Thursday, August 4, 2011

Should women not chant Vedas? (part -2)

Other parts of this series can be read here: Part 1  Part 3  Part 4   Part 5

It all started with a jolt I received in a Ram temple some years ago.
It was a fore-noon when I reached this temple of Rama,
situated some 30 km from Mysore, in a village called
No one knows the history of this Rama because
the temple was not here some 10 years ago.
It was to the credit of some Keralite-astrologers who, through
Prasna – Jyothisha told that a Ram temple was buried in this area.
An intense search was undertaken and it was after a year,
the moolavar thirumeni (murthy) of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana
(Anjaneya was not found till today) were found buried
in an abandoned well in the fields.
A very small uthsavar vigraham of all the 4 moorthis
mounted on a single base was also unearthed.

The murthys were immediately consecrated in
the same place where they were found, as per sasthric
I had the first opportunity to get His dharshan in January 2004
and was blessed by Him to sit for the
sankalpam along with my husband for the annual
Sahasra-kalashAbhishekam in the month of Chithirai that year.

The area is very much isolated, lonely that whenever I
come to visit Him during evenings/nights, I won't
feel like leaving the temple.
How can I leave Him alone in this vayal-kaadu (fields)? (agyaanam!!)
Immediately I would think, 'No no. He is enjoying yEkAntham  (privacy) with Sita.
This is His Panchavadi.
This Panchavadi is not in vanam (forest)
 it is in vayal (field).'
"Hey Ram, enjoy your time here.
Sita had always wanted to spend her time in vana with you
in yEkAntham.
You never got a chance to fulfill her desire
after vana-vasa in Ramavathara.
Now you have got the chance.
Spend your time with no one to disturb you.
The sky looks beautifully studded with stars.
Show your Sita, Arundathi standing next to Vasishta,
who looks brighter in this dark sky and
make Sita happy by telling her how she too is
always close to you.
Enjoy your time Rama, enjoy."
Such is the dialogue I used to have with Rama of
Kembal thinking that I have a rapport with Him in
understanding what He thinks. (!!!???)

On that particular fore-noon, contrary to usual
practice, His sannidhi was closed before the
stipulated time.
The Archakar (temple priest) had to leave on some
chores it seemed.
I was disappointed wondering how this could happen.
I have always stuck to temple rules
and had been in time.
Even on occasions when I was held up due to unforeseen reasons,
I used to think that this rapport works!
I have found that He had never disappointed me
(not only in Kembal, in other temples too)
whenever I had been late, allowing me to
have dharshan at least for a second before the screen
is drawn.
Wondering whether I had committed any apacharam,
(mistake / disrespect) I remained there for some time.

Another devotee, an elderly person arrived then and we
came to know that he was a scholar in Sanskrit.
He said that he would recite entire Valmiki Ramayana in
Sanskrit if he is invited to do so in our home and he
has done recitals for umpteen times in his
life. I was too happy to have met him and wanted to
clarify some doubts.
My first query was about Sri Sookhtham.
I used to recite it every day.
This Sooktham is found in Rik Vedas.
I learnt it just by hearing it being recited at my home.
I asked him whether there is any
stipulation of time for reciting Sri Sookhtham, like
Brahma muhurtham or fore noon etc.

Flash came his reply, "Women should not recite Sri
Sookhtham, because it  is Vedam."
I felt an acute pain as though I have been whipped.
What I asked and what he says!
Hey Rama, is it so that I should not recite Sri Sookhtham?
I instantly turned to my side to look at His sannidhi.
Only the closed doors were staring at me.
No. Raman is not a saakshi (witness)
for what happened here.
He is not a saakshi for what this elderly person had said.
Raman is not part of this conversation,
nor does He approve this statement.
That is why He had the doors closed
even before I came in.
Knowing that this conversation is going to take place,
He had closed His doors.
If He had stood there as a witness for the talks,
I don't know how I would have reacted.
I would have either given up chanting of
this sthothram and others too, thinking that I do
not have His sanction. Or I would have grown sad that
I have been prohibited from reciting that beautiful
sookhtham which invites Lakshmi to our side.

But I would not have remained quiet.
Ramanai summa vittirukka maattEn.
(ராமனை சும்மா விட்டிருக்க மாட்டேன்)
I would have asked Him why He made such rules.
He had to answer me.
Poosugira manjaLum, (the saffron that women use)
thongugira charadum, (the mangalya sutra)
nettriyil edum thilakamum, (the tilak in the forehead)
make the woman herself an embodiment of Sri.
How can she then be considered unfit to invite Sri
in the form of Sookhtham?
If the woman is not entitled to say this sookhtham,
then no one else is.
And I would have also asked
Him – don't you know that such prohibition makes me
Can you, whose name itself means giving happiness
to others, make me sad?

