Women in Hinduism

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Hindu texts present diverse and conflicting views on the position of women, ranging from feminine leadership as the highest goddess to limiting her role to an obedient daughter, housewife and mother. The Devi Sukta hymn of Rigveda, a scripture of Hinduism, declares the feminine energy as the essence of the universe, the one who creates all matter and consciousness, the eternal and infinite, the metaphysical and empirical reality (Brahman), the soul (supreme self) of everything.[1][2] The woman is celebrated as the most powerful and the empowering force in some Hindu Upanishads, Sastras and Puranas, particularly the Devi Upanishad, Devi Mahatmya and Devi-Bhagavata Purana.[3][4][5]

In Smritis, such as the Manusmriti, the position of women in Hinduism is mixed and contradictory. Manusmriti asserts that "as a girl, she should obey and seek protection of her father, as a young woman her husband, and as a widow her son".[6] In other sections, the same text asserts that "women must be honored and adorned", and "where women are revered, there the gods rejoice; but where they are not, no sacred rite bears any fruit".[7] However, scholars have questioned the authenticity and corruption of the text over time, given the numerous inconsistent version of the Smriti manuscripts that have been discovered.[8]

Ancient and medieval era Hindu texts present a diverse picture of duties and rights of women in Hinduism. The texts recognize eight kinds of marriage, ranging from father finding a marriage partner for his daughter and seeking her consent (Brahma marriage), to the bride and groom finding each other without parental participation (Gandharva marriage).[9][10] Scholars state that Vedic era Hindu texts, and records left by travelers to ancient and medieval India, suggest ancient and early medieval Hindu society did not practice Dowry or Sati.[11][12] These practices likely became widespread sometime in the 2nd millennium CE from socio-political developments in the Indian subcontinent.[13][14]

Hinduism, states Bryant, has the strongest presence of the divine feminine among major world religions, from ancient times to the present.[15] The goddess is viewed as central in Shakti and Saiva Hindu traditions.[16][17]

Ancient texts[edit]

Vedic literature[edit]

Ancient texts of Hinduism expound a reverence for the feminine. The 10th chapter of the Rigveda, for example, asserts the feminine to be the supreme principle behind all of cosmos, in the following hymn called as Devi Sukta,[1][2]

<poem> I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship. Thus Gods have established me in many places with many homes to enter and abide in. Through me alone all eat the food that feeds them,-each man who sees, breathes, hears the word outspoken They know it not, yet I reside in the essence of the Universe. Hear, one and all, the truth as I declare it.

I, verily, myself announce and utter the word that gods and men alike shall welcome. I make the man I love exceeding mighty, make him nourished, a sage, and one who knows Brahman. I bend the bow for Rudra that his arrow may strike and slay the hater of devotion. I rouse and order battle for the people, I created Earth and Heaven and reside as their inner controller.

On the world's summit I bring forth the Father: my home is in the waters, in the ocean. Thence I prevade all existing creatures, as their Inner Supreme Self, and manifest them with my body. I created all worlds at my will, without any higher being, and permeate and dwell within them. The eternal and infinite consciousness is I, it is my greatness dwelling in everything. </poem>

— Rigveda 10.125.3 - 10.125.8, [1][18]
Upanishads

The Devi Sukta ideas of the Rigveda are further developed in the relatively later composed Shakta Upanishads, states McDaniel, where the Devi asserts that she is Brahman, from her arise Prakṛti (matter) and Purusha (consciousness), she is bliss and non-bliss, the Vedas and what is different from it, the born and the unborn, and the feminine is thus all of the universe.[3] She is presented as all the five elements, as well as all that is different from these elements, what is above, what is below, what is around, and thus the universe in its entirety.[19] This philosophy is also found in the Tripuratapani Upanishad and the Bahvricha Upanishad.[1]

The early Upanishads are, however, generally silent about women and men, and focus predominantly about gender-less Brahman and its relation to Atman (Soul, Self). There are occasional exceptions. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, composed about 800 BCE, for example, in the last chapter detailing the education of a student, include lessons for his Grihastha stage of life.[20] There, the student is taught, that as a husband, he should cook rice for the wife, and they together eat the food in certain way depending on whether they wish for the birth of a daughter or a son, as follows,[20]

<poem> And if a man wishes that a learned daughter should be born to him, and that she should live to her full age, then after having prepared boiled rice with sesamum and butter, they should both eat, being fit to have offspring.

And if a man wishes that a learned son should be born to him, and that he should live his full age, then after having prepared boiled rice with meat and butter, they should both eat, being fit to have offspring. </poem>

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.17 - 6.4.18, Translated by Max Muller[21]

Women are mentioned and are participants in the philosophical debates of the Upanishads, as well as scholars, teachers and priestesses during the Vedic and early Buddhist age.[22] Among women acknowledged in the Upanishads are Gargi and Maitreyi.[22] In Sanskrit, the word acharyā means a "female teacher" (versus acharya meaning "teacher") and an acharyini is a teacher's wife, indicating that some women were known as gurus.[citation needed]

Female characters appear in plays and epic poems. The 8th century poet, Bhavabhuti describes in his play, Uttararamacharita (verse 2 - 3), how the character, Atreyi, travelled to southern India where she studied the Vedas and Indian philosophy. In Madhava's Shankaradigvijaya, Shankara debates with the female philosopher, Ubhaya Bharati and in verses 9 - 63 it is mentioned that she was well versed in the Vedas. Tirukkoneri Dasyai, a 15th-century scholar, wrote a commentary on Nammalvar's Tiruvaayamoli, with reference to Vedic texts such as the Taittiriya Yajurveda.[citation needed]

The Epics[edit]

File:Raja Ravi Varma - Mahabharata - Shakuntala.jpg
The Mahabharata is a legendary Hindu epic reflecting the social beliefs and culture in ancient India. In its first book, Dushmanta asks Sakuntala (above) to marry him for love, in Gandharva-style marriage, without the consent of their parents.[23] The texts also describes seven other forms of marriage, and when they were appropriate or inappropriate.[23]

In the two Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, the role of women is mixed. The main female character in the Mahabharata, Draupadi is married to all the five Pandavas, thus has five husbands. She is insulted by Duryodhana, one of the triggers for the great war. In the Ramayana composed in the second half of 1st millennium BCE, Sita is respected, honored and seen as inseparable beloved but presented as a homemaker, the ideal wife and partner to Rama. In the Hindu tradition, a majority of women's oral retellings of the Ramayana depict autonomy as the rule rather than the exception, but states Sugirtharajah, these versions are of recent origins.[24]

The Epics are stories, but carry precepts of dharma embedded them, suggesting perceived notions about women in Hinduism at the time the Epics were composed. The Mahabharata, in Book 1, for example, states,

No man, even in anger, should ever do anything that is disagreeable to his wife; for happiness, joy, virtue and everything depend on the wife. Wife is the sacred soil in which the husband is born again, even the Rishis cannot create men without women.

— Adi Parva, Mahabharata Book, 1.74.50-51[25]

The Anushasana Parva of the Hindu epic Mahabharata has several chapters dedicated to the discussion about duties and right of women. It gives a mixed picture. In chapter 11, the goddess of wealth and prosperity Lakshmi asserts, that she lives in those women who are truthful, sincere, modest, organized, devoted to their husband and children, health conscious, patient and kind to guests.[26] The goddess asserts she does not reside in woman who is sinful, unclean, always disagreeing with her husband, has no patience or fortitude, is lazy, quarrelsome with her neighbors and relatives.[26]

In chapter 47, as Yudhishthira seeks guidance on Dharma from Bhishma, the Anushasana Parva compares the value of daughter to a son, as follows,

The daughter, O king, has been ordained in the scriptures to be equal to the son.

— Bhishma, Anushasana Parva, Mahabharata 13.47.26[27]

The duties of women are again recited in Chapter 146, as a conversation between god Shiva and his wife goddess Uma, where Shiva asks what are the duties of women. Uma (Parvati) proceeds to meet all the rivers, who are all goddesses that nourish and create fertile valleys.[28] Uma suggests that the duties of women include being of a good disposition, endued with sweet speech, sweet conduct, and sweet features. For a woman, claims Uma, her husband is her god, her husband is her friend, and her husband is her high refuge. A woman's duties include physical and emotional nourishment, reverence and fulfillment of her husband and her children. Their happiness is her happiness, she observes the same vows as those that are observed by her husband, her duty is to be cheerful even when her husband or her children are angry, be there for them in adversity or sickness, is regarded as truly righteous in her conduct.[28] Beyond her husband and family, her duty is to be cheerful of heart and humble with friends and relatives, do the best she can for friends and guests. Her family life and her home is her heaven, tells goddess Parvati to Shiva.[28]

Anushasana Parva has served as a source for modern era texts on women in Hinduism. For example, Tryambakayajvan of Thanjavur, in the 18th-century CE, published Strīdharmapaddhati (sometimes referred to as Stri Dharma Paddhati, or "Guide for a Dharmic Woman"). Tryambaka, according to Julia Leslie,[29] selectively extracts verses from many chapters of Anushasana parva. He selectively extracts verses from other books of the Mahabharata as well, and other ancient Indian texts, for Strīdharmapaddhati, choosing those he preferred, omitting verses from the Mahabharata that represent it characteristic style of presenting many voices and counter-arguments.[30]

Shastras and Smritis[edit]

File:Brahmacharini.jpg
The Vedas and Shastras of Hinduism mention Brahmacharini (women) studying the Vedas.[31] The word Brahmacharini is also revered in Hinduism as a goddess (above).

The characterization and treatment of women is mixed in Shastras and Smriti texts of Hinduism. Scholars have questioned the later date insertions, corruption and authenticity of the texts, as dozens of significantly different versions of the Smriti texts have been found. Patrick Olivelle for example, who is credited with a 2005 translation of Manusmriti published by the Oxford University Press, states the concerns in postmodern scholarship about the presumed authenticity and reliability of Manusmriti manuscripts.[8] He writes (abridged),

The MDh [Manusmriti] was the first Indian legal text introduced to the western world through the translation of Sir William Jones in 1794. (...) All the editions of the MDh, except for Jolly's, reproduce the text as found in the [Calcutta] manuscript containing the commentary of Kulluka. I have called this as the "vulgate version". It was Kulluka's version that has been translated repeatedly: Jones (1794), Burnell (1884), Buhler (1886) and Doniger (1991). (...)

The belief in the authenticity of Kulluka's text was openly articulated by Burnell (1884, xxix): "There is then no doubt that the textus receptus, viz., that of Kulluka Bhatta, as adopted in India and by European scholars, is very near on the whole to the original text." This is far from the truth. Indeed, one of the great surprises of my editorial work has been to discover how few of the over fifty manuscripts that I collated actually follow the vulgate in key readings.

