One of the most beautiful roles that a woman can play in her life is that of a Mother. It is said that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. What is it about motherhood that is so appealing? Is it just about carrying a life within one, nourishing it for 9 months within and then bringing forth life into the world? Or is it about shaping a personality and then giving the civilization a mature individual who can shape other lives in this world? Or is it about prayers and sacrifices which a woman undertakes to give her child the best in this world? In a way, I guess we all feel that motherhood is a little of all this and more.
In the Mārkandeya Purana, we read about the story of Rānī Madalasa, who was the wife of Rājā Ritdhwaja. When she was carrying her first three children and while bringing them up she sang to them verses which illumined the children about the true nature of their Atman. On growing up, the children went on to do Tapasyā and became realized souls. The Rājā worried about the future of his Prajā and he requested Madalasa to give thought to them too. When she became pregnant with the fourth child, Madalasa sang songs of valour so that he would imbibe the qualities of a great warrior and enable him to protect his kingdom and make it prosperous. She also taught him to look at other women as his mother, to care for his subjects and become established in Dharma and Viveka Buddhi. This boy, Alarka, grew up to be a righteous king and a mighty warrior.
In the Māhābhārata, we come across the story of Yayati and his wives Devyani and Sharmishtha. Sharmishtha sacrificed every pleasure known to her as a youngster, to satisfy her father’s Guru Shukracharya’s daughter, Devyani. Her son was Puru who was the youngest son of Rājā Yayati. When Yayati wanted to continue with enjoying the pleasures of life despite his nearing old age, he was told that if any of his sons would exchange his youth for his father’s old age, Yayati could enjoy many more years of youth. It was only Sharmishtha’s son Puru who intrinsically understood the futile search to satisfy physical and materialistic pleasures of life. He offered to take his father’s old age in return for his youth. After many years Yayati came to the realisation that physical pleasures could never be completely satiated and that the search for uniting the Atman with the Brahmn was the only search worth aiming for. He gave back his youth and the entire kingdom to Puru and blessed him. Puru went on to rule justly for thousands of years.
In the Māhābhārata, we also come across the story of a mother who fell asleep. This normal action of hers caused the loss of her very valiant son’s life. Yes, I’m referring to Subhadra and Abhimanyu. Abhimanyu learnt about entering the Chakravyuha because he as an unborn baby, paid attention to his uncle Sri Krishna telling Subhadra about the interesting formation of the Chakravyuha. But when Subhadra fell asleep, Sri Krishna did not continue with the secret of coming out of the Chakravyuha because of which Abhimanyu never learnt about it. In the war, he managed to break through the formation and cause great havoc but was not able to come out of it alive. This story is generally used to warn mothers that whenever Mothers are not alert, it spells disaster to their progeny.
Our scriptures also talk about a child who learnt all about the Mantras, the Vedas and other texts while in the womb itself, so well that he could correct his father when he made a mistake. The father was Kahoda and the child was Ashtavakra. Ashtavakra learnt all the Vedas in the womb of his mother Sujata who was the daughter of Rishi Uddalaka. Sujata used to be seated near the place where her father Uddalaka taught everyday and her son learnt the scriptures before he was born. Though he got a curse from his father Kahoda for correcting him, Ashtavakra forgave him because he was a realized soul.
The best example of learning about devotion to Bhagawan comes from the story of Bhakta Prahlada. His mother Kayadhu stayed at the Ashrama of Narada Muni during her pregnancy and she kept listening to the various leelas of MahaVishnu from him. As her devotion to MahaVishnu grew, so did Prahalada’s. In fact his devotion was so unshakable that even when repeatedly threatened with death by his father, Bhakta Prahlada remained rooted in his faith in Bhagawan.
One may have a doubt in one’s mind that the above tales are of those mothers who do not feature in modern history, so maybe they are just tales and not completely believable. The truth is that even in reasonably modern history we see the repeat of these tales in our lives. Meerabai, the great devotee of Sri Krishna was introduced to Him by her mother. Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj became an epitome of bravery and warrior of Dharma because of his mother Jijabai. Adi Shankaracharya was born a realized soul because of the penance of his mother Aryaamba. It is said that Rahul Dev Barman, the famous music director of Hindi films, could understand ‘sur-taal’ even as an infant and hence he was given the nickname Pancham.
Indeed, a mother has in her, the capacity to shape the world through her offspring. It is one of the most elevated roles of a human life because mothers can bring forth a race of humane, wise and caring people if they set their minds to it. The only condition is that they have to align themselves to the positive vibrations that surround us and mold their thoughts to merge with that of a higher self. Human beings feel complete only when they are emotionally and spiritually satisfied. Mothers can play an important role in this by not just caring for the physical self while pregnant and while bringing up their child, but also fill their entire being with good thoughts and devotion to the Supreme One.
Becoming a Mother is important but more important is becoming a channel for good, kind and wise souls to enter our earth.
Mrs. Rati Hegde, columnist and author