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women and religion: hinduism November 14, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
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Unlike other major world religions, Hinduism has a multitude of feminine deities. This, of course, is a result of the millions of celestial entities that comprise the cosmology within Hindu thought. The feminine deities of Hinduism often represent the traditional characteristics of femininity such as compassion and nurturing, although there are still many that symbolize much more traditionally masculine traits such as aggression and dominance.

Other world religions often use the lack of feminine deities to justify their positions against women. However, in Hinduism there are many feminine deities that men and women may recognize to be worthy of veneration. This should lead to a better status of women within the Hindu culture, yet it does not. Even those deities that symbolize so-called feminine traits do not transport their venerable status to their earthly counterparts. Such ideas of the life-giving female deity are not transferred positively to the women on the earth. This could be explained as a result of the concepts of karma, samsara and nirvana. As Hindu takes a patriarchal stance in its view of women, it easily puts aside any positive feminine deities in favour for patriarchal values. Concepts such as karma, samsara, and nirvana may not be patriarchal in themselves, but much of written and unwritten laws stem from ideas that attempt to explain and understand them. If men make all of the interpretations, the concepts will be interpreted exclusively in a male’s perspective, not allowing the opportunity for a female voice.

Hindu thought revolves around the idea of being saved from the constant cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth and so on. This cycle of reincarnation and death is called samsara. The antithesis of samsara is the “state” (or “non-state”) of nirvana, which is the escape from this seemingly endless cycle. There are several requirements for an individual to attain this nirvana or moksha (salvation), but the one that concerns us the most in a male’s perspective of women is this concept of karma. Positive karma is found though selfless action which is part of living within the harmony of life, or dharma. Part of living selflessly is to deny the pleasures of the earth (or of the flesh). The ascetic androcentric perspective, however, translates females as a tool of earthly pleasures. Females are then regulated and viewed through their sexuality, not at the fault of the female, but because of the weakness of the male.

This connects with other religions, as Hinduism also recognizes that women have a natural connection to the earth and thus must be dualistically opposed to the heavens or to the ultimate salvation. All the positive symbols and deities in the world cannot save the feminine from the androcentric religiosity. The worship of female deities does not translate into a higher respect for women because that is not in the interest of patriarchal values. Even the failings of earthly women in comparison to their divine counterparts are used as a hypocritical excuse for further degradation of womankind.

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Comments»

1. Jeannie Hall - June 1, 2007

Isn’t it more appropriate to say Moksha in place of nirvana? It is true that there is not a defining point in Budhism or in Hinduism. However, I was always told that nirvana was a term that Budhist used to explain their release while in Hinduism Moksha was defined as their release from the cycle. Shouldn’t it remain clear when addressing one religion or another? Just curious…

2. taliba - October 6, 2007

Interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

3. Rajesh - March 8, 2009

heh dude this is some half baked concept. I don’t how you guys are educated..But you haven’t understood even a bit of “women in Hinduism”, forget Hinduism at large.

If the species of Women and men is a topic of discussion then I have some questions to you. Are they both equal? If not equal then who is greater that whom? If equal, then what makes them equal? All these questions come from the mind of a western educated person.
Here is the mind of a Hindu friend 🙂

Hinduism is a spiritual religion. The spirit which is present everywhere has no race, no sex or no caste. The idea of Hinduism doesn’t rest on one idea. It is a congregate of many noble ideas. Any new noble idea that comes from a highly spiritually evolved person can be practiced with utmost dedication. So Hinduism accepts noble ideas from all sides, unlike monotheistic religions. That’s why Hinduism has many gods. And Hindus don’t restrict themselves to only temples.

As far as the above post “women in Hinduism” is concerned I feel that you need to do more research before you finish your doctoral studies. As you said Hinduism has a multitude of feminine deities. The female deities are represented not with just one idea, but many. Goddess Durga is an embodiment of creative feminine force (Shakti). Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. Goddess Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, prosperity, purity, and generosity; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. The various characteristics of goddess don’t mean that they possess only those. The fact is they possess those in abundant. Goddess Durga also have the qualities of Saraswati and lakshmi but not as abundant as them. So here we are talking on a spiritual plane not on physical plane. This is just like Einstein and Obama. Both of them can speak English and can communicate very well when met. But both of them belong to various professions and to various times.

