By: Vishal Agarwal
January 13, 2006
expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer
is at the bottom.
Equality of sexes is a
modern is a modern ideal that is yet to be realized in our own times. How
many Presidents of the
United States of
America have been women? None.
Therefore, it goes
without saying that all traditional and ancient societies, and all
organized religions gave an unequal status to women and men. And yet, the
proposed Ancient History textbooks for Grade VI for California students
single out ancient India and Hinduism for its alleged unfair treatment,
and for granting women ‘inferior rights’. In discussions of all other
religions, these (and Grade VII textbooks on the medieval period) either
leave out this aspect, or carefully hedge negative statements with
Politicization of the Issue:
To rectify this
disparity, two Hindu groups namely the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF)
and the Vedic Foundation (VF) worked with the California Department of
Education (CDE) for several months, to bring the descriptions of role of
Hindu women in ancient
India at par with the
corresponding descriptions of other religious societies. Predictably, the
well known group of Hindu-hating (in my opinion) academics and politicians
lead by Michael Witzel (Harvard University) and Ultra-leftist FOIL (Forum
of Inquilabi ‘Revolutionary’ Leftists) politicized the entire constructive
effort of HEF/VF by alleging a ‘Hindutva’ conspiracy. These people have
even roped in right wing Christians and alleged in their political
It is well known that
the depiction of
India and Hinduism in
American textbooks is marked by a negative slant, and numerous errors.
These self-styled experts have never done anything to correct these
distortions in textbooks. But now that HEF/VF started to do something in
this direction, the Witzel-FOIL gang is indulging in destructive behavior
at the last moment of the textbook review process. Interestingly, these
same experts have maintained silence on the ahistoricity of the many times
more edits proposed by Islamic, Jewish and Christian groups. Since Witzel,
FOIL and other organizations such as FOSA consider themselves as experts
on ‘South Asia’, do we take their silence to mean that they do not
consider Islam and Christianity as ‘South Asian’ religions? Or is their
selective targeting of Hindus is motivated by something else?
In this politicization
of an academic issue by the Michael Witzel-FOIL gang, the following
important points are being lost sight of:
The textbooks are
meant for impressionable school children in the sixth grade. These
students are not graduate students who need to or who could assimilate
nuanced and diverse viewpoints on each matter.
The treatment of
Hinduism and ancient India in these textbooks is introductory.
Therefore, it is essential that just as for other religions, these
textbooks should focus on more essential, doctrinal aspects of Hinduism,
rather than dwelling on clichés about women and Dalits. The narratives
for these sixth grade students should be marked by a positive attitude
and sympathy for the tradition being studied. Hinduism seems to have
been singled out for a negative and unsympathetic treatment although it
is probably the last time most students will ever learn about this
Hinduism is not a
history centric faith like Abrahamic faiths. Therefore it is all the
more important to include emic (“insider’s”) viewpoints in its
discussion rather than focus on etic or outsider historian perspectives.
However, this is not seen to be the case, and questionable historical
theories such as the Aryan invasion theory and its variants have been
used to explain the very genesis and the very nature of Hinduism
even though such theories do not find any place in the entire length and
breadth of Hindu tradition.
The textbooks in
question end their narrative around 550 AD for ancient India. This means
that practices such as Sati and untouchability which were marginal
before 550 AD should not be mentioned in what is clearly a brief
description of Hinduism in these textbooks.
The audience of
these textbooks is predominantly non-Hindu, and it may be necessary to
put across Hindu doctrines to these students in using terms that are
used in Abrahamic faiths. For instance, the sixth grade student in
is very likely to confuse the word ‘Brahmin’ (Hindu priest) with
‘Brahman’ (Supreme Being), and therefore words such as ‘Supreme Being’
or even God may have to be used.
The CA State
guidelines on education mandate that no one tradition should be
privileged over another, and different cultures should be taught in such
a way that students belonging to these cultures should take a pride in
their heritage. The current textbooks violate these guidelines only with
Hinduism, and Michael Witzel - FOIL group is trying to maintain this
The textbooks fail
to mention in the context of women rights in Hinduism that it is the
only faith where ‘God’ is also ‘Goddess’ (i.e., the Supreme Divine Power
is worshipped as female, neutral gender or androgynous entity as well)
and many other things that I will detail below.
