Meera Bai: Meera was born in Samvat 1557 or 1499 A.D. in the village Kurkhi, near Merta, a small state in Marwar, Rajasthan. She is regarded as an incarnation of Radha. Meera was the daughter of Ratan Singh Ranthor and the grand-daughter of Dudaji of Merta.
The Ranthors of Merta were great devotees of Vishnu. Meera Bai was brought up amidst Vaishnava influence. She learnt to worship Sri Krishna from her childhood. When she was four years of age, she manifested religious tendencies. Once there was a marriage procession in front of her residence. The bridegroom was nicely dressed. Meera, who was only a child, saw the bridegroom and said to her mother innocently, “Dear mother, who is my bridegroom?” Meera’s mother smiled and half in jest and half in earnest, pointed towards the image of Sri Krishna and said, “My dear Meera, Lord Krishna—this beautiful image—is your bridegroom.”
Meera’s earthly life was full of troubles and difficulties. She was persecuted. She was tormented and yet she kept up an undaunted spirit through the strength of her devotion and the grace of her beloved Krishna. Though she was a princess, she begged alms and sometimes lived only on water. She led a life of perfect renunciation. Meera was fearless in her nature, simple in her habits, joyous in her disposition, amiable in her deportment, graceful in her behaviour and elegant in her demeanour. She immersed herself in the love of Sri Krishna.
Mahadevi Varma was an outstanding Hindi poetess. She also worked as a freedom fighter, woman activist and educationist from India. Regarded as the “modern Meera”, she was a major poet of the Chhayavaad generation (a period of romanticism in Modern Hindi poetry between 1914 and1938). Her outstanding prose has been recognised as unique to Hindi literature. She was a prominent poet in Hindi kavi sammelans (gatherings of poets). Later, she also worked as the Principal, and then the Vice Chancellor of Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, a woman’s residential college in Allahabad. She was awarded India’s highest literary award, for lifetime achievement, the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 1979, followed by the Jnanpith Award in 1982. She was a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award, in 1988.
Mahadevi Varma was deeply inspired by Buddhism and also contributed to the Indian freedom movement. She took her education in Allahabad and there she founded the ‘Prayag Mahila Vidyapitha’, promoting education for girls. She is regarded as one of the four pillars of the great romantic movement in modern Hindi poetry, Chayavada, the remaining three being Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Jaishankar Prasad and Sumitranandan Pant. She is renowned for her book of memoirs, Atit Ke Chalchitra (The Moving Frames of the Past) and Smriti Ki Rekhayen (The Lines of Memory). Her poetic canvas boasts Dipshikha (The Flame of an Earthen Lamp, 1942), a book comprising fifty one lyrics, all of which carry maturity of expression and intense mystical quality. Some of her other famous publications are Nihar (1930), Rashmi (1932), Neerja (1934), and Sandhya Geet (1936). Of her four prose works, Shrinkhala ki Kadiyan deals with the plight of Indian women. In 1935, she was appointed the editor of the famous Hindi monthly magazine Chand. In 1956, she was honoured with the Padma Bhushan.
Rani of Jhansi
Lakshmibai, also known as Jhansi ki Rani (19 November 1828 – 18 June 1858), was the queen of the princely state of Jhansi in northern India. She was one of the leading warriors in India’s First War of Independence, which was fought in 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists.
She was married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, in May 1842. In March 1854, she was ordered to leave the Jhansi fort with an annual pension of sixty thousand rupees and move to the Rani Mahal in Jhansi. But she was persistent in protecting the throne of Jhansi for her adopted son. She was determined not to leave her empire. She assembled a volunteer army where women were also given military training. Her forces were joined by warriors such as Gulam Gaus Khan, Dost Khan, Khuda Baksh, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Moti Bai, Sunder-Mundar, Kashi Bai, Deewan Raghunath Singh and Deewan Jawahar Singh.
On May 10, 1857, while she was assembling her army, the Indian soldiers within the British army revolted in Meerut. During this rebellion many British civilians, including women and children were killed by the Indian soldiers. During the period of August 1857-January 1858, Jhansi under her rule was at peace. But when the company forces arrived and demanded her to surrender the city, she refused to hand it over and defended her kingdom. Thus, began the battle of Jhansi on March 23, 1858.
She, along with her troops fought courageously for the kingdom of Jhansi but the British forces overpowered her army and she was forced to flee with her son to Kalpi, where she was joined by additional rebel forces, including Tatya Tope. On May 22, 1858, the British forces attacked Kalpi and defeated the Indian troops again which forced the leaders, including Lakshmibai to flee to Gwalior where she died in battle.
Hadi Rani was a folk heroine of Rajasthan in India. The legends has it that she was the daughter of a Hada Rajput married to a Chundawat chieftain of Salumbar in Mewar and sacrificed herself to motivate her husband to go to war.
In the war with Aurangzeb, Maharana Raj Singh I (1653–1680) of Mewar, called his son to join the battle but the son, having married only a few days earlier, hesitated. Perceptions of Rajput honour caused him to join the battle despite his reservations. He asked his wife, Hadi Rani, for some memento to take with him to the battlefield. Thinking that she was an obstacle to her husband’s duty, she killed herself and had asked her servant to present her severed head to her husband. Devastated but nevertheless proud, her husband accepted the memento. He fought bravely, making the Mughal forces flee, and after his victory, he got to his knees and cut his neck, having lost the desire to live.
Padmini, also known as Padmavati, was a legendary 13th–14th century Indian queen. Several 16th-century texts mention her, of which the earliest source is Padmavat, an epic poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE. The Jayasi text describes her as an exceptionally beautiful princess of the Singhal kingdom (Sri Lanka). Ratan Sen, the Rajput ruler of Chittor Fort, heard about her beauty from a talking parrot named Hiraman.
Sister Nivedita remains one of the most illustrious names related to the reawakening of India. She was born as Margaret Elizabeth Noble on October 28, 1867 in Ireland. It was her father who sowed the first seeds of social service in her and she spent her life in the service of humanity. Sister Nivedita met Swami Vivekananda in 1895 in London and travelled to Calcutta (Kolkata), India in 1898. She was rechristened as Nivedita by Swami Vivekananda in 1898 when was vowed into Brahmacharya.
She was one of the foremost advocates of women education and opened a girls’ school in the Baghbazar, Kolkata which still stands as the Ramkrishna Sarada Mission Sister Nivedita Girls’ School or the Sister Nivedita Girls’ School. She was actively involved in nursing the afflicted during the plague epidemic that struck Kolkata in 1899.
She had travelled widely across India and was a popular face of the early nationalist movement. She wanted Indians to assert their right for independence and break away from the exploitative British rule. She appealed to the Indian youth to work selflessly for the cause of the motherland along the ideals of Swami Vivekananda. Her stay in India broke the European myth and exposed her to the brutal side of the British rule. Her prolific literary works exposed the lies of the British Empire and gave impetus to the Indian national movement.
Sister BK Shivani is a spiritual teacher associated with the Brahma Kumaris. She is widely acclaimed due to her simple spiritual sermons and has a wide range of followers in India and abroad. She conducts motivational courses through public seminars and television programmes.
In 2014, she was honoured with the Women of the Decade Achievers Award by ALL Ladies League for Excellence in Empowering Spiritual Consciousness. She was educated as an electronic engineer and was awarded the gold medallist from the Pune University in 1994 and was briefly engaged as a lecturer before she took to spiritual teaching. The television programme named “Awakening with Brahma Kumaris” featuring her received wide acclaim and popularised the spiritual teachings of Brahma Kumaris.