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Vedic Feminism: Uplifting women from the morass of fabricated history

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Photo: hinduism.about.com

By Gaurav Sharma

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

Photo Credit: www.quora.com
Photo Credit: www.quora.com

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

When a student of history, as it is taught in the modern school education, is subjected outright to a one-sided view of the Hindu society, it becomes quite natural for him 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 levied against Hinduism –that of 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, as it exists in its unadulterated form.

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

Feminine Divinity

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

Krishna is approached through his eternal consort Radha, Ram through Sita, Shiva with Durga, and so is the case with every spiritual form or symbolism. The balance in the divine spiritual powers can only be obtained through the combination of male with female divinities. Hence, emphasis is placed on worshiping and glorifying the feminine aspect as the ‘Divine Mother’.

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

Manifest consciousness or Shakti is the female energy as per the Shaivism which takes diverse forms and is named accordingly. When associated with the growth in all forms of life, it is called Prana. Kundalini, the power that lies dormant in the form of a coiled up snake in everything and can be unleashed through yogic and tantric practises, is also feminine.

 In the form of ignorance, or the aspect in which she produces individuality and bewilders everyone, she is called Avidya Rupini. Conversely, she, as Vidya Rupini is also the one who unveils knowledge and opens the door to liberation or Moksha.

 As the dissolver of the world she is Kali and as the loving consort of Shiva, she is Parvati.

Access to Education

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.

Photo Credit: www.patheos.com
Photo Credit: www.patheos.com

The composition of such highly sophisticated stanzas could not have been formulated unless the women were well-established in knowledge. The birth of a scholar was held in high regard in the Vedic society. The Mahanirvana Tantra confirms this by to saying, “A girl should be brought up and educated with great care”.

 Upanayana or the sacred thread ceremony denoting pursuance of Vedic studies for life was open to women. It was never the sole preserve of the males. Prominent brhamavadinis like Gargi, Khona, Romasa, Vac and Ambrhni are testimony to the openness of the Vedic education system in this regard.

Marriage

Another social evil attributed to ‘superstitious’ Hinduism, is the propagation of child marriage.

However, the Rig Veda, the oldest of the living Vedas, quashes such an argument.

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 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’ on the argument that women were bound within the realm of their paternal house, 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.

On the other hand, there are also considerable allusions to women marrying at an older age. For instance, the female seer Ghosa married the sage Kaksivan at a late age.

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 Curious Case of Social Evils

The precept of dowry is also completely misunderstood by the predisposed minds 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.

Cases of Sati or self-immolation (as it is popularly depicted), were few and far between and have now been blown out of context and proportion. It was only in the medieval period, during the reign of the Islamic tyrants that women started plunging themselves into the fire by the dozen, a desperate act to evade Islamic atrocities.

A widowed woman, in the Vedic times, was 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”.

The verse is a call to the widowed women to rise from the pier of their deceased husbands and take the hand of her new husband. However, the underlying meaning of the text has been interpreted wrongly by scholars to suit their whimsical and often vacillating notions.

The meaning of Sati–virtuous woman--itself does no justice to its falsely portrayed picture. Still, scholars have depicted Sati as a mere Hindu phenomenon, despite evidence that the rate of female suicides was highest during the Mughal rule.

Moreover, some contentious and dubious theories have surfaced which hold that Sati, as a caste-status symbol, spread due to the “Sanskritization” of India while others contend that the practice of Sati was a “non-religious and patriarchal” ideology and represented “purity, sacrifice and valor”.

We have the volition to choose which theory suits our logical and reasoning. However, a fact which cannot be denied is that the distortion in understanding the meaning and origin of Sati–by labeling them “Hindu problems”–during the colonial-era further amplified the social evil.

Photo Credit: www.linkedin.com
Photo Credit: www.linkedin.com

A more balanced analysis of the Hindu scriptures would reveal a scenario where women were honored and respected, not equally, but rather in a highly lofty fashion.

