Role of Women in Hinduism

Topics: Hinduism, Woman, Bible Pages: 6 (2173 words) Published: March 4, 2013
The role of women in Hinduism

The purpose of the research paper is to examine the role of women in Hinduism and how it impact their lives .This paper will look at how narratives from sacred texts influences women’s role in society in the past and in the present. The role of women in Hinduism is often disputed, and positions range from equal status with men to restrictive. Hinduism is based on numerous texts, some of which date back to 2000 BCE or earlier. They are varied in authority, authenticity, content and theme, with the most authoritative being the Vedas. The position of women in Hinduism is widely dependent on the specific text and the context. Positive references are made to the ideal woman in texts such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, while some texts such as the Manu Smriti advocate a restriction of women's rights. In modern times, the Hindu wife has traditionally been regarded as someone who must at all costs remain chaste or pure. This is in contrast with the very different traditions that have prevailed at earlier times in Hindu kingdoms, which included highly respected professional courtesans such as Amrapali of Vesali, sacred Devadasis, mathematicians and female magicians the Basavis, the tantric kulikas. Mahabharata and Manu Smriti asserts that gods are delighted only when women are worshiped or honoured, otherwise all spiritual actions become futile, as evidenced by the narrative from the Mahabharata “Deities of prosperity are women. The persons that desire prosperity should honour them. By cherishing women, one cherishes the goddess of prosperity herself, and by afflicting her, one is said to afflict the goddess of prosperity” (Mahabharata,). Several women sages and seers are mentioned in the Upanishads, the philosophical part of the Vedas, notable among them being Gargi and Maitreyi. This reveals that women were also given a place as Gurus. The Bhagavata Purana states that the Mahabharata was written specifically for women and also men who were not in the priestly Brahmin caste, for example the following passage. "Out of compassion, the great sage thought it wise that this would enable men to achieve the ultimate goal of life. Thus he compiled the great historical narration called the Mahabharata for women, laborers and friends of the twice-born." According to Sharma &Arvind, 2002 “Women have fought for their status and role in communities, religions, and the nation for years. And women in Hinduism are no different”. Women traditionally would live the life of a mother and a wife following the footsteps of their ancestors. Women’s roles were laid out in Hindu law books such as the Dharma-Sastras, however basic rules in the Laws of Manu (200 C.E.) lays out how a women or wife should behave in the household and towards her husband. Nevertheless, women’s roles have evolved over time and women are going against the social norm of their tradition and even their way of life. Hinduism is a complex religion and unlike many western religions, it is a way of life. Family is very important in Hinduism and as keeper of the household women play an important role in the tradition. Women are revealed in the sacred scriptures as presenting a duality of being benevolent and malevolent exposing her with great contrasting powers. “In times of prosperity she indeed is Laksmi, [goddess of wealth] who bestows prosperity in the homes of men; and in times of misfortune, she herself becomes the goddess of misfortune, and brings about ruin” (Wadley, 1977) Because of this changing power that a women possesses it is rational that man should want to control this mysterious power. Then, perhaps it may have been interpreted that women should remain stagnate, running the household, rearing the children, and participate in religious rituals as an assistant to their husband. It is the female’s role as a wife to bear her husband’s children and educate them in their traditional practices. To maintain their dominance over the women...
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