On occasion of International Women’s day, author Manoshi Sinha spoke about labelling of women and why Indian women should not be bothered about it and ignore it citing Indian women were empowered since Vedic times, are empowered now, and will continue to be empowered till eternity. She drew examples of empowered Indian women from Vedic period till Independence. Hong Kong Desi reached out to her to give her views. She highlighted on the label ‘bhakt’. According to her ‘bhakt’ is the latest label in the national context that applies to both men and women. “Anyone who speaks on nationalistic issues and proudly boasts of the thousands of year old civilizational heritage is termed a ‘bhakt’. I love this label as I add a prefix to it – ‘Desh bhakt’, ‘Krishna Bhakt’.”
Manoshi said, “Many consider it annoying, frustrating, and embarrassing and harm themselves by thinking too much over it such as getting demotivated, getting pierced by the inferiority complex bug, and even getting depressed. Few take it positively. For example, many Indian women who are labelled as ‘dark’ enhance their personality in other ways such as turning stylish and fashionable in the way they dress and speak. I remember a neighbor comparing her dark skin tone with Draupadi, one of the most important characters of the Mahabharata war. Draupadi was dark toned and everyone knows her instrumental and influential role not only in the happening of the Mahabharata war, but also in shaping the lifeline of the Pandavas.”
On labels, Manoshi Sinha quoted Martina Navratilova, former professional tennis player and coach who has rightly said “Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.” The author also shared her own experiences on labeling, and how ignoring those labels she successfully defeated the labelers. She was empowered by her mother, who fought against all odds and labeling to raise her six children and build a strong foundation for them. She deems every mother a warrior.
She said, “Women in India were empowered, are empowered and will continue to be empowered till eternity. There are thousands of examples of women empowerment in India since the Vedic period. Vishpala, a woman warrior from the Vedic period, lost a leg in battle. She underwent a prosthetic implant with a “leg of iron”. And she continued with her battlefield exploits.”
Manoshi Sinha spoke about Gargi and Maitreyee, ancient Indian philosophers from the later Vedic period. They were both expounder of the Vedas. They both find mention in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Maitreyee also finds mention in the Mahabharata and the Gṛhyasūtras. Gargi, who wrote numerous hymns in the Rigveda, participated in a philosophic debate organized by Raja Janaka of Videha, also called Mithila. Janaka was the father of Sita.
She spoke about ancient woman wrestler Hariyakka, about Rudrama Devi who won many battles and expanded Golconda Fort, about Naiki Devi who defeated Mohammed Ghori, about Rani Karnavati who defeated Mughal army of Shah Jahan, about Ram Pyari Gurjar who led a women army to defeat Taimur. She also narrated to the audience tales of valor about freedom fighters Uda Devi who shot dead 32 British soldiers and Shivdevi Tomar who killed 17 British soldiers.Manoshi also drew examples from sculptural evidences of women performing gymnastics and engaged in wrestling.
When asked if ancient and medieval Indian women were educated, she said, “There are many sculptural evidences in ancient and medieval era temples across India of women being well educated. There are sculptures of women reading and writing. Then there are literary evidences. Shakuntala wrote a letter to Dushyant, Rukmini wrote one to Krishna requesting him to marry her.”
Hong Kong Desi asked Manoshi if ancient Indian women were allowed to choose their husbands. She cited about swayamvara ceremony that took place in ancient times. Women were allowed to choose their husbands. Eligible grooms were invited from far and near. Sita married Ram and Draupadi married Arjuna in a swayamvar ceremony. And then Draupadi’s consent was taken to marry the five Pandavas. There are thousands of more examples of Swayamvar. Wasn’t that women empowerment, she said.
On feminine power, Manoshi told Hong Kong Desi, “We have been worshipping the feminine power since ages in the form of the Shakti, Kali, Chaunsath Yoginis, Saraswati, Laxmi. We rever our motherland as Bharat Mata and Mother India. We, the women of India, are all a manifestation of that feminine power. If you wish and want, you can find that power in yourself.”