Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reinterpret religion through women’s eyes

Our religion has all evolved over a long period in a social framework predominantly controlled by men. All our scriptures have been written by rishis and sages who were men. These have a strong undertone of patriarchal ideologies. Women no doubt hold a central but yet an ambiguous role in Hindu religion. According to the Laws of Manu, women are essential to the dharma of men and find fulfillment in this subsidiary role. Women’s role is defined in relation to men upon whom they should remain dependent as a daughter to father, as a wife, to husband and as a mother to her son. Religion was used as an effective tool to oppress women and keep them subservient to men. There was no attempt to reinterpret the religion thro a women’s perspective. The place of women is still seen through the prism of religion framed by men. Religion is still controlled by men and the dharma is what is interpreted by them. Women are prevented in the name of religion certain duties that men are allowed.
Luckily with the advent of British rule and the emergence of social reformers some significant changes have been witnessed. Since the middle of nineteenth century reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra vidya Sagar, Dayanand Saraswati have created an awareness and climate for vesting women their rightful place in society. They were instrumental in bringing about legal changes in several areas like widow remarriage, women’s education, abolition of sati, share of property to women the second half of Nineteenth century. The national movement brought women to the centre stage. Mahatma Gandhi’s call to women to participate in the national movement enabled them come out of the four walls of their home and work for the nation’s cause as equal partners with men. The shining examples of Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay gave fillip to women join in large numbers breaking the barriers of caste and gender. Polygamy is illegal and divorce laws are easier.
But the basic question still remains unanswered that religion is an exclusive preserve of men and the incalculable harm it can do to women when most of the laws have been in the past enacted by men and interpreted in relation to archaic Manu dharma and some such outdated practices. Change in regressive laws is still slow. The progress in restoring women their legitimate rights is definitely there and significant but still it is in halting pace.. Feminist scholars should take in depth research and study of the religion and demonstrate wherever the laws are loaded against women The importance of such an endeavour in a pluralistic society as we have with men occupying positions of power is obvious. Such study should bring out the legal reforms needed for giving the women their rightful place in society and home. It should not be out of gratis from men. Look at the dithering on women’s representation in legislature. The resistance to accord equal place to women will be high and women should show their power through ballot to achieve what they want.


  1. Great people have often takn the cause of women, not many think about it, it may be because our society is carved out in such a way. But what needs to be done is that women themselves shd make their place strong in society, thats the best way to pull down those who have been morally trampelling them time and again..discouraging them so that women cannot be the leader in any way....the fact is even such ppl are aware of the amount of potential a woman has...a person who can give birth to a new life can brave anythng and has the power to takle every situation.
    Women should just learn to trust their potential and work hard towards their aim...thatz wt matters the most.
    Thanks for bringing up this topic!Great post:)A lesson for all those who are still unaware of the untiring spirit called woman!

  2. You know, Parthasarathi, I will always cherish this post.

    And, my respect for you has increased a thousand times because you have shown the courage to write this. I am keeping this one in my collection.

    What you have said in terms of Hinduism, applies to all religions, in my opinion.

    Thanks a lot, my dear friend. I salute you.

  3. I think the days have changed now for the better, but women themselves need to put an effort as well and stand up for their rights. As you know I recently did the last rites for my father and the only girls and no sons in the family have seen it.They talked behind my back! It is surprising to know that these girls are not ready to do the last rites which predominantly is perceived to be the men's prerogative. They rather ask their male cousins to do it than thinking of doing themselves. Whom do you blame!