Women performing Veda Samskaaras – By Kanchi Mahaswami

What about Women ?

http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part17/chap14.htm

I said that the twice-born must perform sandhyavandana with the well-being of women and other jatis in mind. I also explained why all samskaras are not prescribed for the fourth varna. Now we must consider the question of women, why they do not have such rituals and samskaras.

Even though we perform the punyaha-vacana and namakarana of newborn girls and celebrate their first birthday, we do not conduct their caula and upanayana nor the other samskaras or vows laid down for brahmacarins. Of course, they have the marriage samskara. But in other rites like sacrifices the main part is that of the husband, though she (the wife) has to be by his side. In aupasana alone does a woman have a part in making oblations in the sacred fire.

  1. Why is it so?
  2. The rites performed before a child is born are intended for the birth of a male child (niseka, pumsavana, simanta). Does it mean, as present-day reformers and women’s libbers say, that Hindu women were downgraded and kept in darkness?
  3. What reason did I mention for the fourth varna not having to perform many of the samskaras?

That these were not necessary considering their vocations and the fact that they can work for the welfare of the world without the physical and mental benefits to be derived from the samskaras. If they also spend their time in Vedic learning and in sacrifices, what will happen to their duties? So most of the samskaras are not necessary for them. They reach the desire goal without these rites by carrying out their duties.

“Svakarmana tam abhyarcya siddhim vindati manavah“, so says the Gita. I have spoken to you about this earlier.

Just as society is divided according to occupations and the samskaras are correspondingly different, so too there are differences between men and women in domestic life. Running a household means different types of work, cooking, keeping the house clean, bringing up the children, etc. By nature women can do these chores better than men. If they also take an active part in rituals, what will happen to such work? Each by serving her husband and by looking after her household becomes inwardly pure.

In truth three is no disparity between men and women, nor are women discriminated against as present-day reformers allege.

Work is divided for the proper maintenance not only of the home but the nation on the whole; and care has been taken not to have any duplication.

There is no intention of lowering the status of any section in this division of labour.

The body, in the case of certain people, is meant to preserve the mantras and there are samskaras which have the purpose of making it worthy of the same.

Why should the same rituals be prescribed for those who do not have such tasks to carry out?

Glassware to be sent by railway parcel is specially taken care of since it is fragile. Even greater care is taken in dispatching kerosene or petrol. If the same precautions are not taken in transporting other goods, does it mean that they are poorly thought of?

Astronauts are kept in isolation before being sent up in space and after their return. Mantras have their own radiation that is even more powerful than what is found in space. If you appreciate this fact, you will understand why Brahmins are separated from the rest and special samskaras prescribed for them.

The body of a Brahmin (male) is involved in the nurturing of mantras. So from the time of conception itself it is to be made pure through samskaras like pumsavana, simanta and so on. There are samskaras with the same objective also after the boy child is born.

The vocations have to be properly divided for the welfare of mankind. If everybody paid attention to this fact, instead of talking of rights, it would be realised that the sastras have not discriminated against women or any of the jatis.

*********************

Upanayana for Girls

http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part18/chap2.htm

If brahmacarya prepares boys [or young men] to live according to dharma, what about girls?

A girl has neither Upanayana nor Brahmacaryasrama. Should not a woman’s mind also be disciplined like a man’s. If you echo the criticism of reformers and say that injustice has been done to woman by denying them the Brahmacaryasrama and Upanayana, my answer is “No”.

Men marry after their Upanayana and student-bachelorhood. Now for women marriage itself is Upanayana.

Just as a boy dedicates himself to his guru, a girl must dedicate herself to her husband from her childhood until the start of their conjugal life and beyond. The Manusmriti says: “Strinam upanayanam-sthane vivaham Manurabravit” (Manu says that for women marriage is in place of upanayana).

If you ask for an external sign of this like sacred thread worn by the men, we may at once point to the married woman’s mangalasutra.

I said that “Upanayana” means “taking near”, taking a boy near his guru for his brahmacaryasrama. A woman’s guru is her husband. Being joined to him in wedlock is her upanayana.

According to the sastras, a boy’s upanayana must be performed when he is seven years old. A girl must be married at the same age.

If a boy is to be initiated into brahmacarya before his mind is disturbed by kama, a girl is to be married before she feels the carnal urge. She must also accept her husband as her guru.