/ This should lead to a better status of women within the Hindu culture, yet it does not/
Dude let me tell you one thing. The fight for equal status of women with men is your concept. It is you western guys that have aced the concept of female freedom against oppression and other things. It is because non-dharmic religions don’t have a history of slavery. The voting right for women in India is given as soon as we have got independence from British. As per law in India a women is allegeable to have half of the parental property. And there are many other things to explain for which it consumes my time.

/ Even those deities that symbolize so-called feminine traits do not transport their venerable status to their earthly counterparts. Such ideas of the life-giving female deity are not transferred positively to the women on the earth./
!@!*#*&@^$*#^$%* Sorry dude I really don’t understand this.

/ Concepts such as karma, samsara, and nirvana may not be patriarchal in themselves/
The concept of karma, samsara and nirvana is applicable to all human beings, not only Hindus. As you are born as a human being you are destined to do few things. Like job, marriage, children and finally liberation from all material things and attain moksha.

/ As Hindu takes a patriarchal stance in its view of women, it easily puts aside any positive feminine deities in favour for patriarchal values./
I don’t know from where you got this information, but I should seriously comment. I never thought about patriarchal thing until you have written. Because Hinduism and many Hindus are spiritual and spirituality doesn’t care for sex, age, region …a patriarchal therefore is unheard off. It may be true that some Hindus are patriarchal. They think that it’s their duty to take care of their family. But those are mostly defined by the non-religious things.

/ If men make all of the interpretations, the concepts will be interpreted exclusively in a male’s perspective, not allowing the opportunity for a female voice./
Again *&%^*^&%*% What reference do you have here? Any Hindu religious text that supports you statement. I really need it dude because we have some stiff competition here from the female world at our jobs.

You article is very low on intellectual scale and as a Hindu I can judge you that you haven’t seriously read about Hinduism. If you want to know more about Hinduism go to well known organization that teaches you the exact way of understanding it. Don’t write all this half baked concepts. If you don’t know where to find Hindu organization, just send an email to me. I will guide you on that.
I can answer you on many issues. But I don’t have time. Seeing you for your reply.
Rajesh
Hyderabad, India
dharmachakra@ymail.com

4. Rajesh - March 8, 2009

Some links ,
1) Women in Vedic Culture – By Stephen Knapp
http://www.stephen-knapp.com/women_in_vedic_culture.htm

2) Excellent link : w o m e n i n h i n d u i s m
http://www.hinduwisdom.info/Women_in_Hinduism.htm

3) Famous Women within Hinduism
http://hinduism.iskcon.com/tradition/1211.htm

I think this will help you,
Bye Rajesh

5. Rajesh - March 8, 2009

Mr Brad Richert here are a few links for your research,

1. “w o m e n i n h i n d u i s m” from hinduwisdom.info
http://www.hinduwisdom.info/Women_in_Hinduism.htm

2. “Women in Vedic Culture” by Stephen Knapp
http://www.stephen-knapp.com/women_in_vedic_culture.htm

3. A few “Famous Women within Hinduism”
http://hinduism.iskcon.com/tradition/1211.htm
Rajesh

6. Shreena - March 10, 2009

Rajesh
I agree with most of the points you made, however I’d like to bring to light a few matters that may make the religion appear a tad hypocritical and/or sexist.

/ It is you western guys that have aced the concept of female freedom against oppression and other things. It is because non-dharmic religions don’t have a history of slavery. The voting right for women in India is given as soon as we have got independence from British. As per law in India a women is allegeable to have half of the parental property. /
Firstly I’d like to say being a Hindu and being an Indian are completely different things. Though the vast majority of Indians are Hindus, not all of them are and there are many Westerners who have embraced Hinduism as well [Go to the Mumbai ISKCON temple and look at the priests, you’ll see what I mean 🙂 ] A religion and a nationality are two completely different concepts so I think your jumping to the conclusion that by calling male chauvinism in Hinduism dominant he was lashing out against India was a bit wrong.