— Patrick Olivelle, Manu's Code of Law (2005)[8]

Arthashastra, in chapter 1.21 describes women who had received military education and served to protect the king; the text also mentions female artisans, mendicants and women who were wandering ascetics.[32][33]

One of the most studied about the position of women in medieval Hindu society has been a now contested Calcutta manuscript of Manusmriti. The text preaches chastity to widows such as in verses 5.158-5.160.[34] In verses 2.67-2.69 and 5.148-5.155, Manusmriti preaches that as a girl, she should obey and seek protection of her father, as a young woman her husband, and as a widow her son; and that a woman should always worship her husband as a god.[6][35]

In other verses, Manusmriti respects and safeguards women rights. Manusmriti in verses 3.55-3.56, for example, declares that "women must be honored and adorned", and "where women are revered, there the gods rejoice; but where they are not, no sacred rite bears any fruit".[7][36] Elsewhere, in verses 5.147-5.148, states Olivelle, the text declares, "a woman must never seek to live independently".[37]

Divorce[edit]

The text declares that a marriage cannot be dissolved by a woman or a man, in verse 8.101-8.102.[38] Yet, the text, in other sections, allows either to dissolve the marriage. For example, verses 9.72-9.81 allow the man or the woman to get out of a fraudulent marriage or an abusive marriage, and remarry; the text also provides legal means for a woman to remarry when her husband has been missing or has abandoned her.[39]

Varna[edit]

The text in one section opposes a woman marrying someone outside her own social class (varna) as in verses 3.13-3.14.[34] Simultaneously, states Olivelle, the text presupposes numerous practices such a marriages outside varna, such as between a Brahmin man and a Shudra woman in verses 9.149-9.157, a widow getting pregnant with a child of a man she is not married to in verses 9.57-9.62, marriage where a woman in love elopes with her man, and then grants legal rights in these cases such as property inheritance rights in verses 9.143-9.157, and the legal rights of the children so born.[40] The text also presumes that a married woman may get pregnant by a man other than her husband, and dedicates verses 8.31-8.56 to conclude that the child's custody belongs to the woman and her legal husband, and not to the man she got pregnant with.[41][42]

Property rights[edit]

Manusmriti provides a woman with property rights to six types of property in verses 9.192-9.200. These include those she received at her marriage, or as gift when she eloped or when she was taken away, or as token of love before marriage, or as gifts from her biological family, or as received from her husband subsequent to marriage, and also from inheritance from deceased relatives.[43]

Inconsistency and authenticity issues[edit]

Scholars state that less than half, or only 1,214 of the 2,685 verses in Manusmriti, may be authentic.[44] Further, the verses are internally inconsistent.[45] Verses such as 3.55-3.62 of Manusmriti, for example, glorify the position of women, while verse such as 9.3 and 9.17 do the opposite.[44] Mahatma Gandhi, when asked about his view about the Smriti, stated, that "there are so many contradictions in the printed volume that, if you accept one part, you are bound to reject those parts that are wholly inconsistent with it. (...) Nobody is in possession of the original text [of Manusmriti].[46]

Flavia Agnes states that Manusmriti is a complex commentary from women's rights perspective, and the British colonial era codification of women's rights based on it for Hindus, and from Islamic texts for Muslims, picked and emphasized certain aspects while it ignored other sections.[47] This construction of personal law during the colonial era created a legal fiction around Manusmriti's historic role as a scripture in matters relating to women in South Asia.[47][48]

Puranas[edit]

File:Devimahatmya Sanskrit MS Nepal 11c.jpg
Devi Mahatmya, a Hindu Sanskrit manuscript from Nepal 11th-century (above), helped crystallize the goddess tradition where the creator God is a female, but neither feminine nor masculine, rather spiritual and a force of good.[49]

The Puranas, particularly the Devi Mahatmya found in Markandeya Maha-Purana, and the Devi-Bhagavata Purana have some of most dedicated discussion of Devi and sacred feminine in late ancient and early medieval era of Hinduism.[3][4][5] However, the discussion is not limited to these two major Hindu Goddess religion-related texts. Women are found in philosophical discussions across numerous other Puranas and extant era texts. For example, Parvati in a discussion with her husband Shiva, remarks:

You should consider who you are, and who nature is.... how could you transcend nature? What you hear, what you eat, what you see – it is all Nature. How could you be beyond Nature? You are enveloped in Nature, even though you don't know it.

— Skanda Purana 1.1.21.22, Translated by Nicholas Gier[50]

Feminine symbolism as being sacred and for reverence were present in ancient Hindu texts, but these were fragmentary states Brown, and it was around the sixth century CE,[51] possibly in northwest India, that the concept of Maha-Devi coalesced as the Great Goddess, appearing in the text of Devi Mahatmya of Markandeya Purana.[52] This development of the divine woman was not theoretical, according to Brown, but has impacted "self understanding of Hindus to the present day" and "what it means to be human in a universe that is infinite and yet is pervaded by the very human quality of a woman's care and anger".[52] Devi Mahatmya, also called Durga Saptasati (or 700 verses to Durga), has been enormously popular among Hindus through the centuries, states Coburn.[53] Devi Mahatmya does not attempt to prove that the female is supreme, but assumes it as a given and its premise. This idea influenced the role of women in Hinduism in the Puranic texts that followed for centuries, where male-dominated and female-dominated couples appear, in various legends, in the same religious text and Hindu imagination.[54]

The Devi Mahatmya presents the idea, states McDaniel, of a divine she who creates this universe, is the supreme knowledge, who helps herself and men reach final liberation, she is multitasking who in times of prosperity is Lakshmi brings wealth and happiness to human homes, yet in times of adversity feeds and fights the battle as the angry woman destroying demons and evil in the universe after metamorphosing into Durga, Chandika, Ambika, Bhadrakali, Ishvari, Bhagvati, Sri or Devi.[55][56] However, notes Brown, the celebration of the goddess as supreme in Devi Mahatmya is not universal in Hindu texts of 1st millennium CE, and other Puranic texts celebrate the god as supreme, while acknowledging supreme goddess in various chapters and presenting the female as the "effective power behind any male" either in mythological sense or theological sense or both.[54]

The ideas of the 6th-century Devi Mahatmya are adopted in 11th-century text of Devi-Bhagavata Purana,[51] another goddess-classic text of Shakti tradition of Hinduism. However, this text emphasizes devotion and love as the path to her supreme nature as goddess.[57] In the latter text, Devi appears as a warrior goddess destroying demons, a world-mother nurturing the good, as the creator, the sustainer and the destroyer as different aspects of her, the one supreme.[58]

Gender of God[edit]

Goddesses in Hinduism are very common.[59] Other ideas found include androgynous concept such as Ardhanarishvara (a composite god that is half Shiva-male and Parvati-female),[60] or as formless and genderless Brahman (Universal Absolute, Supreme Self as Oneness in everyone).

In Hinduism, the impersonal Absolute (Brahman) is genderless. Both male gods (Deva) and female gods (Devi) are found in Hinduism. Some Hindu traditions conceive God as androgynous (both female and male), or as either male or female, while cherishing gender henotheism, that is without denying the existence of other Gods in either gender.[61][62]

Bhakti traditions of Hinduism have both gods and goddesses. In ancient and medieval Indian mythology, each masculine deva of the Hindu pantheon is partnered with a feminine devi.[63] Followers of Shaktism, worship the goddess Devi as the embodiment of Shakti (feminine strength or power).[64]

There is a popular perception that there exist millions of Hindu deities.[65] However, most, by far, are goddesses, state Foulston and Abbott, suggesting "how important and popular goddesses are" in Hindu culture.[59] No one has a list of the millions of goddesses and gods, but all deities, state scholars, are typically viewed in Hinduism as "emanations or manifestation of gender-less principle called Brahman, representing the many facets of Ultimate Reality".[59][65][66] In Hinduism, "God, the universe, all beings [male, female] and all else is essentially one thing" and everything is connected oneness, the same god is in every being as Atman, the eternal Self.[66][67]

Ancient and medieval Hindu literature, state scholars, is richly endowed with gods, goddesses and androgynous representations of God.[68] This, states Gross, is in contrast with several monotheistic religions, where God is often synonymous with "He" and theism is replete with male anthropomorphisms.[68] In Hinduism, goddess-imagery does not mean loss of male-god, rather the ancient literature presents the two genders as balancing each other and complementary. The Goddesses in Hinduism, states Gross,[68] are strong, beautiful and confident, symbolizing their vitality in cycle of life. While masculine Gods are symbolically represented as those who act, the feminine Goddesses are symbolically portrayed as those who inspire action.[68] Goddesses in Hinduism are envisioned as the patrons of arts, culture, nurture, learning, arts, joys, spirituality and liberation.[68][69]

Practices[edit]

Marriage[edit]

A wedding is one of the most significant personal ritual a Hindu woman undertakes in her life. The details and dress vary regionally among Hindu women, but share common ritual grammar. A Meitei Hindu bride in Manipur (left), an Amla Hindu bride in Madhya Pradesh (middle) and a Himalayan Hindu bride in Nepal (right).

The Asvalayana Grhyasutra text of Hinduism identifies eight forms of marriages. Of these first four – Brahma, Daiva, Arsha and Prajapatya – are declared appropriate and recommended by the text, next two – Gandharva and Asura – are declared inappropriate but acceptable, and the last two – Rakshasa and Paishacha – are declared evil and unacceptable (but any children resulting were granted legal rights).[10][70]

  1. Brahma marriage - considered the religiously most appropriate marriage, where the father finds an educated man, proposes the marriage of his daughter to him. The groom, bride and families willingly concur with the proposal. The two families and relatives meet, the girl is ceremoniously decorated, the father gifts away his daughter in betrothal, and a vedic marriage ceremony is conducted. This type of wedding is now most prevalent among Hindus in modern India.[10]
  2. Daiva marriage - in this type of marriage, the father gives away his daughter along with ornaments to a priest.
  3. Arsha marriage - in this type of marriage, the groom gives a cow and a bull to the father of the bride and the father exchanges his daughter in marriage. The groom took a vow to fulfill his obligations to the bride and family life (Grihasthashram).
  4. Prajapatya marriage - in this type of marriage, a couple agree to get married by exchanging some Sanskrit mantras (vows to each other). This form of marriage was akin to a civil ceremony.
  5. Gandharva marriage - in this type of marriage, the couple simply live together out of love, by mutual consent, consensually consummating their relationship. This marriage is entered into without religious ceremonies, and was akin to the Western concept of Common-law marriage. Kama Sutra, as well as Rishi Kanva - the foster-father of Shakuntala - in the Mahabharata, claimed this kind of marriage to be an ideal one.[70]
  6. Asura marriage - in this type of marriage, the groom offered a dowry to the father of the bride and the bride, both accepted the dowry out of free will, and he received the bride in exchange. This was akin to marrying off a daughter for money. This marriage was considered inappropriate by Hindu Smriti-writers because greed, not what is best for the girl, can corrupt the selection process.[70] Manusmriti verses 3.51 and 3.52, for example, states that a father or relatives must never accept any brideprice because that amounts to trafficking of the daughter.[71]
  7. Rakshasa marriage - where the groom forcibly abducted the girl against her and her family's will. The word Rakshasa means devil.
  8. Paishacha marriage - where the man forces himself on a woman when she is insentient, that is drugged or drunken or unconscious.

