Some one searching with “Can women learn the veda?” this question found one of my web-sites. I was very surprised to know that people had such questions in this 21st century. I have also observed that when my parents proudly announce that I gave up a good career to learn the Vedas and study the Ramayana, the responses are very mixed. Clearly some of these people do not know about RSikAs (rishikas), the women Vedic rshis!
Prof P.L. Bhargava, has dedicated his book “Vedic Religion and Culture” to the women seers of the rgveda : apAlA, GoSA and vis’vavArA, and has written an entire chapter on the “position and status of women in the Early Vedic Period.’
In the Vedic Age (Treta Yuga), women had a higher status in Indian Society. The DharmaSutras, with some of their restrictions are later work. Today the Hindu Dharma Sastra is the Indian Penal Code, given to us by rshis like Nehru. So men and women of any caste, race or nationality can learn the Vedas, if they find a guru compassionate enough to accept them.
Prof . Bhargava tell us that in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.17, there is a ritual “for parents desirous of a daughter who would shine with learning.” The Upanayana ceremony was common to boys as well as to girls. The Atharvaveda 9.15.18 says that a girl gets a young and eligible husband only when she has passed a period of brahmacarya. The rg veda mentions women performing yajnas alone and the satapaha brahmana tells us that the Patnikarma of women chanting SamaVeda was later taken over by udgatrs.
Gandhiji said that if you educate a woman you educate an entire family. Since men of all castes are busy earning money to sustain their families, and there are no govt. grants to my knowledge for learning vedas, it is very good if Indian Women spare some time to Vedic Learning. Today since Indian women are custodians of all traditions from Puranas to Puja, they can take up one more responsibility if they are left with some time. I think at least a few Veda Sukthas should be learnt by every Hindu mother and taught to her children (along with nursery rhymes and movie songs).
Update : Today a Lingayat girl happened to visit my Veda class and told me that she already knows by heart the Purusha Suktkam Mantras that I am learning to chant. She said that in their community they chant it without the “swaras”, and there is no restriction on men or women learning the Vedas.
So new question : Which Communities Restrict women from learning Vedas? In many brahmin households it is the women who are in charge of the pooja department for at least 2 or 3 generations now. Men do dhyana if at all and mostly do jobs outside the family.
Update : I hear that these restrictions are not present in North India : see http://www.tamilbrahmins.com/slokas-mantras/2968-gaytri-mantras-all-gods.html and also that Swami Vivekananda was pleased to see the sanskrit and Veda literate women of Kerala.
See Also :
- Hindu Women Priests
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