Gargi – A renowned Philosopher
Gargi is very renowned in the Vedic literature. Her father’s name was ‘Vachaknu’, and so she came to be known as ‘Vachaknavi’. Because of being born in the Garga Gotra (community), she was also called Gargi, a name that became well known. Nowhere one finds mention of her real name – Vachaknavi. From the questions she asked Sage Yajnavalkya, as mentioned in the Vrihadaranyak- Upanishad, it is apparent that she was extremely thoughtful and a woman highly learned in the spiritual sciences.
Once a debate was organized to discuss spiritual scriptures in the court of King Janak. He wanted to know who had the most knowledge and wisdom in the world at the time. King Janak arranged to present one thousand cows, their horns covered with gold, and announced in the court, “Whoever has the most knowledge and wisdom amongst you, can take these cows.” None of the brahmans (scholars) dared to take the cows since everyone knew that he would have to prove his knowledge in the debate to establish himself as the best among the lot. Then the great sage Yajnavalkya asked his disciple, “You shepherd all these cows and take them away from here for me.” This opened the debate. Many scholars asked many questions to Yajnavalkya, who patiently answered all their questions, allaying their concerns and doubts. Now it was Gargi’s turn. She asked many difficult and complex questions to Yajnavalkya on spirituality, cosmology, elements of immortality, languages, etc. From these questions asked by Gargi, it was obvious that she was a great-learned lady and exponent of Vedik knowledge. Upon hearing from Yajnavalkya the answers of her last two questions, Gargi, the absolute soul, also bowed her head to the great sage Yajnavalkya. In the assembly of the scholars, Gargi pronounced the verdict, “There is no one superior to Sage Yajnavalkya; no one can defeat him.” Gargi was not only very studious and profoundly learned in the vedik scriptures; but she also respected others who were learned. She had no bias to prove herself about others. That’s why Gargi generously praised Yajnavalkya. Gargi was an ascetic lady and a learned one of the highest order a luminous jewel among the women of India.