Of all the organized religions of the world, women have perhaps the most
prominent presence, both visible as well as invisible, in Hinduism. As the
Divine Mother, the Supreme Being affirms to Hindus that It has either has
no gender, or It has both. As Sages, women have borne the revealed word.
As spiritual and religious teachers, Hindu women have sustained our Dharma
in various ways down the ages. As noble queens and as warriors, Hindu
women have protected our faith from disintegrating into extinction. As
musicians, dancers and artists, they have been the embodiment of all that
is beautiful. As mothers, they have been our first teachers. As wives,
they have provided the locus around which family and social life revolves.
As daughters, they have taught us compassion. And as our guides, they have
made many men into great human beings. This essay is a celebration of the
divinity, power, beauty, wisdom, erudition and leadership of Hindu women
down the ages. It highlights the central role that women have always
played in Hindu dharma, society, politics, humanities and other fields of
scholarship, and in our families.
The essay forms a
sequel to an earlier article by Karthik Kalavai Venkat,
who discusses how the Hindu-hating academic and politicians are insisting
on an exceptional treatment of Hinduism that focuses on the ‘inferior
rights’ of women. Readers are requested to cross-check the scriptural
citations in this compilation and notify the author in case of any errors
(while noting that multiple editions of the same Indic text can often give
the same passage in different address/location). The compilation is by no
2.0 Women and the
“Profound thought was
the pillow of her couch,
Vision was the unguent
for her eyes.
Her wealth was the
earth and Heaven,
When Surya (the
sun-like resplendent bride) went to meet her husband.
Her mind was the
And sky was the canopy
of that chariot.
Orbs of light were the
two steers that pulled the chariot
When Surya proceeded
to her husband’s home!”
The close connection
of women with the Vedas,
the texts regarded as Divine Revelation (or ‘Divine Exhalation’) in Hindu
Dharma may be judged from the fact that of the 407 Sages associated with
the revelation of Rigveda, twenty-one
are women. Many of these mantras are quite significant, for instance the
hymn on the glorification of the Divine Speech.
The very invocatory mantra
of the Atharvaveda
addresses divinity as a ‘Devi’ – the Goddess, who while present in waters,
fulfills all our desires and hopes. In the Atharvaveda, the entire 14th
book dealing with marriage, domestic issues etc., is attributed to a woman
of other 19 books are also attributed to women sages.
Both male and female
deities are extolled in the hymns of all revealed texts of Hindus and in
the family prayers
of all the 10 lineages of Vedic Sages. Numerous schools of Vedic tradition
customarily offer homage to women sages during their daily prayers.
The superlative epithets used uniformly to denote female deities like
Ushas, Sarasvati etc., in the Vedas describe them as sweetly-smiling, the
first or foremost of deities to whom worship is offered, the shining ones,
splendid and beautiful, possessors of wisdom, teachers of mankind and as
powers capable of fulfilling the desires of human beings.
While it is true that
the word ‘man’ is used in a generic manner to denote ‘human beings’ in the
Vedas, authoritative grammar and ritual texts
emphasize that this is merely a figure of speech, and that man and woman
together constitute two halves of the same Persona while performing
Vedic sacerdotal ceremonies. Vedic ritual texts emphasize that there is no
difference between man and woman in so far as the right to perform Vedic
rites is concerned.
The language in which the revealed Hindu texts are composed, namely
Sanskrit, has a neuter gender in addition to the masculine and feminine.
In fact, the Ultimate Reality, the Supreme God
of Hindus, is often described as gender neutral. Interestingly, in a
famous verse of Rigveda that says that all the various deities are but
descriptions of One Truth, the names of deities are all masculine but the
phrase ‘One Truth’ (‘Ekam Sat’) is in neuter gender as if to
emphasize that God is not male. The Gayatri Mantra, the holiest prayer of
Hindus in the Vedas, is often represented symbolically as a Devi in
classical Hinduism. She is thus a female deity, who is also often termed
as the ‘Mother of all Vedas’, and giver of boons.
It is common to read
in scriptures of mankind God is like the husband of all human beings and
of all churches. In the Vedas however, we even read that God is like a
dear wife whom ‘His’ worshipper loves like a doting husband.
