Monday, August 8, 2011

Should women not chant Vedas? (part-4)

The analysis of the verse 10-34 of Gita is continued
to probe into whether there exists some other meaning
to this verse.

Krishna says, 'Among women, I am fame (kIrthi), prosperity
(srI), speech (vAk), memory (smrti), intelligence
(mEdhA), endurance (Dhrti) and forgiveness (kshamA)."

All the qualities required for learning karma khanda
and gyana khanda as well are to be found in these
qualities in women.

A unique feature of this verse is that

after saying this he describes Himself as Death!!

The relevant verse is as follows:

"I am also Death which snatches all away.
I am the origin of all that shall be born",

The Lord as being the origin of Birth in this context
is easy to understand. But why does He tell about
Himself as being Death in the context of telling who
He is among women?

Thinking about the two great epics, we seem to get
closer to the core idea. Is it because the Lord swung
into action as Lord of Death when the women were

When Sita was abducted, Valmiki merely goes about
narrating how the incidents had happened and how Sita
was distressed. Then
Jatayu enters the scene and is
badly wounded.

She goes near him, holds him and wails inconsolably

saying so many words.

Ravana then lifts her up by her hair…

At this juncture Valmiki says that

"that demon whose shine is similar to the Death

has clutched her hair loosened from her bun,

as death loomed large on him." (3-52-8)

When Ravana did this act (of holding her
aloft by her hair), Brahma deva remarked with delight,
"kaaryam kRitam iti" (the deed is done),

implying that Ravana's fate is now sealed.

The other other-worldly beings such as kinnara etc

also rejoiced that Ravana's end had come.

They didn't seem to comment like this
when Sita was abducted. At that time everyone was
watching in stunned silence.

But the act of touching
Sita's hair and lifting her by holding it

seems to be an act of grave offence

to signify that Ravana's fate is sealed.

It is note-worthy that Rama let go Kakasura who harmed her
mortally in her private part, but he didn't do that to
Ravana whose committing of an affront on Sita's
dignity was a shade physically lesser than what
Kakasura had done. The sookshumam seems to lie in

Why I am led to think like this is because similar
dreadful end was foretold by
Draupadi when she made a
vow of not tying up her hair till the Kauravas were
vanquished and Dhuryodhana's blood was smeared on her

Probably there is more than what we know

about the importance given to women's hair

because I have heard elders raise objection to letting the hair untied.

There is some sanctity attached to woman's 'aLaga-bhAram'.

The purpose of the above narration is to stress the
point that the Lord does not take kindly on acts that
affect woman's dignity, safety and (probably) the 7
qualities that have found mention in His own song.

Whenever such qualities (mEdha, vAk, speech etc) are
exhibited, there has been no hindrance to their
seeking of lofty Principles. To substantiate this, let
me quote what sage
Yajnavalkya said to his wife.

Yajnavalkya was too happy to hear
Maitreyi ask him
what leads to deathlessness.

He says, "you have always
been very dear to me and what you say now makes you
dearer still", and continues to unravel the Eternal
Knowledge to her.

If it had been mandatory for anyone
to learn Vedas as antecedent to inquiry into
Eternal knowledge, how could Yajnavalkya had given it
to his wife?
Of the different pramanas that Bhagavad
Ramanuja had quoted, why did he not consider this one?
In practice, this antecedent clause bars not only
women, but also men from taking up direct inquiry –
something what we all do today.

With advancement of kali yuga, the first notable
casualty is
vedadhyayana. One can count the number of
persons learning the karma khandam as Ramanuja thinks
is required for further abhyasa. If he has meant it to
be a strict rule, then not many men, leave alone
women, are entitled to do the meditation on Brahman.

On arriving at this thought, I felt I need to know
Ramanuja's mind better.

Elsewhere - in 3 places in
brahma sutra-bhashya to be precise - Ramanuja had said
something, but practiced something else in his own
life. (I request the readers not to consider my
language as an affront on him. This is an intellectual
exercise which I took to Ramanuja in Melkote when I
was not convinced why he chose to give an explanation
like this, while he could have as well spoken like
Shankara in his interpretation of the sutra.)

One area is the interpretation on who a shudra is.
Though Ramanuja defines a shudra as one 'who is
grief-stricken', he preferred to fall in line (in sri
bhashyam) with the sutrakara who said that shudrahood
comes by caste. ("shudras by caste are not entitled to
Brahma vidhya" - 1-3-33) But in practice, Ramanuja
never barred anyone from learning / knowing
Thirumanthram or sat vishayam.

