Monday, August 1, 2011

Should women not chant Vedas? (part-1)

Other parts of this series can be read here:- Part 2  Part 3  Part 4   Part 5

There is a consensus that women should not recite the vedas. This disturbed me a lot until I got a convincing reply some years ago through my search. I wrote that finding in a Yahoo group in a short series. I am reproducing them here. There are quite a few issues like this that I have already analyzed and written in Groups. But what induced me to take out this series from my folder is a compilation that I read in a Group. It was a compilation of slokas from Pramana texts that say that women did chant / recite Vedas in olden days. It gave me a peculiar sense of relief as I once struggled to prove that Women are not barred from chanting Vedas. I started that argument with a poser as follows:-

“There is a consensus that women should not recite the


Why should they
- when it was a woman who gifted the world with
‘vedamanaitthukkum vitthu’ (Meaning “the seed of all Vedas” – a description given for Thirppaavai sung by a woman, Andal)

- when it was the same woman who merged with Lord
Ranganatha for all others to see (Andal)

- when it was a woman (a muslim one at that) who
merged with Lord Thirunarayanan at Melkote right in front of
Thulukka Naachiyar engraved at the feet of the Lord.

- and it is as woman in Nayaki bhava that seekers of
Lord’s feet get closer to Him.

- Hence the question is not whether women could recite
the Vedas or not.

- It is – ‘Should they need to learn Vedas at all, as
men do?’”

Many responses followed explaining why women need not chant the Vedas and why such an injunction came into force. However I got a reply for it in my own way and wrote my experience on how I got the reply. I will write them in the subsequent posts here.
In this post let me place on record the many references from Sruti texts that do say that women chanted Vedas. The compilation was done by Mr Shivashankara Rao and with his permission I am reproducing them here. My sincere thanks to him for granting the permission.


1.      The "Brahma" in a yajna is the best trained
purohit who can correct the others involved in the yajna. BRAHMAA VAA

brahmanishtaha syaath tham brahmaanam kurveeth".

"Atha kena brahmtvam
kreeyathe iti trayyaa vidyayethi, trayya vidyayeti ha brooyaath"
(Aithareya 5.33).

2.       A woman can be a brahma as mentioned in Rigveda (8.33.-19).
 “…sthree hi brahmaa vibhoovidhaha" .

3.      "AachaaryadaNatvam"…Ashtaadhyaayi


( the woman who conducts the veda pravachana is called an Achaarya) .

4.      Aachaarya lakshana :- "UPANEEYA TUM YAHA SHISHYA

( The one who can conduct the upanayana samskaara and teaches the Vedas is called the Aachaarya).

Siddhaanta Koumudi edited by Mahamahopaadhyaaya pandit Shivadatta sarma says,




(May I get a good husband…..Because of Vedas, I will become tejasvi and a
powerful spokes person…
May my daughter shine well because of her good
character) .

7.      Taandya brahmana (5-6-8) advises that women have to chant
saamaved along with veena when a yajna is being conducted.

8.      The Mantra 5.5.29 ordains that the women have to circumambulate the yajna kunda
chanting the veda mantras. .

9.      .The kumari Gandharva grahathaa story in
Eithareya proves that the women had all rights for Vedas. .

10.  Laatyayana
shrouthasootra, Shaankaayana shroutha sootra etc., also confirms the
rights of women for Vedas.

There are several other authorities advising
women to chant veda mantras. .

11.  Yajurveda23-23, 25-27, 29;

12.  Shatapatha brahmana 1-9-2-2-1,;

13.  Taittareeya samhitha 1.1.10,

14.  Aaswalaayana grihya sootra 1.1.9,

15.  Kaataka grihyasootra 3.1.30, 27-3,

16.  Paaraskara grihyasootra 1.5.1,2. ,

17.  Yajurveda 36-24
"tacchakshurdeva sahitam…" is to chanted only by a woman.

18.  Rigveda  10-85.48 has to be chanted by husband and wife together.

19.  Some Names of women who chanted Vedas:-  Ghoshaa, godaa, vishvavaraa, apaalaa, adithi, jahu, indraani, vedavathi, Oorvashi, shachee, shrithaavathi, Siddhaa,
Shreemathi, Shivaa, Sulabhaa, Svadhaa, Vapunaa, Dhaarini, Romashaa,
Lopaamudraa, Yamee, Shaashvathee, Idaa, Gaargi, Maithreyi.......

