The majority held belief is that women should not perform Sandhyavandana and death Rites.
I differ from this view.
Great Rishis have been women, like Maiteyi,Gargi,Kathyayani.
These Rishis have composed Veda Sutras, Sukthas.
Vedic wisdom is encapsulated in myriad hymns and 27 women-seers emerge from them.
Ghosha, who has a definite human form. Granddaughter of Dirghatamas and daughter of Kakshivat, both composers of hymns in praise of Ashwins, Ghosha has two entire hymns of the tenth book, each containing 14 verses, assigned to her name. The first eulogizes the Ashwins, the heavenly twins who are also physicians; the second is a personal wish expressing her intimate feelings and desires for married life. Ghosha suffered from an incurable disfiguring disease, probably leprosy, and remained a spinster at her father’s house. Her implorations with the Ashwins, and the devotion of her forefathers towards them made them cure her disease and allow her to experience wedded bliss.
The Rig Veda contains about one thousand hymns, of which about 10 are accredited to Maitreyi, the woman seer and philosopher.
Gargi, the Vedic prophetess and daughter of sage Vachaknu, composed several hymns that questioned the origin of all existence. When King Janak of Videha organized a ‘brahmayajna’, a philosophic congress centered around the fire sacrament, Gargi was one of the eminent participants. She challenged the sage Yajnavalkya with a volley of perturbing questions on the soul or ‘atman’ that confounded the learned man who had till then silenced many an eminent scholar. Her question – “The layer that is above the sky and below the earth, which is described as being situated between the earth and the sky and which is indicated as the symbol of the past, present and future, where is that situated?” – bamboozled even the great Vedic men of letters.
One is expected to have Upaveedha to learn the Vedas.
These women composed Veda Sukthas.
They could not have learnt the Vedas without Upaveedha.
Hence they had to perform Sandhyavanda and other Karmic duties.
I have a detailed article on this.
Now there is Reference in the Ramayana and Garuda Purana that Sita offered Pinda to Dasaratha, her father in law at Gaya.
There is reference to the city of Gaya and the Phalgu in the Ramayana in which it says that Sita had cursed the Phalgu River. There is an interesting story and the mythology states that on account of this curse, the Phalgu lost its water, and the river is simply a vast stretch of sand dunes.According to tradition, in the absence of Rama, his wife Sita offered pinda on its banks to Dasharatha father of Rama.
The story goes that Rama, along with his brothers and Sita, came to Gaya to perform the sacred rites for his father, Dasaratha. When the brothers were bathing in the river, Sita was sitting on the banks, playing with the sand. Suddenly, Dasaratha appeared out of the sand, and asked for the Pindam, saying he was hungry. Sita asked him to wait till his sons returned, so that she could give him the traditional Pindam of rice and til. He refused to wait, asking her to give him pindams made of the sand in her hand.
Having no other option, she gave him the Pindam he desired with five witnesses – the Akshaya Vatam, the Falguni River, a cow, a Tulsi plant and a Brahmin. Soon, Rama returned and started the rituals. In those days apparently, the ancestors would arrive in person to collect their share, and when Dasaratha did not appear, they wondered why. Sita then told them what had happened, but Rama could not believe that his father would accept pindams made of sand. Sita now mentioned her witnesses, and asked them to tell Rama the truth.
Among the five, only the Akshaya Vatam took her side and told the truth, while the others lied, trying to take Rama’s side. In her anger, Sita cursed all of them thus: the Falguni river henceforth would have no water at Gaya; the Cow would no longer be worshipped from the front as all others are- only its backside would be worshipped; there would be no more Tulsi plants at Gaya and the Gaya Brahmins would never be satisfied, they would always be hungry and crave more and more. She then blessed the Akshaya Vatam saying that all who came to Gaya would perform the Pinda pradaanam at the Akshaya Vatam too.
Sri Sita is said to have performed Sandhyavandanam including Dhyaanam and Japam (Vide page 97 of Notes on AyOdhya KhaaNDam of Srimad Vaalmiki Ramayanam by Sri C.R.Srinivasa Iyengar)
View of Kanchi Acharya.
I said that the twice-born must perform sandhyavandana with the well-being of women and other jatis in mind. I also explained why all samskaras are not prescribed for the fourth varna. Now we must consider the question of women, why they do not have such rituals and samskaras.
Even though we perform the punyaha-vacana and namakarana of newborn girls and celebrate their first birthday, we do not conduct their caula and upanayana nor the other samskaras or vows laid down for brahmacarins. Of course, they have the marriage samskara. But in other rites like sacrifices the main part is that of the husband, though she (the wife) has to be by his side. In aupasana alone does a woman have a part in making oblations in the sacred fire.
- Why is it so?
- The rites performed before a child is born are intended for the birth of a male child (niseka, pumsavana, simanta). Does it mean, as present-day reformers and women’s libbers say, that Hindu women were downgraded and kept in darkness?
- What reason did I mention for the fourth varna not having to perform many of the samskaras?
That these were not necessary considering their vocations and the fact that they can work for the welfare of the world without the physical and mental benefits to be derived from the samskaras. If they also spend their time in Vedic learning and in sacrifices, what will happen to their duties? So most of the samskaras are not necessary for them. They reach the desire goal without these rites by carrying out their duties.
“Svakarmana tam abhyarcya siddhim vindati manavah“, so says the Gita. I have spoken to you about this earlier.
Just as society is divided according to occupations and the samskaras are correspondingly different, so too there are differences between men and women in domestic life. Running a household means different types of work, cooking, keeping the house clean, bringing up the children, etc. By nature women can do these chores better than men. If they also take an active part in rituals, what will happen to such work? Each by serving her husband and by looking after her household becomes inwardly pure.
In truth three is no disparity between men and women, nor are women discriminated
against as present-day reformers allege.
Work is divided for the proper maintenance not only of the home but the nation on the whole; and care has been taken not to have any duplication.
There is no intention of lowering the status of any section in this division of labour.
The body, in the case of certain people, is meant to preserve the mantras and there are samskaras which have the purpose of making it worthy of the same.
Why should the same rituals be prescribed for those who do not have such tasks to carry out?
Glassware to be sent by railway parcel is specially taken care of since it is fragile. Even greater care is taken in dispatching kerosene or petrol. If the same precautions are not taken in transporting other goods, does it mean that they are poorly thought of?