History is filled with stories of women who have shown humungous courage and perseverance to break the shackles set by the patriarchal and traditionally male-dominated society. They have maintained their unbreakable spirit by overcoming numerous obstacles and become role models for countless people.
“I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong” ,Actress Audrey Hepburn once said these words..and they still ring true today!
When researching India’s past, one frequently finds the accomplishments of men, while women’s achievements often need more digging. This isn’t just because it’s common for women to be refused access to positions of authority; it’s also because the triumphs of women who overcame adversity are frequently forgotten. These tales of tenacity and resistance must be spoken, listened to, and shared.
So here we are, the five outstanding Indian women whose story deserves to be told..and retold –
1. Shakuntala Devi
Maths – A word that scares most of us like a horror movie. But for this one 3 year old girl, numbers were love…numbers were toys with which she could play all day long. This young women was Shakuntala Devi, the Indian mathematician and writer popularly known as the “human computer.”
Born on November 4, 1929, in Bangalore, Shakuntala was known for her exceptional mental calculation abilities. She wrote several books on mathematics and astrology, including “The World of Homosexuals,” “Mathabhanga,” and “Perfect Murder.” She was also a regular contributor to mathematical and astrological journals, and her work has been widely cited in both popular and academic circles. Shakuntala Devi received several awards and honors for her contributions to mathematics and astrology, including the Ramanujan Mathematical Award and the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honors.
Nobody challenges me. I challenge myself.
– Shakuntala Devi
In recent years, her life and work have been the subject of several documentaries, films, and biographies, cementing her place as one of India’s most renowned mathematicians and astrologers. Shakuntala Devi passed away on April 21, 2013, in Bangalore, India. She left behind a legacy as one of the most significant mental calculators of all time and inspired many young people to pursue careers in mathematics.
2. Lata Mangeshkar
A name that every Indian, including the Gen Alpha, recognise…Lata Mangeshkar was an Indian playback singer and music director. She was born on September 28, 1929, in Indore.
Mangeshkar feel in love with singing at a young age of 5 years, started singing professionally at 13 years and soon after became one of the most renowned and successful playback singers in the Indian film industry. She is known to have recorded songs in over a thousand Hindi films and has sung in over 36 regional Indian languages, but primarily in Marathi and Hindi.
Lata Mangeshkar has won numerous awards and accolades, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, and is recognized as one of the “Nightingales of India.” She has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and numerous National Film Awards.
It was not really the external influences that made me a singer.
Music was within me. I was full of it.
– Lata MangMangeshkar
In addition to her singing career, Lata Mangeshkar is also known for her philanthropic work. She has been involved with several charitable organizations and has made donations to various causes, including disaster relief and support for the arts.
Lata Ji is widely regarded as one of the greatest voices in the history of Indian music, and her contributions to Indian cinema have had a profound impact on Indian culture and society.
3. Priyanka Chopra
I think its great to be flawed. I am hugely flawed, and I like it this way.
That’s the fun of life. You fall, get up, make mistakes, learn from them, be human and be you.
– Priyanka Chopra
If there is a woman who has shattered all stereotypes that is associated Indian women, its Priyanka Chopra. Priyanka is an Indian actress, singer, and former Miss World. She has had a successful career in the Indian film industry; she has appeared in Bollywood films and Hollywood films, such as “Baywatch” and “Isn’t It Romantic.” Chopra has also won several awards for her acting, including a National Film Award for Best Actress. Some of her notable achievements include:
- Winning the Miss World pageant in 2000
- Acting in over 50 Bollywood films, including several hits such as “Krrish,” “Don,” and “Bajirao Mastani.”
- She received several awards for acting, including the National Film Award for Best Actress for the film “Fashion.”
- Becoming the first South Asian actress to lead an American network drama series with the show “Quantico.”
- Receiving several accolades for her work in Hollywood, including a People’s Choice Award.
- Singing in multiple languages, including her debut single “In My City.”
- Producing several films and shows, including the Netflix original film “The White Tiger.”
And the list goes on..
While Priyanka’s adventures in entertainment world have been numerous but so has her contributions and philanthropic work been inspiring too. She has been serving as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2010 but what is very interesting is that her journey, her confidence and her “realness” has made her an inspiration for young India.
4. Avani Lekhara
Don’t compare your battles with others
– Avani Lekhara
They say “courage conquers all things: it even gives strength to the body.” The story of Avani Lekhara proves that they couldn’t have been more correct.
Avani Lekhara, an Indian Paralympian and rifle shooter, was born on November 8, GunjanShe is the first woman from India to win a gold medal at the Paralympics. At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Avani brought home India’s first gold medal at the 2020 Paralympic Summer Games. The teenage shooter tied the world record and set a Paralympic record in the final event with a score of 249.6 points.
How many have the courage to face the aftermath of a fatal accident which leaves you with severe spinal injury, with such bravery? Not many. But Avani did. After an accident in 2012, with her parents’ support and inspired by former Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, she started shooting in 2015 and has since won numerous national and international trophies. She won bronze in the women’s 50m air rifle standing event on September 3, 2021, making history as the first Indian female Paralympian to win two medals.
In Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, she earned a gold medal in the 10 m air rifle standing event and a bronze medal in the 50 m rifle three positions event. Lekhara, who participated in the 2018 Asian Para Games, is currently ranked first in the world in the women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 (World Shooting Para Sports Rankings) category as of January 2023.
Such an inspiration, Avani’s spirit is for all those young Indians who dare to dream.
5. Gunjan Saxena
No matter who you are or where you’re from, your dreams are valid.
– Gunjan Saxena
Gunjan Saxena, an IAF officer and former helicopter pilot, was born in 1975. In 1996, she enlisted in the IAF and served in the Kargil War in 1999. She is among the first female pilots to fly in a conflict area. She was primarily responsible for transporting supplies, helping with monitoring, and evacuating the injured from Kargil during the Kargil War. She would later evacuate over 900 men from Kargil, alive and dead. Her career as a helicopter pilot ended in 2004 after she had been a pilot for eight years; at the time, there were no permanent commissions for women. Her life served as the model for the 2020 Bollywood film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. She co-wrote her autobiography with the literary team Kiran Nirvan, which Penguin Publishers published simultaneously with the film. Saxena was born into an Army family.
When she flew during the Kargil War while stationed in Srinagar, Flying Officer Saxena was 24 years old. She assisted in supplying troops in the front regions of Dras and Batalik during the Kargil War as part of Operation Vijay, in addition to helping evacuate the injured. Additionally, she was tasked with surveillance tasks like charting enemy positions. Her challenges included improvised landing areas, heights of 13,000 to 18,000 feet, and hostile fire. She was among the 10 Srinagar-based pilots that flew hundreds of missions throughout the conflict, evacuating over 900 wounded and dead. During the Kargil War, Saxena was the lone female pilot for the Indian Armed Forces.