Another area where he wrote something and preached
another is in determining
whether the jiva has any

The life of a person is a series of action and reaction

leaving little scope for own volition.

But there must a beginning of this cycle.

At that time what caused the jiva to do an action?

In his commentary to Brahma sutra, he does
speak about jiva's own 'volition' at the initial stage
– only as a logical consequence in the context without
producing any pramana to substantiate this. For,
vedopanishads do not support the idea
of freewill to the jiva.
There is no case built for
the conditions that can determine what this initial
stage that he has in mind. He does not explain what
defines the initial stage and what factors contribute
to spontaneity of will of the jiva.


But this ideological dilemma is tempered down

in Vedartha sangraha (124)

where he talks about god conferring on the jiva
'spontaneously a holy disposition of will and
. Further later, the granthas like
Srivachana bhooshanam and Mumukshuppadi which reflect
his grooming and thought harp on the virtues of
shedding 'swa-shakthi', that is shedding of freewill
and glorification of absolute subservience to god.

Thus we find him deviating from what he wrote earlier.

Yet another area where the transformation in thought
is found, is in his composition of
Vaikuntha gadhyam
glorifying the Lord in Form.
But all along his Sri
bhashya, he had heavily relied on pramanas on formless
god (Brahman). There was a heavy accent on the
metaphysical aspects of the inquiry, than on a god of
form. It strikes the attention of the reader of
Vedartha sangraha, that wherever he speaks about a god
with form, he relies on quotes by telling that the
Sutrakara says like this. But later he seems to have
been so convinced about propagating the idea of God
with form, for the sake of common man to worship.

So that leaves only with this chanting of Vedas.

According to Ramanuja learning to chant Vedas is

a pre requisite for learning Gyana khanda (inquiry into Brahman)

because the scriptures say so.

Did Ramanuja foresee that a time would come when the
ashrama dharma would collapse at least with reference
to learning Vedas formally at a gurukul?

Probably not, considering
the fact that it was only with the advent of Macaulay,
the education system changed in this country. But he,
with far-sight must have made some amends somewhere –
to suit the changing conditions.

Thus my concern about the bar on women to chant to
Vedas got transformed into a larger concern, as his
notions seem to affect men also who do not take
up Vedic learning. Then what is his prescription for
people of our times and of future?

He changed his stance on 3 issues (as stated above –

on Shudras, the initial freewill for the Jiva and God with form)

What is his stance on learning Vedas as a pre requisite

which is not possible even for men in this current Age?

With this thought in mind,

I was standing in front of him in Melkote
with my eyes closed.

"Is it right to say that women should not recite

By saying so, are we women barred from learning

the nature of Brahman (Gyana khanda)?

Is it right to de-bar countless people like me

who are willing to learn about the nature of Brahman,
mainly because

we have not had formal Ashrama-type training?

Please tell me, please tell me"

(to be continued)


Ramanathan said...

Dear Madam,
I am really astounded by your knowledge. But since i have proper adhyayana from a traditional background, i wish to tell you somethings.

1. You need not feel sad that ghyana khanda is denied. In fact in many places in the shrutis pregnant women are asked to leave the place of vedic chanting because some mantras may affect the uterus. This shows women were not barred from hearing chanting and discourses. One reason is that there are very swaras in the vedas that may affect the uterus. As you say in the chandogya upanishad Yajnavalkya teaches his wife gnana kanda. A women may learn it from here husband/father/brothers. It is direct chanting and learning that is prevented.

2. As i told in one of my previous posts, during the course of her periods a women is considered pure, as told in the Taittriya samhita. The reason as per the samhita is that Indra's Brahma hattya dosha after the killing of vritra was divided into many parts and women inherited it as menustruation. If you believe in the Vedic samhitas then women cannot do the required daily anushtanas for maintaing brahmaniyam. So that alone would disqualify them. But then again they can learn the ithihasas puranasa and stothras, from a guru. Also they can perform vratas. As adithi practised payovrata under Rishi kashyapas guidance. This you can find in the Bagavata purana

3. The physical limitation of women to undergo some of the rigourouse vratas during veda adhyayana is another problem. The thing is women play a major role in repaying the debt of pitru rina(Debt to fore fathers)by bearing dharmic children to the family. So physical well
being is of paramount importance and those rigorous vratas like krichra, chandrayana etc may end of spoiling womens health.