James Lochtefeld finds that the last two forms of marriage were forbidden yet recognized in ancient Hindu societies, not to encourage these acts, but to provide the woman and any children with legal protection in the society.[10]

"A woman can choose her own husband after attaining maturity. If her parents are unable to choose a deserving groom, she can herself choose her husband." (Manu Smriti IX 90 - 91)[72]

Dowry[edit]

The concept and practice of dowry in ancient and medieval Hindu society is unclear. Some scholars believe dowry was practiced in historic Hindu society, but some do not.[11][73] Historical eyewitness reports (discussed below), suggest dowry in pre-11th century CE Hindu society was insignificant, and daughters had inheritance rights, which by custom were exercised at the time of her marriage.

Stanley J. Tambiah states the ancient Code of Manu sanctioned dowry and bridewealth in ancient India, but dowry was the more prestigious form and associated with the Brahmanic (priestly) caste. Bridewealth was restricted to the lower castes, who were not allowed to give dowry. He cites two studies from the early 20th century with data to suggest that this pattern of dowry in upper castes and bridewealth in lower castes has persisted through the first half of the 20th century.[73]

Michael Witzel, in contrast, states the ancient Indian literature suggests dowry practices were not significant during the Vedic period.[11] Witzel also notes that women in ancient India had property inheritance rights either by appointment or when they had no brothers.[11] Kane states ancient literature suggests bridewealth was paid only in the asura-type of marriage that was considered reprehensible and forbidden by Manu and other ancient Indian scribes. Lochtefeld suggests that religious duties listed by Manu and others, such as 'the bride be richly adorned to celebrate marriage' were ceremonial dress and jewelry along with gifts that were her property, not property demanded by or meant for the groom; Lochtefeld further notes that bridal adornment is not currently considered as dowry in most people's mind.[74]

Historical and epigraphical evidence from ancient India suggests dowry was not the standard practice in ancient Hindu society. Arrian of Alexander the Great's conquest era, in his first book mentions a lack of dowry, or infrequent enough to be noticed by Arrian.[75]

They (these ancient Indian people) make their marriages accordance with this principle, for in selecting a bride they care nothing whether she has a dowry and a handsome fortune, but look only to her beauty and other advantages of the outward person.

— Arrian, The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great, 3rd Century BC[76]

Arrian's second book similarly notes,

They (Indians) marry without either giving or taking dowries, but the women as soon as they are marriageable are brought forward by their fathers in public, to be selected by the victor in wrestling or boxing or running or someone who excels in any other manly exercise.

— Arrian, Indika, Megasthenes and Arrian, 3rd Century BC[77]

About 1200 years after Arrian's visit, Al-Biruni a Persian scholar who went and lived in India for 16 years in 11th century CE, wrote,

The implements of the wedding rejoicings are brought forward. No gift (dower or dowry) is settled between them. The man gives only a present to the wife, as he thinks fit, and a marriage gift in advance, which he has no right to claim back, but the (proposed) wife may give it back to him of her own will (if she does not want to marry).

— Al-Biruni, Chapter on Matrimony in India, about 1035 AD[78]

Widowhood and remarriage[edit]

Widows were traditionally expected to pursue a spiritual, ascetic life, particularly the higher castes such as Brahmins.[79] There were restrictions on remarriage as well.[80] Such restrictions are now strictly observed only by a small minority of widows, yet the belief continues that "a good wife predeceases her husband".[79][80]

During the debate before the passage of the Hindu Widow’s Remarriage act of 1856, some communities asserted that it was their ancient custom that prohibited widow remarriage. Hindu scholars and colonial British authorities rejected this argument, states Lucy Carroll, because the alleged custom prohibiting widow remarriage was "far from ancient", and was already in practice among the Hindu communities such as the Rajbansi whose members had petitioned for prohibition of widow remarriage. Thus, it failed the "customary law" protections under the British colonial era laws.[81][82] However, this issue lingered in colonial courts for decades, because of the related issue of property left by the deceased husband, and whether the widow keeps or forfeits all rights to deceased Hindu husband's estate and thereby transfers the property from the deceased husband to her new husband. While Hindu community did not object to widow remarriage, it contested the property rights and transfer of property from her earlier husband's family to the later husband's family, particularly after the death of the remarried widow, in the 20th-century.[83]

Sati[edit]

File:Hindu Suttee.jpg
Sati where a Hindu woman committed suicide by burning herself with the corpse of her husband.[84]

Sati is an obsolete Indian funeral custom where a widow immolated herself on her husband's pyre, or committed suicide in another fashion shortly after her husband's death.[84][85][86] Michael Witzel states there is no evidence of Sati practice in ancient Indian literature during the Vedic period.[11]

David Brick, in his 2010 review of ancient Indian literature, states[12]

There is no mention of Sahagamana (Sati) whatsoever in either Vedic literature or any of the early Dharmasutras or Dharmasastras. By "early Dharmasutras or Dharmasastras", I refer specifically to both the early Dharmasutras of Apastamba, Hiranyakesin, Gautama, Baudhayana and Vasistha, and the later Dharmasastras of Manu, Narada, and Yajnavalkya.

— David Brick, Yale University[12]

The earliest scholarly discussion of Sati, whether it is right or wrong, is found in the Sanskrit literature dated to 10th- to 12th-century.[87] The earliest known commentary on Sati by Medhatithi of Kashmir argues that Sati is a form of suicide, which is prohibited by the Vedic tradition.[12] Vijnanesvara, of the 12th-century Chalukya court, and the 13th century Madhvacharya, argue that sati should not to be considered suicide, which was otherwise variously banned or discouraged in the scriptures.[88] They offer a combination of reasons, both in favor and against sati.[89]

Another historical practice observed among women in Hinduism, was the Rajput practice of Jauhar, particularly in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where they collectively committed suicide during war. They preferred death rather than being captured alive and dishonored by victorious Muslim soldiers in a war.[90] According to Bose, jauhar practice grew in the 14th and 15th century with Hindu-Muslim wars of northwest India, where the Hindu women preferred death than slavery or rape they faced if captured.[91][92] Sati-style jauhar custom among Hindu women was observed only during Hindu-Muslim wars in medieval India, but not during internecine Hindu-Hindu wars among the Rajputs.[93]

The Sati practice is considered to have originated within the warrior aristocracy in the Hindu society, gradually gaining in popularity from the 10th century AD and spreading to other groups from the 12th through 18th century AD.[94] The earliest Islamic invasions of South Asia, have been recorded from early 8th century CE such as with the raids of Muhammad bin Qasim, and major wars of Islamic expansion after the 10th century.[95] This chronology has led to the theory that the increase in sati practice in India may be related to the centuries of Islamic invasion and its expansion in South Asia.[13][14] Daniel Grey states that the understanding of origins and spread of sati were distorted in the colonial era because of a concerted effort to push "problem Hindu" theories in the 19th and early 20th centuries.[96]

Education[edit]

The Vedas and Upanishads mention girls could be a Brahmacharini, that is get an education.[97] Atharva Veda, for example, states[97][98]

ब्रह्मचर्येण कन्या युवानं विन्दते पतिम् |

A youthful Kanya (कन्या, girl) who graduates from Brahmacharya, obtains a suitable husband.

— Atharva Veda, 11.5.18[98]

The Harita Dharmasutra, a later era Hindu text states there are two kind of women: sadhyavadhu who marry without going to school, and the brahmavadini who go to school first to study the Vedas and speak of Brahman. The Hindu Sastras and Smritis describe varying number of Sanskara (rite of passage). Upanayana rite of passage symbolized the start of education process. Like the Vedas, the ancient Sutras and Shastra Sanskrit texts extended education right to women, and the girls who underwent this rite of passage then pursued studies were called Brahmavadini.[99][100] Those who didn't, performed Upanayana ceremony at the time of their wedding. Instead of sacred thread, girls would wear their robe (now called sari or saree) in the manner of the sacred thread, that is over her left shoulder during this rite of passage.[99][101]

Sex and relationships[edit]

File:'1' Sun Temple Konark Temple, Kama Love Orissa India February 2014.jpg
Kāma, that is erotic love and emotional fulfillment, is considered healthy and one of four proper goals of life. It is celebrated in Hindu temples, such as Khajuraho and the Konark Temple (above).[102]

The Smriti texts of Hinduism provide a conflicting view on sex outside marriage. Most texts leave sexual matters to the judgment of the woman and man, but discuss what rights do the children have who result from such sexual union.[103][104][105] For example,

If a man has intercourse with an unmarried woman, who consents to it, it is no offense, but he shall deck her with ornaments, worship her, and thus bring her to his house as his bride.

— Nāradasmṛti 13.71 - 13.72, [104][105]

Adultery by a married person is condemned in Hindu texts, but the texts allow exceptions. For example,

If a man has intercourse with an attached woman somewhere other than his own house, it is known as adultery by the experts, but not if she came to his house on her own. It is not a punishable crime when someone has intercourse with the wife of a man who has abandoned her because she is wicked, or with the wife of a eunuch or of a man who does not care, provided the wife has initiated it, of her own volition.

— Nāradasmṛti 13.60 - 61, [104]

The term "attached woman" in the above verse, states Richard Lariviere, includes a woman who is either married and protected by her husband, or a woman is not married and protected by her father.[104] Manusmriti states that adultery is a source of trauma and disorder to all affected, but dedicates many verses commenting on the proper rights of offsprings produced from sex outside marriage.[106] Marco Polo, after visiting Hindu kingdoms in 13th century India, wrote in his memoir, according to Ronald Latham translation, that "they [Hindus] consider sex within marriage as proper and virtuous, but don't consider any other sexual gratification to be a sin".[107]

Dress[edit]

File:Styles of Sari.jpg
Sari in different styles (shown) has been traced to ancient Hindu traditions. In modern times, Sari is also found among non-Hindu women of South Asia.

