Women, in the present day might be flourishing materialistically, the divine position and divine leadership that enabled them to construct Vedas, family systems, and magnificent culture has now taken a back seat and is seen and treated only as an object of physical attraction.
During the first Muslim invasion in the eighth century and the second invasion in the eleventh century, women’s social, political, economic, and cultural lives, particularly Hindu women, declined gradually. Purdah pratha, sati pratha, child marriage, polygamy, and other practices were among the worst societal evils of the post-Vedic period. As we moved from the Vedic period to the post-Vedic and Mughal periods, the status of women fell from divine being to object of fulfilment. Gender discrimination against women began during the Mughal era. Discrimination was so prevalent during this time that even the most basic freedom was denied to female family members. This scenario persisted even during the British period.
Western Feminism Vs Vedic Feminism
The concerns of current feminism observed in other regions of the world are transcended by Vedic feminism. Vedic feminism starkly contrasts the current incarnation of the aggressive movement that began in the west in support of women’s rights to equality. The Vedic perspective on feminism is distinguished by an innate spiritual worldview that projects absolute equality between men and women in all aspects of life and existence. The Vedic approach to feminism is neither exclusive nor extreme. Furthermore, Vedic feminism reflects a positive, participative, constructive, complementary, and healthy and holistic perspective on the demands and ambitions of a gender-just equitable society.
On a spiritual level, there is no difference between men and women, according to Vedic philosophy. Furthermore, there is no better or worse half; women and men are two equal portions created by the Supreme Being. Furthermore, the idea that reflects gender equality is an essential aspect of Vedic philosophy. This philosophical premise is extremely clearly expressed in the Samkhya philosophy’s later ideas of prakriti (matter) and purusha (consciousness ). The concept of Ardhanarishvarain in the field of Vedas excludes any differentiation between males and women. It indicates a total inseparability relationship, because neither can function without the other.
In the Vedas, women are seers who have realized the mantras. These women are known as Rishikas. The Vedic hymns contain more than 28 Rishikas. Suryaa, Apala, Atreyi, Vishvavara, Shachi, and Indrani are among the Rishikas listed. In addition, the Vedas have various female deities such as Saraswati, Usha, Aditi, Kuhu, and others.
We commonly interpret feminism as a set of women’s objectives for equal opportunities and rights.
“As we move forward, are we talking about women as spiritual beings or women as just bodies?” The current style of Western feminism only discusses women as physical beings, whereas Vedic feminism discusses women spiritually, as well as socially, empirically, and familially. Women are revered in the Vedic vision of feminism not only from a spiritual standpoint, but also from a familial standpoint. On the contrary, Western feminism objectifies women in today’s consumerist lifestyle.
Western feminism objectifies women to the point where it is hard to discuss the dignified demeanor of women depicted in Vedic literature. The Vedic perspective is inclusive and holistic, whereas the modern perspective is exclusive and fragmented. In the Vedic paradigm, complementarities and cooperation between both genders are intrinsically driven. The contemporary feminism is confrontational, putting women on an antagonistic stage with men. The Vedic perspective on feminism is family-oriented, whereas the modern perspective on feminism is individualistic. The Vedic perspective is duty-oriented, whereas the modern perspective is rights-oriented.
Bhishma Pitamaha also said, “The teacher who teaches true knowledge is more important than ten instructors. The father is more important than ten such teachers of true knowledge and the mother is more important than ten such fathers. There is no greater guru than mother.” (Mahabharata, Shantiparva, 30.9). The coupling of the Vedic male Gods with a female counterpart is frequent in the Vedic tradition, integrating both sets of powers and traits that each would have. This can be seen in Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Lakshmi-Vishnu, Durga-Shiva, Sarasvati-Brahma, Indrani-Indra, and so on. As a result, we have a combination of masculine and female Divinities who provide total balance in divine spiritual forces.
Harmony must be maintained between the masculine and feminine natures, which are most visible in male-female relationships. This is most effectively accomplished through real spiritual development, in which both the masculine and feminine natures become balanced and complimentary rather than competitive. This can help to balance not only people’s exterior relationships, but also the feminine and masculine characteristics within each individual, both men and women. We can rise above our corporeal material identities and collaborate with and complement the talents and abilities of others, whether they are men or women, via genuine spiritual advancement. We must understand that each body contains a spirit soul that is identical to our own. But, while we are in this world and in different types of bodies, we may work together for our survival and harmony, and we can use our naturally diverse skills together.
The Vedas, a compilation of ancient Sanskrit hymns and chants that convey the vid, or wisdom, of the ancient sages, declare that women are the embodiment of tremendous intelligence and virtue.
“O scholarly woman, the way a river breaks away mightiest of hills and rocks, the scholarly woman destroys myths and hypes through her intellect alone. May we bow to women through our polite words and noble actions.” — Rigveda 6.61.2.
“A scholarly woman, the entire life of society depends upon you. You provide us the right knowledge. May you bring knowledge to all segments of society.” — Rigveda 2.41.17. The Vedas also place a high value on female child education. Believing that each human is equal, Vedic literature not only encourages women and girls to be scholarly, but also stresses that it is each parent’s responsibility to guarantee that their daughter is brought up and educated with great effort and care. After all, as stated in the Devi Mahatmya (a holy treatise extolling the Goddess’s glories), “all forms of knowledge are aspects of Thee, and all women throughout the world are Thy forms.”
In regards to this, the Rig Veda states: “Parents should gift their daughter intellectuality and power of knowledge when she leaves for the husband’s home. They should give her a dowry of knowledge.” — Rig 10.85.7
It was not only recorded in the Shastras, but it was also a natural phenomena and behavior of Hindu society at the time.