4. Also the shastras say that half the punya of any act done by the husband goes to the women. But half the sin comitted by women goes to the husband. But no punyam done by the wife goes to the husband. So if you have faith in the shastras you should believe this.

5. Also all shrauta yajnas discussed in the shrutis require a patni and her presence alone gives the right for a man to do it. As per previous point the women gains half the merit without effort.

6. There are certain mantras called patni samyajas, which should be chanted by the patni. But that would be done by repeating after the husband.

The summary of all this is, a women or for that matter none is denied gnana. It can be gained through a proper guru. For example take vidura. He was a shudra by birth but he gained knowledfe through rishi maitreya. It is the direct chanting of the mantras that is not allowed but never the gnana. Otherwise there could not be a Maitreyi, or a Gaargi vachaknavi of the Chandogya upanishads.

Also the itihasas and puranas have no accounts of a women doing any shrauta ritual. Again it is the direct performance of karma that is not prescribed for the women, but as yajamana patni she gains half of the merit with minimum effort. All this shows that the shastras have favoured women more than men in one sense.

Please let me know whether this satisfies your query or pleas let me know of any suggestions. And also i have not intended to insult or injure anybody. If i did uknowingly i apologize profusely

Ramanathan said...

I Would be happy if you could give your views on what i have said. All i have said is from our fundemnetal to core shastras the shrutis and smritis which are pramana for all vaidika dharmaas

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Ramanathan.

Your explanations here and in another post are excellent. I agree with you cent percent.

I will finish this series and get back to you with a question - which I will write in this section.

Ramanathan said...

Hi Madam
Am waiting for your posts and questions

Vasundhara said...

Dear Mami :

This has been one of my favourite topics. Both before marriage and after marriage - a question discussed with relatives/friends circle and run and rerun through the thoughts. I used to recite major portions (still can) of purusha suktam, narayana suktam, mantropanishad etc simply by hearing it so many times. However, over the course of married life, and childbirth etc - I have only felt that if woman takes care of the physical dimensions and the man does the mental dimensions it is easier - more natural. Nothing wrong if it happens to be reverse in some households. In my case this is what is natural. Meaning, let the mantram be told by him and child be taken care by me! Whatever he tells and whatever is the benefit itself is good enough for the harmony.

The moola, swadhishtana and manipura chakras to me seem to be more relevant for women, whereas the Anahata, Vishuddha, Agna etc seem to come from men in a child. Meaning, to have good progeny men should have excellent energy and women good physical health. So, if men purify the energy through Vedas and women strengthen their physical endurance it will result in a generation of capable children.

This to me is again a gradation - a greater contribution to the higher chakras is coming from the man and greater contribution to the lower chakras seems to come from the woman.

Lower is not neecha - something to be despised etc. This is just nature. No energy can express without appropriate physical dimensions. This is fact thats all. There is no Shiva without a Shakti .... why else is he an ardhanaareshwaran. Again, intuitively I feel my left side has come from my mother whereas the right side from the father. Left does not mean something bad - they are just 2 parts of the same whole each performing its role.

After thinking through it seems to me that Veda chanting may be mandatory for men. Women "may" chant - not like a must chant! Part of the reason people allow you to hear is so that some good karma is got - meaning your mind receives it and recites it! To say not recite at all is like telling listen to MGR's moral songs but don't sing it - only TMS can! But note the difference - women "may" chant - not a must for them!

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Ramanathan.

Finished the series. My question is as follows:
Today every one reads Vedas as though it is a literary work and 'pick out' history (Aryan - Dravidian) out of it. Most people who read it do so without any thought of sanctity and bhakthi. Such being the case if someone sees some sookthams as a means of Bkakthi, why not allow them do that. I have said so in the epilogue of the last article. Do you agree?

jayasree said...

Thanks for sharing your views Ms Vasundhara.

Nagarajan said...

Dear Mam,

So, it seems you agree that scriptures are in disagreement to women reciting Vedas; it is only out of your personal devotion you chant it. Nice to know that, unlike many, you dont quote scriptures to justify a personal view. As you rightly said, bhakti has no limits, no restrictions. Overflowing love from the heart alone can liberate a soul.
காதலாகி கசிந்து கண்ணீர் மல்கி
ஓதுவார் தம்மை நன்னெறிக்குய்ப்பது
வேதம் நான்கிலும் மெய்பொருள் ஆவது
நாதன் நாமம் நமச்சிவாயவே

This tells enough about Bhakthi.