Information on ancient and medieval era dressing traditions of women in Hinduism is unclear. Textiles are commonly mentioned in ancient Indian texts.[108] The Arthashastra (~200 BCE to 300 CE) mentions a range of clothing and plant-based, muslin-based, wool-based textiles that are partially or fully dyed, knitted and woven.[109][110] It is, however, uncertain how women wore these clothing, and scholars have attempted to discern the dress from study of murti (statues), wall reliefs, and ancient literature.[111] In ancient and medieval Hindu traditions, covering the head or face was neither mandated nor common, but Ushnisha – a regional ceremonial occasion head dress is mentioned, as is Dupatta in colder, drier northern parts of Indian subcontinent.[110]

Regardless of economic status, the costume of ancient Hindu women was formed of two separate sheets of cloth, one wrapping the lower part of the body, below the waist, and another larger wrap around piece called Dhoti (modern day Saree) in texts.[110] Some Murti and relief carvings suggest that pleats were used, probably to ease movement, but the pleats were tucked to reveal the contour of the body. However, where the pleats were tucked, front or side or back varied regionally.[112] The predominant style observed in the ancient texts and art work is the wrapping of the excess of the Dhoti from right waist over the left shoulder, in the Vedic Upanayana style.[99][112] The breasts were covered with a stitched, tight fitting bodice named Kurpasaka (Sanskrit: कूर्पासक)[113] or Stanamsuka (Sanskrit: स्तनांशुक),[114] but this was not common in extreme south India or in eastern states such as Orissa and Bengal.[115] Regional variations were great, to suit local weather and traditions, in terms of the length, number of pleats, placement of pleats, style of bodice used for bosom, and the dimension or wrapping of the upper excess length of the Dhoti.[115] Greek records left by those who came to India with Alexander the Great mention that head and neck ornaments, ear rings, wrist and ankle ornaments were commonly worn by women.[116]

File:Assamese woman.jpg
A Hindu woman, with Sindur in her hair and Bindi on forehead, customs also found among women in Jainism.[117]

Usually, the sari consists of a piece of cloth around 6 yards long, wrapped distinctly based on the prior mentioned factors.[118] The choice of the quality and sophistication of the cloth is dependent on the income and affordability. Women across economic groups in colonial era, for example, wore a single piece of cloth in hot and humid Bengal.[119] It was called Kapod by poorer women, while the more ornate version of the same was called a Saree.[119] The material and cost varied, but the nature was the same across income and social groups (caste/class) of Hindu women.[119]

Sindoor or Kumkum has been a marker for women in Hinduism, since early times.[120] A married Hindu woman typically wears a red pigment (vermilion) in the parting of her hair, while a never married, divorced or a widowed woman does not.[120][121] A Hindu woman may wear a Bindi (also called Tip, Bindiya, Tilaka or Bottu) on her forehead.[122] This represents the place of the inner eye, and signifies that she is spiritually turned inwards.[122] In past, this was worn by married women, but in modern era it is a fashion accessory and has no relation to the marital status for women in Hinduism.[122]

A 1st-century BCE Indian sculpture showing female Yakshi dress (left). Earrings from India, 1st-century BCE (right).[123] Greek texts suggest ancient Hindu women wearing ornaments.

Cultural customs such as Sindoor are similar to wedding ring in other cultures. Regionally, Hindu women may wear seasonal fresh flowers in their hair, during festivals, temple visits or other formal occasions. White color saree is common with aging widows, while red or other festive colors with embroidery is more common on festivals or social ceremonies such as weddings.[124] These Hindu practices are cultural practices, and not required by its religious texts.[125] Hinduism is a way of life, is diverse, has no binding book of rules of its faith, nor any that mandate any dress rules on Hindu women. The choice is left to the individual discretion.[125]

Other ornaments worn by Hindu women are sometimes known as solah singar (sixteen decorations): "bindi, necklaces, earrings, flowers in the hair, rings, bangles, armlets (for the upper arm), waistbands, ankle-bells, kohl (or kajal – mascara), toe rings, henna, perfume, sandalwood paste, the upper garment, and the lower garment".[126][unreliable source?][better source needed]

Bernard Cohn (2001) states that clothing in India, during the colonial British era, was a form of authority exercised to highlight hierarchical patterns, subordination, and authoritative relations. Hindus in India were subject to rule under a range of other religious reigns, therefore influencing clothing choices. This was exemplified by a change in attire as a result of Mughal influence and later European influence resulting from British rule.[127]

Arts: dance, drama, music[edit]

Many classical Indian dances such as Bharathanatyam and Kathak were developed by women in Hinduism.
File:A Hindu woman in a dance pose Bali Indonesia.jpg
A Hindu woman in a dance pose Bali Indonesia

Hindu religious art encompasses performance arts as well as visual art, and women have been expressed in Hindu arts as prominently as men.[128] Sanskrit literature has contributed to religious and spiritual expression of women, by its reverence for goddesses. The deity for arts, music, poetry, speech, culture and learning is goddess Saraswati in the Hindu tradition.[129] Baumer states that the resulting Sanskrit Theater has its origins in the Vedas, stemming from three principles: “The cosmic man (purusha), the self (atman), and the universal being (brahman)".[130] Some of the earliest references to women being active in dance, music and artistic performance in Hindu texts is found in 1st millennium BCE Taittiriya Samhita chapter 6.1 and 8th-century BCE Shatapatha Brahmana chapter 3.2.4.[131] In religious ceremonies, such as the ancient Shrauta and Grihya sutras rituals, texts by Panini, Patanjali, Gobhila and others state that women sang hymns or uttered mantras along with men during the yajnas.[131]

Music and dance, states Tracy Pintchman, are "intertwined in Hindu traditions", and women in Hinduism have had an active creative and performance role in this tradition.[132] While aspects of the Hindu traditions curtailed the freedoms of women, they also gave opportunities to create and express arts.[132] The historical evidence, states Pintchman, suggests that the opportunities to create and participate in arts were available to women regardless of their caste or class.[132] Classical vocal music was more prevalent among women upper classes, while public performances of arts such as dance were more prevalent among women in matrilineal Hindu traditions, particularly the Devadasi.[133][134]

The Devadasi tradition women practiced their arts in a religious context.[133] Young Devadasi women were trained in the arts of music, theater, and dance, and their lives revolved around Hindu temples. In south India, some of these women were courtesans, while others chaste.[133] In 1909, the colonial government passed the first law banning the Devadasis practice in the state of Mysore; however, an attempt to ban Devadasis tradition in Tamil Nadu Hindu temples failed in Madras Presidency in 1927.[135] In 1947, the government of Madras passed legislation forbidding Devadasi practices under pressure from activists that this was a 'prostitution' tradition.[136] However, the tradition was revived by those who consider it to be a 'nun' tradition wherein a Devadasi was a chaste woman who considered herself married to God and used temple dance tradition to raise funds as well as helped continue the arts.[136]

In poetry, 9th-century Andal became a well known Bhakti movement poetess, states Pintchman, and historical records suggest that by 12th-century she was a major inspiration to Hindu women in south India and elsewhere.[133] Andal continues to inspire hundreds of classical dancers in modern times choreographing and dancing Andal's songs.[137] Andal is also called Goda, and her contributions to the arts have created Goda Mandali (circle of Andal) in the Vaishnava tradition.[137] Many other women, such as Nagaatnammal, Balasaraswati and Rukmini, states Pintchman, were instrumental in bringing "Carnatic music and Bharat Natyam to the public stage and making the performing arts accessible by the general public" by the 12th-century.[137] Gathasaptasati is an anthology of Subhashita genre of poetry, from the first half of 1st millennium CE, many of which are attributed to Hindu women in central and western India.[138]

Context: historical and modern developments[edit]

The role of women in Hinduism dates back to 3000 years of history, states Pechelis, incorporating ideas of Hindu philosophy, that is Prakrti (matter, femaleness) and Purusha (consciousness, maleness), coming together to interact and produce the current state of the universe.[139] Hinduism considers the connection, interdependence, and complementary nature of these two concepts – Prakriti and Purusha, female and male – as the basis of all existence, which is a starting point of the position of women in Hindu traditions.[139]

Although these ancient texts are the foundation upon which the position of women in Hinduism is founded, Hindu women participated in and were affected by cultural traditions and celebrations such as festivals, dance, arts, music and other aspects of daily life. Despite these liberating undercurrents emerging in its historical context, Sugirtharajah states that there is some reluctance to use the term "feminism" to describe historical developments in Hinduism.[24]

In the colonial era 1800s, Hindu women were described by European scholars as being "naturally chaste" and "more virtuous" than other women.[140]

In 20th-century history context, the position of women in Hinduism and more generally India, has many contradictions.[141] Regional Hindu traditions are organized as matriarchal societies (such as in south India and northeast India), where the woman is the head of the household and inherits the wealth; yet, other Hindu traditions are patriarchal.[142] God as a woman, and mother goddess ideas are revered in Hinduism, yet there are rituals that treats the female in a subordinate role.[143]

The women’s rights movement in India, states Sharma, have been driven by two foundational Hindu concepts – lokasangraha and satyagraha.[144] Lokasangraha is defined as “acting for the welfare of the world” and satyagraha “insisting on the truth”. These ideals were used to justify and spur movements among women for women's rights and social change through a political and legal process.[144] Fane remarks, in her article published in 1975, that it is the underlying Hindu beliefs of "women are honored, considered most capable of responsibility, strong" that made Indira Gandhi culturally acceptable as the prime minister of India,[141] yet the country has in the recent centuries witnessed the development of diverse ideologies, both Hindu and non-Hindu, that has impacted the position of women in India.[145] The women rights movement efforts, states Young, have been impeded by the "growing intensity of Muslim separatist politics", the divergent positions of Indian Hindu women seeking separation of religion and women's rights, secular universal laws (uniform civil code) applicable irrespective of religion, while Indian Muslim community seeking to preserve Sharia law in personal, family and other domains.[146]

Western scholarship[edit]

There has been a pervasive and deeply held belief in modern era Western scholarship, states Kathleen Erndl, that "in Hinduism, women are universally subjugated and that feminism, however it might be defined, is an artifact of the West".[147][148] Postmodern scholars question whether they have "unwittingly accepted" this colonial stereotype and long standing assumption,[147][149] particularly given the emerging understanding of Hindu Shakti tradition-related texts, and empirical studies of women in rural India who have had no exposure to Western thought or education but assert their Hindu (or Buddhist) goddess-inspired feminism.[147][150]

Western feminism, states Vasudha Narayanan, has focussed on negotiating "issues of submission and power as it seeks to level the terrains of opportunity" and uses a language of "rights".[151] In Hinduism, the contextual and cultural word has been Dharma, which is about "duties" to oneself, to others, among other things.[151] There has been a gap between Western books describing Hinduism and women's struggle within the Hindu tradition based on texts that the colonial British era gave notoriety to, versus the reality of Hindu traditions and customs that did not follow these texts at all.[149][152] Narayanan describes it as follows (abridged),

Many [Western] scholars point out quite correctly that women are accorded a fairly low status in the Hindu texts that deal with law and ethics (dharma shastra), what is not usually mentioned is that these texts were not well known and utilized in many parts of Hindu India. Custom and practice were far more important than the dictates of these legal texts. There were many legal texts and they were not in competition with each other; they were written at different times in different parts of the country, but all of them were superseded by local custom. (...) There is a sense of dissonance between scripture and practice in certain areas of dharma, and the role of women and Sudras sometimes falls in this category. Manu may have denied independence to women, but there were women of some castes and some economic classes who endowed money to temples. It is important to note that there is no direct correlation that one can generalize on between these texts and women's status, rights or behavior.