I completely agree with your calling Hinduism a spiritual religion that applies to every soul and every being and your outtake on all the other issues he raised. But there is one thing I’m afraid I have to disagree with you upon. There ARE a few texts and passages I have come across that occasionally present the religion to be a bit biased and maybe even discriminative.

This is a text from the revered Manusmriti:

The Basic Nature of Women
“Handsome looks do not matter to them, nor do they care about youth; ‘A man!’ they say, and enjoy sex with him, whether he is good-looking or ugly. By running after men like wh*res, by their fickle minds, and by their natural lack of affection these women are unfaithful to their husbands even when they are zealously guarded here. Knowing that their very own nature is like this, as it was born at the creation by the Lord of Creatures, a man should make the utmost effort to guard them. The bed and the seat, jewellery, lust, anger, crookedness, a malicious nature, and bad conduct are what Manu assigned to women.”
(Book of Manusmriti – The Dharma Shastra)

Not a very positive message imparted now, is there?

Now for the Vedas:

“Lord Indra himself has said,’The mind of woman cannot be disciplined; she has very little intelligence.’ ” — Rig Veda 8:33:17.

The one mentioned below doesn’t apply anymore, or at least I haven’t ever seen it in practise, but still, the VisnuSmriti says:

“A damsel whose menses begin to appear (while she is living) at her father’s house, before she has been betrothed to a man, has to be considered as a degraded woman: by taking her (without the consent of her kinsmen) a man commits no wrong.” — Visnusmrti 24:41.

Ok now for the hypocrisy bit…Hinduism preaches sexual harrassment and promiscuity is wrong, eh? How about this:

Lord Brahma, Visnu & Siva rape Anasuya and are cursed. This is also an origin of the holy Shiv linga as Siva is cursed to be worshipped as the linga (phallus):

“One day the sage Atri was performing tapas with his wife Anasuya. Brahma, Visnu, and Siva came and offered him a boon, but Atri remained silent, meditating. Then the three gods went to Anasuya. Siva had his linga in his hand, Visnu was full of erotic feeling, and Brahma was beside himself with desire, saying to Anasuya,’Make love with me or I will die.’ When she heard this coarse speech, Anasuya made no reply, for, although she feared the anger of the gods, she was true to her husband. But they were overcome with delusion, and they raped her by force. Then she became angry and she cursed Siva to be worshipped as a linga, Brahma to be worshipped in the form of a head, and Visnu to be worshipped as feet, in order to ridicule them all, and she cursed them all to be reborn as her sons. Because of this, Siva was reborn as Durvasas.” — Bhavisya Purana 3:4:17:67-78.

Or this:

“…. Indra raped Ahalya and was cursed by her husband, the sage Gautama, to lose all his prosperity ….” — Brahmavaivarta Purana 4:47:11-45.

Ok, it is common knowledge Shiva was married to Sati/ Parvati right? So isn’t this a bit too..promiscuous? And I think Brahma was married then as well… But if I am wrong about the marriage bit, it’s still harassment. And we are preached not to have sex before marriage, to restrict ourselves to one person. Doesn’t this sound a bit too hypocritical for you…? Also, there are myths of Gods committing bigamy, polygamy when it is strictly forbidden, such as the myth of Tulsi Mata, but let’s not get into that now 😉

And about Hindu Myths in general, why is it that it is always the MALE SAGE who is meditating while the FEMALE APSARA distracts him? Why never the other way round? Why are women perceived to be objects of gratification and distraction?

