Friday, 28 June 2013

Women status in Hindu religious scriptures

I'm so much passionate about learning and understanding the root cause of any societal problem that we have in our society so that problem we can think of addressing the problems from its root. In relations to this I've been exploring about root cause of gender-based discrimination that we have in our society. It is well known fact that societal mindset is shaped by its cultural values, norms, beliefs and traditions that are created by society and human beings in the course of their development and civilisation. Therefore, it is always contextual and evolving as per the time and people's mind development and advancement as per the theory of evolution. 

Nepal was a Hindu nation for the last 47 years that was abolished in 2006 after people's movement. However, since the early time as per the offically documented evidence, Manav Nyaya Sastra, the first codified law of Nepal written during 14the century by King Jaysthiti Malla hiring five Indian learned Brahmins Nepalese had incorporated hindu holy text, Law of Manu (Manusmriti) verses since then societal mindset both rulers and general public have been always influenced by the philosophy of Hinduism. 

As per the official figure from the Census 2011 in Nepal majority (81%) follow Hinduism and from this also anyone can refer that societal mindset is govern by the philosophy of Hinduism. Relatively Nepalese women's status is considered very low compared to men as per the available evidences to date demonstrated. However, there are some difference even among Nepalese about their societal status based upon the types of their origin, Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan. It is believe that Tibeto-Burman origin community members women status is better than Indo-Aryan though in this society women are considered symbol of goddesses. 

Naturally, seeking shelter under such religious sanctions, unscrupulous women disgraced women to the maximum possible extent and made them means of satisfying their lust. No one wanted a daughter. As a result; female infant came to be considered unwanted. No one wanted a daughter. Everyone was interested in having a son. The birth of the son was celebrated, but the birth of the daughter plunged family into gloom. This attitude still persists, even though certain other customs have undergone changes. In Hinduism Veda is considered the pure knowledge that educate hindus believers and shape their thoughts and belief. There are four vedas namely Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda. Besides these there are many others smritis and purans written based upon these holy texts.

As per the scriptures it is believed that women in ancient vedic society (India) used to be very respected. There is no exclusion of women according to the Vedas. Motherhood is considered the greatest glory of Hindu women. The Taittiriya Upanishad teaches, "Matridevo bhava" – "Let your mother be god to you." In this mantra of Brahmcharya Sukta, it is emphasized that girls too should train themselves as students and only then enter into married life. The Sukta specifically emphasizes that girls should receive the same level of training as boys.

Rig Veda:

"Parents should gift their daughter intellectuality and power of knowledge when she leaves for husband's home. They should give her a dowry of knowledge."Rig Veda 10.85.7 

"The right is equal in the fathers property for both son and daughter."- Rig Veda 3.31.1 

'Rig Veda' censures women by saying:
"Lord Indra himself has said that women has very little intelligence. She cannot be taught" - Rig Ved 8/33/17

At another placein Rig Veda  it is written:
"There cannot be any friendship with a women. Her heart is more cruel than heyna" - Rig Ved 10/95/15.

The idea of equality was most forcibly expressed in the Rig Veda (Book 5, hymn 61. verse 8): The commentator explains this passage thus: "The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular."

 "The wife should do agnihotra (yagna), sandhya (puja) and all other daily religious rituals. If, for some reason, her husband is not present, the woman alone has full rights to do yagna."Rigveda Samhita, part 1, sukta 79, sloka 872 

"O women! These mantras are given to you equally (as to men). May your thoughts, too, be harmonious. May your assemblies be open to all without discrimination. Your mind and consciousness should be harmonious. I (the rishi) give you these mantras equally as to men and give you all and equal powers to absorb (the full powers) of these mantras."- Rig Veda 10–191–3 
Like wise in so many other mantras a woman has been presented to play an essential role in family and as wife. Similarly she has been given the lead stage in society works, in governmental organizations, and for ruling the nation is also mentioned in Vedas.
Rigevda contains several Suktas containing description of Usha as a God. This Usha is representation of an ideal woman. As per the "Usha Devata" by Pt Sri Pad Damodar Satvalekar as part of "Simple Translation of Rigveda (Rigved ka subodh bhashya)" page 121 to 147 for summary of all such verses spread across entire Rigveda. In summary:
  1. Women should be brave (Page 122, 128)
  2. Women should be expert (Page 122)
  3. Women should earn fame (Page 123)
  4. Women should ride on chariots (Page 123)
  5. Women should be scholars (Page 123)
  6. Women should be prosperous and wealth (Page 125)
  7. Women should be intelligent and knowledgeable (Page 126)
  8. Women should be protector of family and society and get in army(Page 134, 136)
  9. Women should be illuminating (Page 137)
  10. Women should be provider of wealth, food and prosperity (Page 141- 146)

