Wednesday May 23, 2018

Beyond fabricated history: Vedic texts in unadulterated form reflect feminist side of Hinduism

0
//
284
Republish
Reprint

religion-42416_640

By Gaurav Sharma

The degraded treatment accorded to women in the medieval age, has been the tipping point in brandishing Hinduism as a dogmatic and highly patriarchal religion.

Our history books are replete with references of women being forced to partake in Sati (self-immolation), cases of wicked oppression by the male gender, countless crude examples of coercion into child marriage, etc., among a myriad of other social evils that persisted during the middle age.

When a student of history is outrightly subjected to such a one-sided view of the Hindu society (which is how they are taught), it becomes quite natural for him/her to start visualizing Sanatana-Dharma or the eternal religion as being synonymous with a degraded version of theism, practiced by men of warped intelligence.

The propaganda levelled against Hinduism, of it being inherently oppressive towards the fairer sex, is meant to turn people against the true essence of Hinduism.

Such a manipulated notion paints a very dogged image of Hinduism; highly contrary to how it is in its unadulterated form.

A thorough understanding of the ancient Vedic texts would reveal a completely different view of women as propounded in the scholarly works of the modern historians.

When Divinity finds itself naked and incomplete without the female aspect of the Divine, it speaks volumes about the importance that is stressed upon womanhood in Hinduism.

Krishna is approached through his eternal consort Radha, Ram through Sita, Shiva through Parvati  and so is the case with every spiritual form.

The whole school of Neo-Vedanta, established by Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and popularized by Swami Vivekananda, greatly emphasises the worship of Kali as ‘the Mother’.

The conception that women were denied access to education in the Vedic age is utterly farcical. Several hymns of the Vedic canon have been composed by women such as Maitrayi, Ghose and Vak.

The composition of such highly sophisticated stanzas could not have been formulated unless the women were well-educated and knowledgeable.

Another social evil attributed to a ‘superstitious’ Hinduism, is the propagation of coerced child marriage. The Rig Veda, the oldest of the living Vedas, quashes such an argument in totum.

“An unmarried learned daughter should be married to a bridegroom who, like her, is learned. Never think of giving in marriage a daughter of very young age.” (Rig-Veda 55:16)

The above statement makes it amply clear, that women, like men, were equally educated and learned and were married after reaching nubility.

The Vedic religion is also sometimes dubbed as ‘backward’ and ‘illiberal’ by arguments like women were bound within the realm of their paternal house, and were forced to live in a kind of social slavery.

On the contrary, young men and women were given unrestricted freedom to intermingle with each other. Samsanas, traditional equivalent of carnivals, used to be organized from time to time, allowing people from both genders to interact and participate in merry-making. And, many women chose their life partner from such social gatherings.

Moreover, there are considerable allusions to women marrying in older age. For instance, the female seer Ghosa married at a late age to the sage Kaksivan.

Such ennobling examples of freedom of choice in marriage, apart from invalidating Western notions of Hindus being caught in the web of ‘arranged marriage’, clearly highlight the maturity level which characterized the ancient Vedic religion.

The precept of dowry is also completely misunderstood by the predisposed minds famished under the tutelage of distorted history books.

Dowry was not a sum of money on which the transactional deal of women was based. In stark contrast, it was a parting gift that the woman carried with her to the new house, having sole preserve of its rightful use.

A widowed women, in the Vedic times, were given much affection and warmth. She had the right, or rather, the freedom to remarry. This can be corroborated by the following verse from the Rig-Veda(X, 18.8)

“Rise up woman thou art lying by one whose life is gone, come to the world of the living, away from thy husband, and become the wife of him who holds thy hand and is willing to marry thee.”

While occupying a supreme position in the Vedic civilization, women were honoured and respected, not equally, but in a highly lofty fashion.

Turning back the pages of Vedas can indeed usher in a new era of feminism, one which is much more rooted in spiritual wisdom.

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

Next Story

Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

0
//
14
Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

Cats And The Goddess: Cats And The Goddess: Mapping Pagan Iconography Of The Divine Feminine

Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)