Our Ancient Panchakanyas to Modern Nari Shakti

Our Ancient Panchakanyas to Modern Nari Shakti

Our Dharma Sastras have revered the power of womanhood.

One of the main themes in the recent Republic Day Parade of our country, on January 26, was Nari Shakti, Woman Power. It was not just tokenism. Nari Shakti is discussed, encouraged, and celebrated in India, and all over the world. Women have come a long way from their traditional occupations like teaching, nursing etc. They are now, in larger  numbers, in Industry, Academia, Research, Law, Medicine, Government, NGOs etc. Many barriers are being broken. Nari Shakti is part of our Vedic heritage. We are now reconnecting with our ancient women role models. Have you heard about the Panchakanyas, the five role model women? 

Have you heard your relatives recite a sloka on the Panchakanyas? Some include it even as part of morning puja.

The sloka runs like this:

Ahalyā, Draupadi, Sitā, Tarā,

Mandodarī tathā Panchakanyāh

smaret nityam maha

pātaka nāshanam.

These five divine women should be remembered, daily. They are considered as destroyers of sins. Of these five, Draupadi is from the Mahabharata. The other four are from the Ramayana. These are the two Maha Kavyas, Great Epics, that every Indian hears, sees, and reads, from childhood to old age. In order to reinforce and treasure our heritages such as the Panchakanyas and many other great shining women, we need to draw upon them while moving forward on Nari Shakti.  An Action Plan would be of help. 

First, cherish the women in your family – from grandmothers to granddaughters.

Second, encourage your wife and women of her generation to further advance, or even make a fresh start in their careers, education, leadership in their spheres and contributions based on their accumulated experiences and insights. Third, mentor your daughters, daughters-in-law, and girls of their generation to identify their deep interests and potential and pursue a suitable professional mission and life vision. These may include careers in organisations, consulting, writing, practice, startups, etc. Fourth, guide your sons and sons-in-law, and young men of their generation to spend quality time and effort to support and help the women and girls in their lines to discover and actualize their full potential.

Let us remember the guidance that Manu, the first author of dharma sastras, provided:

Yatra nāryastu pūjyante  (Where women are celebrated), ramante tatra Devatāh, there the Gods are happy.


Dr. M. B. Athreya 

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