20.  Some more Authorities for women chanting veda mantras:- Examples of women
: Ghoshaa, godhaa, vishvavaraa, Apaalaa, Upanishad,
Jahu, Indraani, saramaa, Romashaa, Oorvashi, Lopaamudraa, Yamee,
Shaashvathee, Sooryaasavithree,....etc.,

21.  Rigveda 10-134, 10-39,
10-40, 8-91, 10-95, 10-109, 10-154, 10-159, 10-189, 5-28, 8-91 ..etc.,
are from women.

22.  Taittareeya brahmana 2-3-10.."..

23.  Tam trayee vedaa anya
srijantha....vedan pradadow"

(Three vedas were given to the woman
Seetaa-savitri through Soma).

24.  Manu's daughter Idaa is described in
Taittareeya Brahmana( 1-1-4) as Yajnaprakaashinee meaning Yajna tatva
prakaashana samarthaa.
(This can be continued...)

25.  To cite examples of mention in Mahaakavyas:-
Udyogaparva 190-18:
"Atra siddhaa shivaa naama braahmNee veda paaragaahaa.."
(A brahmin lady by name Shivaa was a scholar of vedas and she got

26.  A non brahmin lady Droupadi was a scholar of vedas.

27.  Madhva in his Mahabharata tatparya nirnaya says, "Vedaaschapyuttama
streebhihi krishnaattaabhirihaakhilaaha.
( Good women should learn Vedas like Droupadi).

28.  Valmiki Ramayana:-

Vaidehi shokasantaptaa hutaashanmupaagatam.
( The sad Seeta did homa to Agni)

29.  VR 5-15-48:- "Sandhyaakaale .....Sandhyaartham varavarninee".
(Seetha would certainly come to the river to perform sandhya with pure water).

30.  Valmikiramayana 4-16-12, 2-20-15 indicate that Kousalya and Kaikeyi also
were doing agnihotra etc.,

31.  Vaali's wife tara chanted

32.  Puranas :-
Vishnupurana (1-10) and (18-19);
Markandeyapurana (52); Brahma vaivarta purana (14-65) etc., may be seen.

(To be continued)


Aishu said...

So, can women become poojaris in temples as per the vedic rules? Is there some rule that says God accepts the pooja-archanas done by males and not females?
Also, is there any restriction over ringing of bell in temples by females? I was stopped by a poojari in Chottanikkara temple when i tried to ring the bell near the deity saying that females should never ring bell in temples. But I have done so in north indian temples.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mam,

It is a generally agreed and accepted tradition,truth and a fact accepted beyond any doubt that women aren't entitled to chant Vedas. "Vedham anaithirkkum viththaagum Kothai Tamizh" is referred to Thiruppavai. Anybody across any caste regardless of gender can sing that to get the blessings of Lord Krishna and Kotha. But I don't understand how that can be interpreted to say that women can chant Vedas. Did Andal Herself chant Vedas?. The answer is a big "NO", I trust. It is being regarded as Veda or even above that to glorify it for the Bhakti essence or Rasa it has. Even Dhivya prabhandam is regarded as "Dravida Vedham". Anybody regardless of caste, creed, gender, religion can chant it to be blessed by Sriman Narayana.

Thirukural is termed as "Ulaga Podhumarai" and "Aindhavadhu Vedham". Does that mean Thirukural itself is Veda and enough if people learn Thiruakural. I don't think it should be interpreted that way.

Sita, Tara, Lopamudra lived during Treta yuga and Urvashi is a Deva Kanya. Yuga Dharma, Loga Dharma varies. It is understood that in Kaliyuga women should not chant Vedas as they are bound by this yuga Dharma. There were many women poets in the Sangam age but none were believed to have chanted Vedas. Avvaiyar is considered to be Saraswati's Amsam. Her Vinayagar Agaval contains many references to Yoga sastras. I don't think She has advocated this cause. Even Brahmin men are forbidden from doing certain Yajnas which were performed in previous yugas.