— Vasudha Narayanan, Feminism and World Religions[152]

Ancient and medieval era Hindu texts, and epics, discuss a woman's position and role in society over a spectrum, such as one who is a self-sufficient, marriage-eschewing powerful Goddess, to one who is subordinate and whose identity is defined by men rather than her, and to one who sees herself as a human being and spiritual person while being neither feminine nor masculine.[153][154] The 6th-century Devi Mahatmya text for example, states Cynthia Humes, actually shares "the postmodern exaltation of embodiedness, divinizing it as does much of the Western feminist spirituality movement".[155] These texts are not theoretical nor disconnected from the lives of women in the historic Hindu society, but the verses assert that all "women are portions of the divine goddess", states Humes.[156] The Hindu goddess tradition inspired by these texts has been, notes Pintchman, one of the richest, compelling traditions worldwide, and its followers flock villages, towns and cities all over India.[157] Yet, adds Humes, other texts describe her creative potential not in her terms, but using the words of male virility and gendered dichotomy, possibly encouraging the heroic woman to abandon her female persona and impersonate the male.[156]

Postmodern empirical scholarship about Hindu society, states Rita Gross, makes one question whether and to what extent there is pervasiveness of patriarchy in Hinduism.[158] Patriarchal control is real, and the Hindu society admits this of itself, states Gross, yet the Hindu culture distinguishes between authority – which men hold, and power – which both men and women hold.[158] Women in the Hindu tradition have the power, and they exercise that power to take control of situations that are important to them.[158] The Goddess theology and humanity in the Hindu texts are a foundation of these values, a form that isn't feminist by Western definition, but is feminist nevertheless, one with an empowering and self-liberating value structure with an added spiritual dimension that resonates with Hindu (and Buddhist) goddesses.[158][159]

Kathleen Erndl states that texts such as Manusmriti do not necessarily portray what women in Hinduism were or are, but it represents an ideology, and that "the task of Hindu feminists is to rescue Shakti from its patriarchal prison".[160] Her metaphor, explains Erndl, does not mean that Shakti never was free nor that she is tightly locked up now, because patriarchy is neither monolithic nor ossified in Hindu culture.[160] The Shakti concept and associated extensive philosophy in Hindu texts provide a foundation to both spiritual and social liberation.[161]

See also[edit]

Quotes[edit]

    • In Sanskrit more than in any other language women poets have at all times been held in high honour. Apart from quotations in well-known anthologies, many notable works by women poets of earlier time have come down to us. .....Row, Kshama 1944
    • The Battle for Sanskrit by Rajiv Malhotra
  • (...) when in fact, some of the Vedic hymns were written and doubtlessly also chanted by women.[162] (...) In the Arya Samaj, girls get the complete Vedic initiation, as apparently they used to in the Vedic Age itself.[163] (Elst 2001, Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, p. 14-15)

This is proven by the fact that in the Vedic period their women were not placed apart from men in penetralia, or "Zenanas." Their seclusion began when the Mahomedans -- the next heirs to Hebrew symbolism after Christian ecclesiasticism -- had conquered the land and gradually enforced their ways and customs upon the Hindus. The pre- and post-Vedic woman was as free as man; and no impure terrestrial thought was ever mixed with the religious symbology of the early Aryans. (Secret Doctrine)

"Women enjoyed far greater freedom in the Vedic period than in later India. She had more to say in the choice of her mate than the forms of marriage might suggest. She appeared freely at feasts and dances, and joined with men in religious sacrifice. She could study, and like Gargi, engage in philosophical disputation. If she was left a widow there were no restrictions upon her remarriage." Will Durant (1885-1981)

"Women were held in higher respect in India than in other ancient countries, and the Epics and old literature of India assign a higher position to them than the epics and literature of ancient Greece. Hindu women enjoyed some rights of property from the Vedic Age, took a share in social and religious rites, and were sometimes distinguished by their learning. The absolute seclusion of women in India was unknown in ancient times." Romesh C Dutt: The Civilization of India: 21-22

Professor H. H. Wilson says: "And it may be confidently asserted that in no nation of antiquity were women held in so much esteem as amongst the Hindus."

Louis Jacolliot (1837-1890) has observed: "Besides, what antiquity wholly overlooked, but what we cannot too much admire in India, is its respect for women, almost amounting to worship. This extract from Manu (shloka 55) will not be read without surprise:

"Women should be nurtured with every, tenderness and attention by their fathers, their brothers, their husband, and their brother-in-law, if they desire great prosperity." "Where women live in affliction, the family soon becomes extinct, but when they are loved and respected, and cherished with tenderness, the family grows and prospers in all circumstances." "This veneration of women produced in India an epoch of adventurous chivalry during which we find the heroes of Hindoo poems accomplishing high deeds, which reduce all the exploits of Amadis, knights of the Round Table, and the Paladins of the Middle Ages, to mere child's play."

The history of the most of the known civilizations show that the further back we go into antiquity, the more unsatisfactory is found to be the general position of women. Hindu civilization is unique in this respect, for here we find a surprising exception to the general rule. The further back we go, the more satisfactory is found to be the position of women in more spheres than one; and the field of education is most noteworthy among them. There is ample and convincing evidence to show that women were regarded as perfectly eligible for the privilege of studying the Vedic literature and performing the sacrifices enjoined in it down to about 200 B.C. This need not surprise us, for some of the hymns of the Rig Veda are the compositions of rishnis or poetesses. Some twenty different hymns were composed by poetesses. Visvara, Sikaata, Nivavari, Ghosha, Romasa, Lopamudra, Apala and Urvasi are the names of some of them. Man could perform the Vedic sacrifices only if he had his wife by his side. (source: Education in Ancient India - By A. S. Altekar p. 207-209 Nand Kishore & Bros. Varanasi.1965).

Education for girls was regarded as quite important. While Brahmin girls were taught Vedic wisdom, girls of the Ksatriya community were taught the use of the bow and arrow. The Barhut sculptures represent skilful horsewomen in the army. Patanjali mentions the spearbearers (saktikis). Megasthenes speaks of Chandragupta's bodyguard of Amazonian women. Kautilya mentions women archers (striganaih dhanvibhih). In houses as well as in the forest Universities of India, boys and girls were educated together. Atreyi studied under Valmiki along with Lava and Kusa, the sons of Rama. Fine arts like music, dancing and painting was specially encouraged in the case of girls. (source: Religion and Society - By S. Radhakrishnan p. 140-149).

"Where women are honored there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored no sacred rite yields rewards," declares Manu Smriti (III.56) a text on social conduct. "Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare." (Manu Smriti III, 55) " Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers." (Manu Smriti III, 57). "The houses on which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely as if destroyed by magic." (Manu Smriti III, 58) " Hence men who seek their own welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food." (Manu Smriti III, 59) In an old Shakta hymn it is said - Striyah devah, Striyah pranah "Women are Devas, women are life itself." (source: Bharata Shakti - By Sir John Woodroffe p. 95).

Sir Monier Monier-Williams (1860-1888) Indologist and head of the Oxford's Boden Chair, wrote: "Indian wives often possess greater influence than wives of Europeans." He is not a true Hindu who does not regard a woman's body as sacred as the temple of God. He is an outcast who touches a woman's body with irreverence, hatred or anger." "A woman's body," says Manu the law giver, "must not be struck hard, even with a flower, because it is sacred." It is for this reason that the Hindus do not allow capital punishment for women.

Padmini Sengupta has written in her book, Everyday Life in Ancient India: "The position of women in ancient India was free and emancipated, and women were well educated and respected members of society. A wife shared all her husband's privileges and was his companion and help-mate in his activities." The position of women was far better than in other countries of ancient times. How else could it be in a culture which placed the Mother before the Father in priority for reverence? Matr devo bhava - was the first Upanisadic exhortation to the young. So far as we know, Hinduism is the only religion whose symbolism places the Feminine on a par with the Masculine in the profound concept of Siva-Sakti culminating in the image of Ardharnari-Isvara. The Hindu has honored his country as his Motherland - Bharat Mata and his nationalism has grown up from the seed Mantra - Vande Mataram. "The killing of men and enslaving of women and children was standard practice in Islamic conquests. Thus when Mohammed bin Qasim conquered the lower Indus basin in AD 721, he entered Multan and, according to the Chach-Nama, "6,000 warriors were put to death, and all their relations and dependents were taken as slaves." This is why Rajput women took to immolating themselves en masse to save their honor in the face of the imminent entry of victorious Muslim armies, eg. 8,000 women immolated themselves during Akbar's capture of Chittorgarh in 1568 (whereas this most enlightend among Muslim rulers also killed 30,000 non-combattants). (source: The Saffron Swastika - By Koenraad Elst Voice of India p. 824).

Die Kinderheirat wurde durch den Umstand bestärkt, dass die erobernden und sonst schonungslosen Mohammedaner aus religiösen Gründen keine verheirateten Frauen als Sklavinnen fortführen durften. (Will Durant)

Vivekanada on women


"The ideal of womanhood centres in the Arian race of India, the most ancient in the worlds history. In that race, men and women were priests, 'sabatimini [saha-dharmini],' or co-religionists, as the Vedas call them. There every family had its hearth or altar, on which, at the time of the wedding, the marriage fire was kindled, which was kept alive, until either spouse died, when the funeral pile was lighted from its spark. There man and wife together offered their sacrifices, and this idea was carried so far that a man could not even pray alone, because it was held that he was only half a being, for that reason no unmarried man could become a priest. The same held true in ancient Rome and Greece. "But with the advent of a distinct and separate priest-class, the co-priesthood of the woman in all these nations steps back. First it was the Assyrian race, coming of semitic blood, which proclaimed the doctrine that girls have no voice, and no right, even when married. The Persians drank deep of this Babylonian idea, and by them it was carried to Rome and to Greece, and everywhere woman degenerated. (Vivekananda)

The next idea of the Aryans is the freedom of women. It is in the Aryan literature that we find women in ancient times taking the same share as men, and in no other literature of the world. (Vivekananda)

Women in statesmanship, managing territories, governing countries, even making war, have proved themselves equal to men - if not superior. In India I have no doubt of that. Whenever they have had the opportunity, they have proved that they have as much ability as men, with this advantage - that they seldom degenerate. They keep to the moral standard, which is innate in their nature. And thus as governors and rulers of their state, they prove - at least in India - far superior to men. John Stuart Mill mentions this fact.

Even at the present day, we see women in India managing vast estates with great ability. There were two ladies where I was born who were the proprietors of large estates and patronesses of learning and art and who managed these estates with their own brains and looked to every detail of the business. (Vivekananda) And let me tell you, this should be done by women. There are some of our books which say that the next incarnation, and the last (we believe in ten), is to come in the form of a woman. (Vivekananda)

At last my companion broke the silence. "The Aryan and Semitic ideals of woman", he said, "have always been diametrically opposed. Amongst the Semites the presence of woman is considered dangerous to devotion, and she may not perform any religious function, even such as the killing of a bird for food: according to the Aryan a man cannot perform a religious action without a wife."

"But Swamiji!" said I - startled at an assertion so sweeping and so unexpected - "is Hinduism not an Aryan faith?"

"Modern Hinduism", said the Swami quietly, "is largely Paurânika, that is, post-Buddhistic in origin. Dayânanda Saraswati pointed out that though a wife is absolutely necessary in the Sacrifice of the domestic fire, which is a Vedic rite, she may not touch the Shâlagrâma Shilâ, or the household-idol, because that dates from the later period of the Purânas."

"And so you consider the inequality of woman amongst us as entirely due to the influence of Buddhism?"

"Where it exists, certainly," said the Swami, "but we should not allow the sudden influx of European criticism and our consequent sense of contrast to make us acquiesce too readily in this notion of the inequality of our women. Circumstances have forced upon us, for many centuries, the woman's need of protection. This, and not her inferiority, is the true reading of our customs."

"Are you then entirely satisfied with the position of women amongst us, Swamiji?"

