By Neena Wahi
(Editor’s note: The group South Asian Poets of New England, known as SAPNE, is inviting all mothers and the youth to a recitation event entitled “Voice of The Mothers and The Youth.” The event is scheduled on Sunday, Feb 12, 2017, at 2:00 PM in Lexington Public Library in Lexington, MA. This article is written by SAPNE volunteer Neena Wahi.)
Mothers create society. They are self-taught, learning from friends and family. Mothers, in turn, are the first teachers of their children, teaching them morals, while they sing songs, tell stories and nurture. These teachings get passed on as society evolves. Every life in the universe is sustained by a caring mother. Nature transforms her resources in the bounty of the mother. Mothers carry culture and traditions across generations. Thus, a mother’s voice matters in building a healthy, happy and culturally rich society. We respect and value their voice and encourage them to lead our society.
Our focus on mothers leads us to women and their value in society. Women are known for their compassion, intellect and intelligence. Although women have not been celebrated to the extent men have, women have played key roles in the history and cultural evolution of Indian society. Let us celebrate some of the women in Indian history and mythology.
Going back to the Vedic era, we have Gargi Vachaknavi, the daughter of sage Vachaknu (circa 700 BC) a well-known philosopher, became prominent for challenging sage Yajnavalkya with questions on the issue of atman. She wrote many hymns and was a teacher herself. Sulabha Maitreyi, another reputed philosopher contested her male counterparts in philosophical debates. Her name appears in the Grihya Sutras of Asvalayana. She was a yogi and an educator.
In the epic Mahabharata, we have the characters Gandhari, Kunti and Draupadi. Gandhari was an epitome of virtue, and a respected moral force in the epic. She stood for righteousness and steadfastness in times of calamity. Married to a blind man, she chose to live as a blind person, but would not follow her husband’s blind decisions. Kunti, the mother, took care of her orphan children and raised them in utter deprivation. Her children were victorious in the game of life and living.
We also have Draupadi, the feminist who upheld the role of a woman in society. She is remembered as an embodiment of all the women who have had to stand up for their rights and have succeeded. Sita, the central female character of the Hindu epic Ramayana, is known for her dedication, self-sacrifice, courage and purity. She raised her two sons in the forest as a single mother so that they could reunite with their father and rule over his kingdom. Let us not forget Mandodari, married to a vicious man and doing her best to keep him out of trouble. Arrogant men in our mythology often do not listen to the sage advice of their women!
There are endless stories of women’s bravery, courage and sacrifices in the modern times. How can we forget Rani Lakshmibai, “Bundele Herbolo ke muh hamne sunee kahani thee, Khoob ladi mardani Voh to Jhansi wali Rani thi.” We find endless inspiring stories in history. History is also replete with women poets, from Mirabai to Mahadevi Verma. Women are a voice of strength, of love, of lamentation and of desire!
Youth’s voice is equally important. It has the energy and intelligence to create new and better future for us. The sharpness of young brains brings new and fresh ideas to build a better society. The voice can be raised in giving respect to women, fighting against corruption, developing new ideas, rising against injustice. Let the youth rise!
A literary material either in prose or poetry can be read in any language. Please contact Neena Wahi at firstname.lastname@example.org or Srabonti Bandyopadhyay email@example.com for participation. General questions on SAPNE can be directed to Bijoy Misra firstname.lastname@example.org or Chandu Shah email@example.com. SAPNE operates under the sponsorship of India Discovery Center, Inc.