Thanks for a wonderful post.

Ramanathan said...

Dear Madam,
Your question is a good one. But here is my explanation for it. Sorry for not able to keep it brief. I begin with salutations to the infinite brahman of the upanishads

1. Madam the vedas were handed over in oral form from guru to shishyas and was taught only to qualified people. Since it was received through hearing alone, it was called the shruti.So not many knew it. Now because of printing & media everybody gets to know of it. You may surely know that it was passed down along with 6 veda angas: grammer, shiksha, chandas, nirukta,kalpa and jyothisa. All these were used to determine the proper meaning of the vedas. Mimamsa, of Jaimini is a system that attempts the same. All these too were handed orally. Now as you correctly note that people read to pick out histories. This is done so without proper adherence to rules of grammar, shiksha etc. And most of the translation done were done with a bias to prove that Europe and christianity were superior. Madam, please note that the samhita and brahman portions are understood almost uniformly in all sampradayas,Adaita,Vishitadvaita or Dvaita. It is in the Upanishads that the differance occurs. Because usually the Aranyakas in which the upanishads occur dont have a apaurusheya pada paata(A non man made text with basic words used). Also each vedic shaka has what is called a Praatishakya which clearly lists out rules and modes to chant that shaka. Thus a vedic shaka should be studied in combination of all these. Thus any attempt to translate without the help of these is just useless, as the history gained out of it. For example the word dakshina can mean either gift or south. Now this depends on the swara of intonation. So just scholastic attempts to tranlsate, results in useless intellectual exercises. An example for such bable is Max Muller's translation of the Rig Veda. Many Rig vedic Ghanapati's i know, are astounded at Max Mullers ignorance.

2. As for your point whether one cannot use these sookthas with intent of bhakti, i wish to talk about the word "Shraddha" here. Shradda is technically defined as faith in the shastras and the words of the guru. It is not even defined as belief in a particular deity. That is why Jaimini though considered a Nastika, is considered a Rishi because he had faith in the Shrutis. In one of my previous posting i had said the dharma shatras defer as per yuga. Presently for this kaliyuga the Dharma shastra applicable is Parashara. He does not prescribe Veda adhyayana for women. The reason could be those i posted previously. So transgressing them if the sooktas are uttered it will be considered as lack of shraddha. As told in the Geetha following one svadharma is the best and following another's dharma is a sin. That is why even though, Arjuna said that he would live by bhiksha than kill his relatives and kinsmen, Krishna told that it is not for a Kshtriya to live by Bhiksha. Taking Bhiksha is ordained for Brahmana householders when in poverty and brahmacharis and sanyasis. So this would result in Arjuna becoming a 'patita'. So madam i feel that a women could here the sooktas being chanted or a discourse on it. It is not advised for her to chant it. There are other things like Nama japa, Sahasra nama, ashtotras etc that can be chanted. But sooktas per se, i dont think so. I told all these because you seem to have the necessary shraddha in the shastras and Astikya. Otherwise i dont talk about all these. Please dont feel insulted about anything i say here and i dont mean to. I just quote from the shastras what my humble mind can think of. Like kalidasa says "Udbahuriva vamanaha". Just like a dwarf attempts to pick a tree from the fruit, i have attempted to explain it.

Harihi Om.

Ramanathan said...

Did you read my comments what are ur ideas?

Ramanathan said...

Probably my views are slightly theoretical, but as Mr Nagaraj rightly says, true Bhakti has no limits, as one enters into a state of samdhi then all rules of Varna ashrama break down when one becomes a athi varnashram dharmi.

Madam one request. Can i post an article about the vedas, what they mean, the vedangas, rules for study and an allround article in your blog though a series of 4 or 5 posts?. Hope it is not a bother?

jayasree said...

My thanks to Mr Ramanathan and Mr Nagarajan for giving their valuable comments. As I was on a pilgrimage during the week end, I could not access the net and hence the delay in posting your comments.

@ Mr Ramanathan.
I welcome your articles, Sir. It is not a bother but a boon. The articles may even boost up the traffic in my blog.

But I have a suggestion. Since you are the sole contributor of the articles, I suggest you write them in your blog and I will give a link to them. I will give a brief note on the articles and direct the readers to your blog. If you have time, you can even build up an entire blogspot on Vedas, the study of Vedas and your views on related issues for the benefit of all. Your opinion please.