And then again there are those other well-known discriminations against widows remarrying while widowers were allowed the privilege, sati, dowry, etc, the list goes on 😉

These are just a few examples of sexism and hypocrisy…there are many more but I think I have made my point…if not, I’ll try finding some better pieces of evidence 🙂

PS: This is coming from a HINDU mind of an INDIAN girl 🙂

Waiting for your reply 🙂
Shreena
Hong Kong.
Radical202_Shreena@yahoo.co.in

7. NiceAnand - May 19, 2009

Shreena,

I think you are misled. Your translation of RigVeda 8/33/17 is totally INCORRECT. I do not know if you really understand Sanskrit, but here’s the right translation.

http://www.vedmandir.com/node/133

Please see:

Rigveda 8/33/17:
INDRASHCHIDDHA TADBRAVEETSTRIYA ASHASYAM MANAH, UTO AHA KRATU RAGHUM¨ This mantra has reference to context with the previous mantras wherein it is stated that he who is able to control his five senses, perceptions and mind by studying Vedas and doing hard practice of ashtang yoga, he is only able to get peace and long, happy life. So, this mantra states:
(CHIT) again (INDRAHA GHA) totally controlled learned person also (IDAM) this (ABRAVEET) states.

Regards

8. Sanatan Dharma - July 26, 2009

@ShreeNA

I have read the vedas, upanishads, puranas and can give answer to all yur misconceptions.

You got the story wrong. I read your post and cross checked it and there is no mention of the rape as you have mentioned anywhere in the bhavishya purana.

However, there is an interesting story as told in “Kathasagaram” about the visit of three deities to the hermitage of Sadhvi Anasuya:
Once, the consorts of the trinity, Parvati, Laxmi and Saraswati were arguing as to who was the most chaste among them. Naturally, each thought that the honor belonged to her. The divine sage Narada happened to be passing by. They put the question to him. He replied “Devis. While it is true that all of your incomparable in your chastity, Anasuya, wife of the Maharishi Atri is the most chaste among all women.”

The three Goddesses were amazed. Narada continued: “She is so chaste that she can even bake beans made of iron without using fire! The power of her austerity is such that no one can approach her with improper thoughts. She is devoted to her husband and has never swerved from the path of duty and rectitude.”

Naturally, the Goddesses thought that if a mere mortal woman could bake beans of iron, they should have no problem with it. They tried their best, but the beans remained unbaked. They were consumed with jealousy. Narada went away. The ladies summoned their husbands and said to them: ” Narada was here and he said that Anasuya, wife of Atri is the most chaste woman alive. We wish to ascertain this fact. Go to her get her to commit an indiscretion.”
Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma did not like this plan at all, but at their wives’ insistence they went to the hermitage of the sage Atri. The went disguised as three young sages. Atri was away from home. So Anasuya received them and asked them to stay for dinner, at which time her husband was expected to return.

Now was the time to put their plan in action. The three sages said, “Respected Madam, We have taken special vows and are currently observing a special kind of fast. We cannot eat anything, unless the person serving the food is naked.”

Anasuya was in a quandary, she could not send away her guests unfed, nor could she be naked in front of men. By the power of her chastity and penance, she at once divined who the three sages really were. She prayed to Brahman, and lo and behold, the three sages were turned into infants! She then disrobed and fed the three babies. She then put the babies to bed and put her clothes back, and got back to her housework.

When Atri got back, he was amazed to see three very beautiful babies in his hermitage. His wife soon explained to him as to how the three Gods came here to test her virtue and their strange condition. Atri approved of her actions. Upon his request, Anasuya turned back the three babies back into the three Gods.

The Gods were very much pleased with Anasuya. The offered a boon to the saintly couple. The couple chose to see the three Gods, who are really manifestation of the supreme principle, the Brahman, in a single form. The Gods took up that single form, with attributes of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. This form is known as Dhattatreya. They then wished every imaginable happiness on the sage and his wife, and returned to their heavenly abode.

If you have any book that has published as stated by you, then please remember it is a book of hate and I advise you to look for true knowledge elsewhere. What you are reading is misguiding you and taking you away farther from truth. Please refer to some authentic source. If you want any good books on Hindu religion, let me know and I can suggest you a host of them wherein you can clear all your doubts
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

OM

9. Sanatan Dharma - July 26, 2009

HERE ARE THE REFERENCES FOR MY POST.

These are references where Sage Atri and his wife Anasuya is mentioned in the puranas. Anasuya was very pious, and always practiced austerities and devotion. This made her attain miraculous powers.

