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Women in armed combat is nothing new today but looking back in history, such occurrences are pretty rare. Especially, if we are talking of a period that is around 1200 years before the birth of Christ, martial women are almost non-existent. However, the famous India text, the Rig Veda has something interesting to tell us.
We really don’t know whether it is myth or a real story because 4200 years after the story was written, there is very little to be done about digging out the truth even if world’s all historians are put to work at the same time.
But the world today agrees that Rig Veda is something that cannot be taken lightly. For instance, we once wrote about the possibility of an Indian making the first airplane based on mercury ion design mentioned and well-described in Rig Veda. Scientists today agree that the description was pretty accurate and that the design can actually help build airplanes.
What else? Rig Veda took science very seriously and many of the calculations mentioned in that ancient scripture from Hindu religion are almost accurate. Let us for instance take the calculations of speed of light. Modern science calculates the speed of light to be 186000 miles in one second and according to Rig Veda (which was written somewhere between ca. 1500 BCE and 1200 BCE or as some say between ca. 1700 BCE and 1100 BCE) the speed of light is 189547 miles in one second. The calculations are almost accurate and because today’s high-tech equipment were not present back then, we can say that the calculations were accurate.
So, considering Rig Veda’s accuracy and advanced knowledge about science, we really cannot throw away the story of Viśpálā. According to the scripture, Viśpálā live around 7000 BCE. There is really isn’t much described in the story. All that is mentioned is that Viśpálā lost one of her legs during battle. It was then that the twin gods Ashwins fitted her with an iron made prosthetic leg, allowing her to get back in action.
Now Ashwins in Hindu Mythology were two gods with horse heads who flew around (yes FLEW around as in flying) on a golden chariot. That’s more akin to today’s concept of Santa Claus but the Ashwins differed and were far better than Santa because their task was not of giving out mere gifts to kids. They did give gifts but their gifts were better. They healed sick people, helped people and animals in need and were even capable of turning day into night.
So, the Ashwins actually gave Viśpálā her prosthetic leg. This is in fact the first ever mention of prosthesis and it dates back to 12th century BCE, which is pretty incredible and highly advance for its time. We are really not going to know the truth ever but considering the advanced knowledge found in Rig Veda, we simply cannot discard that ancient Indians were aware of prosthesis.
Coming back to Viśpálā (or Vishpala), some argue that Rig Veda here mentions about a horse and not a queen. Some argue in favor of the opposite. Whatever the case be, Viśpálā might have existed and experts think that the story has some truth. As per Rig Veda, it was in the Khela’s battle where Viśpálā lost her leg. Some say it was Khela’s race.
It was Karl Friedrich Geldner who came up with the interpretation of a race and hence the idea that Viśpálā was a horse. On the other hand, the interpretation of Khela’s battle and that of Viśpálā being a warrior woman came from Griffith who followed the interpretation of Sayana who live during 14th century CE India and was one of the most important commentators on Vedas.
So, who was Viśpálā? Was she a legendary warrior queen or was she a horse? We will never know because Rig Veda simply took it for granted that the audience was fully aware of the events described.