According to sastras, the guru must be looked upon as Isvara. In the same way a child bride must think of her husband as both guru and Isvara and dedicate herself whole-heartedly to him.

She will be able adopt such an attitude only when she is married very young. Later she might start to reason about things, ask questions and develop egoistic feelings.

Laying oneself at the feet of the guru or Isvara — in short surrender — is the best means of liberating oneself. This concept of surrender is proclaimed in the carma sloka of the gita, surrender to Isvara, guru or husband: once you surrender to an individual or deity you no longer own any thing. Isvara will give you his grace through the one to whom you surrender.

According to the system devised by sages, a boy is made to surrender to his guru at the time of his upanayana ceremony, while a girl does the same to her husband at the time of her marriage.

It is not that the girl is considered inferior and asked to surrender to a man, that is her husband. The boy too is asked to surrender as a child to the guru.

It is the view of the sastras that the age at which the girl is married and surrenders to her husband must be the same as that at which the boy surrenders to the guru.

Talking of the husband and the wife, the question whether the one is superior to the other or inferior is of no consequence.

Equally unimportant is the question of rights and status. If this is realised surrender will be seen to be of the utmost importance.

We must appreciate the fact that it is in keeping with this view that the concept of upanayana has taken shape in the case of boy’s and marriage in the case of girls.

 

15 Responses to “Women performing Veda Samskaaras – By Kanchi Mahaswami”

  1. THANKING for propagating this message of periyava

  2. thank you for posting this message. Would you happen to have any messages on the saadhana for a woman who either chooses to remain single or is widowed ?

  3. Divya ji, namaste

    I have not read anything from Periyava regarding your specific question “sadhana for single women”. I suggest reading through Deivathin Kural or Hindu Dharma book from kamakoti.org.

    Hari

  4. Dear Divyaji and Thapasji,

    To answer Divyaji’s question, one of my poorvajas had been made a single woman because of some bodily problems.
    She choose to take up a vow of widowhood and lived an austere life without any of her family’s support till end.
    She lived in the Ashram of our Vaishnava sampradaya swamiji, sweeping the premises, helping in making kolams (rangoli) there, taming the cows and other smaller works.
    She attained the lotus feet of Acharya in this way and showed the path to many other single, widowed womenfolk.
    Hope this helps.

    Thanks & regards,
    Sanadana

  5. Courtesy : http://mahaperiyavaa.wordpress.com

    check this out :

    Many women were great Rishis.

    Some of them were.

    Gargi,Visvara, Ghosa, Romasa, Lopamudra, Apalargi.

    They have even composed Rig Vedic Hymns.

    Sage Apasthamba states ‘Atha Upanayana vyakasyamaha’

    He does not mention males only.

    Interestingly , in Taitriya Upanishad, in Shikshavalli,sex of the student is not mentioned(I await to be corrected)

    If there were Great women Rishis who could compose Vedic Mantras, they should have had Upanayana performed for them for Upanayana is the prerequisite for learning the Vedas.

    I quote here below some points to state that women were entitled to Upanayana and that performing Upanayana to girls is not against the Sastras.

    Despite all this we find frequent references in Rgveda to daughters being fondly
    caressed and affectionately brought up by parents. Ordinarily girls were no doubt less
    welcome than boys but we must add that there were also some parents in society who
    would perform special religious rituals for good luck of getting learned and capable
    daughters
    4
    . Girls were educated like boys and had to pass through a period of
    brahmacharya. They were educated both in the spiritual and secular subjects. Women
    during the Vedic age were not only ritually entitled to perform sacrificial rites
    5
    , they also
    had access to Upanayana Samskara and Vedic study. In Vedas women have been granted
    the highest status of being a seer (rishika) along with men. Some of them even composed
    the Vedic hymns e.g, Visvara, Ghosa, Romasa, Lopamudra, Apala etc. They could recite
    Vedic mantras as matter of course. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad tells us of a woman
    philosopher, Gargi Vacaknavi who carried on learned discussions with Rishi
    Yajanavalkya
    6
    . In the Mahabharata we find a number of stories of girls who were noted
    for their spiritual aspirations. Thus, there is a story of a Brahmavadini Sulabha, who
    demanded praise for her great progress in spiritual path. There was another girl ‘Siba’
    who was the daughter of a learned Brahmana, she studied all the Vedas and after wards
    attained Siddhi
    7
    . In panini’s Asthadhyayi
    8
    , we find the reference of the epithet kumari