These views are expressed by many people. Anantarama Dikshithar who was a great exponent of Vedas and Puranas held this view. Even Mukkur Lakshmi Narasimhachariar who lived during yesteryears held this view. Currently, the scholars like Velukkudi Krishnan and several others stand by this view.

Please clarify for the benefit of your readers. Thanks

jayasree said...

@ Aishu,

As you say the rules vary from temple to temple or from place to place.It is better to follow the rules according as how it is followed. You can rationalize it by comparing with the rules you follow in your house. You may have some rules such as leaving the slippers outside the door, washing hands before eating or washing feet before entering the puja room etc. You would expect a visitor to your house to follow those rules when they come to your house. Similarly follow the rules as told in temples.

@ Nagarajan.

More articles are to come in this series. I hope you will get my reply in those articles.

jayasree said...

The 2nd link given below the pic of Thirunarayanan at Melkote gives information on how the Uthsava murthy of melkote was got from the Muslim princess. The incidents narrated in that story will give an idea of what is bhakthi and how and why God blesses someone (Thirukkulaththaar incident)

nutwit said...


Similarly, what do u think about giving Vedic rights and Gayatri to those not born in Brahmin lineage? Its high time we give their dues other castes as well, isnt it?

jayasree said...

@ nutwit

All the varnas had access to Vedic education in olden times. But brahmins had that as full time occupation. That is the difference. The other varnas have given up Vedic learning in course of time due to material pursuits. Same is happening now with Brahmins. The social tension has a different origin, as I explained in the comment section of the post titled "Please, no slander on Ramanujacharya".

A detailed discourse on castes and Vedic laerning can be read in my Tamil blog in this link:

PS: Even MK's father wore a sacred thread as was seen in an old photo of his father. Out of animosity and foolishness, many like MK had undermined and given up the Hindu practices and are now screaming that they have been denied sacred thread.

nutwit said...

Vivekananda says Madhva gave Women the right to chant Vedas (You can search here)

When Women could be given the rights in early Vedic period, why not now? We can surely produce many Gargis even now.

Kannan said...

Dear maa
I am not hear for any arguement. I want to convey only one thing. Vedas are started to study only after upanayanam.. so you mean to say women have right to wear ygnoopaveedam?

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Kannan.

Justify the passages quoted in the article that say that women did learn Vedas.

I object to the expression "right" to wear yanjyopaveedham. Who had the right and who didn't in the early days?

Advika Narayanan said...

To Mr. Nutwit and Mr Kannan,

Early women did wear the sacred thread and did chant vedas and gayathris like men.
The vedic mantras have certain frequency and acts upon different parts of human body, glands, chakras and organs.
For example: Gayatri Mantra’s 24 digits produce vibrations that work on 3 invisible spiritual chakras (Mooladhara, Swadhishhtana, Manipura) in our body - Pituitary and Prostate glands in human body. These two glands release hormones that seperate male from female kids while they attain puberty.

If a woman starts chanting these versus regularly, it is said that she will lose her female-hood character and can get manly tendencies developed in physical appearance and behaviour. In most of cases, it can cause hormone disturbances in the body and the lady can suffer mental and physical difficulties.
Anyone, who wants to pickup an argument by stating that women are suppressed, should understand that humans are divided as men and women by nature – not by humans.
By birth, our gender is decided and our bodies are assigned few duties which cannot be altered. Our ancestors did not have modern technology to tell or prove what they said, but they had the insight to do things for a reason

Ram said...

This is in response to comment passed by Advika Narayanan.

Sir, please do not use words like "it is said that". Who said and where is it said. This would be a cruel joke to say that women would gain manly characteristics by chanting vedic manthras. Can you show a single instance of such occurence in the past or present.
You also said "In most of cases, it can cause hormone disturbances in the body and the lady can suffer mental and physical difficulties".
Show me a single case where a lady suffered mental or physical disturbance only due to vedic chanting. Instead there are several instances where men and women gained mental balance by continuous chanting of gayathri manthra.
Yes, by nature women are soft and can perform soft activities like, teaching, bringing up kids, and any other such jobs. Job like vedic chanting doesn't require any muscle. Have you not gone through yajurveda manthra (yathemaam vacham kalyaani....)that vedas are for all the human beings, irrespective of their caste, creed, sex, race.
Please read this article.

Ramesh Kn said...

Can gents do sumangali prarthanai?