Vasundhara said...

Dear Ramanathan mama & Jayasree Mami :

Elsewhere on this blog too there have been posts on Swadharma, dharma, nAri Dharma, kula dharma, yuga dharma etc...

What is the shastric injunction or the order in which these are applied. In modern parlance one talks of emotional mind - akin to swadharma. Intellectual mind - akin to kula dharma etc. yuga dharma is mostly something most of us modern educated are completely unaware of. True faith I hear should give you clear direction on what to follow in a situation - then why do we always face conflict with emotional & intellectual minds? One feels dominated by the other - which only leads to conflict and breakdown - not integration of the soul.

This is a relevant thing all people face regardless of age at some point or other in life - what is the shastric point of view & your personal experiences/advice if any.

jayasree said...

I request Mr Ramanathan to give his views on Ms Vasundhara's question. I hope Mr Ramanathan will also give his opinion on my suggestion. I made the suggestion since I thought the first option must be his own website. If he is not keen on writing in his own blogspot, he is welcome to post his articles in my blogspot. Ultimately the aim is to share the info on Vedism with everyone.

Nagarajan said...


Sastras and scriptures should be seen and interpreted as it is. They were not written by any human. If my understanding of your comment is right, I guess, you mean to say that there are no answers to many conflicts which is emotional or intellectual or whatever it is. There are answers to each and everything, some of which some people don't like and they want to reform everything or start complaining about that. Our ancestors, Rishis and Sages were very farsighted and they have prescribed a correct medicine for us. Let me tell you two instances where the so called intellects were humbled by God Himself.

a.) Poondhanam and Narayana Bhattatri(who composed Narayaneeyam) lived few centuries back. Poondhanam was not as elite and educated as Bhattatri was. One day in the course of reading Vishnu Sahasranamam he incorrectly read one Nama as "பத்மனாபோ மர பிரபு:". Hearing that, Bhattatri corrected him by saying "பத்மனாபோ அமர பிரபு:" Poondhanam agreed that he stood corrected. The same day in Bhattatri's dream Guruvayoorappan told what Poondhanam read was also correct, as He is not only the Master for Devas, but also for all the living and nonliving things in this universe and reminded Bhattatri the following.

பூதானி விஷ்ணு
புவனானி விஷ்ணு
வனானி விஷ்ணு

Another instance is Nandhanar charitram which you would have heard. Nandhan was born in a fifth varna and he had such a devotion for Siva which can't be told. He was denied temple entry.(Note that he didn't start any temple entry movement or joined a reformist group). To bring his Bhakti to light, Siva made the Chidambaram Deekshithars to carry Nandanar in a palanquin and bring him inside the temple.

Moral of the story is, true Bhakti will never argue, find faults and rationalize everything. It will unconditionally submit.(அன்பெனும் பிடியுள் அகப்படும் மலையே) Exceptions are not something which Bhakthas create but created by Bhagawan Himself.
அறிவொன்று அறநின்று அறிவார் அறிவில்
பிரிவொன்று அறநின்ற பிரான் அலையோ
Even if we are not able to adhere to what sastras say, we shouldn't try to distort it. So, women need not chant or recite Vedas and do yogas which are restricted for them. To do Bhakti there are many ways and many slokas to recite. I believe Mr.Ramanathan is just echoing the views of our ancestors and his opinions concur with what I heard from my family elders.


jayasree said...

I went through all the comments and thank everyone for sharing their knowledge. However I don't quite agree with the view that the injunction remains that women should not chant Vedas.

In the very first article in this series, I quoted the compilation by Mr Shivashankara Rao on the pramanas that say that women did chant the Vedas and even created Vedas.

The one pramana which any one can easily check and know by themselves is the prayer to Agni Bhagawan done by Sita in Sundhara Khanda which she did to safeguard Hanuman from the fire that was lit on his tail. The description shows that she did make a small pit as a homa kunda and lit agni and did the prayers. She was unclean that is, had not taken bath ever since she was abducted – implying that she did not take bath after the monthly periods too. She met Hanuman in the 10th month of her confinement in Ashoka vana. For 10 months she had not taken bath. She did not take bath even for the sake of doing the Homa. It is only said that she did the purifactory ceremony of mental nature before starting that homa. This shows that the ultimate purification lies in the mind.

