The Hindu Vaidik texts mention a number of women who were respected even by men. Some of them are given here.
Gaargee is the most famous Vaidik woman who enjoyed equality and respect from man's society. She was the daughter of a wise man Vaachaknu and was one of the nine gems (Nava Ratn) in Raajaa Janak's court. She never married. She has composed several hymn that question the origin of all things.
Once Raajaa Janak organized a world's first conference on philosophy and put a prize of 10,000 cows and 1,000 gold coins for the winner. Then Yaagyavalkya Jee came with his disciples and asked his disciple Somashravaa to drive the cows from the assembly. All other learned Braahman got angry at this as Yaagyavalkya was taking cows without any discussion, how he considered the most learned Braahman among them, so they asked him - "How can you take the cows just like that withiut having discussion with us? Do you think that you are the most learned Braahman among us?' Yaagyavalkya answered - "Yes, I am taking these cows because I am sure that I am the most learned Braahman among you all." But then they sopped him and compelled him to have discussion with them. He did that and satisfied them all.
When all got defeated, Raajaa Janak said - "You cannot go without having a discussion with Gaargee." Yaagyavalkya agreed and got ready to talk to her. Gaargee asked him many tough questions, but Yaagyavalkya satisfied her. In the end he had to say to her - "Do not ask too many questions lest thy head falls off." And Gaargee accepted her defeat and praised Yaagyavalkya a lot saying - "None among you can defeat him in argument concerning Brahm." and became silent. Their dialogs is the part of Brihadaaranyak Upanishad. A part of it may be read here.
Lopaamudraa was the wife of Muni Agastya. It is said that when Muni Agastya wanted to marry he could not find a girl according to his choice, so he selected the best from Brahmaa's creation and created a girl for himself. He kept her in a king's palace. There she grew up. When she had grown up in a fine young woman. he went to him to ask the hand of his daughter. Although the king was unwilling to do it but he had to do it. So Lopaamudraa got married to Agastya Muni. She is well known for giving us Lalitaa Sahstra Naam.
The Rig Ved includes a long discussion between Muni Agastya and Lopaamudraa that shows the great intelligence and virtue of Lopaamudraa (see Rig Ved, Book 1, Hymn 179)
Ghoshaa was the granddaughter of Deerghtamaa, and daughter of Kakshivat. Both, father and daughter, have composed prayers for Ashwinee Kumaar - the Heavenly twins of Soorya Dev and gods' physicians. Ghoshaa has written two entire hymns in the 10th Book of Rig Ved, Hymns 39 and 40, each containing 14 verses. The first one eulogizes Ashwinee Kumaar, and the second one is a personal wish expressing her intimate feelings and desires for married life.
Maitreyee is another woman philosopher of India. She lived at about the same time when Gaargee was living. She was the second wife of Yaagyavalkya. The first one was Kaatyaayanee, the daughter of Bhrardwaaj Muni and was an ordinary woman; while Maitryee was a learned woman and Brahm-vaadinee (knower of Brahm). According to legend, she did ot want to marry Yaagyavalkya but she wanted to live with as his disciple and as a spiritual companion to do Saadhanaa. So she went to Yaagyavalkya's wife and asked her permission to live with her husband. She permitted her so she lived with him as his companion and became the member of household.
Rig Ved's about 10 hymns go to her credit. She has contributed towards the enhancement of her sage husband Yaagyavalkya's personality and the flowering of his spiritual thoughts. One day when the sage decided to make a choice between the forest and his two wives, he asked his wives their wishes. The learned Maitreyee asked if all the wealth could make her immortal. The sage replied simply that the wealth could make her rich nothing else; then she asked him to give her the wealth of immortality. Hearing this Yaagyavalkya got very happy and he imparted the knowledge of soul and the immortality. This is found in the 2nd and 4th chapters of Brihadaaranyak Upanishad.
Bhaaratee is not the early Vaidik woman, nor she has contributed anything to any Ved, but she was given the honor to be the judge of the arguments between Mandan Mishra, her husband and Shankaraachaarya. According to Bhavishya Puraan, Mandan Mishra was the incarnation of Brahmaa Jee and Bhaaratee is said to be the incarnation of Saraswatee Jee. She asked Shankar such questions that he had to come back after some time and then only he could satisfy her. She declared Shankar as a winner and then her husband Mandan Mishra became his disciple with the name "Sureshwaraachaarya".
by Sushma Gupta