Moreover, 'Rig Veda' itself says that a women should beget sons. The newly married wife is blessed so that she could have 10 sons. So much so, that for begetting a son, 'Vedas' prescribe a special ritual  called 'Punsawan sanskar' (a ceremony performed during third month of pregnancy).  During the ceremony it is prayed:

"Almighty God, you have created this womb. Women may be born somewhere else but sons should be born from this womb" - Atharva Ved 6/11/3

"O Husband protect the son to be born. Do not make him a women" - Atharva Ved 2/3/23

Atharva Veda
"Girls should train themselves to become complete scholars and youthful through Brahmcharya and then enter married life."
Atharva Veda 11.5.18 

"Parents should gift their daughter intellectuality and power of knowledge when she leaves for husband's home. They should give her a dowry of knowledge."
Atharva Veda 14.1.6 

When girls ignore external objects and develops foresight and vibrant attitude through power of knowledge, she becomes provider of wealths of skies and earth. Then she should marry an eligible husband.
"Oh wife! Give us discourse of knowledge"
Atharva Veda 14.1.20 

The bride may please everyone at her husband's home through her knowledge and noble qualities.
 "Teach the husband ways of earning wealth. Protector of children, having definite knowledge, worth thousands of prayers and impressing all directions, O women, you accept prosperity. O wife of deserving husband, teach your husband to enhance wealth."- Atharva Veda 7.46.3 
 "Oh woman! You are the keeper of knowledge of all types of actions (karma)."- Atharva Veda 7.47.1
 "Oh woman! You know everything. Please provide us strength of prosperity and wealth."- Atharva Veda 7.47.2 
"Oh woman! Utilize your vedic intellect in all directions of our home!"- Atharva Veda 14 January 1964 
"Oh groom! This bride will protect your entire family."- Atharva Veda 1.14.3 
"May this bride become the queen of the house of her husband and enlighten all."- Atharva Veda 2.36.3 
"These women are pure, sacred and yajniya (as respected as yajna); they provide us with subjects, animals and food."- Atharva Veda 11.1.17 
"Hey wife! Become the queen and manager of everyone in the family of your husband."-Atharva Veda 14.1.20 
Thoses verses proof that women used to be very respected. These women are pure, sacred, worth being worship, worth being served, of great character, scholarly. They have given subjects, animals and happiness to the entire society.
 "Ensure that these women never weep out of sorrow. Keep them free from all diseases and give them ornaments and jewels to wear."-Atharva Veda 12.2.31 
"Hey wife! I am holding your hand for prosperity."-Atharva Veda 14 January 1950 
"Hey bride! You shall bring bliss to all and direct our homes towards our purpose of living."- Atharva Veda 14 January 1961
"Hey wife! I am knowledgeable and you are also knowledgeable. If I am Samved then you are Rigved."- Atharva Veda 14 February 1971 
"This bride is illuminating. She has conquered everyone's hearts!"- Atharva Veda 14 February 1974 
"Women should take part in the legislative chambers and put their views on forefront."- Atharva Veda 7.38.4 and 12.3.52 
"O bride! May the knowledge of the Vedas be in front of you and behind you, in your centre and in your ends. May you conduct your life after attaining the knowledge of the Vedas. May you be benevolent, the harbinger of good fortune and health and live in great dignity and indeed be illumined in your husband's home."- Atharva Veda 14–1–64 

In 'Shatpath Puran (shatpath Brahman)' a sonless women has been termed as unfortunate.

'Yajur Ved (Taitriya Sanhita)'m- "Women code says that the women are without energy. They should not get a share in property. Even to the wicked they speak in feeble manner" - Yajur Ved 6/5/8/2

"There are equal rights for men and women to get appointed as ruler."- Yajur Veda 20.9 
"There should be a women army. Let the women be encouraged to participate in war."- Yajur Veda 16.44 
 "In this mantra it is enforced that the wife of ruler should give education of politics to the others. Likewise the king do justice for the people, the queen should also justify her role."- Yajur Veda 10.26 

Shatpath Puran, preachings of the 'Yajur Veda' clubs women, 'shudras'(untouchables), doga, crows together and says falsehood, sin and gloom remain integrated in them. (14/1/1/31)

In 'Aiterey Puran', preaching of the 'Rig Veda' in harsih chandra -Narad dialogue, Narad says: "The daughter causes pain"

Despicable

To insult and humiliate women further, the religious books speak of women having sexual intercourse with animals or expressing desire for intercourse with them. What further insult can be heaped on women.