"By no means," said the Swami, "but our right of interference is limited entirely to giving education. Women must be put in a position to solve their own problems in their own way. No one can or ought to do this for them. And our Indian women are as capable of doing it as any in the world." (Vivekananda)

It is a strange fact that Oxford and Cambridge are closed to women today, so are Harvard and Yale; but Calcutta University opened its doors to women more than twenty years ago. I remember that the year I graduated, several girls came out and graduated - the same standard, the same course, the same in everything as the boys; and they did very well indeed. And our religion does not prevent a woman being educated at all. In this way the girl should be educated; even thus she should be trained; and in the old books we find that the universities were equally resorted to by both girls and boys, but later the education of the whole nation was neglected. What can you expect under foreign rule?

(Vivekananda)

"Women enjoyed far greater freedom in the Vedic period than in later India. She had more to say in the choice of her mate than the forms of marriage might suggest. She appeared freely at feasts and dances, and joined with men in religious sacrifice. She could study, and like Gargi, engage in philosophical disputation. If she was left a widow there were no restrictions upon her remarriage." Will Durant (1885-1981)

"Women were held in higher respect in India than in other ancient countries, and the Epics and old literature of India assign a higher position to them than the epics and literature of ancient Greece. Hindu women enjoyed some rights of property from the Vedic Age, took a share in social and religious rites, and were sometimes distinguished by their learning. The absolute seclusion of women in India was unknown in ancient times." Romesh C Dutt

Professor H. H. Wilson says: "And it may be confidently asserted that in no nation of antiquity were women held in so much esteem as amongst the Hindus." Louis Jacolliot (1837-1890) who worked in French India as a government official and was at one time President of the Court in Chandranagar, translated numerous Vedic hymns and the celebrated author of the Bible in India has observed: "Besides, what antiquity wholly overlooked, but what we cannot too much admire in India, is its respect for women, almost amounting to worship. This extract from Manu (shloka 55) will not be read without surprise: “Women should be nurtured with every, tenderness and attention by their fathers, their brothers, their husband, and their brother-in-law, if they desire great prosperity.” “Where women live in affliction, the family soon becomes extinct, but when they are loved and respected, and cherished with tenderness, the family grows and prospers in all circumstances.” "This veneration of women produced in India an epoch of adventurous chivalry during which we find the heroes of Hindoo poems accomplishing high deeds, which reduce all the exploits of Amadis, knights of the Round Table, and the Paladins of the Middle Ages, to mere child’s play.” The history of the most of the known civilizations show that the further back we go into antiquity, the more unsatisfactory is found to be the general position of women. Hindu civilization is unique in this respect, for here we find a surprising exception to the general rule. The further back we go, the more satisfactory is found to be the position of women in more spheres than one; and the field of education is most noteworthy among them. There is ample and convincing evidence to show that women were regarded as perfectly eligible for the privilege of studying the Vedic literature and performing the sacrifices enjoined in it down to about 200 B.C. This need not surprise us, for some of the hymns of the Rig Veda are the compositions of rishnis or poetesses. Some twenty different hymns were composed by poetesses. Visvara, Sikaata, Nivavari, Ghosha, Romasa, Lopamudra, Apala and Urvasi are the names of some of them. Man could perform the Vedic sacrifices only if he had his wife by his side. (source: Education in Ancient India - By A. S. Altekar p. 207-209 Nand Kishore & Bros. Varanasi.1965). Education for girls was regarded as quite important. While Brahmin girls were taught Vedic wisdom, girls of the Ksatriya community were taught the use of the bow and arrow. The Barhut sculptures represent skilful horsewomen in the army. Patanjali mentions the spearbearers (saktikis). Megasthenes speaks of Chandragupta's bodyguard of Amazonian women. Kautilya mentions women archers (striganaih dhanvibhih). In houses as well as in the forest Universities of India, boys and girls were educated together. Atreyi studied under Valmiki along with Lava and Kusa, the sons of Rama. Fine arts like music, dancing and painting was specially encouraged in the case of girls. (source: Religion and Society - By S. Radhakrishnan ASIN 8172231636 p. 140-149).

"Where women are honored there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored no sacred rite yields rewards," declares Manu Smriti (III.56) a text on social conduct. "Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare." (Manu Smriti III, 55) " Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers." (Manu Smriti III, 57). "The houses on which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely as if destroyed by magic." (Manu Smriti III, 58) " Hence men who seek their own welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food." (Manu Smriti III, 59) In an old Shakta hymn it is said - Striyah devah, Striyah pranah "Women are Devas, women are life itself." (source: Bharata Shakti - By Sir John Woodroffe p. 95).

Sir Monier Monier-Williams (1860-1888) Indologist and head of the Oxford's Boden Chair, wrote: "Indian wives often possess greater influence than wives of Europeans." He is not a true Hindu who does not regard a woman's body as sacred as the temple of God. He is an outcast who touches a woman's body with irreverence, hatred or anger." "A woman's body," says Manu the law giver, "must not be struck hard, even with a flower, because it is sacred." It is for this reason that the Hindus do not allow capital punishment for women.

Padmini Sengupta has written in her book, Everyday Life in Ancient India: "The position of women in ancient India was free and emancipated, and women were well educated and respected members of society. A wife shared all her husband's privileges and was his companion and help-mate in his activities." The position of women was far better than in other countries of ancient times. How else could it be in a culture which placed the Mother before the Father in priority for reverence? Matr devo bhava - was the first Upanisadic exhortation to the young. So far as we know, Hinduism is the only religion whose symbolism places the Feminine on a par with the Masculine in the profound concept of Siva-Sakti culminating in the image of Ardharnari-Isvara. The Hindu has honored his country as his Motherland - Bharat Mata and his nationalism has grown up from the seed Mantra - Vande Mataram. "The killing of men and enslaving of women and children was standard practice in Islamic conquests. Thus when Mohammed bin Qasim conquered the lower Indus basin in AD 721, he entered Multan and, according to the Chach-Nama, "6,000 warriors were put to death, and all their relations and dependents were taken as slaves." This is why Rajput women took to immolating themselves en masse to save their honor in the face of the imminent entry of victorious Muslim armies, eg. 8,000 women immolated themselves during Akbar's capture of Chittorgarh in 1568 (whereas this most enlightend among Muslim rulers also killed 30,000 non-combattants). (source: The Saffron Swastika - By Koenraad Elst Voice of India ISBN 8185990697 p. 824).


Education/Study of scriptures According to Grahya Sutra (24), there are two classes of girls: the Brahmavadini students who receive the sacred thread, tend the fire and study the Vedas, and the Sadyo-Vadhus who marry and who are given the sacred thread only formally. The Gautama Smriti says that women used to wear the sacred thread and the munja grass string, and studied the Veda.

Marriage Swayamvara and Gandharva forms of marriage women selected their husbands Draupadi


Gargi Gargi, the wise and learned daughter of Rishi (sage) Vachaknu, was known as Brahmavadini because of her having the knowledge of Brahma-vidya. She participated in a debate with the knower of Brahma, Yajnavalkya in the Yajnasala ( place for sacrifices ) of King Janaka. We get in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad a dialogue between Gargi and Yajnavalkya. Thus it is evident that in ancient India, women used to obtain knowledge of many sciences and disciplines. They also used to participate in public functions and take part in intellectual debates. There used to be no ban of any sort in the field of knowledge, this is established very clearly from the account of Gargi's life.


Parvati Her story is narrated in Sanskrit by Vyasa in the Shiva purana. The great poet Kalidasa has narrated it in the poem Kumara-Sambhava. The Kannada poet Harihara has dealt with the story in Girija-Kalyana, a mixture of verse and prose.

Parvati learnt the Sanskrit language and grammar from Shiva. The rules of grammar taught by Shiva are famous as "Maheshwara Sutras. " Later a sage by the name of Panini publicized them on the earth. It is well known as Panini’s Grammar ('Paniniya Vyakarana').

Prosody, or metrical science, important for poetry. It explains poetical structure. As Parvati desired to know it, Shiva taught that to Parvati first Then a sage by name Pingala learnt it and made it known on the earth. His work on 'Chandas' or prosody was written in Kannada as'Chandombudhi' (in 990 A. D. ) by the poet Nagavarma. Similarly several other branches of knowledge like dance, architecture, astrology, spells, painting and so on - are said to have been taught by Shiva to Parvati and then became known to others. Parvati had great curiosity to know philosophy also. She wanted the Ramayana to be taught to her with its philosophical content. Pleased with this request, Shiva taught her "Adhyatma Ramayana. ' Brahma learnt it and in turn taught Narada. Narada narrated the story to sage Valmiki who passed it on to Lava and Kusha the twin sons of Sri Rama. This is known as "Srimadlyana. " Later the sage Vedavyasa composed Adhyatma Ramayana in Sanskrit. It is well known to this day.

Prayer to Lakshmi

There is a Vedic verse by name 'Srisukta. ' It comprises invocation and prayer to Lakshmi devi.  This is recited while worshipping.  If we understand the meaning of a few expressions in Srisukta,  we will know Lakshmi's appearance,  nature and greatness. 

'Hiranyavarnam': Lakshmi is of the color of gold.  'Padmavarnam': of the color of a lotus.  'Adityavarne': Lakshmi is brilliant like the sun.  'Padmavarne': Lakshmi's face is beautiful like a lotus.  'Padmadalayatakshi': her eyes are broad and beautiful as petals of a lotus.  'Padmamalineem': one wearing a garland of lotus flowers.  'Sarasijanilaye': one residing on a lotus flower.  'Sarasijahaste': one holding a lotus in her hand. 

From this it is evident that Lakshmi loves a lotus flower.  Therefore 'Padmapriye' (one who loves the lotus flower) is stated in Shrisukta.  She is 'Dhavalataramshuka gandhamalya shobhe': wearing clean white clothes and scented flower garlands.  What does Lakshmi's greatness consist in? She is 'Prajanam bhavani mata' (mother of all people),  'Vishwapriye' (one who loves the universe).  A devotee prays to her thus: 'Pradurbhootosmi Rashtresmin Kirtivriddhim dadatu me' (I am a citizen born in this country.  Grant me fame and wealth).  'Vasa me grihe'(Reside in my house). Ayushmantam Karotu me' (Enable me to live long). 

It is said thus of the benefit obtained by reciting Shrisukta and getting the grace of Lakshmidevi:'Na krodho na cha matsaryam na lobho na shubha matih' (they do not get angry.  Devoid of envy,  not greedy,  they do not think evil).  In addition those who praise Lakshmi live long.  Their health is good.  They will lead a glorious life.  Such and other benefits are derived,  it is stated,  from praying to Lakshmi.  Lakshmi is worshipped with the names of Mahalakshmi,  Varamahalakshmi,  Dhanalakshmi and Amritalakshmi during observance of religious rites.  Friday is the most auspicious day for,  worshipping Lakshmi.  Even among Fridays,  the Fridays of the month of Ashadha are considered best.  Varamahalakshmi religious rites are observed on the Friday in the month of Shravana.  On Thursdays in the month of Margashirsha also special Lakshmi - poojas are observed.  Dhanalakshmi is worshipped on new moon day in the month of Ashwayuja.  Lakshmi's greatness has been well- expressed in books like Vishnupurana.