The reverence and significance of womanhood is summed up best by Manu in his law book Manu Smriti:

“Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers‑in‑law, who desire their own welfare. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields rewards.

 Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. The houses, in which female relations, not being duly honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic.”

But here again, Manu is castigated by modern scholars and academicians as being “anti-women”, despite the fact that there are sections which provide for widow-remarriage and the dissolution of marriage. Others provide for property rights, though restricted to six kinds only. The role of caste does assume significance, but women were never subjugated or oppressed as a weaker sex.

Besides, concerns have been raised regarding the post-modern scholarship on the reliability and authenticity of the Manu-Smriti manuscripts available today.

Mahatma Gandhi, the epitome of Dharmic (righteous living) held Manu’s work as part of the Shastras but did not pledge allegiance to each and every verse of the Smriti’s, mainly due to the contradictions that had crept into the printed volumes.

“I hold Manusmriti as part of Shastras. But that does not mean that I swear by every verse that is printed in the book described as Manusmriti. There are so many contradictions in the printed volume that, if you accept one part, you are bound to reject those parts that are wholly inconsistent with it. (…) Nobody is in possession of the original text”, Gandhi is known to have said in An Adi-Dravida’s Difficulties 1.

The complex commentary that Manu weaves around women issues along with the codification of women rights based on it from Hindu texts (mixed with Islamic texts for Muslims) during the British era has rendered it to subjective interpretations, mostly dubious in nature.

(Corroborated by Indian historians such as Flavia Agnes)

It is time we switched off the denial mode and turned back to the pages of the Vedas, which can indeed usher in a new era of feminism, one which is much more rooted in spiritual wisdom.

  • Shriram Bhandari

    nice

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These 8 successful Muslim women are showcasing Freedom their way!

Though there are forsure many but here we present to you the some handful of success stories of Muslim women in modern world. Totally independant and unbounded, they have carved a niche for themselves in many fields through their creativity, talent and self - belief

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Muslim women
Bashing unfreedom-The new age Muslim woman.Pixeby

Not everyone is following rigid fundamentalism these days. In 2017, people and specially some inspiring Muslim women are embracing freedom and individuality through their inspirational work in global markets. Be it fashion, lifestyle,sports or politics- they are setting standards in every domain, breaking stereotypes all the way long!

Have a look at the success stories of these leading Muslim ladies and what they believe in.

SAUFEEYA GOODSON

Dubai based fashion entrepreneur Saufeeya is a global figure appearing in many fashion magazines. Being the co-owner of Modest Route, she has re- branded Modest fashion in a very stylised manner grabbing the attention of 2million followers on instagram page. She is frequently mentioned in Vogue or Teen Vogue under the trademark of her bold, daring and contemporary outfits made for modern age Muslim woman. This trendsetter with her avant garde style has been revolutionizing Islamic modest clothing in world.

CAROLYN WALKER-DIALLO

Carolyn hit the headlines when she was sworn in with the Quran back in 2015, becoming the first ever New York City Civil court judge to do so. She bravely stood up to the backlash that resulted later but her strong act inspired many Muslim women around the world. It somehow relieved them from communal stigmatization that they go through.

LINDA SARSOUR

Linda Sarsour- civil right's activist
Linda Sarsour- civil right’s activist.wikimedia.commons

 

Linda, a Palestinian- American civil rights activist, is popularly known for her key role in helping to organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington.It was a public demonstartion led by women coming together from all walks of life. With her resolute, Linda instilled in a belief in thousands of women to fight for their vanity,esteem and rights.

BEHNAZ SHAFIEI

it is hard to imagine a female road racer/motocross rider and being a Muslim woman makes it a rare case, but Behnaz is exactly that. Born in Iran- a country where women are not allowed for exercising such liberties and are often ridiculed for their driving skills, Behnaz enjoys the fact that many men cannot do the stunts she performs with ease and confidence on her motorbike. She is the only Iranian female to be involved in road racing professionally challenging the preconceived notions of the society in regard to women.

