Mercilessly beaten and burnt alive for not bringing in enough dowry; abandoned or whisked for not producing a male child; teased, assaulted and raped for being the `fairer-sex`!
These are realities of the 21st century. Women are subjected to challenges of all sorts and unjust treatment is meted out to them not just publicly but even inside their homes. Reduced to being mere pieces of flesh meant for consumption by the society at large; with time the plight of womanhood is only turning bleaker.
In a country like India, where traditionally women are supposed to be referred to as Shakti - the ultimate power, they have now turned into objects that are quite unbecoming to their existence. But would you believe that our own scriptures hold women in high esteem and literally worship them?
One of the verses from Manu Smriti says, Yatra Nari Astu Pujyante, Ramante Tatra Devataa – meaning Gods reside in places where a woman is worshiped.
It’s quite hard to believe that a nation that once believed in worshiping women has now reduced them to nothing more than inanimate objects. Nonetheless, women were once regarded superior to men. They were omnipresent and had equal rights in the Vedas, the Shlokas and other areas that now are accessible to men alone.
It is widely believed among the Hindus that the Hiranya Garbha or the golden womb is the mother of all creations including the galaxies and the many solar systems. And the Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh – are manifestations of the Supreme Being. Owing to the very fact that a woman alone has the power to give birth to life, it can be assumed that Shrishti (creation) is a result of Shakti (power).
Not just in India, respecting womanhood has been an integral part of many cultures. Else we wouldn’t have referred to the earth as “Mother Earth”, to nature as “Mother Nature” and a nation as “Motherland”. However, such references have only been limited to the well-read and cultured, for humanity at large has somewhat equated a woman to being just a voyeur’s treat.
Coming back to India, when it comes to getting daughters married, parents start saving riches right from the time she’s born so that they are able to accumulate enough by the time she is ready for marriage. Dowry is a very common feature among marriages in the country and the notion of kanyadaan has been ridiculously misinterpreted through time. The society often believes that a girl is equal to a charitable object. But that isn’t the case. Most of the shlokas uttered during marriages are misread. This is what one of the shlokas from Rigveda Samhita means -
“O bride! I accept your hand to enhance our joint good fortune. I pray to you to accept me as your husband and live with me until our old age.”
By giving their daughter’s hand to their son-in-law, the parents are indeed giving away their “good fortune”.
When a girl gets married, she begins a new journey- of illuminating her in-laws’ house and nourishing lives of the people who take shelter in the house. Alas! The current state of most women in their in-laws’ house paint a contradictory picture.
In the days when the teachings of the Rigveda Samhita were preached and practiced, women were handed over the charge of the new house she was moving into.
“O bride! May you be like the empress of your mother-in-law, father-in-law, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law (sisters and brothers of the groom). May your writ run in your house.”
All aspects of the feminine were worshipped. Even the Sun God - Surya rises only after chanting an ode to Goddess Usha and hence, teaches humanity to follow women.
Shakti is the energy on which the universe runs; it is the supreme energy, that men have used their physical strength to subdue. That has only led to more imbalance in the world than we can afford. And on this note, here’s hoping that the men in the country imbibe the teachings our scriptures are endowed with so that they can give women the due position and respect that they have been deprived of for centuries now.