabarata, was a brahmavadinis who studied the Vedas all her life. Sulabha took on King Janaka in the Ramayama and the king also summoned Gargi. The Upanishads mentions the famous conversation between Maitreyi and her husband, Sage Yajnavalkaya. She questioned him on high Hindu Philosophy. Lopamudra married Agasthya, an expert in Tamil and Sanskrit. She is a Brahmavadnini Rishi-patnis who authored two mantras in the Vedas.

Today there are women teachers, philosophers, professors, mathematicians, scientists, professionals, seers, sages and politicians who could step up to the task of solving this terrible environmental nightmare. Many minds are working on the problem. Creative problem solving, thinking outside the box, using intuition and using math and science are needed to overcome such a disaster. After all, it is the Mother Shakti Energy which is the energy which prevades the Universe. Our fore mothers, married and single, led the way to great things. The wise women of today have one of our greatest challenges before them. After all, many women often do three things at once when taking care of children. Instead of one solution maybe three solutions all at one time will solve the problem. Intelligent women of the world, unite!




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    • radhapriestess profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thanks again, Dyhannah. I am glad you found me via the interview. He did a great job and he is an excellent writer of the Hindu/Buddhist traditions.

    • Dyhannah profile image


      6 years ago from Texas

      I too found your hub via Vinaya Ghimire's interview. I enjoyed your interesting Hub.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the compliment. I credit my wonderful teachers in college in helping me develop those research skills.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      I came here after reading Vinaya Ghimire's interesting interview with you and am so glad I did.

      This is a very well written, researched and thought provoking article and I'm rating it up across the board except for funny.

      I admire the fact that you don't own a computer yet are still able to produce so many quality online articles.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the praise and added more detailed information on Gargi. It is a universal thing the wisdom of women seers. I did some research on it and I also knew about some of them from some of the people at various spiritual communities. I think we will continue to hear about more of them. The solution to the oil problem did turn out to be doing more than one thing at one time.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      I do not know about western religions but in Hindu religion there were many women seers. Gargi is my favorite Rishika. She went to the court of Janak and defeated all Rishis during the philosophical discussions. This is well researched article.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      yes of course must be in millions over so many milleniums

    • radhapriestess profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thank soumyasrajan for the comment and the source, also. There were many of them, and you just added one more and there are probably others we do not know about, too.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      very nice article Radha! I also remember another vidvati of ancient times (6th or 7th Century AD) Ubhaya Bharati wife of Mandan Mishra. Who was initially judge in the debate duel (shastrath) of Mandan Mishra and Adi Shankaracharya but later when her Husband was going to be defeated she also had debate with Adi Shankaracharya.

    • Thesource profile image


      8 years ago



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