Sunday April 22, 2018

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

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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.

 

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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

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Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.