RUMA

Known for her fashion blogs, Ruma recently got mentioned on the Twitter page of H&M where she was applauded for her distinctive panache that voice traditional modesty. According to her the haute hijab empowers feminine sensibility.Being a dreamer as well as achiever, she looks forward to inspire her followers with stories and lessons learned from her life by using social media to promote the art of fashion.

HALIMA ADEN

Halima is a model known for being the first Somali-American Muslim woman to take part in a beauty pageant donning a hijab.With all grace and modesty she hit news by reaching the semifinals of Minnesota USA pageant. She even graced the fashion runway for Kanye West at his show Yeezy season 5. Keeping at bay all Muslim stereotypes, this flamboyant model appeared on the front cover of Allure, wearing a Nike hijab with a caption saying, “This is American Beauty.” 

SHAHD BATAL

As a YouTuber and blogger, Shahd’s focus is mainly on providing viewers with her own original tips on how to attain healthy skin or apply makeup. Sudanese by birth but now living in Minneapolis, her tutorial videos are popularly hitting the internet since 2014. They were recently rehashed and showcased via her new sleek channel. From wearing a classic head-wrap and making pen perfect eyebrows, to her very personal stories with regard to the Hijab, she has been earnestly devoting herself to portray Hijab as a motif of modern age accessory.

 

SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY     

Muslim Women
SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY- Pakistani filmaker.wikimedia.commons

 Sharmeen has been mentioned by esteemed Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. A Muslim woman filmmaker, journalist and activist born in Pakistan, most of her films highlight the inequalities that women face. She has received two Academy awards, six Emmy and Lux Style award for her bold vision. Even the Pakistani government has honored her with the second highest civilian honor of the country, the Hilal-i-Imtiaz for her dauntless contribution to films.

These handful examples of empowering, influential and compelling Muslim women express a great deal- to come out of the shackles of a society that restricts you and your creative energies.Not just to the Muslim women of today, they are inspirational for all women who seek for self – actualization.

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Checkout Ten Must-Read Books For Women

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Must reads for a woman.
Must reads for a woman. Pixabay

Nothing in this world can give you the feeling which books do. Some stories, some word just touch your heart and end up giving you the greatest lessons of life. Books can be inspiring at times, and help you make the toughest decisions of life. Below are ten must-read books for women:

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns

The book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, who has also authored ‘Kite Runner’ revolves around the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila. The beautiful friendship of these two and the things they go through is mesmerizing. The book’s subtlety puts it under the category of must-read books for women.

2. Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson

The Millennium series has three books- “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl who Played with Fire”. The lead character of the series, Lisabeth Salander, is a confident and bold woman who never follows the old norms of the society and leads her life differently. Her rebellious nature can inspire the girls out there to stand for themselves.

3.  Pride And Prejudice

Must-Reads for women
Pride and Prejudice. Wikimedia.

The classic by Jane Austen teaches you to distinguish between the essential and the superficial. It makes you come across a way of looking at women, which is not judgmental. It teaches you to stand up for righteousness. It is definitely ones of the must-read books for women.

4. The Book Thief

Th novel, “The Book Thief” by the Australian author Markus Zusak gives out the inspiring message that no matter what the situation is, women can come out of it strongly on their own.

5. How To Be A Bawse

The Book, “How to be a Bawse”, by the Canadian YouTuber Lily Singh is a beautiful guide on tackling tough situations in life, supported by the examples of real-life situations. Lily’s classy and sassy video style has already been loved by a lot of women out there.

6. The Hunger Games Trilogy

Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games Trilogy is one of the must-read books for women out there as the book’s lead character Katniss, makes you feel proud of being a girl. Her character motivates you to be your own hero.

7. Daughter By Court Order

“Daughter By Court Order”, by Ratna revolves around the story of a woman who has been disowned by her own family. The woman is fighting against money, power, deceit, and for her right to be recognized as a daughter. She has to handle everything on her own.

