Growth of Feminist consciousness

With the growing consciousness among various sections of our society we are witnessing people from all walks of life rebelling against the previously set norms. For eg. In India Dr. Ambedkar did a great work to awaken the Dalit consciousness among the Dalits or Schedule caste people. 

Now What is Dalit consciousness?

Well If u have ever been to a village you may find dalit community living in that village is all fine with the norms set by the law makers of ancient hindu society according to which all the discrimination done to them became the part of their life and they got adapted to this sort of discrimination . 

Like sometimes they themselves don't enter into the homes of so called upper caste friend and instead chose to sit in courtyard due to the norms that has been followed by their ancestors since centuries and somehow they got adapted to them since from their childhood, but Dr. Ambedkar's efforts and later constitutional provisions brought an awakening or consciousness in the minds of dalits which made them realize that these sorts of  PREVAILING NORMS are not ok and these are inhuman treatment given to them which should be objected at every cost as the constitution of India gives a strong emphasis on equality of status and opportunity to its citizens.These days you won't see young people from dalit community following such village traditions instead they are openly revolting against this treatment if done at all.

Similarly a section of woman folks and even many modern men in India blames the Brahmin Patriarchy or so called "MANUWADI SOCH" for the ill-treatment that women had to face in past in India and according to them which resulted in the traditional backwardness of the women overall. 

According to them The Hindu laws made by the Brahmins for the societies in those days were too harsh on Shudras and Women. They feel that Hindu lawmakers like Manu had patriarchal mindset who wanted to keep women limited to the Household chores and not as someone leading the family.

This all seems to be correct at face value like when you read statements like Women and Shudras were not allowed to study Vedas as it was the thinking of people of those times that Vedas were too divine to be heard by a women who is supposed to clean her house, wash cloths and shudras who were mostly assigned by the Dharmashastras, the menial works of the society like cleaning, slaughtering etc. 

Similarly some of my feminist friends quotes Mausmriti a law book of ancient hindu society where in some verses women were considered as ideal women only when they follow the wishes and command of their husbands. Which they think is derogatory to women as it commands them to act in a certain way disregarding their individual choices and personal freedom.

Apart from it there is one more very popular Chaupai that goes around in the feminist columns it is from Ram charit manas's Sunderkand where Tulsidas says-

 ढोल गवाँर सूद्र पसु नारी। सकल ताड़ना के अधिकारी।।  
(A drum, A shudra and a women all three are rightful to get a beating.)

Hindu law book Manusmriti

This looks quite harsh I mean I don't know the context and why on earth did Tulsidas a revered saint in Hinduism uttered such disgraceful lines for Women and Shudras. But certainly a sensible and well read mind should not just take the things on face value as it is. 

Instead a rational person must try to find the context why this was said by Tulsidas a man who in his younger days loved his wife more than anything its been said he could not bear the separation of his wife even for one day and it was his wife who taunted him for showing such love to a women forgetting his work and everything. He is the man who in his Ram charit manas has depicted wife of Rama as an ideal wife and has referred to her as Mata Sita.

However Tulsidas is not my concern coz he belongs to medieval period when all sorts  of corruptness and customs entered the Vedic religion that may seem inappropriate in current context. In this post I'm more concern about the Brahmin Patriarchy and the origin of the problem i.e the Hindu laws and Hindu religious texts which were composed in the ancient India.

How true is the accusation that Hindu laws made lives tough for women and are responsible for keeping them backward?

But did Hindu laws or Hinduism allowed any inhuman treatment to women ? Is Brahmin patriarchy a fact? Or is it just an accusation , an effort to demonize Hindu religion?

Well if we read Manusmriti, the main text which has been pointed out by many feminists time and again as the one responsible for restricting the role of a women to menial household jobs and keeping them traditionally subsidiary to their men counterpart ,We do find some verses where women are not seen as an equal partners in the society .

But then there are other verses in the same Manusmriti, that depicts women in a totally different light. Now why people ignore these verses  is something which I'm not able to understand. The first rule of being a rational mind is to understand the things in depth which certainly some feminists forget very often. So here I'm quoting such women empowering verses from Manusmriti to suggests that it does have a different side which is often ignored.

Lets take a look at such pro women verses. 

Manusmriti says that a House where a women is worshiped , all gods resides there. 

    Manusmriti says that a Woman whether a daughter,daughter in law,wife mother when live in a state of grief then that family is destined to see its fall. 

    Manusmriti gives priority to the happiness of  women folks in a family for the good fortune of the family. Women should be respected  and satisfied in a family they should not be ill treated otherwise that family will always see its downfall. 

    Manusmriti denounces Dowry and says even if given by Girl's parents with their own wish makes a marriage an ASUR VIVAH and according to Manusmriti ASUR VIVAH is anti DHARMA and people should refrain from it . 

    Manusmriti says 'Ladies First' ...give them way

    Manusmriti  says its the duty of family to adorn their women with jewellery. 

    Manusmriti gives High regard to Mother along with father and teacher .

    Well after reading above verses you must be rethinking about your perception of Manusmriti but hold on to that thought still i have not said that Manu smriti is totally suppporting the rights of an independent women. It however hold such verses which never sees a woman in different role than a housewife or a homemaker. 