    Sramana,i.e. an unmarried female ascetic. These female ascetics dedicated their lives to
    penance. They were known as ‘Kumara – Pravrajita’ and ‘Kumara – Tapasi’
    9
    . In the
    ancient period, the daughters had the right to perform Yajnas, the unmarried girls were
    also seen offering Vedic sacrifices. In the Satapatha Brahmana, we find the reference of a
    woman who performed a special Upanayana on the occasion of soma sacrifice
    10
    . Atharva
    Veda says that the Brahmacharya discipline and training was as much necessary for girls
    as it was for boys
    11
    .
    Upanayana Samskara was one of the highest samskara, it was said that if the
    samskara of upanayana was not performed in the case of girl, women would be reduced
    to the status of Sudras; how then Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas could be born of
    them
    12
    . Upanayana of women was absolutely indispensable, if the cultural tradition of the
    different Aryan classes was to be preserved
    13
    . After the Upanayana ceremony of the girls
    they were asked to follow a disciplined life like that of the boys. But they were shown
    certain concession. They did not have to go out to beg their daily food; they were not to
    grow matted hair. They were to be taught by their near relatives like the father, the uncle,
    or the brother.
    The girl students were permitted to continue their studies till their
    marriages were settled at about the age of 16 or 17. But few girls’ students continued
    their studies for a longer time and were known as Brahmavadinis
    14
    . After Upanayana
    ceremony the girls become specialized in Vedic theology and philosophy and some of
    them also composed the Vedic hymns. In the Taittiriya Brahmana, we find the reference
    of a girl who flatly declined to marry her lover, when she suspected that he was hesitating
    to reveal to her some of his Vedic dogmas and theories”

    http://onlineijra.com/research%20paper/u/upanayana_samskara.pdf

  6. Hari, With due respect & pranams to Mahaperiyavaa, and not intending to hurt the sentiments of his staunch followers, I diligently & assertively differ on few sections of this article, once instance is that after a woman got married, her husband becomes her Guru. If this is the perception, then the pristineness of the Guru Shishya relationship gets blown out, owing to the very sensitive intricacies the Husband – Wife relationship which can’t be talked about candidly & transparently. Although the Husband-Wife relationship as per our shaastras & samskaaras are pure, equating that relationship to that of Guru-Shishya is at the brim of absurdness. It can never be dreamnt of in my humble opinion. I’m with the understanding that sensible & matured married couples having due & great respect to Mahaperiyavaa may also accept this point of view. Although I accept partly to some extent that reciting vedas require high & intense tone which involves physical strain and could cause distortion in their physical system of women if they attempt to do so, however, Although I’m no certified authority in Shaastras & vedas, as a third-party simple observer I’ve noticed that nowadays even Men especially most of veda brahmanas doesn’t have the stamina to recite continuously & consistently with swara, varna, maatra which could also cause distortion to them as well as to the people who’re seated in & around them (cascading effect of mantric vibrations). This is still going on and on as it is kaliyuga, and only solution to this is to leave it to the Master Plan i.e., Karma and the Master Planner & Architect of all this who is none other than Parameshwara to decide & take due course of action/reaction. Needless to emphasize that there were & there are eminent & blessed Rishi kumarigal like lopamudra, Aambruni who are engrossed with blessings of Veda Maatha (saakshaat Ambaal) who have scripted vedic sukhthams which are recited even today by veda brahmanaas. So are we here to blindly and mindlessly believe and trust with dogmatic presumption & assumption that until & unless Females who are not blessed directly by Ambaal don’t deserve an iota to recite Vedic hymns. I don’t think none of us (including the present day veda brahmanas) deserve an iota to lay & enforce such rules in the name of shaastras especially when it comes to commissions / omissions in imparting vedic education to women. I’m constrained to bring the Veda Brahmanas as well in the ambit of my criticism, however with due respect to them the present day veda brahmanas are also incomplete in terms of their knowledge on many intricacies in the shaastra as well as smrithis which they also duefully accept if presented to them with required pramanas from our own very scriptures. However, my above point was never to demean / demonize the cause for which they have accepted for what they are / for their knowledge in our scriptures which is much more than laukheekhas like me. Well that does neither mean or imply that we should blindly believe / rather even accept whatever they say without sensible & substantial proof / pramana. I leave it to your discretion & maturity to review / consider my point of view / rather cynicism on such sensitive topics although I stand by them firmly come what may.

