Women Saints and Sages of India…..

“Who is the sexiest Indian female? – this was the topic my wife, who is a free lance writer, got one day as an assignment through the net from an agency she works for, as I was leaving for office from home.
As I was driving to office, I was thinking about the subject and came to the conclusion that instead of asking who is the most endowed, had they only asked to name Indian women of the 19th and 20th centuries who can be considered as a real symbol of the true, spiritual India, then, I would have listed the following :-

Sri Sarada Devi (West Bengal)

Rani Rasmani (West Bengal)

Saint Alphonsa (Kerala)

Akka Mahadevi (Karnataka)

Lallayogeshwari (Kashmir)

Mirabai (Rajasthan/Madhya Pradesh)

Muktabai and Janabai (Maharashtra)

Avvaiyar (Tamil Nadu)

Andal (Tamil Nadu) [Andal is considered as one of the 12 Alwars]

Karaikkal Ammaiyar (Tamil Nadu)

Ananda Moyi Maa (West Bengal)

Aghormani Devi, popularly known as Gopaler Ma (Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna – West Bengal)

Golap Sundari Devi, known as Golap-Ma (Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna – West Bengal)

Yogindra Mohini Mitra, or “Yogin-Ma” (Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna – West Bengal)

Giri Bala (West Bengal) and

Shankari Ma ji (Uttar Pradesh)

M.S.Subbulakshmi (Tamil Nadu)

This list is certainly not exhaustive, since there are a number of women saints in India, and most of them have expressly shunned any kind of publicity. Just like Sri Nivedita and Sri Daya Ma, many foreigners have followed Indian spiritual teachers and have attained success in spirituality. But unknown women saints abound in India, and since most of them prefer anonymity, they remain hidden. There was a very famous woman disciple of Sri Shirdi Sai, who lived in Bangalore upto a ripe old age – like this, there are hundreds of women saints and sages all over the country, but somehow, we know very few of them….

But I would like to mention more than their names when I mention the following three:-


Gauri-Ma was born in 1857 and was named Mridani. She was also called Rudrani. Even as a child, Gauri-Ma exhibited traits of fearlessness and was uncompromising in her attitude to go towards God and renunciation. During a pilgrimage, she escaped into the crowds and carved out a yogini’s life for herself, carrying the stone shila of Lord Vishnu as her “husband” – after enduring many trials in her travels, often disguised as a man, and smearing ashes on herself to hide her beauty, and after extensive travel, often on foot, she finally came to Sri Ramakrishna, and accepted him as her Guru. She was very bold and courageous, and Sri Ramakrishna reportedly told her that her mission in life is to educate and liberate women. In 1894, Gauri-Ma founded the Sri Saradeshwari Ashrama for women on the banks of the Ganga at Barrackpore in Kolkata. During Sri Ramakrishna’s birth centenary in 1936, Gauri-Ma gave an address in Bengali, which was broadcast on All India Radio. She consciously passed away on 28 February 1938, after informing those nearby that her time had come. She lived and braved the male dominated spiritual world at a time when it was very, very difficult for a woman to roam India as a saint.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is perhaps the perfect symbol of the Indian Woman that I would like to look up to. From very humble beginnings, she showed that love moves the world. Born on 26th August 1910 as Agnese Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, the Abanian nun founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolata in 1950. For over 45 years she worked for the poor, sick the orphaned, the aged and the dying, believing that they all needed love and service. In her lifetime, she won the Nobel peace prize as well as India’s most famous title, The Bharat Ratna. After her death, she has been beatified by the Pope as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Shortly before she passed away, when she was hospitalized, an entire nation prayed for her. I still remember when she passed away and when her body was kept for public viewing at the Salt Lake Stadium, at Kolkotta, the then President, Dr.K.R.Narayanan, who came to attend the State funeral, bowed at her feet. It was then, that the entire nation stood still in silent homage along with the crowd at the Auditorium. It was not just a President saluting a lady, it was a nation saluting an institution.

I have seen Sri Mata Amritanandamayi on two or three occasions personally, and have been following her activities through the media for quite sometime now, and I am convinced that the Mother of a Billion hearts embracing all humanity stands out as the finest example of Divine love – She does not perform miracles or astound the audience. She sits, patiently, most of the time without even eating or drinking anything, for hours together giving darshan, saying comforting words, embracing visitor after visitor with only one thought – of proving to the world that love and kindness CAN be shared through a hug. I have often wondered, “What keeps her going?” – And I am sure it is not a desire to enter the Guinness Books of records as the person who has hugged half of humanity. It must be an intense love for the whole of humanity that must be moving her to embrace the people from all walks of life, irrespective of region, religion, caste or sex. Strictly speaking, I am not the religious type. In fact, when I first accompanied my wife to see Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, I was skeptical. But when I first stood before her, all skepticism simply vanished from my mind. Such compassion has to be seen to be believed. The simplicity of such a personality can certainly be called the real Indian Woman. From a small fishing village in Kerala, she has embraced her way into the hearts of billions…..from all over the world.