Biggest problem which Hinduism faces when it is being evaluated through the western prism of Abrahamic faith . I was watching a speech by Sadhguru where he mentioned a very critical defining feature of Hinduism. He says, unlike Western faiths, Hinduism did not place anyone at a pedestal where questions would not reach. Forget the Prophets and Masters, even Gods were received with affection and a list of questions. Nothing was ever beyond debate in Hinduism, not even Gods. This very nature of Hinduism has often been cause of concern and confusion for Western thinkers, troubled by a religion, which is seeped so deep into our culture of exploration of truth through investigation and examination. When the western scholars approach the Vedic Indian wisdom, oftentimes their approach itself is based on the assumption that they are approaching a civilization, a religion which is inferior to theirs. This makes it hard for them to accept a society which was an intellectually flourishing society of emancipated souls, thousands of years before the time when even dark ages descended on Europe. We have been enslaved for years, unfortunately, and the biggest loss for us has been the loss of History.
Our lack of knowledge of our own history, offers the vested interests an opportunity to create a sense of inferiority in our own heritage, and thus by implication, creates a sense of supremacy for the western scholars as compared to the Indians. Feminism is one of their favorite subject. The commitment, trust and faith in Hinduism of the followers confounds them. Without the fear of punishment in this life and afterlife, having faced the worst of persecution of Muslim rulers, centuries after centuries, Hindus of this country remain committed to their faith. This has confounded the west. The left, the Islamists, the westernists come together as an odd union, to bad-mouth Hinduism, trying to corrode the faith, which remained unblemished through the hostilities of the centuries. Their whole scheme and plan rests on one singular assumption- That Lord Macaulay has already left the land ready for them to rule over, that we as Hindus and Indians, would not know anything about our own history, so complete would be the wipe out earlier by the British and later by the Leftists.
A Vedic society is considered to a patriarchal society. Communists use the term Manu-vadi and Patriarchal interchangeably. Do we even know, Manu (India that is Bharat-IV) ruled over the Vedic Indian world in 3000 BC (Thousands of years before Virginia Woolf in England wrote lamenting how Libraries of Oxford remained closed to the women)? This man, the grand Patriot of Hindu world, Manu, who formulated the societal rules for the Vedic world, had two sons- Priyavrata and Uttanpada and three daughters- Akuti, Devahuti and Prasuti. This man, much-maligned by the leftist feminists, educated his daughters well. Devahuti, one of the daughters of the Great Manu- in language, literature and Philosophy, at the time when Man, as a species was barely crawling out of the caves. When I close my eyes, I can visualize the first Monarch of human race, sitting on the banks of river Sarasvati, affectionately watching over his daughter as she pens the most ancient hymns in the most ancient book of spiritual and philosophical thoughts- Rig-Veda. Later we find him, watching over his daughter, shunning all the riches and getting married to the ascetic thinker, Kardama. He tells the great Sage, not that I am looking for a groom for my daughter. The language is telling. Says Manu- “My daughter, who is the sister of Priyavrata and Uttanapada is seeking a suitable husband in terms of age, character and good qualities.”
The Sage responded- “Since your daughter has not married and has not given her word to anyone, our marriage according to Vedic system can happen.”
(Implication being that had she given her heart to someone, it was impossible to marry her, a woman to another).
The founder of Hindu socio-legal system, thus got his Daughter married to a non-warrior man, as was her desire, and Devahuti, eventually would give birth to the great sage Kapila who would stand opposing the rituals of Vedic religious process. What is even more interesting in a world where Intellectuals laugh of at the young men and women as upstart, Sage Kardama and Devahuti, took Sage Kapila as their teacher and learned spiritual lessons from their own Son. Annoyed Aryans did not expunge their writings from the Rigveda and they remained as resepected as they were. This is how intellectually liberal was the Vedic India.
Gargi Vachaknavi- Learned lady, Gargi, named after her father, Sage Vachaknu (Yes, you got that right, do not always believe when Western ‘indologists’ claim that Indian daughters went deprived of the illustrious names of their Manu-vadi fathers), was one great thinker of somewhere around 700 BC. When Yagyavalka is considered as the most learned of the thinkers and awarded with Cows by the King Janaka in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, his claim is challenged by many other sages. He defeats all of them in debate and then Gargi appears with the most metaphorical of her questions, requesting Yagyavalka to define the Space and the Self. There is a volley of questions which move to and fro. When Yagyavalka says that the world is woven back and fro on air, she questions –
“On what then is air woven back and froth?”
Sage Ghosha- was another woman seer who contributed in the Rig Veda, where she composed hymns in the honor of Ashvini Kumars, the twin Gods, and the ancient doctors. It is said that Sage Ghosha suffered with leprosy and was cured by Ashvini Kumar.