    • “I diligently & assertively differ on few sections of this article, once instance is that after a woman got married, her husband becomes her Guru. If this is the perception, then the pristineness of the Guru Shishya relationship gets blown out, owing to the very sensitive intricacies the Husband – Wife relationship ”

      Sir,

      We are letting the upadhis become all important and thus an impediment.
      Periyava is Brahman in a human body. So are we all. If we concentrate on that aspect and we regard everyone and every thing in this world as Bodha Swaroopam, letting the physical body do what it is destined to do in this life, but our vision is on the Absolute, there will be no issues. This is my understanding.
      In Him,
      devotee

  7. Courtesy : A renowned Srividhya Upasaka & an enlightened spiritual young soul (Brahmasri Shreeram Balijepalli)

    > Pranam, Anna. I heard that women should not chant the Gayatri because they wouldn’t be able to have children? Also, others say that everyone can and should chant the Gayatri. So, who is right? Pls enlighten us.
    >
    > Thanks.
    >
    > With Love
    >
    > Shankaree

    Dear Shankaree Amma,

    This question has been dealt by me in my old postings in various angles.

    This is also a tricky question. If I answer “Yes”-People accuse me of being a libertine and if I answer “No” then too people accuse me of not knowing the Shastras.

    I enquired this with my Gurunathar and much to my happy surpirse, He said , “Women can chant Gayatri mantra provided they get initiated like males and rules much the same for all other mantras”

    My Gurunathar is a very taciturn person and always says things in telegraphic language.

    He means:

    1. Women can chant the Gayatri mantra

    2. They have to get initiated into it from their husbands or Gurus.(Their husbands or Gurus inturn have to be properly initiated)

    3. Rules as to soucha(the monthly menses period) have to be observed.

    When women are allowed to even practice the Srividya in the Lopamudra sampradaya, then I do not see why there is a barrier for Gayatri mantra, which is needed as a foundation for further practices in Srividya.

    However, this is an age of misquoting and perfect misunderstanding of what is being said and what the underlying intent is.

    As a matter of fact neither do the Vedic Scripts nor the Sanatana Dharma discriminate women. On the contrary, womanhood is held in the Highest Esteem, and women are respected as Maa, (Mother) irrespective of their age and status.

    It is however widely believed that some of the Vedic chants’ vibrations are so powerful in nature that once a woman starts chanting those regularly, she is likely to lose her feminity and get masculine charecteristics in both apperance and psyche. In majority of cases, it might cause hormonal disturbances in the body’s physical mechanism and disturb their menstrual cycle.

    TRS Iyengar

    TRS Iyengar writes thus:
    “… I did ask my father & Guru who was a walking university with Vedic knowledge. He simply just explained it to me the with some practical way, by taking me to a nearby pond, where a lots of frogs were seen. We sat on a rock nearby and chanted a specific slokhas for a while, then a few frogs started disappearing from the scene one by one! (it was immediately felt after few lines of recital!). At the end, still there were many frogs left on the bank, despite his reciting a specific slokhas. Till then, all the frogs were just simply wandering on the bank of the pond. He explained to me, that the frogs that are still standing on the banks are of Male in nature and those left are opposite sex! If such a phonetic vibration cause disturbance in other creatures, why it should not with human? ”

    Certain glands like Thyroid get affected by the repeated mantraical vibrations.Even the Vocal Chord which produces the sound effect in our body too has different functional values for male & female.

