By Swami Harshananda
Religion has given the highest place of honor to the mother. In fact, the very etymological derivation on the word ‘mātā’ is ‘mānyate pujyate yā sā’, ‘one who is honored or worshiped’. The Taittirīya Upaniṣad advises the outgoing student of the gurukula to look upon his mother as if she were God Himself. In this series of pithy teachings, she is placed above the father and the Vedic teacher.
In fact, the status of motherhood has been raised to the highest level by depicting even the God as the Divine Mother in later religious literatures like the purāṇas and the tantras. It is the bounden duty of the son to protect her and maintain her at all costs even if she were a sinner reduced to the level of an out-caste.
One of the smṛtis gives an interesting piece of advice to a son that he should not normally take sides when the father and the mother are quarreling. If at all he want to, he should side with the mother. The epics and the purāṇas are full of eulogy of the mother and of instances, like that of the Pāṇḍavas, where the sons have served their mother devotedly. They also warn that if a mother is deeply hurt and utters a curse, it can never be averted. Even during the historical period there are several instances where the mothers have inspired and shaped the character of their sons and the son's gratitude towards them.
- Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.11
- Gurukula is the forest academy run by the ṛṣis or sages.
- Smṛtis are the Sañkhalikhita.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore