One of the charges leveled against Hinduism is that it treats women shabbily deny them respect and enslaves them.
Nothing can be farther from The Truth.
Hinduism is the oly Religion where the God is worshiped as a Unit in One,Ardhanareeswara.
Kalidasa exclaims that Lord Shiva and Parvati are like the ‘Word and its Meaning”
Abirami Bhattar in Tamil says,
‘Solloum Porulum ena Nadamaadum’
‘One as the word and its meaning’ Abirami Andhadai
Women are regarded as Mother and The Taittriya says first respect is for Mother,
Matru Devo Bhava.Great Rishis like Kathyayani,Gargi were women.
“”What differentiates the Hindu brilliance in logic and rational thought from its Hellenistic parallel is that Hindus were very aware of the intellect’s limitations. They understood that only the feminine intuitive mind was capable of grasping the deepest spiritual truths in powerful flashes on intuition.”
Some of them are.
- Gargi Vachaknavi – A female Rishi who challenged Yajnavalkya on questions relating to the human soul.
- Lopamudra – Wife of Sage Agastya
- Andal – A 8th century Tamil saint-poet and one of the twelve Alvars.
- Karaikkal Ammeiyar – A 6th century Tamil saint-poet, one of the sixty three Nayanmars
- Mangayarkkarasiyar – A Pandya Queen, wife of King Nedumaranan, one of the sixty three Nayanmars
- Isaignaniyaar – A Tamil saint-poet, one of sixty three Nayanmars
- Avvaiyar – A Sangam period Tamil saint-poet, ethicist, social reformer.
- Akka Mahadevi – A prominent figure and Kannada poet of the 12th century Veerashaiva Bhakti movement.
- Mirabai – Hindu mystical poet and a devotee of Krishna whose bhajans are sung all over India.
- Lalleshwari – Hindu saint-poetess, and a mystic of the Kashmiri Shaivites.
“”A girl also should be brought up and educated with great effort and care.” (Mahanirvana Tantra); and “All forms of knowledge are aspects of Thee; and all women throughout the world are Thy forms.” (Devi Mahatmya)
Women, who so desired, could undergo the sacred thread ceremony or ‘Upanayana‘ (a sacrament to pursue Vedic studies), which is only meant for males even to this day. The mention of female scholars and sages of the Vedic age like Vac, Ambhrni, Romasa, Gargi, Khona in the Vedic lore corroborates this view. These highly intelligent and greatly learned women, who chose the path of Vedic studies, were called ‘brahmavadinis’, and women who opted out of education for married life were called ‘sadyovadhus’. Co-education seems to have existed in this period and both the sexes got equal attention from the teacher. Moreover, ladies from the Kshatriya caste received martial arts courses and arms training”
Wifehood in the Vedic Era
As in present, after marriage, the girl became a ‘grihini’ (wife) and was considered ‘ardhangini’ or one half of her husband’s being. Both of them constituted the ‘griha’ or home, and she was considered its ‘samrajni’ (queen or mistress) and had an equal share in the performance of religious rites.
Divorce, Remarriage & Widowhood
Divorce and remarriage of women were allowed under very special conditions. If a woman lost her husband, she was not forced to undergo the merciless practices that cropped up in later years. She was not compelled to tonsure her head, nor was she forced to wear red sari and commit ‘sahagamana’ or dying on the funeral pyre of the dead husband. If they chose to, they could live a life of a ‘sanyasin’ or hermit, after the husband passed away.
One can only grudgingly admit that there are few references of polyandry in the Vedas. In the
marriage hymn of Rigveda
, Surya is married to Aswins. The marriage of Rudasi with Maruts
is also find place in it.
There are some passages in which the wife is mentioned in connection
with husband in plural.
It is interesting to note that later Vedic literature do not approve
polyandry though legalize the polygamy.
As in the case of a widower, the widows are allowed to marry again. It may sound strange, but
the funeral hymn in Vedas exhorts widow to marry the one who holds her hand is willing to
It also shows that the brother of the deceased took charge of the widow. Atharveda
too mentions of women marrying second time.
The passages do not suggest that the women
should marry only her brother-in-law.
, however, shows a strange funeral ritual of the Vedic age, which has preserved
some formalities similar to the custom of Sati. It depicts a widow lying by the side of her
husband’s corpse on the funeral pyre and being asked to come down. A prayer was offered that
she should lead a prosperous life, enjoying the bliss of children and wealth. The passage is open
for interpretation either way.
Women’s right to have children was granted by the practice of
As there are
few instances of remarriage of widows, and in the absence of clear injunction of widow-
marriages, one can safely assume that this practice was more popular than remarriages.
Religious and Social life of Women
The Vedic society was quite free and did not pose much restriction upon the free movement of
their women. They were educated along with boys of their own age, free to move with them,
approach them for marriages and took part in sports and extra curricular activities, of course
within the accepted norms and customs of the society. We do not come across the system of
purdah in the Vedic society. Even the life after marriage does not change much in their social
interaction. The marriage hymn itself requires th
e bride to be shown to all the assembled guests
at the end of the marriage rituals.
The practice still continues in Hindu marriages. It is also
hoped that the bride will be able to speak with
composure in public assemblies down to her old
The presence of ladies in social and public gathering therefore, was a normal feature in
They were quite free to associate them
selves with others on the occasion of
festivals and rejoicing.
The Vedic Aryans were
mostly occupied in military activities
as they were engaged in the task of
carving a homeland for themselves. They had, therefore, to rely upon a greater degree of
cooperation from their women folk. Women are depicted in Vedic literature as taking part in
agriculture and in manufacture of bows, arrows and other war materials. They were also engaged
in weaving cloth, dying, embroidery and basket-making. They were also engaged in teaching,
independent of their man-counterpart. The cultivation of fine arts like music, dancing and
painting was the domain of the women only. Musical reciting of the Sama-hymns was the special
function of ladies.
The Vedas regard women as untouchable during her monthly period. This temporary impurity is
assigned to their taking over from India one third of the sin of Brahmana murder, which he
incurred when he killed Vritra.
Child bearing is regarded as the special function of women,
and evil spirits are believed to be very of anxious to visit them during their periods to prevent
conception. They may also harm her husband. One stanza in Vedic hymn prays that the bride
should have no evil eye and hopes that she would not be the cause of the sudden death of her
During the time of confinement, the women are regarded as impure as the
phenomenon of menstruation is considered to be repeated at the child birth.