But the closed doors of Rama provided a consolation
for me.
Yes, Rama closed His sannidhi –
only to shut Himself off from this unseemly predicament.
He doesn't subscribe to this view.
He made this understood by me
by closing His doors even before I arrived.

With this thought, I came home.
By a strange coincidence, the issue of the injunction against
chanting Vedas by women appeared on that day
 in the yahoo group in which I was an active contributor.
I sent a short mail (given in the1st post of this series) and
received all probable reasons for that injunction
from many learned persons.

But all through, there was a nagging thought in my mind.
How this injunction came to gain currency even in
the absence of any textual pramana?
Another thought that was slowly sinking in my mind was
whether Rama refused to stand as saakshi
only with reference to Sri Sookhtham or
with reference to Vedas in general.
How should I interpret it?
Did I do enough analysis of the whole issue?
Or am I reacting in this way because I am a woman?
Did I do the analysis dispassionately and

I began looking for clues and
I found something in the Ramanuja bhashyam
to the very first verse of Brahma sutras.
That will be discussed in the next post.



Aishu said...

I liked your conversation with the lord. It was as if I was witnessing the scene. It almost brought tears into my eyes. Waiting for the remaining posts....

From what I have gathered is Vedas have a tendency to create positive vibrations when chanted in the right way. Is that positive vibration anyway bad for women? I dont think so, because women are not prohibited to enter temples where the sooktams are chanted for worships and archanas. Also, if we look from the other end, it can also mean that men have rules/mantras when they worship God and women are free to use any word or song or poem or sentence to worship. :)

I admire you for aptly describing the situation when you were told that "women should not recite vedam" as getting whipped. Never mind.

Sheela said...

Dear Mam,

recently i had been to thiruadhanoor, kabisthalam i felt same way on Lord wishing to have ekantham surrounded by cauvery & paddy fields., without much disturbance from we human beings.

i liked the way you have described on Lord. thank you.


Ramanathan said...

As i have learnt some of the vedas in a traditional way, i will tell my opinions

1. Veda adhyayana should be done in gurukula vaasa after upanayanam. Wome are not enjoined to have upanayanam by any smriti or shruti. Parashara smriti is applicable for this Kaliyuga and he does not prescribe upanayana for ladies

2. Veda adhyayana requires scruplous performance of the Sandhyavandhan and the Gayatri Japa. This in turn requires Brahmopadesha which is part of upanayana and since as per Parashara upanayana is not there for ladies there is no veda adhyayana too

3 Assume that ladies can perform Japa. It is mandated that it has to be done without lapse. For ladies what about those 3 days during their periods?. Are they clean enought to recite the Gayathri during 3 days

4 During Veda adhyayana the Brahmachari is asked to eat by Biksha alone. "Ahar Ahar vaa Baiksham ashniyat". Says the Aruna prashna. So are ladies allowed to take Bhiksha> No rule for Bhiksha specifies ladies having to take it.

5. What ever portions of the vedas you have mentioned thaqt can be chanted by women are supposed to be done in tandem with the husband. But that does not constitute veda adhyayana.

6. The Brahmachari has been adviced to shave his head once in 2 months, leaving his shikha intact. For a women no shaving has been adviced at all. In fact shaving is inauspicious for women

7.The reading of each portion of the veda involves the undergoing of some vrata, which involves shaving, wearing deer skin, regulating amounts of bhiksha etc. There have been no such provisions for women.

8. Also the brahmachari has to stay at the home of the teacher, which was usually in a forest with a lot of inconveniences. And i do no think women would be allowed to reside in a male teachers home for 8-10 years to complete adhyayana. Because females would have to be married of earlier.

In some cases there have been wome rishis who revealed mantras. But we do not know of the samskaras permitted to women in those periods. So as for this Kaliyuga of vaivasvata manvantara of shveta varaha kalpa and in accordance with the parashara smriti which is to be followed in the present Kali, Veda adhyayan samskara is not there for women is my conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mam,

As one of the commenter has mentioned here, it is a wonderful post. It was as if witnessing the scene.

One thing stuck my mind while I was reading this post. You were saying that Rama was not a Saakshi to what the sanskrit scholar told you, as His sannathi doors were closed. I trust it could be Rama Himself who could have conveyed the message in one scholar's form. "Deivam Manushya Roopena" tells an age old saying.

Moreover, in my humble opinion, I don't think you should be feeling hurt or let down for not being able to chant Sri Suktham since it is a part of Veda. There are plenty of other ways to invoke Sri. Sri sthuthi, Kanakadhara Stotram etc.

How many women possess vast knowledge like you on various subjects and how many come forward to share that and help others in one way or other. I don't think you have a reason to worry but more reasons to rejoice.