Hinduism on Earth

Following on from the previous feature, where the role of women in Hinduism through the religious text was examined, this feature progresses the story in its earthly significance.

In Hinduism, there is plenty of evidence of how seriously the role of women is taken in the framework of equality. Adi Shankaracharya one said that: “A son can be a bad son, but a mother can never be a bad mother.” Notable nuances include: -

  • God is worshipped as the Mother of the Universe.
  • Mother is considered more respectable than the father or teacher in Hindu texts; she is the ‘highest Guru’.
  • Mother is superior to the father in Vedic rituals performed by the son. Normally Hindu texts mention the mother before the father. Many sages were named after their mother (e.g. Satyakama Jabala in Chhandogya Upanishad and Aitareya after whom an important Upanishad is named).
  • Many scholars were named after their mother (e.g. Dakshiputra Panini, the greatest Sanskrit grammarian).
  • Heroes and Devas (e.g. Kaunteya Arjuna after Kunti; ‘Devakiputra Krishna’ after Devaki in Chhandogya Upanishad) often named after their mothers.
  •  In Samnyasa, all relations are considered severed, but the Samnyasin must still bow to his mother and no one else.
  • The most important shraddhas (after the death of parents) are specifically reserved for the mother. In Hindu texts, a sinful father can be abandoned, but a sinful mother cannot be abandoned.
  • Benefits for pregnant women in Hindu texts. For instance, exemption from ferry toll etc..

 

There have been great inspiring women who have become the role models of today’s women as well as men.

  •  In Mahabharata, Queen Kunti inspired her sons the Pandavas to fight for their rights. She is one of the five ‘panchakanyas’.
  • Jijabai inspired Shivaji to defeat Mughal ruler Aurangzeb and liberate India from oppression.
  • Rani Durgavati bravely fought against Mughal invaders in 1564 when the Mogul Emperor Akbar invaded her kingdom. 
  • Queen Ahalyabai Holkar (1725-1795) of the princely state of Indore in central India is often held as an example of an ideal Hindu sovereign.

 

Hinduism has a rich history of women warriors and warrior queens, who fought for justice and freedom on the battlefield.

  • Rani Lakshmibai and Jalkari Bai, the legendary Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi fought bravely against British invaders in 1857-1958 and died on the battlefield. She is considered the Joan of Arc of India and is glorified in several Hindi ballads and poems.
  • Chennama of Kittur - The Rani fought the British with great courage and skill. She could not, however, hold out for long. She was taken captive and lodged in Bailhongal Fort where she died in early 1829.
  • Avantibai vowed to win back her land from the British. She raised an army of four thousand men and led it herself against the British in 1857. Avantibai killed herself with her sword in 1958 instead of surrendering.

In conclusion, although Indian women look docile and homely, their power and devotion iareunimaginable.