Laws of Manu, Book 3. 55. Women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire (their own) welfare. 56. Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards. 57. Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. 58. The houses on which female relations, not being duly honoured, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic. 59. Hence men who seek (their own) welfare, should always honour women on holidays and festivals with (gifts of) ornaments, clothes, and (dainty) food.

Letters Of Helena Roerich II, 24 August 1936. You ask how you should react to the "Call of the Mother of the World" issued by the T. Society. I would suggest that you accept it in a friendly and sympathetic way. In the Epoch of the Mother of the World we must welcome every mention of her. And why be surprised that A. Besant could write it? In the East, the cult of the Mother of the World, of the goddess Kali, or Durga, is widespread, and one may say that it is predominant in Hinduism. But even among other sects, one finds more worshipers of the Great Mother than of any other aspect of Divinity. In Mongolia and Tibet Dukkar, or the White Tara, and other Taras - Sisters - are greatly worshiped. In all the most ancient religions, the feminine deities were considered the most sacred. At the head of all, or rather, behind the veil is the "Eternal and Everlasting Breath of all Be-ness." But on the plane of the manifested reigns the eternal Feminine Principle, or the Great Mother of the World.


  • This is proven by the fact that in the Vedic period their women were not placed apart from men in penetralia, or "Zenanas." Their seclusion began when the Mahomedans -- the next heirs to Hebrew symbolism after Christian ecclesiasticism -- had conquered the land and gradually enforced their ways and customs upon the Hindus. The pre- and post-Vedic woman was as free as man; and no impure terrestrial thought was ever mixed with the religious symbology of the early Aryans.
    • H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine
  • Marriage might be entered into by forcible abduction of the bride, by purchase of her, or by mutual consent. Marriage by consent, however, was considered slightly disreputable; women thought it more honorable to be bought and paid for, and a great compliment to be stolen. Polygamy was permitted, and was encouraged among the great; it was an act of merit to support several wives, and to transmit ability. The story of Draupadi, who married five brothers at once, indicates the occasional occurrence, in Epic days, of that strange polyandry the marriage of one woman to several men, usually brothers which survived in Ceylon till 1859, and still lingers in the mountain villages of Tibet. But polygamy was usually the privilege of the male, who ruled the Aryan household with patriarchal omnipotence. He held the right of ownership over his wives and his children, and might in certain cases sell them or cast them out.
  • Nevertheless, woman enjoyed far greater freedom in the Vedic period than in later India. She had more to say in the choice of her mate than the forms of marriage might suggest. She appeared freely at feasts and dances, and joined with men in religious sacrifice. She could study, and might, like Gargi, engage in philosophic disputation. If she was left a widow there were no restrictions upon her remarriage. In the Heroic Age woman seems to have lost something of this liberty. She was discouraged from mental pursuits, on the ground that "for a woman to study the Vedas indicates confusion in the realm;" the remarriage of widows became uncommon; purdah the seclusion of women began; and the practice of suttee, almost unknown in Vedic times, increased. The ideal woman was now typified in the heroine of the Ramayana that faithful Sita who follows and obeys her husband humbly, through every test of fidelity and courage, until her death.
  • ...in fact, some of the Vedic hymns were written and doubtlessly also chanted by women... In the Arya Samaj, girls get the complete Vedic initiation, as apparently they used to in the Vedic Age itself.
    • Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, p. 14-15, by Koenraad Elst 2001,
  • Padmini Sengupta has written in her book, Everyday Life in Ancient India: "The position of women in ancient India was free and emancipated, and women were well educated and respected members of society. A wife shared all her husband's privileges and was his companion and help-mate in his activities." The position of women was far better than in other countries of ancient times. How else could it be in a culture which placed the Mother before the Father in priority for reverence? Matr devo bhava - was the first Upanisadic exhortation to the young. So far as we know, Hinduism is the only religion whose symbolism places the Feminine on a par with the Masculine in the profound concept of Siva-Sakti culminating in the image of Ardharnari-Isvara. The Hindu has honored his country as his Motherland - Bharat Mata and his nationalism has grown up from the seed Mantra - Vande Mataram.
    • (source: The Saffron Swastika - By Koenraad Elst, p. 824).
  • For about three thousand years, the women – and only the women – of Mithila have been making devotional paintings of the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. It is no exaggeration, then, to say that this art is the expression of the most genuine aspect of Indian civilization.
    • Vequaud, Ives, Women Painters of Mithila, Thames and Hudson, Ltd., London, 1977 p. 9
  • In Sanskrit more than in any other language women poets have at all times been held in high honour. Apart from quotations in well-known anthologies, many notable works by women poets of earlier time have come down to us.
  • Education for girls was regarded as quite important. While Brahmin girls were taught Vedic wisdom, girls of the Ksatriya community were taught the use of the bow and arrow. The Barhut sculptures represent skilful horsewomen in the army. Patanjali mentions the spearbearers (saktikis). Megasthenes speaks of Chandragupta's bodyguard of Amazonian women. Kautilya mentions women archers (striganaih dhanvibhih). In houses as well as in the forest Universities of India, boys and girls were educated together. Atreyi studied under Valmiki along with Lava and Kusa, the sons of Rama. Fine arts like music, dancing and painting was specially encouraged in the case of girls.
    • (source: Religion and Society - By S. Radhakrishnan p. 140-149).
  • Hindu dharma reverenced women; therefore, it had no difficulty in conceiving Goddesses. Hindus also learnt to give their women the honour they gave to their deities. Hindu lawgivers taught that women must be honoured by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare; that Gods are pleased where women are honoured, but where they are not honoured sacred rites yield no rewards.
    • Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 1.
  • to the women of this country... I would say exactly what I say to the men. Believe in India and in our Indian faith. Be strong and hopeful and unashamed, and remember that with something to take, Hindus have immeasurably more to give than any other people in the world.
    • Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 5, Interviews/On Indian Women--Their Past, Present And Future
  • The next idea of the Aryans is the freedom of women. It is in the Aryan literature that we find women in ancient times taking the same share as men, and in no other literature of the world.
    • Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda
  • And it may be confidently asserted that in no nation of antiquity were women held in so much esteem as amongst the Hindus.
    • Professor H. H. Wilson, quoted in The collected works of Lala Lajpat Rai
  • "Where women are honored there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored no sacred rite yields rewards," declares Manu Smriti (III.56) a text on social conduct. "Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare." (Manu Smriti III, 55) " Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers." (Manu Smriti III, 57). "The houses on which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely as if destroyed by magic." (Manu Smriti III, 58) " Hence men who seek their own welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food." (Manu Smriti III, 59) In an old Shakta hymn it is said - Striyah devah, Striyah pranah "Women are Devas, women are life itself."
    • (source: Bharata Shakti - By Sir John Woodroffe p. 95).

