It’s 2022. Ideally, this should have been a year in which any debate about women in Hinduism should have been settled. However, it’s still alive thanks to intellectuals’ insistence on not looking beyond the surface of lies about Dharma. The true essence of women empowerment is actually engrained in Sanatan practices and texts.
From the time memorial, the Sanatan civilisation has shown immense care in treating both men and women as an equal and inherent part of human life. Our culture has been non-discriminatory when it comes to giving women their due place in society.
Brahman does not have any gender
In Sanatan Dharma, Brahman is the name given to ultimate reality. Achieving the state of Brahman has been considered to be the highest virtue. One of the most intriguing features of the concept of Brahman is that this concept is genderless.
Brahman is the ultimate source of all Bhagwans and Bhagwatis. The many facets of Brahmanic reality are manifested in both Bhagwan and Bhagwatis. One key point is that Brahman is ‘all things’ and ‘one.’ That means, the ultimate Brahmanic state is left open for both masculine and feminine to achieve.
Birth of female Child – A well-celebrated event
Sanatan Civilisation has a long history of celebrating the upcoming of the feminine in physical manifestation.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a key principle Upanishad prescribes how someone should live his life if he wants a daughter.
In the verse 6.4.17, Upanishad says-“ 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.”
Raja Janak, father of Mata Sita is one of the most prominent persons known for his adulation for her daughters. Similarly, Himavan, father of Mata Parvati is another such example. Devyani’s father Guru Shukracharya, Savitri’s father Ashwapati, Kaikeyi’s father Ashwapati, Shakuntala’s father Kanva are some of the most famous proud fathers of their daughters.
Full dignity to adolescent women
Women in Sanatan enjoy full freedom throughout their life. They used to study scriptures, literature on war and were provided with full military training.
Vishpala, mentioned in Rigveda is a well-known warrior. She is known for fighting with one natural and one artificial leg. Similarly, Kaikeyi, one of the mothers of four celebrated brothers in Ramayana fought shoulder to shoulder with Raja Dashrath, her husband. Several other such traditions are there. Recent history has witnessed warrior queens like Rani Laxmibai and Ahilyabai Holkar as prominent ones.
In terms of scholarship, Indian history is filled with women polymaths. Gargi, Ahalya, Maitreyi, Lopamudra are some of these names. Queen Chudala and Princess Hemalekha are particularly known for taking their families towards the path of enlightenment.
Celebration of Menstruation
If you delve deep into our rich cultural history and related texts, it won’t take much for you to find that menstruation has been a worshipping event in India.
Raja Parba is a 3-day festival mainly reserved for celebrating menstruation in Odisha. It is widely believed that during these 3-days, our Earth menstruates and prepares itself for future agricultural activities. It is celebrated in sync with the arrival of the monsoon.
Similarly, Ma Kamakhya Shaktipeeth in Assam is well-known for celebrating menstruation with full fervour. Here Ma Kamakhya is worshipped as an unanthropomorphic form of a stone shaped like a ‘yoni’ and fed by a perennial stream.
Marriages-Women’s choices were fully respected
The wedding day has been considered as one of the most divine days in someone’s life, including women. In Hinduism, a woman’s choice is well taken care of by both families. Both love marriages and arrange marriages are accepted events in our past.
Brahma marriage is the most celebrated one. In this type of marriage, the father searches for a suitable groom for her daughter. After getting acceptance from the daughter and family, he passes on the proposal of marriage to the groom’s family. During a major section of our history, women were able to choose a suitable groom during their swayamvar.
Similarly, Gandharva marriage is the name reserved for loving couples. It is akin to modern-day live-in relationships, but with the approval of society and family.
Feminists always point towards the role of Hindu women confined to four walls of the house and term it as suppression. They pose questions like “Why do you expect women to be good wives or Good mothers”? One simple answer is that women are makers of civilisation. Good children create a good society and good children are created through good mothers. When children are born, they are kind of dictators for the first 5-6 years of their lives. You have to agree with almost every demand posed by them.
Scientific evidence also confirms that on average, women are more agreeable than men; which makes most men unsuited for this job. However, it does not mean that women cannot play other roles. We have seen our mothers handling both her job and us.
Property Rights to women
A female child was never considered different from her male sibling.
Rigveda 3.31.2 says that if parents have both son and daughter, then after the father’s death, a son will be performing pindadaan and the daughter will be enriched with gifts.
Rigveda 2.17.7also preaches the same principle.
Maharshi Manu had also advocated for an equal share of son and daughter in the family’s property.
In Manusmriti 9/130, he writes, “The son is as one’s own self, and the daughter is equal to the son; hence so long as she is there in her own real character, how can anyone else take his property”.
Manusmriti 9/131, 9/192 and 9/193 also make it mandatory for women to have the same property rights as men.
It is well said that if you don’t read your own history, you will fall victim to the destroyers of your civilisation. To know about the history of half of your population becomes more crucial when they are being bombarded with illogical concepts of the feminine from the west and Islamism.
Women’s role in the Sanatan civilisation can be summed in one line. In Sanatan civilisation, women from a larger perspective had the roles of Queens, Mothers, Teachers, Preachers, warriors, and Ministers. But they were not coerced into performing a specific role.