In 'Yajur Veda' such references are found at a number of places where the principal wife of the host is depicted as having intercourse with a horse.

For example consider the following hymn:

"All wife of the host reciting three mantras go round the horse. While praying, they say: 'O horse, you are, protector of the community on the basis of good qualities, you are, protector or treasure of happiness. O horse, you become my husband.'"
- Yajur Veda 23/19.

After the animal is purified by the priest, the principal wife sleeps near the horse and says: "O Horse, I extract the semen worth conception and you release the semen worth conception'"
- Yajur Veda 23/20.

The horse and principal wife spread two legs each. Then the Ardhvaryu (priest) orders to cover the oblation place, raise canopy etc. After this, the principal wife of the host pulls penis of the horse and puts it in her vagina and says: "This horse may release semen in me."

-Yajur Veda 23/20.

Then the host, while praying to the horse says:
"O horse, please throw semen on the upper part of the anus of my wife. Expand your penis and insert it in the vagina because after insertion, this penis makes women happy and lively" - 23/21.

In the Vedic age, the customs of polygamy was prevalent. Each wife spent most of the time devising ways and means to become favorite to her husband.

Clear references are available in 'Rig Veda', (14/45),' and Atharva Veda (3/81)'

Custom of Polygamy


The Aryans in those days used to attack the original inhabitants of this place, or other tribe within their own race; loot them and snatch away their women. Thus, militant and wicked men had more wives. This custom of polygamy helped a great deal in bringing down the women.

In 'Rig Ved' (10/59) it is written that Lord Indra had many queens that were either defeated or killed by his principal wife.

In 'Aitrey Puran', preachings of 'Rig Veda', (33/1), there is a reference to the effect that Harish Chandra had one hundred Wives.

'Yajur Veda' in the context of 'Ashva Medha' (Horse Sacraficing ceremony), says that many wives of Harish Chandra participated in the 'Yagyna' (religious sacrafice).

In 'Shatpath Puran(Shatpath Brahmin)', preachings (13/4/1/9), of the Veda, it is written that four wives do service in 'Ashva Megha'. In another Puran (Tatiraity Brahamin, 3/8/4), it is written that wives are like property.

Not only one man had many wives (married and slave girls), but there were cases of many men having a joint wife. It is confirmed from the following hymn in 'Atharva Veda': "O men, sow a seed in this fertile women"
- Atharva Veda 14/1

Both these customs clearly show that a women was treated like a moving property. The only difference between the two customs was that whereas according to former one man had a number of movable properties, in the latter, women a joint movable property.

'Vedas' also sanction 'Sati Pratha' 

Widow was burnt at the funeral Pyre of her husband. The widow was burnt at the funeral pyre of her husband so that she may remain his slave, birth after birth and may never be released from the bonds of slavery.

 " Let these women, whose husbands are worthy and are living, enter the house with ghee (applied) as corrylium ( to their eyes). Let these wives first step into the pyre, tearless without any affliction and well adorned."- Rig Veda 10.18.7 

The Garudapurana favourably mentions the immolation of a widow on the funeral pyre, and states that women of all castes, even the Candalla woman, must perform Sati. The only exceptions allowed by this benevolent author is for pregnant women or those who have young children. If women do not perform sati, then they will be reborn into the lowly body of a woman again and again till they perform Sati.- Garuda.Purana. II.4.91-100 

"A sati who dies on the funeral pyre of her husband enjoys an eternal bliss in heaven."- Daksa Smrti IV.18-19 

According to Vasishta's Padma-Purana, a woman must, on the death of her husband, allow herself to be burnt alive on the same funeral pyre.

Yajnavalkya, a legendary sage of Vedic India, credited with the authorship of the Shatapatha Brahmana, and the most important law-giver after sage Manu, states that sati is the only way for a chaste widow.- Apastamba.I.87 

The Yogini Tantra enjoins upon Brahmana widows to burn themselves on the funeral pyre of their husbands [ Yog.T. II.303-308 ]. Vaisya and Sudra widows were also allowed to do it. It was prohibited to unchaste women and those having many children. [ 1200, p.67 ]

The Vyasa Smrti gives one of the two alternatives for a Brahmana widow, ie. either to become a sati or to take up ascetism after her tonsure [ Vyasa Sm. II.53 ] [ Sm.S. p.362 ] [ 1200, p.67 ftn.136 ]. 

"If a woman's husband dies, let her lead a life of chastity, or else mount his pyre" - Vishnu Smirti.XXV.14

"It is the highest duty of the woman to immolate herself after her husband."- Brahma Purana.80.75 

The Atharva Veda says:
"O dead man following the religion and wishing to go to the husbands world, his women comes to you."  In the other world also may you give her children and wealth in the same manner. In the 'Vedas', widow is treated inhumanly. For example it is mentioned that on death of her husband, the wife was handed over to some other man, or to her husband younger brother.

