Women in Vedic Culture

The Vedic tradition has held a high regard for the qualities of women, and has retained the greatest respect within its tradition as seen in the honor it gives for the Goddess, who is portrayed as the feminine embodiment of important qualities and powers. These forms include those of Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of fortune), Goddess Sarasvati (the Goddess of knowledge), Goddess Durga (the Goddess of strength and power), and other Vedic Goddesses that exemplify inner strength and divine attributes. Even divine power in the form of Shakti is considered feminine.

  1. Throughout the many years of Vedic culture, women have always been given the highest level of respect and freedom, but also protection and safety.
  2. There is a Vedic saying, “Where women are worshiped, there the gods dwell”. Or where the women are happy, there will be prosperity.
  3. Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers‑in‑law, who desire their own welfare. Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased; but if they are not honored, there will be no rewards.
  4. Hence men, who seek their own welfare, should always honor women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes and food.
  5. If there is a lineage in which daughters and the daughters-in-law are saddened by ill treatment, that lineage would be destroyed. When out of their grief these women curse these households, such households lose their charm, prosperity and happiness.
  6. Furthermore, in the Vedas, when a woman is invited into the family through marriage, she enters “as a river enters the sea” and “to rule there along with her husband, as a Queen, over the other members of the family.” (Atharva-Veda 14.1.43-44). This kind of equality is rarely found in any other religious scripture.
  7. Plus, a woman who is devoted to God is more highly regarded than a man who has no such devotion.
  8. In the matter of Dharma, in the days of Vedic culture, women stood as a decisive force in spirituality and the foundation of moral development.
  9. There were also women Rishis (sages) who revealed the Vedic knowledge to others. For example, the 126th hymn of the first book of the Rig-Veda was revealed by a Vedic woman whose name was Romasha; the 179 hymn of the same book was by Lopamudra, another inspired Vedic woman.
  10. There are a dozen names of women revealers of the Vedic wisdom, such as Visvavara, Shashvati, Gargi, Maitreyi, and Apala. Every one of them lived the ideal life of spirituality, being untouched by the things of the world. They are called in Sanskrit Brahmavadinis, the speakers and revealers of Brahman.
  11. In fact, in early Vedic civilization women were always encouraged to pursue spiritual advancement without hindrance.

“O bride! May the knowledge of the Vedas be in front of you and behind you, in your centre and in your ends. May you conduct your life after attaining the knowledge of the Vedas. May you be benevolent, the harbinger of good fortune and health, and live in great dignity and indeed be illumined in your husband’s home.” (Atharva Veda, 14.1.64)

  1. It is not without reason then that women are identified with Shakti in Vedic civilization. If women are kept suppressed, this Shakti will be denied to the family and the society, thus weakening all of them.
  2. The nature of motherhood of women was always stressed in Vedic India. After all, we often find women to be the foundation of family life and of raising the children properly. Women usually provide the love and understanding and nurturing for the development of their children in a way that is unlikely from most men.

“The teacher who teaches true knowledge is more important than ten instructors. The father is more important than ten such teachers of true knowledge and the mother is more important than ten such fathers. There is no greater guru than mother.” (Mahabharata, Shantiparva, 30.9)

  1. Our own life is a gift from our mother’s life. We were nourished by her, we spent nine months in her womb, and her love sustained us. Even now we are loved by our mother. This includes Mother Nature and Mother Earth, which is called Bhumi in the Vedic tradition. The Earth planet is also like a mother because everything we need to live, all our resources, comes from her. As we would protect our own mother, we must also protect Mother Earth.
  2. Women in motherhood, after giving birth to a child that they have carried for nine months, is the first guru and guide of the child and, thus, of humanity. Through this means, before any child learns hatred or aggression, they first know the love of a mother who can instill the ways of forgiveness and kindness in the child. In this way, we can recognize that there is often a strong woman, either as a mother or as a wife, behind most successful men.
  3. In exhibiting the qualities of motherhood, women must be warm and tender, strong and protective, yet also lay the foundation of discipline and the discrimination of right from wrong. Furthermore, in the home it is usually the woman who lends to providing beauty in decorating the house and facility for an inspirational atmosphere. Also, she must usually provide the nutritious and tasty dishes that give pleasure and strength for the fitness and health of the body.
  4. By their innate sense of motherhood and compassion, women also make natural healers, care givers, and nurturers. Those women who have this intrinsic disposition for caring will also be natural upholders of moral standards and spiritual principles. By their own emotional tendencies and expressions, they are also natural devotees of God.
  5. In ancient India the Sanskrit words used by the husband for the wife were Pathni (the one who leads the husband through life), Dharmapathni (the one who guides the husband in dharma) and Sahadharmacharini (one who moves with the husband on the path of dharma–righteousness and duty). This is how ancient Vedic culture viewed the partnership of husband and wife.
  6. When a husband and wife are willing to be flexible to each other’s needs and move forward in love and mutual understanding, the relationship can go beyond equality to one of spiritual union. This means that each one appreciates the talents of the other, and views the other as complimenting what each one already has. This also makes up for the weaknesses or deficiencies of the other. In this way, each can provide support, encouragement and inspiration to the other. This ideal can only be achieved when they properly understand the principles of spirituality. It is also said that where the husband and wife get along well, Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of fortune) herself dwells in that house.
  7. It is also considered that a wife who serves a spiritually strong and qualified husband automatically shares in whatever spiritual merit he achieves because she assists him by her service.
  8. In the Vedic tradition it is common to see the pairing of the Vedic male Gods with a female counterpart, thus combining both sets of powers and qualities that each would have. We can easily see this in Goddess Radha with Lord Krishna, Goddess Sita with Lord Rama, Goddess Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu, Goddess Durga with Lord Shiva, Goddess Sarasvati with Lord Brahma, etc. Thus, we have the combination of male and female Divinities that make the complete balance in the divine spiritual powers.
  9. In Vedic history, all women should be respected and honored for the potential and talent they can provide to keep the family together, as well as bare and raise children, but also for the many women, who have taken up the cause to preserve, protect and carry on the spiritual standards found in Vedic culture.

Paintings of rural indian women - Oil painting (4)

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