The 5 Ideal Women in Hindu Mythology

In every culture worldwide, there exist ideals—individuals regarded as paragons of perfection and worthy of admiration. These individuals set the standards and serve as benchmarks for society. Hinduism, as the world’s oldest living religion, is no exception. Within its rich tapestry, one can find role models in various forms, whether they are ideal women or ideal men.

In this article, we will introduce you to five remarkable women from the Vedic period who are celebrated as timeless ideals in Hindu scriptures. They are Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara, and Mandodari. Collectively, they are known as the ‘Panchakanya.’ There even exists a Sanskrit mantra, the ‘Panchakanya Mantra,’ dedicated to praising their glory:

अहिल्या, तारा, मंदोदरी, कुंती दृापदी स्मरणं, नित्यं, महापातक नाशनाम.’

According to this verse and other ancient Hindu texts, remembering and reciting the names of these five iconic women with a pure heart can cleanse one of their gravest sins and bestow upon them a stable and joyous life. These ideal women from the Vedic period are also known as the ‘five virgins,’ symbolizing the attributes of perfect, chaste feminine divinity.

Ahalya

In traditional Hinduism, Ahalya is recognized as the first among the ‘Panchakanya,’ a group of five ideal women, also known as the ‘five virgins.’ She is also sometimes referred to as Ahilya. Her story can be found in the epic Ramayana, where she is portrayed as the virtuous wife of the sage Gautama.

According to popular legends, Ahalya was renowned as the most beautiful woman of her time. Lord Brahma created her with the purpose of serving sage Gautama during his penance and to humble Urvashi, a celestial nymph from Lord Indra’s court. However, Ahalya’s exceptional beauty brought both blessings and trials to her life.

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In the story, Lord Indra became infatuated with her extraordinary beauty. He desired her so intensely that he assumed the form of sage Gautama and deceived her into spending time with him. Ahalya was unaware that the person she thought was her husband was, in fact, Lord Indra.

When the real sage Gautama returned to their hermitage and discovered his wife’s affair, he cursed her and transformed her into a stone statue. After many years, when Lord Rama visited the hermitage and touched the stone with his feet, Ahalya was released from her curse and returned to her true human form, gaining liberation.

Draupadi

Draupadi, one of the central female figures in the epic Mahabharata, is revered as one of the five ideal women known as Panchakanya. She held the unique position of being the wife and chief consort to the five Pandavas.

Draupadi’s birth was extraordinary, as she emerged from a yagna (fire sacrifice) orchestrated by her father, King Drupada of the powerful Panchala State. Due to her origin in this fire sacrifice, she was also named Yajnaseni.

Draupadi is celebrated as a strong female protagonist in Hindu epics, renowned for her beauty, courage, and her rare polyandrous marriage to five men. One of the pivotal moments leading to the Mahabharata war was the disgraceful incident of her disrobing in the court of Hastinapura.

In Hindu mythology, Draupadi’s life is depicted as one filled with unparalleled challenges. Despite being born as the princess of Panchala and having five heroic husbands, she endured 12 years of exile, suffered the humiliating public disrobing by her own in-laws, and tragically lost all her sons in the Kurukshetra war.

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Remarkably, Draupadi endured all these trials without a single complaint, making her an enduring source of inspiration for various traditional arts, performances, and secondary literature in India. In some temples in the northeastern regions of India, she is also worshipped as a goddess.

Kunti

Kunti is a prominent female character in the epic Mahabharata, widely known as the wife of Prince Pandu, who ruled over Hastinapura. She is best known as the mother of five sons: Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. Since all these sons were born to Prince Pandu, they are collectively referred to as the Pandavas.

Kunti’s presence extends beyond the Mahabharata, as she is also mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana as an intelligent and beautiful woman. Interestingly, she was the paternal aunt of Lord Krishna, meaning she was the sister of Krishna’s father, Vasudeva. This connection places her in stories outside the main narrative of the Mahabharata.

Kunti’s background reveals that she was the biological daughter of Shurasena, a Yadava ruler. Originally named Pritha, she was later adopted by her childless uncle, Kuntibhoja, which is how she acquired the name Kunti. In certain Hindu texts, she is regarded as the incarnation of the goddess Siddhi. Throughout Hinduism, she is revered as a mature, wise, and affectionate lady.

Tara

Tara, the queen of Kishkindha, was the wife of Bali, the monkey king. She was the daughter of Susena, the chief physician of Kishkindha. In her legend, Tara had two marriages. Her first marriage was to Bali, but after he was presumed dead, she was compelled to marry Sugriva, Bali’s younger brother. It’s worth noting that Sugriva was also her brother-in-law.

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Tara’s marriage with Sugriva, however, was merely a cultural custom. When Bali returned, Tara clarified that she and Sugriva had not engaged in any physical relationship because Sugriva already had a beloved wife. Subsequently, Tara and Bali had a son together, named Angada.

Mandodari

Mandodari is counted among the five ideal women known as the ‘Pancha Kanyas.’ She is most renowned for being Ravana’s virtuous wife and the chief queen of Lanka. She was the daughter of Maysura, the king of the asuras, or demons. From her early years, she displayed intelligence and a keen interest in architectural construction.

Mandodari first crossed paths with Ravana when she was just 16 years old. Their initial meeting left Ravana captivated by her unparalleled charm, prompting him to seek her hand in marriage from her father, Mayasura. However, unlike Ravana, Mandodari was deeply righteous and adhered to dharma.

Ravana married her primarily due to her exceptional beauty, but he didn’t provide her with the attention and time she deserved as his principal wife. Mandodari, despite her husband’s actions, spoke out against Ravana after he abducted Lord Rama’s wife, Sita. She advised Ravana to return Sita to her husband and pleaded for Lord Rama’s forgiveness.

Despite being aware of Ravana’s faults and his weakness for women even before their marriage, Mandodari was proud of his powerful stature. She fulfilled her duties as a wife and, because she had fallen in love with Ravana, chose to overlook his flaws and accept him for who he was.

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Shiba Prasad

Shiba Prasad

I've been captivated by India's ancient history and Vedic culture. What began as a hobby, reading books on Hinduism, has now turned into my full-time commitment, researching and writing for this blog. When not working, I enjoy spending time with friends.

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