CONTRIBUTION OF WOMEN TO
It is interesting to note that a few women scholars also contributed their might for the development of Advaita Vedanta.
Despite the unconscionable ban of women, quite a number of women not only studied the sastras but also participated in scholarly discussions with emerging success. Andhradesa can justly be proud that it also produced reputed scholars of the fair sex.
Contrary to popular notion, women were never treated as inferior to men. They were given equal status and privileges as men and were never subjected to gender discrimination. There is evidence to show that women, just like men, also got initiated in Gayatri and chanted the Vedas with equal alacrity. And, like men, they too participated in philosophical discourses. A shining example is found in the lively discussion on Vedanta between Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi.
To some, it may come as a revelation that women even chaired philosophical discussions and debates. Thus, Ubhayabharathi, wife of Mandana Misra, had the privilege of presiding over the marathon debating session where a furious debate took place between Sankara and MandanaMisra on highly esoteric philosophical issues. What is more stunning is that she, as judge, declared Sankara, not her husband, MandanaMisra - the winner ! We have in recent times the shining example of a great scholar, Kamakshi.
Kamakshi [A.D.1852 -1920], daughter of Ramaswami, is from Andhradesa. She was a great scholar in Nyaya and Vedanta. After her husband Ramalingarya's premature death, she proceeded to her mother's house and, rather
than drowning in grief, steeped herself in the study of Nyaya and Vedanta with unswerving concentration and determination. Kamakshi wrote the following scintillating works.
1) Advaitadipika : - This work substantiates the doctrines of Advaita, advocated by Madhusudanasaraswathi in Advaitasiddhi.
2) Sritiratnaprakasatippini : - This is a commentary on the Sritiratnaprakasa of Tryambakabhatta.
3) Sritimatodyotatippani : - This is also a commentary on the Sritimatodyota of Tryambakabhatta.
All these works were published by Sri Vani Vilas press.
While on this discussion of Vedanta Philosophy, one needs to record that a large number of contributors some contributed famous Telugu works while the other wrote original works in Telugu still others wrote commentaries of some Vedanta works in Telugu. Here are a few notable examples.
Kanakamba of Kanchanapalli family belongs to the 20th century. She wrote the great work Amrutasaramu, comprising 550 verses. She was a student of Amrutanandaswami and she incorporated the teachings of a guru in her works. The importance of a guru in attaining Moksha, the greatness of pranava, the concept of jivanmukthi and the means of attaining Atmasakshatkara are some of the important issues discussed in this treatise..
Another work of the same author is Ananadasaramu which consists of about 500 verses. In this monumental work the importance of Bhakti, Jnana, Vairagya and Self experience are beautifully advanced.
Still another production of the same author, Jivayatra is also available. This was written in 1800 poems. The title Jivayatra is suggestive of the
empirical journey of the jiva to the goal of Liberation.
Tarigonda Venkamamba of the 19th century translated Vasistaramayana also known as Yogavasista in chaste Telugu. She used the Dwipada as metre using a simple but elegant language.
Subhadramba of Mamidanna family lived in the first half of 20th century. She authored Adhyatmaramayanamu where she discussed many philosophical points such as the transitoriness of the world, the nature of Supreme Being and the identity of Jiva and Brahman.
Still there are many women authors of Advaita. Besides, we find that there were women ascetics also in Andhradesa who attained the state of Jivanmukti [liberation while living] and whose presence inspired their devotees in attaining or experiencing the state of liberation. Here is a list of the lady luminaries.
1) Tarigonda Venkamma [A.D. 1730 - 1817] of Chittur District.
2) Dontulamma [A.D. 1807 - 1932] of Machilipatnam of Krishna district.
3) Tikkalakshmamma [A.D. 1815 -1933] of Adoni.
4) Avadhuta Picchamma of [A.D. 1870 - 1951] of Kurumaddali.
5) Sukshamamurtemma [A.D.1807-1928] of Gangayapalli.
6) Venkamma [A.D.1808- 1862] of Manikyanagaram.
7) Chinnamma [A.D.1887 - 1956] of Repelle.
8) Eswaramma [A.D.1703 - 1803] of Kandimallaipalli.
9) Anasuya [A.D.1923 -1985] of Jillellamudi.
[ For more information about the other Yoginis, see Andhra Yogulu by
Prof. B. Rama Raju].