So one young girl asked me, “does this mean that women don’t have any caste. They are not of the forward 3, the fourth or even of the so called ”outcastes”. If they belong to any one of the 4 varnas or the 5th varna then why mention them separately? ”
She does have a point. By the Kaliyuga which was when the Srimad Bhagavatham and Mahabharatam were composed (after Dharmaraja left for his Mahaprasthana), the caste system was firmly in place. Karna‘s story is evidence of this.
The technical answer to this is that the dharmasastras do distinguish between brahmin women, kshatriya women, sudra women and panchama women, with regard to property rights, marriage rules, re-marriage rules and status of their sons. (Marriage, Re-Marriage, Women, Property.)
Yes, women do and did have some caste of birth. But even a brahmin woman lacked the same rights to vedic learning as a sudra man did. So with respect to Vedic learning restrictions were imposed on Women and Sudras and Others. This was inspite of the fact that 25 of the 400 Rg Vedic rshis were women. This restriction was only to Vedic learning and not to any other learning which was allowed to all.
(A small search on the internet forums will show you that even today, centuries after Basavanna and decades after Swami Vivekananda , there are men and maybe even women who believe that women should not chant the Gayatri Mantram., and they actually have “reasons” for this. And while some of these men earn their living by professions and methods that are barred to those castes by the same dhrama sastras, and though they do not follow the prescribed anusthana, they are highly uncomfortable with women who learn the Veda, be it Gayathri or Rudram!)
But coming back to Veda Vyasa . With a compassionate heart that no one should be “left out” of Vedic or any other learning, he embedded all the knowledge, Vedic, Dharmic, Astronomical.. everything he knew into the Mahabharatam and declared it as available to all. In his rendering of the story of Karna and the arguments of Duryodhana etc he showed clearly where his sympathies lay and where he wanted the readers’ sympathies to lie.
And knowing that the Dharmasastras excluded Women and Sudras and Others, he Specifically Included Them.
While Basavanna’s approach was to perform an Upanayana Samskara for women as well as men and to create the casteless society now called Lingayats., Sri Krishna, Suka Muni, Guru Nanak and Swami Vivekananda did not think much of Vedic Learning itself.
Sri Krishna stopped a Vedic Yagnya to Indra, in Brindavanam and had a worship of Govardhana Parvata instead. He also said in the Bhagavad Gita that Vedic Learning is for “this world” and prescribed Karma Yoga as a Moksha Marga, applicable to “Women and Sudras and Others also.” In the Bhagavda Gita, Sri Krishna says that he created the 4 varnas (to encompass all 4000 odd jathis in the country), based on guna and karma of the individual. Thus he was comfortable in marrying Jambavathi, the daughter of Jambavantha and in eating at Vidura’s (a dasi putra’s) house instead of Raja Duryodhana’s. Kuchela, a brahman was his best friend. If anyone exemplified a high disregard for the caste structure as it is understood by some people today, it was Sri Krishna himself.
Suka Muni and Guru Nanak did not feel that Vedic rites were beneficial to one’s evolution. Vivekananda asked us focus on the Upanishads for strength and did not even give much value to Moksha as a goal. He said he would take a million births to serve his motherland.
Our modern Dharma Sastra, our constitution and law, proclaims equality, recognizes marriages performed without Vedic Agnisakshi as long as they are “registrar” sakshi, and gives special reservations to “Women and SCs and BCs”.
- Krishna opposes worship of Indra : Reasons Given ;
- Difficulty of lecturing on Religion without giving offence : Max Muller ;
- Suka Muni Refuses to get Married : Devi Bhagavatham 14th and 15th Adhyaya, first Skanda;
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib : English Translation ;
- The Vedas were of the Tretha Yuga – Srimad Bhagavatham, Vedas ;
- Evolution of Dharma Sastras
- Can women learn the Veda?
- Anulled Marriages : Vasistha Dharmasastra
- Women, Sons and Remarriage : Vasistha Dharmasastra
- Women of India
Authorship and Copyright Notice : Satya Sarada Kandula : All Rights Reserved.