The ‘Divine Word’
itself is likened to a beautiful maiden who manifests her beauty to the
As goddesses (devis),
they are worshipped as mothers of even the most powerful male deities (devatas).
Devi Aditi is thus the mother of all prominent devatas such as
Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, Rudras, Indra, of kings and many other excellent
sons. She is invoked as the mistress of the Cosmic Order, omnipotent,
every youthful, protector, mother of the devout worshipper and a wise
guide of all humans.
The Vedas hardly ever
conceive of devatas without corresponding devis. Almost as a
rule, the Sage, the worshipper and the ritualist invoke the devatas
to manifest along with devis and partake of the sacred oblations
poured into the sacred fire altar.
3.0 The Divine
Mother: ‘God as Goddess’
Around 2000 years ago, Classical Hinduism, or Hindu Dharma as we know
today, started crystallizing. Worship of the Supreme Being through icons
and sacred symbols was aligned among five Hindu traditions of worship –
Ganapatya, Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shaakta. The last three of these
traditions encompass practically all Hindus today.
Shaakta tradition specifically worships the Divine as the Mother of the
to whom all the male deities also bow in reverence. Shrines of this
have perhaps a greater geographical spread than those of other traditions
in the Indian subcontinent.
In this tradition, the
Divine Mother is termed as ‘Shakti’ or ‘The (Supreme) Power’, as
‘Uma’ or the Sacred Wisdom, as ‘Mahesvari’ or ‘The Supreme Goddess’ and so
on. The Shaakta tradition has hundreds of texts
(often termed generically as ‘Tantras’) and traditions considered
authoritative by Hindus even outside that specific tradition.
The Shaiva tradition
is considered the ‘male’ counterpart of the Shaakta tradition and the two
share numerous texts, liturgies and other sacred traditions. In numerous
iconic representations, God is shown as ‘ardhanariishvara’ or ‘God
who is half woman’, to emphasize that either God has no gender or he is
both woman and man.
Even male deities such
as Lord Vishnu sometimes incarnate as women to serve the cause of Dharma.
The Devi herself is often said to combine the powers of all male deities
including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
In the Vaishnava
tradition, which is the most prevalent Hindu tradition today, God is
worshipped as ‘Vishnu’
together with ‘Shri’, who is also addressed variously as ‘Lakshmi’.
They incarnate together,
and their incarnations, namely that of Rama and Sita respectively, and so
on, are also worshipped as a couple. Perhaps a good idea of the
simultaneous and equal reverence that Hindus have for the feminine and the
masculine aspects of Divinity may be gauged from the following quotation
Sage Parashar said:
O Maitreya! Always
a companion of Vishnu and the Mother of this Universe,
Devi Lakshmi is
eternal. Vishnu is omnipresent, so is She.
If She is speech,
Vishnu is the object of description.
Vishnu is the Law,
and She is the Policy.
Lord Vishnu is
knowledge, she is intelligence.
He is Dharma, She
is good karma.
If Vishnu is the
Creator, She is the Creation (that abides eternally with Him).
He is the mountain,
She is Earth.
He is the virtue of
contentment, She is the all satisfying.
If Lord Vishnu is
desire, She is the object of desire.
He is the sacred
Vedic ritual, she is the priestly fee…
Lord Rama is
worshipped with his wife Devi Sita. Lord Krishna is worshipped with Radha
or with Devi Rukmini. In some sects of Vaishnava Hindus, Radha is actually
accorded more importance with Lord Krishna. Independent Hindu spiritual
texts with names such as ‘Sitopanishad’, ‘Radhopanishad’ and so on exist,
which extol the greatness of the Devis in the divine pairs.
It is important to
note that when God is worshipped as ‘Divine Couple’ by Hindus, the name of
the feminine typically precedes that of masculine. For instance, we say
that we are worshipping ‘Sita-Ram’, ‘Radhe-Shyam’, ‘Uma-Mahesh’
or ‘Shri Vishnu’ and so on.
non-denominational Hindu prayers, whenever God is addressed as a parent,
he is first termed as a Mother, and only then as a Father.