    TRS Iyengar further writes:

    “Apart from the above, the menstrual cycle, the more complicated one in nature, which causes some sort of discharge and with extended period of up to five days; In normal course, this cycle may be regular for every fittest woman. But when compounded with some anxiety, tension, fear and pressure, the period is disturbed with varying fluctuation. This is what the science elaborates. When the aquatic or sound vibrations causes some disturbances in the chemical composition in mind and body, then the abnormality begins. But it is not just sudden and immediate certain. Where in, the vibrations causes gradual but determined effect in one’s analogies of human anatomy!
    The reason quoted for women not to recite or chant the versus with stronger power vibrations are thus affects the nerve system to weaken, then the gland functional causes more abnormalities and compounded with menstrual course disturbances. This might cause frequent health set back for a women, if she chants or recites some of the slokhas like Gayatri very often. If this is the case for normal and fittest women, then you may think of the consequences for a weak person. In one specific case, I was told a mother- 32 years of age, who chanted Gayatri daily for 108 times, lost here milk producing capacity, though she had all other normal activities. The medical report confirms that she was absolutely normal wherein, breast feeding was disturbed with here recital.”

    However, all this being said and done, if a proper shakthipatha is given by a Guru, menses period avoided for chanting in the ritualistic way(mentally one can still chant),proper protective methods including the nyasas,achamanam,etc are done for shuddhi, I do not see a reason for the barrier for women to chant.

    But most of the time, these days women out of zealousness to ‘compete’ with men tend to do it radically and end up the sufferers.

    There is no sexism or discrimination involved in Vedas or the Dharma.This simply is impossible if God be one for both.

    Some arguments by the pro-women proponents are:

    1. Many big organizations like Gayatri Pariwar openly say women can do it freely and even without any initiation.

    2. During the period of Ramayana Seetha Devi used to do Sandhyavandana and Gayatri mantra upasana.

    3. Many in northindia have been doing and yet they have not developed any male charecteristics and are perfectly fine.

    4. Gayatri Matha is a female so why these views against a woman practicing the mantra?

    I can squash every one of such ‘logically loaded emotional questions’ logically, emotionally and spiritually but this would be of no help to anyone except give me an egoist feeling that I have won the argument(and lost the battle of conveying the message).I have hitherto done it before for these questions and have earned a name of being ‘bitterly truthful’.

    However, my Gurunathar is against Gayatri mantra being chanted openly ‘for the welfare of the world’(purpotedly) by these organizations by both sexes.He feels this is something personal and private like any other sadhana.

    These organizations tend to:

    1. Capitalize on people’s sentiments to ‘liberalize things’
    2. Claim miraculous results proved on a scientific basis using modern equipment
    3. Write and publish lot of books and booklets to support their stance and subvert the truth by way of eloquent words(and people fall for them easily)
    4. Emotional tones

    Gayatri homa can be done openly but with competent and spiritually evolved priests who know what they are doing.

    To sum up:

    1. Women can practice Gayatri mantra, however, with initiation(and caution during the menses period) and as per the advice of a very comptent Guru

    2. Public chanting of Gayatri mantra by uninitiated by people(or even initiated people unless they all belong to one Gurukula and the Guru has instructed the same) is to be avoided.

    These are the views of my Gurunathar and they are mine too, obviously.

    Na Guror Paramam Vaakyam!

    Shreeram Balijepalli

    Reply

  8. 1.true many female have been were master in vedas, but it doesent mean they were chanting vedas
    2. Female can learn bedas but not alowed to chant,
    3, reason for the same is the very purpose of chanting vedas is to create good vibration for the whole world.
    4, since the anatomy of female body is different , the same rishis ( father of rishi kumaris ) advised them to learn , take part in vedic discussion, but not to chat vedas.
    5.typical example of why am quoting anatomy for chanting vedas is — if someone perform varuna japam ( to get rainfall ) many times we dont get rainfall — the reason is one should avoid salt completely for some period to get the vibration efect of japam.
    6. since none of these effects are proven scientifically ( effect of vibration created by male or female or male one who has not been initiated by upanayana.( for argument sake why not all the person whoever interested can chant vedas to create so called vibrations- after all sound is sound ??? )

    etc etc

  9. guru and shishya can be husbend and wife according to indian mythology plz suggest me

  10. I have read this in Hindu Dharmam. Beautifully written article. Personally I don’t find it is wring for women to chant mantras. We have swamini jis in AVG and Pujya swamiji gives mantra initiation to women too.
    But mahaperiyava fully justifies Kanchi tradition. Each tradition, sub traditions have their own rules.
    harih Om

  11. can the fourth varna recite mantras and vedas under the guidence of the guru pls tell me

    hari

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