8. To Kill A Mocking Bird

The book is written by Harper Lee and is an all-time classic. The book revolves around a six-year-old protagonist who is a feminist and refuses to accept the societal norms and always challenges them.

9. The Diary Of A Young Girl

Must-Read Books For Women
The Diary Of A Young Girl. Wikimedia.

The novel by Anne Frank is set during the time of Nazi invading Netherlands. Anne Frank shares her feelings with her diary while she was in hiding for two years. The emotions and struggles make it one of the must-read books for women.

10. The Palace of Illusions

The book Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni shows the epic Mahabharata, through Draupadi’s eyes. Her problems and shortcomings are shown, along with the fact that how ego can lead to a battle.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya

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International Girl Child Day: Celebrating Birth of a Girl Child

International Girls day is celebrated every year on 11th October in order to give the girl child the respect and dignity she deserves.

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International Girl Child Day
On this International Girl Child Day, let’s be a part of a world which celebrates the girl child and let’s do our bit in making the world a better place. Maxpixel

International Girl Child Day has been declared by the United Nations on the 11th October every year in order to celebrate the importance of the girl child. On the occasion of International Girl Child Day, let’s help to spread awareness about the various problems faced by the girl child.

Perception 

The common perception of any society, sees girls are often considered to be inferior to boys. Discrimination against girls is unchecked, Due to fear of exploitation, they are not sent to schools and denied the right to a decent education.

Due to fear of exploitation parents do not send girl child to schools. Pixabay

Female Foeticide

Female Foeticide is an issue which is prevalent in the urban and mostly in the rural areas. People who are ill-informed believe that a girl child is inferior to a boy and thus will not be able to help the family in any way other than increasing the burden of feeding another mouth on them.

Save a Girl Child and protect a woman’s Dignity.

 

Child Marriage

Child marriage is another important issue because of which girls are forced to drop out from their education at a very early age.  India has the highest number of girls forced into marriage under the legal age of 18 accounting for 10 million child brides in the world.

It accounts for more than 70000 deaths each year relating to maternal deaths from pregnancy and childbirth. They also become victims of domestic abuse and the dowry system.

In some parts of the country, family marries off the girl in early age in order to save their economic burden. The reason for child marriage being so prevalent even today lies in the dowry system practised by a large portion of the educated lot.

A 16-year-old girl stands inside a protection home on the outskirts of New Delhi, Nov. 9, 2012. She was rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), a charity which rescues victims of bonded labor. voa

Girl Child Health

In the rural areas, the health facilities are not very developed. If there is a choice between the girl and boy, most of the people will make sure that the boy remains healthy in the hope of him supporting the family in future. Health facilities are the basic amenities of life and are meant to be used by everybody equally. In India, several girl children die of malnutrition and diseases before the age of 6.  Higher rates of child marriage lead to maternity deaths arising from complications in pregnancy and giving birth and it also increases the chances of the stillborn infant.

Girl Child Trafficking

Girl child trafficking is the defined as the trade any girl child under the age of 18 for the purpose of exploitation whether inside or outside the country.  According to the National Crime Record Bureau, one child disappears in every eight minutes. Mostly these children are underage girls. They are taken from their homes and sold in the market for the purpose of begging, labor, and sexual exploitation.  Sometimes it is their own family members who sell them for the need of money or just because they think she is a burden.

Child Marriage
According to the National Crime Record Bureau, one child disappears in every eight minutes. Wikimedia

On this International Girl Child Day, let us be a part of a world which celebrates the girl child and do our bit in making the world a better place.  A very much needed change in the society is the change in the attitude of the people. They should understand the fact that girls are equal to boys in all aspects and should be given equal respect and liberty.

The childhood of a girl can be preserved if we as a society come together and make sure she is nurtured, cherished, protected and should be given freedom to choose her life the way she wants to live.

(The facts were first published by CRY ).