Rakshasas – The Beautiful, the Virtuous, the Sleepy

 Although they have the power to change their shape at will and appear as animals, monsters, or beautiful women, sculptures and literatures generally depict the Rakshasas with a terrifying appearance – fearful side tusks, ugly eyes, curling brows and carrying a variety of horrible weapon. But, as with everything else in life, not all Rakshasas are ugly.

The Bloody Wedding of Bubat

Her father Sunda King Lingga Buana gave his blessings and, accompanied by his queen and ministers, he travelled with his daughter to Trowulan, the capital of Majapahit, for her marriage to Majapahit ‘s king. As the Sunda king arrived in Majapahit, they were welcomed by none other than Gajah Mada himself.

The Warrior Nun

They are rarely mentioned in historical records but female warriors have increasingly been studied and researched. Of female martial artists, the accounts are rarer still, and generally become a mix of historical facts and legends. One such story is the Shaolin Abbess Ng Mui, her student Yim Wing Chun, and their roles in the conception of a martial art called the Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Dyah Gitarja

The picture of a powerful empire politically and culturally dominating the whole of the Indonesian Archipelago is attached to the “Golden Age” of Majapahit in the fourteenth century. It was the time of the famous poets Prapafica and Tantular, and of the sculptors of reliefs that have been preserved on the Surawana, Tigawangi and Kedaton temples. The two men largely credited for this success are the great king Hayam Wuruk (1350-1389 CE) and the prime minister Gajah Mada—both their names and likenesses are still venerated in the region today. Gajah Mada especially is credited with bringing the empire to its peak of glory and serves as an important national hero in modern Indonesia—a symbol of patriotism and national unity. However, paving the way for the two heroes was a woman

The Goddess with the Golden Scales

One afternoon in the 1960s, the people of Magelang in Java, Indonesia, gathered on the edge of the main road which connects Magelang and Yogyakarta and sounded anything they could find which could make a loud noise. After some time, the wind blew from the south. This southern wind, according to the local legend, was a Lampor. A Lampor refers to trips to several regions in Java which are carried out by the soldiers of Nyi Roro Kidul, the mythical Queen of the Southern Seas, led by her commander Nyi Blorong.

The Bird, the Snake, the Woman

As the bird is the symbol of the spirit of life, the serpent is the symbol of the sting of death. This was a very wide-spread ancient belief. The association of the bird and the serpent to life and death goes back to the last part of the stone age, later represented by ancient Greek’s Medusa, all the way to ancient China where the two animals are revered as embodiments of power and nobility.

The First Woman

The story of Adam or Eve is by no means universal. According to the Iroquois, Huron and Navajo people, the first human being was, in fact, a woman. Nevertheless, the role of the woman in many legends are the most intriguing as, varied as they are in the way in which they were created and in their circumstances, the first woman share many similar characteristics across cultures – they are beautiful, they change the course of the world through their mere existence and they provide us with glimpses of personalities that women around the world still inherit to this day.

Ancient Mothers of the Olympics

The Olympics took place every four years for more than a millennium. However, as important as this was to the Greeks, participation in the Olympics was open primarily to men and boys. Women were of course discouraged to participate. But this did not stop the ladies from having their own athletic competitions, even competing against the men and winning.

The Ancient Price of Speaking Truth to Power

In an ideal world, celebrating one gender should not come at the expense on another. But we are not living in an ideal world. The roles of the women in Mahabharate are defined by their relationships to the men, women are placed merely on the periphery of the epic – typecast as devoted mothers, virtuous wives and innocent maidens. Amba is a different character from the women in the epic. She had to pay the price for her courage to speak her mind against the most powerful man of the age.

Divinity in Diversity

The general appearances of ancient Chinese deities lead us to think of them as sober imperial bureaucrats. Mostly, they look like middle aged men dressed in official-looking robes, spending their time reading formal petitions and responding by giving stern orders to their underlings – rather like the more artistic version of our modern politicians. Although several of the most popular deities are female, gender immediately raises problems for the bureaucratic image of some important deities as governing elites tend to favor a religious practice that reflected themselves (male, old, humourless etc). Women, as well as men who are viewed to be rebels or misfits, tends to be excluded from the sites and definitions of power. But a group of joyful misfits changed all that.