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  67. Christopher John Fuller (2004), The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691120485, pages 30-31, Quote: "Crucial in Hindu polytheism is the relationship between the deities and humanity. Unlike Jewish, Christian and Islamic monotheism, predicated on the otherness of God and either his total separation from man and his singular incarnation, Hinduism postulates no absolute distinction between deities and human beings. The idea that all deities are truly one is, moreover, easily extended to proclaim that all human beings are in reality also forms of one supreme deity - Brahman, the Absolute of philosophical Hinduism. In practice, this abstract monist doctrine rarely belongs to an ordinary Hindu's statements, but examples of permeability between the divine and human can be easily found in popular Hinduism in many unremarkable contexts".
  68. 68.0 68.1 68.2 68.3 68.4 RM Gross (1978), Hindu Female Deities as a Resource for the Contemporary Rediscovery of the Goddess, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Sep., 1978), pages 269-291
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  70. 70.0 70.1 70.2 Hindu Saṁskāras: Socio-religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, Rajbali Pandey (1969), see Chapter VIII, ISBN 978-8120803961, pages 158-170
  71. Patrick Olivelle (2004), The Law Code of Manu, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0192802712, page 47
  72. Majumdar R. C. and Pusalker A. D. (ed.) "The History and Culture of the Indian People." Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 1951. Volume 1 The Vedic age p394.
  73. 73.0 73.1 Tambiah, Stanley; Goody, Jack (1973). Bridewealth and Dowry. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 68–9. 
  74. James G. Lochtefeld, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 9780823931798; 203 ページ出版
  75. CV Vaidya, Epic India, Or, India as Described in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, ISBN 978-8120615649
  76. John Watson McCrindle (Translator), The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great as described by Arrian, Archibald Constable & Co. (Westminster, UK): 280
  77. JW McCrindle (Translator), Megasthenes and Arrian, Trubner & Co (London): 222
  78. Edward Sachau (Translator), Bīrūnī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad, Alberuni's India (Vol. 2), Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. (London, 1910.) Chapter LXIX: 154
  79. 79.0 79.1 Bowker J. H and Holm J. "Women in religion." Continuum, London 1994 p79 ISBN 0-8264-5304-X.
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  81. Carroll, Lucy (1983). "Law, Custom, and Statutory Social Reform: The Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act of 1856". Indian Economic and Social History Review. 20 (4): 363–388. doi:10.1177/001946468302000401. 
  82. Lucy Carroll (2008), Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader, Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0253352699, pages 92-93
  83. Lucy Carroll (2008), Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader, Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0253352699, pages 93-96
  84. 84.0 84.1 Wendy Doniger (2013), Suttee, Encyclopedia Britannica
  85. Arvind Sharma (2001), Sati: Historical and Phenomenological Essays, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120804647, pages 19-21
  86. On attested Rajput practice of sati during wars, see, for example Leslie, Julia; Arnold, David (ed.); Robb, Peter (ed.) (1993). "Suttee or Sati: Victim or Victor?". Institutions and Ideologies: A SOAS South Asia Reader. 10. London: Routledge. p. 46. ISBN 9780700702848. 
  87. Brick, David (April–June 2010). "The Dharmasastric Debate on Widow Burning". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 130 (2): 206–211. JSTOR 23044515. 
  88. Sharma, Arvind (1988). Sati: Historical and Phenomenological Essays. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 102, footnote 206. ISBN 9788120804647. 
  89. Brick, David (April–June 2010). "The Dharmasastric Debate on Widow Burning". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 130 (2): 212–213. JSTOR 23044515. 
  90. Arvind Sharma (1988), Sati: Historical and Phenomenological Essays, Motilal Banarsidass Publ, ISBN 9788120804647, page xi, 86
  91. Mandakranta Bose (2014), Faces of the Feminine in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195352771, page 26
  92. Malise Ruthven (2007), Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199212705, page 63
  93. Kaushik Roy (2012), Hinduism and the Ethics of Warfare in South Asia: From Antiquity to the Present, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1107017368, pages 182-184
  94. John Stratton Hawley (1994), Sati, the Blessing and the Curse, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195077742, pages 51-53
  95. Andre Wink (1996), Early Medieval India and the Expansion of Islam: 7th-11th Centuries, Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-9004092495
  96. Daniel Grey (2013), Creating the ‘Problem Hindu’: Sati, Thuggee and Female Infanticide in India: 1800–60, Gender & History, 25(3), pages 498-510, doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12035
  97. 97.0 97.1 S Jain (2003), The Right to Family Planning, in Sacred Rights: The Case for Contraception and Abortion in World Religions (Editor: Daniel C. Maguire), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195160017, page 134, Quote - "The Atharva Veda confirms... a brahmacharini has better prospects of marriage than a girl who is uneducated"; "The Vedic period.... girls, like boys, are also expected to go through the brahmacharya..."
  98. 98.0 98.1 For source in Sanskrit: Atharva Veda Wikisource, Hymns 11.5[7].1 - 11.5[7].26;
    For English translation: Stephen N Hay and William Theodore De Bary (1988), Sources of Indian Tradition, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120804678, pages 18-19
  99. 99.0 99.1 99.2 PV Kane, History of Dharmasastra Volume 2.1, 1st Edition, pages 290-295
  100. Ram Chandra Prasad (1997), The Upanayana: The Hindu Ceremonies of the Sacred Thread, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120812406, pages 119-131
  101. Grihya sutra of Gobhila Verse 2.1.19, Herman Oldenberg & Max Muller (Translator), The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 30, Part 2, Oxford University Press, page 44
  102. Thomas Donaldson (2005), Konark, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195675917
  103. Ramanathan and Weerakoon, The Cultural Context of Sexual Pleasure and Problems: Psychotherapy with Diverse Clients, p. 173-174, Editors: Cynthia A. Graham and Kathryn Hall, Routledge; Quote - "In this (Hinduism smritis) doctrine, sexual matters are not to be legislated but are left to the judgement of those involved."
  104. 104.0 104.1 104.2 104.3 Richard Lariviere (2001), The Nāradasmṛti, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120818040, pages 391–393
  105. 105.0 105.1 Julius Jolly, Naradiya Dharmasastra, Trubner, pages 87–88
  106. Olivelle, Patrick (2004). Manu's Code of Law. Oxford University Press. pp. 32, 325–329. ISBN 978-0195171464. 
  107. Marco Polo (Translator: Ronald Latham, 2007 Reprint), The Customs of the Kingdoms of India, Penguin Classics, ISBN 978-0141025407, Quote: "They eat no meat and drink no wine. They live very virtuous lives according to their own usage. They have no sexual intercourse except with their own wives. They take nothing that belongs to another. They would never kill a living creature. (...) On the other hand you should know that they do not regard any form of sexual indulgence as a sin".
  108. L Gopal, Textiles in Ancient India, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 4, No. 1, BRILL, pages 53-69
  109. Patrick Olivelle (2013), King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India: Kautilya's Arthashastra, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199891825, pages 125-126, 533-534
  110. 110.0 110.1 110.2 GS Ghurye (1967), Indian Costume, 2nd Edition, Luzac, ISBN 978-0718922801, pages 65-68, 76
  111. Kax Wilson (1979), History of Textiles, Westview, ISBN 978-0865313682, pages 164-165
  112. 112.0 112.1 GS Ghurye (1967), Indian Costume, 2nd Edition, Luzac, ISBN 978-0718922801, pages 76-77
  113. कूर्पासक Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany (2012)
  114. स्तनांशुक Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Koeln University, Germany (2012)
  115. 115.0 115.1 GS Ghurye (1967), Indian Costume, 2nd Edition, Luzac, ISBN 978-0718922801, pages 15, 76-79
  116. GS Ghurye (1967), Indian Costume, 2nd Edition, Luzac, ISBN 978-0718922801, pages 16-22, 68, 73-74
  117. KS Singh (2004), People of India: Maharashtra, ISBN 978-8179911006, pages 565-567
  118. Bhatia, Nandini (2003). "Fashioning women in colonial India". Fashion Theory. 7 (3-4): 331. 
  119. 119.0 119.1 119.2 SM Channa (2013), Gender in South Asia: Social Imagination and Constructed Realities, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1107043619, pages 57-58
  120. 120.0 120.1 A Eraly (2011), The First Spring: The Golden Age of India, Penguin, ISBN 978-0670084784, pages 433-434
  121. June McDaniel (2002), Making Virtuous Daughters and Wives, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791455661, page 117 note 52
  122. 122.0 122.1 122.2 James B. Robinson (2004), Hinduism, Chelsea, ISBN 978-0791078587, page 86
  123. A pair of royal earrings, ca. 1st century B.C. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Kronos Collections, 1981 (1981.398.3–4)
  124. Susan Bean (2002), South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia (Editors: Peter Claus et al), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415939195, page 170
  125. 125.0 125.1 Tom Axworthy (2008), Bridging the divide: Religious dialogue and Universal ethics, Queen's University Press, ISBN 978-1553392200, pages 153-154
  126. "The Heart of Hinduism Project". ISCKON Educational Services. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  127. Cohn, Bernard (2001). Cloth, Clothes, and Colonialism,Consumption: The history and regional development of consumption (2 ed.). pp. 405–418. ISBN 9780415242684. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  128. Elgood, Heather (2000). Hinduism and the Religious Arts. A&C Black. 
  129. Mandakranta Bose (2011), Women in the Hindu Tradition: Rules, Roles and Exceptions, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415620765, page 26
  130. Baumer, Rachel (1993). Sanskrit Drama in Performance. Motilal Banarsidass Publication. p. 46. 
  131. 131.0 131.1 Mandakranta Bose (2011), Women in the Hindu Tradition: Rules, Roles and Exceptions, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415620765, pages 64-65
  132. 132.0 132.1 132.2 Tracy Pintchman (2007), Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195177077, pages 180-182
  133. 133.0 133.1 133.2 133.3 Tracy Pintchman (2007), Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195177077, pages 181-185
  134. Leslie, Julia (1992). Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. 
  135. DE Smith (1963), India as a Secular State, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691030272, pages 238-240
  136. 136.0 136.1 Srinivasan, Amrit (1985). "Reform and Revival: The Devadasi and her dance". Economic and Political Weekly: 1869–1876. 
  137. 137.0 137.1 137.2 Tracy Pintchman (2007), Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195177077, pages 185-187
  138. MA Selby (2001), Grow Long, Blessed Night: Love Poems from Classical India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195127348, pages 81-91, 169-170, 172-230
  139. 139.0 139.1 Pechilis, Karen (2013). Women in Hinduism. Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer. pp. 1922–1925. ISBN 9781461460855. 
  140. Jean A. and Dubois A. Beauchamp H. K. (trans.) Hindu manners, customs, and ceremonies.] Clarendon Press, Oxford 1897.
  141. 141.0 141.1 Fane, Hannah (1975). "The Female Element in Indian Culture". Asian Folklore Studies: 51–112. 
  142. Fane, Hannah (1975). "The Female Element in Indian Culture". Asian Folklore Studies: 57–60. 
  143. Fane, Hannah (1975). "The Female Element in Indian Culture". Asian Folklore Studies: 74–83. 
  144. 144.0 144.1 Young, Katherine (1994). Today's Women in World Religions (Editor: Arvind Sharma). State Univ of New York Press. pp. 77–92. ISBN 978-0791416877. 
  145. Fane, Hannah (1975). "The Female Element in Indian Culture". Asian Folklore Studies: 60–73, 83–109. 
  146. Young, Katherine (1994). Today's Women in World Religions (Editor: Arvind Sharma). State Univ of New York Press. pp. 83–86. ISBN 978-0791416877. 
  147. 147.0 147.1 147.2 Kathleen Erndl (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, page 91-92, 95
  148. Arti Dhand (2009), Woman as Fire, Woman as Sage, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791471401, pages 3-7
  149. 149.0 149.1 Arti Dhand (2009), Woman as Fire, Woman as Sage, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791471401, pages 4-5; Quote: "The unfortunate result of such scholarship was the creation of a monumental stereotype of the Hindu woman from which a critical reader could derive little substantive knowledge of the particular values undergirding Hindu women's lives in different eras and locales, or the historical, social, political, and legal strictures under which they labors at different periods of history. (...) These works however still condition the questions that scholars raise of Hinduism, and the categories by which women's experience is analyzed and assessed. Perhaps the biggest problem with many works on women in Hinduism is that they presuppose a general category of womanhood, thus creating an essence where none exists".
  150. Rita Gross (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, page 108-111
  151. 151.0 151.1 Vasudha Narayanan (1999), Feminism and World Religions (Editors: Arvind Sharma, Katherine K. Young), State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791440230, pages 25-26
  152. 152.0 152.1 Vasudha Narayanan (1999), Feminism and World Religions (Editors: Arvind Sharma, Katherine K. Young), State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791440230, pages 34-35
  153. Rita Gross (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, page 104-111
  154. Cynthia Humes (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, pages 132-134, for context see 129-138
  155. Cynthia Humes (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, page 132
  156. 156.0 156.1 Cynthia Humes (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, pages 137-139
  157. Tracy Pintchman (2001), Seeking Mahadevi: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791450086, pages 1-3
  158. 158.0 158.1 158.2 158.3 Rita Gross (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, page 108-110
  159. Rachel McDermott (1998), Devi: Goddesses of India (Editors: John Stratton Hawley, Donna Marie Wulff), Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814912, pages 296-305
  160. 160.0 160.1 Kathleen Erndl (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, page 96
  161. Kathleen Erndl (2000), Is the Goddess a Feminist?: The Politics of South Asian Goddesses (Editors: Alf Hiltebeitel, Kathleen M. Erndl), New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814736197, pages 97, 100-101
  162. See e.g. Brigitte Ars: “Vrouwen lezen de Veda's”(Dutch: “Women read the Vedas”), India Nu (Utrecht), July 1994.
  163. In the Dutch Hindu community, not only the reformist Arya Samaj but also the Sanatanis (traditionalists) are now training girls as panditas and priests, as shown on OHM (Organisatie Hindoe Media, the Dutch Hindu TV programme), 2.5.1998.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Religion and Rajput Women https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft2g5004kg;brand=ucpress
  • Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India (1994) by Linda Johnsen
  • Llewellyn, J.E:The legacy of women's uplift in India :contemporary women leaders in the Arya Samaj
  • Madhu Kishwar."The Daughters of Aryavarta: Women in the Arya Samaj movement, Punjab." In Women in Colonial India; Essays on Survival, Work and the State, edited by J. Krishnamurthy, Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Laurie Patton Women and the Veda in the 21st century
  • Majumdar, R. C. (2014). Great women of India. Kolkata : 2014. Editors : Swami Madhavananda, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar
  • Brown, C Mackenzie (1990). The Triumph of the Goddess. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0791403648.
  • Brown, C Mackenzie (1998). The Devi Gita: The Song of the Goddess: A Translation, Annotation, and Commentary. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0791439395.
  • Encountering the Goddess: A Translation of the Devi-Mahatmya and a Study of by Thomas B. Coburn
  • Bhawalkar Eminent women in the Mahābhārata
  • Ahuja, M.L. (2011). Women in Indian Mythology. Rupa Publications. ISBN 978-81-291-2171-4.

External links[edit]

First Buddhist Women by Murcott, Susan at Wisdom Books
Blogs Sulekha - Create your blog online for free. Blog your experiences, write poetry or simply have fun reading best indian blogs.
The world is conditioned to see the Ramayana and Manu-Smriti as anti-women, but not the Buddhist lore.
Blogs Sulekha - Create your blog online for free. Blog your experiences, write poetry or simply have fun reading best indian blogs.