Sage Lopamudra, who was the wife of great sage, Agastya, was another of Twenty-Seven learned woman sages, poetesses and intellectuals who contributed to the Vedas. Lopamudra was senior by few centuries to Gargi and Sage Ghosha (latter were almost contemporary) and wrote sometime around 2000 BC. Here Lopamudra calls her husband, sage Agastya for some intimacy, because time, but is fleeting. She writes (Mandala I, Hymn 179)
“Through many autumns have I toiled and labored, at night and morn, through age- inducing dawning.
Old age impairs the beauty of our bodies. Let husbands come near unto their spouses."
She says those who have been assigned great tasks, who are working and have not yet accomplished, they must come to their wives. She is not a servile woman without her wants and desires. She is a woman awaken. And then we also find a woman whose love transcends the bodily desires.
There is Sage Maitreyi. Maitreyi was the wife of Sage Yagyavalka and has contributed the verses to Rigveda. Born sometime in 800 BC, she is named after her father. Whether she was a real woman and wife or was she a soul-companion to sage Yagyavalka is debatable, since Mahabharata considers her as an unmarried philosopher. Her love, is for the soul, as she composes brilliantly-
“Lo, verily, not for the love of a husband is a husband dear, but for the love of the soul a husband is dear.
Not for the love of the wife is a wife dear, but for the love of the soul a wife is dear.”
– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
These references settle beyond doubt that Women not only participated in the intellectual world of Vedic India, this participation was more than welcomed and encouraged. Women were encouraged not because of some external influence, rather because it was inherent in the Hindu philosophy. Ancient Aryans were more spiritual than martially inclined, as nature was kind, lands were aplenty, unlike deserts where every square feet of the land needs to be bled for and every drop of water has to be contested. India was a world which offered an environment of emancipation to its women for a long time, until it was run over by desert races who considered women as bounty and political tool.
Coming to the Sati, the ritual with which the left and the West loves to beat the Hindus with, an ancient world although looked with affection with an end of life together, thought never did it mandated the same. The love for Sati was much a romantic notion, primarily arising from a deep belief that the death was never an end, rather a step into after-life- the part of a continuous cycle. Popular fascination was more like the fascination of people at the later date with Romeo and Juliet. During the period of humiliating slavery, being ruled by people who considered women as wealth and bounty to be looted and settled, much like cattle (we see that in ISIS even today), many opted to surrender to a death in honor than living as a slave and concubine, a sex-object. Still, those were temporary responses to temporary terror and times of turbulence. Religion is an opium for masses, particularly when the pain is unbearable. It is easy to judge from a distance, but in all possibility justifications for deaths were invented from scriptures to explain the sudden end of life merely because the monarch was getting replaced. Later, it became a stigma, but it never had a real religious sanction. It was challenged and removed from the social scheme in early 18th century itself. It is a surprise that the stick is still held firmly by vested interests to beat Hinduism. They, sure of the fact, that Hindus would not have read their own scripture, show the verses from our own books selectively. So following verse from Atharva Veda is often shared:
“Choosing her husband’s world,
O man, this woman lays herself
Down beside thy lifeless body.
Preserving faithfully the ancient custom.
Bestow upon here both wealth and offspring.”
This is where they end the hymn. However, in truth, this is metaphorical. The wife goes and lies besides the husband. Thus she accompanies right until the boundary which separate the life from the death. Right until then and no further. This is where the next verse comes, which quite cunningly, our leftists and Abrahamanic brother’s ignore. We, who have been fed for centuries on Macaulay’s curriculum, are not even aware of the verse which follows and changes the whole thing. It says (while it comes from Hymn 3, of the Book 18 of Atharva Veda, the Hymn itself is borrowed in Atharva Veda from Rigveda, so it is not an afterthought of 900 BC, it comes from 3000 BC)-
“Rise, come into the world of life, O woman: come he is lifeless
By whose side thou liest.
Wifehood with this thy husband was thy portion who took
Thy hand and wooed thee as a lover.
I looked and saw the youthful dame escorted, the living to the dead:
I saw them, bear her.
When she with blinding darkness was enveloped, then did I turn her back
And lead her homeward.
Knowing the world of the living beings, Aghnya! Treading the path.”
So the spiritual and metaphoric company ends here, and as the husband’s body is put to the cremation-fire, wife, the one who cannot be harmed (Aghnya) is led homeward. Read my fellow countrymen, read. Don't let their agenda use your ignorance. Our being born Indians is a matter of accident. But it is still a matter of pride. We are fortunate and let us not be apologetic about it.