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SOUHARDYA DE | 8 DECEMBER, 2019

‘Break Every Shackle, Conquer Every Peak’

Women heroes of history


Women have continued to play a pivotal role since the dawn of culture and civilisation.

Basically while, some women are lost in the fire, some women are also built from it. This is what applies to the protagonists of the greatest classics mankind has ever kindled himself with.

The world had once been a patriarchal society, dominated by men, devoid of the importance of the women, the prospective rulers, in the days to come and pass by. Citing examples from Kara Cooney’s “When women ruled the world”, would be a great way to explain how strong, powerful women from classics, have shaped the world, as we know it today, or have acted as inspirations for their men, architects of the modern human civilisation and culture.

At a time, when Pharaohs ruled over the long stretches of the Egyptian sands, stood Hatshepsut, the incorrigible devotee of self actions, who took over the throne of the world’s greatest civilisation with the title of Amessis, a name, symbolic of being an epitome of responsibility and practical natured.

Ancient authors like Julius Africanus and Josephus, quote the 21 year long reign of the Pharaoh Empress. Classics necessarily never mean ancient texts. In Italo Calvino’s words, “ A classic is any book that has never finished saying, what it has to say”, and I feel, it’s one of the best definitions of classics I came across with. Egyptians, in the ancient times, were basically, a geological epoch, being the richest and the most authoritative.

It was during the days of the highest glory of the civilisation, that Queen Nefertiti ascended the throne and took hold of the reins of the civilisation. Rebellious, as she was, Nefertiti accepted monotheism, worshipping the sun god Aten, bringing about the birth of the legalistic heredity in Tutankhamun.

Moving on forward to the Victorian Era, William Shakespeare’s play, “Antony and Cleopatra”, revolves around the epic saga of Cleopatra, one of the most famous Egyptian Pharaohs of all time. Cleopatra, the protagonist besides Antony, is an epitome of fully developed female, with complicated attitudes, Shakespeare having invested in her grandeur , to his fullest. Taking examples and references, from the Indian History, wouldn’t be too bad an idea, to establish the importance that the Indian rulers have played, in the growth of feminine importance in the world today.

Rafiq Zakaria, in his book, Razia, Queen of India, points out at the life and timeline of the only female infidel, ever to rule India, Razia Sultana. This teaches that the feminine will, overcoming all obstacles, on their way, overcoming all the barriers, will never fondle before any of such barriers, but would rather, progress, heckling them out of their way, comparative here, to plucking thorns from roses.

The modern scenario in India, is not very pleasing for women. Moreover, such a condition is unexplainable, in a country of Rudhramadevi, the Kakatiya warrior princess, the one who restored the Kakatiya greatness. Satakarni, a Satavahana ruler, better known for his territorial conquests, was better known for Gautami Balashri, his mother, the greatest of all teachers that Satakarni ever had.

Tales from Greece and Crete are replete with the glory of the feminine importance. Females have always provided the best and the most powerful of protagonists, ever produced in the sands of time. References can be drawn from Inferno XII of Dante, where he and Virgil, come across Minotaur, a supposed half man, half beast. Although Theseus, son of Aegeus, is the most important character of the plot, still, Adriane, princess of Crete, was the one, without whom, Minotaur would never have been vanquished.

Women have, since the dawn, of mankind, played the biggest role, ever to be played. The say that, “You educate one, on educating a man, On educating a woman, you educate a clan” is rightly justified.

Similar to Adriane, the victory of Jason and the Argonauts, in Argonautica, by Gaius Valerieus Flaccus, was again because of the binding force of Medea, Jason’s admirer and later wife. History has taught us how respecting and equalising women, to that of men, has helped in the progress of civilisation.

A woman’s wrath is such that, even the most successful of civilisations, fail before them. Such was the instance of Boudicca, the wife of King Prasutagus of the Iceni. Boudicca was a rebellious leader, as a hungry lion is, ready to grasp at the Roman Military might, having suffered humiliation at the hands of the Romans.

Till now, I have been mostly taking substantial evidences, from the ancient or medieval world. The modern literary classics are too, full of women empowerment, and gender equality. There have been god gifted minds, such as Hellen Keller, who have shown the world, what the world, is like, to them. For Keller’s instance, being a deaf and a blind girl was her greatest disability. Still, it was her, who fought against her obstacles, revealing for her, the abode of victory. As my own personal inspiration, Keller viewed the world, from a perspective, none could have ever done. Thus, the most important part of her, was how she, being a deaf and blind girl, influenced the mindset of the visioned, the able and the powerful. This was because, she was herself, and not any such conventional woman.

Hermione Granger, The fictional, female lead of Harry Porter, is another masterpiece of feminine intellect. Although regarded as a bookish girl, by critics, Hermoine is appreciable for her memory, her decision making ability and the inspiration and the support, she provides Harry and Ron with.

There have been some brilliant instances from the Mughal Indian History, where emperors like Jahangir, have been mostly influenced by Nur Jahan, the Malik Ay Jahan. It was her, who administered the province, more than that of Jahangir.

English historical classics have taught us, how women rulers, have greatly benefited the state, how they formed the backbone of the English Empire and the English Successes across its imperialistic colonies. Feminine protagonists have in them, a conglomeration of the qualities, mentioned by Tuff, Grit, Social control, Curiosity, Social Intelligence, Zest, Optimism and Attitude. These form the backbone of the most revered entities of an awe inspiring protagonist.

In a list, published by the Penguin Random House, Anne Frank, has been rightly included. She was the one of the most courageous woman, the world would ever rendezvous, having had a brave heart, even after the traumatic experience of one of the world’s worst mass slaughters, ever to have taken place, in history. Few are able to escalate these memories and go on to write a best selling book, on the same.

Malala Yousafzai, in her autobiography, I am Malala, explains her conflict with her timeframe. She was shot, shot by the Talibans, for having dared to have done something, none in their regime, had dared to. And that was a mistake! Yes, it was! Malala shouldn’t have gone to school, the only cause being the fact, that she was a girl. She had to endure bullets for this daredevil act of hers. Stooping over all her obstacles, Malala, reignited hopes amongst some million women, serving as a cause, for school going girls. Her deed won her the prestigious Nobel memorial prize in 2014.

Concluding on the pretext of the modern world ,the basic development of the world, could be best measured by the safety and the security that is guaranteed to women. How I wish, the world would realise the effervescence, the importance, that the word “woman” has to play in a societal development! Conclusively, I would like to quote lines from a poem, penned down, for females, rapidly progressive in today’s world.

“Don’t you ever stop,
With your head hung in despair,
After this woeful walk over thorns,
You will enjoy the embrace of blossoms,
O Wanderer, O Wanderer,..
Break every shackle,
Smith each into a sword,
Fight every battle,
Conquer every peak....”


Souhardya De FRAS (London),
Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Author and Human Rights Activist with Malala Yousafzai.


Cover Photograph: Banksy’s Street Art (Paris)

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