Do you think that being a woman is tough? Well, imagine how it would have been for women in the past. Definitely tougher! We are still fighting for our rights and equality, but there have been women in history who didn’t know terms like that, yet they did everything they could to fight for what was right and succeeded in the best way that they could.
Let us look at 5 women from Indian history who are inspiring even today:
Panchali or Draupadi as she is known is a woman who is an embodiment of feminism. Not only was she known as a beautiful woman, she also stood up for her rights in a society that was ruled by men. The humiliation that she suffered made her stronger and it can be said that the Mahabharata happened largely due to the plight of Panchali and her insult by the Kauravas. Draupadi was a fearless woman and this was not common in ancient stories. She demanded justice from Dhritarashtra who was the king of Hastinapur when she was insulted. As Sairandhri, she again demanded justice from king Virata when she was insulted by his brother-in-law Kichaka. She openly condemned those kings for failing to protect a woman. She even condemned the great warriors of the times such as Bhishma, Drona, Kripacharya and also her husbands for not saving her from the disgrace during her disrobing incident. She was definitely a woman of substance who had a war fought for her.
Jhansi Ki Rani
Also known as Rani Lakshmi Bai, Jhansi Ki Rani lived in the early 19th century. The famous saying, ‘Khoob Ladi Mardani thi Woh To Jhansi Wali Rani Thi’ rings in our heads even today and tells us about her courage. She was an icon of the Indian independence movement who fought with her son tied to her back. An embodiment of courage, strength and bravery at a time when it was unheard of for women to fight wars, she was named Manikarnika. She was trained in horse riding and sword fight as she was brought up by her father after her mother died when she was only four. Rani Lakshmibai was married to Raja Gangadhar Rao, the King of Jhansi but he died a few years later and she took over as the Rani of Jhansi. This infuriated the British who wanted to annex the princely state by imposing the ‘Doctrine of Lapse.’ When Jhansi came under the siege of the British East India Company in 1858, she fought a fierce battle till her last breath along with her soldiers and did not concede defeat even after being outnumbered. Rani Laxmibai is still considered as the symbol of resistance to British colonial rule.
The nightingale of India who lived in the late 19th century was known to be brilliant even as a child. Her famous lines, “I am not ready to die because it requires infinitely more courage to live” hold true for time immemorial. This poet, freedom fighter was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and fought for India’s freedom from the British. Educated both in India and England, she also served as the Governor of the Indian Provinces. She formed the Women’s Indian Association in 1917 and fought for women’s right to vote. She was present during the Salt Satyagraha and went to prison for the freedom movement as well.
“Oh, we want a new breed of men before India can be cleansed of her disease.”
Another woman from the 19th century, Savitribai was a pioneer in women’s education. A social reformer, educationalist and poet from Maharashtra, she was the first woman teacher of India, though she was born a Dalit. The mother of Indian feminism, Phule and her husband founded one of the first Indian girls’ school in Pune at Bhide wada in 1848. A prolific Marathi writer, she fought against discrimination based on gender and caste. When she was married, Savitribai was uneducated and it was her husband and later on his friends who took care of her education. She was the first woman to light her husband’s pyre at a time when it was unheard of. In 2015, the University of Pune was renamed as Savitribai Phule Pune University in her honour. Along with B. R. Ambedkar and Annabhau Sathe, Savitribai has become an icon in particular for the backward classes.
Indira Gandhi was the first and only woman Prime Minister of India and throughout her political life, she has made tough choices that were both applauded and criticized. Born to a family of freedom fighters, she was educated by Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. She came up at a time when her party had lost trust of the people. She was selfless, sacrificing and powerful at a time when not all women could boast of these qualities. It maybe because of her powerful lineage, but a whole country of patriarchs accepted this woman as their leader. She fought against terrorism and fought for women’s rights. Indira Gandhi added an amendment to the Indian Constitution that says women and men earn equal amount of pay for an equal amount of work. She bravely took on the USA and even overpowered Pakistan in the Bangladesh war. She also managed Sikkim’s merger with India and brought about the Green Revolution to make India self-sufficient in food. This courageous woman even called for an Emergency, which lead to her defeat in the next election. However, she rose from that defeat and that was why she was definitely The Iron Lady of India.
It is not only these famous women, but there have been many inspiring women in history who have paved the way for us.
What we can learn from them is to never give up no matter what. If they can achieve what they did in times like that, we have absolutely no excuse!