Swami Vivekananda opines that even at that time women used to have sexual intercourse with a person other than her husband to beget a child. The hymn says:
"O woman, get up and adopt the worldly life again. It is futile to lie with this dead man. Get up and become the wife of the man who is holding your hand and who loves you."
- Rig Ved 10/18/8

Apparently this shows that woman is considered to be a property. Whenever and whosoever desired, could become her master. If the women was not remarried, then her head was shaved. This is evident from Atharva Veda (14/2/60).

This custom was obviously meant to disgrace her. For what connection does shaving of widows head has with the death of her husband ? The condition of widows was miserable. She was considered to be a harbinger of inauspiciousness and was not allowed to participate in ceremonies like marriage. This custom is still prevalent in some places. She has to spend her life alone In Rig Veda therre are references to slave girls being given in charity as gifts. After killing the menfolk of other tribes, particularly of the native inhabitants, their women were rounded up and used as slave girls. It was custom to present slave girls to one other as gifts. The kings used to present chariots full of slave girls to their kith and kin and preists (Rig Veda 6/27/8). King Trasdasyu had given 50 slave girls. It was custom to present slave girls to Saubhri Kandav (Rig Veda 8/38, 5/47/6).


Intercourse without marriage

A slave girl was called 'Vadhu' (wife), with whom sexual intercourse could be performed without any kind of marriage ceremony. These girls belonged to the men who snatched them from the enemies, or who had received them in dowry, or as gifts. Only the men to whom they belonged could have sexual intercourse with them. But some slave girls were kept as joint property of the tribe or the village. Any man could have sexual rlations with them. These girls became the prostitutes. The 'Vedas' also talk about 'Niyog', the custom of childless, widow or woman having sexual intercourse with a person other than her husband to beget a child.

In simple words 'Niyog' means sending a married woman or a widow to a particular man for sexual intercourse so that she gets a son. Indication of this custom is available in 'Rig Veda' In 'Aadiparva' of 'Mahabharata' (chap. 95 and 103), it is mentioned that Satywati had appointed her son to bestow sons to the queens of Vichitrvirya, the younger brother of Bhishma, as a result of which Dhratrashtra and Pandu were born.

Pandu himself has asked his wife, Kunti, to have sexual intercourse with a brahmin to get a son (Aadi Parva, chapters 120 to 123).

Chastity of woman was not safe

In the name of 'beejdan' (seed donation), they used to have sexual intercourse with issueless women. This was a cruel religious custom and the chastity of the women was not safe. The so called caretakers of the religion were allowed to have sexual intercourse with other man's wife. From 'Niyog pratha' it csn be inferred withouth fear of contradiction that women were looked upon as mere child producing machines.

In 'The Position of women in Hindu Civilization' Dr. B. R. Ambedkar writes:
"Though women is not married to man, she was considered to be a property of the entire family. But she was not getting share out of the property of her husband, only son could be successor to the property."

Gajdhar Prasad Baudh says: " No woman of the Vedic age can be treated as pure. Vedic man could not keep even the relations brother-sister and father-daughter sacred from the oven of rape and debauchery/adultery named 'Niyog'. Under the influence of intoxication of wine, they used to recognize neither their sister nor their daughter and also did not keep the relations with them in mind. It is evident from their debauchery and adultery what a miserable plight of women was society in then. (Refer 'Arya Niti Ka Bhadaphor'. 5th Edition page 14).

In the 'Vedas' there are instances where daughter was impregnated by her father and the sister by her brother. The following example of sexual intercourse is found between father and daughter in the 'Rig Veda':
"When father had sexual intercourse with his daughter, then with the help of earth he released his semen and at that time the Righteous Devas (deities) formed this 'Vartrashak (Rudra) Devta' (Pledge keeper diety named Rudra)"
- Atharva Veda (20/96/15).

Manusmriti

"Women are worthy of worship. They are the fate of the household, the lamp of enlightenment for all in the household. They bring solace to the family and are an integral part of dharmic life. Even heaven is under the control of women. The gods reside in those households where women are worshipped and in households where women are slighted all efforts at improvement go in vain."Manusmriti 3–56

References
1. Legal rights of women in history accessed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_rights_of_women_in_history

2. Sati - Brahmin Annihilation of Widows, Chapter 5, Genocide of Women in Hinduism by
Sita Agarwal accessed from http://www.worldaffairsboard.com/international-politics/12097-sati-brahmin-annihilation-widows.html


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