Today we observe Women’s Day at Inter-national level. My heartiest greetings are to Women. I honour them and respect them with utmost sincerity. My Mother and everyone’s Mother showed this world to her child even before the child touch this Land when the child was in her womb.
I do not want to land into controversy or debate, which were held in abundance. My only question to my self and to our Sanatana Society is why did we make them a mere Kitchen Maker? Is it voluntary acceptance by the women or an imposed one? Of course, there is no meaning in discussing those issues. At the least, we men folk should change our mind-set and take a pledge on this day that we sincerely honour and respect them. We need not give equal status to them. Because, who are we to give? If we say that “we give”, that itself shows our domination and right over them in all aspects. Let them progress, if possible let us lend them a supporting hand or else we should keep quite. So that women could achieve their goals and status they deserve.
OK. My purpose of this write up is different. I wish to analyze the general names of women that are enumerated in Koshas and Sanskrit literature. The very definition of these names shows the status they enjoyed in our Bharat. My purpose of showing the meaning of these terms is to remind our society, men folk and other stake-holders to realize and recognize them.
There are eleven synonyms in general for women in Sanskrit. Though, they are so many names to refer women, here, we analyze only these eleven synonyms as they are in common usage.
1. स्त्री – this is a very name and mostly in usage not only in Sanskrit and other languages also. What does this term mean? This is derived from the root स्त्यै संघाते and the definition phrase for this is स्त्यायतः शुक्र-शोणिते यस्याम्. It means “where the ovum and sperm combine and become one cell” which later grow into a child. There is nothing inferior or negative connotation of women conveyed by this term. This term simply explains the nature of women and how they are instrumental in production.
2. & 3. योषित् and योषा – This term also refers women’s nature and it reveals their quality. From the root यु मिश्रणे, it is derived. यौति मिश्रीभवतीति is the definition. This means that the women mingle with the family, society etc. This term praises the nature of women and recognizes their attitude.
4. अबला – This term in fact shows them inferior and powerless. Vigraha for this is नास्ति बलं यस्याः सा, meaning who has no power or strength. However, the usage in actual situation is different. Almost all the quotes available in literature talk against the actual meaning of this word. For example, a portion of a poem of Udbhata quoted by Vacaspatyam is as follow:
हृदये वहसि गिरीन्द्रौ त्रिभुवनजयिनी कटाक्षेण ।
अबला त्वं यदि मन्ये के बलवन्तो न जानीमः ॥
The poet exclaims “O Devi, if your are अबला, then whoever else be powerful!” Probably this term came to usage in a later period when the women were made as Kitchen-Makers. That is the reason poets could not digest this term.
5. नारी – This is a special term in usage but we use this without knowing its meaning. The definition phrase for this is नुः अर्थात् नरस्य वा धर्म्म्या meaning “women is the source for all human Dharma”. Without her, the men are not even fit to perform Fire Worship. Without their permission, men cannot even donate a single pie to anybody. Thus, this term explicitly explores their familial and social status. Even this can be explained as नरधर्म्माचारयुक्ता meaning observer of human (code of) conducts women being the controller and protector of human race in harmony with the universe.
6. सीमन्तिनी –this term refers their special physique. They have their केशबर्त्म (way in hair). This rather shows the culture, style of living and the fashion they adopted in those days. Now-a-days it is not seen in many women, it does not insist to have that way of hair dressing. It only shows and reflects the style of those days.
7. वधू – Though this is used for newly-wed, however, it is also used in general term. उह्यते इति = वधू. Meaning who manages or bears the good and bad of both the houses (mother’s and in-laws). This is an excellent term reveals their responsibility in the society.
8. प्रतीपदर्शिनी is another term. प्रतीपं प्रतिकूलं पश्यतीति is the definition. In decision making whether in society or in family, women always think about the effects of each action. Then they take decision. It is said “उपायं चिन्तयेत् प्राज्ञः अपायम् अनुचिन्तयेत्”. Women always think about the pros and cons of any action, and then they decide.
9. वामा – women are leftist in thinking and taking decision. For that they always see the negative views first. वमति प्रतिकूलम् एव अर्थं प्रथमं पश्यति, meaning the same as प्रतीपदर्शिनी. There is another definition for this term as
या पुनः पूज्यमाना तु देवादीनां तु पूर्वतः ।
यज्ञभावं स्वयं धत्ते सा वामा तु प्रकीर्त्तिता ॥
According to this definition, women are right-holders to have the “Yaga-Bhaga” first. This is the utmost recognition given to women in those days.
10. वनिता – This is derived from the root वन व्यापृतौ meaning they are always engaged in some sort of assignments related to family, society, nation or Yaga. This is in no way shows them as inferior or powerless.
11. महिला – This is the derivation from the root मह पूजायाम्. The definition for this is मह्यत इति महिला. It means who is worshipped. This can be defined as महस्य उत्सवस्य इला भूमिः इति महिला also. It means who is the land (centre) of celebrations. Somewhere it is referred as महला also. This means महम् उत्सवं लातीति महला meaning who bring celebrations (in family or society).
Thus, it is explicit from the terms that how women enjoyed higher status in our society and how they were treated. Now, it is our turn to revive that system of living and regard women with high esteem. Somewhere, the initiation has to begin, that why not from us and that too from today itself.
With high respect and regard to the holder of Sanatana Dharma – the Women.