In the Ganapatya
tradition, the major focus of veneration is the Bhagavan Ganesh, well
recognized from his elephant head. The followers of this tradition are not
numerous, but all Hindus, irrespective of their sectarian affiliation,
commence their prayers to God with an invocation to Ganesh. Interestingly,
in the sacred stories of Hindu texts, Ganesha is considered more of his
mother Parvati’s son than his father Shiva’s. In fact, some versions state
that Parvati created Him out of her own power because she wanted a son
whom only she could call her own. Ganesh is typically worshipped as a
child, and is often depicted along with his brother Skanda together with
their all-powerful mother.
This we see that even
in the male oriented traditions of classical Hinduism, the feminine aspect
of Divinity occupies a very central position of significance.
In numerous Hindu
Bangladesh, Nepal and India, the most prominent festival in the year is
dedicated to the Divine Mother. During Diwali, the most important festival
in northern India and amongst Hindu communities in the Caribbean, the main
worship is offered to Devi Lakshmi. Diwali itself is often called ‘Lakshmi
A period of 9 nights
every year is devoted to the worship of numerous manifestations of the
Mother. It is celebrated as Durga Puja festival in eastern
and as Navaratri in Gujarat as the major festivals of these regions.
Popular Hinduism also
exhibits the concept of ‘grama-devata’ in which a local
manifestation of the Divine is worshipped as the presiding deity of that
place. Many Indian cities and towns, including several important pilgrim
centers, have various forms of the Divine Mother as their ‘grama-devi’.
As examples, we may cite Amba who is worshipped in Kolhapur and Ahmadabad
(formerly called Ambavad); Meenakshi who is worshipped in the pilgrim town
of Madurai; a form of Sati, the wife of Shiva, worshipped in Jalandhar;
and Dhakeshvari Devi of Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh).
It is not surprising
that words denoting the Feminine Power of God, such as Shakti, Kali and so
on have become a part of the New Age vocabulary because there is a
deficiency of such terms in other organized religions. There is even a
perfume launched by the name ‘Kali’ in the west.
4.0 Mother Earth,
For Hindus, God is not
necessarily a fatherly figure. ‘He’ is Mother and Father combined.
In Hindu Cosmology and Ecology, Nature and Earth are uniformly referred to
as Mother Nature (Prakriti) and kindly Mother Earth
(Prithvi Mata). In Hindu philosophies,
God and Nature are sometimes depicted as Husband and Wife who create the
inanimate and animate Universe together just as mother and father
give birth to children.
In a long hymn extolling the earth, the Sage concludes with the beautiful
‘O Earth, my Mother!
Establish me securely
in spiritual and material happiness,
and in full accord
O Wise One! Uphold me
in grace and splendor!
While today we
normally assume that the ‘husband is the breadwinner of the household’,
traditional Hindus say that it is Devi Annapuurnaa who is the presiding
deity of Foodgrains. Likewise, forests that provide us with so many
resources are said to be presided over by Devis who are known as
Vanadevis (vana = forest).
There are numerous
Hindu rituals involving the veneration of trees, plants and forests in
their feminine form. An example of such ritual is the Karama Puja done by
It is Mother Ganga,
Mother Yamuna, Mother Kaveri and so on who have manifested as rivers to
feed mankind. Rivers, their confluences, their mouths and their origins
form prominent Hindu pilgrim centers. The evening worship of Ganga Ma
(‘Mother Ganges’) in the pilgrim center of
with hundreds of lamps which are set afloat on the river in the night is a
breath-taking spectacle. The trend of considering rivers as manifestations
of the feminine aspect of the Divine Being has been carried by Hindu
immigrants to other parts of the world as well. Sanskrit mantras have
already been composed for worshipping rivers such as Mississippi in the
United States, underlying the fact that in Hindu belief, the Supreme Being
is all-pervading. Such recent developments parallel a similar
transplantation of Hindu sacred geography to South East Asia several
One’s country is
always termed as ‘Motherland’, never as Fatherland in recognition of the
fact that the land we live in nurtures us lovingly as our own mother.
Indians often worship
India as ‘Bharatmata’.
