800 – 1200
‘He who owns oxen, but does not plough, his sorry state lasts twelve months of the year’
The legend of the poet Khana places her as the first female mathematician and astrologer of Bengal. Her insights and predictions on astrology, weather, and agriculture have been passed down over centuries though Khanar Bachan (Khana’s words) and has been used as a guide for farmers on cultivation practices. Self taught and naturally gifted, Khana’s knowledge of astronomy earned her a reputation of an oracle.
There are variations of Khana’s story, but according to popular belief, Khana attracted the attention of King Vikramaditya by solving problems that both her husband and father-in-law, who were court astronomers, failed to answer. Jealous of her intelligence and abilities, her father-in-law, Varahimihira had her tongue cut off and forced her to live out her days in exile. In another version of the story, Khana herself cut off her tongue, to spare her father-in-law the shame of being upstaged by a woman. Regardless of the version, Khana’s tale exemplifies how women’s progress suffered because of the fragility of male egos. Despite her tragic story, Khana’s words and wisdom still live on as popular proverbs that are still quoted to this day in rural Bangladesh .