Genealogy
Bhagavata, Skandha 1, Chapter 4

Meeting with Rama and Sita. Sage Atri, husband of Anasuya talks about Anasuya’s purity, and powers she attained due to her “pati-vratta” (fidelity, honesty, and devotion towards her husband).
Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhyakanda, Cantos 117 and 118

Fidelity to her husband, How Brahma, Visnu and MaheSvara (Siva) were born
as sons of Atri and Anasuya
Brahmanda Purana, Chapters 39-43

Sons of Anasuya.
Visnu Purana, Part 1, Chapter 10

How Brahma was born as Candra, Visnu as Dattatreya and Siva as Durvasas from Anasuya, the purest of women and the wife of Atri.
Devi Bhagavata, Caturtha Skandha

10. Sanatan Dharma - July 26, 2009

I know people will ask me that what does the reference posted by Harminder actually says.

Well first of all there is no mentioning of Sage Atri and his wife Anasuya in Bhavishya Purana.

i gave you the actual references where the ACTUAL story is mentioned. As I said before Bhavishya purana has no mentioning of Sage Atri and his wife Anasuya and thus does not contain your fake/made up story.

I will surely tell you what this reference “Bhavisya Purana 3:4:17:67-78” actually says.
Bhavishya Purana is one of my most respected ones after Bhagvat Purana. The reason being that it contain prophecies about Jesus, Mohammad, great Kings of India and many others. It talks about a place where Surya is worshipped, called Śākadv&# 299;pa” which may be a reference to Scythia. Importance of mother, father and Guru. The fall of Sanskrit and coming of other languages from Sanskrit, about the coming of Buddha, Madhavacharya, Chandragupta, Ashoka, Jayadeva and Krishna Chaitanya etc. Lots of other good things that one should know.

Before i tell you what it exactly says at the reference you mentioned. You should know how it is organized.
~~~~~~~~~~
The Bhavishya Purana is the eleventh among the 18 Puranas. The title “Bhavishya Purana” signifies a work that contains prophecies regarding the future. It contains 7,000 slokas (verses).

The Bhavishya Purana consists of five parts (Sanskrit: parvans)but the last two are combined together.

Thus printed editions contains only four parts.

~~~~~~~~~~

First part or parva is called Brāhma (Brāhmaparvan)– this talks about creation of universe (genesis), duties of woman, good and bad signs of people, methods of worshipping various deities. Covers alot on “Surya Deva”.

Second part or parva is called Madhyama (Madhyamaparvan). This one has 3 Khanda (sub-parts).

Third part or parva is called Pratisarga (Pratisargaparvan). This one has 3 Khanda (sub-parts).

Forth part or parva is called Uttara (Uttaraparvan).
~~~~~~~~~~

We first divide the purana into parva, then Khanda (sub part), then paragraph and then verses.

So, from the reference “Bhavisya Purana 3:4:17:67-78” you stated, it should be third parva, 4 Khanda and 17th paragraph and verses 67-78. Well, bro, this does not exist in the Bhavishya Purana because it is a made up reference.

Surely, there is A third parva called Pratisarga parva (part). It talks mostly about the prophecies only. PROPHECIES about Budha, kings around the world, Mohammad, Jesus, Madhavacharya, Chandragupta, Ashoka, Jayadeva and Krishna Chaitanya etc. They have all come true BUT THIS SECTION HAS ONLY 3 KHANDA (subparts). THERE IS NO 4th Khanda.
~~~~~~~~~~

OM

11. Sanatan Dharma - July 26, 2009

edit my above post..instead of Harminder it is ShreeNA

12. Sanatan Dharma - July 26, 2009

Shreena is basically copying and pasting incorrect stuff from internet. It is all made up..

Stop fooling yourself and others..

13. funny animals names - October 7, 2014

funny animals names

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14. dhanashree - March 5, 2017

After reading all post I just want to ask can you give me 10 women names who got moksha? If Yes Good I will agree that Hinduism or any culture has Given equal status & rights to women .
If Not , It proves that women are crated to use.(Upbhog-hindi) & they just need to follow their duties on earth No “Moksh” concept for them.


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