A popular Sanskrit
verse attributed to Lord Rama says that one’s mother as well as motherland
are more exalted than Heaven. The source of this verse however has not
been traced and it is presumed that an anonymous poet coined it in the 19th
century. Nevertheless, the verse has sunk deep into the contemporary Hindu
When a family entered
their new home, they invoked God and asked him to dwell therein in a
benevolent feminine form to make it come alive –
Queen of the mansion,
Kind devi, you are
indeed constructed by the devas.
May you, robed in
grass, be gracious to us,
And give us brave
children and wealth.
Household women play a
leading role in this ceremony and the wife is the first one to enter the
new home. This is not surprising because the wife is regarded as ‘grhyalakshmi’
or the embodiment of Devi Lakshmi, presiding over the house and its
welfare and prosperity.
Spirituality, Feminine Rituals:
Upanishad, the longest text of Hindu spirituality, describes the
proceedings of a marvelous spiritual conference in which the great Sage
Yajnavalkya was locked in a debate with several Sages on the other side.
Suddenly, a woman sage named Gargi Vachnavi rises and says that if Sage
Yajnavalkya can answer her questions, all the other Sages will accept his
It is noteworthy that all the Sages present there accept her as their
spiritual leader and allow her to represent them on their behalf. In the
same text, Maitreyi, the wife of Yajnavalkya, motivates him to deliver a
memorable sermon on the nature of God and soul. Modern
India has honored
these illustrious women by founding colleges bearing their names.
In a long spiritual lineage given in this text, all the teachers and
students are listed as sons of their mothers.
In the Kena Upanishad,
knowledge appears as Uma, a woman, to dispel the ignorance of Indra. This
short text was considered so profound that it was singled out for not one
but two commentaries by Adi Shankaracharya (8th century CE),
one of the greatest Hindu philosophers of all times.
Scholars of Hinduism
point out that in addition to the largely male-authored religious texts of
our Dharma, popular Hinduism strongly adheres to non-codified rituals
performed by women. Hundreds of thousands of villages in Hindu dominated
parts of the world have well-frequented shrines in honor of Devi, the
feminine aspect the Divine. Hindu women perform hundreds of small
religious rites, keeping Dharma alive in their own way. Little wonder then
that even orthodox Hindu texts hint that the study of the Vedas is
completed only after we learn the ‘religious knowledge of women’.
In household religious
ceremonies even today, it is not uncommon to see women take the lead role
in organizing the entire function. There is no domestic ritual in which
women cannot participate, whereas there are several popular Hindu rituals
where the presence of men is either debarred, or is not desirable. The
sacred rituals are said to bear the desired fruit only if men and women
perform it as a pair.
The intimate connection of women with Vedic rituals is seen from the fact
that several sacred mantras from the Vedas
are specifically meant for recitation by women, as is clarified by
– manuals of Vedic rites. Since the wife is indeed the pivot of the house,
she was entitled to perform the sandhyaa, or the morning and
evening rituals with the sacred altar and Vedic texts.
In the Ramayana, Queen Kausalya performs
the daily fire sacrifice (agnihotra) with Vedic mantras as do
Tara and Sita
etc. In the Mahabharata also, ladies such as Savitri and Amba likewise
perform Vedic rituals with the recitation of Vedic texts. Some Vedic texts
actually cite women as authorities on minutiae of Vedic rituals.
Therefore, though women were debarred from reciting Vedic texts or from
performing Vedic rituals in later times,
their right to do so in ancient times is quite well established from the
extant ancient Hindu literature. In fact, a lost Vedic text named Saulabha
Brahmana is attributed to Sulabha, a woman. This text could have belonged
to an extinct school of Rigveda which she must have founded.
sacred-thread ceremony has been performed for women in recent centuries,
ancient texts affirm that women did undergo this ceremony in the past, or
wore the sacred thread during various rituals. For instance, a text
says that the bride should wear the sacred thread during her wedding. The
Harita Dharmasutra, perhaps belonging to Maitrayaniya school of Yajurveda,
has been cited in several texts (e.g., Hindu law manuals Nirnayasindhu) to
the effect that women are of two types – Brahmavaadini (devoted to
the Vedas and to the Supreme Being) and Sadhyavadhu (those who
marry and settle down as housewives). Concerning the former, the
that they undergo the thread ceremony, perform agnihotra, study the
Vedas, and live by begging alms from their family members (just as male
students, although boys have to leave home to live with their teachers).