Another issue is that - had Rama been there, I dont think Sita would have done that homa. She would have assisted him in doing that homa. But when the male counterpart is not available to do the homa, the female rises to the occasion to do that. That is one inference from this episode.
This inference leads to another inference that the females also have had the training in doing Homas or such austerities so that they can do them in times of need.
I think this is the basic idea behind the thinking that women 'need not' and 'were not required' to chant vedas or do homas.


jayasree said...

(continued from above)

There was a clear cut portfolio arrangement between the males and females. All those were already explained by readers and most of those explanations are common knowledge to many people.

However that does not mean that women were barred from learning or chanting Vedas. Learning or not learning Vedas was not an issue for women because their portfolio was different.

But learning had its benefits in times of need. Like men who take care of household chores when the women have their monthly periods, the women were also trained to do Vedic rituals which they did in times of need. As how men have had exposure in cooking and other household chores, women also have had exposure in Vedic rituals.

In fact she knows the rituals and the chantings much better than the males. Perhaps she picked it up right from childhood when she used to assist her mother in kitchen, thereby getting a chance to hear and know better the rituals because in most households, puja room and kitchen were merged into one and assist the father in other chores related to puja and recitals. It is for this reason the Brahmopadesam is done right in the presence of the mother. Under the supervision of the mother, the father delivers the Brahmopadesa to the son at the Upanayana ceremony.

In the beginning, the upadesam and education was done by father to the son. The education was not through teacher at that time. The home itself was the school where the father taught his sons. It then became natural for the daughter also to pick up the nuances of education and what was taught. That is how we have had women experts in Vedas and authoring Vedas.

This also shows that there was no injunction against women and if at all there were some, they were the result of division of labour and not as something forbidden to women.

In course of time when vedic learning declined, Gurukuls gained importance and compulsory learning through a teacher became the order of the day. It was at that time, Vedic learning by girls took a back seat. Sending daughters outside (to Gurukuls) was unthinkable in those days. That is when the education in Vedas could have become rigid and separate. Apart from this we can not deduce any reason for the denial of Vedic learning for girls, who until then had learned from their fathers and even headed conferences.

The above is what I give to Mr Ramanathan as my reaction to his views.


jayasree said...

(continued from above)

We can not deny the many instances of women having learned and even authored Vedas. There is a verse in Astrology also that shows the planetary combinations for a female to become “Brahma vadini” (Brihad jataka by varahamihira – Chapter 24 -15)

This verse comes in a chapter that exclusively deals with Women horoscopy called ‘Sthree Jathaka” . This chapter deals with how to find out the character of women, her married life, longevity of married life (widowhood), child birth etc. These are all women centric issues. After telling all these the chapter ends up with 2 specific issues namely

(1) the woman becoming a Brahmavadin – having learned and excelled in knowledge and discourse of Brahaman and

(2) becoming an ascetic.

The 2nd one is told with an addition that this can be foretold at the time of wedding. This shows that marriage is not denied to the woman, nor widowhood indicated for the woman. But the woman takes to sanyasa even while her husband is alive.

Such women were known as “Aaryaanganai” – a mention of this can be found in Silappadkaram. The Aaryaanganai will be worshiped as a deity after her death. Such a person is known commonly as “Isakki amman” or “Iyakki amman” in Tamil nadu, so says the commentator Adiyaarkku Nallaar. We have numerous Isakki amman temples in Tamilnadu. All these deities were women who took to sanyasa from Grahastha ashrama.

The Brahmavadini and Sanyasini are very much real and that is why the planetary combinations that make them so have been told by Varahamihira. The same is repeated in most astrological works of yore when they wrote about Sthree jathaka. I have found the same planetary combinations for Brahmavadini in the male horoscopes of Nadi manuscripts where it is said that the native will excel in Veda sastras and Dharma sastras.

So my inference is that women also learned Vedas and excelled in them. The injunction against that is not a denial but only as a statement of role playing in general.


jayasree said...

(continued from above)

The injunctions against other varnas also were in the nature of portfolio arrangement and convenience and not as denial. I have dealt with this in detail in my Tamil Blog on “ Thamizan Dravidanaa?” Infact every one was entitled to Upanayana and wore the sacred thread. The gateway was available to everyone, but those who wanted to pursue could pursue.

In this context one may show the instance of Shambuka as a proof of denial. But the reason for the slaying of Shambuka was not that he was of a particular varna. The reason was that he did not have the tendency needed for doing penance. The arguments can be read in my Tamil blog at

The present thread takes us to the questions raised by Ms Vasundhara on Swadharma, Kula dharma and Yuga dharma.

