The general position of women in ancient India was unique. They enjoyed high status and independence in the society. Women in ancient India had free access to education. They were expected to participate in Vedic sacrifices and utter mantras. Even some of the hymns of the Rigveda were composed by poetesses.
Here are the four most significant female figures of the Vedic period:
Brahmavadini Gargi Vachaknavi is the daughter of Vachaknu. She is honored as a great natural philosopher, renowned preacher of the Vedas. She is said to have written many hymns in the Rigveda. In the 6th and 8th Brahmana of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, her name is prominent as she participates in the Brahma Yajna, a philosophic debate organised by Brahma Gyani King Janaka of Videha and challenges the Brahma Gyani Sage Yajnavalkya. She challenged the sage Yajnavalkya with a volley of perturbing questions on the soul or ‘atman’ that confounded the learned man who had till then silenced many an eminent scholar. Her question – “The layer that is above the sky and below the earth, which is described as being situated between the earth and the sky and which is indicated as the symbol of the past, present, and future, where is that situated?”
Ghosha is the Granddaughter of Dirghatamas and daughter of Kakshivat. They are both composers of hymns in praise of Ashwins,Ghosha has two entire hymns of the tenth book, each containing 14 verses, assigned to her name. The first praises of the Ashwins, the heavenly twins who are also physicians,the second is a personal wish expressing her intimate feelings and desires for married life. Ghosha suffered from an incurable disfiguring disease and remained a spinster at her father’s house. Her implorations with the Ashwins and the devotion of her forefathers towards them made them cure her disease and allow her to experience wedded bliss.
The Rig Veda contains nearly one thousand hymns, of which about 10 are accredited to Maitreyi, the woman seer, and philosopher. She contributed towards the enhancement of her sage-husband Yajnavalkya’s personality and the flowering of his spiritual thoughts. Maitreyi, who is also mentioned in a number of Puranas, is regarded as one of the most learned and virtuous women of ancient India and symbolizes intellectual women in India. She was a leading scholar who also made rich contributions to propagate education. Maitreyi is an example of the educational opportunities available to women in Vedic India, and their philosophical achievements. She is considered a symbol of Indian intellectual women, and an institution is named in her honour in New Delhi.
As the legend goes, Lopamudra was created by sage Agasthya and was given as a daughter of the King of Vidarbha. The royal couple gave her the best possible education and brought her up amidst luxury. Agasthya, the sage who was under vows of celibacy and poverty wanted to own her. Lopa agreed to marry him and left her palace for Agasthya’s hermitage. After serving her husband faithfully for a long period, Lopa grew tired of his strict practices. She wrote a hymn of two stanzas making an impassioned plea for his attention and love. Soon afterward, the sage realized his duties towards his wife and performed both his domestic and ascetic life with equal zeal, reaching a wholeness of spiritual and physical powers. A son was born to them. He was named Dridhasyu, who later became a great poet. The Rig Veda has long conversations between the sage Agasthya and his wife Lopamudra that testifies to the great intelligence and goodness of the latter.