Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Women offering Pindam – Tamils followed Vedic customs only.

No Aryan – Dravidian divide. It was one Aryavartha (17)

Women have a role in offering pinda in the ceremonies

done in the first 10 days after death.

These are done to give a prEta body to the departed one who is said to be in subtle form.

These are called puraka rites by which the offering of pinda is made

everyday till the 10th day.

There are rules in Vedic practices about who holds the right to offer pinda

in these shraddha ceremonies.

These rules are considered very important because

they are the basis for inheritance rights.

Details can read in the following link:-


The general hierarchy starts from

sons, grandsons, the great grand sons, the wife, the brothers,

the sons of brothers, the father, the mother,

the daughters, the daughters-in-law,

the sisters, the sons of a sister and finally any other family relative.

It is to be noted that the wife gets precedence over others

but after the line of sons and grandsons.

These ceremonies may be stretched for 10 days or even less

but the final part of it is done on the 10th day in all families.

The wife offering pinda in these ceremonies is as per Vedic sanction only.

There is another pramana too from tantric texts

that women can do shraddha and offer pindam.

In Mahanirvana tantra, Lord Sadashiva tells

Maheshwari, his consort, whom He addresses as Sri Devi

that women have rights to do shraddha except in Vriddhi shraddha. (1)

It is because Vriddhi shraddha is done by the male

whose wife is expecting a child.

This shraddha is done as part of the Pungsavana ceremony,

done on the 3 rd month of conception of the woman,

in prayer of a male child.(2)

This is done only for the first child

and ancestors are invited in this shraddha to bless them with a male child.

Since every month of the entire pregnancy period

is said to be governed by specific planets and

the third month by Jupiter, the planet for growth, male progeny and rituals,

this ritual based on the belief that the rites done in the 3rd month

before the foetus develops its gender

would result in selection of gender (male).

In the other 11 kinds of shraddha such stipulations are not there.(3)

It is also said,

“Son (including the one whose threading ceremony has not been done),

daughter, grandson, great grandson, wife, daughter’s son (if he is one of the heirs),

real brother, nephew, cousin’s son, father, mother, daughter-in-law,

son of elderly and younger sisters, maternal uncle,

anyone in the seven generations and from the same lineage (sapinda),

anyone after the seven generations and

belonging to the same family domain (samanodak),

disciple, priests (upadhyay), friend,

son-in-law of the deceased person can perform Shraddha in that order.

In case of a joint family,

the eldest and earning male person should perform Shraddha.

In case of the unit family, everyone should perform shraddha independently.

Hindu Dharma has made arrangement so that for each and every dead person

the shraddha can be performed so as to give momentum to that person

to progress to a higher sub-plane.

Holy text Dharma Sindhu mentions that,

‘If a particular dead person does not have any relative or a close person,

then it is the duty of the king to perform Shraddha for that person’”.(4)

It is inferred from this that even women held rights to do shraddha.

But in course of time this practice was given up.

It may be because in any shraddha ceremony, wearing sacred thread is essential.

Women in early times underwent upanayana ceremonies

(or else they could not have learned Vedas –

and some riks were written by women only)

and were able to conduct shraddha ceremonies

if those in the order of having right to do were absent.

But in course of time getting done upanayan to women declined

and with that women doing shraddha also could have declined.

Testimony from PuranaanUru.

We find an instance of the wife offering pinda in PuranaanUru,

giving rise to yet another proof

that Vedic practices were very much followed by ancient Tamils.

The poet Vellerukkilaiyaar grows sad at the death of King VeL Evvi.

It is despairing to see the King’s wife

wash the small place meant for doing shraddha

with cow-dung

and place the pindam on the darbha grass that was spread.

How could VeL Evvi eat this food, laments the poet. (5)

“pidiyanna siru vazhi mezhugi,

thannamar ‘KAADALI’

pun mEl vaittha icchiru pindam Yaangundanankol?”

Kaadali in this verse means the loving wife.

The wife offering pindam was thus a practice in ancient Tamil lands.

Though it is not known whether this PuranaanUru verse indicates

the full fledged ceremony done by the wife of VeL Evvi

or only the 10 day ceremony,

what is known without doubt is that the women in ancient Tamil land

participated in shraddha ceremony and offered pindam, as per vedic practices.

What can this be termed as?

Dravidian or Aryan practice??

Reference :-

(1) Mahanirvana tantra – chapter 10

(2) Mahanirvana tantra – chapter 9

(3) The 12 kinds of shraddha are nithya shraddha, naimittika shraddha, kaamya shraddha, vriddhi shraddha, sapindaan shraddha, paarvaan shraddha, Goshtth shraddha, shurdhyaath shraddha, karmaang shraddha, deivik shraddha, oupcharik shraddha and saanvatsarik shraddha.

(4) http://www.hindujagruti.org/hinduism/knowledge/article/when-can-females-perform-shraddha.html

(5) PuranaanUru -234

(to be continued)


Anonymous said...

Can you throw some light on why Hindu rituals favor men, especially sons, so stronly. There are verses in the Gita that claim that a son can prevent his pitras from going to naraka and therefore sons are annointed as putras by Brahma himself.

You have yourself mentioned the pumasavana samskara. I am not a scholar of Hindu scriptures, so I have often wondered if there are instances in the scriputres where a daughter's birth is celebrated?

It appears to me that our current imbalanced sex ratio is partly due to such traditional beliefs about the importance of sons and the need to beget only sons.

If by some divine miracle, all Hindus had only sons, this sanatana dharma wouldn't last 100years. Yet, despite knowing this simple fact, Hindu scriptures have only held that sons are desirable, daughters are unwelcome.

Can you explain this prejudice against women in the sanatana dharma?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

//It appears to me that our current imbalanced sex ratio is partly due to such traditional beliefs about the importance of sons and the need to beget only sons.//

You are wrong. There was no sex selection or abortion followed in India until Independence and sanatana dharma does not approve such actions. The pumsavana was applicable only in the case of the first child of the man (even if he has more than one wife) as it was designed to interfere with Nature and help in getting a son (the eldest) so that the family is assured of one who can do the pithru oblations.

If you look at the census data of 1891 you will know that the females exceeded male births and continued so until under 5 years of age. It was higher than what was in Europe. It also shows that young girls were well taken care of. But the sex ration diminished as mortality rate increased for women in their reproductive age. There were more deaths during delivering the child in that age group. It again rose to more than 1000 females per 1000 males in old age (beyond 50 years of age).

See these links for the data.