I am not elaborating on Swadharma as I think I have explained in detail in an older article on Dharma, karma and dilemma

Swadharma as a varna dharma no longer exists today. In original parlance as told by Geethacharyan, Swadharma is what one has by virtue of one’s swabhava (character / Guna / tendency). Therefore it is ideal to do a job which is in accordance with the swabhava. That is how Geethacharyan developed the link as Swabhava > swadharma > swakarama – one leading to the other.

Today the swabhavas are mostly of rajasic and tamasic and very little of sattwic which is ideal for Vedic learning.

When we check the combinations for Brahmavadini and Vedic learning, importance is given to Jupiter and Venus – the 2 planets identified as Brahmana varga and to Mercury for learning and intellect and Mars for methodical learning. Of these Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are Sowmya planets though the latter 2 are identified as rajasic. No one can be completely devoid of rajasic nature. But one must overcome that and move towards sattwic for higher learning. Where Chandas, vyakarana and mathematical and methodical learning are concerned Mars plays a role. The inclusion of Venus also works well for voice quality in chanting and Mercury as the 3rd lord in Natural zodiac signifies throat.

I have only written a shred of it. But this combination is developed further to identify Vedic learning and chanting. This combination is applicable to any – man or woman or a person of any varna. By getting this combination, a person attains Brahmanic quality needed for Vedic chanting. In other words, he or she will be of Brahmin varna by swabhava.

Today we are engaged in jobs not connected with the varna in which we are born. But the swabhava will tell us what kind of a person we are and what varna we can identify ourselves with. Know your swabhava and tame it towards sattwic nature, because that is the highest and that only can elevate us to the level of Supreme God who can be identified as ‘Shuddha sattwa” . Rest of the issues on how to do it can be known from Bhagavad Gita.


jayasree said...

(continued from above)

Now to Kula dharma. Kula sampath is what one does to his family, his lineage and his parents. That comes due to birth in a particular family. I think somewhere in this blogspot I have written on ‘Janani janma sowkhyaanaam” sloka which is usually written on top of the horoscope. In that it is said, ‘varthanIm kula sampath”. Normally you call ‘climate’ as varthamana. The climate of the family in which one is born must be maintained by one. That is the way to add to the Kula sampath or discharge the Kula dharma. This includes the family habits of living, of worship and works. Fulfill whatever keeps up the honour of the family. That is doing your Kula dharma.

Now to Yuga dharma. Mr Ramanathan quoted Parashara Smruthi. I agree. But Parashara smruthi deals for most part with prayaschiththa for dereliction of duty and mistakes committed by one. This smruthi deals with the probable offenses that can be expected in Kaliyuga. It must be said that it is silent on Veda adhyayana in that only a few verses are dedicated to veda adhyayana.

Instead the focus is on problems faced in kali yuga.
There is a marked difference between Manu smruthi (recommended for Kritha yuga) and Parashara smruthi in dealing with women. Not many restrictions are there on women in Parashara smruthi. Of interest is the verse on a woman who is raped. (verse 254) . She is not condemned nor put into eternal stigma. Instead the smruthi gives a very easy and understandable remedy. It says that she is said to become pure after getting her menses!

But elsewhere the smruthi glorifies Sati! (verse 4-18). It glorifies early marriage of the girl before she attains puberty. The father who does not get her daughter married before she reaches puberty is said to drink her menses, says this smruthi. All these are not relevant to the current times.


jayasree said...

(continued from above)

In a way Parashara Smruthi also has become redundant for the current age. Even men folk can not follow it. For example there is an injunction on not following a dead body. Today any person travelling in a busy area will have to tow behind a procession of a dead man (taken to cremation ground ) almost everyday. Is it possible to conduct the purifactory ceremonies given by this smruthi?

Like this there are many issues that defy the sastric injunctions. That is where I find Ramanujacharya having given modifications in many places. His all embracing attitude towards all sections of people is an example to follow. The need of the hour is to attract and accept everyone into following Hindu ways and learn scriptures.

This does not mean I am telling that women must learn Vedas. Not every woman nor even every man will have the inclination to learn / chant Vedas or learn the nuances of Brama Vidya. But when they have the inclination and Shraddha (as Mr Ramanathan says) I don't think there is any restriction.

