Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Women Writing In India" from 600 B.C.!

 "Women Writing In India" from 600 B.C.! There is a history of women writing in India from the Buddha era and that women had written some of the verses of the Vedas too. Vedas started out as an oral tradition and were only later written down. Here are some poems from the book "Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Early 20th Century"

A Woman Well Set Free! How Free I Am!

" A woman well set free! How free I am,
How wonderfully free, from kitchen drudgery.
Free from the harsh grip of hunger,
And from empty cooking pots,
Free too of that unscrupulous man,
The weaver of sunshades.
Calm now, and serene I am,
All lust and hatred purged.
To the shade of the spreading trees I go
And contemplate my happiness" - Sumangalamata (600 B.C.)

*Sumangalamata is one among the earliest community of women followers of Buddha in India. Many of these Pali-speaking women left accounts of their practice in poems, which were then collected in a volume known as the 'Therigatha'.
* This poem was written in Pali language by Sumangalamata in 6th Century (600 B.C). It was translated by Prof. Uma Chakravarti and Prof. Kumkum Roy. This poem and the following ones are from the monumental two-volume anthology "Women Writing In India" book and is edited by Prof. Susie Tharu and Dr. K.Lalita.


The following poem was written by a woman called Mutta who lived 2600 years ago, in Northern India:

"So free am I, so gloriously free
Free from three petty things:
From mortar, from pestle, and from my twisted lord
Freed from rebirth and death I am
And all that has held me down
Is hurled away" - Mutta


A Marathi poem by Janabai written a few centuries later:

"Cast off All Shame"

"Cast off all shame,
and sell yourself
in the marketplace;
then alone
can you hope
to reach the Lord.

Cymbals in hand,
a *veena* upon my shoulder,
I go about;
who dares to stop me?

The *pallav* of my sari
falls away (A Scandal!);
yet will I enter
the crowded marketplace
without a thought.

Jani says, My Lord,
I have become a slut
to reach Your home." - Janabai (1298-1350)