- Manusmriti, also known as Manav Dharmashastra, loosely translates to the codes man must live by
- It is believed to hold the divine Hinduism code of conduct
- While Manusmriti has enriched the Hindu culture, it has also tied down women under reigns of intolerance
New Delhi, August 6, 2017: Time and again, women are asked to adhere to the various roles and the principles set for us, ‘for our own good’. We are asked to keep our heads low and our voices lower. We are told to restrict ourselves to the boundaries of our houses, and our opinions within the confines of our mind. These codes of conduct are embedded in the Hindu dharma, and compiled together as the Manusmriti.
Since centuries, women have been the subject of judgments. There have been countless opinions about women- all based on regressive fallacy.
Being a woman in a world where sexism forms an integral part can be quite wearisome. There are some things that a man will never hear, but women and young girls alike, have heard them enough times.
On one hand where the world thinks of India as rich in culture and heritage, little do they know it is this same culture that has, since ancient times, embedded a deeply skewed perception of the Indian women.
In an attempt to trace the origin of this retrogressive attitude attached to women, we came across the Manusmriti.
According to Hindu mythology, the Manusmriti is believed to be the word of Lord Brahma, and is classified as the most commanding declaration on Dharma. Hindu defenders consider the Manusmriti or laws of Manu as the divine Hinduism code of conduct, and accordingly the status of women as depicted in the text has been interpreted as Hindu divine law.
You may come across one of the most famous verses of the Manusmriti – “yatr naryasto pojyantay, ramantay tatr devta” (at places where women are provided place of honor, gods are pleased and reside in that household)
However, in its shade, the Hindu apologists often forget the verses that reek of outrageous abhorrence, discrimination, and bigotry against women-
- Women, true to their character, are capable to lead men- learned and fool, astray, making them both slaves of desire.
- Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.
- Wise men should only marry women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace/gait like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.
- A Brahman, a true defender of his class, should not have his meals in the company of his wife and even avoid looking at her. Furthermore, he should not look towards her when she is having her meals when she sneezes/yawns.
- One should not accept meals by a woman who has extra-marital relationships, nor from a family exclusively dominated/managed by women or a family whose 10 days of impurity because of death have not passed.
- A female child, young woman or even an old woman is not supposed to work independently, even at her own residence.
- Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married, and under the custody of her son as widows. Under no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself as independent.
- Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands.
- Because of their passion for men, immutable temper, and natural heartlessness, they are not loyal to their husbands.
- While performing namkarm and jatkarm, Vedic mantras are not to be recites by women, as they are lacking in strength and knowledge of Vedic texts. Women are impure and represent falsehood.
These verses are downright demeaning and infuriating. What is even more upsetting is the fact that these aren’t mere hypothesis – these have been the order of the day at a time in the Indian subcontinent. The fact that women have lived for years with such a tarnished image is out rightly nauseating.
The ‘holy’ text has, for the same reason, often been the center of controversy.
In March 2016, students of JNU had burnt a copy of Manusmriti for it’s “extremely derogatory references against women”. The then vice-president of ABVP said that by doing this, they are “burning discrimination”, as reported by First post. In a similar event in June this year, the CPI (M) blamed RSS for propagating values inspired by the laws of Manu for which they received a lot of flak, as reported by ANI.
While the current society has outgrown most of what these verses project, it would be immoral to say that the Hindu dharma is now completely devoid of any such discrimination.
We claim that ours is a developed country. We are all in for gender equality and time and again remind ourselves that women are being empowered by appointing women to various honorable posts. But have our ideologies regarding women really changed?
Do we honor women like they should be, and do we value them as much as they deserve?
Or are we still tied to the chains of retrogression with religions at its commands?
– by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala
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