Chander M Bhat
Joseph Rudyard Kipling, Indian born English journalist has rightly said “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”
It is very difficult to define a mother in a few words. They are the idol of selfless love and affection despite how much occupied they are and are making every effort to make our lives better. Motherhood is a natural quality inherited in women. Mothers are the first guides, philosophers, mentors, and first friends of every individual in this world.
Hinduism has given the highest place of honour to the mother. In fact; the very etymological derivation on the word ‘mata’ is ‘manyate pujyate ya sa, ‘one who is honoured or worshipped’. The Taittiriya Upanisad advises the outgoing student of the gurukula to look upon his mother as if she were God Himself. In this series the pithy teachings, she is placed above the father and the Vedic teacher.
In fact, the status of motherhood has been raised to the highest level by depicting even God, as the Divine Mother, in later religious literature like purnas and the tantras.
It is the bounden duty of the son to protect her and maintain her at all costs even if she were a sinner, reduced to the level of an outcaste.
One of the smritis (the Sankhalikhita) gives an interesting piece of advice to a son that he should not normally take sides when the father and the mother are quarrelling. If at all, he should side with the mother!
The epics and the purnas are full of eulogy of the mother and of instances (like that of the Pandavas) where the sons have served their mother devotedly. They also warn that if a mother is deeply hurt and utters a curse, it can never be averted.
Even during the historical period there are several instances where the mothers have inspired and shaped the character of their sons and the latter’s gratitude towards them.
According to the scriptures, motherhood sanctifies women. It is the consummation of her life. Why? For, when a woman becomes a mother, her feelings and emotions get more purified than in wifehood. She gradually becomes free from all taints of body-consciousness, and so takes a long stride in the march of the soul towards its ultimate goal. That is why motherhood is sacred. In social relations between men and women, the Hindu node prescribes the filial attitude which is so pure, in order to prevent an emotional crisis. It requires every woman to unfold herself as a mother, and not as just a woman.
In order to give a proper estimate of the position of mother in modern India, it is necessary to take into account not only the achievements and their effects as are to be observed at the present day but also the age-long story of the hopes and aspirations as well as the endeavours and frustrations which have culminated in the present position…a story whose end is yet untold.
The mothers of our country have usually identified their religion with the very act of living, and sublimated their simplest household duties almost into sacramental rites. Now that the old sense of security has vanished, as the result of war, famine, communal strife, economic causes, partition and change of governmental principals, they find themselves in a world to whose standard of values they have re-orientate themselves. The Indian Union has thrown open the doors of all educational institutions, services and lines of employment for competent women. We have women doctors, lawyers, engineers, statesmen, office administrators, secretaries, clerks, musicians and artists and even head of the states. They are not lacking behind in exploring the space as well. Many women go abroad every year for professional and technical training.
In our country the servitors of a household address the mistress of the house as mother. The total stranger addresses every woman as mother. The deities of learning and prosperity are represented in the images of beautiful women, as motherhood incarnate. It has been said that the Hindu grows old, not when his hair turns grey, but when he loses his mother. Before going on a journey and on returning, most Hindus touch the feet of their mothers. This apotheosis of motherhood is not the cult of a physical fact, but the idealization of the sublimest qualities of motherhood, of selfless devotion, unquestioning love and complete self-abnegation. The physical phenomenon of bearing children is the least part of it. From a woman worthy of being called mother, the Indian tradition expects perfect purity, loyalty and unselfishness. These qualities have a beauty of their own, and the Indian mother very often cares for no other aid of beauty.
To make our mothers feel special, every year, on second Sunday of May, we celebrate Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day (to express respect, honor, and love towards mothers) is a celebration honoring the mother, as well as motherhood. Initially Mother’s Day began in the United States, at the initiative of Anna Reeves Jarvis (1864-1948), a peace activist of West Virginia, USA in the early 20th century and subsequently spread in other countries. In order to honour the motherhood Anna Reeves Jarvis set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Mother’s Day was first celebrated in the year 1907.
Swami Vivekananda, the Cyclonic Monk of India, in a letter dated 22nd September 1900 to Miss Alberta Sturges (a disciple of Swamiji) on her 23rd birthday writes:
The mother’s heart, the hero’s will
The softest flower’s sweetest feel;
The charm and force that ever sway
The altar fire’s flaming ply;
The strength that leads, in love obeys;
Far reaching dreams, and patient ways,
Eternal faith in Self, in all
The sight Divine in great in small;
All these, and more than I could see
Today may “Mother” grand to thee.
Chander M Bhat