Women born and raised in the Vedic tradition are perfect in all respects. They maintain the family’s traditions and dedication to dharma, or religion. They are the backbone of the family.
According to the Vedas, women and shudras (laborer class) are considered unintelligent. This is due to the fact that traditionally, women and shudras did not receive training from a guru or spiritual master. Though they never received a formal education, some of the greatest devotees of the Lord have been women. Women such as Sita Devi, Savitri, Draupadi, Queen Kunti, and Mother Yashoda were all perfect devotees, whose knowledge and wisdom were on par or exceeded that of great brahmanas and yogis.
In the modern age, the majority of society is considered unintelligent since almost no one receives formal training from a bona fide guru. Most of us attend secular schools where religion isn’t discussed due to the concept of “separation of church and state”. This presents a challenge to those who want to raise God conscious children. All hope is not lost however, as Vedic principles can still be taught in the home. Though women in the Vedic tradition didn’t start attending school until recently, they have always been trained at home by their parents to have a lifestyle based on tapasya, or religious austerities. Austerities performed for material benefit doesn’t qualify as tapasya. One can suffer all they want to, but if that suffering doesn’t bring them closer to God, then it is essentially useless. From their very childhood, just like the men, women in the Vedic tradition are taught to fast regularly, properly show respect to the various demigods, and to worship the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, or one of His authorized forms. The result is that when girls reach a suitable age for marriage, they are ready to serve their husbands and keep them in check at the same time. Once married, a husband and wife both share the same fate, so it is in the best interests of the wife to make sure the husband is properly observing worship of Krishna. As we all know, sometimes a husband can get out of line and get distracted from the real mission of life, so it is the duty of the wife to not hesitate in pointing out her husband’s flaws.
Lord Rama, the incarnation of God in the Treta Yuga, was set to be installed as the new king of Ayodhya by His father Maharaja Dashratha. A messenger had come to the Lord’s palace informing Him that He was urgently needed at the king’s palace. Taking permission from His wife Sita, the Lord was about leave. Prior to being sent off, she prayed that the various demigods would protect the Lord from all sides. The demigods are each in charge of a specific aspect of the material world, so Sita requested them to give protection to her husband. Lord Rama was God Himself, and He was in no need of any help from anyone, but Sita’s request was a sign of her being a good wife. for her mind was always focused on the welfare of her pati (husband or master).
In the Vedic tradition, this sort of concern is not only shown towards husbands but to children as well. When Lord Krishna appeared on earth some five thousand years ago, He accepted Yashoda as His foster mother during His childhood years in Vrindavana. The ruler of Mathura at the time, Kamsa, was very worried about suffering death at the hands of Krishna as had been prophesized, so he sent several demons to Vrindavana to kill the young child. As each one came, so they met death at the hands of baby Krishna. The people of Vrindavana were unaware of Krishna’s divinity, so they were astonished to see Him survive these attacks from the demons. Mother Yashoda was especially worried about her child. She would regularly recite prayers asking for protection for Krishna. After one incident where baby Krishna survived an attack from the demon Putana, Yashoda and the other gopis (cowherd girls) offered the following prayers:
“’My dear Krishna, may the Lord who is known as Maniman protect Your thighs; may Lord Vishnu who is known as Yajna protect Your legs; may Lord Achyuta protect Your arms; may Lord Hayagriva protect Your abdomen; may Lord Keshava protect Your heart; may Lord Vishnu protect Your arms; may Lord Urukrama protect Your face; may Lord Ishvara protect Your head; may Lord Cakradhara protect Your front; may Lord Gadadhara protect Your back; may Lord Madhusudana who carries a bow in His hand protect Your eyesight; may Lord Vishnu with His conchshell protect Your left side; may the Personality of Godhead Upendra protect You from above, and may Lord Tarkshya protect You from below the earth; may Lord Haladhara protect You from all sides; may the Personality of Godhead known as Hrishikesha protect all Your senses; may Lord Narayana protect Your breath; and may the Lord of Shvetadvipa, Narayana, protect Your heart; may Lord Yogeshvara protect Your mind; may Lord Prishnigarbha protect Your intelligence, and may the Supreme Personality of Godhead protect Your soul. While You are playing, may Lord Govinda protect You from all sides, and when You are sleeping, may Lord Madhava protect You from all danger; when You are working may the Lord of Vaikuntha protect You from falling down; when You are sitting, may the Lord of Vaikuntha give You all protection; and while You are eating, may the Lord of all sacrifices give You all protection.’ Thus mother Yashoda began to chant different names of Vishnu to protect the child Krishna’s different bodily parts.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
As part of His childhood pastimes, Lord Krishna would go out and play with His cowherd friends. Mother Yashoda would call Krishna and Balarama, His elder brother, home to come eat. She would then feed Them sumptuously, as she was worried Her boys weren’t eating enough. “They need their strength.” she thought. After the meal, she would lay Them down to rest and give Them betel nuts to chew on as They fell asleep. In this way, she was the perfect mother.
Just like Sita Devi, Yashoda was a perfect woman borne of the Vedic tradition. We still see similar behavior from women in Hindu and Krishna conscious families. Mothers are always nagging their children to eat more. They offer prayers daily for their children’s welfare. Prior to leaving for a journey, women will supply the travelers a yogurt mixture as way of guaranteeing a safe journey. Based on historical evidence from the Vedas, we can understand that these traditions have existed for thousands of years. Adherence to these traditions and customs ensures that society will be filled with outstanding citizens. Sita Devi showed her devotion not only the day of Rama’s proposed installation, but throughout their marriage. She followed Rama to the forest to serve His exile period alongside Him. While travelling in the woods, she would regularly pray to the Ganges River to protect her husband and ensure that He would survive the fourteen years of exile.
Even today in most Hindu households, it is usually the wives who are more religious, making sure that arati of the Lord is performed morning and night, that prasadam is offered and distributed, and that the family members regularly visit temples. All glories to Vaishnava women! May we all learn from their example on how to properly care for our loved ones. Any family which focuses their lives around Krishna and the Vedic traditions will always be guaranteed protection from all sides by the Lord Himself.