Arundhati was one of the celebrated women of ancient India. Though born in a low caste she was elevated to the highest status due to her chastity. Ancient Tamil Sangam poets who lived 2000 years
ago praised her sky high. They said she was the symbol of chastity. Every newly married couple must see her in the sky just before First Night. She is seen in the Sapatarishi constellation (Ursa Major or Great
Bear constellation). It is a double star system which is seen as Vasishta and Arundhati by the Hindus.
Seeing Arundhati or looking at the star on the first night debunks Aryan-Dravidian Race theory. Tamils respected her like North Indians from the remotest period. Sangam Tamil poets and later Tamil epic poets referred to her in scores of places. Ramayana and Mahabharata referred to her with the same respect.
There is a very interesting story about Arundhati. Ancient Hindu women were very intelligent and educated in the scriptures. Once Vasistha invited his arch enemy Vishwamitra for a feast on a Srardha
day. On the day of Srardha, the departed souls are propitiated. Brahmins and saints were fed on the day. The guests are worshipped as the representatives of the departed souls. Vishvamitra promised
to participate on one condition. He insisted that he must be served with 1008 curries (side dishes). Vasishta knew what he was up to. He told him that he would inform his ‘home minister’ Arundhati as
she was in charge of the guests.
The fight between Vishvamitra and Vasishta began on the day Vishwamitra tried to snatch the wish fulfilling cow from Vasishta. He was badly punished for this. He clashed with Vasishta on many more
occasions. At the end he did great penance and was certified as Brahma Rishi by Vasishta himself.
Vasishta informed Arundhati the condition laid by Vishwamitra. She did not bother. On the day of Srardha , Vishwamitra came and sat at the dining hall. But to his disappointment he saw only 10+ curries on the
plate (plantain leaf). When he angrily questioned Vasishta, he told him to put the question to Arundhati as she was in charge of the ceremony. Before Vishwamitra questioned her, Arundhati recited a popular sloka
(couplet) which made Vishwamitra speechless. What did Arundhati tell him?
कारवल्लि शांत चैव वज्र वल्लि शतत्रयं पनसं षट् शतंचैव श्रार्धकाले विधीयते
Kaaravalli satam chaiva vajra valli satatrayam Panasam shat satam chaiva sraardhakaalE
“If someone serves at the time of Srardha, karela/bitter gourd that is equal to 100 items, Pirandai that is equal to 300 curry items and the Jack fruit that is equal to 600 items. That is the rule for the ceremony.”
Srardha= ceremony to pay obeisance to the departed souls.Kaaravalli = bitterguard
Vajravalli = Pirandai (Cissus quadrangularis)
Panasam = Jackfruit
She served these three vegetable dishes along with 8 more items on the plate. So it came to 1008 items. Vishwamitra was happy at the explanation from the chastest woman in the world.
Women are projected as more intelligent than men in Hindu scriptures. Savitri defeated Yama, the God of Death. Gargi (800 BCE) questioned Yajnavalkya, the first philosopher in the Upanishads. Tamil
poetess Avvaiyar was bold enough to challenge the powerful Tamil kings. Draupadi argued her case like an attorney when she was dragged to the court of Duryodhana. Many queens fought the foreign invaders. Great beauties like Padmini, Queen of Chitoor, jumped into fire instead of molestation by the foreign invaders. Ganga Devi was the oldest war correspondent who accompanied her husband when he invaded ‘foreigner infested’ South India. Rig Veda had more than twenty poetesses who lived 3500 years ago.
Sangam Tamil literature had more than 25 Tamil poetesses who lived more than 2000 years ago. No part of the world had such a galaxy of poetesses! We had great mathematicians such as Lilavati!