    Having said that we should not forget that Manu smriti also views a Man as someone whose first duty after marriage is to keep his woman happy he should buy her jewellery and keep her happy if he wants good fortune in his life. So i feel that Manusmriti puts both Men and women in a certain framework  where they are considered ideal only when they fullfill all the conditions of that framework. 

    But Manusmriti does have a certain leaning towards man folks and  It still promotes Son over daughter as there are verses which advises on the days men and women should indulge into coitus for the birth of a son . This type of advise is however absent in the case of a girl child. 

    But whatever the case may be I just feel that the demonisation of manusmriti by these days Feminists hardly holds any water when we see that there are contradictory verses both supporting and restricting women .  

    Women in elegant hairstyle carving vedic hymns on the tablet

    But more importantly did it matter for ancient Hindu society that what was written in Manusmriti ? Did Ancient Hindu society worked according to the advisory of Manusmriti?

    How wise is it to judge the ancient Hindu society on the basis of just one text i.e Manu smriti ?

    I personally as a student of history don't consider Hinduism as a religion which was ever restricted by a certain laws. Neither I feel that The kings or even common people of ancient India followed Manusmriti as a word of God. It was just an advisory which might have been followed by some people but majority certaily didn't approve of it. 

    Why i think so? 

    Well Firstly If Manusmriti had such an impact over the ancient Hindu society then how could we saw a number of great women as Great monarchs who ruled various hindu kingdoms in past. 

    (To read about Great Women monarchs of Ancient India 👇 follow the below link )
    Ancient Queens of Hindu India and their challenges

    Secondly If women were restricted to Household chores than how could we found their names among the leading contributors of Vedic hyms? 

    The Rishikas and Brahmvadinis wrote several hyms of Vedas which was not possible without having knowledge of vedas so if some one says women were not allowed to study Vedas just on the basis of Manusmriti then he should study about the leading lady intellectuals of ancient times like Gargi and Princess Vidyotamma.  Similarly in early medieval period

    Thirdly Worship of Goddesses like Durga,Kali,Saraswati,Lakshmi and Parvati etc.  in each and every village/town of  India shows that at a certain time in ancient India there were present some elements who could imagine the great divine power in feminine form otherwise how could a society which is accused by these days feminists as anti women thought of it ? How on earth did it happened?

    Fourthly In deccan an ancient dynasty, Satvahana dynasty which had Brahmin roots named  most of their monarchs after their mother. Gautamiputra Satkarni was their most popular King who was named after his mother Gautami Balashri. 

    Fifthly Contrary to modern times when we are supposed to write Father's name in documents as Son of, In the times of Mahabharta  Pandavas were known by their Mother's name and were called 'Kaunteay' (Son's of Kunti) while Karna was called 'Radheya' (His foster mother was Radha).  I am not assuming it as a religious text but for historical purpose considering it for the social history of the time when it was written.

     If u will read ancient texts you will find that it were not just the women but also men were assigned certain roles and both were expected to perform under that set up. But this set up was not prepared by some Dharma texts but it developed as the society came under the influence of several cultures and people. 

    Like for eg. In 5th Century Text Kamasutra there are several verses which advises both men and women to participate equally in love making it never suggests women to act as a passive partner and let men enjoy.

    Following is a verse from Kamasutra ,feel the power it entrusts into a woman as an equal partner during love making.
    “When a man bites a woman forcibly, she should angrily do the same to him with double force. Thus a point should be return with a line of points,and a line of points with, a broken cloud and if she be excessively chafed ,she should at once begin a love quarrel with him. At such a time she should take hold of her lover by the hair, and then, being intoxicated with love,she should shut her eyes and bite him in various places. Even by day, and in a place of public resort, when her lover shows her any mark that she may have inflicted on his body, she should smile at the sight of it, and turning her face as if she were going to chide him, she should show him with an angry look the marks on her own body that have been made by him. Thus if a men and women act according to each other’s liking, their love for each other will not be lessened even in one hundred years” .

    There is no end to this and i can easily quote a huge number of texts  or examples where Women are shown in powerful roles or as an equal partner but my only contention is that only on the basis of Manusmriti treatment of women in ancient Indian society should not be judged. 

    The Feminist movement is alien to India it originated where Church or Mosques denied the rights to women where Church was the supreme authority but In India there was no such thing our Kings/Emperors ruled with their conscience and wisdom there was no religious law or book which was used by them to govern the society. 

    In india there was never a time when whole society behaved according to the isntructions and advisory written in books or laws . There might be some perceptions about women but at times their independence and freedom to exercise their rights depended totally on the values that were given to woman of those times by their respective families and this holds true even in present times too.

    At last i would like to emphasise on the importance of family values in creating a strong individual irrespective of a men or woman. Empowerment of Woman/Men comes from Family values the way parents grandparents and other family members fill confidence in them is the key factor in their future growth. A religious text specially in a diverse religion like Hinduism or a social perceptions can neither restrict nor can help them in achieving what they deserve . Even if it does it won't last long.

    A strong human is after all created by the strong family values..and such strong humans are the ones who  later changes the societal perceptions. They create new social Norms. Thus change comes from strong and empowering family values and not from a random religious text .


    1. History should not be judged based on single perspective, feminism these days is more of an agenda then a concept, most texts like Manusmriti have become villains with people knowing only the half truth.


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