Wednesday January 16, 2019

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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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

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Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

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Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

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Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.