For the longest time, I associated history only with things like men at war, the French Revolution, or the bubonic plague. While I found it all interesting, it didn’t speak to the woman in me. But I also knew that history had more to offer, such as powerful women, courageous stories, and uplifting moments.
While reading about the following women, each of us will realise that it wasn’t just Draupadi who was born to change the course of history, it’s us too. So, here are a few women who acted beyond stereotypes and revolutionised history.
Maharani Gayatri Devi
Maharani Gayatri Devi was born in 1919, an era where women were pushed to help men succeed instead of fighting for their voting rights and a time that defined strict gender roles and kept women indoors. Maharani, on the other hand, did not live a life enslaved by such constraints. She grew up to become an old, outspoken philanthropist, an arbiter of fashion, and a politician. And one of her most remarkable works is the school she built for girls, because women are born to do more, to work and to live a meaningful life. She broke barriers that shouldn’t have existed in the first place by riding horses, playing tennis, driving cars, and winning votes that made heads turn. If you’re contemplating a decision that requires courage and will, then Gayatri Devi’s memoir is what you need.
Princess Indira Raje of Baroda
Imagine writing a letter to your (arranged) fiance to tell him you’re eloping with someone you love. Now imagine doing this in 2021 the 1900s, a time where women faced the toughest moments with rigorous marriage laws and traditions that bring shivers even today. Sounds bold, funny and inspiring, right? Well, Princess Indira Raje of Baroda was exactly that. Indira Raje was destined to be married off to the Maharaja of Gwalior until she fell in love with Jitendra and decided to take matters into her own hands. She spent most of her life in Europe, riding and admiring horses, building a shoe collection other queens envied, and living an overall exotic life. Indira Raje reminds us that only good things happen when we, as women, take control of our lives.
Today, we’re able to take pride in standing shoulder to shoulder with men and as journalists on the field, the credit for believing and beginning goes to women like Homai Vyarawalla. Born in 1913, Homai spent her prime years publishing photographs of WW2 under her spouse’s name because of the stigma around women having jobs and the then male-dominated field of photojournalism. However, eventually, she went on to be recognised as the first woman to capture major historic moments. Homai did her thing even though she wasn’t recognised for it at first, but eventually, her will and work triumphed over everything.
Princess Nilofer of Hyderabad
An exceptional sense of style, the courage to rebel, and a big heart are a few things that made Nilofer’s life and story immortal. Niloufer got married and stepped into orthodox India with rebellion and poise. Even as a princess of Hyderabad, Niloufer didn’t restrict herself to just Indian attire; she experimented with fashion and put her sense of style to use as well. She might also have been one of the first few women to wear pastel sarees when India appreciated only bright ones. And, again, born in an era that preferred women indoors, Niloufer went on to do bigger things by building a maternity hospital in Hyderabad.
It’s heartwarming to see the spirit of women stay alive in some of the toughest times in history. Such stories are reminders to carve our path on our terms, even on days when it feels impossible to do so.