WOMEN IN BHARAT
Women in Bharat in ancient days enjoyed full equality, admiration, prestige and self-respect. Let us not discuss these in details, as this aspect has been brought to light by many scholars, Historians, Sociologists, Sanskritists and others. What more a number of Research Degrees have been awarded on this topic, which were published as book, where one can find various examples to support the claim. Few foreigners like Stephen Knapp have also brought to light this aspect. Various people of high academic background have also written and blogged much on this topic. The pertinent question is why that recognition not seen in the present society ? Why does the contemporary society ignore their rights and self-respect? Why are they spared from active participation in the community?
These are the questions to be answered convincingly or accept the lapses or lacuna of the society which is dominated by men and find ways and means for solving this issue. It is right that in Vedic period women were given respect and equal opportunity. What did happen in later period, where one could not find such respectable position for women. Where did we lose the thread, which was running smoothly like a stream in Vedic period. In Smriti also women were praised as Gods and where they are respected, there live the God was the open declaration of Smiritis. Even the sentences (part of a Shloka of a Smriti) like "women are not fit for independence" are also interpreted in positive way by the scholars today. Then where did that revered position of women go ? This is the big question before us, particularly before the Sanskrit Scholars as everything is recorded in Sanskrit in those days.
Somewhere we lost the thread of recognition of women. This period cannot be Vedic as there are ample instances in Veda itself which show their position in words and also through the instances that took place in those days. Yaga is interpreted as Dharma and to perform this Dharma (Yaga) also one need permission of his wife and without her permission one cannot proceed further. The situation being this, Vedic period cannot be blamed as the reason for forgoing the place of women. Though there cannot be Vedic Period and the period of Upanishads as per Bharatian tradition, for the sake of argument let us imagine that Upanishadic period is different from Vedic period. If we examine the status of women in Upanishadic period, there also one cannot find reason for losing thread of importance of women. As in this period also one could find sufficient examples to support the fact that women were treated on par with men. See, if one writes that "on par with men" is also an indication that women were not enjoying the equal status and that status was assigned to them on par with men.There was no difference between men and women (again one can observe the male domination placing the word "men" first) except the natural physical difference and other differences caused naturally. Thus, we cannot make responsible Upanishadic period for forbidding of women. Keep in mind, that all through the importance of Yaga had not diminished.
Of course, one could surely suppose that this state of women took place before Buddhism was propounded, as Buddha had propagated and created an equal place for women in his system of thinking (rather call it Philosophy). If we examine this period, we can came to a conclusion that the period Smiritis might have caused this difference, though not Smiritis advocated this sliding hierarchy of women. One can suppose the life style of society in the Smiriti period, naturally one would be convinced that the thread of women equality might have been lost in this period. Now let us accept this for argument sake that this period caused descendance of women and thereon this descendance slowly ascending and brought the situation, which we experience now.
What did make the society to degrade the position of women in Smiriti period? There though one cannot find exact reason for this question, however, one can put forward few propositions on this issue. 1) There might be an unwritten and undeclared agreement between men and women that one would go out for earning and the other would look after the home. In this proposition what would be the relevance that keeping women at home? They might have thought that considering the nature of physic for which women might have experienced a lot difficulties and that during monthly periods in those days without any facility or comfort, that too living without bathroom and toilet, one could imagine how much difficulty they might have undergone and giving birth to a child in those days and that too without birth-control or family planning how much difficulty women might have faced, is beyond one's imagination. Neither men were Rishis to give birth over night nor they were Devas to give birth at the sight. In the same way women were neither Rishikas to bear it without pregnancy nor they were Devatas without difficulty to deliver. From the side of the men folk and on mutual understanding they might have agreed upon on certain conditions that women go on enjoying the rights such as getting permission from them even to perform Yaga and those interested might be spared from family burden and could learn ans enter higher studies. This is one proposition for the downfall of rights of women, which in later periods both men and women forgot their position and men might dominated and women might have become submissive due to their position.
The second proposition could be that men might have dominated women by their natural advantage of physic, appearance, attitude, rough body, etc. Further, men might have dominated women pointing out their (women's) physic, sexual motivation, soft body and nature etc. This unwritten law founded by men and the calmness of women encouraged men to go ahead with their domination and this might have continued and gradually the society might have become male-dominated. Further, several rights given to men and authorized such as Upanayanam, Vedadhyayanam, performance of Yagas etc., on the part of men and right for Agni Paricharya, not authorized for parental property equally, named as Ksetra for impregnation, which degraded women and made them feel inferior to men, authorizing women to look after home, this was the foremost reason behind this humiliation of women, praising them and placing them at the highest point and giving no major right to them are the few reasons for this state of women.
OK, whatever happened that is past. Then what to do now. As in the case of other fields where there was no equality to women, and the same is gradually changing. The same is the case in the field of Sanskrit and Shastras also. Here, also gradually the scene will change and a day will come that women participate in Debate (Vakyartha/Shastrartha) with men and women.
For all these to happen what the society needs? 1) U-turn in the mind set of men and they should treat themselves that they are in no way superior to women except in physic which is nature-given. 2) An open change in the mind set of women that they are in no way inferior to men, 3) Building confidence in women for this positive change and thinking, 4) Women should make men to realize that they are in most of activities depend upon women 5) Men should realize that their actual position in the society without any superstition.6) Legally women must be empowered, 7) Advertisements showing women as kitchen makers should be banned. 8) Feminists activities exaggerating the issue should be minimized 9) Importance of women in a society or home to be realized by men. 10) Women should themselves to be bold enough to face the challenges.
The Golden Period of Vedic age will return and we will experience that change. For example, if a traditional Pandit brought up in an orthodox environment freely exchange his views with learned women on twitter @RohiniBakshi, @sabdavidya and others and teach his two daughters Shastra one Sahitya and other Navya Nyaya and the most traditional scholars are teaching these girls - is a good sign of change. No doubt, the day will come when we see women participating in Vakyartha, of course this already is happening in Kerala at Tiruppunithura.
Patience and determination are the Key for change.