GARGI was the daughter of sage Vachaknu in the lineage of sage Garg (800-500 BCE) and hence named after the sage and her father as Gargi Vachaknavi. Garg was one of the greatest sages of Puranic times. He was the son of Rishi Bhardwaj and is credited for giving the name “Krishna’ to Lord Krishna. He was the family priest of the family of Krishna’s foster father, Nand. Gargi was deeply inspired and interested in learning Vedas and Puranas from her early childhood. She had a very sharp intellect and became renowned for proficiency in the complex philosophies of all four Vedas. There were few men who could rival her knowledge in this field. Gargi is mentioned in the ‘Grihya-Sutra’ of the Rig Ved. Her philosophical views are also mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad.
Gargi Vachaknavi is credited with revealing through meditation, few of the ‘mantras’ in Rig Ved. Such was her knowledge. She came to be known as ‘Brahma-Vadini’. Gargi would conduct lectures and participate in ‘Brahma-yagyas’. It was a distinct honor and recognition of her great scholarship in the science and philosophy of Vedas. Gargi had the honor of recognition as one of the Nav-ratnas (nine gems) in the court of King Janaka of Mithila.
Gargi Vachaknavi is most famous for her challenge to the great Sage Yagyavalkya during a debate (shastrartha) hosted by Kind Janak of Videha Kingdom. The king had organized a ‘Rajsuya’ yagya and invited all the learned sages, kings, and princes of Bharat to participate. The questions posed by Gargi and answers given by Sage Yagvalkya are mentioned in full detail in Chapter Three, Section six of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – Shankara Bhashya as translated by Swami Madhavananda. One can read the complete debate there.