In a spacious room fragrant with the perfume of indigenous incense lumps, Pinaka sat crosslegged on a slightly elevated position. Past his seventies, he enjoyed the status of the senior most sAdhaka at kAmarUpa and even Bhauma revered him as his mentor. To his right, on the floor, Vasumathi was seated in a meditative pose. She was the chief Yogini and was honored by all the siddhas and younger yoginis. She opened her eyes and met the gaze of Pinaka.
“Have the new yoginis arrived?” He asked her in a low tone. She nodded reverently with a smile and pointed at the door indicating that they would be ushered into the room soon. Before a long wait, one of the yoginis entered the room escorting a new comer. The new maiden was dressed in simple clothes with no jewels save a long rosary string around her neck and earrings made of wooden beads. Her face was wheatish in complexion, but her eyes glowed with defiance and her lips were pursed in a non cooperative silence.
“I was told your name is Vishvavara.” Vasumathi started the conversation.
The girl nodded hostility large on her face. “I was named so after an ancient Rishika of the vedic lore who was born into the same gothra as mine. Mine is a family that pledged itself to the Vedas.”
“Vishvavara, you should listen to us before you stand rigid on your belief about the Vedas of your cult. The women of your kind are often deceived by the selfish and egoistic motives of men.” Vasumathi counseled. Her attention turned towards the door as Mauri entered along with Abhaya and Sunanda.
Mauri approached Vasumathi and Pinaka and greeted them with a bow. “These are the royal maidens from the plains. Abhaya and Sunanda.”
The princesses, though sullen, forced a salutation out of respect for the elderly in their presence.
“Be seated, maidens. We beseech you to overcome your initial anger and listen to us.” Pinaka spoke. After a few moments of contemplative silence, the old man spoke again “In our tradition, the women are treated as the manifestations of Adi Shakti. We place the women in the highest place of respect. We worship them.”
Abhaya looked up to retort and then decided against it. Her eyes met those of Vishvavara who seemed to connect with her resistance and both exchanged understanding smiles.
Pinaka, oblivious of the girls’ disinterest continued. “Unlike the tradition widespread in the plains which you all extol, we believe in SvechchAchAra or freedom.”
Abhaya found it hard to stay calm. “Abducting women and keeping them captive is SvechchAchAra? Is this all about you doing whatever you intend to do, mindless of others’ freedom?”
“Kumari, your resentment is understandable. But do realize that this was a temporary step we took in order to realize the svechcha which you would never get to taste had you followed the lore of the plains.” Pinaka reasoned, unperturbed by the retort.
“If you are of the opinion that those of the Vedic lore are prisoners without freedom, you are mistaken, Acharya.” Vishvavara pointed out. Hers was a visible effort to stay calm and undisturbed. Abhaya and Sunanda looked at her in admiration.
“Are you a brahmachAriNi?” Sunanda asked her. Vishvavara nodded with a glint of pride and grace.
“Innocent maidens, you are falling prey to those meaningless beliefs and making yourselves prisoners of those beliefs. Why force yourself into Brahmacharya?” Vasumathi entered the conversation.
“I did not force myself. I have taken a vow to pursue the knowledge of the supreme being and live a worthy life.” Vishvavara replied with a smile that betrayed sarcasm.
“The supreme being is none other than Adi Shakti, the mother of this universe. And you don’t have to deny yourself, the basic pleasure of life to stay worthy, Vishvavara.” Vasumathi pointed out.
“I respect your belief on the Adi Shakti being the Supreme being, Devi.” Vishvavara spoke with increased conviction. But I am trained to not attach a gender to the supreme being.”
“Maiden, do you deny that the mother is supreme? Would you have taken birth if not for your mother?” Pinaka asked.
“The supreme is beyond the earthly experiences, Acharya.” Vishvavara replied. “My lore considers mother as a worship worthy being…”
“Lies! Your tradition believes in downplaying the importance of women!” Vasumathi’s irate tone interrupted the female celibate.
“You are mistaken, Devi. We were never disrespected. Nor do we endorse disrespect to women.” Abhaya joined.
“We believe that the Gods shower their grace where the women are treated with respect.” Sunanda spoke, remembering a scriptural statement she had heard from the learned people visiting her palace at Koshala.
“And in my lore, dear Devi, abduction of women and holding them captive against their will is considered Adharma. It is you who are disrespecting women and not my tradition.” Vishvavara concluded, pride glaring in her tone.
“Well, I am not surprised at your ignorance, maidens. Ever since your birth, you have been brainwashed and taught the rules that downplay woman and her supreme nature. You are taught to worship men all your lives and remain slaves to their whims. You would not so easily accept that all women are embodiments of the Supreme Mother and so are worship worthy.” Vasumathi panted at the long speech and tried hard to conceal contempt.
“Devi, all beings, animate and inanimate are the embodiments of the Supreme being. As I said before, we don’t attach a gender to it. Nor do we limit the manifestation of the supreme being.” Vishvavara replied in a relatively lower tone, noting the disturbed expression of Vasumati.
“Who told you that we are slaves to the whims of men?” Abhaya asked. “Whatever made you think so?”
“Why, princess? Aren’t you taught that the husband is God? Aren’t you supposed to mutely follow his footsteps? Aren’t you taught to procreate his race and fade into oblivion, living for him and his people all your life? Aren’t you taught that pleasing him and serving him is all what matters?” Vasumathi turned her attention to Abhaya.
“Don’t speak with so much contempt about our social fabric, Devi.” Sunanda interrupted. “As the BrahmachArini pointed out, every being is a manifestation of the divine being. We consider the wedlock as a crucial node of the fabric of this universe. The couple invite each other into their lives and pledge themselves unitedly towards a life of Dharma.” Abhaya nodded.
“You are all unmarried and are filled with dreams of your ‘prince’ and hence are blind to see the precipice you would be thrown into in the name of wedlock!” Vasumathi’s sarcasm was glaring.
“We are not so blind to not notice what goes here in the name of the Mother. Attacking our Dharma is not going to help you make us change our minds.” Abhaya declared.
“Why do you all prefer life of slavery than that of freedom?”
“Both are nothing but an illusion, Devi.” Vishvavara replied calmly. “Were you an Arya woman before?” She added as she saw the turbulence in Vasumathi’s eyes.
“We should talk to them later, after they are rested well and not angry over being abducted.” Pinaka commented. But Vasumathi did not seem to heed him.
“Devi, I asked you if you belonged to the Arya race and abandoned your Dharma.” Vishvavara stood her ground.
Vasumathi left the room without answering.
“Why is she so upset at a simple argument?” Vishvavara turned to Pinakawhose face had assumed a stern expression. He took no notice of her and stood up to dismiss them.
“You would need to be more co operative and receptive. Try showing more reverence to the Mother. May all be well with you.”
“Do you mean that reverence is absolute obedience, irrespective of logic? Forgive us Acharya, you would not get that from us.” Abhaya stated in blunt revolt.
To be contd.