Later texts also cite the opinion of Yama
to the effect that in ancient times, women also underwent the thread
ceremony, studied the Vedas and recited the Gayatri and other Vedic
mantras. However, these later texts somehow try to explain these old
traditions away because they were perceived as anachronistic in later
Hindu texts are
unanimous in declaring that God does not differentiate between men and
From a Dharmic perspective, adherence to Dharma alone decides who is great
and who is lowly. In the Hindu philosophy of Bhakti, or devotion to God,
the cowherd women (gopi-s) who resided in the region of Braj in
are held as exemplars for all mankind.
In traditional enumerations of pious people who were saved by the salvific
power of God, both men and women are listed without prejudice.
Both men and women are said to be God’s manifestations in several verses.
In these verses, we often see that the Sanskrit word for women is given a
graceful precedence over the word for men.
The Ramayana, a Hindu epic, narrates the story of Shabari, a tribal Hindu
woman, who was ecstatic upon hearing that Lord Rama would pass her hut
during his forest sojourn. She hastened to collect wild-berries to offer
to him To ensure that they were all sweet, she chewed half of each berry,
discarding the bad ones. When Shri Rama arrived, he was so touched by her
pure devotion that he ate her half-chewed berries without hesitation. This
story is often taken as an example to illustrate the power of loving
devotion to God in the Hindu doctrine of Bhakti.
In the Hindu
tradition, a pentad of five women ‘panchakanyaas’ is especially
revered. The first two are from the Hindu epic Mahabharata, and the other
three from the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is believed that a remembrance of
these five women destroys great sins. It is not exactly clear why these
five women were chosen, but their diverse background shows the catholicity
of Hindu Dharma in venerating virtuous women disregarding their social and
ethnic background. These five women are –
Kunti, the wife of
King Pandu, and mother of the five Pandava princes. She was an
accomplished scholar of the Atharva Veda.
Draupadi, wife of
the five Pandavas brothers, whose honor was preserved by none other than
Tara, the wife of ‘vaanara’
(tribal) King Vali, and after his death, of his younger brother King
Sugreeva who assisted Lord Rama
Sage Gotama’s wife
Ahalya who was tricked into adultery by Indra, but had her honor
redeemed by Lord Rama
virtuous wife of evil incarnate Ravana, the King of Lanka. She prevailed
upon him to spare Devi Sita of his lust.
Likewise, there is
also a concept of five ‘Satis’ or virtuous women namely –
Sita, who was born
of Mother Earth and the Nepalese King Siradhvaja Janaka. She married
Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, and is considered an incarnation of
Savitri, who is
Arundhati, the pious
wife of Sage Vashishtha
Damayanti, the wife
of King Nala
These five (or rather
the first four) are worshipped by Hindus as divine women of Dharma, noted
for unwavering devotion to their husbands and for standing by them through
all the ups and downs in their lives. There are no corresponding pentads
of illustrious men.
Send your views to author
The four Vedas, namely Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda
are accorded the status of divine revelation in Hindu Dharma. Printed
editions of these texts are often titled ‘Shrimati (Ms.) Rgveda
Samhita’ and so on.
According to another count, the actual number is 28. But this inflated
list includes feminine speakers such as ‘rivers’ and so on. See
Brihaddevata 11.84 for this list.
Rigveda 10.125, the inspiration of Vac, the daughter of Ambhrina
Mantra = Sacred verse
‘Om shanno devirbhishtiye aapo bhavantu….’. The traditional
recitation of Atharvaveda is commenced with this verse. The Paippalada
version of Atharvaveda starts with this mantra. It occurs as mantra
1.6.1 in the Shaunaka version of Atharvaveda but even the recitation
of this text is often commenced with the invocation to Devi.
These portions are specifically termed as ‘striikarmaani’ or
acts pertaining to women.
Women Sages are termed as ‘Rishika’ while male Sages are termed
These family hymns are called ‘Apri Suktas’, and all these hymns have
invocations to women deities such as Ila, Bharati, Sarasvati etc.
The ritual texts of the Vedas list women Sages to whom homage must be
offered while studying the divine texts. See for instance Ashvalayana
Grhyasutra 3.4.4; Shankhayana Grhyasutra 4.10 which enumerate women
teachers such as Sulabha Maitreyi, Vadavaa Praathitheyi etc.
cf. Purva Mimamsa Sutras 6.1.8
Katyayana Shrautasutra 1.1.7 etc.
