Published On: Fri, Jul 28th, 2017

We become influenced by the West and disgrace our women | Times of India

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


‘Aham Brahmāsmiti’ composed in 700 BCE means ‘Self is only part of the Infinite Reality.’ This thought exemplifies a quote close to my heart ‘Soul has no gender’ which stems from Hindu philosophy. Hinduism is a religion which puts women first. In Hinduism, Brahma and Manu created the first female named Shatarupa, but women are far from inferior. The term associated with female is ‘Shakti’ which means ‘power’’ and ‘strength.’ All male power in Hindu literature comes from the feminine.

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः ।
यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः ॥

  • मनु स्मृति

The divine are extremely happy where women are respected;

where they are not, all actions are fruitless.

  • Manu Smriti

Vedas talk of man and woman as sky and earth, verse and melody. They complement each other. None is more important than the other. For example, when husband rules his wife, the wife also rules over her husband and her husband’s relatives. (RV 10.85) Many of Rigvedic verses, one of the first poems in human history, are composed by women sages.

From the powerful portrayal of Ma Durga, to the bowing down of people to Ma Laxmi, no prayer to a male God is complete until the Goddess is paid due reverence and respect.

Arabindranath Tagore made a watercolor painting of a woman in a saffron saree, she was the image of ‘Mother India’, of freedom, of our purpose to fight for the independence of our land. At a time where nations did not give women the right to vote a woman was symbolised as the guiding light to millions across our nation. Fighting for our nation was equivalent to fighting for our Mother. The love for our nation was equated with the power of love for our Mother.

So where did patriarchy begin?

In the Historical Vedic Religion, female rishis or rishikas existed. In the Upanishad period too women composers existed. Some examples of women in these two periods are VishwavaraApalaGhosha, Indrani, Surya Savitri, Shashvati, Lopamudra, Arundhati, MaitreyiGargi, etc. When Mandana Mishra and Adi Shankaracharya had a debate, the mediator was Mishra’s wife Bharati.

Therefore, until this period (until 7th century AD) women were not suppressed. Instead, women were learned enough to even judge debates on philosophy.

In Abrahamic religions there are no female god’s or prophets, the practice of patriarchy and female subordination stems from Abrahamic religions. ‘A Woman is inferior to a Man because she was so created by God’ is the belief of Western traditionalists. In this regard, western philosopher Aristotle propounded similar ‘theories’, for him female was ‘mutilated male’, someone who does not have a soul. In his view, the biological inferiority of a woman makes her inferior in her capacities, ability to reason and her ability to make decisions. He said “the courage of man is shown in commanding, of a woman in obeying.”

Savita Halappanavar lost her life in Ireland due to Christianity. A religion which is ‘pro-life’ failed to save the life of an innocent expectant Mother whose unborn child was the cause of sepis and subsequent death. If she would have had an abortion, Savita Halappanavar would still be among the living. Is the death of a mother worth less than a spontaneous abortion?

Indian law has discriminated against practices and religion, we have made laws against dowry killing and the evil practice of sati. We have abortion laws where a woman has a choice to decide what happens to her body. Hinduism believes in reforming itself, and that’s the beauty of the religion.

Traditions are different for each temple in India: in some temples males are not allowed, some prohibits females, some allow all castes and religions to enter, some don’t allow non Hindus, some allow only non-Brahmins to perform ritual, and some allow only Brahmins.

So the question of intolerance against women does not arise, the traditions in a temple are based on legend not on religion.

Hinduism is not the founder of patriarchy.

How are Indians against the progression of women? How is the West more developed than the East?

Guy Sorman states that the idea of feminism and ecology came from the 1968 movement, from the meeting between India and the West. He says: “There is hardly anything in European thought to predispose the West to reject virility, the respect for authority, the mastery over nature. India too has a warrior (khastriya) tradition of virility as exemplified in the Mahabharata, only it is secondary. First, comes the veneration of thousands of goddesses – for the Indians, India is above all Mother India.”

Knowledge, study and in-depth analysis of Hinduism will be the cure to removing adopted patriarchal beliefs, it will be the cure of female subordination, it will be a guiding light for Hindu’s all around the world.

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