Updated: Aug 10, 2022
We have just completed Navaratri, a nine days festival dedicated to Goddesses. We celebrate nine different layers of Shakti. They are as follows:
“1. Shalaputri (Day -1), 2. Brahmacharini (Day – 2), 3. Chandraghanta (Day – 3), 4. Kushmanda (Day – 4), 5. Skandamata (Day – 5), 6. Katyayani (Day – 6), 7. Kalaratri (Day – 7), 8. Mahagauri (Day – 8), 9. Siddhidhatri (Day – 9)
During this auspicious time, let us look at nine different Yoginis who revolutionized the practice and philosophy of Yoga Practice.
YOGINIS OF THE VEDIC TIME
1. Gargi Vachaknavi (9th – 7th Century BCE)
Daughter of Vachaknu, Gargi is considered a “Brahmavadini” who has experienced consciousness. She was one of the wisest of her time, having an in-depth knowledge of the Vedas, Upanishads, and philosophies.
Her debate with Maharshi Yajnavalkya on the evolution of the cosmos, the nature of consciousness and other subtle layers of philosophy are elaborated in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Yoga Yajnavalkya, a classical text on Yoga practice and philosophy, also explains this discussion. Gargi Vachaknavi was also one of the “Navaratnas” of King Janaka of Mithila.
With an in-depth Sadhana, she learned “Madhu Vidya” one of the secret spiritual practices from Ashwini Kumaras. She is also a “Brahmavadini” who has contributed to the composition of Rgveda,
Another Brahmavadini, the wife of Yajnavalkya, Maitreyi, was one of the Advaita Vedanta philosophers and one of the wisest of her times. The spiritual discussion between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi regarding spiritual practices and immortality gives an essence of the Upanishads.
YOGINIS OF THE MEDIEVAL TIME
4. Meera Bai
Meera Bai was a 16th-century mystic, a Bhakti Yogini from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Coming from a royal family, she broke all social barriers and considered Lord Krishna her husband. She is considered the icon of Bhakti Yoga, and countless bhajans are named after her.
Like Meera in north India, Andal was in south India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. Lived around the 7th century, she became the symbol of devotion in South India.
Her two compositions, “Tiruppavai” and “Nachiyar Tirumozhi” poetic texts on Bhakti Yoga are considered significant contributions to the history of Bhakti Yoga.
6. Akka Mahadevi
Lived in the 12th century in Karnataka, this mystic poet revolutionised the Bhakti movement. Akka Mahadevi’s “Vachanas” (spontaneous mystical poems) are part of the day-to-day conversation of people even today.
She had challenged the existing social norms of the times and immersed in Channa Mallikarjuna or Shiva, considering him as her husband.
YOGINIS OF THE MODERN TIME
7. Sharada Devi
Sharada Devi, a mystic saint, was the wife and spiritual consort of Swamy Ramakrishna. Though she did not write any particular text, her spiritual teachings have been the guiding force for Yogis and Yoginis across India even today.
8. The Mother
Known by her followers as the Mother, the spiritual Guru, the mystic was from Paris. Her original name was Mirra Alfassa. When she met Sri Aurobindo, she felt she met the real master-teacher in him. She started developing Aurobindo Ashram, a school in Pondicherry and established “Auroville” an experimental township to develop human unity and evolution.
9. Anandamayi Ma
In the words of Swami Shivananda, she was “the most perfect flower the Indian soil has ever produced“.
Her teachings focused on God-centered living while advocating for spiritual equality for women. She used the songs, humour and day-to-day instructions to keep the simple format of explanation to the deep philosophical thoughts.
Paramahamsa Yogananda mentions her in “Autobiography of a Yogi” as a ‘joy permeated mother.”
Thousands of Yoginis like Yogis have contributed to the history of Yoga and its teachings. These nine are some of the most popular and wisest in terms of their impact on human evolution, and every Yogi/Yogini of modern times should know.