The very word ‘Brahman’ used to denote Supreme Being in Hindu
texts is in neuter gender. Likewise, many words used to denote
Universal Virtues such as Truth (Satyam) are considered neuter gender
in Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hindu Dharma.
‘anavadyaa patijushteva naarii’ – Rigveda 1.73.3
‘Vak’, the Sanskrit word denoting Divine Speech, is considered
feminine according to grammatical rules.
Atharvaveda 7.6.2; Madhyandina Yajurveda 21.5
This mode of worship became extinct several centuries ago.
Markandeya Purana 91.2
The 52 main shrines are termed as ‘shaktipeeths’. They are
spread all over Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Even
Afghanistan has several Devi shrines that have now almost been
abandoned because the Hindu minority has been ethnically cleansed by
Even texts not specifically belonging to the Shaakta tradition per se
have sections that eulogize the Divine Mother. For instance, the
famous ‘Devi Mahaatmya’ (the glory of Devi’) occurs in the Markandeya
Purana which is not a Shaakta text.
‘Vishnu’ = ‘all pervading’
Lakshmi is also worshipped independently as the deity of wealth,
splendor, prosperity and fertility.
Vishnu Purana 1.9.142-146
Vishnu Purana 1.8.17-20ab
It is a Hindu tradition to address women before men in a group, out of
reverence for the former. For instance, Hindu wedding invitations are
normally addressed ‘To Mrs. and Mr. Smith’ and so on and not as ‘To
Mr. And Mrs. Smith’ or as ‘ To Mr. and Mrs. John Smith’ or even as ‘To
Mrs. and Mr. John Smith’.
The prayer commencing with the words ‘tvameva mata cha pita tvameva’
(You alone are Mother, and are also our Father) is recited by millions
of Hindus all over the word.
E.g., Atharvaveda 10.18.10; Rigveda 1.159.2
Such as the theistic version of the Samkhya Philosophy
Vishnu Purana 1.2; Matsya Purana 1.284.11-18
Madhyandina Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.8
Gargi College and Maitreyi College in New Delhi, India
Apastamba Dharmasutra 22.214.171.124-15
Aitareya Brahamana 7.10
e.g., Madhyandina Yajurveda 5.17; 3.44-45 etc.
e.g., Katyayana Shrautasuta 5.5.10 etc.
Gobhila Grhyasutra 1.3.15; Khadira Grhyasutra 1.5.17-18 etc.
e.g., Aitareya Brahmana 2.9 cites the opinion of Kumari
Gandharva-grihita on the Agnihotra ritual.
Manusmriti 2.67 says that the wedding rite is the only Vedic rite of
women, and domestic work is like performance of agnihotra rite
for women. Interestingly, as late as the 15th century, the
commentator Kullukabhatta noted several additional verses in
manuscripts of Manusmriti found in his times. Right after 2.67, he
noticed an additional verse (excluded in vulgate text) according to
which wives were actually responsible for performing the daily
agnihotra, clearly contradicting the preceding verse but
consistent with numerous old texts such as Gobhila Grhyasutra 1.3.15;
Ashvalayana Grhyasutra 1.9
Gobhila Grhyasutra 2.1.9
‘dvividhaa striyah. Brahmavaadinyah sadyovadhvascha. tatra
brahmavaadiniinaamupanayanamagniindhanam svagrhe bhiksacharyeti.’
Puraakalpeshu naariinaam maunjiibandhanishyatey.
Adhyaapanam cha vedaanaam
Narada Bhaktisutra 1.21
Shrimad Bhagvatam (Book X) mentions several women such as Kubjika, who
were emancipated by God.
E.g., ‘tvam strii tvam pumaanasi’ -‘Thou art the woman and the
man’ (Atharvaveda Saunaka Samhita 10.8.27); ‘strii pumsau Brahmano
jatau striyah brahma uta vavana’ – ‘Women and Men are both born
from Supreme Being, Women are (manifestations) of the Supreme Being
and so are these men’ (Atharvaveda Paippalada Samhita 8.9.11cd)
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