On Yuga dharma enquired by Ms Vasundhara, the present times have gone beyond the situations expressed in Parashara smruthi. In such a situation, it is ideal to stick to dharma that is applicable to all times. You will find it in Shiskshavalli of Taittriya upanishad.

In Parashara smruthi, the rule on charity - that is, to give to the deserving one by going to his place - is also note worthy.

To explain it better, charity is of 3 types Superior, Medium and Inferior. The superior charity is to reach out to the one and give him what is needed without him asking for it.

The medium type is to give to one who comes to you asking for it.

The inferior type is to give charity to one who is available near you. That is, you will not make any effort to go to the person and just discharge the charity as a job easily done.

Though all these types are to be done, always try to do the superior charity. Giving is your duty and not a service. When you do it as a duty the taker does not become beggar-like but in fact helps you in discharging your duty. Read the passages in the 1st chapter of Taittriya upanishad on how to give and follow it as a dharma.

Your physical possessions to others and mental self to God - this could perhaps be called as Yuga dharma of current times.

Ramanathan said...

Dear All,
I am generally writting in no particular order. But i will start with Jayashree mam's question to write my own blog. I was planning to do so one of these days, but for a start if you would not mind i would prefer to use your blog with your permission.

As for Vasundhara mam's question

1. Yuga dharma is the broader context in which one's swadharma is applied. For example, in earlier ages a brahmana could not live by selling articles or agriculture. But in kali yuga one can. Parashara smriti still applies to kaliyuga. I agree that is is really difficult to follow. But as always the best thing is to try what you can and do your best. I know of people who are doing that. That is why i tell you. Again kula dharma is followed where the vedas and dharma sutras give options or not very clear. Like for example family deity worship, some wedding ceremonies etc. The taittriya upanishad says that in case of doubt follow a learned shrotriya with tapas. So the general order is

Yuga dharma>swadharma>kuladharma.

2 @Mr Nagaraj. Sir what i say is what i learnt from my vedic teachers. One of my maternal grandfathers was a yajur veda krama paati. So that is why i echo their views. Even in the vedas and upanishads whenever some issues result, the general referain is that "Our ancestors said so and so", or "There is a shloka on this". So i too say the same

3 @ Ms Jayashree. Madam, the vedas were allowed to all dvijas, which included Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Now there are no true Kshatriya or Vaishya community that follow their dharma and they have fallen. But the Brahmin community has retained it in parcels. So now, only some in Brahmin community retain their dvijatwa.

4 I guess everybody here knows the story of Aphaala in the rig veda, who gave soma to Indra by grinding it with her teeth. There have been many female rishis. But again that depends on Yuga dharma. There may have been yugas where women were probably allowed veda adhyayana. But not in present kaliyuga. There is nothing preventing a women to become a Brahmavadini like, maitreyi,katyayani etc. But again i would like to clarify that it was through discourses/learning through husband etc that they earned that and not through direct vedic study themselves.Also i would like to tell that women were not allowed sanyasa and were allowed to enter Vanaprastha along with their husbands. The reasons is sanyasa involves shaving of head which is not permitted for a sumangali women. Women entering sanyasa nowadays is more of a buddhist/jainistic phenomenon. There is one more reason why a female was not let in sanyasa. Sanyasi's where parivrajakas(perienially wandering) and could not stay in one village more that one night. So there was too much of a physcial discomfort here. Please read Manu or Parashara for further clarity on sanyasa dharma.

As Mr Nagaraj says true Bhaktas never went against Shastraic injunctions.

Ram said...

My only question to all those who deny vedic chanting for women is, show me a single vedic manthra that says so. Instead a manthra in yajurved asks everybody irrespective of caste, sex, creed, race to read and hear vedas. Please refer to yajurved's "yathemaam vacham kalyani...." manthra.

BalaBuvaneshwari said...

My questiion si about the Gayathri mantra. The brahmin youth who wears the punal just for the sake of it, do not even know the gayathri mantra and even after repeatedly pleading them to perform the daily anustaamans bt explianing them the benefits, do not care to even listen.

So good is this doing? The anushtanams of the brahmins are dying, in a few decades gayathri japam may become a thing of the past.

Instead if the women folk in the brahmin comminity were also given the punal, they would do it more eatnestly than their men counterparts and at least we can expect the anushtanams of the brahmins to exist and not fade away

Ram said...

I agree with Bala Bhuvaneshwari. Not just brahmins anyone who can follow some rules of ahimsa, satya can chant gayathri manthra.